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Monday, October 18, 2010

Why are there both Google Groups and Gmail Contacts Groups and other and more abstract Groups considerations

Can anyone explain me why in the hell there are two types of Google-originated #groups:
#Google Groups and #Gmail Contact Groups?


This thread on Amplify:
This thread on Google Buzz:

Aren't both types of groups about grouping various types of contacts in order to manage rights and responsibilities of those contacts?
We group contacts together so that we can send one message to a Group instead of individual messages to each contact.
We group contacts together into a Group in order to allow at once all the group members to see a Document or to participate in a Google #Buzz thread.
We group contacts together into a Group in order to know that all people in that group are responsible and/or capable of answering our question on a particular topic.

Group notion should be universal and defined by open standard.
There should be simple tool for on-the-fly group creation and for easy management.
Groups have various characteristics and there should be an easy to understand protocol/specification of how to set up and announce purposes and characteristics of each group.
There should be easy and standard protocol and tools allowing to connect a group with its specific purposes and characteristics to a specific application or web site.
Each user should be in charge and in full control of Groups he originated.

So far I saw several vendors types of groups: Google Groups, Gmail Contact Groups, Facebook Groups, Windows (Active Directory) Roles, Windows Live Groups. I don't think any of these group types provides full set of basic requirements stated above.

See related articles and discussions:
The Real Life #Social Network
Google researcher says friend groups may give it a window to best Facebook
Some Thoughts on Facebook Groups
Rob Gordon: The latest casualty (gossip) of social network (buzz)
Eric Goldstein Facebook Groups s-k!

Get started with groups on Windows Live
Facebook Groups
Google Groups
Evan Williams on Decentralized Social Networks - ReadWriteWeb

An update of 10/23/2010:
An interesting and related Buzz discussion initiated by Rob Gordon sparkled here: It tells me that this topic is hot.

An update of 10/27/2010:
I forgot about Yahoo groups / lists. I’m on Yahoo since I was born :),  but I’m not actually using it. Liz Panton knows everything about Yahoo groups, she brought my attention to it here on Amplify:

I know I have mentioned it before but something that is related to your blog post is the very confusing situation on Yahoo where someone without a Yahoo account can join a Yahoo “group” (email list) but not be a member of the Yahoo Group (web group) for the same list until and unless they have a Yahoo account. There are yet more tangles in that one Yahoo account can support several Yahoo profiles which can be used to subscribe to different groups. When I got my head around it I found this Yahoo mish-mash very useful but it can be rather baffling at first. (There is a similar “multiple identity” option with Google of course).

I wonder if this “multiple aliases” facility is an almost redundant hangover from times (going back about 10 years or so) when there was so much more anxiety and suspicion about the internet and the big emphasis was on hiding as much as possible about one’s identity online. In those days I would not expect to encounter many, if any, people online that I actually knew already. This relates to the parallel discussion about FB: people I know who have only recently started to interact online as adults are dipping their toes into the water with FB, where it is normal practice and helpful for people to reveal their true identities if they are to connect with real-life friends and family.

In relation to “group identity”, something that I think you might find interesting is the way that people seem to demonstrate different perceptions of “groups” and engage in different types of interactions on different Genealogy / Family History websites, with some definite “cultural” differences between different sites. I have found it quite fascinating. The structure of the sites differs too, herding people into, and sometimes excluding people from, pre-determined groupings that represent particular “communities of interest”. (As they say, “there’s a PhD in there for someone!”)

My comment:
Thank you for very interesting information. It looks like Yahoo is way ahead in this game, but it may be overly confusing too.

One can have many Gmail accounts, but these accounts are not connected to each other. Nothing like “one Yahoo account can support several Yahoo profiles which can be used to subscribe to different groups.”

I think an ability to join a Yahoo “group” (email list) without having Yahoo account is important for making this tool suitable for more people. If I’m not mistaken, Google Groups allows it as well.

From what you said above I think that both Yahoo and Google currently are mixing together functionality of email lists and groups for managing permissions. I think, groups should be extracted from other functionality to provide a convenient tool of managing members’ permissions. These “abstractish” groups would be then used in many other products: email [lists], online documents, social networks, etc.



Labels: groups, google, facebook, active directory, windows live, on-the-fly, standards, protocols

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Google Buzz to successfully evolve

It’s a logical continuation of For Google Buzz to be useful post.
Please use corresponding Buzz thread to comment.

I switched to new Google Groups UI some time ago and really like it. Recently, however, I read a discussion initiated by Chris Lang and went again to Groups for a more closer look. Today I read an interesting threads initiated by Ryo ★ and then by Tracy Crawford (it somehow slipped off my attention before.) I started to answer on particular comments, suddenly it was glued together with Google Group considerations and below is a resulting blog post. I see it as a second part of my old "For Google Buzz to be useful is necessary to" post (which is only partially obsolete.)

