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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Tweets In Buzz: It’s Complicated — Well, Maybe Political

Posted: 15 May 2010 06:42 PM PDT

Yesterday, I moderated a panel at TiEcon featuring the heads of product for Google, Twitter, and Facebook — an interesting group, obviously. It was a good, long discussion (hopefully I’ll have the full video to post soon). But definitely one of the most interesting points of the discussion was when I asked Bradley Horowitz, a Vice President of product management at Google, why Google Buzz doesn’t import tweets in real time? His answer was, well, interesting.

Users of Google Buzz will know that the service is awful at importing tweets. Currently, the import is done in bulk at the end of each day, resulting in a barrage of tweets in streams. It’s so bad, that many users unsubscribe from others who set their Buzz account to auto-import tweets. So why does Google do this? Well, it’s complicated.

It seems logical that Google Buzz would do exactly what FriendFeed (prior to its acquisition by Facebook) would do, which is pull in tweets in realtime. After all, from what I’ve heard from multiple sources, Google does have full access to Twitter’s firehose. This makes sense considering that Google uses the Twitter firehose to populate its search results with tweets baked into them. So why the delay for tweets in Buzz?

When I asked Horowitz this question, he immediately passed the microphone to Twitter’s director of product, Jason Goldman. Goldman immediately passed the microphone back to Horowitz without saying anything. At this point, the audience was getting into it — what’s the answer? Horowitz would only say that Google is working closely with Twitter to come up with the best solution to import tweets.

That, of course, is bullshit.

I pressed, but Horowitz wouldn’t give me anything. So all I can do at this point is speculate based on what I know. Twitter is giving Google full access to its firehose per its agreement for search results. But Buzz may not want to use this data presumably because it would overwhelm Buzz — much like tweets overwhelm FriendFeed. If you’re trying to start a service, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want it to be overrun with data from a competing service. But still, tweets in realtime in Buzz would make it much more useful than it currently is. It would make it, well, FriendFeed.

In other words, I think this is all political. Google doesn’t want Buzz to become yet another Twitter client. And it’s hard to blame them.

Horowitz noted that we’d be hearing more about how Buzz can be used as a platform during Google I/O next week — so hopefully they’ll have more to share about Buzz in general. For now, unfortunately, all of us must suffer through this half-assed approach Buzz takes towards tweets. It makes it the social service that is sort of social.

Central Command Turns To Twitter To Solve The Gulf Oil Spill. Uh Oh.

Posted: 15 May 2010 01:48 PM PDT

As you’re probably well aware, there’s a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now. When BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and then sank last month, it began dumping thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day. By the time the oil stops leaking, it’s expected to be the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Yeah, it’s bad. It’s so bad, that BP and several other organizations working on the spill are apparently running out of ideas. And they’re turning to Twitter, according to gCaptain.

A group of a dozen or so organizations including BP, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Department of Defense, and OSHA have set up Deepwater Horizon Response, a “Unified Command” established to “manage response operations.” Naturally, there’s a website for this effort, but there’s also a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, and a YouTube account. They’re covering all the social media bases (though no Foursquare account just yet).

On one hand, this is absolutely great. This site and all of these social accounts are giving users access to a ton of information about the spill, and what’s being done to try and solve it. On the other hand, it’s a little scary to see tweets like this: “Submit alternative tech ideas to stop leaking...” Yes, they apparently must now resort to crowd-sourcing ideas over Twitter for how to stop the spill. Ugh.

Let’s hope they’re just tweeting stuff like that to let people know they’re doing all they can, and are willing to explore all ideas. Let’s hope it’s not that they’re completely out of ideas and need Twitter to solve the problem for them. (But tweets like this and this aren’t looking too promising.) Especially since that account only has around 4,000 followers, and that tweet was only retweeted 3 times. Maybe they should enlist Ashton Kutcher, and his nearly 5 million followers to help out if they really want to crowd-source this thing.

If you do have an idea for how to solve the spill, submit it using this form. If somehow this crowd-sourcing over Twitter does actually produce a solution, I’ll be all in favor of them winning some sort of Nobel prize at that point.

[photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

Steve Jobs Spars With Gawker Blogger Over Revolutions, Freedom, and Porn

Posted: 15 May 2010 01:01 PM PDT

For many years, tech fans have known that Steve Jobs will occasionally respond to messages directed to his well-publicized email address. Most of the time his responses consist of snappy one-liners, often containing a nugget of new information. But it’s rare to hear about a full-on debate, with Jobs offering some rationale behind Apple’s highly controversial decisions.

That’s exactly what happened last night, when Gawker writer Ryan Tate got irritated by an Apple ad describing the iPad as “a revolution” and shot off an email to Steve Jobs. Three hours later, at nearly 1AM, Jobs replied, and a passionate email debate ensued. The email exchange is mainly focused on Apple’s stranglehold on the iPhone OS platform, and its decision to force developers to build applications using Apple’s tools.

