February 24, 2012

Adam Singer of Future Buzz Going Google

Since 2008, when I first ran into Adam Singer (author of the Future Buzz) online, via his blog and other social circles, I have been trying to find a way for him and I to work together. I was immediately impressed with his analysis of search engine optimization (SEO), digital media, public relations and finding real value in social activity all of us, as individuals or brands, were doing.

Every time my partners and I at Paladin (from 2009 to 2011) would talk about expanding, and I would draw up a future organizational chart, I would write Adam's initials on the board, because from our interactions, I knew he bridged the gap between social media worship and real analytics-driven work. But I couldn't lure Adam all the way from Minnesota to join us and eventually my own efforts changed. But as Adam joined us in the Bay Area just over a year ago, the stage was set to bring him to wherever I was headed next. Today, I am excited to announce that Adam is joining Google in a product marketing role in what I think is a perfect spot for him - Google Analytics. So my dream of working together (even if not in the same group) is finally realized.

Longer-term readers of the blog may remember I opened up for guest posts for an extended period, and of course, Adam's work was highlighted. He wrote fun posts like Social Media Topics That Have Jumped The Shark and Face It: Facebook Needs A Facelift, and I've always enjoyed his regular posting on The Future Buzz. As someone who has worked multiple angles on the media front, from pitching stories in the world of PR, to being pitched, to working on a highly-watched product that has media looking for regular news, seeing someone like Adam who understands the entire process and works toward metrics is exceptional.

So this is a huge day for Adam and a cool day for me too. Pretty exciting. And yes, I referred Adam in to Google. The company's hiring some of the best people, and I look forward to bringing some of the best of you in to do incredible stuff. Check out http://www.google.com/jobs and let's talk if you want the next "joining Google" post to be about you.

February 22, 2012

Clipping and Curation Service Amplify Shuts Down

Sustaining a successful social sharing product with a small array of features is a challenge. For every success story like Pinterest, there are dozens more that have tried to gain traction, and, while possibly succeeding to a small degree, not seeing enough activity to convert into a healthy business. One of the more recent to close its doors is Amplify.com, which acted as a home for users to clip favorite sites from the web (including on mobile) and add their own commentary. This simple and somewhat elegant service played a role as a curation journal of sorts for its users, who could discuss an article (or its best parts anyway) downstream. But news came this week the site is being mothballed, and users are being pointed to Clipboard instead.

While the gesture to Clipboard comes as some relief for Amplify's users, it's not expected to be a catch-all for existing clips that have been captured over the last few years. A blog post announcing the move says "We can't guarantee that all of your clips will be preserved", although databases will be transferred, and it's hoped a migration is possible. Of note, Clipboard, run by former Microsofties, has garnered praise of late from Michael Arrington and GeekWire.

A Note to Amplify Users By Email

While Amplify's note to users was short, Clipboard says Amplify "struggled for some time to continue operating. The reasons why are difficult to state, but ultimately neither service was meeting the needs of their user."

One user, Paul Simbeck-Hampson, wrote in detail on Google+, that Amplify "was a community of thoughtful considerate people who took time to engage, share and support one another around topics that were meaningful - it was like a grown ups meeting place," adding that even while discussions on curation and copyright flared up, Amplify made many changes to be on the right side of content owners.

Unfortunately, that effort looks not to have been enough. I appreciated the Amplify bookmarklet, especially on mobile, and think that sharing selectively on the web, having a discussion downstream with peers, is valuable - but this particular service didn't survive. You can see more on the Amplify site or on the Clipboard blog.

Disclosure: I work at Google on the Google+ team. Any conjecture as to whether this is good or bad for Google+ is trying too hard. :)

February 19, 2012

It's Not Social If You're Not Engaging

What does it mean to "be social" or to participate with people online, including family, closest friends and colleagues, but strangers as well? Is sharing a link social? Is telling somebody where you are or what you ate social? Is showing a photo of your kid social? It can be - and it can also not be. An action becomes social when you engage with others and provide value through your sharing and interacting beyond the action itself. This is something that's often missed.

Google+ was designed to aid you online doing what you already do offline - sharing stories, swapping jokes and links, hanging out, sharing photos and videos, with different groups of people. Of course, you can always share publicly if you like as well, giving everyone who runs into your content the option to see it and engage.

