coinage


Marbles - Schulenburg, Texas

Image by adamj1555 via Flickr

While I’m still actually waiting to get “in”, I have a couple of comments regarding Google+, from outside the Circle.

From descriptions of this Google Social Networking effort (following Orkut, Wave and Buzz), key elements as of now are: Circles (think of them as groups of people within your network); Sparks (which are topics or areas of interest); Hangouts (video chat rooms); Huddles (group chat); and Instant Upload (automatic mobile photo syncing).

Considering potential for integrating capability across product areas has always been most intriguing to me.  In serving them up “together”, G+ makes it that much more likely for capabilities to be used together.

First, and I think most interesting, is the way that the concept of Circles melds the idea of a network of friends/connections with tagging/categorization so that, without having the clunky thinking of classifying or inviting people to groups, the user is able to achieve the elusive sense of having multiple personas representable within one system.   Some people maintain their professional network in one system (LinkedIn, for example), and their personal network in another (e.g. facebook).  Others maintain multiple accounts in a single system in order to segregate their “work” online presence from their “family” or “personal play” selves.  For those who already maintain multiple Google accounts, G+ lets you log into multiple accounts at once.  I have yet to see how well you can interact in ways that cross over account lines.
Image representing Twine as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The second area of note is the way that Sparks re-frames the idea of Alerts in a way that subtly shifts the nature of the material that results from them from being one-off emails or links — that you might dig into or forward on — to material that relate to particular areas of interest, which presumably parallel or align with groupings of people you associate with around those topics.  Twine had used the approach of integrating topic areas and social groupings for alerts – but these were groups that potential recipients would have to join.  In G+, the “proximity” to the Circles aspect, and the fact that those Circles are unique to the individual, and don’t require reciprocation, make for a compelling scenario for the “push” side of the equation. (At the same time, I see some potential issues in terms of “pull” and management by those on the receiving end).

Together, Sparks and Circles could take us a lot closer to a dream system I yearned for a few years back, that I referred to as a Virtual Dynamic Network.  In this, rather than having defined groups that you would need to join (which would send you related material along with much you would prefer to do without), material you both receive and send would be routed based on what it is about and how it is classified. I would love to see distinct sets of controls for in-bound vs out-bound content.
I won’t know until I get to try it, but ideally G+ will enable you to tie Sparks to Circles for you.  I’m also hoping you’re able to group your Circles – to relate and arrange them even hierarchically (consider: a large Circle for your work persona, which might contain multiple Circles for various client or team categories; or a large personal Circle, with sub-Circles for family, local friends, remote friends, classmates – all with overlap management to avoid multiply-sent content).

Hangouts and Huddles are by nature “social” already, for which you’ll presumably be able to seamlessly leverage Circles.  As with topical material, Instant Upload brings your photo content automatically one step closer to where you are sharing.  Success of all this as a social platform depends significantly on integration between the parts for seamless use by a user across capabilities – for example, adding someone who is participating on a video call or chat right into one or more of the Circles touched or represented by the other participants on that call or chat.

Ripples

Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr

Leveraging other capabilities such as linguistic processing of AdSense (and G+ may already have this in the works) it would not be a stretch for the content in your interactions to generate suggestions for Sparks which you could simply validate — places or people in photos, words in chats, terms that show up in content within Spark items.  From there, it wouldn’t be far to being able to interact with your life through what I might call a “SparkMap” — reflecting relationships between terms within your areas of interest.

 

UPDATE: I’m now in, as of Friday afternoon, July 8. So now I’ll be playing, with more ideas to come…

Additional links:

  • How to Get Started with Google+… (socialmediaexaminer.com)
  • A good ScobleEncounter listen (scobleizer on cinch.fm)
  • Quite a collection of tips growing on this public google doc
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    Sand Hill Road sign from 280 north. Image via Wikipedia

    Earlier this week, I attended the VANJ Entrepreneurs Expo & Elevator Pitch Olympics, (VANJ stands for the Venture Association of NJ) primarily to explore paths for a current client. This was a healthy mix of education and marketing, from multiple perspectives including: business and entrepreneurship support entities and associations; professionals; consultants; investors; and early-stage startups and some ventures a bit futher along.  Among the support entities was an alphabet soup of communities, associations, publishers, and institutions such as NJBIN (a network of 12 incubators), NJTC, NJEF, NJSBDC, NJBIZ, NJ Entrepreneur, FDU’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship and NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, and NJ Angels.net (among others).  There was a helpful panel comprised of professionals and investors (both VC and angels) – each of which first provided an overview of their perspective on what they look for in a pitch and investment opportunity.  They then judged the 20+ pitches which followed, judging them on pitch presentation and their sense of the fundability of each opportunity.

    Diagram of venture capital fund structure for ...Image via Wikipedia

    I won’t go into the individual companies that presented, but their presentations each consisted of a brief (2 minutes), clear and concice explanation of what they do (in terms of the problem they seek to solve and how they solve it), the challenges they face and how they intend to overcome them, the success they’ve experienced thus far in a quantifiable form and where that is relative to the size of the opportunity, how much they need to get there, and how they intend to use the funds they seek in order to get there.

