Tag Archives: Google

Revisiting standards for moderation and community on social networks

If the Internet and social media represent the new public square, it’s important to talk about the rules of the road.

Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of spam and pornography links on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and on comment sections of the blogs I maintain.

Google and Facebook both give us the ability to moderate comments and, if we wish, to block other people who do not respect the opinions or character of others.

Now that a lot more people are circling me on Google+, following me on Twitter and subscribing to me on Facebook, it’s time to revisit a post from earlier this years. If you have found your comment removed, I’d like to explain why and offer some guidelines. Here’s how I think about maintaining community, with a nod to ASU journalism professor Dan Gillmor‘s example:

I can and do block spammers and people posting links to pornography in my comment threads.

I generally leave comments on my blogs, precisely because I value conversations, despite the issues that persist online. I have been moderating discussion in online forums and blogs for many years, including those of my publishers. My full thoughts on the value of blog comments — and the social norms that I expect people comments to live within — are here.

Vilely insulting me won’t help your case. Insulting others will ruin it. I was a teacher in my twenties. I would not tolerate disrespectful behavior in my classroom, either to me or to other students. If you can’t be civil and continue to insult others, much less the person hosting the forum, you were asked to leave and see the principal.

If the behavior persists, you will lose the privilege of participating in the class at all. Eventually, you get expelled. On Google+ or blogs, that takes the form of being defriended, banned or blocked from my public updates. I prefer not to block users but I will do so. I respect your right to speak freely on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, whether that involves cursing or ignorance.

I strongly believe in the First Amendment, with respect to government not censoring citizens. That said, I do not, however, feel obligated to host such speech on my own blog, particularly if it is directed towards other commenters. I believe that building and maintaining healthy communities, online of offline, requires that the people hosting them enforce standards for participation that encourage civil dialogue.

I hope that makes sense to readers. If not, you are welcome to let me know why in the comments. And if your approach differs, please explain how and why.

Following is a storify from a forum I participated in that featured perspectives from other people entrusted with online community moderation:

[View the story "A story of online community, comments and moderation" on Storify]

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5 Social Media Week DC 2012 Panels: Conversations, Politics, Technology, Public Diplomacy and eDemocracy

Social Media Week DC  is going to be a busy conference for me this year. If you haven’t heard about it yet, the week-long festival starts 12 days from now. The week will feature speakers, panels, workshops, events, and parties all across the District celebrating tech and social media in the Nation’s Capital, including a special edition of the DC Tech Meetup. I’m going to be moderating four panels and participating on a fifth. I’m excited about all five and I hope that readers, friends, colleagues and the DC community comes to one or more of them.

If the panels that I’m involved in aren’t your cup of tea, you might find something more to your taste in the full SMW DC schedule.

Social Media Week DC 2012

Following is the breakdown of the five panels that I’ll be participating in this year:

  • Creating & Managing High Quality Online Conversations
    Location: Science Club
    Date: Monday, February 13 at 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM |  Add to Google Calendar | Add to iCal
    Description: Discussions in online comment sections and social media can be tricky to manage. Some sites are bogged down full of low quality comments, spam, and more. How do we create high quality online discussions? How do we filter out the noise – the spam, the solicitation, harassment, and hateful speech that often becomes part of any online discussion? We will discuss examples of those that have done it well, and some that haven’t. We will also speak to individuals who have dealt with harassment and negativity online and learn how they fought back and still used social media tools for constructive discussion and engagement.
  • Politics and technology: the media’s role in the changing landscape: ASK QUESTIONS
    Location: Powell Tate
    Date: Tuesday, February 14 at 10:00 AM | Add to Google Calendar | Add to iCal
    Description
    : Digital platforms have changed the media landscape forever, but how has it changed the way the media covers politics? We’ll ask a panel of reporters from Gannett, National Journal, ABC News and Politico as they discuss 2012 election coverage.
  • Social Politics: How Technology Has Helped Campaigns: ASK QUESTIONS
    Location: Powell Tate
    Date: Tuesday, February 14 at 2:00 PM | Add to Google Calendar | Add to iCal
    Description: The social media landscape has changed drastically since 2008. We’ll hear directly from panelists from Google, Twitter and Facebook as they delve into the tools and innovations that candidates and campaigns have utilized as the 2012 campaign heats up.
  • Public Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media
    Location: New America Foundation
    Date: Thursday, February 16 at 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM | Add to Google Calendar| Add to iCal
    Description
    : How does social media change how statecraft is practiced in the 21st century? Who’s participating and why? What have been some lessons learned from the pioneers who have logged on to listen and engage? Three representatives from the U.S. Department of State will share case studies and professional experiences gleaned directly from the virtual trenches.
  • Social Media, Government and 21st Century eDemocracy
    Location: The U.S. National Archives
    Date: Friday, February 17 at 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM | Add to Calendar | Add to iCal
    Description: While Sean Parker may predict that social media will determine the outcome of the 2012 election, governance is another story entirely. Meaningful use of social media by Congress remains challenged by a number of factors, not least an online identity ecosystem that has not provided Congress with ideal means to identify constituents online. The reality remains that when it comes to which channels influence Congress, in-person visits and individual emails or phone calls are far more influential with congressional staffers.“People think it’s always an argument in Washington,” said Matt Lira, Director of Digital for the House Majority Leader. “Social media can change that. We’re seeing a decentralization of audiences that is built around their interests rather than the interests of editors. Imagine when you start streaming every hearing and making information more digestible. All of a sudden, you get these niche audiences. They’re not enough to sustain a network, but you’ll get enough of an audience to sustain the topic. I believe we will have a more engaged citizenry as a result.”

