Google Ads and Rampant Fanboyism

Let me preface this post by saying that I am both a happy Google user and a happy Facebook user. I’m not writing this post to pick sides. I think Google is a great company and I am a satisfied user of their many services. That said, I feel the need to share my observations of crackpot Google+ users that I have seen time and time again.

This week, Google edited their Terms of Service and have plans to launch new product-endorsement ads incorporating photos, comments and names of its users. Facebook rolled out the same thing not long ago, but in typical Facebook form, they made every effort to keep it quiet from its users. I do not want to participate in this new form of advertising on either platform, and I have edited my settings to disable it on both sites.

I find it hilarious the amount of Google fanboyism that exists on Google+. I like G+, but a disproportionate number of posts that I see there are about G+ vs Facebook. It never ends. If the posts are not about that comparison directly, just wait because every comment thread is almost guaranteed to quickly turn into it. It’s reached the point of absurdity and I can’t take it anymore.

A user can write an innocent post about kittens, and within a day, someone will come along and comment completely out of nowhere that “Facebook sucks.” I’ve even seen users post graphs and statistics that claim that Google+ has more users than any social network on the planet. That is absolutely and completely untrue. Yet, their crazy users actually post these falsehoods in the hope that any day now, it may actually be true. I have also read countless times where a user comments that, “Nobody uses Facebook.” Oh, really? Over a billion people use Facebook, including nearly every person that I know. Get your heads out of your asses.

Google+ users take every opportunity to bash Facebook at every turn. I’m not defending Facebook and their repeated privacy offenses, but it is hilarious to see the comments on the many Google+ articles about news of this new Google advertising usage. Google+ users are actually writing that this is an awesome feature and are wowed by how cool it is. Give me a break! When Facebook makes any change to its Terms of Service, Google+ users embark on a Facebook bashing rampage. However, when Google takes nearly the same action, their users praise it as a great feature. Come on!

Below are some actual quotes that I have copied/pasted from comments on various Google+ posts that broke news about this new product-endorsement ad usage:

“Google did it right.”
“I would really like this feature.”
“Not so bad if you’re looking to get circled.”
“I’ve elected to keep this option on.”
“I’m totally okay with the new terms.”
“This is a problem…how?”
“This can be very powerful.”
“Better than Facebook.”
“I’m ready for a Google world!”

I rest my case.

Social Media Icon Pack Oversights

On the Links page on my site, I have provided links to my accounts on various social media sites. I’ve had that page up since the beginning. I had once downloaded a creative pack of icons, but the collection didn’t have everything I needed, so I had to make a few of them myself and wedge them in with the others. I recently thought it would be a good idea to update my social media icons.

This morning I browsed countless websites and archives of social media icon packs. The creativity and design of the icons I found are all astonishingly good. People have clearly put a lot of hard work and detail into creating them. I applaud them.

The problem is, not a single one of them fully has what I need. Not one icon pack that I’ve found contains icons for both Instagram and Foursquare. Barely any carry an Instagram icon, for some odd reason. And I cannot find a single icon pack with a Foursquare icon. Why is that? I find that puzzling, since some of the most recent icon packs still provide icons for antiquated networks like FriendFeed or Google Buzz. I see no reason to include those this day in age. Even huge icon packs containing 60+ icons have no offering for Instagram or Foursquare. I find this completely unacceptable.

I suppose that for now I will have to continue rocking the icons that I’ve had on my Links page for years. It isn’t possible to mix and match different icon sets to represent the networks that I want. That wouldn’t be uniform, and it would look ridiculous. I challenge someone to create a slick icon pack that actually has the services that I want!

Craig’s Guide to Profile Pictures

I think that too many Internet users are careless about the content and quality of their profile picture. It’s an issue that drives me crazy. It has for years. Let me lay it all out for you.

It doesn’t matter which social network or online service you are using, selecting a good profile picture to represent yourself is very important. It’s the one picture that the people you interact with will see every day. For someone that does not already know you, this is the first image they will see of you.

