Tag Archives: google

High Fructose Media: Going on an Information Diet

The information dietAt this time of year, many are thinking about going on a diet. So it seems apropos that I heard an interview on the Bob Edwards Radio Hour with Clay A. Johnson about his new book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. I was intrigued with his analogy that our information consumption is like our junk food consumption. We are barraged with information, but so much of it is junk, crafted with bias for Google search results, clicks and advertisers and requires an educated consumer to know what to ingest and how much.

Johnson was one of the architects of the much noted social media campaign for President Obama’s first election and has the likes of Bill O’Reilly and others on an information diet. He does more than tell you about the problem, but how to stop ingesting empty information calories.

While I have not read this book, I plan to in the coming month.  I look forward to learning how to craft my own information diet and would love to hear from others who have adopted thoughtful information strategies.


How Social Media Enabled Egypt’s Revolution: Part Two

Two Can Play at this Game: World Governments’ Responses to Social Media as a Revolutionary Tool

"Mute," photographed by Gigi IbrahimIn the first part of this series, we explored how social media enabled and facilitated Egypt and Tunisia’s revolutions. By using Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their beliefs, find like-minded individuals the world over, and organize protests in near real-time, the revolutionaries were able to stay one step ahead of their governments. But now, it seems, the governments are catching up.

In Egypt, segments of the government and army are now on Facebook, using it as a means to spread their own propaganda and to keep an eye on known activist communities. At one point during the revolution, the Egyptian government even shut down internet access, fully aware of the threat it posed to the government. Amr Abouelleil, an Egyptian-American bioinformatics analyst and writer who is actively involved with the Egyptian Youth Movement at the heart of the revolution, says the government was aware that without the internet, people would have to turn to state television (which is government-censored) for their news. The government used this opportunity to up their ante, broadcasting pro-government programming to the unwired masses, which in many cases, appeared to work. “The government got some people to change their tune in just a matter of days,” Abouelleil says. “It brainwashed them to go back on Facebook in the government’s favor instead.”

Egypt is not the only government in fear of the power social media and the internet provides its people; China recently came under fire when Google reportedly foiled an alleged Chinese attempt at stealing the passwords to hundreds of Google accounts, including those of government officials, Chinese human rights activists, and journalists. The Chinese government has since denied involvement, but is well known for their censorship of the internet and television. Whether or not the government is responsible for the hacking attempt, it’s safe to say that they are well aware of the power of the internet and social media, and doing all they can to control it.

Government reactions to the use of Google and social media have been so extreme in recent months that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has said he fears for the safety of Google employees in certain parts of the world. “There are countries where it is illegal to do things that Google encourages. In those countries, there is a real possibility of (employees) being put in prison for reasons which are not their fault,” Schmidt told attendees of Google’s Dublin summit on militant violence this past Monday, June 27.

A prime example of this is Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google executive who is now one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2011. Ghonim was held captive by the Egyptian government for eleven days in early 2011 due to his involvement in using Facebook to organize protests via a page called “We are all Khaled Saeed,” which exposed and raised awareness of the military’s cruel and inhumane murder of Khaled Saeed.

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Do you like what I like? The power of social influence.

Twenty years ago, our friend Dan did meticulous research on lawnmowers, comparing price and quality, reading Consumer Reports, and talking to various salesmen, asking questions at local stores. Once he decided which brand and model to buy, we piggybacked on his research and bought the same one because we knew he did a thorough evaluation.

While influence is nothing new, the many ways we’re influenced is, in more and more ways.  If you consider all of the consumer buying decisions we make: where we shop and dine out, which movies we see and what music we listen to, we have always made decisions with influence from our family, our friends, and, even perfect strangers.

Now, in addition to in-person influence, we are often influenced by a virtual community made up of people that we know, and their friends, many who post their opinions on Facebook, by liking a page, or on Amazon, by reviewing a product, or on Yelp, by reviewing a restaurant or local business.  (Yelp, by the way, got in trouble with site users for manipulating reviews in favor of advertisers and has changed their policy based on widespread negative feedback.)

That’s why Facebook has been making it easy for companies to incorporate the Like widget on their websites and blogs. Everything you “like” is cataloged for all of your Facebook friends to see.

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Advice for Bloggers: Write for the World

Internet's universe...

In the new book, The Yahoo! Style Guide, bloggers are advised to “write for the world.” We’re reminded that the web is a worldwide medium and “site visitors probably come from more than one country and more than one culture. Collectively, they probably speak several languages.”