    This conversation with Lira (and other special guests, as scheduling allows) will explore more than how social media is changing politics in Washington. We’ll look at its potential to can help elected officials and other public servants make better policy decisions.

If you’re not in DC, check to see if there is a Social Media Week event near you: in 2012, the conference now include New York, San Francisco, Miami, Toronto, London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sao Paulo.

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Less TV, more Internet: First White House Google Plus Hangout features real questions from citizens

Today, more than a quarter of a million people* watched the first Presidential Google Hangout with President +Barack Obama from +The White House.  The archived video, below, comes courtesy of  Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa, whose shared his review of President Obama’s first Hangout at Reuters.com. For the best reporting I’ve seen on the participants and questions, read Sarah Lai Stirland on President Obama’s Hangout.

My immediate takeaway? The forum featured real questions on significant issues, with genuine citizen-president interactions, with back and forth conversation. That was precisely the promise of the platform that I considered ahead of time, when I asked whether a Google+ Hangout could bring the president closer to the citizens he serves.

Earlier in the afternoon, I joined Google’s Daniel Sieberg on our own Google+ Hangout to talk about the potential impact that online video, hangouts, and live broadcasts between citizens and their elected officials could have on the political landscape.

The moderator, Google’s Steve Grove, gave the participants (2 men, 2 women and one classroom of young people) the opportunity to follow up on their questions to the president. There will be much more analysis of the questions asked and the president’s answers tonight, as there should be.

Here’s a quick recap, distilled from my notes: The forum began with a video question to the president about promoting a living wage for students working their way through college. The second question came from the Hangout, on why the White House doesn’t expand expanded H1B visas for foreign workers at the expense of skilled labor with the U.S. President Obama told the wife of a semiconductor engineer (who asked the latter question and, critically, got to follow up in the Hangout) if she sent him her husband’s resume, he’d be happy to find what’s happening.

One could dismiss it as pandering — or celebrate it as a citizen cutting through the morass of bureaucracy to tell the nation’s chief executive that the system wasn’t working as he said it should. Such followups in the Hangout are what made this different than the past YouTube and White House interviewed. Politico talked to Jennifer Wedel, of Forth Worth, Texas, who asked the question during the presidential Hangout:

“I’ll have to take you up on that,” Wedel said of the president’s offer to help her husband, Darin, who lost his job at Texas Instruments three years ago.

Later, Wedel told POLITICO that she and the president had a “pretty crazy interaction” that she hadn’t expected when she asked about the federal government granting H-1B visas to skilled foreign workers while U.S. citizens such as her husband are out of work.

“I don’t think he was trying to be condescending or anything,” said Wedel, who never completed college and was a stay-at-home mom before her husband was laid off, but now has a full-time job at State Farm to help make ends meet. “I just think I stumped him a little and he wanted me to hush about it.”

“I think he knows pretty well that the H-1B is an issue because — it’s kind of like the Occupy movement — big corporations are putting up the money to get the visas” and choosing lower-paid foreign workers over domestic ones, Wedel said. “I don’t think what he was telling me was true, and I think he knew it, and that’s why he offered to take my husband’s resume,” she said, adding that her husband has kept it updated.

Another question from YouTube featured a video taken from an #Occupy protester in Portland. A question taken from within the White House Hangout asked about the president’s plans to help small business and to restructure government, which the Washington Post covered this month.

Another question posed within the Hangout about a lack of dialogue with children about the financial crisis offered the president a human moment, where he said that he tries to explain what’s happened with economy to his daughters over the dinner table.

There were incontrovertibly tough questions asked tonight, including one from a homeless veteran who asked why the U.S. is sending money to Pakistan and places that are known to give money to terrorism. In answer, the president said that the U.S. only spends 1% of its budget on foreign aid, and that it pays off in a lot of ways as part of the country’s national security strategy. What we don’t want is countries to collapse, have to send in our guys at huge potential risk and cost to taxpayers, he said.

The President was asked a video question from YouTube that cited a New York Times story on the use of drones in Iraq, which the president called “overwritten. The drones have not caused an unusual number of civilian casualties, he said, stating that it was a targeted focused effort aimed at Al Queda, not for other purposes.

I was personally glad to see that Grove asked a question on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), noting that both were hot within the YouTube community. Needless to say, that part of the transcript will be carefully analyzed by the people whose collective online action changed Washington.

We need to use tools we have, he said, noting recent takedown action by the Justice Department. At the same time, when SOPA came up on the hill, said the President, “we expressed some concerns about the way the legislation had been written.”  Now, he said, the content and server sides need to come together for strong IP protections that preserve basic architecture of the Internet.

While the top-rated question was asked, concerning the extradition of a British national, there were no questions posted about legalizing marijuana, which once again rose to the top of CitizenTube (perhaps Grove and his colleagues at YouTube felt it had been asked enough?) nor any question was asked about the National Defense Reauthorization Act, which many other users on YouTube wanted to see addressed.

UPDATE: When I followed up with Grove on Google+ about the process behind the questions, he made the following comment:

We chose the questions from among the top-voted questions on YouTube… it’s always a fun challenge to ensure you get a broad range of issues and perspectives into these discussions from amongst the top-voted questions, but I hope people feel that we did a good job of listening to community votes. We asked several of the top-voted questions, including the #1 voted question on YouTube. Some people asked why we didn’t ask about marijuana legalization… as an FYI, we asked the President about it last year (see here: Drug Policy – President Obama’s YouTube Interview 2011).

