Google+ some more thoughts

23 07 2011

I just read  this ‘Why twitter is obsolete‘ and despite there being the usual mass of comment on Google+ and how it will or wont change the world, this one has a fact I hadn’t been aware of before.

“Twitter defines an “active user” as one who follows at least 30 people and has at least 10 people who follow him. A source with access to Twitter’s API who was quoted by Business Insider in April says that there were only 21 million people or accounts on Twitter that met the “active user” criteria.”

This is interesting and until I read it I had never considered the quality value of user metrics, just their quantative value. If this is true, and I have to say I suspect it might be, then Google+ can (and should) go for the jugular and change the game. In my opinion the Google+ UI and hence UX, while good, is lacking some simple but vital features. Right now the ‘stream’, the main feed of everyone you have circled in some way, is too noisy and circles currently don’t provide quite enough flexibility to tailor your default stream. But this is trivial to resolve for Google and many people have already commented on the 2 or 3 options to fix it, I’m sure Google will.

Another point raised in the previously mentioned article is that a lot of posts are nothing more than a teaser or snippet that then links to a fuller blog post. In fact Tweetdeck a very popular client for twitter and recently acquired by twitter, provides a tweet extender. But Google can beat this simply, it could allow you to post a full blog, direct into your stream. If Google allows for a simple two level posting mechanic, something like a summary, length restricted but including media and then a fuller extended post, hidden by default but with a clickable extend button on the post then it has in stream bloging taken care of.

twitters greatest asset in its early days, long before I wanted to use it, was its open and available API, this allowed them to build twitter and anyone to build add-ons and clients. But now twitter is much bigger, and not so open to others delivering the features it thinks (rightly or wrongly) it should be delivering. Once Google+ delivers its API we will see some of the current social media clients (Seesmic, Hootsuite, etc) including Google+, at this point its going to become apparent that twitter itself lacks in many areas compared to Google+ and it might just be a matter of time.

That time may also be a lot shorter than people think (myself included), this comparative graph of Google+ growth v’s twitter v’s Facebook, while not being a fair direct comparison, shows how rapidly Google+ has taken off (and its still invite based) and may give some indications to how volatile the social media user base is.


Cloud Music – a village looking for an idiot?

15 07 2011

Let me start by saying that right now my music is not in the cloud and although I’ve had a play with both Google Music and Amazons Locker I do not use them yet (as they are not officially available in this country yet) and Apple has yet to launch its iCloud service.

There have been a number of ‘cloud’ music services making news to some degree in the last few months, including; Amazon, Google and Apple. I’ve been doing a little thinking about these services and there are a few things I’m more curious about.

Let’s start with Apple and its iTunes in the Cloud (iCloud), my understanding of this is that it’s a great offering, all your iTunes tunes in the cloud to download and play anywhere, well anywhere so longs as it’s on an Apple product of course. Interesting thing number 1, your iTunes purchases don’t count against your iCloud limit, that’s a great sell, you’ve got 20gigs of iTunes music and you can have it all in your iCloud for nothing! But the thing that has raised most interest though is iTunes Match. For your annual fee you can get all your non iTunes music into the cloud, but without all that tedious faffing about uploading it, Apple will match your music against their library and give you a nice new 256bit AAC of your dodgy old mp3. My final point here is price, Apple, once king of charging its loving little fans silly money is continuing its iPad tactic (which you have to say is winning) of beating the competition (such as it is) on price. My music collection is vast, if I were to put half of it into Amazons locker it would cost me a fortune ($200), Apple seems to be saying it will cost me $25!

Now, Amazon. This is basically a locker service. I buy space for my music, upload it and can then play it anywhere. Well in theory I can. It’s much the same with Google Music, though I don’t think anyone knows pricing yet. Here is problem nunmber one, have you ever tried to upload a lot of data from a domestic broadband connection? You’re going to find out what it means to have a different upload and download speed and boy is it going to hurt when you are trying to upload that big music collection. It could take days if not weeks. In my opinion it’s not going to happen, you just won’t do it, do you know why? Because you already have the music, it’s on your PC, it’s on your phone. The Amazon and Google music products require me and you to upload our music and that’s a painfully slow process. Apple has the winning hand here and its not as though you needed to be a genious to figure it out.

I should state at this point that it could be better than it seems if these services use some form of de-duplication. But I don’t know if they do or will. In principle if they did then once I’ve uploaded ‘Linkin Parks – A Thousand Suns’ you shouldn’t have to. That’s a greatly simplified explanation but the point is we both don’t need to upload the same thing, so if all of my music was already uploaded by several other users, all I would need to do is have my music matched up and get access to the common tunes. Oh, wait a second, we have heard that before, that’s what Apple is doing, but its licensed to do it using its own music library.

Cost and convenience, seemingly two points to Apple.

