Category Archives: WWW

Project Loon’s technology & the power of moonshot thinking

This video about Project Loon’s technology is truly an example of what Astro Teller, Google’s Captain of Moonshot Thinking, evangelises day to day (from SXSW to the Big Tent to Cannes, he’s been doing a good job with that this year, if you ask me).

 

While on that, Google Maps is now accepting invitations for the new Maps. I saw a preview yesterday and it looks amazing – it’s pretty clear that no one can touch Google in that department for the time-being.

I also saw Google Voice Search for Chrome in action, announced at I/O earlier this year – and it looks quite radical too.

They’re doing some good stuff, controversies notwithstanding.

Full circle: Britons hiring developers in India to build apps for them (via @freelancer)

Everyone’s going in search of the millions. Nick D’Aloisio succeeded where many haven’t and won’t, so I find this interesting – Britons are hiring developers in India to build their apps for them! I got it via email from a representative of Freelancer, the ‘world’s largest outsourcing marketplace’.

Figures released today shows that Britons are increasingly designing their own apps.

The survey from Freelancer.co.uk, the world’s largest outsourcing market place, is released following the £18 million purchase of the app Summly by Yahoo.

The survey finds that knowledge of programming is not getting in their way as Britons are hiring programmers in India to do the programming for them and help turn their ideas into reality.

The survey of 2000 people in the UK found that 45% have had an idea for an app and will  hire a programmer to get it designed. Yet 25% who have an idea for an app are put off from developing it because they believe they have to write the programme themselves.

Statistics from Freelancer.co.uk show that there has been a 100 percent increase in Britons hiring a programmer via the website to design an app for them over the last 12 months

“Everyone has an idea for an app, but not everyone has the skills to turn their ideas into reality. Yet increasingly people are hiring programmers to undertake the programming for them, so now everyone can develop their own app.” said Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.co.uk.

“We’ve seen a record increase over the last 12 months of British people hiring programmers to help them develop their apps. App development is no longer the preserve of the geek, now everyone can do it,” he said.

The Google+ phoenix rises?

Over the last couple of days, I’ve spotted a few articles on the web that talk about the impending rise of Google+.

‘What?!!’ I hear you say.

Yes, Google+. And I actually believe them. Google, somewhat quietly, launched a feature called Google Author Rank a few months ago. That means that when you search for something on Google, if the author/journalist’s Google+ profile is verified and links to a relevant article, her link will show up first. This is obviously very useful not just for the writer herself but for the general public – verified and more relevant content is given priority above link-baiting sites, which is exactly as it should be.

Google is also slowly, incrementally adding new features that are improving the utility of the site: Communities, for example.

Lots of people, including me, are getting fatigued with Facebook. In the end though, it’s Google’s renewed business focus on search (experiments like Wave being retired as they fall by the wayside) that might lift them above Facebook, because that is what is going to boost usage of Google+. It is a philosophical pivot for them, but has rock-solid business motivations. As this article says:

Google doesn’t own social networking, but it does own search and email (and surprise! new Gmail signups automatically get Google+ accounts). With Author Rank, it’s outsmarting SEO spammers while forcing content producers to use Google+. They may not like it, but the alternative — risk losing influence, isn’t much better.

Google is smart. Very smart. Now if only they could renew the once-vibrant Google Reader community by bringing that back in to the fold.

‘Even though it’s the internet, they really do need to work at making great content’

From a Forbes interview with David Karp on his plans for Tumblr:

The opportunity I see is to allow marketers, advertisers to once again make awesome content and put it in the mix with other awesome content.  That’s what those products are that we’ve rolled out and are starting to really scale up now. It’s in spots on Tumblr where we feature great content now. Where, by the way, spots that have existed for like four years, so this is really not stuff that we’re  really adding into the system. We’re taking those spots where we feature great content on Tumblr and we’re allowing marketers to take over five percent of it; take over a sliver of it, drive real attention to their creative content. The work that we’re doing now is really pushing these marketers to understand that even though it’s the Internet, they really do need to work at making great content.