As I write this, I’m thinking of a social network along the lines of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or Google+. Twitter is slightly different because it’s filled with a lot of parody accounts and people aren’t expected to post under their true identity. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of inanimate objects as profile pictures there. Therefore, I’ll exclude that from my decree of what a profile picture should contain because anything goes in the land of Twitter.

Content

Let me take a moment to explain what a profile picture should be. A profile picture is a picture of you, and you only. Not your spouse, not your kid, and not your pet. It should be a picture with a single human being in it, and that human can only be you. Not a picture of you amongst a group of five people, or you posing with your best friend, or anyone else for that matter. Just you! The instant that you post a profile picture with your significant other, you have effectively jumped the shark.

In fact, I am friends with a couple that individually use the exact same profile picture of the two of them. Such behavior is not only gag inducing, but when either of them writes a post or a comment, it becomes a little confusing as to who wrote what I’m reading. Everyone should unfollow them until they are able to make better decisions for themselves.

I’ll mention some examples of ridiculous things that I’ve seen used as actual profile pictures. For one, a full comic strip. Yes, someone I know on Facebook used an actual four-pane comic strip as their single profile picture. I couldn’t even tell what I was looking at until I blew it up full-screen, let alone be able to read it. What would possess someone to think that this would be a good idea? Sheer lunacy.

If you use a generic profile picture such as a flower or a butterfly, the message you are sending is that you are unhappy with your appearance and have something to hide. Your friends can already see all of your other pictures, so you can go ahead and stop doing this.

I do not participate in any call to change my profile picture to show support for something. That is something I will not do. I don’t care how serious or unserious the cause is. A few times in the past, I’ve seen a trend in the month of May where some dope will put out a call on Facebook for everyone to change their profile picture to a picture of their mom for Mothers Day. What? Get real. Only a moron would do something like that.

This brings me to the worst type of profile picture of them all. Pardon me, expectant mothers, but using a sonogram photo is the absolute worst thing you can post as your profile picture. Completely unacceptable! When I read your posts, I want to see a picture of your face next to them. Not a blurred, black and white, two-dimensional x-ray of an underdeveloped baby that looks more like an unfinished balloon animal stuffed in a pillowcase. Stop this right now.

Size

Your profile picture must be a perfect square. It needs to be the same number of pixels tall as it is wide. Please use photo editing software on your computer to create this exact square image before attempting to upload it to the social network. Do not use an existing photo that you uploaded eighteen months ago and attempt to crop out other people by using the shoddy online profile photo cropping tool. This ends up looking careless and sloppy.

When it comes to pixel count, do not attempt to use a picture that is a tiny 100 or 200 pixels. That image size may look acceptable in a comments section, but when someone pulls up your profile picture to see an expanded view, the result is a jagged, pixelated mess.

Disclaimer

I need to toss in a disclaimer about my own profile picture. Every year, around October 30, I’ve been in the habit of changing my Facebook profile picture to the Halloween mask of Michael Myers. This is a clear violation of rule #1. However, it’s fun and witty. I only have it up for about two days, and I think it amuses people. It’s festive and I’ll allow it. Is that hypocritical of me? Yep.

I’m sure that the condescending tone of this blog post isn’t going to win friends or influence people, but I had to make it understood how I feel about the business of profile pictures. In my experience, people really need to get their act together.

I’m willing to go so far as to say that if I were in charge of my own social network, a.k.a. “Craigbook,” I would make it my policy to choose everyone’s profile picture for them. A pop-up box would appear that says, “I don’t trust your decision-making skills. I’ll choose from your existing photos one that I think is best for you.” Of course, no one would want to be a part of a service like that, but it sure would make for a pleasant online utopia, at least in my eyes.

PS — The domain “Craigbook” is not available. Believe me, I already checked.

Google Plus Revisited

Six months ago I wrote a blog post where I said that I was giving up on Google Plus. I appreciated the service, but was tired of feeling like I was the only person using it.

I wanted to write a follow-up to say that I’ve been using it again. I’ve actually been using it pretty regularly for the past month.

