As a long-time user of Google News, I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the app's apparent inability to tell time. Or, for that matter, to read a calendar. This image shows you my Google News page's custom San Francisco Giants entries as of 5 p.m. Pacific today.
They're about to kick off a game at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. What does the "news" have to offer me?
* The score of yesterday's game
* A pre-game story about a game that was played July 10 in Kansas City!
* A story about…not the Giants as requested and clearly labeled…but the 49ers (whom I also follow via Google News)
Not even anything about the more recent games between July 9 and yesterday. Let alone any pre-game coverage for today.
Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports' page on the Giants is chock full of brand-new news, including:
* A trade the Giants made in which they picked up lefty reliever Jose Mijares from the Royals TODAY
* The AP's preview of tonight's game and the series
* A good wrapup of the just-completed sweep of the Rockies
And there's lots of other stuff there as well.
It's obvious from this and tons of other observations I've made that Yahoo is really serious about being a major content player while Google dabbles in it using their (apparently time-unconscious) search algorithms to create news pages that are just embarrassingly dumb and out-dated.
As a confirmed Internet news junkie, I found today's news about Internet news interesting. In the process of digging into it, I made a discovery worth commenting on (IMNSHO).
NBC finally put to bed a deal to revamp MSNBC.com and to get its own online news presence in the process. The "old" msnbc.com
is now NBCNews.com
. The redirects are already in place. Until today, NBC News did not have its own Web presence. That was part of the deal between Microsoft and NBC made years ago when the two teamed up to create MSNBC.com. At the time the deal was struck, it made eminent sense. It hasn't for some time but it took NBC and its newer partner Comcast a while to negotiate Microsoft out of the relationship. The price of divorce was reportedly $30M. Apparently, the MSNBC TV operation remains separate and there are no reported plans to change its lineup. The offspring news service will reportedly get its own dedicated .com next year.
Microsoft said in departing from the deal that it wants to create its own news presence but I doubt that's in the offing. They aren't in the content business and are partnered with too many companies that are.
So there's that.
And then I read a piece in one of the many newsletters I read every day that indicated that the highest-traffic news site on the Internet has become the Yahoo-ABC combo. So I dropped over to check it out and, man was I impressed. My main online news base at the moment is Google News but Yahoo/ABC has them beat hands-down. Better organization, better layout and design, far better user experience. I'd switch in a nanosecond but for one failing on the part of Yahoo: no ability to add custom news topics to your news page.
Maybe the brand-new Yahoo CEO can fix that. Because also today Yahoo announced it had filled its CEO position by hiring the second woman ever to take the helm at the once-giant tech company. Marissa Mayer, one of the top execs at Google, is credited with being one of their best product innovators. And if Yahoo needs anything right now, it's innovation. Having completely blown their initial role as a major search player, Yahoo's best new play — evidenced by the way it has executed with ABC — is as a serious content provider. I'm guessing Mayer will quickly start focusing on content innovation. She could well lead a real resurgence of Yahoo.
The Google search engine is now responding to the inclusion of an author tag in link tags on your Web site. The result of this is that if you post a piece of content on a page and label it correctly with the author tag, the Google Search Results Page will show the result with a thumbnail image of your Google+ photo (assuming you have one, which this probably incents you to do!).
Here's how the tag works. Normally when you include a link on your page it looks something like this:
(I've used square brackets here instead of angle brackets so your browser doesn't render the text as a link.)
Now instead (or in addition) you do:
[a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/118167812237815971325
To find out your Google+ ID (that hellishly long number in the above sample, which actually does reach my profile), you'll need to go to plus.google.com
and click on the Profile icon in the left column of the page. The number that appears in the URL field at the top of your browser is your ID.
There's a lot
more to this than I have space for here. Check out Don Power's article
on the subject.
The big pre-story rolling out of Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco this week centers on expected new hardware releases. The company reportedly plans to announce iPhones with bigger screens and some enhancements to its iOS (iPhone, iTouch, iPad) feature set designed to keep developers coding first for the Apple platforms.
