How to improve Google+


While I found The Verge’s post interesting and agree with their suggestions the one thing I find missing most of all is sharing INTO G+.

Right now it’s impossible essentially from any 3rd party experience. It’s 100% absent on iOS and possible only from the system share intent on Android which is great, but there’s much more … content we consume all around the web can’t easily find it’s way onto G+ from apps and extensions in the same fluid manner as, well every other social property.

More here – How to improve Google+ immediately | The Verge.

Google’s passive approach to social

There’s been a lot of talk about Google’s forced integration of Search+Social and it certainly is a big deal. Personally, I have not found it to be invasive, nor have I found it to be tainting my results in a negative way. I like seeing that there are signals from my social connections around search as they offer pivot points or likely results in a more obvious way.

Outside of search the social methods including those around the core property are really pretty passively being applied. The +1 button is the lamest offender in this approach. Before Google Reader dropped Share in favor of +1, I used to be able to easy share my read items anywhere I wanted thanks to the feed of my shares being made available. These shares would post to Twitter automatically and drove a fairly decent amount of engagement for me over the years. Since moving to the +1, I have two options and they aren’t the same across mobile and desktop web experiences. On the desktop, I can share from Reader using the same keyboard shortcut (Shift+S) or choose to +1 something which prompts for a share onto G+ and via a circle of my choice. On mobile, where I do a fairly intense amount of consumption thanks to an extended commute I can only +1 something and this is where things really, well suck. The +1 via mobile serves solely as a limited bookmark and saves content links onto my Google+ profile on the +1 tab. This mobile +1 limitation applies to any item on Reader or on a publisher site. There simply is no real way to share into Google+ directly from a mobile experience. On Android, you can use intents to open the share prompt and drop things into Google+, but the limitations again are quickly revealed. Unlike many other services, the Google+ mobile application (on iphone or Android) is incapable of traversing the link to provide any sense of context to what’s being shared. This means your post is just a lame mess. I can’t imagine the goal here is to have us save things in lists via +1. When was the last time anyone visited this tab for a contact let alone themselves? It’s an island of content — the least social you can be. There is no feed available for these items and no way to share them through any additional channels which frankly ends up being pretty de-motivating.

Another red headed step child of the Google social experience is Latitude. This has also remained something of a disconnected island within the ecosystem and I question why we should choose to use it. Google recently added the notion of points and a leader-board to check-ins as well as a proactive prompt to remind us to use it (on Android), but it’s hard to see why you would. The leader-board is for your latitude friends only (a sadly small group of early adopters in my case) and there’s no sense of what the points are used for – at all. There are no badges, no connection to merchant locations for offers. The prompts are even a bit aggressive. It’s also interesting to see that while I can share a check-in quite easily into a Google+ circle, a location appended to a post on G+ does not link back through Latitude. One way?

Right now, Google+ allows neither the syndication of my activity stream (ala Path) nor the ability to aggregate activities from the broader web (or even the Google system) like Facebook. As much as I want to use Google+ and enjoy the general engagement there, I find there’s an incredible amount of friction to use it. Social should not be hard.

PS – sharing this post into G+ also takes a few steps … sigh.

WSJ is an anti-sharing publication

As a paying subscriber to the WSJ, I’d like to share some things I read with people. I do this from a lot of publications, but only the WSJ uses the social exchange opportunity to close the paywall.  Anyone who clicks on these links gets a very limited view and no way to read the full thing.    Pretty lame.

Social fitness can really get you going

I enjoyed +Kevin Tofel‘s post on social fitness at GigaOm… I’m a big fan and love the data.

I don’t particularly care about the live streaming aspects though.  To me it’s more about comparative results, challenges and motivations of the community. I now have social sports friends met through DailyMile and even here on G+.

I recently started to really use Strava which is a cycling community site that greatly enhances the experience Garmin let lag on Garmin Connect through social features and specific breakdowns of events like climbs which even get classified. Whether the data is being used to motivate (like Kevin’s insane number of continuous running days) or note personal bests, firsts or other achievements it’s all easily possible thanks to the data.