As far as the hangout participants, we also selected them based off of the questions they had submitted to YouTube — again looking for a range of Americans… that part had to happen a little earlier during the submission process, so we could prepare for the Hangout today.

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google+ to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. The interview was held through a Google+ Hangout, making it the first completely virtual interview from the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google+ to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. The interview was held through a Google+ Hangout, making it the first completely virtual interview from the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Overall, I can honestly say that we saw something new in the intersection of government, technology and society. From where I sat, plugged in within the Sunlight Foundation, it felt like a good thing, not just for the White House or the president’s campaign or Google (although all certainly benefitted) but for the promise of the Internet to more directly connect public officials to those that they serve, with all of their real problems, concerns, doubts and fears.

At the end of the event, there was a moment of unexpected human connection, when one of the women on the hangout invited her three children to come meet the president.

They stared and smiled, left a bit wide eyed by the President of the United States smiling out of the computer screen and bidding them to obey their mother and do their homework. We could do with more wonder in the world, where such unexpected encounters occur online.

Viewership estimate via Google’s Steve Grove, who said at the end of the netcast that a quarter of a million people were watching on YouTube. Given the White House’s own livestream, the number could be higher.

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Will YouTube Live be the tipping point for livestreaming?

The digital video transition has been a long time coming. It’s still early, early days. Many of dreams of the .com boom that shattered upon technical, social or financial reality a decade ago, however, are finally coming to pass.

When the world can watch live rock events and cricket matches on YouTube.com, livestreams from revolutions in the Middle East and watch the President of the United States announce the resolution to a Congressional budget impass on a smartphone, it does feel like a bit has flipped.

As usual, a famous observation by William Gibson (@GreatDismal) feels apt: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Yesterday, Google announced that YouTube is going live and pushed the initial version of “YouTube Live” live.

Live will allow selected users, like Pop17, to livestream channels directly to YouTube platforms. According to YouTube, the world should expect “thousands” of livestreams to go online in the months ahead.

With the move, YouTube Live will further collapse the line between what used to be “television” and the Internet, with billions of small screens and networked flatscreens complementing the broadcast networks and CRTs that dominated the end of the last century.

YouTube enters a market where uStream, Qik and Livestream.com that have been exploring for years in the private sector. In the public sector, Granicus has been supporting open government video initiatives for going on a decade.

If YouTube Live is as integrated as tightly into the Android mobile platform as Google Maps has become, this entrance could be disruptive on a worldwide level. The Android operating system is now on a plurality of smartphones in the United States, with rapidly growing global marketshare that puts it at #2 behind Symbian.

Given the explosive growth in livestream-capable iPhones and Android devices, mobile broadband providers will likely see increasing demand on upstream bandwidth. That in turn that many more people will be left wondering what “reasonable network management” by telecommunication companies will mean in this context.

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Google shuts down Google.cn, adds censorship dashboard | #GoogleCn

Last night, Google shut down its China search engine, Google.cn. Visitors to Google.cn are now redirected to Google’s Chinese-language service based in Hong Kong, Google.com.hk.

Google has now set up a censorship dashboard for Google services in China that shows which services are blocked.

As Ron Deibert of CitizenLab tweeted, “It’s no ONI report, nor Herdict, but interesting anyway.”

In a statement posted to Google’s official blog, David Drummond explained the new approach to China. Google had previously announced on January 12 that it would no longer stand by a 2006 deal with the Chinese government after it was the target of hacker attacks that it attributed to China.

“CDT applauds Google for following through on its commitment to protect human rights and for its continued effort to enable China’s people with unfiltered access to robust sources of information from all over the world,” said Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technolog.

“Whether the Chinese people will be able to take advantage of Google search now rests squarely with the Chinese government. If China allows access to unfiltered search, it will be a substantial win for global Internet freedom and for the Chinese people. If China blocks access, it will finally make clear to the Chinese people who is pulling the levers of censorship in the country.”

“It is certainly a historic moment,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley, quoted in “Google Shuts China Site in Dispute Over Censorship,” in the New York Times. “The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China, clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.”

As the Ryan Singel reports in his post on Epicenter blog at Wired, “Google Uncensors Chinese Search Engine,” “now a search on June 4, the day of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, returns 226 million results. Formerly that search, and thousands of other terms like it, had limited results and a notification to users that search results had been hidden due to the rules of China’s Communist government.”

Now, Chinese Internet users are braced to lose Google, as Kathryn Hille reports in the Financial Times.  Bobbie Johnson is liveblogging further developments and statements regarding the shutdown of Google’s search engine in China at the Guardian.

Rebecca McKinnon is also tweeting news and reactions from China. MacKinnon’s interview with Google’s David Drummond on Google and China is a must-read.

UPDATE: Danny Sullivan has also weighed in: “Google Stops Censoring In China, Hopes Using New Domain Meets Legal Requirements.”

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Google reacts to negative Buzz, improves privacy settings. Will it be enough?

As the Wall Street Journal reported today, Google’s development team has been working “feverishly” to tweak Buzz privacy settings. Earlier tonight, Google responded to widespread privacy concerns about Buzz, its new social messaging platform.

Todd Jackson, Buzz product manager, annouced on the Gmail blog that Google will make three updates to Buzz users’ startup experience to address the negative feedback it has received concerning its new social network. The previously announced Buzz improvements based upon user feedback simply did not go far enough to address legitimate privacy flaws or the uglier critiques in the blogosphere.

