40 posts categorized "Google"

Video: Rocketboom Provides A Great Explanation of Google+ vs Facebook and Twitter

With all the hype about Google+ lately, a lot of people have been seeking to understand how it is different - or not - from Twitter and Facebook. The folks over at Rocketboom came out with this video that does a nice job of explaining the differences - kudos to the team!

And yes, I'm naturally on Google+ these days...

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The Three Genders of Google+

I was greatly amused to finally get in to Google+ tonight and see in the sign-up form that Google offered a third gender of "Other":


Now, granted, there may be a few people out there for whom that is actually an accurate label... but I have to wonder how many people may choose that "gender" more as a joke simply because the option is there. And what happens if you do???

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How Fast Do Your Pages Load? Check Your "Site Speed" In Google Analytics

How fast does your website load? How fast do individual pages load? With Google stating that site speed will factor into future search engine result placement, how can you tweak your site to make it load faster?

To help with all of that, Google announced earlier this month a new "Site Speed" report available in Google Analytics. I've enabled it for a number of my sites (it's not on by default) and the results have been quite interesting. Here's a view of the average load speed of my Disruptive Telephony site:


Overall, my pages on the site take about 12 seconds to fully load into a web browser... perhaps because I dynamically load in various RSS feeds into the sidebars. That is the point of the report, though... I can now start digging into WHY pages load slowly. The report also shows the data for each individual page (at least, for pages that have had visitors), letting you dive down into more details.

In fact, you can explore a whole range of details. As Google's blog post notes, this report can help you understand:

  • Content: Which landing pages are slowest?
  • Traffic sources: Which campaigns correspond to faster page loads overall?
  • Visitor: How does page load time vary across geographies?
  • Technology: Does your site load faster or slower for different browsers?

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Site Speed report is not enabled by default. As explained in this Google support note, you need to tweak your Google Analytics tracking code to start sending a new variable back to Google. Assuming you are using the current asynchronous tracking snippet, you just have to add one line to your tracking code:


After you make that addition, GA will start collecting your speed data from that point forward. Now, you should note that GA only uses a sample of your overall data to generate the reports and statistics... but you can see very clearly in the user interface what the sample size is.

Note that there are two important caveats about this report.

First, the Site Speed report is only visible in the "New version" of Google Analytics. After you login to GA, you probably have to click the "New version" link at the top of the screen to switch:


Once you are in the new version of GA and then select one of your sites, you'll see a "Site Speed" report in the left-hand nav bar:


The second caveat is that this Site Speed report only works in some web browsers per the Google help page:

This report currently supports the following browsers: Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 and previous versions of Internet Explorer with the Google Toolbar installed. More specifically, the Site Speed reports require browsers that support the HTML5 NavigationTiming interface or have the Google Internet Explorer toolbar installed

With those two caveats in mind, I've found the report to be quite a useful view into what is going on within my site. What do you think? Have you enabled this yet? Did it help you understand where you might want to make some changes?

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The Facebook/Burson-Marsteller Debacle, Google - and the World War For (Our) Information

“There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”
- Cosmo in “Sneakers” (1992)

I could only reflect on this quote as the news exploded last week that Facebook had hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to spread negative stories about Google, and then continued in almost Keystone Kops-fashion with both Facebook and B-M competing to see who could throw the other under the bus the fastest... complete with silly aspects like Burson-Marsteller deleting posts from their Facebook page (they have stopped doing that, as is obvious from their page now).

In the midst of all this there was the predictable outrage from so many in the PR / communications industry, with statements about clear violations of ethics and so much more. Neville Hobson provides a solid summary over on his blog along with some recommendations for B-M.

My only real thought through it all was...

is anyone REALLY surprised?

If anything, my surprise was only that the Burson-Marsteller employees were amateur enough that they got caught!

The War

The reality is that the quote that Ben Kingsley's character Cosmo said to his friend Martin (Robert Redford) almost 20 years ago is if anything only MORE true today.

There's a war out there.

A war for our eyeballs.

A war for our attention.

A war for our dollars.

... and we're not talking petty cash... we're talking billions of dollars.. maybe trillions.

Take a look at what you do every day. Take a look at the tools you use. Where's your email? Where's your blog hosted? Where do post status updates and connect with friends? Where do you post your photos? What do you use to write documents? What do you use to find your way from one place to another?

Odds are that for almost all of you reading this, the answer is...

the Cloud.


Somewhere... on someone's servers... on someone's service.

Even for documents... Google Apps, now Microsoft's Office 365, and more and more and more...

We are evolving into the Cloud.

And therein lies the war.

The war is about who controls the information... it's about "what we see and hear, how we work, what we think".

It's about who actually runs the "cloud"... who controls the servers where the data actually resides. It's about who owns the plumbing down underneath.