As communities grow, both offline and online, cliques and factions emerge. You can see it in small groups, like family reunions or church events, or notoriously high school. Google+ is no different. As people post fast and engage fast, it's possible that feelings get hurt, people misinterpret what you meant, assume something untrue, or label you based on one comment alone. It takes effort to move past that and not let those perceived slights take hold. It also takes effort to make sure you're contributing beyond your initial share. 

Unsurprisingly, I often get questions about what it takes to "be social" and to get visible or, at least, not feel ignored, on a network like Google+ or a blog. I wrote about some of those ways in 10 Great Ways to Get Discovered on Google+ (http://goo.gl/LyzJ1) and in July's The Secret 10 Step Guide to Giving Good Social (http://goo.gl/12drA), but the most critical part of being social is to be yourself and do what comes naturally.

My Social Contract With You Is As Follows:

1. I will always share content I think you will find interesting.

Not every share is for everyone, and if you're not using circles, instead sharing publicly, there's no doubt that not everybody shares your interests. I share what I think is interesting to a good chunk of you, which probably hasn't already entered your view.

2. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt - at least twice. :)

Sometimes, people are out to be trolls. But just because you don't always agree with me doesn't put you on my bad list. Even if you say something cross to me or someone I know well, I'll do my best to figure out why that is and I'll engage with you to see if the problem can be cracked. But if you keep going, that negative experience isn't something I'll want to make part of my life.

3. I will make every attempt to engage with you - no matter your visibility.

You'll find people on Google+ (and elsewhere) who don't do a great job of responding in comments, following mentions or acting elsewhere in the network. If anything, I may over-engage. I always participate in comment streams, well beyond my own feed, and I try my best to find when you're addressing me, no matter if you've got 1 million followers or 1.

4. I am always smiling, just like my avatar.

Take yourself too seriously and you lose. I have fun, and that means hanging out with people around the world, sharing music that I enjoy, posting pictures of my kids, and being sarcastic or humorous. When I stop having fun here, I should quit.

5. I will not get pigeonholed.

If you catch me posting too many Google+ centric posts in a row, apologies in advance. We're just updating so frequently, it's practically a necessity just to stay on top of things. But I haven't changed from the same guy who many of you have known for years. I still care about baseball and electronic music, and obscure trivia, TV and tech outside the Googleplex. So if you follow me, expect more.

Hitting 100,000 people having me in circles is pretty cool. It's a big number, and probably my last big number for a long time. After all, I'm not on the recommended users list - and that means you're finding me through word of mouth or through the content I bring here. It's almost 500% what I've seen from Twitter over 4 years and more than 600% the subscribers I had on FriendFeed. But just think, we've only been here just under 240 days, so this place is growing pretty fast. What's next for Google+ and for all of us? You'll have to wait and see, but now you have more of a hint of what you'll get from me.

To the next 100,000.

/via My Google+ Profile.

February 15, 2012

Daily Kos Urges Democrats to Vote for Santorum

+Markos Moulitsas and the +Daily Kos crew are enjoying the ongoing GOP primary battles so much that they are encouraging Democrats to crash upcoming open Republican primaries and caucuses, casting their vote for +Rick Santorum, all in the name of extending the increasingly close race with +Mitt Romney, which could make +Barack Obama's chances of reelection greater in the long run - assuming money and ill-will is thrown at the contest before the GOP convention later this year.

I tend to doubt whether this "Operation Hilarity" could have real impact on the outcome in close states, but 2012 has already seen some razor-thin margins and a few hundred votes here or there could be game changing. It's time to get some popcorn and watch this play out if you love the political horse race.

DailyKos.com: Announcing Operation Hilarity

/via My Google+ Profile.

February 07, 2012

Dice.com: Louis Gray on Google and Job Hunting

Last fall, shortly after I joined Google+Michelle Greenlee contacted me for a quick interview about the Google hiring experience, and what tech-savvy job seekers can do to leverage the influence of social media to influence hiring managers. The story was finally posted this morning.

The biggest take-away is probably my last note in an answer to her final question: "The world is becoming social and the new world of business and hiring can find great candidates through how you present yourself online."

Dice.com: Louis Gray on Google and Job Hunting

/via My Google+ Profile.

February 01, 2012

Real Valley Stories: The Unfinished Booth

Editor's Note: Part 6 in an irregular series of stories from my 13 years in Silicon Valley. Part 5 talked about the tradeoffs of speed, quality and budgeting. This time, a would-be trade show nightmare.