What has Google done?

  1. Google will add a tab specifically for Buzz in Gmail. While Google has not chosen to separate Buzz entirely from Gmail, as many readers thought might be the case after reading a story in SearchEngineLand.  Instead, as Danny Sullivan reports there, Google may offer Buzz independently from gmail in the future. This move addresses user experience, creating a clear means to configure the social messaging platform or disable it.

  2. Buzz will no longer automatically connect Google Reader or Picassa. Both of these environments could be limited to closed networks of friends or contacts.  When someone wrote “F*** You, Google,” its development team was apparently listening. According to the New York Times story on Buzz privacy settings, Google reached out to the aggrieved user and made changes to address some of her concerns.
  3. Crucially, Google Buzz will move from auto-follow to auto-suggest. Instead of simply connecting a new user to existing gmail contacts, Buzz will now present the user with suggested users from within that social network.

In other words, Google took Harry McCracken (and others) up on a simple solution to Buzz privacy problems: start with users following nobody by default.

Will it be enough to address the concerns of aggrieved users and convince bystanders to try Buzz? As Neil Gaiman tweeted, “Google DID work late. And DID fix it. I don’t think I’ll ever turn it on now, but good on them.” Or as Jay Rosen put it, “I waited, read the news about Google Buzz, absorbed the accounts and experiences of people I trust, and disabled it before ever opening it.”

Whatever the impact of tonight’s changes, Google has moved quickly to improve the areas of Buzz that have caused such angst online. As Gina Trapani, a self-described “Google fangirl” tweeted,  “no doubt Buzz’s privacy issues are seriously problematic, but at least they’re iterating quickly and openly.”

The question that remains is why none of these privacy concerns were clear at the outset. “Google addressed most concerns – good job,” tweeted Evgeny Morozov. “But strange they hadn’t expected the backlash. What were they really thinking?”

Morozov, whose trenchant analysis of the “wrong kind of buzz around Google Buzz,”  has been an prominent voice in highlighting the risks of using public social networks for citizens in countries where voicing dissent can carry a death penalty. As he wrote, “I am extremely concerned about hundreds of activists in authoritarian countries who would never want to reveal a list of their interlocutors to the outside world.”

This change may address that concern, though an “evil genie” may already be out of the bottle if intelligence services have already mined activists’ social networks. It’s not just citizens within authoritarian governments that had much to lose, after all. As danah boyd observed, “automated connections (a la Google Buzz) are particularly dangerous for at-risk populations.” Lawyers have other concerns: exposing clients through email addresses could violate confidentiality agreements.

Another tweak will help a bit with some of the above. As Jason Kincaid wrote at TechCrunch, “private e-mail addresses that were exposed in Buzz @replies are now covered up by asterisks.

That said, Google has now followed Facebook in making a major change to user privacy without testing it first or, crucially, allowing its users to opt out. Instead of making joining Buzz an option, Gmail users were added by default. And the only means users had to disable Buzz completely was akin to a nuclear option: deleting a Google profile.

I haven’t found the algorithmic authority or relevancy in Buzz that I’d expected yet. As Zach Seward tweeted, there’s “something to be said for Google Buzz: When @robinsloan hosts a fascinating discussion, you can link to it.”  Buzz support for open data standards may prove to be both disruptive and beneficial for the open Web. Now that I’ve taken steps to hide my contact, I plan to continue using Google Reader to share news to my Google Profile and Buzz to participate in discussions.

That said, this brush with privacy may have tainted the launch of Buzz in much the same way that the death of a luger in Vancouver put a pall over the beginning of the Winter Olympics. Google may have more information about online users that any entity on the planet. By exposing those relationships without offering users the opportunity to opt-out of the new service on launch, the Internet giant has put trust in privacy at risk, an existential worry given that data that Google has about so many.

As Stan Lee put it, “with great power, there must also come great responsibility.” The past week’s backlash has reminded millions of the stakes for such trust.

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Google Buzz: adding algorithmic authority and relevance to social media

A few minutes ago, Google Buzz went live at http://buzz.google.com. Google posted a video introducing the Buzz, which ties together Google contacts into a distributed social network accessed through a new tab in Gmail.

In a live webcast on YouTube, Bradley Horowitz (@elatable) explained what Google was after with Buzz: a way to add relevance to the information firehose represented by social messaging and activity. The Web application will act as a user interface to for social data.

Based upon the demo, it will be a snappy app for processing, sharing and annotating images, video and conversations. “Organizing the world’s social information has been a large problem, the kind @Google likes to solve,” said Buzz product manager Todd Jackson, explaining at least some of the why behind the application of algorithmic authority to social media. Jackson writes more in his introduction to Google Buzz at Google’s official blog.

Content shared on Buzz can be posted publicly to a Google Profile (like the one for, say, Alexander Howard) or sent privately within a network. At first glance, the user interface and contrls looks like a Friendfeed clone, with the additional of familiar keyboard shortcuts from gmail and Google Reader. And, notably, Google has adopted the “@reply” convention from the Twitter community as a means of initiating a conversation with contact.

To get a user started with a network, Buzz will autofollow people you’ve emailed. In other words, as Jeremiah Owyang predicted last summer, Google made email into a social network.

Buzz is also mobile.