Ryo ★ said,
"I mentioned before that there is a very active core-group of people on Buzz. And some of them are screwing it up, trying to install their own view of how Buzz should be... Google Buzz is on the edge of becoming a small user-group. And that's sad….
Linda, well this was my opinion, not Leo's. Leo just said literally Buzz is dead. I don't agree on that, but in my opinion, Buzz is on the wrong way.
Like I said, I know that from many sites with social interaction. Any platform who can not get over those small core groups are going to be out of control and interesting only for a very limited amount of people."

As it was indicated by Lauren Weinstein (Section V of “For Google Buzz to be useful” and corresponding Buzz threadBuzz suffers from a poor discoverability of people. Twitter does it much better by suggesting reasonable people based on common interests and followers.

Buzz is on the hand about following by shared interests. So, what I see as even more important shortcoming is a lack of Forum View or Posts by Topics.
Cortney Pryce  first introduced this idea (Sections VI and IX of “For Google Buzz to be useful” and corresponding Buzz threads).

Such a Forum View would display condensed threads of a particular theme.
It might be a result of Search operation (Google - that's what you always should do!);  it might be a Front Wall with subset of a most popular and recent topics (like in Facebook).
I believe that Chris Lang often says that lack of a Front Page really hurts Buzz popularity. Now I realize how right he is!

What is critical for Forum View to succeed and to complement current Buzz is that it should by default display topic threads originated by everybody, not only by people you already follow. Sure, you may configure it to include only certain type of topics (using hash tags / labels attached to topics, or using applied Google search). But by default it should include all threads, not only threads originated by people you follow. This would break those small isolated/isolationists Buzz groups Ryo ★ was complaining about after Leo Laporte.

By including Front/Forum View we'll get a great place to discover new themes and contacts and to argue with people with different opinions.
As Rob Gordon said in Stacy Crawford’s thread, "Even if you don't care for the opinions of certain other people here, and they don't care for yours, you are still going to come in contact on other people's threads. This is what has made Buzz interesting - it is what has made it a single community rather then a bunch of independent microblogs, but it has also made us all part of a "social experiment" on the part of Google"

A good albeit specific example of Forum view is Quora.  But you know what? Google recently reformatted one its old and dusty tool into almost prefect example of Forum View. It already feels like a missing part of Buzz. I'm talking about new Google Groups. You click on "Browse All"  and then you could discover a lot of new stuff and people.
You click on "My Groups" - and that's what I call Forum View. Look at "Google Shared Spaces" group  (note the word "Forum" in URL!). Look at "Why do I need a public profile? Why access to Buzz?" topic. It feels like a Buzz thread.

New Google Groups not only could provide missing "Front Wall" and "Forum View" to Buzz, they are also "groups" – i.e. they allow to post conveniently either publicly or privately to a group.

I really expect further integration of Google Groups and Buzz. And I'd be happy to hear your opinion on what I said about Google Groups / Buzz integration. Hello, Google Buzz Team :)



Jordi Soler said, “Well, I have to agree with the post, especially on the problems with the Google Profile page. A long time ago I thought my profile page could become my main blog if it allowed some kind of customization and a nice template. Several months later, I've already given up and moved to Tumblr, where my blog suits my content.

Jordi, I don't think Buzz is a blogging tool. It is a Discussion tool, a Forum, like Amplify and like Google Groups are becoming now. For blogs let's use Wordpress, Blogger, etc. But Buzz may serve as a nice comment engine for those tools, provided that Google allows for comment syncing between them and Buzz. Bud Gibson perfectly stated it in a comment:
"Actually, I'd like to see buzz turn into better glue between some of Google's really great islands like Picasa and Blogger. I want buzz likes and comments to show up in Picasa and Blogger. I want two way."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To converge Chrome Bookmarks with Google Bookmarks?

There is a tool called Google Bookmarks. I use it to display a list of the often used sites on my iGoogle home page (using a gadget). But why do we need two sets of bookmarks? Every browser on the market has bookmarking functionality, although some tries to appear more original and call them Favorites.
So, wouldn’t it be great to converge to sets of bookmarks into one?

All browsers display bookmarks as a tree structure. Some of browsers have pretty good bookmarks UI. In my opinion, latest Firefox is a champion in this field. Firefox remembers a position of  previously added bookmark (IE does not) and only expands that branch in a bookmarks tree by default. It allows to add tags to bookmarks and to put separator lines between bookmarks.
In my older post I proposed a way of much easier addition of a new bookmark to some folder of your bookmark tree – to right-click on a folder and to choose “Bookmark current page here”. I submitted it to Chromium Issues site too, but would better to submit it to Google Product Ideas? (I’m a bit lost in Google’s web land.)