As has also been discussed recently on Google+ getting access to and enabling the meshing of our data for maximum use is still really missing in the market.  Runkeeper seems to be leading the charge with their goal of becoming a fitness hub through the Health Graph API, but it’s still quite early.

Firespotter Labs launches their first product – Nosh

Today, Firespotter labs has revealed their first product called Nosh. As you may know, Firespotter is a spinout of some former Googler’s including Craig Walker of Google Voice / Grand Central fame. They received funding from Google Ventures in April of this year and sprinted towards this month with their initial release.

So what is Nosh? Well it’s a social recommendation system for restaurants and food, though unlike other services which focus on the restaurant, Nosh is looking to get down to the item level. This detail will provide much better insight into what’s good and importantly what’s not so great at restaurants all around you.

They’ve posted a nice video overview which I’ll share here to give you the full pitch.

Nosh: Three Dinners from Firespotter Labs on Vimeo.

Nosh works on both Android and iPhone which is great. The experience is quite similar across both systems. Here’s how it works – First either browse your feed for interesting posts and pictures to find what’s good to eat nearby. Or if you like you can explore the local establishments in the directory or even add your own. When you get to the place you’ve decided to dine, you can add the item you’ve chosen, give it a quick rating and snap a pic. Everything is synced up on the Nosh website though I believe you need to be initiating posts via mobile to confirm (via GPS) that you were in fact there …


While Nosh is just getting started, it’s a very interesting service. The goal of Nosh and Firespotter according to Mr. Walker is to empower users with information in industries that are ripe for change. Given that the essential dining and discovery experience has stayed the same for quite a while, they prioritized Nosh as their first shot. There are currently about 150,000 menus in the system to ease the process of reviews, but there’s also quite a bit missing, which isn’t a ding it’s just the reality of starting something so large.  I look forward to sharing and learning from you … be sure to add me as a buddy if you signup, I’m just getting started myself.

Not my favorite color

Last night’s launch of Color is certainly getting a ton of press. They have a great team, a ton of cash and an interesting app – at least on paper. Having tried to use it a few times in the day as well as last night, I’m not sure I’m really going to care all that much.

The purpose of Color seems to be enabling social through the intention of proximity. In other words, you are able to share because you are close to someone else. You might not (and probably don’t) know these people but because you are nearby you can gain a new and shared perspective. I think that’s a pretty cool idea. What I would really like to see however, is the inclusion of my existing social network so that I can also get a prioritized and shared view with people I already have a real interaction with — even if these are just digital buddies. I love social discovery, but not at the exclusion of my existing base.

I transitioned from Instagram to Picplz and much like my journey from twitter to jaiku (and back to twiiter). I engaged with a community of people with shared interests. In many cases these interests actually came from using the services. Picplz and instagram are really quite similar. They are both simple, let you have fun with your photos and make it very easy to share externally as well. What I also like about both is that I can use an existing picture and then push it out which means I have the original locally to my device – and in the case of picplz also backed up on dropbox. Color forces me to snap a new picture of myself as an ID and then continues to “force” me to snap a new picture if I want to share. Perhaps part of this is due to the focus on that shared perspective of a location (the context of the social to begin with), but it forces a very strict type of sharing.

Color comes with no instructions and initially the UI while completely fresh, is far from easy to use. There don’t seem to be any guidelines with how things are used or shared and that actually bothers me. Because it’s far from self-evident, I find a level of discomfort here and that’s not good. Also, because Color is complex not actually that fun. When I installed it a second time on my Nexus S I had to start over. My presence from the iPhone was in no way transferable … in fact it seems as though you are essentially disposable. Without a way to associate yourself to your content or contacts, you just float through.

I shared the hype of Color last night with some co-workers and quite a few people actively played with it today around the office so it’s easy to see how a collection of people and images starts to work. I’m just not sure it’s actually for me.

I usually get a good feel quickly and Color is making me work too hard to use it.

