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May 31, 2010

Four Squared Signs You Are a Foursquare Addict

For the last two months, I've been openly discussing my experimentation with Foursquare, logging my location at all sorts of places throughout my travels, and - gasp - even discussing the fact I cheat, while noting others may not be cheating, but they sure are leaving a lot of stops out. While my conversation with product manager Siobhan Quinn helped to provide some relevance to this whole process, I am still playing along.

While I am enjoying myself with my nonsense checkin stream, there are some surefire ways to tell people are taking location apps far too seriously. Here are 16 ways (Four squared, get it?) that I know you've got a problem. If I missed any, please do let me know.

  1. You know exactly how far away you have to be from a venue before you can check in, and also know how many different venues you can check into without leaving your house.
  2. If your phone is out of batteries, you return home to charge it instead of doing errands because you want to check in to those places once you go.
  3. You take the same routes to and from work so you can check in at various offices along the way, hoping to obtain mayorships without actually getting out of your car.
  4. You heavily consider or discuss with friends the benefits of going to a place where you are already mayor to boost your stats against going somewhere new to increase the number of venues.
  5. You set up or check in at venues for locations without buildings, such as "Highway 101" or actual people.
  6. You not only know what a "Super Swarm" is, but you can name every single one that has occurred.
  7. The Foursquare icon is in both your iPhone and iPad dock.
  8. If you not only achieved the Overshare badge with 10 checkins in 12 hours, but you wonder why the bar was set so low.
  9. You opened a gym membership and started working out just to get the Gym Rat badge. (Or complain when you don't get it)
  10. You recognize locals in your area who are Mayors of multiple places, and aggressively start searching Google to learn their weaknesses.
  11. If you actively have scouted all the nearby parks and are visiting them one by one, just to score the Babysitter badge.
  12. You wonder why you can't "Check in" that somebody called you on the phone, or that you accomplished basic tasks at the office.
  13. You refuse to meet with people unless they agree to check in at Foursquare with you.
  14. You get annoyed when you go to friends' homes that don't have Foursquare venues.
  15. You actively debate the merits of Foursquare over Gowalla and Brightkite to anyone who will listen.
  16. You set your alarm for after 3 a.m. on a weekday just to roll over and grab your phone to check in and grab the School Night badge.
If you don't mind seeing my silliness, and want to show me you are a Foursquare addict, check-in here: http://foursquare.com/user/lgloco. The "loco" stands for crazy.

May 29, 2010

In Today's World of Mobile Choices, Look to the Core

  


Since gaining the HTC EVO at Google I/O last week, I have been using it exclusively, as promised, leaving my iPhone 3G aside in an effort to remove the Apple fanboy shackles and find what it is I may be missing or gaining by making a choice of one platform versus another. While others are already comparing the EVO device to the iPhone, I am going to save that post for early next week. But while I am thinking about phones and mobile devices in general, I think it makes sense to first consider how each major mobile platform provider is approaching their device. Find the core to each platform, and you will have a better guide as to what is the right choice for you.

The world of smartphones is one of the most dynamic markets today, one full of change, and innovation. Application developers and most of the top technology companies are looking to mobile for considerable growth, both in software and hardware revenue. As the phones become more capable in terms of processing power, network capability and memory, many activities traditionally aimed at the personal computer, or television, are finding their way to your handset. It's not enough to have a dumbed-down Internet for dumbed-down devices. Consumers are expecting the same Web experience on the go as they do when in front of their home or work PC, and they are expecting applications to behave in the same way as they do on the desktop. Armed with this knowledge, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Google, Apple, Palm (HP) and others are each taking their own direction, and you can see what they have tried to accomplish resulting in why market segments are gravitating one way or another, and whether they can gain share.

BlackBerry and iPhone have to contend with Android now

For example, let's take a look at three major platforms: BlackBerry, Apple and Google.

BlackBerry, at its core, is an amazing e-mail device. It is targeting those people who send and receive hundreds of e-mails a day. The common target customer for the platform is a business executive on the go, be they a Wall Street trader or a field sales rep. BlackBerry handsets are well known for their extremely capable QWERTY keyboards, while they are less known for their applications or Web experience. Customers who need a phone that does e-mail extremely well love their BlackBerries, and BlackBerry, even with its newest array of devices has not been able to shake its legacy of being a messaging device. You aren't likely to see people talk about BlackBerry as an amazing gaming platform, or one built to browse the Web in a more capable way.

For Apple, the core of their approach to the smartphone market is in iTunes, the App Store and their ties to digital media. The iPhone is practically an extension to their incredibly successful iPod line. The product is managed through iTunes, synchronizes music, videos and photos through iTunes, and the iTunes App Store (an extension to the existing iTunes Music Store) is where all new functionality arrives. The iPhone changed the game for smartphones in terms of eliminating the QWERTY keyboard and becoming touch centric, but it isn't known for being the best in the world at e-mail, like BlackBerry is, and the company's App Store approach makes iTunes both a conduit and a bottleneck for applications - as they need to go through tacit approval from Cupertino before gaining the green light. If you are a customer looking for an application-centric phone, or you want a superior phone built for music you own, or to show movies you rent from iTunes, iPhone is the best.

For Google's Android line, their core is the Internet and Search, just like the company's fleet of Web applications tend to focus on data in the cloud and superior integrated search. While the Android Marketplace is a parallel of Apple's iTunes Store, its core applications assume always-on Internet access, and proudly feature not just simple hooks to Google Search, but also voice-activated search. Its Navigation application taps into the cloud, and the company's newest features, proudly highlighted at Google I/O, are about enhancing the way the Internet can be leveraged to transfer data through the air to downstream Android devices. There is no equivalent desktop application to iTunes for Android, and the focus of the device is on delivering a high-quality Web experience and accessing apps that tap into the cloud.

Of note, the much-discussed tiff between Apple and Google presents a more direct conundrum for Apple iPhone users than it does for Android users. iPhone users still leverage Google Apps, such as Google Maps, Earth and search Google on Safari. But on Android, Apple is practically invisible. Strike that - it is invisible. So if the two had a messy divorce, only iPhone users would be negatively impacted.

So for those three players, what makes the best mobile choice for you depends on how you actually use the phone. Keep in mind that for none of these players is their core focus to actually give you a better phone experience. Even a "feature phone" can get that right without too much work.

But what about Palm? What about Microsoft? What is their core?

I believe part of the reason Palm failed with its WebOS approach is because they didn't have an easy answer for what they did better than anybody else. Their messaging around the Palm Pre was that it was "fully featured", offering both the beauty of an iPhone and the QWERTY keyboard of a Blackberry. But it didn't do either thing better than anybody else, and there was no compelling reason to choose Palm.