But there are several advanced features Google Bookmarks already implemented (not in a best-UI way, perhaps),  but browsers’ bookmarks have not.

First of all, Google Bookmarks support labels. Labels are synonymous  to tags or categories. They allow to assign multiple characteristics to each node and to search/filter by a characteristic. Firefox actually started to implement similar in-browser functionality called tags. It’s here, but it’s not a convenient thing to use. Neither Chrome nor IE support it.

An excellent example of labels implementation is Gmail. (Buzz cries for implementing labels too.)   Gmail recently allowed for nested labels (an experimental labs feature.)   It’s a tree structure,  but since you can easily assign multiple labels to each email item and easily filter, finding a particular node is easy.

My browser’s bookmarks tree (I sync them using Xmarks) is enormous. Thousands of valuable links (mostly on programming), so many of them it’s often easier to Google for a page than to find it in bookmarks. But maybe smaller more shallow bookmark tree combined with labels and ability to search within it in a Google-way – a system converged from browser’s bookmarks and Google bookmarks will be more convenient?

Google is in a unique position: it owns both Google Bookmarks technology and Chrome browser. Nothing should stop it from displaying that converged bookmark system in a Chrome menu – replacing current Chrome bookmarks. This way individual user’s bookmarks still could be synchronized with bookmarks in Firefox or any other browser. This other browser wouldn’t know these are Google bookmarks and would perhaps support only part of functionality.

Please discuss this post on Google Buzz.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to dynamically add members to a private Buzz group

Here's an extremely interesting Buzz feature Andriy discovered!
1) Create an empty group in my contacts
2) Write a privet Buzz post aimed to that empty group
3) Mention ( @ ) someone in a Buzz post body or in comments.
Note, that not only a thread originator, but anybody already added (i.e. @-mentioned by anyone in a post body or in a comment) can invite new people to that private thread.
What if a thread originator only invited Friend_A and Girlfriend_B and was going to keep it secret from Wife_C. Then Friend_A (is it really a friend?) @-invited Wife_C to a thread
Oh, yes, I know Friend_A could just pick a phone and call her, but...
I'm positive there should be a stricter protection degree added to Buzz posts.
Why not to
a) Rename current private post level to Protected
b) Add stricter Private level, for which no one [except thread originator maybe?] can @-invite new participants in?

(See this post and a discussion on Buzz)

Adewale Oshineye (Google) - Oh I see. We had this exact discussion internally a while ago.

Think of it this way. If A has a private email discussion with B then there's nothing to stop B from forwarding the entire thread to {C,D,E,F}. Essentially you have to trust the people you speak to not to just publish your private conversations.

Personally I don't believe this is a problem that should be solved by technology. If the people you talk to don't respect your trust then they always have the option of cutting and pasting your message into a text file and sending it out. If you disable cut and paste then they can always take a screenshot and send that around.

Society already has a solution for dealing with people who forward private communications: we stop speaking to those people.

The editable email stuff seems to be a variation on this:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Google Buzz to be useful is necessary to segregate social groups and other ideas

 An update of January 5, 2011: Please see my next related post about Buzz.

I. Buzz needs to segregate social groups.
After reading interesting  How Google Plans to Beat Facebook article by Mike Elgan I decided to summarize my and my Buzz friends ideas on improving Google Buzz:

Although Facebook theoretically gives users an ability to segregate social groups, almost no one really knows about it and uses it.
At a current stage, Google Buzz does not provide such ability at all and, which IMO is a major drawback. We discussed this a lot in different Buzz threads. Let me list what we thought is necessary to implement for Buzz to be able to easily segregate social groups:
- Ability to attach labels/tags/categories on poster's end
- Ability to post privately to particular subset of groups (already implemented)
- Ability to broadcast publicly + to either particular subset of groups or to everyone who followed.
- Ability to filter/subscribe on particular labels/tags/categories for posts for each individual poster on reader's end.

Explanation: I would like to see updates on technical topics from one group, and updates on family events from another. I don't want my technical posts to automatically appear on my wife's list, even so she could see them if she wants.
Note: I mentioned labels above. That's because Google already have them implemented beautifully in Gmail; why not to extend their usage to Buzz?

- Ability to categorize a group as either friend group, or group I follow, or... whatever.

Explanation: Friend is not the same thing as a person I follow, it’s a different type of relationship.


II. Better Buzz contacts management.
It would be nice if my contacts acquired from Buzz were automatically added to a special (system) sysBuzz contact group, while contacts acquired from Wave were added to sysWave group, and so forth. This would make contact management easier. True, to some degree you can see source of contacts through Social circle but it's not convenient enough.
Even more, why are groups displayed by Social circle totally separate from my contacts groups? Shouldn't they be merged?