For the first few years in my Marketing career, I spent virtually all my time behind the desk. Relationships were largely through e-mail or by phone, or vendors could come to our office for the occasional pitch, onsite meeting, or creative review. At one point, I must have not left California for as much as a decade, be it for vacation, trade show, or any other reason. That all changed in 2004, when with the sudden departure of a colleague who had to date held the role of events manager, the luck of running the entire experience fell to me - from pre-show promotion to materials transport, handling and setup to lead collection and pipeline tracking.

That summer posed the first real challenge with the arrival of the Siggraph trade show in Los Angeles. Our company, well before I had taken over the role, had selected an exhibit space of 400 square feet, with a standard 20 foot by 20 foot configuration. We had customized our booth after buying it from a company that had once seen better days. The previous events manager had kept the procedures around trade show planning an undocumented secret, so I set out weeks in advance to make sure we booked and shipped everything to Southern California in time for the important show.

A month or so ahead of Siggraph, the operations manager and I visited the warehouse to see the booth materials for ourselves. But the boxes containing the booth and its pieces were stacked high above us. Between us both, we selected the boxes we were sure contained all the walls, poles and signage needed, and were good to go - all without demanding the warehouse owners took them down by forklift to be further examined. As far as we knew, that was true. But come the day before show start, I quickly learned different.

As most trade show veterans know, the day (or multiple days) before an event starts, event planners and experienced union workers band together to assemble trade show booths, from unrolling carpeting and laying electrical, to propping up signage and setting up the welcome area. This time, as the crew came to get started on my booth, they examined the instructions, glanced at the boxes we had brought, and quickly determined it wasn't all there. They gestured to me, we looked two or three more times, and it was obvious we had basically shipped half a booth, and the rest of the booth was in boxes hundreds of miles north, in the Bay Area.

Not a good thing, considering securing space at the trade show was tens of thousands of dollars, and revenue from the show should be much higher. So I called another colleague back at headquarters, who zipped back to the warehouse to find the missing pieces, and had them put on a truck immediately, to begin driving south toward Los Angeles. The boxes, in time, would find us, and somehow we would get it done. So the union team and I caught up and decided they would go work on other booths until our equipment came.

The morning turned to afternoon. Afternoon turned to evening. No good news. The only update was from the driver of the truck, who called to say he had hit traffic from an accident on I-5, which would make him hours later. The union team, meanwhile, called me, and said they had completed all other work, and that we were now on the clock, with or without our booth. I couldn't disagree.

Around 11 p.m. the night before the show, with doors opening at 8 the following morning, the truck containing the missing boxes with our missing pieces arrived at the convention center. Our small team of union workers and I worked around since-locked doors and the array of quietly finished booths to get started. They were now on overtime pay, obviously, and probably on double overtime.

As the booth started to take shape, around 1 a.m. there was more discussion and commotion and clear confusion among the team - as they couldn't find the largest piece of the entire booth, a vertical pole which supported a top branding sign and the right wing of the booth itself. It was nowhere to be found. At this point, I just said to continue and do all they could. By 2 a.m., approaching 2:30, the booth looked like a booth, only without our brand name at the top. Instead, it just said "Network Storage", which confused attendees to no end in the days ahead.

Thanking each of the workers, and giving them each an equal share of all the cash I had personally pulled out of my own money from the ATM, I considered the night done, and wrapped up just five hours before we were supposed to open. One of the men, not wanting me to walk back to my hotel that late at night, gave me a lift home.

The following morning, I was at our booth in uniform ready to greet customers, to the odd stares of those neighboring booths who had finished their setup days with our area being a blank square of carpet. More than one person came by to ask what had happened as our booth had seriously popped up overnight. Later that afternoon, a man came by and interrupted me saying that he had found the missing long pole that belonged with our booth, in the back of his truck, wrapped in carpeting, and that in all the haste to get down the state, and to unload, he had overlooked it. The following question was, "Do you want to put the rest of the booth up overnight tonight?"

I thought about it for a brief second, and said no. One night was enough. Somehow, we finished the event in fair shape, though it was not perfect, and somehow, I didn't see any ill effects of the incident in my job. But it was something I didn't want to experience again - a perfect example of needing to be fully prepared and adequately making sure that no one person, especially one eager to leave the company, has all the information you need to succeed. And that's a real story.