It’s time for socially linked purchase accounts

Apples new approach to social is welcome but also shows just how lightly the social impact was thought to have in the broader ecosystem of iTunes.

In our home, my wife and I share an iTunes account so that our purchases can be easily distributed between systems.  Both of us have an @mac address though mine is the primary for purchases.  With the launch of Ping, the social stream presents itself within the Apple framework, yet is locked to a single user view.  In our personal world, it is impossible for both my wife and I to take advantage of the system without sharing a profile.  With Apple’s current focus on purchase forward activity, this might make some sense for how your actions represent you, but this is ridiculous if you participate within the social system.  We don’t share a facebook account and have different friends, Ping should respect that we well.

Prior to Ping, these issues existed around recommendations and in fairness, are not unique to Apple. We also share an Amazon account primarily for Prime, but also now as we both utilize the Kindle service making it easy to share books.  I’m used to seeing purchase recommendations for things my wife has bought on Amazon and while we don’t read the same things, I can file that info away for potential future gifting opportunities.  I’m certain that the Prime sharing is not unique nor is the sharing of purchase accounts … courtesy of DRM.

In today’s highly social world, we need a way to uniquely identify ourselves, yet also a way to properly (legally) purchase together as a household.  We have three children and already one with an iPod, yet at almost 7yrs old she’s not making purchases herself just yet.  As my kids get older, they’ll want to connect with their own friends and see recommendations based on their tastes – not those of their parents.  Thus far, there is no way to do that without creating individual purchase accounts, which means we can’t easily share the content between ourselves – which of course has always been possible with physical media.

If there was a method to link our accounts to a master purchase record, we should be able to purchase and share uniquely, yet maintain a single household record for DRM.  This would be ideal and frankly doesn’t even seem that hard to do.  I’m sure people would cheat something like this much in the same way people break DRM.  There’s no stopping the hacker types, but for those of us just looking for an easy and fair way to utilize the content we are legally purchasing … there’s got to be a better way.

The mobile phone is the social camera

I started to leave a blog comment on Antonio’s post and decided to do it here instead …

When I read the rumor that Apple has ordered a 5MP CMOS sensor for an unspecified product, it screamed to me of another coming disruption, this time around the point-and-shoot slice of the digital camera market. Because while the market for digicams is still growing at a healthy clip, the fat belly of point-and-shoot cameras has been relatively stalled since 2007 and shows signs of becoming a segment dominated by price and share wars— in other words, ripe for an Apple-like disruption.

A lot of the industry analysts that cover the emerging mobile space have been saying for a long time that better cellphone cameras would eventually kill the point-and-shoot, but I’m not sure that it is quite that simple. Or that is, before we get to this cellphone-as-camera nirvana, we may still have room for the iPod Touch of cameras (one that is connected but without a data plan). This would allow for all sorts of neat use cases around the concept of the “Social Camera, ” some similar to what Eye-Fi allows today, albeit with richer, more mass-market integration.

And best of all, if such a device was based on the iPhone platform, we’d benefit from the same Precambrian-like explosion of apps to explore every corner of the programable camera universe in a much more rich way than any one company could.[ The Onda]

An interesting thought for sure, but here’s where I see it really going. I already have a social camera and it’s called ANY Nokia handset I’ve used in the past several years.

Here’s how it works:

  1. I take a picture and share it instantly via (your choice) Share Online or Shozu.
  2. My current arrangement is via Share Online and pics pass through Pixelpipe which is an amazing photo mediation service. My default setting sends pictures to Flickr, Ovi, Facebook and Twitpic – all at once. Share Online also regularly checks Ovi and Flickr for new media, media that I’ve commented on and media of mine that’s been commented on and brings it all to me – even nicely notifying me via the homescreen.
  3. Pictures and Video I capture are geotagged and mapped on the supporting services as well so I’ve got a very rich contextual map of my media.

The social camera is here now.  It’s easy to use and has worked for a while.  I”m sure Apple has a perspective on this, but my guess is that it will happen on the existing platform not via some new piece of hardware.