At Google, Poor Smeagol is Done, Gollum Takes Over


Google DoNoEvil Smeagol

Google General Counsel Kent Walker wrote:

While collaborative [Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs)] play an important part in the overall standard setting system, and are particularly prominent in industries such as telecommunications, they are not the only source of standards. Indeed, many of the same interoperability benefits that the FTC and others have touted in the SSO context also occur when one firm publishes information about an otherwise proprietary standard and other firms then independently decide (whether by choice or of necessity) to make complementary investments to support that standard in their products. … Because proprietary or de facto standards can have just as important effects on consumer welfare, the Committee’s concern regarding the abuse of SEPs should encompass them as well.

– via AllThingsD.

What Google Actually Wants

Basically Google says, “Some features are so popular with customers, that they should be considered standards. Hence these features should be available for every manufacturer since it would otherwise harm consumers.”

Not sure if you got that? Okay, let me try again, “Since its obvious Apple has features that are loved by most, let us get those features for free so as to benefit our customers”. Btw, these are not about essential inventions which are covered under FRAND and Google is known to block sharing FRAND patents though it is legally obliged to do so via its Motorola acquisition.

Okay now, let us move to a comment by Urs Hölzle, boss of infrastructure at Google when asked about OpenCompute(a Facebook led initiative to share knowledge on building efficient DataCenters):

“Open Compute is a little bit tricky, if you can figure out how to make things work at scale and at good cost, that’s a competitive advantage. Thousands of years of engineering work has gone into the system to make it work.”

– via VentureBeat.


Google DoEvil Gollum

Err, did you see the disconnect there?! When it suits Google features developed by Apple should be considered a ‘standard’ so that consumers can benefit. But if its around sharing details of its own crown-jewels it acts all capitalistic.

We all know corporate sloganeering about “Open Standards”, “Do no evil” are mostly posturing to keep the gullible pleased but this double speak from Google is another order of hypocrisy. Am hoping for the thermonuclear thing that Steve Jobs had wanted for Google/Android.

What we can learn from GM taking advts off Facebook

social network

General Motors took their advertisement spend off Facebook.[1. GM pull ads off Facebook] Given the expectation around Facebook’s IPO, this is seen as bad news for Facebook. On the contrary I believe this is a classic example of how old world companies wrongly perceive paradigm shifts in technology and technology-enabled interactions. Will keep this brief but could do with some review and discussion from your end.

First let us understand how advertisements are served online today. A random user, say Ajay, does a search for a car or a related service like motor insurance. This keyword is watched by search engines or advertisement providers like Google, to whom vendors have bid on specific keywords to trigger display of their advertisements. So what you have is Intent -> translated to keywords -> keywords matched to list bid by vendors -> advertisement displayed. As you can see this is simple and works reliably. Works because their is a clear articulation of intent, you know what you are looking for before you hit a search engine. Variations can occur when advertisements are displayed in specific vertical sites, say like designer related tools on a site like Smashing Hub.

Now, think about what is lacking in this workflow from which Google makes most of its revenue. What is lacking is an understanding of the user. Who is she, what does she like, care about and so on. Yes, Google can and does track what searches you have made, what links you end up visiting..but these allow Google to only infer what you are as a person.

So, where does Facebook come in here. FB is your social network. You receive updates of what your connections liked, updated, saw, read and so on and likewise all your updates are propagated out. All within a single homogeneous network. This is a goldmine of engagement data using which FB can build a detailed profile of a person. Imagine how richly targeted advertisements can be on FB. A vendor could potentially say, “FB serve ads to people in Manhattan, NY area, who are environmentally conscious, like organic products and like kittens”. Am not aware to what granularity FB allows to target people but if they wanted they could do it. That precision in being able to target a message, will allow organizations to adapt messages, discounts etc to suit a particular demographic.

Now to GM. If a car vendor thinks, showing a bunch of ads on FB is going to drive sales or engagement for their car related services, they surely don’t understand what social media is about. Social media is about brand-engagement, being on top of mind for target demographic, its like a grease that smoothens all aspects of customer outreach. Taking an old business model, showing ads about your products to gain customers, to a brand new technology enabled capability like a social network will not work. The parallel I can think of is when organizations started doing Flash websites to show interactions without understanding underlying principles of hyper text.