The mobile Web application, which works on both iPhone and Android, includes geotagging and voice recognition, allowing the user to make spoken updates. While Google profiles will aggregate a user’s Buzz activity, “Places” will aggregate location-based reviews. (In other words, look out Yelp.) A “Nearby” button provides location-based context for Buzz users. Google also launched a new mobile verion of  Google Maps, adding a a social layer to its maps. The new “conversation bubbles” on Google Maps indicate geotagged Buzz updates and look like a lightweight, useful version of Twittervision.

Coming soon to the enterprise

Google Buzz will be launched as an enterprise product, says Horowitz. Buzz would likely serve as microblogging layer for Google Apps, providing helpful filtering for the noise of the social Web, unlike Wave, which added it. “A lot of the functionality is inspired by Wave,” said Horowitz, a likely nod to a decision to adopt the best features of the often maligned social messaging platform.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was on hand to share his personal experience with Buzz, offering a preview of how it might be pitched to other business executives or CIOs. “I found a huge amount of productivity from using Google Buzz internally,” said Brin. “I posted [an] OpEd to Buzz. I looked at the broad categories and did a general edit based on that feedback. It was far more efficient.”

Open APIs?

Public feeds are supported as an XML feed and are fully supported by PubSubHub as of today, said another Google exec. By going open API and openly courting developers to join them on Google Code, Google may be after the same fertile ecosystem that surround Twitter.

What does Google Buzz mean?

All of the above gives an idea of what Google’s newest Web application can do and how it might work. Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang has already posted a quick take on what Google Buzz will mean. Key insights:

  • At the high level, this is a strong move for Google, they continue to aggregate other people’s social content, and become the intermediatry. This helps them to suck in Twitter, Flickr, and any-other-data type as the APIs open up, giving them more to ‘organize’. This is Google acting on its mission to the world.
  • For consumers, the risk of privacy will continue to be at top of mind. Although the features allow for sharing only with friends or in public. expect more consumer groups to express concern. Overtime, this will become moot as the next generation of consumers continues to share in public.
  • For consumers, this could potentially have more adoption than Twitter as Gmail has a large footprint Google told me it’s tens of millions (active monthly unique). Of course, most Gmail users likely aren’t Twitter users, but there could be a large platform to draw from.
  • For Facebook, this is a direct threat, these features emulate Friendfeed and the recently designed Facebook newsfeed. Expect Google to incorporporate Facebook connect, commoditizing Facebook data as it gets sucked into Google and displayed on Google SERP.
  • For small busineses and retailers, this will impact their search engine results pages, as a single top ‘buzzer’ could cause their content to be very relevant, if that person was relevant, then their influential content could show at top of SERP pages. Expect Google to continue to offer advertising options now around buzz content –fueling their revenues.
  • Strong, near real-time analysis from Owyang. One area he didn’t dwell as much on is the utility to both businesses and many users of the social Web who want relevance for work or for specific topics, without the noise that often obscures both on Twitter, Facebook or other social networks. Power users have had to evolve many strategies to filter signal from the noise, including shadow accounts, lists, keyword searches or alerts. Google Buzz has the potential to allow over 150 million gmail users to quickly filter the most useful content from the social Web and then selectively share it with either friends, colleagues or the open Web. That action, often termed “curation” in the digital journalism space, is singularly useful.

    If Buzz easily enables that activity for mobile users, it will have the potential to massively disrupt the nascent mobile social networking space that currently includes Yelp, Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt and Foursquare. If users turn to Buzz for reviews, to find who is nearby or what’s being discussed in the neighborhood, Google will also have made Google Maps much stickier, which could in turn make it a more useful platform for contextual mobile advertising. Given the potential for targeted ads based on location to be more useful, that might in turn be of great utility to both users and the search engine giant, though electronic privacy advocates are likely to look at the move with concern.

    Will people use Buzz? That’s the multi-million dollar question. Facebook and Twitter own the social Web, as it stands. If Buzz offers a UI that adds relevance, it has a shot. If users find utility in the way that Buzz helps them filter social media from other platform, it could stack up well against Brizzly, Seesmic or similar “social dashboards.”

    I’ll keep an eye out for the function to go live in my inbox in the meantime and read TechMeme for other reactions.

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    Google Wave: Good for a 2009 Year in Review but is it useful for more?

    Barb Dybwad over at Mashable picked up on a video by Whirled Interactive where they use Google Wave as vehicle for a clever 2009 Year in Review that breaks down the major news events.

    As Dybwad writes, this video shows the potential for Wave as a “video production medium,” like the “Pulp Wave Fiction” movie that Mashable shared elsewhere. And as Adam Ostrow tweeted, the folks over at Whirled Interactive are “super talented.”

    As funny as these videos may be, I’m still looking for a personal use case for Google Wave. I’ve been dipping in and out of Wave for months as new people log on and explore. I expected the network effect of having more contacts there to result in some pick up. Enterprise 2.0 is not THAT big of a deal,as Andy McAfee says: what about Google Wave?

    The Good

    Google proposes any number of functions for Google Wave, including:

    1. Event Organizing
    2. Creation and Management of “Living” Group Projects
    3. Drag-and-Drop Photo Sharing
    4. Creation of “Living” meeting notes
    5. Interactive Gaming

    The best way to learn about the software, however, is to read Gina Trapani and Adam Pash’s Complete Guide to Google Wave and to watch this (long) intro video from Google itself:

    Lorraine Lawson wrote about Google Wave’s potential for enterprise integration over at IT Business Edge back in June and offered any number of potential use cases. (I have yet to hear about their transition into case studies.) Dion Hinchcliffe was bullish on the potential of the tool when he wrote about the enterprise implications of Google Wave at the end of May. He offered an excellent “first look” review there, for readers who want a more detailed breakdown of what Wave it and how it works.