My final point is the cost of listening to the music I’ve already paid for. Let’s assume I’ve got all the music I’m interested in on the service of my choice. I now want to play it back. Play it anywhere, that’s the idea, right? How much of your 3G data plan do you think is going to be chewed up listening to a few hours of music a week? It’s not Apple or Google or Amazon who will be charging you, it’s your mobile operator. I don’t yet know how well any of these services will cache music already played, in other words, if I play an album today do I need to have it stream all over again tomorrow. Paying my mobile phone operator to stream an album once sounds painful enough, paying every time I listen to an album sounds ridiculous. Don’t forget, I already own this music. I paid for it once. Obviously this is less of an issue at when I’m hooked up to Wi-Fi somewhere, but consider how long public access Wi-Fi , a technology already creaking under the strains of today’s content to be delivered, will remain free or usable. Sit down in Starbucks, hook up to Wi-Fi, pick up your email, check in on Foursquare and stream your music to listen to and watch it all fall down as everyone else does the same thing. So in reality, what I need to be able to do is grab the music from the cloud onto my device so I can listen to it without lining my operators pockets. We will assume their network data is up to the job, but we both know thats a big issue.

So what is the alternative? Well it’s what you already have. Your device of choice has an ever increasing amount of available storage and more is available (unless its Apple) at an ever decreasing cost. My cell phone has about 100 albums on it right now, that’s a lot of music to listen to. I’m just not sure I need, or want, it in the cloud.

Google+ some thoughts

10 07 2011

I’ve been playing around with Google+ for a few days and I am impressed and disapointed in equal measure. So far Googles latest attempt at creating a social networking platform is, without doubt, their best effort yet. It includes some new features and adds some polish to some established ones.

Right now its STILL in invite only phase, it really needs to be out of this in the next few days. Already people I know using it all agree, the biggest missing feature is their friends. What use a social networkng site with no one to be social with? What else is missing? Well a lot of things but the two they need a solid answer to very quickly are Facebook and twitter.

Everyone uses Facebook, not everyone is going to be using Google+, not even if they give away £10 with every sign up. They need a mechanism to ease people over from Facebook to Google+ and the obvious way is to allow Google+ to post into Facebook. The same is true of twitter, but thats a different party.

So why is there no tickbox in Google+ to ‘Post to Facebook’? Either Google couldnt or wouldnt, I dont buy the idea that they didnt. Its an intersting issue. Facebook are unlikely to allow any kind of posting that potentially takes away their traffic or their users. This is going to set Google+ and Facebook against each other. Facebook is established, feature rich (relatively), has an open API for developers and 750 million users. Google+ has… Circles?

So thats a knockout and a win for Facebook then, not quite in my opinion. Facebook has been on the wrong end of privacy issues time and time again and its always won because there was no alternative. Google+ is shiny and new, though I have yet to figure out why this could ever translate into a meaningful selling point, we are not talking about cars!

Ok, so what about twitter. Neither Facebook nor Google+ allow direct native posting to twitter, though there are plenty of Social Media applications that get around this, though now yet for Google+ (damn, not having that API is already a problem, isnt it!). twitter is not a competitor to Facebook or to Google+ in my opinion, they are overlapping and complimnetary. twitter is more public, its the open room big conversation. Facebook is the closed party of friends and like minded individuals. What is Google+? Well it has potential to be both, I’m minded to consider that Google and twitter could really forge a strong realtionship here.

Google+ needs to create Circles, its feature to group friends, that can be your twitter friends and your Facebook friends. I think the winning play is to play every game, social media is people, not systems. When there are no options 3rd parties fill the gaps. But if Google relies on 3rd parties, when they can eventually get hold of an API, to build features needed for Google+ survival they may find them writing for the platform that suported them first.

I think this landscape feel over crowded but I think it has room for the life and soul of the party to make an appearance. Mobile is going to be the decisive factor. So thats game set and match to Google then, after all they have Android for phones and tablets (yes, the tables are a joke, but that will change) and they launched a truly killer Google+ Android app. Game over? No.

Not by a long way. Apple has got the Google+ app to approve, I’m sure it will approve it in the next few days and I’m sure it will be great. The Facebook app sucks, on all platforms. The twitter app is fine everywhere, though nothing special. But Apple has a possible game changer about to appear.

Its widely rumoured that when Apple launches the iPhone5 later this year, with the public release of iOS5, it will alos launch a new, lower price, iPhone. Imagine an iPhone that can eat into the phone market on price, who will want to buy anything else? An iPhone that is as cool as an iPhone5, can do every thing an iPhone5 can do, but is cut down in some ways. Apple may just be about to blow up the smartpjhone market again in the same way, with the same tactic, it used on the tablet market. Make an Apple product everyone will want and make it a aprice no one can compete with.

So who wants to put money on which platform is going to have the best Faecbook and twitter apps in a few months?

Interesting, isnt it?