Category Archives: Google

Initial Thoughts on Google Offering Droid for @font-face Use

My initial thoughts on Google offering a hosted version of Droid:

This is more an extension of their mobile play than getting into the font hosting.

    Here’s why:

  • The Android handsets only display the Droid family of fonts.
  • Google’s stated a number of times they’re serious about being successful in mobile.
  • Google is a web app company – not a native-software-on-the-device company (i.e. Apple, Microsoft).
  • By offering a hosted version of Droid – they’ve made it much easier for their internal teams to simulate what their web apps (i.e. Google Docs, Calendar, etc) will look like on Android devices w/o needing to actually use a phone.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my position when I see Google hosting something other than Droid. :)

Update – I’m now changing my position :D
This guide explains how to use the Google Font API to add web fonts to your pages. As I mentioned on the Kernest blog – this is a huge win for openly licensed fonts.

Users are a Side Effect or Why Google's Web Applications are Free

“I get the feeling that all of Google’s products were invented for Google to help streamline the way it does things.” – yellowbkpk

Exactly.

Just as I wrote about Google’s AppEngine last year, Google’s applications – whether Gmail, Wave, Maps, or the recently announced Buzz – are about reducing costs and streamlining their business.

In the long run – it’s significantly cheaper for Google to build the tools its employees use (especially if the same employees build them) than it is to negotiate licensing or usage feeds to someone else.

This is why the significant majority of Google’s applications are free to us non-Google employees – the cost of opening up their apps to the outside world is so close to zero, they treat it as zero. Google’s development costs were paid by their operating budget.

I feel the same way about all the products I build, Cullect, Kernest, etc – I use them and I’m building the same technology infrastructure whether 1 person uses it or a thousand.

The incremental cost of sharing it with the world at that point is, well, zero.

Verizon Droid Hands-On Review

Motorola_Droid

The Verizon / Motorola / Google Droid, released later this week, is a solid, tactilely satisfying handset. I suspect it’ll be Motorola’s most well-received handset since the RAZR.

Verizon’s marketing is correct – the Droid is the first real peer to the iPhone. More importantly – the Droid is the first significant competitor to the Blackberry in the corporate environment – since the iPhone.

The 4 buttons (‘Back’, ‘Menu’, ‘Home’, ‘Search’) below the Droid’s touch screen remind me of the 4 similar buttons on my long obsolete and much loved Palm Treo 650 and Handspring Visor. The level of UI customization and promise of easy app development of the Droid also recall my love of the PalmOS. These things make me happy and want to see the Droid succeed.

In an earlier post – I criticized Verizon’s Droid TV ad for being the anti-1984 – for bringing the sense of an oppressive, non-descript, technical figure. Unfortunately, this notion is also in the device itself….the Droid starts up with a HAL 9000-esque glowing red eye.

Ominous. Foreboding. Completely out of place.

Nothing else in the Android v2.0 interface is red, threating, or sci-fi-y Everything is clear, polished, crisp, and at no point did I feel the device wanted me dead.

Slightly annoyed in parts, sure, but not dead.

For example:

  • There’s no affordance on which direction the screen slides to expose the keyboard. Once I figured it out (left-to-right), both the smooth slide and the quietly, confident click-into-place confirmed a very high build quality.
  • To type numbers or punctuation – the ‘ALT’ key needs to be pressed simultaneously as the desired key – just like on a regular 2-hand desktop or laptop keyboard. But, this is mobile phone, so I expected ‘ALT’ to be sticky.
  • The continuously blinking green (not red) light is very distracting. There’s no need for it. And it doesn’t look like it can be turned off.
  • The multiple search buttons in a single view confused me a couple times. For example, if you’re searching the Droid Marketplace – with the soft keyboard display – there are 3 search buttons presented; on next to the search form, one in the soft keyboard, the one below the touch screen. In my tests – they’re not all contextually smart.

I made a few calls with the device and found the telephony app enjoyable and again reminiscent of the Treo (again making me happy). Though, as the iPhone showed us, telephony in these devices isn’t really that interesting.

Smart phones are about pocket-sized mobile messaging, mobile maps, and mobile internet access in general. To that end, the Droid is very small, very fast computer with a telephony app and a persistent data connection.

With the keyboard slid out, the Droid looks like a mico-laptop and I started wondering about the differences between this device and a netbook with a VOIP client & mobile broadband service. Depending how much the camera is used – and how cramped the keyboard feels…they could competing with each other. Mobile phones (handheld computers) and netbooks (lap-sized phones) at the same price point? Such an interesting world we live in.