Microsoft's new Windows 7 Phone Series similarly makes me question their core. To date, Microsoft's core has been in Enterprise and Office. They have dominated the business OS market, the office suite market and have had significant roles in a wide array of downstream services, from e-mail to peripherals, and yes, entertainment devices with the XBox. If Microsoft can make a compelling case that their Windows 7 Phone Series is the best business phone that integrates Outlook better than BlackBerry, hooks into companies' Active Directory and synchronizes Office documents better than any other device, then I think that's their core. (See: PC World: Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Should Rule Business Smartphones) But even PC World says Microsoft sees smartphones "through the eyes of the desktop". The desktop business OS has been their core, and it's come too late. Even their usual fans at PC World say "Windows Phone 7 will face a formidable challenge just to establish relevance."

The world of mobile smartphones is not the same old war we saw with the desktop. It is one about Web connectivity access to rich media, and being social. I believe there is room for perhaps one more player who can make "social" the center of their phone. Maybe Google gets there. Maybe Apple gets there first. Or maybe one of the players like Twitter or Facebook can find a way to launch a line of phones or a phone OS that is all about social, at the core.

Until that happens, I think you really have four choices - BlackBerry, Apple, Google or a mistake. Know who you are and what's important to you, and the platform choice will become clear.

May 27, 2010

Podcast: On Paladin, Clients, Blogging and Influence

Despite the blog having my name in the URL, I try not to make the blog all about me. Instead, it's more fun to highlight new developments in tech, entrepreneurs and my perceptions of trends and innovation. Today, Jennifer Lindsay of Blog Talk Radio took a half hour to talk with me about the development of louisgray.com, clients I serve as Managing Director of New Media at Paladin Advisors Group, and what it takes to be an early adopter. Jennifer also took time to ask a little bit about my background, my focus in college, and my Superman vs. Clark Kent approach of focusing on enterprise companies all day and talking consumer at night. I hope you find the discussion valuable.

Jennifer posted the discussion on her site here, and I have embedded it below. You can find Jennifer on Twitter at @jennifered.


Google Buzz Adds Ability to Reshare Items in the Stream

When you find interesting content in your social streams, it's very common for you to want to share that content to your own social graph - letting more people be exposed to what you found interesting. This need to reshare has led to Twitter's integrated Retweet functionality, and the ability to reshare items on FriendFeed and Facebook. Today, Google Buzz joins the resharing party, letting users of the nascent social network share content from any Buzz user to their own followers, while still providing attribution to the original source. The feature enhancement is said to be among the most popular user requests, and meets the team's objective of adding a new feature a week to Buzz.

Now, Buzz users, myself included, will have four options to spread the love for any individual item. You can still comment on the item and like it, or send it via e-mail, but a new "Reshare" button is included.

The new Reshare feature in Buzz

Unlike Twitter's new Retweet functionality, which does not allow for any modification on forwarding updates, Buzz opted for a "two-click" process, where you can click reshare, add a comment to say why you found the content interesting ,and then hit post to add it to your stream. And yes, the Google team thought ahead, so if a bunch of your friends reshare the same content, similar posts will be collapsed, so you only see each item once. Similarly, downstream reshares of reshares give attribution to the first poster.

A Reshared item in Buzz With Attribution to the Original

The official blog post introducing the feature talks about how resharing the post "forks" the conversation, essentially setting up two places in two different social graphs, to discuss the same content. This distributed comments debate has been fodder for much of its own discussion for a few years, but looks to finally be closing down, especially with the rollout of public comments on Google Reader announced just this Monday.

The downstream benefit of the Reshare feature will depend on the diversity of one's network, and if you cross multiple sharing circles. If your network is closed, it will simply add noise, but if you have a network of connections that extends beyond a small group, the feature could increase eyeballs to interesting content from all sources.

You can reshare anything I post to http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray.

May 26, 2010

Podcast: On Foursquare, Check-ins & Facebook Privacy

Following up on yesterday's discussion with new Foursquare product manager Siobhan Quinn, North Carolina blogger Wayne Sutton (@waynesutton) and I took time this afternoon to talk about how we see businesses benefiting from location-based services, and Google's role in the market. Additionally, we took a few minutes to talk about Facebook's announced changes to their approach to privacy, updated today in an event chaired by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In short, I said that I while I have always considered my content on Facebook public and open, the company's changes have negatively impacted users and were made worse through their poor rollout and a lack of clear communication. You can hear our comments in full in the below embedded podcast, and catch Wayne's blog here.

SocialWayne.com Podcast #11 - All about Location with @LouisGray by waynesutton

MyLikes CEO Says User Plugs Don't Cross Twitter Ad Rules


Increasingly, some of the new rules issued from popular Web platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, are raising more questions than answers, with words so carefully interwoven as to be interpreted any which way. The call for clarity from Facebook around privacy and from Twitter around what is permitted in users' streams from developers and programs alike seems to be unending - and it seems at times that the companies are being obtuse so they can be selective on how they choose to endorse the rules down the line. Monday's announcement from Twitter on blocking "injected paid tweets" on any service that leverages the Twitter API had a lot of people asking what this meant for services who derive revenue from posting content to the service. MyLikes, a company I advise for, was one that received questions. I spoke with CEO Bindu Reddy (@bindureddy) that night to gain her take and get some of the answers myself.

As best as I am able to understand it, Twitter is continuing to try and improve the user experience on their service, which at times has been less than fantastic. On the back of their efforts to weed out spammers, reduce the artificially-inflated visibility of hand-selected celebrities, reduce negatively-intended automation, improving uptime, and expanding a familiar presence to onboard new users, Monday's announcement looks like they want to improve the clarity of sponsored content on the network, while also protecting their own revenue stream.

The relevant line in question from Twitter COO Dick Costolo, says: "aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API." This line particularly focuses on the use of API for automation, and also the phrase "paid tweet", which is open for interpretation. What is promising in the piece is that Costolo says the company does not seek to control the content on the service, and that companies are open to sell ads, build vertical apps and analytics, and that the company does not always need to participate in revenue generated from their service. It sounds to me that Twitter is planning ahead for future battles with nefarious networks that are not in users' best interest, much more so than they are seeking to slow legitimate companies that have been built around their ecosystem.

As I mentioned when I first announced my affiliation with MyLikes, I am attracted to the company's model because the ads posted to Twitter, blogs and other networks are done by hand, by the users themselves, with the user creating the message. There is no automation on the user's behalf that they have not created themselves, and all the activity is above board.

In talking with Bindu, she agreed this sets the company apart from Twitter's foes. Also - a MyLikes generated tweet is as much of a personal endorsement as it is an ad, leaving this activity free and clear. In fact, while Costolo's post was somewhat confusing, we both agreed Twitter's move was one that continued their path toward maturation.

Update: You can also see Twitter API Lead Ryan Sarver (@ryansarver)'s comments on the situation here.

To hear more of Bindu's thoughts, check out the Cinchcast I recorded below:



DISCLOSURE: I am an unpaid advisor to MyLikes. I hold a small equity stake in the company. My comments on the company's product are always independent, and do not pass their way in advance.