III. Improved Reshare.
CS Wong: After an extended period of using Buzz's Reshare feature, I've come to the conclusion that having a separate thread of comments for each Reshare is not beneficial. Discussion is what makes Buzz comes alive and the current Reshare implementation just splits the discussions into rather unsatisfying clusters here and there. My opinion is that a Reshare should just be a pointer to the original Buzz so that your followers would see whatever you reshared in their streams even if they don't follow the original Buzzer.

Adewale Oshineye: I tend to think we need both forking re-sharing (where you get lots of separate conversations about the same URL) and non-forking re-share (where there is only conversation about the URI.

Gathering all the Buzz users who care about a topic into one thread is likely to lead to flamewars and long but unsatisfactory discussions. Joshua Schacter, of Delicious, once said that there's a good reason for segregating people who talk about 'cinema' from people who talk about 'movies.' The different groups see the same thing but react very differently.

Buzz currently only support forking re-share. However people have discovered that you can simulate non-forking re-share by:
- Re-sharing a post and adding a note saying "Please comment on the original" then disabling comments on your fork of the post.


An update of September 9, 2010:

IV. Allow regular Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare to Buzz Profile Pages.
I found it quite inconvenient, that common Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare are not available on profile pages. For some reason, only 'Report Spam and Abuse', Comment, and Like actions are available. Often I open someone's profile page to read all her last posts or comments, like it but cannot reshare. Why doesn't it use the same interface as Gmail Buzz pages?


V. Improve Buzz discovery mechanism
Lauren Weinstein:
- The actual operational structures of conversations in Buzz are vastly superior to Twitter in virtually every way.
- The "follower" discovery mechanism in Buzz currently... is pretty sad... you need to periodically (without any prodding or reminders from Buzz itself) dig down to the end of your existing followers list and manually plow through the suggested new followers, which entails more clicks to get to their profiles and then working back to the follower list again.
- By comparison, Twitter's new follower suggestion mechanism tells you who else (of significance to you) is already following that person -- a significant help in the decision-making process. Also, when you get a new follow from the suggestion system, it notes the other people following you that were key to the suggestion taking place.

- When making a suggestion, Netflix explains that this movie is suggested because you liked the following similar movies. That's rises a question of how to define similarity between buzz posts? My answer:
     a) Add to Buzz and use labels (categories),
     b) more difficult - analyze a content, included links, etc.

An update of September 10, 2010: 

VI. Adding new participants to a private thread, “forum view” with condensed headings of threads with locked symbol and participant number indicator?
Courtney Pryce:
- [Buzz] requires me to set-up a pre-defined group with the participants and as far as I'm aware you cant add people to that group after the fact so I don't find that overly useful I'd prefer to just send an email and add after if need be.
- Similar to the structure of forums it would be good if you could just see headings of threads and know from a symbol whether those threads are locked and you need to request access them and also a little indicator on how many people are viewing or have been active with replies.

See my comments on difficulties this would introduce (and a subsequent discussion if present).

Actually we discovered that adding new participants to a private thread is not only possible, but probably too easy! See my next post  “How to dynamically add members to a private Buzz group

VII. There should be a little "last edited on xx.xx" mark next to each edited comment

VIII. To fix screen jumping around when a new post is added [above]

Bruce Attridge:
- One of the things that bug me about Buzz, is the way the screen jumps around... it's worst when new posts are added above - sometimes the post I'm reading [V.K.: or a comment I'm writing] disappears off-screen!

My comment:
I was writing it in a public thread and then crazy Buzz suddenly took me out of there and displayed a private thread to which I was invited at that moment, so that I lost all I wrote. It's a bug!


An update of September 13, 2010:

IX. Courtney Pryce:
Is there anyway to get another tab on the profile page that shows the most recent Buzz from all the people that you are following?

What I am suggesting is have another tab next to the "Comments by" and "Likes by" that would show me all 80 of the people that I have chosen to follow, listing [V.K. – in collapsed mode] their names in either alphabetic or chronological order (doesn't matter which) so that I can see what there last post was.

My Comment:
I would consider (based on what you described above):

On a Profile page

1) Adding another Posts by Following tab next to the "Comments by" and "Likes by" that would show a list of all the people I follow, preferably listing their names in alphabetical order. I would display that list either fully condensed by default or, perhaps, displaying a couple of last posts from this person and "See more posts" link.