This mobile computing angle is where Droid Marketplace comes in. Finding and installing apps in the Marketplace was on par with Apple’s App Store. Installing an app is clear and effortless – with the added benefit of clearly stating which Droid functionality is used (data call, location, etc) prior to download.

Though, I had the same problem I have with Apple’s App Store has – I don’t know why I’m there or what’s worth using. Usefulness is difficult to gauge from ratings or reviews.

I grabbed a few of the usual suspects; Pandora, Skype, Twitter, Facebook (Facebook conveniently imported all my friends into the Contacts app). Though, even then, after installing them, I didn’t use all of them. Primarily because I didn’t feel like going to my desktop, opening up Keychain.app and re-entering my name/passwords for each 3rd party app.

While my laziness is partly due to knowing I only had the Droid for a few days, it’s also a larger usability problem I have with the iPhone. The Droid’s integration with Google’s apps (and the underlying Google Authentication APIs) has the potential to minimize the multiple-credential problem (as would Apple putting Keychain.app on the iPhone).

Like my Samsung flip phone – the Droid has little interest in talking to my MacBook Pro. It refused to receive files via Bluetooth. When plugged into a USB cable, OS X didn’t mount Droid’s SD card or its internal storage by default. Turns out, it’s a 4 step process:

  1. Touch the status bar at the top of the Droid screen
  2. Drag it down (again, there’s no affordance indicating this is a possible action)
  3. Click “USB connected”
  4. Click “Mount”

Once mounted, iPhoto automatically launched and was “Ready for Import” and images imported as expected.

The photos were in a directory marked ‘DCIM’ and both the Droid’s file structure and Motorola’s Droid customer service page were less clear about where I put audio and video files. For example, the support topic for to ‘downloading music files:

“Click Amazon MP3, Find a song, Click ‘Buy’”

Not exactly the answer I was expecting. So, I just dumped some MP3s in the root directory of the SD card.

Worked perfectly. The Music app automatically found them and played them. SimpleHelp.net has a nice tutorial on copying music from Mac to Android

For contacts and calendars syncing with the Mac there are 3 options:

  1. Have everything in Google (it’ll be on the phone after you sign in)
  2. Review Todd Ogasawara’s tutorial on syncing Macs & T-Mobile G1s
  3. MarkSpace’s Missing Sync for Droid. Since Missing Sync was responsible for all my unhappy Treo memories- that’s not my preferred option.

The Droid handset and Android 2.0 UI is a significant improvement over the initial version. If Windows was my primary OS, if the bulk of my stuff in Google, or if I was a Verizon customer – I’ve have one on pre-order already. Easy.

Thanks to Albert Maruggi at Provident Partners for providing the review unit.

Elsewhere:
Graeme Thickin’s review of the Verizon Droid
“Again the feeling I got from this was ominous and forbidding.” – from David Newberger’s Droid review.
Justin Grammen’s covers the marketing confusion I’m seeing in his Droid Review

“And my main conclusion after three days of Droid use, it’s still lovable, but it needs a solid human factors going-over. ” – Dave Winer

(reminds me of what I wrote earlier, “Yes, the iPhone does have weaknesses – humanity isn’t one of them“).

“Something that Motorola got right here was that they actually made a phone, not just an internet communication device.” – Christopher Smith

DroidDoes is the Anti-1984 Ad

25 years ago, Apple announced their new, friendlier, easier-to-use personal computer with the iconic 1984 ad where a heroine throws a hammer – taking down a non-descript technical figure.

Tonight, I watched Verizon’s new DroidDoes.com ad. Verizon is declaring Apple’s iPhone is too friendly, too simplified, too limiting – what you need is a non-descript technical figure to remedy that.

This ad is more than a direct attack on the iPhone – it’s a direct attack on more humane technology offerings. A return to 1983.

This is not a position I encourage other Android providers to take.

Yes, the iPhone does have weaknesses – humanity isn’t one of them.

What if Google Blocked Your Site?

“Yet, Google’s system makes no distinction between people who have malsites and people who get hacked and then fix their sites. Neither Google nor Twitter notified me at all, despite the fact that both have my email address via my respective accounts at those services, nor did they give me any fair warning to remedy the problem before they took action. Instead, they just treated me like a cybercriminal.” – Ian Bogost

While net neutrality advocates are focused on the bandwidth side of net neutrality, this is the fourth instance in the past couple months of Google causing collateral damage in the name of safety, and not-being-evil.