May 25, 2010

Siobhan Quinn Exits Blogger, Checks In at Foursquare

After seven years at Google, including the last two and a half as a product manager on the company's Blogger platform, Siobhan Quinn handed in her badge yesterday, and will start on June 7th as the first product manager at the fast-growing, location obsessed, Foursquare, in New York City, joining head of product Alex Rainert. Siobhan is the second of Blogger's three product managers to have recently made a move, following Rick Klau's move to manage Google Profiles last month. I talked with Siobhan today to find out her thoughts on Foursquare's potential, and how the company can transition from one beloved by "Silicon Valley nerds" to a more mainstream audience, delivering real value.

Siobhan initially joined Google in 2003 as part of the Google Accounts team before Accounts had launched, predating even the launch of GMail (in April of '04). She says she worked on the front-end to Accounts, the sign-in system, and new account flow, helping to connect accounts to many of Google's other properties, including Adwords, personalized search, Google Checkout and, of course, Blogger. But she admitted she hasn't written code in a few years, and has been working to push Blogger from its relatively slower pace of updates to one that has seen increased activity, including the recent launch of the Blogger Template Designer and last week's launch of new Webfonts, with a corresponding API.

"That's why I am excited to leave now," she said. "I made an impact on Blogger, and I've been at Google for 7 years. It is time to do something much different."

How different? Siobhan is leaving a company of 20,000 employees to one of just a hair over 20. Foursquare has gained a lion's share of attention in the tech blogosphere for its checkin application, but in reality, the team remains extremely small. And while many of us have blended our interest in Foursquare with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism, she makes a compelling case for the future of the product - as the platform morphs from one focused on badges and gaming to one more centered on reviews and tips from your social graph.

Siobhan postulates that Foursquare tips can become a lot more useful as more people use the service, and start to fill in the system's data, even with what I've always thought were the mundane check-ins as gas stations, fast food restaurants, office buildings, or parks.

"We can make tips a lot more useful," she said. "For example, if you are looking for a dentist in your town, and people in your social graph have reviewed a dentist near you and checked in three times this year, that's powerful for me. That's the dentist I would want to go to. Combining checkins and reviews and your social graph would be a powerful demand generation tool."

For many Foursquare users, the fun in using the application has come from gaining mayorships and accumulation of brightly colored badges. As I joked maybe Foursquare would be moving to offer vice mayorships, deputy mayorships and other titles, she agreed that "there need to be more opportunities for users to win", adding "the mayor should be able to set some laws. Maybe the mayor can design the drink special."

Beyond the recommendation and tip aspect from connected friends within the Foursquare social graph, businesses have many opportunities to leverage checkin activity that hasn't yet been tapped, she said. While Starbucks gained good visibility for offering $1 off Frappuccinos for the store's mayors nationwide, their efforts are the exception and not the rule today.

"If you're at Wendy's and you get three other people to check in with you, maybe you get a free meal," Siobhan suggested. "And then, maybe that makes the restaurant trend and become the hotspot to be. For users who are not in the geeky, trendy, Silicon Valley area, and are offered incentives to add reviews and checkins, they could be included to do that."

Her last role at Blogger centered around many people bringing their offline lives online, and sharing their stories. But Foursquare has the power to impact offline behavior, as friends seek out friends and experiment with new venues - practically a 180 degree turn.

"Foursquare is making people explore a little more and step outside their comfort zone," she said. "I like any product that makes people's lives more meaningful offline. It encourages you to explore and try new things away from your computer."

Siobhan doesn't have much time between now and her first day at Foursquare HQ - giving her just over a week to pack, sell her car and furniture, and head to New York with her dog in tow. Siobhan (according to her Foursquare profile) is mayor of ME Cabo in Cabo San Lucas, but hasn't claimed any Bay Area properties. Maybe New York will bring her more luck. Until she starts logging checkins on the East Coast, you can find her on Twitter at @siobhanquinn.

Meanwhile, Blogger remains in the hands of Chang Kim, who joined the team after Google acquired his company, TNC, in September of 2008.

May 24, 2010

Google Reader Enables Public Comments on Shared Items

One of the best benefits of sifting through hundreds of new RSS items each day in Google Reader and selecting the best ones to share has been the ensuing conversations that have developed as a result. It used to be that these conversations were limited to networks like Socialmedian and FriendFeed, but they later took place within Google Reader itself, for all friends I had hand approved, and later, in Google Buzz, assuming I had given people permission. Now, the Reader team has removed the hassle of picking who was enabled to comment or not - making shares have the option to be public to the world for conversation. This highly anticipated move is a big reason I have continued to be so bullish about sharing Reader items and participating where they land on Buzz.

If you have not already seen the prompt, the next time you enter Google Reader, you will see the option to "Keep my shared items public" or to "Make my shared items protected". Hit "Save" to keep comments public, or choose to keep the shares open to only contacts in your friend list.

You Can Now Make Your Shared Items Public to All

This move is incredibly simple, when contrasted to the labyrinth of privacy settings required at Facebook to determine where your content is being displayed, and it protects those who have previously opted to make their Reader shares private, as explained in the company's blog post announcing the changes this afternoon.

My Shared Reader Items Are Visible to All

The ability for the world to comment on Google Reader shares should be a big boost to Buzz, as even more places are open for discussion. As mentioned in April, statistics show Reader shares as the 2nd-highest source for conversations on the network. This should bring that percentage up a great deal.

Want to see my shared items? You can find them here, or we can get connected on Buzz.

Hey iPhone, Forward All My Calls (To Android)

This morning, when I left for work, I also left my iPhone at home. Blasphemy, I know. But in the interest of giving Android a fair shake, which I have never done before, I have told my iPhone to forward all my calls, and intend to use the HTC Evo 4G (powered by Sprint) that I received from Google I/O last week, exclusively, for the entire week. Since gaining the device on Thursday, my iPhone use has already dropped down to a mere minimum, as much for testing as anything else, and I am finding where Android's latest offering matches up, and the cases where Apple clearly still has an edge. While it makes sense to leave anything resembling final decision making until after the conclusion of WWDC next month, I want to end May as an informed citizen who has equally consumed the Kool-Aid from the two warring camps - not as an uninformed bigot who will throw down whenever anyone questions his undying allegiance.

Deciding which direction to go as a consumer, one with significant history on one side (Apple), will depend on a few things:
  1. Will making a switch eliminate any problems I have with the current platform?
  2. Will making a switch gain me features I am missing on my current platform?
  3. Will making a switch introduce new problems?
  4. Will making a switch remove my access to things I am used to?
Clearly, new features and removed problems would be fantastic - while dealing with new headaches and lacking functionality would be less than ideal. I expect to find all of the above, and the frequency and severity of 1 through 4 will aid toward my long-term decision.

First things first, going a week on Sprint's network instead of AT&T's, should make it clear how the two differ, after nearly two years of my battling dropped calls and flaky 3G connections.

Secondly, I will need to find out which applications that I use on a daily basis on my iPhone have equivalents on the Android platform, and which do not. For those that do have equivalents, I will need to find if additional costs are needed to make them available.