It's also about who controls how we access the "cloud"... who controls the tools we use... the interfaces we use... the services we use... even the bandwidth we use...

It's a world war...

It's THE war that will define our future... and whether that future will be in the hands of closed, proprietary "walled gardens" controlled by a few corporations - or whether we will have a more open Internet where we all have more choice and control.

Oh, yes, and it's a war for BILLIONS of dollars...

In That Context...

The other reality is that this Burson-Marsteller "kerfuffle" between Facebook and Google is only a minor skirmish in the larger war.

The battles are playing out all around us... online with Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft and everyone else who would like to be in that game... in the mobile sphere with Apple, Google (Android), Microsoft and everyone else... in the underlying plumbing with the telco/mobile carriers (AT&T, Verizon, a zillion others), the cable providers (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, a zillion others), the other ISPs, the other wireless providers, Google, and everyone else...

... and in so many other facets of our lives. Pick an area... and there's a battle going on as part of this larger war.

In that context, the fact that Facebook engaged a company like Burson-Marsteller to spread rumors and stir up negative publicity against an opponent is not at all surprising.

For many engaged in this war, they live by a simple premise:

The ends justify the means.

And with that world-view, such quaint views as "ethics" don't matter. All that matters is...


By any means.

Was what Burson-Marsteller and Facebook did sleazy and unethical by the standards most of us hold?


Will Burson-Marsteller's actions once again hurt those of us who take pride in the PR / communications industry and would like it to be viewed more positively?


Will those of us who do abide by a code of ethics in our PR / communications efforts once again have to endure having our reputation tarnished by those who don't?


Will will see more of these kind of sleazy actions, perhaps not from Burson-Marsteller but from other firms?


... but odds are that others will look to cover their tracks more and not get caught.

There's a war out there, my friends, a world war...

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YouTube's "1911" April Fool's Effect Is Admittedly Amusing

I thought it was silly when I first heard about it through TechCrunch, but then I watched one of my own videos through the "1911" lens (a recent Emerging Tech Talk video) and I do have to admit that it is amusing and clever... just click on the "1911" button in the lower right corner of any video that has it (you can click on this image to see one)...


... and immediately you are transported back into a time of grainy, sepia-toned silent films where someone played ragtime piano music while you viewed the film.

Now in the case of my video, the effect is also completely useless, because you can't hear a word of what the person is saying.

Still, it's a fun hack to see for a moment, anyway. Kudos to the YouTube team for coming up with something fun.

P.S. YouTube has a blog post up about 1911...

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Content Creators Rejoice! Google Takes Action To Kill Off Content Farms

C'est moi l'plus beau

For those of us who spend our time creating content online (as I do) and strive to make that content of the best quality and of value to people, the rise of so-called "content farms" has been an annoying feature of the online landscape: both the networks of sites that simply scrape our content and surround it in ads... and the networks of sites that churn out incredibly large quantities of low-grade content that is optimized for SEO so that their pages can rank highly and get eyeballs to their pages and their ads.

For we who strive to create "high quality" content, the spammers and content farmers were annoying in that Google search results seemed to feature these sites (because they were trying to game Google) when our higher quality was ranked lower.

The good news is that as they threatened earlier, the folks at Google stated that they have changed their ranking algorithm to de-value low quality sites. That is to say... they are aiming to hit the spammers and content farmers at their critical reason for being: search engine result placement.

From Google's blog post, with my own emphasis added:

But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.

Yet to be seen is exactly what they do and how they tweak the algorithms... there will always be an arms race, I fear, between the search engines like Google and those who want to try to game the system.

Regardless, the move is welcome!

Many articles written about this today... some I liked include:

Bring on the changes, Google! We who spend our time striving to create high quality content welcome them.

Image credit: rgs_ on Flickr

UPDATE, Feb 26: There have been a number of articles out there seeking to show the actual impact of this change. One of the best I've seen is this post from SISTRIX that shows the 25 biggest losers according to the research they've done.

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Google: We *will* kill search engine spam! (and devalue content farms)

SPAM Shrine
What is Google going to do about the perception that there are more "spam" sites in search results? What will Google do about content farms?

On Friday, Matt Cutts at Google published a great piece entitled "Google search and search engine spam that is worth reading for all involved in online content creation. Somewhat predictably, he starts out pointing out that in truth there is less spam in search results than there used to be... but then he clearly accepts the "perception equals reality" mantra and lays out what they are looking to do about it.

This part was interesting, particularly the last line:

To respond to that challenge, we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments. We’ve also radically improved our ability to detect hacked sites, which were a major source of spam in 2010. And we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

This issue of people copying others' content continues to be an annoyance to me, particularly because content scrapers keep scraping a lot of Voxeo's old content. Anything that can reduce the value in people doing that is a win by me!