I’ll agree that malware is an issue that should be stopped early.

I’m just not sure how far away malware is from communism.

Ultimately, issues like this are why Google (and Twitter) needs a number of viable competitors.

Calling Double-Sputnik on Google

One of my favorite past-times is to dissect competitors within a business sector. Sometimes the pairings are obvious (Barnes & Noble vs. Borders, Honda vs Toyota), other times I’m less confident (Target vs. Wal-Mart3, Facebook vs. Twitter). These pairings (or groupings) point as much at commonality across market offerings as they do project the direction of innovation with a sector.

My interest in these pairings can be traced to this scene in The Right Stuff marking the beginning of the Cold War1.

Reading through Cullect today, I found two people running, Jeff Goldblum-style, into Google proclaiming Sputnik was launched. From two – seemingly unlikely -places.2

“[Google] must compete, with a respectful product, one that is compatible with Twitter, and gives users a benefit of coming from a strong mature company. The time for this product is passing every week, as Twitter stabilizes and delivers a reliable service.” – Dave Winer

“Ad Blocker Plus is on the verge of turning into an open network that (finally) does the same as Google does: massively boost ad relevance, stripping out the useless junk — by factoring in whether or not people find ads useful or not.” – Umair Haque

Twitter and Ad Blocker Plus are far more interesting competitors to Google than the search and productivity offerings of Yahoo, Microsoft. Plus, they lay out 2 very different vectors for innovation.

As intriguing as these 2 potential-competitors are for Google and as tired as Google’s search product is. I’m not ready to declare ‘Sputnik’.

I mean, come-on, re-searchr is still very young. ;)

“The world is big enough for both the paperclip and the staple.” – David S. Cargo


1. It’s taken a reading of both The Forgotten Man and 194X to have an understanding of why the USSR was our partner in the Cold War. It pains me to imagine American democracy as fragile as it appeared to be in the first half of the 20th Century.
2. The “Our Germans are better than their Germans” line cracks me up every time.
3. A more comfortable comparison to me: Wal-Mart vs. USDA Rural Development, Target vs. Minneapolis Parks and Rec.

A Proposal for Shorter Google Maps URLs

I was adding a link to a Google map into my iCal and noticed Google is encouraging me to share the the map URLs in email and IM.

google_share_map_url

But there’s a problem with the Google Maps URLs.

They’re +/- 155 characters.

Here’s the full URL:
http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=the+red+pepper,+plymouth,+mn&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=1854680882426337660&li=lmd&z=14&iwloc=A

This URL is neither short, nor easily memorable, nor easily guessable. Which means it’s a completely un-usable – and barely shareable URL. Plus, something tells me this breaks both email and Twitter’s box.

CampaignMonitor says we don’t even get to the geocode.
google_map_url_campaignmonitor

Really Google!?

Even something like this is more share-able (in that it’s short).
http://maps.google.com/1854680882426337660

For the exact same character count, we can make it more guessable and more memorable (therefore more usable).
http://maps.google.com/RedPepperPlymouthMN

Yes, this is the exact same complaint Dave Winer had 5 weeks ago in Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem. Hell, if I’m only 5 weeks behind Winer, I’m cool with that.

Unspoken, Unfortunate, Synonyms

From what I can tell;

  • “SEO” is an unspoken synonym for “works better in Google”
  • “Social Media” is an unspoken synonym for “works better in Twitter”

Both of these are unfortunate for they:

  • turn something easily understandable into something vague and amorphous – the exact opposite of good framing
  • mask the monopoly those companies have on their respective service.

This is analogous to using “entertainment” as synonym for not just “television” but the specific televised offering from BBC Four.

Of course, promoting yourself as an expert in Twitter (without having a Twitter-issued business card) should elicit giggles from anyone within earshot. But at least it’s being honest and authentic – the first step to being more social.

Elsewhere 11 Nov 2009

“That tweeting it is a private breed of microblogging verges on irrelevance. Twitter is now as necessary to tweeting as Google is to search. It’s a public activity under private control.” – Doc Searls

Google AppEngine: More About Google Labs than You?

There’s a long history of tech companies developing there own applications because it’s cheaper long-term than licensing, especially for core applications like: email, calendaring, text processing.