While all the industry buzz is around Android Froyo (2.2) and the iPhone 4, planned for June debut, or so we think, I am admittedly a little behind already in both cases. The HTC EVO, while much respected on the hardware side, is running Android 2.1, and I am going to have to compare it with my iPhone 3G, at least until version 4 shows up. This means that Apple doesn't get a perfect position from me - as I am not contrasting it with a 3GS, and its camcorder, improved speed, etc., but I'll try to be realistic.

Forgoing a more thorough review, best saved for later, making the transition from iPhone to Android seems pretty simple. I set up my Apple mail account on the phone, as well as GMail. I configured the native Twitter client, as well as Google Buzz. The embedded Web browser is quite good, and streaming my personalized Last.fm radio station hasn't had me missing iTunes. The addition of an 8 megapixel camera and a video camera to the phone are also solid pluses for the EVO. On the flip side, I have managed to crash a number of apps, and their error messages haven't been too user friendly. Meanwhile, it turns out the rather simple act of taking a screenshot on Android is best reserved for someone with a computer science degree, not nearly as simple as on iPhone.

For the most part, I have found the applications I use on the iPhone to be available on the Android Marketplace. I don't have Cinchcast for simplified podcasts, and I couldn't find Redfin for real estate, but with those exceptions, practically everything is there. I have heard people say that some of the applications on the Android platform are not as well done as those for the iPhone, and I understand where they are coming from. There's a mix of Windows/Linux feel to some apps, while iPhone feels more like Apple, but I am trading form for function where it makes sense.

Having a phone that multitasks is a wonderful thing, and I haven't dropped a call yet. But I'll see how I feel about this particular platform by the end of the week. Let me know if you have any particular questions about the hardware or software you want me to test, and I'll do my best to give it a run.

Disclosure: I received the HTC EVO free as part of my attending Google I/O. Similarly, I gained my iPhone 3G from Socialmedian back in 2008. I guess that makes me cheap.

May 23, 2010

Video: The Gradual Demise of Social Media Marketing

Nearly two years after I said those calling themselves social media experts are going to be as antiquated as those who once called themselves Webmasters, I continue to see confusion at corporate levels on how to engage in social media, and how to make this new world fit as part of their overall strategy. As I have seen in my work with Paladin Advisors Group, there remains a gulf between traditional firms doing traditional things and those who are grasping the new opportunities in social media, devising a strategy and doing the right things at the right times in the right places.

In a quick video, a companion to that from April (The Start of the Connected Decade: Now What?), I once again team up with Ecademy chairman Thomas Power and talk about how I think social media is going to become more integrated in traditional marketing, and that the mystery will fade away. Thomas also expresses a valid point - that those making the most money are often the most disconnected from their customers. He says that should change - and soon.

May 20, 2010

TweetDeck Aims to Be Client for All Streams In All Places

I touched briefly on TweetDeck's promised integration of the Google Buzz API yesterday evening, but did not gain the opportunity to try Iain Dodsworth's latest client until today. Luckily for me, I also ran into Iain at Google I/O this afternoon, and in stopping to congratulate him on his firm's raising $3 million in funding for a B round to fuel continued expansion, we talked about TweetDeck's future and got a sneak peek at some unreleased versions looking to hit computer and mobile screens soon.

The latest TweetDeck, available from their site, not only incorporates Buzz updates, but also Foursquare - much like its online cousin, Seesmic, had announced earlier this week. The additions mean that, should you choose to do so, you can view updates from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Buzz, Foursquare, and MySpace all from within TweetDeck's signature columned interface. TweetDeck was also featured running in full HTML 5 in the Chrome Web browser during Wednesday's keynote, and I saw it running again, on Iain's demo Mac today. In addition, Iain showed a sleek Android client of TweetDeck that's bound to hit very soon.

Adding Buzz and Foursquare to My TweetDeck

One of my main suggestions/complaints about Buzz in its 100 day life is that it is so closely tied to GMail. Even if I use GMail as a secondary account, I have always done so via IMAP, and read my GMail updates in Apple Mail. As a result, getting to Buzz requires a separate login to GMail.com, and then clicking the Buzz tab. It has always felt the same as using a product in emulation or virtualization mode, and native is always better. But getting the Buzz stream in TweetDeck is surprisingly clean - and is a solid alternative that doesn't force me to go through GMail.com first. From there, I can post directly to Buzz (but not with rich media yet), I can see others' streams, and add likes or comments right from within TweetDeck.

Hiding Foursquare from Other Columns! Yes!

I am also extremely partial to the option to add Foursquare as a separate column in TweetDeck while simultaneously hiding Foursquare updates in the "All Friends" column. Great move.

While many Twitter developers were shaking in their boots over the company's acquisition of Tweetie and development of Twitter for Android, Iain said he had no such fears. TweetDeck is focused on the high end of the market, he said, one that does not fear complexity, but is instead looking for a rich and heavily featured social media experience.

Buzz Activity Front And Center In TweetDeck

With TweetDeck's multi-column interface becoming instantly recognizable, more and more services are no doubt jockeying for position. As we were at Google I/O, we only partially joked about a Google-centric TweetDeck (GoogleDeck?) that would pull in Buzz, Google Wave, and Latitude, in lieu of Foursquare.

Iain reported that TweetDeck has swelled to 15 employees in the nearly two years since the product debuted in mid 2008, adding that even if TweetDeck were revenue-free, the $3 million raised today would last the team about two years, all expenses included. But TweetDeck has already found revenue streams, part of why the VCs are interested in getting a deeper position. Getting on more screens in more places with more content will no doubt make the product the feature-rich alternative to standard Twitter, and seeing Buzz in the client is already pushing more activity back to that network - making the move a win for both parties.

Do iPhone Users Face a Draconian Future?


At the end of 2009, fed up with AT&T's ridiculous lack of quality, and knowing the iPhone's current platform was long in the tooth, rumors of Google's new uber-phone were making the rounds, leading me to say you would have to be insane to get a new iPhone now. Even as rumors of the new iPhone 4 are making their way around the Web, through early exposures and leaks, I continue to think something dramatic and amazing has to come out of Apple HQ to change that opinion - and after sucking down the Google Kool-Aid all morning at Google I/O today, I really wonder if they can do it. Part of me says they can't and that it's time to stop investing in this platform - even if I know it's going to take some time for my wallet to catch up.

Any resistance I may have had to the Android mobile platform, which has always been more of curiosity than lust (See: It Just Might Be the Droid You Are Looking For from November 2009), was pretty much eroded today as Google landed body blow after body blow against Apple in terms of displaying speed, support for more platforms and media, portability of applications, and ease of synching between devices and libraries.

The noise around who has the most apps or the most users has really become background now, and we need to look at what device can help us get our work and entertainment done in the best way for the best price. Google was bound to have the lead in terms of the numbers of devices available, and the carriers supported, but today's extremely convincing demos showed how the speed of innovation at Apple seems to really be lagging - and the decisions at Cupertino, tying to AT&T's ridiculous mediocrity, and sparring over Flash, are distracting from the ultimate goal.

Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, said it was "critically important" to create a free open source mobile OS with innovation at every layer of the stack. "Otherwise, we would face a draconian future controlled by one man and one device - a future we don't want," he added.

That one man? Steve Jobs. The one device? The iPhone. Duh.

Gundotra's demonstrations of the raw numbers of applications and user growth were less important to me than they were for the target developers community. Suffice it to say it was "enough" and "a lot". But Google's massive array of engineering talent looks like they are doing two things - eliminating the holes Android may have had in comparison to the iPhone platform (such as app updating and music library portability) and leaping forward with tethering, portable hotspot functionality, and superior deployment of JavaScript, Flash and HTML 5.

"We're not only committed to having the world's fastest browser, but the world's most comprehensive browser," Gundotra said. "It turns out that on the Internet, people use Flash. Open means you are inclusive, not exclusive and open means innovation."

Open means a lot of things to a lot of people, so I won't get into that. For many, Flash is a perfect example of what's not open. But what keeps going through my head is that unless Flash really has a hugely negative impact on my experience, stop getting in my way and give me my content - period. Google isn't playing games of censorship in determining what media types I can get on my device. They just want it to work better, and faster.

Gundotra demoed how you can now browse the Android marketplace on your PC or Mac and can download applications and music directly to your phone, over the air, without iTunes getting in the way. "We discovered something really cool. It's called the Internet," he joked.

Similarly, the ability to map your non-DRM music, via iTunes, for example, to the Android device and make it available, is a huge step forward for a potential iPhone switcher - powered by Google's acquisition of Simplify Media. It seems everywhere Apple used to have a lead, with the exception of UI and integration with its other devices, Google has wiped those out and is moving beyond conventional thinking. Barring something dramatic out of the WorldWide Developer's Conference next month from Apple, I think we just might be done buying iPhones.**

** I reserve the right to give all my money to Steve directly whenever I want and may change my mind later.

While Apple Slept On Their Hobby, Google Executed


After noting Apple practically being a zero in terms of mentions in yesterday's keynote at Google I/O, today saw the gloves come off as Google came out swinging against its competitor - and it had to be noted, even from this longtime Mac customer - that many of the punches landed, again and again. Most damning? Google actually took TV seriously - instead of teasing customers with a streamlined device, like the Apple TV, which looked great, and functioned well, but was often dismissed as not being a central focus. The result, despite the occasional bumps in the morning's demo, is the latest and most credible offering yet that could unify the worlds of Web and television in one place - on the biggest screen in the house. (See the official Google TV site)

Back in 2007, I had high hopes for the Apple TV. I openly questioned those naysayers on the device, celebrated its small feature updates, such as adding YouTube support, and postulated how it could compete and defeat other businesses, such as Netflix. But it seemed Apple had other ideas for the device - pretty much ignoring it, even as the company saw tremendous focus in other places - first with the iPhone, and now with the iPad.

Yes, the Apple TV still works. Yes, it can still show photos and YouTube and my music and pull down films from iTunes. But it's a siloed dinosaur.

Google made its antiquity especially clear today, as instead of using Apple's divide and conquer mentality, with Apple TV being completely separate from your TV, the company promises to bring the Web to the TV, complete with a search box that finds content, no matter where the source. The reason this has a much better chance to succeed than Apple TV ever could? Commitment. Commitment from the company's leadership, from partners, and to the word they keep smacking us with - openness.


Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google TV, says the company's new offering is about "taking the best of what TV has to offer today and what the Web has to offer today and give a seamless experience", which should result in the ability to find playable content - no matter where it is and bring it to the big screen.

Built following a history of unsuccessful challengers, such as Web TV, Google's massive potential comes from several points - including the immediate leverage of the Android platform, including the application marketplace and command from any Android mobile device, the full-fledged Google Chrome browser, the obvious support of YouTube, and alliances with Adobe for Flash and teaming with leading industry partners like Sony, Logitech, Best Buy and Intel to make the entire ecosystem do its thing.

As an Apple user, and as a TiVo customer, I have grown used to those two companies playing a significant role in my TV entertainment experience. Those two companies are exceptional when it comes to getting user experience right and making things feel smooth. Google hasn't managed to replicate that feeling of seamless integration yet, but their ability to display bookmarks on TV, to download apps from a PC and have them hit the TV, and manage the TV from multiple devices at once all look like they are getting so many features into this thing that there is really no way somebody like Apple can compete, even if they were to buckle down and try for real this time.

Google and its partners promised that the first television sets, set top boxes and input devices will all start hitting shelves by Fall of this year - in time for the holiday shopping season. It will remain to be seen how customers take to a new platform with devices coming from different sources, but it looks like it is Google that is "Thinking Different" about the TV and trying to open it up as a platform for its many developers to leverage - all while Cupertino pretends its Apple TV doesn't exist. As an Apple TV owner, I am disappointed in the lack of attention paid to this product, and think often my loyalty may have been taken for granted. But Google is executing so well in so many areas, it is obvious we have an alternative, one that, if the UI is excellent, could change the game.

Best Buy CEO Bryan Dunn, speaking with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, referred to the new Google TV platform as "not just a new aisle but a new category". Rishi Chandra echoed his comments saying, "Our goal is to have the same impact on the TV experience as the smart phone did with the mobile experience."

The TV looks like it finally may get smart. I just want to know why Cupertino played dumb for so long.

May 19, 2010

Google Buzz API Debuts, Fueling Potential Network Growth

Google Buzz celebrated its 100th day of public existence at Google I/O Wednesday with the introduction of its much-awaited API, and the immediate adoption of that API from some interesting showcase partners, including Seesmic, TweetDeck and SocialWok. In the last three months of Buzz's availability, I've discussed how Google had aimed to avoid offering proprietary standards for developers to point their applications to, choosing instead to work with open tools including OAuth, AtomPub, Activity Streams, Pubsubhubbub, RSS and WebFinger. On Google I/O's first day, the company showed the first fruits of that labor, giving the fledgling network the opportunity to tap into the same developer community that other services, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have enjoyed.

Chris Chabot (@chabotc), a developer advocate for Google, explained the role of Buzz at Google Wednesday, saying that "The Web is better when it is social," chronicling the rise of social activity to the point where having a social profile online is as common as having a mobile phone. "The Web is becoming a social place. It is moving from a static place to one about people sharing experiences, playing, working and talking together," he said.

Initial Partners Using the Google Buzz API

But as Google's social team has chronicled several times, including Chris Messina's talk on Activity Streams at SXSW this Spring, many of the different destinations on the social Web speak different languages. Rather than inventing a new language, Google wanted to utilize existing standards to avoid such headaches, and make Buzz part of the Web's infrastructure, "not a special destination."