Tate is clearly agitated throughout the exchange (in his blog post he notes a few things he regrets writing in his email responses). For the most part Jobs seems to be level-headed, though he does take a jab at Tate at the end. Through it all, though, one thing is clear: Jobs is on a mission to reinvent computing. He’s well aware of the controversies, and for better or for worse, it sounds like he genuinely believes that what Apple is doing will lead to a better future.

You can read the entire exchange on Gawker here, but here are a few interesting responses from Jobs:


If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?

Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with “revolution?”

Revolutions are about freedom.


Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.

Here’s a later back-and-forth (note the jab Jobs takes at Tate at the end):


Was it a “technical issue” when Microsoft was trying to make everyone write to the Win32 API? Were you happy when Adobe went along with that?

You have the chance to set the tone for a new platform. For the new phone and tablet platform. The platform of the future! I am disappointed to see it’s the same old revenge power bullshit.

PS And yes I may sound bitter. Because I don’t think it’s a technical issue at all — it’s you imposing your morality; about porn, about ‘trade secrets’, about technical purity in the most bizarre sense. Apple itself has used translation layers and intermediate APIs. Objective C and iTunes for Windows are testament to this. Anyone who has spent any time coding knows the power and importance of intermediate APIs.

And I don’t like Apple’s pet police force literally kicking in my co-workers’ doors. But I suppose the courts will have the last say on that, I can’t say I’m worried.”


You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You’re believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports.

Microsoft had (has) every right to enforce whatever rules for their platform they want. If people don’t like it, they can write for another platform, which some did. Or they can buy another platform, which some did.

As for us, we’re just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision. You can disagree with us, but our motives are pure.

By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?

Zelle 1337 Jewelry, For The Lady Who Pwn3d Ur Lyf

Posted: 15 May 2010 10:43 AM PDT

I’m not so sure the average non-geek girl would love necklaces and earrings made of resistors, fuses, and floppy disk parts but there’s no harm in trying. Besides, I suspect real geek girls would definitely squeeeeeee at these.

All of these handmade pieces are created out of used electronics and are actually quite striking. The best part? Each comes with an offical “Certificate of Autheticity” that looks like the EULA that came with Windows 95.

Read more…

Socialwok Adds A Collaboration Platform To Microsoft Outlook

Posted: 15 May 2010 10:20 AM PDT

Socialwok, a product that ads a social layer to Gmail and other Google products, is spreading its wings beyond the search giant to Microsoft land. Today, the startup, which launched its Google Apps-focused product at TechCrunch50 last year, is rolling out the Socialwok Social Connector for Microsoft Office Outlook 2010, 2007, 2003.

Similar to the layer that Socialwok creates for Google Apps and Gmail, the connector allows Outlook users to create a private social network within the application to share ideas, emails, files, Office documents from Microsoft Word, Google Docs and other rich media using status updates.

From inside Microsoft Outlook, users can see the latest activity of their co-workers in the office as well as view what files and emails have been previously shared. Microsoft Office users can also access the Socialwok user profiles of their co-workers from the Microsoft Outlook address book.

Of course, the timing of Socialwok’s connector fits with the roll out of the new version of Office 2010 this past week, which brings all of its applications, including Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint, to the PC, phone and browser. Outlook specifically has been revamped to become more social, with integration available for LinkedIn and MySpace

But Socialwok’s beauty is that it wraps a collaborative, social network around the most unsocial of email applications, allowing users to never have to leave their email clients. And as Microsoft moves its applications to the cloud and the idea of the social CRM takes off, Socialwok’s plugin could become appealing to business users.

Socialwok, which employs a freemium model, has steadily been adding features and improvements to its application, including adding support for Facebook, Twitter and Buzz within its applications and releasing a new version of its HTML 5 mobile version for Android and iPhone browsers.

Of course, it’s interesting to see Socialwok playing nice with Microsoft products considering the startup has mainly tied its application to Google products. Not only was Socialwok was chosen as one of the showcase companies for AppEngine technology at this year’s Google IO Developer Sandbox but Socialwok was just integrated as a pilot partner in Google’s recently launched Google Apps Marketplace.

The Microsoft integration certainly adds a twist to our theory that Google could buy the startup. It should be interesting to see if Socialwok will face the same fate as Google Docs killer and collaboration platform Etherpad or Microsoft Word collaboration plug-in Docverse.

Will Facebook Be Tomorrow’s Google, and Google Tomorrow’s Microsoft?

Posted: 15 May 2010 10:00 AM PDT

Editor’s note: Can Facebook become the next Google? In this guest post an ex-Googler, Bindu Reddy, persuasively argues the case from the perspective of Facebook’s potential as an online advertising platform. Reddy is the CEO of MyLikes, a word-of-mouth ad network funded by other former Googlers. At Google, she managed a team of product managers in charge of various Google apps including Google Docs, Google Sites, and Blogger.