Similarly, there are a great number of sites out there operating as "content farms" that just spew out large quantities of low-grade content with the idea that they will increase your SEO/search engine results. Matt Cutts takes them on, too:

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

For those of us who are actually spending the time to create quality content online, this is definitely good news.

He ends with a note that Google does not take into account whether or not sites run Google advertising when it is taking action against those sites. I'm inclined to believe them on this point, because at the end of the day, Google's a pretty geeky, hard-core technology company... and Search rules.

It's good to see Google come out with a clear statement like this... and I look forward to seeing what actions they take.

And for us who are creating online content, it's important to monitor whatever changes they make so that we don't wind up inadvertantly having our content somehow devalued amidst the changes.

Image credit: arndog on Flickr

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Want to get blog comment spam? Perhaps get on the first page of Google search results

It seems that a quick way to get a blog post loaded up with spam comments is to get it up on the first page of Google search engine results. Or at least, that's how it appears to me.

Recently I started getting a lot of comment spam, almost daily, on one specific post I wrote on Code.DanYork.com, a blog where I write about programming and other developer topics. It puzzled me because that particular post was really just an embed of a video and wasn't very deep or detailed. A trip into Google Analytics, though, showed that a significant driver of the traffic to that post were the Google search keywords "learning node.js" and "learning nodejs". So I popped those into Google and sure enough, there I was... #5 for "node.js":

learning node.js - Google Search.jpg

And #3 if you drop the period and do "nodejs":

learning nodejs - Google Search.jpg

So perhaps, I thought, that was the reason that post attracted the comment spam when none of the other posts did...

But that doesn't really answer it to me. When I head over to the AdWords Keyword Tool, the reality is that pretty much almost no one is searching on those particular terms! So even though my post may place highly in the results, it doesn't really matter because only a trivial number of people are actually searching for that term.

I should note, too, that none of the blog comment spam had anything whatsoever to do with Node.js. It was all the typical comment spam linking to various silly products... watches, pharmaceutical products, websites, etc.

In the end, I don't know... perhaps some comment spammer is trying to post comments on blogs that have long-tail terms related to topics getting buzz these days. ("Node.js" is a hot topic in developer circles right now.) Perhaps that particular post just got tweeted or retweeted and caught someone's attention.

On one level, it doesn't much matter to me, since I moderate all comments from people who haven't commented before. So the comments are going live on my site... it's more just the annoyance of having them come in (and a number of them are not getting caught by Akismet).

Still, it's a curiousity... why that post? I'll probably never know...

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Google Wave to rise from the ashes in open source form?


Ever since the announced demise of Google Wave, I think we've all been wondering what would be next and how much of the code Google would make available. Today, they've taken a step in that direction with this post:

Wave open source next steps: "Wave in a Box"

In the post, they say that they will make available as open source:

  • an application bundle including a server and web client supporting real-time collaboration using the same structured conversations as the Google Wave system
  • a fast and fully-featured wave panel in the web client with complete support for threaded conversations
  • a persistent wave store and search implementation for the server (building on contributed patches to implement a MongoDB store)
  • refinements to the client-server protocols
  • gadget, robot and data API support
  • support for importing wave data from wave.google.com
  • the ability to federate across other Wave in a Box instances, with some additional configuration

If they follow through on all this, it should be quite a good offering.  As they note:

This project will not have the full functionality of Google Wave as you know it today. However, we intend to give developers and enterprising users an opportunity to run wave servers and host waves on their own hardware.

After Google announced Wave back at that famous Google I/O presentation, I've been intrigued by it (and written about it) but what has most intrigued me is the possibility to move collaboration to a "distributed and decentralized" model in a way similar to email and web servers.  Distributed and decentralized is, after all, "The Internet Way", as I wrote about at great length in the past.

Let's see what happens... and I, for one, will definitely be watching http://www.waveprotocol.org/ to see what they make available.

What do you think?  Can Wave re-emerge as something useful?

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5 Steps to Enable Google Wave for Google Apps accounts

googlewavepreview.jpgWith Google Wave now being available for everyone, and specifically now available for businesses using Google Apps, I thought I'd just post the 5 steps of how to enable Google Wave for your Apps account. (The steps appear in the video on the Google Apps page, but you have to watch the video to know that.)


You have to be the administrator for your Google Apps domain in order to enable Google Wave.


Next to the "Service settings" heading there is a "Add more services" link. Follow that link:



On the next screen, you just select the "Add it now" button:



Google throws up a page just warning you that you can't get support for Wave through existing support contracts... and other warnings. Just hit the "Yes, enable Google Wave" button:



That's it. Now you can just direct people within your Google Apps domain to go to:


and they can start waving! Here's what it looked like for me:


Now, as noted in the warnings, users in your Apps domain can by default also invite external people into your corporate waves. That may be a great thing... that may be something you want to think about.

In any event, enjoy waving within Google Apps!

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