In April, after one particularly nutty report was issued on Buzz's aggregation statistics, we proved the majority of Buzz's active content originates on that network. The new Buzz API makes it easier for third party clients, such as Seesmic and TweetDeck to push comments, likes, rich media and other updates to the network, but also to consume content from Buzz in users' favorite application. This seemingly minor move - one already seen by Facebook and LinkedIn, puts Buzz on par with those historically larger networks, and ahead of scrappy startups like FriendFeed, which never gained such prominence.

Google Buzz Displayed In Seesmic (Next to Foursquare)

Marco Kaiser (@marco) of Seesmic, who demonstrated his company's application pulling and pushing data from Buzz, said Seesmic wants "to support as many services as possible to as many products as possible", and as of today, all of their products, including the Web version, Desktop and Android clients, let you add Buzz as an account and see Buzz content alongside Twitter and other updates. This caps a busy week for Seesmic, following their Monday addition of Foursquare and other updates.

While Twitter has had an off and on relationship with its own development community, the ease of developers creating applications and Web services has led to much of the service's growth. Buzz, assuming expanded adoption of their API by other partners, could receive the same kind of boost that so far has been lacking in the service - seemingly siloed despite so many promises to connect with the outside world.


In addition to the announcements by Seesmic and other partners, Google introduced a testbed for developers to try out the API, which you can find at http://www.buzz-demos.com/. The test site lets you display your stream, add, edit and delete content, follow and unfollow others. It surely won't be all that long until many of the automation tools that have existed in Twitter's ecosystem make their way to Buzz.

As someone who long begged for services like FriendFeed to be supported by major clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic, but didn't see it happen, the rapid adoption and seeming ease of the Buzz API is a huge endorsement for the future of the network. It could have something to do with Google's name being attached, or the ease of the standards, but the potential is there nonetheless.

Google's official post on the new Buzz API is here: Introducing the Google Buzz API. You can find me on Buzz here: http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray.

Former FriendFeeder Kevin Fox Exits Facebook Henhouse

Only a little over two years ago, I covered well-respected Web user interface designer Kevin Fox's leaving Google for the then-startup FriendFeed. That's practically ancient in the world of the real-time Web, as since then, the company essentially rose and fell, before being absorbed into Facebook last summer. For the most part, the site was left on but ignored, as the team, now at Facebook, spread out and took on new challenges. Now comes word that Fox has determined nine months at Facebook was enough, so he is bidding "farewell".

Kevin's leaving Facebook marks three known defections from the social networking giant since the talent buy was announced, including Gary Burd's October 2009 exit and Ben Darnell, who joined Brizzly a month following.

Kevin did not indicate any specific incident as a contribution to his leaving, calling his work with Facebook's "world-class designers, PMs and engineers" a privilege. He says instead that it's "time for the next adventure", hinting he will take vacation and go into private practice.

He said as much to me earlier this week, saying, "I'm really excited to do my own thing after a summer vacation. No jumping from one ship to another."

Previous to Facebook and FriendFeed, Kevin led the design of GMail 1.0, Google Calendar 1.0 and Google Reader 2.0, after he had also spent time at Yahoo! at the end of the Web 1.0 era.

At Google I/O, Apple Is Invisible and Ignored

Speaking in the shadows of Steve Jobs keynotes past, the first day of Google I/O seemed to work around the elephant in the room of Apple and Google's recent conflicts and ongoing battles in mobile, advertising and the OS. Apple, of course, was not a speaker at the conference, is not participating in any of the breakout sessions, and it seemed as if Google's spokespeople went out of their way to work around Apple's positions on app stores, standards, and most notoriously, Flash. The war between Apple and Google has been heating up over the last year, and as of January, the two companies were said to consider the other as primary enemies, even as Google has made it easier for traditional Mac fans to seek out an alternative. But today, not only did the speakers not bring up Apple, or note their lack of inclusion in some standards, but practically every Mac laptop that was used saw the familiar glowing Apple covered with a Google sticker of some sort.

While the morning's keynote did not slam Apple or its products, as some light teasing was reserved exclusively for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, consistently highlighted as a non-modern browser, it was clear that the speakers wanted to promote open standards wherever possible, gave significant stage time to Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe, the purveyors of the much-aligned Flash, and it wasn't until 10:40, 100 minutes into a near two-hour keynote that you even saw an Apple product - the iPad, which was used to display a lengthy demo of Google Web Toolkit, integrated with VMware's SpringSource.

Additionally, as Daring Fireball noticed, the ambitious WebM Project, based on the VP8 video codec, was shown as being supported by practically every major browser and application vendor - with Apple being a clear exception.

Without presenting themselves as the anti-Apple, Google's call for openness, its drive for support of Adobe Flash, its demonstration of Android-based phones in all cases, masking of Apple logos whenever possible, and its seeming lack of awareness of walking in the same halls as Macworlds past, seemed to drive home that the team from Mountain View has a very different objective than does the team from Cupertino. In light of the fact that many seemed to think that the iPad would be the savior of media, it's eye-opening that Sports Illustrated spent so much time this morning championing the Web and Google's Chrome offering. Google looks like they're moving beyond Apple's control and is finding a way to deliver the same experience, on their terms, no matter what Steve Jobs says.

Chrome Web Store Fills In Questions on Chrome OS

Following Google's introduction of the Web-centric Chrome Operating System, my biggest questions around the project have largely been divided into two pieces - the first being the expectation of pervasive high speed Internet and the second being the availability of high quality Web applications that could replace the desktop environment. And while the first issue's answer depends largely on your location, the second issue is showing serious signs of being filled with this morning's introduction of the Chrome Web Store. At Google I/O today, the tease of the upcoming Web store brought serious intrigue and as one of the major highlights in what was an extensive and comprehensive near two hour keynote. And avoiding all hyperbole, as best as I am able, I came away so impressed with the potential of the Web store that it had me rethinking how the introduction could radically change the paradigms of how we obtain applications today and how we interact with our operating systems, desktop apps and online commerce.

As Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, explained, customers have long struggled to find Web applications - lacking ratings and reviews. In the world of mobile phones, this has largely been solved with fantastic examples of Apple's iTunes Store and the Android Marketplace, but for Web Apps, there has not been a centralized source to obtain these apps, run these apps and - should the option be available - pay for these applications.

Some Web Apps In the Chrome Web Store

Pichai said the problem pointed in two directions - first in users struggling to find the apps, and second, the developers finding ways to be discovered. Additionally, users' tendency has always been to think Web applications should be free of cost, forcing most developers to go the advertising route to make revenue. The Chrome Web Store intends to shake that up. One major benefit of shaking up the way users find Web apps, developers promote Web apps and Web apps make revenue? Centralizing a source for applications for Google Chrome - not just as a browser, but .

In April, I wondered about how developers were going to have to work in a world with so many different platforms vying for their attention. Developers are having to decide not just between the major operating systems, but also between the different mobile operating systems, like iPhone and Android - with WebOS from Palm also facing an uncertain future in its new home at HP. One alternative, and one that Google certainly hopes will become the future of app development, is to leverage Web standards and code for the browser.