    More recently, Lifehacker included Google Wave on its 5 best collaboration tools, and collected an impressive breadth and variety of Google Wave use cases that range from family life to wedding planning,  disaster relief to translation for research.

    The bad

    For me, combining a heterogenous suite of wikis, microblogging, email, IM and Skype has continued to be more useful than Wave. As a working environment, I’ve found it to be both noisy, as I watch other contribute, and often unstable.  (I even gave it a try on my iPhone over wifi, an experience akin to pouring molasses down a snowdrift).

    My colleague, Rachel Lebeaux, expressed much the same reaction when she wrote about Google Wave as an enterprise collaboration tool. (She found a CIO who is installing a Wave server in her comments; I hope to hear more on that.)

    Since then, however, the reaction online has often been withering, due in part to the learning curve required of new users that don’t have the attention span to watch that video or read the manual. For good or ill, people expect to be able to figure out collaborative software without that time investment. The editor-in-chief of TechRepublic, Jason Hiner, put the software at the top of his “worst tech products of the year.” Tough year in review to make:

    “After trying Google Wave when the product was released into the wild, my opinion hasn’t changed (and others such as Robert Scoble have come to the same conclusion). Google Wave is basically a super-chatty IM client, and a badly overhyped one at that. The only use I can see for this product is for geographically dispersed project teams collaborating and brainstorming on documents and product development ideas in real time.”

    And as Shaun Dakin @replied tonight, “@RWW named it as one of the top 10 products failures of the year, I agree. Solution in search of problem.” To say that Jolie O’Dell was rough on Wave is an understatement:

    “We have to hand it to Google’s publicity team; we don’t know one geek who wasn’t positively salivating for a Wave invite. The ReadWriteWeb back channel was a complete melee when the first invites were rolled out to team members. But once we got there and saw the new tech tricks, like watching one another type, we started thinking about use cases. And the more we struggled to understand and use this product, the more frustrated and bored we became. Blame it on the steep learning curve. Blame it on our misunderstanding the product. Mount whatever feeble defense you like, but techies know Wave was a flop.

    The trouble-y

    Even with all of that negativity, I still have trouble with dismissing Google Wave as a victim of hype. I’ve already read about some innovative use cases for those who can get through the UI challenges. And I’ve met CIOs and CTOs who are interested in what happens next, when Google’s engineers iterate to address user feedback.

    Many media organizations are trying out Google Wave for news, as Leah Betancourt shared on Mashable and Lifehacker wrote about above. As she writes:

    Additionally, as Revolution Magazine reported, Welt Kompakt, a spinoff of the German daily Die Welt, is among the first newspapers around the world to integrate Google Wave into its coverage.

    When I asked if any of my followers had found a use for Google Wave, Wayne Kurtzman @replied that “Google Wave is amazing if people use it as a collaboration tool; not just e-mail. Google does not make it easy to learn how & holds it back. I used Wave to collaborate on a voice over script for a video; elements SoundFX, vid, script, etc. Goog has no resources to teach others. Security, cultural (collab) and our size are challenges. Wave can be a game-changer.”

    As quoted in Forbes, Tom Mornini, CTO and founder of Engine Yard, “pointed out recently (see: “The Real Meaning of Google Wave”), the major impact of Google Wave will ultimately come from its power as a development platform for serious, distributed applications.” If you’re wondering at how far Google Wave will get, consider whether enterprise software makers like SAP are taking it seriously as a platform. As Forbes described, SAP Research  used of it in its Gravity demonstration prototype, combining SAP’s business process modeling (BPM) technology with Google Wave.

    My colleague Kristen Caretta was balanced  in assessing what Google Wave may mean for IT, offering that Gravity use case. Kristin also wrote that “Salesforce.com is working on a prototype extension to Google Wave that could help its customers provide customized, documented support in their own businesses.”

    Attendees at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this fall were presented with other Google Wave use cases by Google Wave product manager Gregory D’Alesandre, including Novell Pulse and ThoughtWorks. The collaboration tool is certainly part of Google’s plans for its enterprise customers. “Wave will be available as part of the Google Apps suite if you have Google Apps for your domain,” said D’Alesandre.

    That might all imply that at least some techies do not, in fact, regard Wave as a flop. Google continues to add more to its development team with the recent acquisition of Etherpad, a Web-based collaboration app that may well be a boost to Google Wave.

    As for this geek, caught somewhere in the intertices between journalism and techiedom, I’ll be on the lookout for more enterprise and media use cases. If you have one at hand, please share it in the comments.

    Welt Kompakt, a spinoff of the German daily Die Welt, is among the first newspapers around the world to integrate Google Wave into its coverage, Revolution Magazine reported yesterday.
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    FTC workshop explores future of journalism, regulation of aggregation

    Early on Tuesday morning, I walked up Massachusetts Avenue to attend the FTC workshop on the future of journalism. Ten hours later, I emerged overstimulated by the volume of ideas presented, saddened again by the tens of thousands of journalists who have lost employment and energized by the quality of the conversations I’d had.

    If you look at Danny Sullivan’s impressive liveblog of the FTC workshop on the future of journalism, you’ll see why.