2) In another post you originated the following idea, "Similar to the structure of forums it would be good if you could just see headings of threads and know from a symbol whether those threads are locked and you need to request access them and also a little indicator on how many people are viewing or have been active with replies." To me it looks like yet another Posts by Topic tab - displaying a condensed by default list of topics. This condensed view could be toggled to display only topics originated by people you follow, or to display all topics, or maybe even topics by people who follow you. (It could be a particular kind of a filter).

Just for a reminder, all Profile Buzz views should be fixed to allow regular Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare (only 'Report Spam and Abuse', Comment, and Like actions are available now).
Since Google Profile is a public page, what I see on my Buzz tabs here could be different from what others see. I would see both public and private posts, while others only posts they are allowed to see (and maybe, as you said - topics names for private topics).

On Buzz stream inside of Gmail

4) In case we still need to see Buzz stream inside of Gmail, why not to display identical Posts by Following and Posts by Topic tabs there as well?

Finally, while a tab content chunk is rendered on a client (using some type dynamic request to a server), when we switched between Posts by Followers and Posts by Topic tabs, client will need to re-fetch a [first] chunk of data, because it is now sorted differently.


An update of September 15, 2010:

X. 'Insert Link' thing below a buzz post disappears after adding a link, allowing to add only one link section per-buzz. Is it intentional?

I've just figure out a way to add more than one link section:

a) Add an URL directly to a text. It'll automatically add a link section on the bottom.
b) Place cursor before added URL, hit Enter to add an empty line above it.
c) Add a second URL above the first one. It'll automatically add a second link section on the bottom below the first one.
And so on. Note, that adding a new URL below an existing one will not trigger adding a new link section.

Will it be possible to manually re-arrange automatically added link sections (drag-and-drop)?


An update of September 20, 2010:

XI. Steve Pirk: [Add] A function where you can indicate what comment you are replying to. The idea is "back reference" links, that when hovered over show the comment with something along the lines of "in reply to". It lists the party/comment your reply was referring to.


An update of September 21, 2010:

XII. Jannik Lindquist
A feature request:
Please make it possible to get notified about someone’s comments. As an option, of course. When following someone there could simply be an option like "Get notifications for comments" which would mean that I would get the threads commented on by that person in my inbox - with an explanation: "This thread was delivered to your inbox because you subscribe to comments by xxx…
I am just trying to make the point that a lot of the gold on Buzz is in the comments. The vast majority of the people I have chosen to follow were chosen because of the quality of their comments. [Bold-Italic by V.K.] Of course, I also want to read their original posts - but most of them don't write a lot of original posts. In my humble opinion, this is huge drawback of Buzz. And I still can't see why my suggestion raises more privacy concerns than what is already present in Buzz. Every comment we make is already delivered to the inboxes of the followers of the authors of the threads containing our comments.".

My comment:
- I would like this feature if it would be possible to subscribe on someone's comments on some particular topics... another call to implement tags (labels) for Buzz posts.
Jannik relied:
- I understand what you are saying, Vladimir, but I'm a huge fan of the simplicity of the current Buzz, so I would prefer to just mute threads, that I'm not interested in.


An update of September 22, 2010:

XIII. Roberto Bayardo (see related topic VIII above):

- Now that Buzz activity seems to be picking up, the Buzz stream jumping all over the place when I'm trying to read it or post comments is becoming a big problem. Google Buzz Team, can you add an option that suppresses updates until I click a "show updates" button or something like that?
Lauren Weinstein:
- Yes, the "jumping" effect is very noticeable here. Mute updates are part of it, but other updates can apparently also cause the effect. Ideally, the current viewable screen area really shouldn't have to "jump" at all -- updates affecting the current view could be indicated on screen but not immediately rendered if they're going to move the current display. The jumps are particularly disconcerting when I'm typing text (e.g. to post a comment) and suddenly the text input box starts moving around, sometimes out of view entirely (which it just did while I was typing this, in fact!)


An update of September 29, 2010:

XIV. Feature request:

- To add Read it Later functionality to Google Buzz

We all are overloaded by information flow. Among other tools to tackle info-guilt (like Firefox Panorama) there is a simple "Read It Later" add-on for both Firefox and Chrome (less functional).

While it's possible to use it to save some interesting Buzz posts for further reading, I've just though, why not to:

Add Read It Later functionality to Google Buzz. This would allow to save links (titles with short descriptions, perhaps) to interesting Buzz posts for further reading.

a) I would display "Add to Read It Later" item to right-top drop-down box of individual Buzz posts. If this post is already saved to read-it-later list, I would display instead "Remove from Read It Later".
b) I would add "Read It Later" tab or menu item to the top of Buzz Stream window and probably to Google Profile as well (visible to me only).