This is being widely viewed as an attempt by Apple to stave off an increasingly aggressive Google, which it likely is. And this battle is so deeply reminiscent of the old Apple-Microsoft wars of the desktop era.
In one corner we have Apple, which excels at designing and making hardware consumers lap up as if it were a legal narcotic. It also happens to be quite good at developing core software and at attracting the developer community to target its platforms for apps they create. This becomes an increasingly self-feeding Momentum Machine.
In the other corner we have a software-only (at least for now) player in Google, which has been highly successful drawing users to its array of applications for all kinds of hardware stages. But it makes very little money on its software, which really plays the role of a loss leader to get other people to want to get messages to the billions of eyeballs using their stuff.
Back in the old days, you had software-only Microsoft vs. a basically hardware-only Apple. Oh, Apple made software then and a lot of it was really good. But it wasn't mainstream; Microsoft owned the corporate market and much of the consumer space as well when it came to the OS and to software. Today's Apple is much more suited to compete strongly against anyone who seeks to dethrone it in the marketplace for intelligent consumer hardware-software-firmware combinations.
I run many Google apps (which is why I call myself a Goodict) but I run them all on Apple hardware, where I also run two Microsoft apps (Word and Excel) only because I have clients who insist on it. If Google is serious about Android and Chrome unseating iOS and MacOS, they have a long, long way to go to convince Google loyalists like me to adopt other hardware or OS platforms. I don't see that as a winning strategy. Partnering with Apple would make much more sense.
USA Today re-posted a guest blog from CNBC.com in which a former Google exec talks about the five mantras of Google culture and suggests that any small business could benefit by adopting them.
Julie Clow, who worked for five years helping Google create a corporate culture, says the five mantras are:
- Launch and iterate.
- Fail fast.
- Focus on the user.
- Ask forgiveness, not permission.
- If you see a void, fill it.
These are really good mantras. In the several companies I owned over the years in high-tech, I tried to implement them or some variation or sub-set of them whenever I could; they're not new with Google.
But when Clow says, "These mantras are at the core of innovation for Google, but translate readily to any business to create agility, employee engagement, and ultimately, stronger business results," she's just wrong.
To be able to afford these policies — which she says "cost no money" — requires that a company's resources be sufficiently deep that allowing employees to speculate on new projects with little or no supervision doesn't fatally disrupt product plans already being implemented, customer support, and other ongoing activities of the organization. And that, despite Ms. Clow's enthusiasm for her work at Google and its obvious results, does cost money.
Contained within these mantras are great ideas for even smallish companies and adopting them certainly creates a culture of innovation. To the extent that you can implement them without disruption of your core business, you should try. But to let yourself be distracted from your primary focus — what your customers want and need from you now — risks the business for the sake of pure innovation. My experience over 40+ years in high-tech entrepreneurship says that seldom pays dividends in small companies.
Google CIO Ben Fried has told a tech executive summit in New York that he thinks the tipping point for Cloud computing to explode into the Enterprise space is at hand. And Fried says the prospect is scary and disturbing.
Of course it's clear that Google has a vested interest in spreading this meme, but that doesn't mean the meme is a lie. As Fried points out correctly, "The macroeconomic tides — you can’t fight them forever — will force companies to adapt. "
This shift opens myriad opportunities for entrepreneurs and for mid-size companies with agile development capabilities to jump in and provide services and supporting products that could fuel another round of economic expansion. At the same time, as large companies outsource IT infrastructure, jobs will be lost. My guess is that the smart IT guys have already figured this out and begun joining the ranks of the self-employed to tie into and support the Cloud services their former employers need.
What say ye?
The announcement yesterday that Google is beginning to roll out its new Knowledge Graph on search results pages (SERPs) is the latest salvo in the quickly escalating battle among Google, Microsoft and Facebook for Web dominance in the information space. I have not yet seen or tried the Knowledge Graph but I will closely monitor Google's rollout and hope to get a look soon.