I review the analytics for this site on a regular basis and am often intrigued to see the far-reaching range that posts can have. This past month visits came from 47 countries/territories and 23 languages. (Drilling down a little further I could even see that one recent post was picked up and cited on a blog in Brazil and then viewed most heavily in Sao Paulo.)

So what’s a blogger to do?

• You can start by following five best practices from the style guide: 1) Keep the sentence structure simple, 2) Include “signposts”: words that help readers see how the parts of a sentence relate, 3) Eliminate ambiguity, 4) Avoid uncommon words and non-literal usages, and 5) Rewrite text that doesn’t translate literally.

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Google: Bringing News Back to Life

In a recent post on The Huffington Post, blogger Kety Esquivel discusses what she describes as the converging worlds of new media/social media/journalism/communications/marketing. As I read her post I was reminded how in the past week on every check-out line I was on I saw the covers of two high-profile magazines which epitomized convergence. The Atlantic Monthly’s cover had the word “Google” in a large font while Time magazine was sporting the word, “FaceBook”.

The Atlantic Monthly’s story “How to Save the News” by James Fallows, describes the ways in which Google is trying to “bring the news business back to life.” Fallows writes that Google now considers journalism’s survival crucial to its own prospects. Two important developments for Google were Google News, “a kind of air-traffic-control center for the movement of stories across the world’s media, in real time and Google Alerts, a way to stay on top of the topics important to you.

Fallows says, “But all of their [Google’s] plans for reinventing a business model for journalism involve attracting money to the Web-based news sites now available on computers, and to the portable information streams that will flow to whatever devices evolve from today’s smart phones, iPods and iPads, Nooks and Kindles, and mobile devices of any other sort.”

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Chrome, Buzz and Bing: The New(er) Kids on the Block

With so much to keep up with in social media and technology these days we asked Weber Media Partner, Jackie Mosher, to tell us what she’s learned about some of the newer kids on the block–Google’s web browser, Chrome, and their social media venture, Buzz, and Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

DH: What are your impressions of Google’s new browser, Chrome?

JM: Fast! Based on my experience, it is markedly faster than Internet Explorer.

DH: Are you able to do everything that you can with other browsers?

JM: Chrome isn’t able to run all web applications. For example, with Chrome I can run a Blackboard program and flash programs like Hulu’s video player. However, I can’t view a Webex meeting or log into a demo program.

DH: What do you think about Chrome’s approach as a cloud computing operating system?

JM: There are a lot of network effects that will make this transition hard for people since most workplaces rely on Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel, and as a result they can’t unilaterally make the decision to switch over to Google’s free cloud versions of these programs. That being said, Chrome’s cloud computing OS is a key signal of where Google wants to go this decade, and there’s a lot of potential for cloud-based computing. It’s much faster, and much cheaper!

DH: Are there particular features you like about Chrome?

JM: I like what you can do with tabs. You can drag a tab away from the current window and into a new window which is something Internet Explorer and Firefox can’t do. Also when you open a new tab in Chrome it shows a thumbnail or list view of your most visited sites. You can customize themes, similar to Gmail and iGoogle’s homepage. This allows users to show off their individuality. and it can be changed as often as you change a Facebook profile picture, Twitter background or ringtone.

DH: What are your immediate impressions of Buzz?

JM: Buzz is integrated with Gmail and I like that you can get to it easily from the left-hand navigation whenever you’re logged in to your email account.

DH: How flexible is Buzz in terms of integrating with Twitter and Facebook?

JM: You can connect Buzz to your Twitter feed easily, but even though it only takes a few steps, I’ve noticed that my tweets don’t instantaneously appear in my Buzz feed. In one instance, there was a five hour delay. I’ve found connecting it to your Facebook status to be much harder.

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Google Continues to Create Waves

Waves crashing on rocksApple wasn’t the only company who held my attention last week. I was reading Ken Auletta’s book, Googled: The  End of the World as We Know It, and was intrigued by the  innumerable ways Google has been (and continues to be) a “wave maker.”  As Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, says, “The Internet makes information available. Google makes information accessible.”

Auletta provides a great overview of how the company has evolved over the years. You probably know yourself that somewhere along the way Google slipped into your lexicon. Ultimately it became such a frequently used verb that it was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2006 and to the Merrian-Webster Collegiate Dictionary one month later.