I agree with Jannik Lindquist - it's a must to keep Buzz interface as simple as possible. Courtney Pryce recently suggested to add two other tabs to both Profile Page and Buzz stream interface in Gmail: "Posts by Followers" and "Posts by Topic" (see sections VI and XI above). It seems to be too many Tabs to add, but we can wrap those tabs into a little drop-down box like one displayed on top-right corners of Buzz posts.


An update of October 6, 2010:

XV. Feature request:

- To add Hash Tags functionality to Google Buzz

Hash tags! I think it's a really great functionality to add to Google Buzz. It's the same label concept I'm constantly arguing for, allowing for an efficient search and filtering Buzz posts for particular topic. But it's more. Let me quote what Amplify creator Eric Goldstein said:
"In any microblog post, comment or in your commentary on a clip, just add a # before any word and it will be displayed as a link on The link will point to Amplify search results for that word. In a tap of the hat to Twitter, we think hash tags have been put to great use on Twitter and we wanted to offer the same functionality to users of Amplify...
There are a few things about hash tags that make them valuable in my opinion. First, they serve to visually accentuate a particular word by converting them to a link. Second, they make it very easy for users to find more results on Amplify about a particular term, simply by clicking on it.

Lastly (and most importantly in my opinion), hash tags allow users to intelligently add words that describe a comment/post that may not have otherwise made sense to include. For example, I just posted something about Alex Rodriguez. Even though there was no mention of the word baseball in my post, i added it as a hash tag at the end of the post, because anyone who searches for baseball on amplify should see that post."

Amplify now supports hash tags!


An update of October 7, 2010

XVI. Feature request:

Arrogant Google:

- It would be cool if Buzz would unobtrusively identify those commenters in your buzz stream that you are not already following. This would be much nicer than the "suggested followers" feature, which, to be honest, doesn't really work well at all. (Hint: I don't want to follow people that don't leave any comments and haven't Buzzed in months!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What would Google never do

During the last TWIG they spent about 10 minutes discussing misinformation presented by Tom Foremski on ZDNet about Google allegedly manually tweaking search results.
I had a better opinion about ZDNet before. The allowed Mr. Foremski to publish misinformation and either didn't bother to proof it or did it intentionally. They did not apologize after Matt Cutts, a software engineer and the head of the web spam team at Google, explained in a comment that accusations against Google are false.
Anyway, G-d forgives it to ZDNet. But This Week In Google podcast is supposed to be well informed about Google, isn't it? Instead they spent time trying to defend Google and explain that the alleged wrong-doing is not a wrong doing at all! Mr. Foremski accused Google in an almost criminal activity (think about millions of dollars depending on companies page ranks). If it would be true, no one should have any deal with Google. But a programmer Gina Trapani went to long discourses about algorithms being human-made too, which was supposed to approve manual tweaking of page ranks! Jeff Jarvis wrote a book called "What Would Google Do". In a comment under TWIG buzz I suggested they should name the last podcast What Would Google Never Do.

Matt Cutts said,

"Hi, my name is Matt Cutts and I'm a software engineer and the head of the webspam team at Google. Tom, I believe you're reaching an incorrect conclusion from the sentence "Google uses human raters to assess the quality of individual sites in order to counter this effect" if you believe evaluation raters can change Google's search rankings. Our evaluation team only rates search quality changes; those raters don't have the ability to change Google's search results. Google has actually been remarkably open about how our evaluation team works. See a very detailed piece here, for example: http:// techbeat/archives/2009/10/ googles_scott_huffman_ many_more_search_features_coming.html My team (webspam) does take action on spam in Google's web index, but we've disclosed that quite clearly for the last 7-8 years in our quality guidelines."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Style vs. Design or what Joshua Topolsky does not understand

I was listening a latest TWIT podcast with Leo Laporte, Joshua Topolsky from Engadget, and others. It was very interesting, but I totally disagree with Joshua Topolsky in what he said there. I think he's mixing together a good design and stylish appearance.

When he's saying that Google is so bad on design and Android is so ugly and unfinished as compared to iOS and Zune (i.e. Win Phone 7 ?) he is reflecting on how things appear initially and externally. Yes, Zune HD is really stylish, I was impressed at first when bought it for my mother in law. Its screen appears so beautiful too. Then I started to learn how to use it and started to explain it to my mother in law. As I immediately found, its interface is quite inconsistent. You are never sure what to try to perform an action you want. For such a simple thing as MP3 player it's a pity.
I've heard that Windows Phone 7 OS is a radical departure from a bad boring Windows Mobile 6.5, is revolutionary, and similar to Zune HD OS. So I thought: how great, we're going to get new good mobile platform. Now I really doubt it. It's kind of too revolutionary, it's a revolution for the sake of being different and stylish and not for a purpose of being functional and consistent.