In fact, I'm more excited by the Knowledge Graph than I am by Microsoft's recently announced intention to include social results on Bing SERPs. A few days ago
I compared my thoughts about how Google and Microsoft Bing plan to incorporate social results into their SERPs and I gave high marks to Bing. The Knowledge Graph moves the marker strongly back toward Google for me. As much as I sometimes
like to know what my friends and followers are saying and thinking about some
subjects, the kinds of searches I do will largely not be enhanced by that additional data. But the Knowledge Graph — really, what appears to be a strong first take at the Holy Grail called the Semantic Web
— has the potential to make search far, far more useful and interesting to me.
It certainly is a fun time to be alive and watching technology!
As soon as Microsoft finishes rolling out the new Bing design, we should be able to start getting a handle on what people think about the importance of social search results compared to Web search results.
Bing is including social network results for searches off to the right side of the page in a gray-background panel of their own. Google is integrating Google+ and other social network results into the search results stream, treating them as an equally valuable "find" with more traditional results locating Web sites and pages.
Which will users prefer?
Or will this prove nothing more than a skirmish in the larger battle that will ultimately see Facebook become the search engine tail that wags the Bing/Google dog? Do we want social integrated into search or do we want search to be integrated into social?
There will be a period of time — a year or so, I'm predicting — during which the outcome of that contest will be up in the air as all three jockey for position. But ultimately, for me at least, I think I'm going to prefer Bing's solution to Google's. There is a different quality of results between what a search algorithm with page ranking and other values baked in will give me and what the views and experiences of my social media network connections will offer. By mixing them into one stream of results, Google puts the onus on me to filter out the potential noise of social results. By segregating them to the side, Bing gives them at once more and less import. I suspect that, all other things being equal (and they seem to be), I'll end up switching to Bing.
Now that would be momentous in my life!
What a freaking stupid mess.
A jury of 12 people whose combined knowledge of programming languages in general, APIs more specifically and Java APIs even more specifically amounted to bupkus, has declared
that programming languages are subject to copyright. Even if they're in the public domain. Sort of.
Trials like this one, in which Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement on some Java APIs they acquired when they bought Sun Microsystems, don't belong in public courts with public juries made up of people who are specifically selected for their ignorance of the underlying technical issues and who are furthermore unimaginative enough to avoid jury duty. I'm not blaming the jury here; the problem is the system.
There's a legal mechanism called a "special master" whom a court can appoint to oversee such trials. A special master is someone with technical expertise, impartiality, and the authority of the court to conduct hearings, review evidence and report to the judge.
This case cried out for such treatment in my lay opinion.
The result, as we have it, is borderline useless and yet will become binding law for the foreseeable future if it's not overturned.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in an exclusive news interview, expressed serious concerns about the near-term fate of the open Internet. He focused his concerns primarily on:
- governments trying to censor content
- entertainment industry stubbornness in adapting to the Net
He attacked Facebook and Apple for their proprietary, closed platforms, which he says gives them a throttle on consumer freedom and access. Of course, those are his two primary rivals, which leaves the value of his observations clouded in the mists of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt, for the uninitiated).
Beyond that point, however, the fact is that Google is as much a proprietary platform as Apple or Facebook, they just go about it in a different way. Where the two competitors on Google's radar largely shun open source while Google fairly embraces it, Google is no less inclined to lock its users in, using a very clever and useful interlinkage of data among its apps and interoperability of all their software and platform pieces to make it nigh impossible for folks (like me) who are heavy users of their technology to consider moving to other platforms.
I don't see any of this as evil or nefarious. It's good business all around and all of these players are up-front about what users are buying into. I'm a heavy user of Apple and Google, less so of Facebook (though increasingly there as client demand calls for it). But I never had any illusions about platform openness and competitive price-amelioration as part of my picture. I've opted for convenience over the potential moral dilemma of using closed-source or locked-in technology.