Google is creating new ways for us to access information every day. One of the best ways I’ve found to keep up with the myriad of changes is to read their official blog and checking the posts on the many other blogs they publish regularly. In fact, if you haven’t checked out Google’s options lately to see what else they’ve been up to it’s a good page to visit from time to time so you don’t miss all that they’re up to.

Here are a few recent activities of Google’s I learned about by reading their blogs:

1. In the past few weeks, Google’s Geo Team has done some great work helping with the relief efforts in Haiti using their mapping tools and publishing updated satellite imagery in Google Earth and Google Maps.

2. Google worked with PicApp to add 10 million high quality stock images from stock imagery repositories such as Getty Images. The service and use of the images is free.

3. Google added  click to call phone numbers in mobile ads.

You may also enjoy the video below which provides a great history of the company.

How has Google caught your attention over the years or more recently?

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Social Media Reading You Can't Afford to Miss

esther-dysonMaybe it’s a coincidence, but this week a number of people have told me about their upcoming summer vacations. For weeks now, magazines and newspapers have been writing about “good summer” reads, and the criteria often includes whether it’s “light enough” both figuratively and literally. Beach reading is another term which often gets thrown around. But what if you’re not heading off on vacation? What if it’s still work as usual? Or, perhaps you’re using this summer to re-group after a recent lay-off, restructuring in your organization.

August is a good time to not only think about the curve, but stay ahead of it.  This month I’ve come across several great reads which I’d like to pass along to you. This one is an article from Strategy+Business, entitled “The Thought Leader Interview: Esther Dyson” by Art Kleiner. Esther was making her mark in the computer world in the 1980′s, as the editor and publisher of Release 1.0. “Throughout her career, Dyson has championed a diversity of ideas, social networking, design quality, and the pragmatic involvement of business and technology experts in solving large-scale social problems.”

As Dyson says in the Thought Leader Interview, “A lot of marketers call the Internet an “attention economy.” They are looking for consumers who will pay attention to their product, and they try to calculate consumers’ propensity to purchase. They think that attention mean intention. But it doesn’t…the reality is, people don’t go online to give attention, but to get it. They don’t want to be part of the audience. They want to perform and to be heard, to be present.”

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Technological Change — Yes We Can!

Today’s Boston Globe features an article Obama brings cyber sensibility to office which describes how president-elect Obama is “in the process of choosing the nation’s first chief technology officer – a post that’s long existed in most corporations, but never in government.”

The article goes on to report that the US ranks 15th out of 30 industrialized nations in the percentage of citizens with access to the Internet, and that Obama promises to make Internet access as commonplace as telephone service.

Obama reportedly wants to put YouTube-like videos of government meetings online and has proposed a Google-like database of federal grants and contracts so people can see where there money is going; and will require his Cabinet members to hold regular online town hall meetings, where they’ll field questions from the Internet audience.

To keep up-to-date as we transition into Obama’s Presidency, visit Change.gov, a website and blog, launched by Obama’s Presidential Transition Project team (very soon after last week’s election) which documents the transition into power as well as soliciting ideas from the public.

Not only is change in the air –it’s in cyberspace, too!

I'm with Stupid

I'm with StupidYesterday I was arm distance away from The Atlantic Monthly’s July/August issue, and stopped dead in my tracks; eye level with the magazine, I read the title of the cover story, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr.

Carr writes, the Net is “chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

I think I know what Carr means. My mind is often running ahead of me calling, “Hurry!!!” Come to think of it, sometimes I think I’m looking for hyperlinks where they don’t exist; I’m searching for twists and turns to unexpected destinations.

I google everything-people, places, directions, current events, history, restaurant reviews, movie times, businesses, store hours, physician’s credentials, conferences, research, authors’ bios, how-to unclog a drain, recipe ideas…you name it.

The Internet has made information wonderfully accessible, and I love it. I do. I love being an online tourist in the wee morning hours, or as a night owl. I love knowing there are people all over the world accessing information in different time zones, but essentially at the same exact moment. I love seeing the keywords people enter, how others search for information.

I think Carr’s question is a good one. I think his concerns about online reading shouldn’t be dismissed. But for me, reading online or with a book or magazine in hand, are two different things. While I love the online world, there’s still nothing like discussing a good book, hearing an author read, perusing bookstores and libraries, looking words up in a dictionary and thesaurus. And I may be one of a handful of people who actually like the Dewey Decimal system (and not know why).

I’d like to suggest Google and the Internet as a whole, have made us more efficient, smarter users of information, and have exposed us to an even larger world to be read.   And, if that translates to Google making us stupid, well then I guess, I’m with stupid.