While the Web's origin was around static documents, it is obviously becoming a platform for rich and social applications. New capabilities, many of which leverage the much discussed HTML 5, enable Web application developers to create high quality rich experience applications that run within the browser, not on the desktop.

"The future of the Web is HTML 5," Pichai said, adding that the 70 million Chrome users who use the browser, contrasted with 30 million last year at this time, would have access to the new Web store in their browser every time they started up. And this future demonstrated a number of full-featured applications, not scaled-down options or dumbed down options we've grown used to in a Web browser experience, but the real thing - and sometimes even more.

Today's demonstration from Sports Illustrated's Editor, Terry McDonnell, of the company offering a full magazine experience - plus interactive, updated, scores and rich media, looked like the first real alternative to the print edition I would possibly be interested in paying for - oddly, the same thing people said about apps on the iPad when Apple's tablet launched. And yet, at times, I was thinking that this kind of a Web store could potentially even have more of an impact on the future of Web development than a single tablet could - creating the opportunity for Web applications to make money in the same way that Apple's iTunes Store has, and start to help customers realize the value of high quality apps, based on leading technology standards, that could drive incremental revenue.

If Web services and Web app developers find a Web store - for profit - compelling, this could potentially drive the same kind of gold rush to Chrome's Web Store as we have seen to iPhone and iPod Touch and iPad in the last few years, helping to further promote Google's Chrome browser, and of course, the planned operating system. The more apps available for the operating system, pushing data stored to the cloud, the fewer holes and questions there are around Chrome's future.

This announcement was more than flashy cover photos on Sports Illustrated (which were cool) or seeing a Lego version of Star Wars played in the browser (doubly geeky). This was about redefining the approach to online commerce for Web apps and redefining what we can expect from quality apps deployed in the browser, further paving the way for users to commit to Chrome. It's early, but as McDonnel said, we are "at the beginning of a storm of innovation." While skeptics may see this introduction as yet another hook into Chrome from Google, or offered only to a subset of users on the Web today, it's forging a new approach the other players aren't promoting, and one that benefits both users and developers.

May 17, 2010

Overheard: Qwotebook Goes Live for Notable Quotables

Following the site's March debut, Qwotebook has been racking up an archive of interesting quotes - from history and from the present - as the site's earliest users stored interesting quotes from friends, from public figures, and random strangers who may have said something remembering. Tonight, and you can quote me on it, the site opens up to all, without needing an invite code - letting you start posting quotes, and their context, and follow friends' quotes.

Paul Buchheit @paultoo on Mocking Unintelligent Political Complainers

In the last six weeks, Qwotebook has been working behind the scenes to integrate with the big players in the world of social networking, first by implementing Twitter's @Anywhere, so you can connect directly to folks quoted from Twitter, and with tonight's roll-out, the ability to log in with Facebook connect, and post "liked" quotes (or Qwotes) to your wall.

Adam Ostrow @adamostrow on Obama's Potential Agenda

The concept is simple, but the collection of interesting "nuggets of knowledge", as the team put it, have, so far, been without a home - despite us having archives for things like videos, photos, people and articles all over the Web. And as the team promised in a blog post tonight: "Join us, because what you see today on Qwotebook isn’t anywhere close to what you’re going to see next week, next month, or next year. You can Qwote us on that."

Start your own Qwotebook at http://www.qwotebook.com. You can find me at http://qwotebook.com/louisgray.

Seesmic Integrates Foursquare Updates In Web Client

Regardless of your feelings on the utility of location apps, or their value in comparison to other updates in your social streams, a lot of people are using products like Foursquare and Gowalla to announce their location and learn what places are trending. With the availability of Foursquare's API, third party applications, including Seesmic, are giving the product prime real estate, letting you keep tabs on your friends' comings and goings without peeking at the dedicated app on your smartphone.

As Twitter has recently taken aggressive moves that clash with some parts of the developer community, thanks to their acquisition of Tweetie, and creation of an official Android client, third party clients are trying to find a way to drive differentiation, opening up their doors to data beyond Twitter. Some, like TweetDeck, have opened up to LinkedIn. Brizzly serves as a Facebook client, as do many others. Now, Seesmic, at least on its Web version, is adding Foursquare. In theory, the more services offered, the less the reliance on Twitter, despite its dominant position.

You can see Foursquare updates alongside Twitter In Seesmic Web.

If you have a Seesmic account, and a Foursquare account, connecting the two is very simple. Go to the Seesmic Web interface (at http://seesmic.com/web/), log in as you, and then click your settings, in the top right corner. You can "Add a new account" for Foursquare, as well as Ping.fm, if you prefer, and the service will connect, using OAuth, to ensure it's actually you.

Foursquare is listed as one of your accounts In Seemic Web's preferences.

Once completed, Foursquare can be displayed as a single column in your Seesmic Web.

With Foursquare having great visibility, integration of the service into products like Seesmic seems like a foregone conclusion - and I have already talked to other Twitter clients who are going to do the same shortly, but Seesmic Web looks like it was first to the game. If Foursquare is important to you, set your location to Seesmic Web and become mayor of your Web browser.

Lazyfeed Gets Social, Interactive, With Real-time Remix

Lazyfeed's July 2009 debut was arguably one of the most interesting new services to hit the information consumption market in the last few years. Built upon the belief the people wanted to follow topics, rather than feeds, and get updates in real time, the product offers a unique, and lazy, way to see streams of info on topics you like flow into your field of view, while prompting you to find more related sources and topics. Today, after months of incubation, Lazyfeed launched a new interface that brings the product out of the world of solitary RSS feed reading, and into the world of social.

True to the product's origins, Lazyfeed still lets you discover new articles, in real time, based on keywords you select. But you can now group those keywords into something called a "Channel", and you can make those channel mixes public. Connect with other friends using the service, and now you have a community building around those terms which you follow - sharing you interests with other connections in your social graph.

The New Lazyfeed With Channels, Followers, Posts and More

For example, I created new channels on Google, Apple and techno music. In time, I could build out my Lazyfeed to include updates for traditional media, sports, blogging and social media, or practically any topic. If it gets blogged, Lazyfeed will find it.


Creating the Google Channel With Keywords

Two of My Channels and Updates By Keyword 

With the added social elements of Lazyfeed, I can now see what topics my friends are following, and what specific posts have caught their eye - and now, every user has a public profile page. For example, mine is http://www.lazyfeed.com/user/louisgray. Is this yet another place to follow the same people? Maybe. But it's a new category of content sharing that hasn't been made possible before - with the possible exception of Google Reader sharing.

Posting from Lazyfeed to Facebook Is Simple

From within any Channel, I can now make new "posts" in response to articles that I have found particularly interesting. These posts, with my comments, will be shared with my new Lazyfeed network. This way, we can discuss topics we both find of note, and can make the once passive approach of real-time feed consumption one that you are now doing with your peers. Additionally, you can send these posts to Twitter or Facebook to alert others to your activity on Lazyfeed.