I’m confident Apple employee use Mail.app, iCal, and iWork in-house and those apps are cheap or free for the rest of use. Same for Sun and StarOffice/NeoOffice. Same for Google and Google Docs. One guess on who isn’t getting ongoing licensing fees for those apps? ;)

This is not only why ‘HuddleChat’ was the first AppEngine app but also why it was pulled. HuddleChat made it obvious.

I can easily imagine this conversation at Google:

“Campfire is a great tool, we should pay for it.”

“That sounds like a lot of money for something not built here. It’ll be cheaper long term if we build a clone in-house.”

Take a look at the number of applications in Google’s Lab page. Many of them need; some form of authentication, the general look/feel of Google, integration into Googles infrastructure, to be built at Google, etc.

What a perfect candidate for an abstracted framework like Google AppEngine.

Elsewhere:

“The Google App engine may some day be worth mentioning but as of right now its nothing short of comical. Essentially Geocities 2.0.” – Tom, Tom’s TechBlog

Confirming this theory and that AppEngine is all about future acquisitions (i.e. ‘Want to increase the chances of being acquired by Google – build on AppEngine’).

“Because of the difference in technology, it can take a company anywhere from a year to three or more years to move over to the Google infrastructure and architecture.” – Nik Cubrilovic

Free & Open Is Its Own Lock-in

A decade ago, one of the very first places I found that offering free websites gave everyone access to the same images directory. You could upload your own images, but then everyone else could use them as well.

Goofy, questionable, but free.

I’ve been hosting with Joyent for more than 3 years, purchased 3 different ‘lifetime’ accounts from them. I’ve played around with a hundred website ideas on those accounts, comfortable knowing I can do whatever I need to explore an idea.

Whatever the app; Rails, PHP, MySQL, Facebook, some other crazy technology sounds cool, I know Joyent’s servers are up for it.

At this point, a year after my last ‘lifetime’ purchase, I consider those accounts ‘free’.
Free, as in: I’ve got a crazy idea and some server space, let’s see if this thing has legs.

I suspect Joyent considers them free as well.
Free, as in: Here’s the pricing on our Accelerators when you figure out your idea has legs.
Not free as in: Sharecropping.

“If you’re developing software for the Windows platform, yes. Or for the Apple platform, or the Oracle platform, or the SAP platform, or, well, any platform that is owned and operated by a company. They own the ground you’re building on, and if they decide they don’t like you, or they can do something better with the ground, you’re toast. ” – Tim Bray, 2003

“Perhaps Google is thinking about acquisitions. How much would it be worth to buy companies without having to transition their technology to their platform?” – Dave Winer

“Try to leave App Engine. Or AWS. When you move can you install Bigtable? S3?” – David Young

From its very first iteration, Cullect.com was running on one of my ‘free’ servers. Late last year, I moved it to another, bigger, ‘free’ server. A couple months ago, ‘free’ didn’t cut it any more. The idea had legs and needed room to run. I opened my wallet and and purchased a 1GiB Accelerator.

While I briefly considered moving the app to a different host, I realized Joyent has me locked-in.

Not locked into their platform, but locked into their attitude. Locked into their community, and locked in because I know I can experiment for ‘free’ and when those experiments work, they sold another Accelerator.

Google Gears and Joyent Slingshot – Take the Web Offline

My biggest issue with browser-based apps is their complete uselessness when I’m without internet access (or low bandwidth situations). Still happens quite frequently.

I knew that situation wouldn’t last long, but of all the potential outcomes, I didn’t expect this one: Joyent Slingshot and Google Gears turn browser-based apps into offline desktop apps.

Crazy.

Web 2.Over: Google Buys FeedBurner

Consistent with my hypothesis that Google is a social gesture company, they bought FeedBurner (a company finally reaching its only exit strategy, Thank god).

Four Predictions:

  • Six Apart now pulls auto-FeedBurning from TypePad blogs due to conflict of interest.
  • Google incorporates FeedBurners metrics into Google Analytics and sends the rest of FeedBurner to play with Dodgeball.
  • More than half of FeedBurner’s current customer-base will wonder why the hell they even used the service.
  • The downturn is in full effect

Elsewhere:

“Google is Buying FeedBurner this is pure Evil!” – Todd Cochrane

“For all of FeedBurner’s success, monetizing the feeds has been a struggle. The inventory they manage always seems to grow so much faster than the advertising they sell….FeedBurner fits like a glove into the Google advertising system, adding feeds to the growing number of places an advertiser can reach audiences through the AdWords system.” – Fred Wilson

The Difference Between Yahoo & Google

From my perspective, sorting out the acquisitions of Yahoo and Google is pretty straight-forward.