    In addition to being informative, it was a good opportunity to self-assess in the terms that the other startups were looking to satisfy in their own presentations, and to exercise some proclivities – which for me, includes naming and word play…  (I was, after all, sitting next to the person who came up with the name for Viagra!)  The atmosphere certainly got the ideas flowing – yielding my own suggesting to VANJ president, Jay Trien, a phrase for describing their efforts: that “VANJ is doing a service by being an eVANJelist for business and entrepreneurship in the state”.

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    Morning FogImage by Nick Chill via Flickr

    I have a tendency to think on the edges or outskirts of domains – in the interstices – where domains overlap with one another.  When the morning fog clears, I typically get brainstorms that result from word plays that bridge multiple domains that may be on my mind.

    For example, while attending a meeting this week on Usability in the context of Agile development, I had the thought that there ought to be an application of the methodology within the realm of cooking – and the Scrum component of agile could be referred to in this context as “Scrumtious”.

    Another of these hit me while walking out of the grocery store, and no doubt subliminally having picked up “low cal” while thinking about communities and marketing within them, that a calorie conscious faction could refer to their region as a “Low Cal Locale”.

    On the heels of my wife’s latest marathon (her fifth), I’m thinking there ought to be a womens’ triathlon called the “Iron Maiden”.

    The Scrum project management method. Part of t...Image via Wikipedia

    If I had a nickel for every one of these wordplay thoughts, my pockets would bulge each day! My kids tend to be my reluctant test-subjects for these sometimes painful ideas.  As I trust their untainted minds, they are sometimes the end of the line; sometimes though, in the spirit of Agile development, they’re the beginning of an iterative process.

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    In the context of marketing and advertising, we’ve heard more during the last year or so, in reference to the semantic web and semantic technology.  What does Semantic Advertising really mean?  One interpretation – the one we’re not talking about here – is the selling of something by calling it semantic, which some have done in order to ride momentum (which I call “meme-entum”) of the space to sell something based on a loose association with the concept of “meaning” or “intent”.  So what are we talking about?

    The Art of Online AdvertisingImage by khawaja via Flickr

    VS

    New, Improved *Semantic* Web!Image by dullhunk via Flickr

    The strategy in the space has long been driven by word association, and more and more-so on an automated basis.  At a time, placement was done on an entirely manual basis – and automation of keyword matching increasingly became the basis for new business models.  That is, after all, the basis of what we now think of as contextual advertising – the alignment of what the user is looking for with the other things they encounter on the page.

  • So to put it simply:  What is it that is new and different?  What is it about the inner workings of an advertising mechanism that makes an offering semantic or not.  What are the drivers and opportunities around these differences?  What is real?  These are some of the things we’re looking to learn about in detail at the panel discussion that I’ve been helping to organize for Internet Week in New York – the title of which is Semantic Advertising.We’ll leave it to our moderators to dig into the nuts and bolts of the subject with the experts that have been gathered.  Going into the discussion though, here are some of the questions I’m thinking about:

    • Since keyword matching is, well,  keyword matching: what are the main differences between straight-up contextual advertising that uses keyword lookups relative to its semantic brethren?
    • Does the addition of keyword frequency, and therefore the statistical analysis of the text, make the matching on a ranking basis qualify as semantic?
    • Going beyond simply enhancing alignment, predicated upon statistical assumptions, is it the further use of NLP to not just extract concepts to be matched, but to determine the intent by the terms used – to better tune matches when words have multiple potential meanings?  Many of us have encountered the unintentionally matched ads – which can be disastrous for a brand.  What can really be done now, and how?
    • Further on the NLP side, there is the potential for sentiment detection – so even when the correct meaning of a term is understood, determining whether its use is appropriate for matching would be based on the positive or negative connotation of its use (think here in terms of whether you would want your airline advertised next to a story about an aviation mishap, for example).
    • Going at the question from the “semantic-web” side, is embedding (and detection of) metadata on the page just a different flavor of Semantic Advertising – or should we be calling that Semantic Web Advertising instead?  This seems less prone to interpretation errors, but the approach relies upon metadata which is largely not yet there.  (Because of the markup related aspects of this point, I wanted to call this post “Mark(up)eting and (RDF)ertising”, but was talked out of doing so).
    • Is there a difference in strategy and/or scalability when considering whether a semantic approach is more viable when done within the search process, as opposed to on the content of the page being viewed?
    • If ads to be served are stored in semantically compliant architecture, does that itself provide any advantages for the service provider?  And would doing so give rise to the service being referred to as Semantic Advertising?  Does this even enter into the eqaution at this point?
    • Would increases in the amount of embedded metadata shift the balance of systematically enhanced ad selection and presentation of sponsored content – from one web-interaction phase to another?

    I’m looking forward to the panel – to open my mind regarding these and other factors that come into play – and what elements and trends will be necessary for the viability of the various possible directions here.