Lazyfeed has come a long way since its initial debut nearly a year ago. Now that you don't feel you're doing this in a solo environment, it's likely the community elements will spur major interaction and traffic. Find me here: http://www.lazyfeed.com/user/louisgray

iPhone Apps on iPad Smack of Mac OS 9 on OS X

Although it was almost a decade ago, the slow and painful migration from Apple's "Classic" Mac OS 9 to the sleeker Mac OS X sure feels more recent. To take the plunge and buy Mac OS X in its earliest days (and yes, I was running its Public Beta for $29) was to take a leap of faith - one embedded in promise more than immediate benefits. You couldn't play DVDs or Print in practically all cases. Most applications were missing - and to get to your old environment, you had to boot up your now antiquated desktop in emulation mode, or "Classic".

The feeling of running these old apps, and holdovers like PhotoShop and Quark Express, was gritty, slow, and subject to the occasional bomb error. Over time, one booted into Mac OS 9's Classic mode less and less and then one day, never again, as it faded to black. If you're an iPad user, and you've booted up some of your old iPhone apps that haven't been remastered for the larger screen and swifter graphics and processor, you're likely feeling some of the same emotions as we did a decade ago.

While the iPad's support of previously-compiled iPhone apps made amazing sense, to populate the device with hundreds of thousands of applications on day one of its launch, I am finding myself avoiding or deleting as many iPhone apps from the iPad as I can, if they are not necessary - and no, we ca't print on the iPad now any more than we could run DVD's in the first runs of Mac OS X. In comparison to applications built with the iPad in mind, the "supersized" iPhone apps, for the most part, suffer in look and feel and bring back that same understanding that emulation is never as good as the real thing.

It may seem ever more complicated as a developer to rebuild and rewrite code for the newest of Apple's devices, in addition to the myriad of alternatives, including Google's Android platform, the various flavors of Windows, and Mac OS X itself, but with a swelling population of iPad users who appear willing to pay standard to premium prices for dedicated applications, one can safely assume that if one developer doesn't meet customer's needs, they will seek out and install an alternative. And those who are slow to the iPad, resting on the laurels of their iPhone apps' prowess, will no doubt be the losers.

This isn't to say that all iPad-targeted applications are amazing. Some of the earliest are just repackaging of content from Web sites (see eTrade and ESPN), but the best (like MLB's At Bat application and Apple's iBooks) are comparable to full desktop environments and fit perfectly in the iPad's hardware frame. But that's no doubt because we are in the early days of iPad development. While some are saying you have to wait and see what the breakout application will be for this new platform, the opportunity awaits those who get the environment right.

In addition to deleting iPhone-optimized apps I probably wasn't using much anyway, I find myself cruising the Apple iTunes Store, waiting for amazing iPad Apps to debut which I can download in their place. For the most part, I'm not yet finding them. I've been amused by the Doodle Buddy application, which lets my kids finger paint on the device. I have enjoyed using the iPad as a racing car, and think Apple's native apps are pretty solid. But we are clearly in a transition time where the current offerings are light, as we wait for the library of apps for iPad to grow, and possibly, those that only are compiled for iPhone may decrease.

Given my array of choices in terms of how I can get my data and my apps, from the laptop to the iPad and the iPhone, I am not planning to suffer emulation and go-betweens and longer than I have to. In the same vein as Apple refusing ported Flash apps on their platform, I too want to enjoy applications designed for the device I am taking in, and not somebody's quick and dirty recompile. We went through the strain of Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, and I hope Apple has proven themselves enough by this time that the call to arms for more native apps will occur much more quickly.

May 16, 2010

InfoSmack Podcast: Blogging On the Corporate Watch

Rejoining the InfoSmack podcast on Friday after my January debut, I had the opportunity to talk about a serious issue that many independent bloggers are finding, as their content occasionally may run afoul of their corporate management. Alongside Greg Knieriemen of Chi Corporation, behind the popular StorageMonkeys blog, he and I spoke with Greg Ferro of Ethereal Mind and Stevie Chambers, a Cisco employee who had recently seen his blogging future threatened after one controversial post caught the eye of analyst firm Gartner.

The discussion, which is a lot better in terms of content than sound quality, reviewed whether disclaimers on a personal blog are enough to cover an employee's back in times of conflict, or whether they should assume they are always speaking on behalf of a company, even if they are not an approved spokesperson.

At the end of the podcast, Greg also challenges me in a new segment he called "10 Big Questions", where he asks, among other things, whether Apple will ever accept Flash, and to name something I don't like about Robert Scoble. You'll have to listen to the end to find out just what I said. The full content is below, and in its original form here: Infosmack Podcast Episode 50 - Cisco, Gartner and Bloggers.



Guzzle Revamps Personal Aggregator, Adds iPhone App

The world of news personalization powered by RSS has been very interesting over the last year or so, with innovation coming from companies such as Lazyfeed, my6sense, Feedly and tweaks to Google Reader, including its "Magic" feature. One personalized aggregator, called Guzzle (which I first covered in July of 2009) has gotten less visibility, but the company is hoping to change that with two major updates - including the refresh of its news aggregator, and the introduction of an iPhone app - to let you get news on topics you have selected while on the go.

Guzzle Highlights News By Topic You Select, Displayed As You Wish

How you get news in today's world of streams varies by site. RSS readers primarily ask you to bring your own feeds. Social networks let you follow people. Some sites, like Regator, show you news from select sources by topic. Lazyfeed and Guzzle show you updates by topics you have picked, and the pages are regularly updated. But Lazyfeed doesn't yet have a mobile application, and Guzzle does. True to form, it quickly captured top stories on the topics I'm most interested in, and lets me view them one by one in the browser.

Guzzle's back-end has been completely rewritten from its 2009 launch, and is now powered by PubSubHubbub, thanks to support from Superfeedr. Every time a monitored feed publishes a new article, it is parsed by topic and assigned to the categories you may be viewing. This is similar to the work the late Socialmedian pioneered in 2008, but Guzzle has a portal-like interface to see the updates, reminiscent of My Alltop.


Guzzle's iPhone App Sorts By Topic

Interesting features of the new Guzzle? The product keeps track of every article published, and you can search its archives. You can also display news in an expanded mode, like Feedly, with large images (on the desktop version anyway).


Viewing Stories On Guzzle's iPhone App

While the desktop version of Guzzle is free, the iPhone application is $1.99. (get it here) If you don't mind parting with two bucks, Guzzle on the iPhone is a quick way to get caught up on the topics you're monitoring while mobile - and is an alternative to the personal prioritization of my6sense or the editorial sifting performed by Regator.

Guzzle also is transparent in terms of the sources that power its database. You can see them all here or can suggest new ones that haven't made the list.

Disclosure: my6sense is a client of Paladin Advisors Group, where I am Managing Editor of New Media. My comments on the company's product are always independent, and do not pass their way in advance.