    The event began with a video about the changing media world from Minnesota Public Media, embedded below. More about the “Future of News Summit, where it premiered, can be found at thefutureofnews.ning.com.

    The FTC established a Twitter account for the conference, @FTCnews. You can see all of the participants’ tweets aggregated at #ftcnews.

    Why convene the conference?

    The very existence of the forum raised some eyebrows. How does the Federal Trade Commission factor into regulating journalism, after all? FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz observed that:

    ..the ongoing revolution in the markets for news, then, warrants serious study for at least two reasons. First, markets for public goods such as news may work imperfectly. Competition policy is well-suited to evaluate these market imperfections.

    Consumer protection policy is well-suited to help us understand the privacy and data security implications of the behavioral marketing used by media companies to increase ad revenues online. Second, and far more important, this is not just any market. The changes we are seeing in journalism will affect how we govern ourselves, not just the profits and losses of various news organizations.

    The full remarks of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on creative destruction and journalism in the Internet Age are available as a PDF. He was forthright in assessing that there was no reversing the Internet revolution. As he put it, “when Gutenberg printed the Bible, that was bad for those who illustrate by hand.” (Note: Jessica Clark argued that the FTC Should Consider Policy Reform to Support Public Media 2.0” over at PBS’s MediaShift blog.)

    Leibowitz was followed by Paul Steiger of Propublica, an “independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. “The answer is not to save newspapers,” said Steiger. “The goal should be to assure the continuation of journalism.”  He called Amanda R. Michel an “Internet genius” for her coverage of the 2008 campaign at the Huffington Post.  Steiger also cited Propublica’s investigative journalism on “hydraulic fracturing” in gas drilling as an example of the work the organization is doing.

    Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, author of the BizBlog there, presented results of 2009 State of the media study he co-authored. One of his final assessments was sobering: “Most surviving newspapers will be smaller, more expensive & targeted to older consumers.” As I replied to Andy Carvin , who wondered about the statement,  given the debt loads that Edmonds cited, waiting for hyperwired Echo Boom to “age into” newspapers might be a tough strategy.

    The News from News Corporation

    It’s a fair bet that the packed room in the morning was there in anticipation of remarks from Rupert Murdoch, founder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation, especially given that many of the media in attendance left to file stories once he was through.

    Cecilia Kang covered his speech in the Washington Post in “Murdoch: Future of newspapers in online payment, feds should stand back.”  Jeff Bercovici offered a similar take in “Murdoch to Washington: Stay out of the way, but please help.”

    The other 363 stories in Google News about Murdoch’s speech at the FTC attest to the interest in his remarks, too, including an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, “FTC to examine possible support of news organizations.”

    Why? Murdoch may have held that “a diversity of views is essential to debate” but he was crystal clear:  news organizations that don’t adapt should fail, “just like a restaurant that makes meals that no one wants to eat.”

    Further, even as he argued that the feds should keep the U.S. press the most free in the world, the government should also “use its power to make sure the most innovative companies can reach customers,” a view that sounded to this writer’s ears rather like net neutrality.

    He was also crystal clear in a  conviction: “online ads can’t sustain good journalism.” Murdoch intends to extend the pay model of the WSJ and @BarronsOnline to the Times UK, perhaps as early as next January.

    Murdoch also suggested that the FCC‘s cross-ownership rule that prevents single ownership of both TV and newspaper in local markets was “out-dated” in the Internet age, effectively suggesting that regulators both stay out of the news business and change the market conditions.  He also observed that “for newspapers, spectrum could well prove an economic vehicle,” pointing to online convergence and  the move to a readership increasingly consuming news through mobile computing devices.

    What is the state of journalism?

    Following Murdoch’s remarks, a state of journalism panel began with a focus on the financial health and accomplishments of newspapers and magazines. Martin Kaiser, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, spoke to journalism’s essential role: enforcing goverment accountability.

    Bryan Monroe, a visiting professor at the Medill School of Journalism, brought attention to issues of  diversity. His remarks were published at the Huffington Post as “Why New Media Looks A Whole Lot Like Old Media.”

    This panel also raised the first – and as it turned out, only – question to the audience, in the form of a poll: How many of you know someone under 30 who reads a newspaper in print? To my eye, about 40% of those present raised their hands. It’s perhaps worth observing that very few people present were in that demographic.

    One hopeful model for reporting by assignment that was cited by David Westphal, Executive in Residence, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California, hailed from my former neck of the woods at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Mark Contreras, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Newspaper Association of America & senior VP, newspapers at the E.W. Scripps Co., ended the panel with an analogy to the music industry, suggesting that there are “poignant similarities” to news business. He favors ASCAP/BMI models for content protection and a B2B model for revenue generation. Given the music industry’s struggle to adapt to the Internet, that approach might merit more consideration.

    Defending the aggregators

    After the representatives of legacy media shared their perspectives, Arianna Huffington came to the defense of aggregators and new media, like her own enterprise, the Huffington Post.

    As she dryly observed, citing a post by Mike Masnick at TechDirt, there’s some news aggregation by News Corp/IGN out there. All Things Digital, for instance,  links and  aggregates content, as does Rotten Tomatoes.

    Her remarks are posted in full there, as you might expect, in “Desperate Metaphors, Desperate Revenue Models, & the Desperate Need For Better Journalism.”

    Huffington didn’t mince words in her denunciation, either:

    It’s time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20 percent or more, put cash flow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street — not modernization and pleasing their readers.

    They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail — pick your metaphor — and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the Internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being… well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it’s all about thievery and parasites and intestines.