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    © Guerito 2005Image via WikipediaAs an update related to my earlier post on the Oregon idea for a mileage tax in place of the gasoline tax:  Here’s a case where the model of cost-per-mile could actually make sense – but not as a road-maintenance related tax.  Instead, this furthers the green and energy independence aspects that the mileage tax would discourage.  In this case, the cost per-mile concept underlies a quicker shift by consumers to electric vehicles.  Better Place is working on transforming the auto market to work more like the communications industry, where the consumer pays for service/minutes – in this case miles.  In doing so, it looks to shift a major expense factor of EVs to being acquired over time – not altogether different from the way we buy fuel for our gas powered cars over time – not all at once.  (I’m calling the auto industry under this scenario the “commutications industry.”)

    In addition to looking to make charging ports ubiquitous, for topping-off the battery whenever parked, the concept  involves battery swapping stations, whereby drivers would pull in when they need a fill-up, and rather than charging the battery that is in their car, a hot one would be swapped in on the fly – in the time that it would take for an ordinary gas fill-up.  The batteries in this case would not be owned by the consumer, but would be part of the subscription or service plan.

    Circling back to a point that I made in the earlier post – different cars have different levels of economy/efficiency – so owners of lower economy cars should bear some added cost, beyond just per-mile.  This can’t just be a matter of how much juice is used, since some batteries will have better retention / performance – and these being the property of the company… (well, you get the point).

    Service can manifest in a range of ways – from people getting the service for a car they themselves purchase, to cars being provided as part of the service (much like a free phone provided under a phone service plan).  Interestingly, Better Place is also pushing governments to require participants in this market to comply with standards – so from the beginning, there won’t be competing standards (e.g. HD vs Blu-ray) which could delay our reaching energy independence by slowing adoption while people wait to see which standard would take.

    None of this solves Oregon’s road maintenance revenue issue.  In fact it underscores the problem.  Increasing the gas tax, though, would keep the pedal to the metal (so to speak) in driving (pun intended) out gas engines there.  If the Better Place service providers do master mileage metering however,  that could address the technical issues behind the proposed tax, and serve as a substitute once the gas guzzlers are all gone.

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    FahrenheitImage by buschap via FlickrEvery now and again, you find yourself doing something that, when considered in the context of other parts of your life, can reveal interesting things about yourself or people in general.  I drew one such parallel after spending a weekend with my family hurtling through the air at Hershey Park.

    For those of you who have never been there, it has 11 roller coasters – and if you’re not into them, well, you’re going to be standing around a lot waiting for your kids to come back saying “that was great”, “let’s do it again”, or something about a snack.  I’ve done lots of things that some would consider daring – including rock and ice climbing, and flying in a glider, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting… but I’ve just never been one for rides that are supposed to give you near-death experiences, because frankly, I don’t generally like feeling that close to “the edge”.

    Since my wife and kids were so gleeful following each of their wild rides – especially Farenheight (pictured above) and Storm Runner, with their loops, corkscrews, and in the case of the latter, acceleration from 0 to 70 in 2 seconds – I was compelled to understand their sense of the differences from one ride to another – and how each impacted their senses.

    In the back of my mind, I think I was secretly trying to ascertain which of the elements I could personally have handled – given that each person has a different sense of what “scary” is, and you cannot just rely on someone saying “it wasn’t so bad” or “you could handle that”.  Key factors which weigh differently by individual include: height, speed, drops (number, length, steepness), banks, roughness, re-direction and mis-direction… (among surely many more categorizations of the coaster-phile).

    On the “handle-it” scale, I had already managed Lightning Racer, Wildcat, and Comet, and had dipped my toe into the “beyond” with SuperDooperLooper (and a few others) – and their death defying drops and loops.  To “push my research”, I finally succumbed to the pleas of my family, and (somehow) joined them on Great Bear, which added “hanging from the rail”, and “corkscrews” to my repertoire.

    At the end of Great Bear though – which, by the way, I survived – I realized that I had only managed to do so by staring at a bolt – which attached the seat in front of me to the chassis holding the seats on the rails, from which we were hanging.below – for the entire ride.  A friend commented days later that the only way to do a ride like that is to give yourself over to the ride.  I fear (among obvious other things) that I did not do this.  While I can say to my 10-year-old, who finally stopped calling me a sissy,  that “I did it”, I cannot say that I experienced all it had to offer – but I survived.

    The parallel I alluded to above is not related to the two tracks on each coaster – but to life in general – work, activities, people, relationships…  If you give yourself over to these experiences, you can get out of them all they have to offer, and help others do the same.   This too reminds me of the same parallel that went on in the back of my mind following a whitewater kayaking trip in the winter of 1978-79, during which a professor said to me “we need to make sure we’re moving faster than the water if we have any intentions about steering”.

    If you hang on, fixing your gaze on a bolt to simply survive, you’re going to get tossed around and may not enjoy the “ride”.  In the case of the Great Bear, the truth is that the ride may never get another chance to show me its stuff.

    Afterthoughts: How does this relate to some of the other things I’ve written about here?  On one hand, it isn’t supposed to.  On the other hand, it informally dives into the formalization of experience – the elements of things – in this case, the taxonomy of thrill.  I appear to have stumbled into an area known as thrill research – but I think I may leave well enough alone.

    Coinage du jour: “parallel-0-gram” – a message in which a comparison or parallel is drawn or relayed.

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