My thoughts: He makes a great point in the interview about how today’s online advertising is cookie-based, intent-focussed, where earlier – for example in the Mad Men era – they weren’t: they were more based on creating desire, fostering ambition. Clearly they’re already doing this at Tumblr, but I wonder if there’s a role for more platforms to make it an advertising pre-requisite – to make sure ads on their site are polished enough to be a sort of digital version of the Louis Vuitton ads in Vogue. Arguably, many brands, especially the luxury ones, already do this. But if it’s a question of extending that finesse to insurance, FMCG or high street brands, perhaps that’s a business model more platforms could look at more actively?

Such ad-gatekeeping platforms already do exist in some form; the Deck Network, for example, which specifies adherence to an ad format in order to be included in their roster of advertisers.

Unless, like Andrew Sully or Jason Kottke, (and remember they are individuals rather than platforms) you can get enough people to pay for your content (and we also know about the still-raging debate on paywalls), maybe this is one way to elevate the advertising environment without blocking revenue opportunities. We’ve largely moved on from pop-up ads and those awful GIF-type ads in Sans Serif that hurt our eyes, perhaps it’s time for more people to move on to the next stage in the evolution of online ads.

On Facebook and unintended side effects

Worth reading this article by Ryan Block, founder of gdgt.com, on why he quit Facebook and Instagram. I’m still on both, but largely inactive. The fact that a large number of family members and some good friends are on Facebook still keeps me there, but I’m fairly certain a day will come when that will cease to be a pull factor. He notes that it is specifically Facebook that is the problem:

Perhaps worst of all, in an era where we meticulously prune our online personae, services like Facebook require constant diligence and maintenance. On Twitter accounts, About.me profiles, or LinkedIn bios, at the very least users are empowered by complete control in their outward appearance. This is in contrast to Facebook and any other social tool that allows any user in its social graph to associate you with all manner of unrelated career- (or even potentially life-) changing posts or images.

Also:

We’d all be much better off simplifying our technological footprints and consolidating our trust in the few services that provide us the greatest value with the fewest unintended side effects.

Bye-bye 2012

A few things to round off the year.

Best music app of the year: This Is My Jam

Why: Because it takes the hassle out of trying to find interesting music and it keeps its focus squarely and constantly on one thing.

Best reinvented platform of the year: Yahoo!

Why: The changes to Instagram’s ToS might have been the main cause, but I think the newly-designed Flickr iPhone app was a major factor in people migrating from Instagram to Flickr over the last couple of weeks. For the record, I’m a Flickr Pro user. While I agree the UX isn’t quite there yet, it’s a vast improvement from the Flickr of yore. Having all your photos in one place in the cloud just makes sense. The new Yahoo! Mail has also been drawing admirers, and rightly so. MySpace’s new look isn’t bad, but I’ve never been a user of the platform so my vote goes squarely for Yahoo! Marissa Mayer is definitely changing the business for the better.

Best new platform for advocating women’s talents: Articulate.

Why: They’re building a database of talented women who are open to speaking so that no conference organizers can hide behind the ‘but I couldn’t find any women to speak’ excuse. I hope this is soon replicated across the world, specifically India. I’m looking at you, Medianama.

Most underutilised resource of the year (for me): Google’s Think platform.

Why: Amongst other things it has some excellent tools for media planners. Most recently, I thought their Smartphone Launch Predictor was ace. Their Think Quarterly always makes for a good read and I hope to wade through more of their stuff in the new year.

Favourite abbreviation of 2012: TIJABP from Dave Winer.

Why: It’s something I should do more of – and I’ll endeavour to do more of that kind of writing in 2013. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been hindered by a blogger’s block of some sort, which the TIJABP philosophy should help get rid of.

Best seasonal gimmick of the year: First Round Capital, with this video.

Why: Watch this! Hands down, they win.

Here’s looking forward to 2013!

Some thoughts on @MarissaMayer and Yahoo

Marissa Mayer took charge of Yahoo! earlier this week.

There are lots of people weighing in with what she should do; some suggestions, like Marc Andreessen’s to cut 10,000 jobs at the company and de-bloat it make a lot of sense. Users of course straightaway plumped for a revamp of Flickr. It is no doubt going to be an uphill climb to turn the company around but I’m not as pessimistic as some.