Over the summer, Google revamped the mobile app for G+. It is very well done. The interface and performance of the app are top notch. Post scrolling is beautifully implemented. The polished fade-ins of posts and images make it feel alive in my hand. It was this new G+ app that drew me to begin visiting Google+ on a regular basis again.

Google also revamped the G+ website. It’s incredibly snappy. It has a clean interface with plenty of whitespace. I like what they’ve done.

I’ve started posting to G+ regularly again. When I have something witty to post to Facebook or Twitter, I’ll usually pop over to G+ and post it there too. I rarely get much feedback, but I figure it’s still worth my time to post there anyway. I think it’s a good service and I want others to use it, so I’m happy to make my contributions to the cause.

Posting photos on G+ is a better experience than on Facebook. Uploading is a breeze. I have more control over what is being shared with my friends when I upload and tag photos. I like the slick way that pictures and albums can be dragged and reorganized. I also like that my pictures are displayed larger and wider than on Facebook. It has been reported that the quality of the images being served are actually higher too. I will agree with that assessment.

I’ve also found myself re-sharing posts on G+, which is something I don’t normally do. Occasionally a cool site like Wired will post a great story and I’ll share it. Google+ handles this quite beautifully. It feels like it’s made for this type of action and I don’t feel as though I’m annoying other users by doing it. I’ve also been regularly posting links to my new blog posts, which I only do once in a while on Facebook or Twitter, depending on the subject matter.

I do have one small gripe. The animated GIFs I can do without. I wish people wouldn’t post them. I don’t fault Google for allowing them, but I wish I could disable them somehow. One or two every now and then isn’t so bad, but when I see three or more on a single page, it starts to become annoying. For some weird reason, a lot of people are fond of them. I don’t know why. You’ll never catch me posting one. (Never say never, Craig.)

The information I get from G+ is more along the lines of Twitter than Facebook. Instead of the majority of the posts that I see being from friends and family, I see a collection of interesting people and sites that I follow. G+ still has a way to go as far as average user adoption goes. I’ve circled lots of power users, but I only know about five people in real life who post to the site on a regular basis. Still, that’s four more than there were six months ago.

User numbers aside, I have come to really like Google+. The service is quite mature. Solid. The site is fully baked and ready to serve.

Despite all of this G+ affection, I still like Facebook very much, despite its flaws. I’m glad that we have Facebook as a ubiquitous service that practically everyone uses. For a social network to become the standard, that has to be the case. While I’m not wishing for Google+ to dethrone Facebook, I’m glad that it exists and that we all have a worthy and powerful alternative.

Giving Up on Google Plus

On January 27, 2012 I wrote what has been my last post to-date on Google Plus: “This is my peace out post. I’m not going to use Google+ anymore. I’m going to use the other networks; the ones that have actual users.” Sure, that was probably a little harsh, but I wanted to vent the extent of my frustration with its users, or lack of.

I was quick to get on Google+ when it launched last summer on June 28. In fact, thanks to an inside invitation from my friend Thomas, my account was active the following day on June 29. I jumped on it. I added family and friends to my G+ circles in a frenzy. I sent out email invitations for others to join as well. Over the following weeks, the uptake from my friends was slow but steady. Posts began to trickle in. I began posting to Google+ regularly, on par with Facebook and Twitter.

Technology geeks flocked to Google+. For the first few weeks, I heard endless excitement and praise about it in the tech press. For a time, it was all the rage. I know several high-profile users who went so far as to abandon their traditional websites and blogs to post exclusively on Google+. For some, it was the new sliced bread.

Now, I’m not here to tear down Google+. It does have many great features, including granular privacy controls, editing of already-posted content, video hangouts, large photo displays, and more. The ingredients of a great social network are there. However, it is still lacking a key ingredient — users. Without a critical mass of users, any social network, no matter how well put together, will not make it in the long run.