Yahoo (list of Yahoo acquisitions) has always been about building a directory. ‘Tags’ are just another way to create a directory. From that perspective, purchasing HotJobs (directory of jobs), Flickr (directory of photos), Upcoming (directory of events), del.icio.us (directory of web pages), even WebJay (directory of music) makes total sense.

Google (list of Google acquisitions) has always been about measuring social gestures. Thinking about the purchase of Urchin & Measure Map (gestures within a site), Dodgeball & Jaiku (gestures within a place), Adscape (gestures within a video game), YouTube (gestures within video) from that perspective also makes total sense.

UPDATE 2 Aug 2007:
In other words, Yahoo is the class roster and Google is the yearbook.

UPDATE 9 Oct 2007:
Word is that Google just acquired Jaiku. Wondering if it will find the same fate as Dodgeball (acquired and forgotten about) or if Google has a plan to integrate the two services.

The Lack of Intention Economy

“Since the clicks will likely look legitimate, it comes down to intent – did the user click the ad just to click it, or did they have a genuine interest in the advertisement? It’s not so easy to tell…”

Mark Cuban dissects click fraud. The quote above is from the comments following Mark’s post. Good stuff. Reminds me of an interesting bit about Google’s AdSense program. If what they owe an ad publisher less than $10, Google sits on the money. Since the long tail is shaped like a spatula, there’s potentially millions of not quite $10s sitting safely a Google bank account somewhere.

Same goes for Netflix. More than a certain number of DVD shipments per month, and a customer starts to be a liability. Putting faith in customers to sit on a disc for a week or so at a time and it’s no problem. Subscriptions continue to roll in, independent of discs returned.

What if all the click fraud (robots clicking ads) and all the helping-a-friend clicking went away and conversion dropped below 1/10 of 1%?

Seems ad creators have a vested interest in not exposing click fraud – if only to say their ads are “working”.

Measure Map = Google Analytics v2.0?

I sure hope so. The current offering (Urchin assimilated) isn’t that useful.

“Bringing Measure Map to Google is an exciting validation of the user experience work I’ve been doing with my partners at Adaptive Path for years. – Jeffrey Veen”

Congrats to Veen, Congrats to Google. To PeterMe and everyone at Adaptive Path, I’m sorry for your loss.

I suspect Measure Map will first be available to domains Google hosts today (blogger.com) by default and positioning Google as the host-of-choice for tomorrow.

Public Information Shouldn't Require a Subpeona

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.

I consider all my web searches, this post – and generally anything that’s not email or an instant messsage – public.

Now, I’m cool with 1 million random results from the index being handed over to the government under one single condition – anyone, anyone at all, a PhD candidate, a 6th grader, a homeless political candidate – request and receive the same information.

Yes. In the same way I feel all the security cameras on Nicollet Avenue should be accessible via a web browser by the general public – any of you should be able to request the same information. Outside of quantity – I’m not sure how this is different than Google’s Zeitgeist.

Actually, the fact we don’t have easy access to this information seems like a public disservice.

Why Google Analytics Isn’t Useful

After a couple months of being completely without site analytics, I thought I’d try out Google Analytics.

Things it doesn’t measure; RSS feeds, downloads, downloads from RSS feeds.

Considering 95% of what I’m tracking is accessible via an RSS feed (like podcasts). Google isn’t helping me. The previous iteration of their tool – Urchin, was a server log cruncher, not a pixel bug (little big of javascript on every page). As a server log cruncher – I could measure RSS subscriptions and related downloads. As a pixel bug – despite how sexy the map overlay view of traffic is – I’m helping Google more than the other way around.

I’m confident the people that I’m writing this for – i.e. you – are reading this via some type of RSS aggregator (yes, My Yahoo and the gFeed counts). So, ironically, the people I’m most interested in – i.e. you – aren’t counted via Google. Only the people viewing the HTML version of the site. Like those coming by via Google. Hmmmmm. This doesn’t feel right.

Related: Read/WriteWeb: “Page Views per user: RSS blows HTML away”

Update 5 Jan 2006: Google Analytics doesn’t give full referrer URLs. It’d be more useful if it did.