Anyway, enough cribbing. What would I do if I were boss of advert spend on GM? There must be a hundred stories behind every car that GM has manufactured. Tell these stories on Facebook, get customers to connect with people behind the brand. Or highlight customer stories, where a safety feature saved a life, or a student who used a GM car for his first day at college or first job. Travel from point A to B need not be mundane, anchor it to aspirations, ambitions, identity and culture, then you have a much bigger canvas to experiment with. I feel FB is the first wave of social media platforms that are going to change how the world goes about living. But it takes work and creativity to harness a new medium like FB, just throwing ads to see if something sticks will not work.

What would you do if you were boss of GM? Share thoughts in the comments section.

Creative Commons License Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Compfight

If This Then That

If this then that

Between Flipboard and Zite on the iPad my primary means of consuming news and social media is a settled thing. But the workflow to act upon an information item is not consistent. A new startup IFTTT, aka ‘if this then that‘, takes an excellent crack at the problem.

To add more context, on Flipboard my way of marking an item for acting upon it later differs. I ‘favorite‘ tweets, ‘star‘ RSS entries from Google Reader and ‘like‘ Facebook entries. On Zite, for items I wish to act upon, I end up ‘bookmarking‘ them on delicious. Ideally I would have all favorite tweets, star RSS entries end up at delicious.

Think of IFTTT as a way to act on content from any of your social media streams, based on specific conditions being true within the content. Simple example is to bookmark a tweet in delicious if I favorite it in Twitter. IFTTT does this automatically now.

To be clear Yahoo Pipes does do this and more but the user interface is suited for those with programming experience or at least the ability to understand and build flow-charts. IFTTT excels because of its UX simplicity. The means for setting up a task are like reading a simple sentence and filling in the blanks. GUI has given way to a simple textual interface. Beautiful is an understatement!

Head over to IFTTT and have a play. They are in beta though. I have 5 invites to give away, drop me a mail(check my ‘About’ page) and I can send you one. And my first recipe to save favorite tweets to delicious is here.

(Thanks to Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket for pointing out!)

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My Facebook Network Visualized

I am fascinated by the idea of emergent behavior. Wikipedia defines it as “the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions”.

In the context of interactions with our social circle, either in reality or virtually, there are patterns inherent in them that we are usually not aware of. With the availability of tools to record and visualize these interactions it becomes possible for non-experts to view, analyze and understand these patterns and perhaps act on them in some manner.

I had found this post about “Making beautiful  graphs of your Twitter network” and followed the steps outlined in a presentation linked to there on analyzing Facebook graphs by Sociomantic labs.

My Facebook Graph

Without further ado, below is my graph on Facebook.


All I did was to follow the instructions on the Sociomantic presentation and ended up with this cool looking baby!

Clusters in Your Network

What is interesting about this? Well, look at the way the system has automatically figured out the clusters of communities within my overall graph. The dark blue node cluster on the left bottom of the pic is my colleagues from Dell. The node cluster in the middle is the team that works on Compose. The bluish nodes on the top right are my colleagues from Thomson Reuters, my current employer. The dark green node cluster is my colleagues from Capco.

Now, not much of my family is on Facebook and the ones that are there are not captured in this screenshot, since they are in an isolated cluster. And that is the technical reason. The real reason is that I don’t have much of a life!

If you are interested in seeing the output for yourself, click on the link to download the pdf that was generated.

A Gephi for Graphs

This has been an interesting exercise for me, to put it mildly. Primary reason is my discovery based, on the Radar blog post, of Gephi – a graph visualization tool. In fact it has gained the moniker of Photoshop for Graph Visualization. That should give a hint about the power of this tool. By the way it is open-source and free! I highly recommend downloading it and giving it a spin.

Now, do drop a comment and let me know what you think. Or even better, play with the tool and share what you have learnt.