I currently have a total of 55 people in all of my combined circles. Within my friends and family circles, I have 22 people. Of those 22 people, only two of them ever post anything. That is a literal non-exaggerated fact. Only two people out of everyone I know ever posts a single update to Google+. As such, there is really no reason for me to bother posting anything either. No one ever logs in to read anything that I post there. Once in a blue moon, Thomas will comment on something I’ve written, but one person commenting on a post here and there doesn’t make it all that worthwhile. When compared to the broad community experience of Facebook, there is no comparison.

Google+ has strong potential to be valuable for keeping up with important people that I have in my “following” circle. Within that circle, I keep a lot of tech heads, photographers, and other online celebrity types. When I view my stream, I am able to discover valuable information and conversation around an array of topics. That is fine and dandy, but I can do the same on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, every single person that exists in any of my G+ circles I already have on either Twitter or Facebook, or both. Google+ doesn’t offer much more than I am not already getting elsewhere. I will shamelessly add that Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, follows my account on Google+! While that is exciting, he has never written me, nor does he have any reason to.

When Google Buzz had its botched launch in 2010, I avoided it. In the two years of its existence, I never used Buzz one single time. Buzz wasn’t popular at all. I had no interest in posting status updates to an empty void where it would never be read. I was already happily using Twitter, which Buzz never came close to in popularity. Google eventually killed Buzz in late 2011.

Unlike Buzz, Google+ does not look like it is destined to fail. However, from my perspective, it shares a similar problem as Buzz in that hardly anyone actually uses it, so far anyway. As of the end of 2011, Google reported that G+ has approximately 90 million users. That number shows impressive growth from the time it was launched in the summer, but I imagine that the number of active users is but a tiny fraction of that sum.

The future of Google+ can go either way. I’m certain that Google is betting on its long-term success. After all, they seem hellbent on promoting it wherever they can. The company recently began rolling Google+ results into their new “search plus your world” initiative, something I can’t say I am personally very happy about. In the end, time will tell. Google has deep pockets and if they are dedicated to advancing their social network, I’m sure it will eventually make inroads into the Internet psyche. Until that day arrives, I’ll continue to post exclusively to Facebook and Twitter.

AudioBoo

A few weeks ago, tech guru Leo Laporte chose the new online service AudioBoo as his pick of the week on his weekly tech podcast. The best way to sum up the service is that it is like Twitter for audio, or a public Internet answering machine. Since I first heard about this, I’ve listened to Leo’s boos and the boos of others.

The service is simply amazing, and so very easy to use. Simply create an account at their website, then download the iPhone app from the App Store (free). You can then create simple voice recordings using your iPhone or iPod Touch and upload them to AudioBoo. The quality and clarity of the recordings is stunningly good. You can even have AudioBoo automatically post a link to your recordings via Twitter or Facebook.

I just signed up today for AudioBoo, and I’ve made my first recording. You can hear all of my boos on my AudioBoo page.

Mafia Wars on Facebook

My favorite application on Facebook at the moment is Mafia Wars. It’s pretty addictive. I stumbled on it by clicking an ad while playing in another app. In the game you start a virtual crime family with your friends. You earn money and respect buy doing virtual crime jobs, fighting other mafia families, and buying property. Your money is spent building and maintaining your arsenal of weapons and defenses. Mafia Wars is a detailed, well thought-out game, and a simple and fun way to pass the time. Check it out!

Mouse Hunt on Facebook

One of my favorite Facebook applications is a game called Mouse Hunt. The concept sounds pretty silly when you try to explain it to someone. Essentially, it’s a game where you set a virtual mouse trap and earn game points and gold for every mouse you find in your trap. There are several virtual “towns” to hunt in, and you spend your gold to buy better traps and cheeses. There are many varieties of mice to catch, and the mice evolve as you increase your hunting status. I started as a Novice user, then worked my way up past Journeyman status to reach Master status.

In the big picture of life, this game is meaningless, and really serves no purpose whatsoever. But it is quite fun to check in on, and can become quite addicting. If you use Facebook, try adding this app. Mouse Hunt was rated 4.9 out of 5 stars after over 1000 votes on Facebook. That makes a pretty good case for giving it a try.

Mouse Hunt