    Get real, you guys. The world has changed. Here are some facts culled from one of the most popular anthems to the impact of technology on our world:

    (I talked with Huffington afterwards about her comments and the transition the industry is going through. She asked if I’d like to write about it – so I did, in “Is journalism going through a Reformation?“)

    Where are the readers? Whither remedies? A Yahoo! News consortium? And how does Google News work?

    After lunch, media analyst Ken Doctor shared his thoughts about “where the readers are.” You can read more from him at Contentbridges.com.

    Leonard Downie presented findings on the reconstruction of journalism from the Columbia journalism report:  Columbiajournalismreport.org

    Lem Lloyd, vice president of channel sales at Yahoo!, shared details of the media company’s growing newspaper consortium. Lloyd said they’ve have sold 18,000 campaigns on Yahoo!, amounting to more than six  billion impressions. Behavioral targeting sales represent some ninety percent of that total.

    And Josh Cohen explaining how GoogleNews works with publishers. Cohen wrote about the FTC and the future of news at Google’s Public Policy blog. A extensive interview of Cohen on paywalls, publishers and partnerships by Danny Sullivan is also available at Search Engine Land.

    Emerging models for journalism

    The most dynamic panel of the day featured technologists, entrepreneurs and an bonafide bloggers like Josh Micah Marsall of Talkingpointsmemo.com and Danny Sullivan, who took a break from liveblogging to participate.

    Sullivan, at that point, was frustrated with offline metaphors applied online. And Jeff Jarvis, media pundit and CUNY professor, asked the FTC to “stay off the lawn,” suggesting that premise of the event was about the survival of legacy players, not journalism itself.

    In considering the prospect of not finding a viable models, Robert Thomson, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, observed that “the cost to society of not being able to afford specialist journalism is going to be profound.”

    Chris Ahern, of Reuters, and Danny Sullivan replied to Thomson that it’s not “an either/or proposition.” Hybrid models for news are worth trying.

    And in a memorable exchange, Marshall observed that “there is more of an ethic online of linking to the story that got the reporter on the track and then adding commentary” than is practiced by traditional media, alluding to stories that the AP and others have run with without linking.

    Media consumption trends, the economics of news and online advertising models

    For more on the final panel and preceding presentations, consult Danny Sullivan’s liveblog of the FTC workshop on the future of journalism.

    Ball State professor Mike Bloxham presented on media consumption based upon data that can be found at ResearchExcellence.com. He described a need for publisher to look cross-platform for media consumption in order to meaninfully gauge a “news footprint” that included print, TV, online and radio.

    Susan Athey, a professor of economics at Harvard, presented on the economics of news, particular the trend toward “multi-homing” in consumption and the growth of online advertising. Her presentation addressed the salience of potential FTC regulation more directly than any other, aside from the chairman himself, predicting competition in online ad networks and between aggregators that would require oversight.

    Law professor David Evans, following Athey, said that “the one thing I do worry about is mixing up market failure with nostalgia.” His paper on  economics of the online advertising industry is available online.

    The final panel of the day, addressed the important of behavioral advertising to future business models. Jeff Chester of Democraticmedia.org asserted that “the news media industry should embrace fair information principles.”

    Conclusions?

    As I look back over the day, it’s not clear to me yet what the FTC intends to do, other than listen. I look forward to returning to the FTC tomorrow to learn more.

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    Amended Google Books Settlement: analysis & reactions

    Yesterday, Brad Stone and Miguel Heft reported at the New York Times that the terms of the digital book deal with Google had been revised.

    Danny Sullivan has written an excellent post on the amended Google Books settlement, where he liveblogged the press call and links to many other excellent resources, including the discussion on TechMeme.

    The Amended Settlement Agreement (11/13/2009) is embedded below.

    Google’s official response contained a link to a summary of the changes made here and includes a FAQ. More information is also available at th Google Books settlement page.

    The Open Book Alliance has posted its own response to the Google Book Settlement.

    Echoing the dismissal of the amendments by the Open Book Alliance, which called it “sleight of hand, Peter Brantley,  (as quoted in the Financial Times) said that “None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest.” Brantley is director of the Internet Archive, which has been archiving digital content for years and has proposed an alternate vision for e-books, OpenLibrary.org.

    I’m still reading through the settlement. The amendments would create a trustee for each one of the so-called “orphan works.” As Stone and Helft reported at the Times, “that trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders. In the original settlement, unclaimed funds reverted to known rights holders after five years.”

    The settlement also reduces the number of books that Google may proceed to digitize into its catalog at Google Books to books published in the United States, Britain, Australia or Canada.

    “The changes will mean that 95 per cent of all foreign works will no longer be included in Google’s digital book archive,” said Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the Association of American Publishers, as quoted by Richard Waters in the Financial Times.

    As Waters also pointed out, the settlement “also means that ,illions of out-of-print works that could previously only be found in a handful of university research libraries.” For researchers like Alexis Madrigal of Wired Magazine, who wished earlier for the parties involved to find a way to preserve Google Books, this settlement is one step closer to a successful resolution.

    For authors or their trustees, it’s more complex. Whether amendments go far enough in providing other Internet companies with the means to successfully compete in providing an index of digitized books is not immediately clear. There’s going to be scrutiny of the settlement from the Department of Justice over the coming weeks, not to mention Congress. If Google remains as only company able to offer a comprehensive archive of all digital books to online readers, antitrust concerns may force further adjustments by the search giant.

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