Windows 7 OS is great – here I agree with Joshua and Leo. But that’s because Windows 7 is intuitive and stable, which is a big improvement over Windows XP, not because Windows 7 is stylish. That’s quite different from Zune HD OS.

Android OS, contrary to what Joshua Topolsky and many other people said, is very consistent and intuitive. It's usage of Back button is genial. You always know how to return. To go ahead you always do one of a very few things. Maybe there are less visual effects there then in iOS, Zune HD, or WebOS – that’s I don't know. But I really like as little as possible of visual effects and candy-box beauty on my cell phone. Functionality, convenience, consistency - that what is really important.

Regarding Google Buzz.
I tend to agree that it would be better to package it as a separate product, provided that a voluntary integration with other Google services is absolutely easy. Separate products, modular design with well-defined standard communication protocols is always a best choice. It's like Lego parts... On the other side, Google Buzz is not only not a failure, as Joshua thinks, it's an outstanding product and a great success. To me, Google Buzz became a main tool for expression of my opinion, for looking at what other people say and think, for discussing, and getting a targeted information. It's significantly better than Twitter too, because it allows conversations, not just shouting out into a void.

Regarding cheap Chinese labor and a better, more fair pay for it: Joshua, do you think that if Americans paid more, Chinese workers would get more and live better? Don't be naive! That's Chinese corporations and Semi-Communist government - who would get more money.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bookmark management in Google Chrome vs other browsers

An update: look at the next To converge Chrome Bookmarks with Google Bookmarks? post too.

As you might remember, initially some extremists from Google Chrome team were suggesting that bookmarks are not necessary in a modern browser, because their function is replaced by wonderful search algorithm. (Or do I exaggerate?)

While Google Search and its interface in Google Chrome and Firefox are indeed wonderful, they cannot replace bookmarks. Personally, I’m a bookmark-addict. I have thousands of bookmarks, organized into a rich three structure. Wonderful Xmarks extension allows to backup and sync bookmarks across machines and browsers.

However, among three major browsers – Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome, only Firefox presents acceptable bookmark management. In both IE and Chrome bookmark managers are dismal.
First of all, when you add a new bookmark, both Chrome and IE present all the branches of bookmark tree expanded by default. If you have 10,000 bookmarks in hundreds of folders, finding right spot for a new bookmark becomes a nightmare.
Internet Explorer is unique in that it presents no visual clue of whether currently displayed page is already saved in bookmarks (favorites) or not. Also, thanks to it's tight integration to Windows OS, IE does not allow to put various characters into bookmark / folder names.  It’s a mere disaster.
I’m mostly using Google Chrome these days, but often launch Firefox just to conveniently add a new page bookmark. Firefox remembers a position of  previously added bookmark (IE does not) and only expands that branch in a bookmarks tree by default. It allows to add tags to bookmarks and to put separator lines between bookmarks. Its “Organize Bookmarks…” tool is also far superior to practically unusable IE “Organize  Favorites…” and to HTML-based Chrome “Bookmark Manager”.

But I’ve just got an idea of how to make adding bookmarks to Chrome much easier. What if we add a simple “Bookmark current page” mouse right-click option to Chrome’s “Other Bookmarks” menu?
You’re on a page which you want to bookmark to your “Developer/Google Android/Android Devices/Zii EGG” folder? Just expand it in “Other Bookmarks”, right-click mouse and choose “Bookmark current page”!

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Cloud Printing

Google announced Cloud Printing. Now HP announced Cloud Printing initiative as well. That’s exiting, isn’t it?
Besides points of skepticism laid out by Larry Dingan, I immediately start thinking about spam. Would you like your printer to print stupid advertisements without your consent? And while GMail spam filters are close to perfect (I don't hide my address and still getting only limited spam, the same is true for my email protected by Google Postini), still no tools offer 100% spam defense. Of course, Google and HP are thinking about it too...
On another note, it's very interesting to compare HP Cloud Printing initiative to Google Cloud Printing. Both are going to survive, and there will be more (Microsoft, I didn't hear you.) That's good, actually - a competition, pluralism, distributed nature are keys to Web success. So, the critically important requirement would be to develop common and open cloud printing protocols. I hope to be able to print remotely from my Notion Ink Adam Android table on HP printer, and for my supervisor to be able to print from iPhone 4 remotely on Epson printer...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Facebook’s attempts to become the plumbing of the web

Listen to Mike Zuckerberg’s f8 keynote.
ZDNet: Facebook's Zuckerberg at f8: Open social graphs and an effort to be the center of the Web.
CNN SciTechBlog: Will Facebook dominate the future web?