Today, Google is the place to go to if you are looking for information about pretty much anything. By displaying sponsored links that are relevant to what you are looking for, Google showed us that ads are most effective when they are useful. So effective, that Google built a $25 billion search advertising business over the last decade.

However, Google’s search advertising business is inherently constrained by the fact that it works only when users are already looking for something. You have to search for makeup before Google can serve an ad for the latest Dior mascara product.

Facebook on the other hand has become the world’s identity gatekeeper—your age, sex, location, where you went to school, where you work, who your friends are—all of this personal data is used to serve you tidbits of information that you are likely to be interested in. Want to see pics of your cousin’s wedding? Want to know what movies your co-workers are watching this weekend? What music your friends “like”? You need to go to Facebook. The bottom line is that you are now trained to go to Facebook to discover things. With the growth of the Facebook app platform and support (so far) from apps like Farmville and Mafia Wars, Facebook has also grown into the number one destination on the web for entertainment and spending time.

Just like Google introduced sponsored search as an advertising model which fits in seamlessly with search results, it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how Facebook could build brand and discovery-based advertising into its product which will be useful to members. Like Google’s AdWords, Facebook ads will be most effective when they are integrated into the core product and are very relevant to the user.

Take for example, the sponsored ad from Sony at right. It’s a sponsored poll widget I can actually interact with. Much like a mini Facebook-app it amuses me with a poll while ensuring that I interact with the brand. Innovative ad formats are rapidly evolving on Facebook as marketers figure out smarter and smarter ways to catch our attention. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook figures out how to make brand advertising useful and effective on Facebook.

Unlike Google AdWords, this model will not be constrained by the fact that you have to actually look for something. You don’t have to search for makeup, you simply have to log into Facebook, and be a young woman fashionista to discover Dior Mascara. Dior can reach many more potential customers this way than by just advertising on Google Search.

With an effective and useful discovery advertising model, Facebook, is the first web company that has a very good chance of getting a significant share of the traditional TV and offline brand advertising market (estimated at about $132 billion). Given than search advertising is still just 6.25% ($25 billion) of all advertising dollars ($458 billion), Facebook may well surpass Google’s advertising revenue, and market cap, in the next decade.

Will we see a replay of the early half of the last decade when Google rapidly grew to take over Microsoft’s top spot as the premium technology company? This time around it might be Facebook’s turn to replace Google and it is not clear that there is anything that Google can do about it. Here is why:

Google doesn’t get brand / discovery advertising

Google’s ad business models are based on intent and relevance and not on discovery. The performance based AdWords and AdSense models are easier to measure and appeals to the logical / analytical minds at Google. The power of influence, discovery and brand advertising needs more right-brain thinking than Google’s left brainers are used to.

Also, instead of innovating and exploring new forms of brand advertising, Google’s strategy in that space over the last few years has been to simply buy DoubleClick which is the leader in old-school brand advertising (mostly banner ads). This basically means that there is no fresh thinking in this area at Google compared to Facebook, which understands the power of discovery and recommendation.

Google’s is a great technology company and a mediocre product company

As Google readily admits, the most powerful people at Google are the engineers. Product management, like other non-engineering organizations at Google is more of a service organization. This essentially translates to Google being good at technology-heavy offerings and mediocre at product-heavy offerings.

Give Google a technology challenge—Build the largest search index (Google search), the biggest storage system (Gmail), the fastest browser (Chrome) or the niftiest javascript interface (Maps) and Google excels. Turn around and give it a product challenge—Build a community video site (Google video), a social network (Google Wave, Buzz and Orkut), an e-commerce platform (Google product search) and Google’s offerings are more mediocre than excellent.

Google’s technology infrastructure, is optimized for large scale data sets and not rapid iteration. Its engineers like working on better algorithms and large systems and not on understanding the social behavior/economics behind a rapidly-evolving user-generated community site (perhaps with the exception of the folks at YouTube).

Google has an incremental product strategy when it comes to its core products.

Unlike Facebook, which constantly makes drastic changes to it’s core product, even at the risk of annoying some of it’s users, Google’s strategy on core apps such as Search and Gmail is largely very data driven and incremental.

Google cannot leverage it’s core apps to compete against Facebook with this kind of incremental approach. Only recently with the introduction of Buzz as part of GMail and the left-navigation bar as part of Google Search has Google begun to make bolder moves. However as with Buzz, these changes seem to be too little too late and it is not clear if they have the wherewithal to stay the course.

Given this, I seriously worry whether there is a good chance Google might lose it’s dominance. What do you think? Will Facebook execute brilliantly and become tomorrow’s Google or will Google wake up and triumph over Facebook much like Microsoft did with Netscape?


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