In my limited capacity as a long-time user of Yahoo! (I still use Yahoo! Mail every day, and have been a Flickr Pro account holder for a few years now), here’s my personal take on what she should do (in an ideal world!), in no particular order:

1. Buy Quora and integrate Yahoo Answers: Before Quora came along, Yahoo Answers actually provided the community aspect of searching for answers on the web, and continues to be shown in a lot of Google search results. It’s now very low on quality and largely irrelevant as answers are very dated. Quora has taken on a lot of what Yahoo Answers used to do well, but with the added benefit of using the community to filter up the most relevant answers.

2. Make Flickr a place people actually want to be: Get a UX designer in that knows her job. Most people I know who use Flickr use it a) because they’re locked in, having paid subscription fees that are years long and b) haven’t yet seen a solution that is good enough to force them to move – the day they do, Flickr’s time is up. Photostreams are still confusing to access (sets, collections, galleries – nothing is easy to understand or use), and share (guest passes for friends, family, private and public access – surely things don’t have to be so hard).  Seriously, go back to making it a place people want to be. This damning Gizmodo piece shows how Yahoo messed it up so badly, but it’s not too late to change things. Facebook is now the largest photo-sharing site in the world, and I recently heard Sheryl Sandberg say at a talk that they’re really doing things with that.

3. Buy Compfight: It uses the Flickr API – this one should just be a done deal. I use it a lot because it’s much cleaner than Google Images, there’s no worry someone’s going to email you screaming blue murder for using a wrongly-licensed or unlicensed image because it’s so easy to filter by Creative Commons-licenses and it’s free, unlike Shutterstock.

4. De-spam Yahoo Messenger and integrate it better into Yahoo Mail: Too many spammers pop-up on Messenger, diluting the experience, and there’s no way to see who’s online the way Google Talk does.

5. Integrate Notepad into Yahoo Mail: I didn’t even know it existed till recently. Bank a Yahoo version of Google Docs but surely making it easier for people to use what you already have shouldn’t be that tough. Also, be consistent with labelling! Within Mail, Yahoo has ‘contacts’, but then it’s also ‘addresses’ - a UX job is much needed for Mail.

6. Socialise Oddly Enough: There’s the weirdest and coolest of stuff in this section – I mean YouTube pretty much became what it is thanks to Charlie and his ilk, and people keep creating Tumblrs of weird stuff everyday. Get those bedroom bloggers to be part of Oddly Enough to drive traffic.

7. Decide what you want to be: Marissa Mayer has vast experience in search courtesy her time at Google. Carol Bartz focussed on making Yahoo everyone’s personalised homepage. Does Yahoo want to take on Google in the search department? Or does it want to try and take on Facebook in the social department, which Google is still struggling to do with Google+? Can it do both even if it wants to?

8. Shed some parts. Andreessen talked about shedding employee numbers, I’d say close things like Dating and Cars as part of that. They’re not Yahoo’s core competency. They never will be. Yahoo does have a partnership with match.com but I’m not quite sure why, as far as the Dating section goes, and as for Cars – it’s a hodge-podge of a sales notice board and news, resulting in neither being good enough. If I had to buy or sell a car, I’d just go to Autotrader anyway.

9. Mobile: This is a real missed opportunity. Ms. Mayer’s last role at Google focussed on location services. I don’t want to say ‘Foursquare’ but there are things Yahoo could and should be doing on mobile. Make Local part of it, for example, because people are doing things with it. N0tice comes to mind, but there are plenty out there.

My 2p worth.

Across the world from your classroom, with @skypeclassroom

My lovely friends at Made by Many have made a new animation video explaining Skype in the Classroom. The service itself has changed considerably, and made a lot of progress in becoming even more useful for teachers across the globe to use. They’re also looking for experts in different fields who’d like to share their expertise with children. Log-in is now simplified: teachers can log in with their Facebook, Twitter or Skype IDs, and it’s very simple to search for collaborators using the new profile pages and homepage. They built the Collections section after I left, and I love how it groups projects together under themes too. Take a look, and don’t forget to pass it on to any friends or colleagues in the education field.

Introducing Skype in the classroom from Skype in the classroom on Vimeo.