"As Facebook stretches its tentacles into websites other than its own, adding social and friend-making functionality along the way, the company is positioning itself not just as a website but as an essential piece of the Internet itself...
That puts the site in obvious competition with Google and others who are trying to organize the Internet and make it more socially engaging.
Some say a Facebook-led social web will make online browsing more convenient.
As the entire internet becomes more tied with a person's social network, you'll get more recommendations that can help you find web pages you'll enjoy...
Others say the Facebook model gives one company too much power.
"They're holding all of our data. We have to trust them not to sell it to the world," said Ricky S., an app developer who works with Facebook..."

Here's what is wrong in that FaceWeb: Facebook is attempting to become a single center of operations. The main principle which Tim Berners-Lee introduced to Internet and the very reason why WWW became so successful  is distribution. Web explicitly avoids to have a single point of control. Is it peer-to-peer or is it a communication through servers, there are usually many duplicating ways to be connected. There is no single database which ties in the Web, there is no center. That's why Web is scalable and dependable, that's what to certain degree ensures Web's neutrality.
Yes, Facebook’ Social Graph is a powerful thing. But as always, a key to success, to a scalable web is not a single center of command, not a single plumbing of the web (which Facebook aims to become),  but a distribution, redundancy and the ability to communicate on the same language: communication protocols.

Sure, small cites cannot afford developing their own social graph functionality, they can delegate it to Facebook, but it is better at least to have multiple portals offering such a delegation services, or lending / offering for free standard social graph tools.

Then,  the term "semantic web" means something different and much more broad than collecting and borrowing user profiles. I'd refer you to Tim Berners-Lee and to various books about semantic web, but in a couple of words, semantic web it's about ways of attaching standardized tags to web entities, allowing "machines" (web applications, etc.) to obtain meaning (hence "semantic") of those entities.
People as web entities and their social profiles as tags are just a tiny part of semantic web. Tim Berners-Lee initially was talking about web sites as semantic entities, with tags allowing "machines" (web robots) to grasp purpose/area of a particular web site.
Then there was an idea of Web of Things with special unique codes attached to things of a physical world (like electronic devices, or packages in a grocery store, or houses), allowing to uniquely identify and map this physical item to the web. Remember QR-codes? That's what they serve for. I was surprised to find QR code on my mother-in-law's Microsoft Zune HD package.
So, back to our topic: although they are some semantic aspects if what Facebook is trying to do, they use the meaningful term mostly as a buzzword…


An update of October 07, 2010:

Jannik Lindquist:
So Facebook got Groups. Meh...Months ago they said they knew all about Google's "secret" plans and now they roll out this. It is pretty obvious that the "secret" plans they were talking about is Paul Adams public presentation "The Real Life Social Networks".

A clear step-by-step instruction of how to protect your privacy against Facebook's attempts to ruin it

Recently Facebook introduced a bunch of new features, Social Graph, Like button, Instant personalization, etc. You can listen to Mike Zuckerberg’s keynote.

Numerous reviewers currently discuss privacy implications of newly introduced Facebook features. But before you delve into those articles, here’s PCWorld’s clear step-by-step instructions of how to protect your privacy on Facebook.

Other related articles include:
Facebook privacy warning; Instant Personalization at F8
Facebook’s Instant Personalization Is the Real Privacy Hairball
How Facebook is putting its users last
PCMAG: Facebook: Privacy Enemy Number One? Time to Audit Your Facebook Privacy Settings, Here's How.
In-depth discussion on TWIG: Facebook Über Alles
Leo Capote ( I wish I had the time to write a blog post: "Why you will never see the Facebook Like button on anything I do."

An Update of October, 7, 2010:

How To Keep the New Facebook From Flooding Your Inbox With Spam (with introduction of FB groups)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook's Zuckerberg at f8: Open social graphs and an effort to be the center of the Web


Facebook's Zuckerberg at f8: Open social graphs and an effort to be the center of the Web

I haven't exactly understood it yet, but it sounds really interesting. Most of the time, when I specify on one site that I like something, I really want other relevant sites to automatically get this information and maybe to offer me something similar.
Furthermore, Google Buzz, or MySpace, or Facebook, or Netflix can to a certain degree calculate the likelihood for my friends to like the same thing I like on their sites and adjust their offer (context adds, etc.) for my friends. This is what a "smart web" environment is.
Google currently collects one's preference behinds the scene through data mining and displays adds accordingly. I don't mind, I rather like it: it help finding relevant info and products.
What Facebook is going to do is different, because a) I express my preferences manually by clicking on "Like" button; b) Facebook is going to team with other big portals, have them display Facebook "Like" buttons and share information. I think it would be good for Google to follow the trend, to introduce "GoogleLike" buttons (may be even placed on Google Toolbar) and to share this info with other portals and social sites, including Facebook. It seems to be a win for everybody.
What do you think?