Google+, Facebook & mobile

I just spent most of the day testing the new Google+ social network service, and its Android app and mobile web app — and writing a review for CNN.com about the mobile experience. Generally, I liked what I saw, despite some glitches. This offering is still really, really beta — but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

My review: Google+ a clean, intuitive mobile experience so far

Clearly Google+ is going head-to-head against Facebook, and I think it has a decent chance of winning in the long run, especially if it includes good mobile integration of core Google services like calendar, Gmail, and docs.

But what about Facebook?…

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Expanding a business brochure site into something that will really help your business

To illustrate advertising and informational pa...
These days, brochures aren’t enough to make your business findable. (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a semi-retired professional who wants to build a consulting business, and you’re not an internet whiz, what kind of web site will really help clients find you? And how can you easily build and maintain a useful professional network?

My dad, Jack Gahran, is a semi-retired management consultant who knows many other semi-retired professionals. Today he asked me to look over the brand-new web site of a colleague of his, to offer some advice as to how it might be improved in ways that will build this person’s business.

The site is a pretty standard brochure site — a few static pages of basic information. It had a nice but simple design, and the content seemed to use keywords appropriately — both of which help search engines like Google index the site well. However, Google generally isn’t very interested in small brochure sites that are infrequently updated and don’t attract many inbound links.

I offered my dad’s colleague four basic tips for improving his site in ways that will make it much more visible in search engines, and thus more likely to attract inbound links from other sites (another thing Google rewards).

I get asked for this kind of advice a lot, so I figured I’d make a blog post out of it, so everyone can benefit.

Here’s what I told him…
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Google Privacy: No, please don’t send the van over, really… (gulp)

Privacy? What privacy! Such a quaint 20th century notion…


Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

Thanks much to the West Seattle Blog for bringing this gem to my attention via Twitter in the wee hours of the morning. And kudos to The Onion for such impressive info-graphics! My favorites are the van, barter, and data security fence graphics.

Google Earth and News: Make Your Own Street Views (and More)

A render of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado...
The Flatirons of Boulder, CO, as rendered by Google Earth. (Image via Wikipedia)

Recently Frank Taylor blogged about a cool Google Earth trick that could be an intriguing visual online news tool: homemade street views.

The example he cites is from Taiwan, where developer Steven Ho lives. Taylor wrote:

“[Ho] has been waiting for signs Google would bring Street View to Taiwan, but finally couldn’t wait any longer. So, he spent a few days making his own Street View panoramas for National Taiwan University campus. It turns out March is the month when the Indian azalea bloom, so he decided to take his street view photos along the famous Royal Palm boulevard. Steven took the time to not only take 150 panoramas, but also process his KML [Keyhole markup language, which is to Google Earth what HTML is to Web browsers] so it looks and acts just like Google Earth’s Street View imagery. He also added in some 3D buildings for the campus and the palm trees.”

The result is impressive. If you have Google Earth installed (and I recommend upgrading to Google Earth 5.0, which was released in February), then download Ho’s Taiwan street view and open that file in Google Earth. After it zooms in on Taiwan, click on any of the camera icons to start your visual wandering of the campus.

If you don’t have Google Earth, here’s a video screencast of what the experience looks like:

This made me think: What if a news organization offered this kind of immersive experience related to a news story or ongoing topic?…

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After Google Shared Stuff dies, how to easily e-mail links?

As of 3/30, Google Shared Stuff will be no more. I’m annoyed, because it was an easy bookmarklet-based way to quickly e-mail a link to someone while simultaneously saving it in an easily findable, searchable way.

…So I’d switched back to Furl — which is clunkier but also performed those two key jobs.

…Then today Furl announces that it’s shuttering. Users can export their bookmarks to Diigo. Whatever that is. Don’t know yet if it will e-mail links easily. I’ll check it out.

So this blog recommends using the Google Reader Notes bookmarklet as a replacement. But it doesn’t seem to offer an e-mail function.

Market opportunity here, folks!!!! Really, I just want a social bookmarking service that offers an “e-mail link” function from a browser bookmarklet. That’s all. Any takers?

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Google News Archive Search: Old News is Good News

Space Shuttle Challenger
Old news still has value, and can draw traffic. (Image via Wikipedia)

News is never just about what’s happening today — it’s also about context, including what led up to this moment. That’s why lately I’ve been intrigued by the Google News archive search. This feature, introduced September 2008, its worth a look — and maybe worth including in order to make more money off your historical archives, or to augment current coverage.

The Official Google Blog explains in Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time that this service presents archived news articles online — either as they were printed, preserving original format/context (including, in some cases, surrounding stories); or with a link to a news org’s paid archives. It also presents a timeline, showing how popular a search term was in news from past years or decades.

For instance, a Google News archive search for “space shuttle” yields a timeline with significant spikes in 1981 (for the first shuttle mission), 1986 (when the Challenger exploded after launch), and 2003 (when the Columbia broke up on re-entry).

An example of the early shuttle coverage I found here includes this March 24, 1982 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story: NASA sees little problem with lost space shuttle tiles. That’s actually a jump from a page 1 story. Other stories also appearing on the page include: “Begin to stay on after Knesset vote,” “Will match missiles with subs, Soviets say,” and “Military coup ousts Guatemalan government” — an intriguing glimpse into the tenor of that time.

That archived story was available for free — but my search also pointed to several articles for sale from newspaper archives. For instance, the Christian Science Monitor is selling its July 21, 1975 story Space shuttle to involve Europe, too for $3.95.

Not every news org’s historical archives are available in the Google News archive. Apparently Google strikes partnerships with news orgs to scan and serve their archives, or to link to existing online archives.

Participating in this service could be a way to turn your history into traffic. The Official Google Blog noted: “Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we’ll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search Google.com, you’ll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well.” This means that participating news orgs could find their historic wealth increasingly findable, and thus potentially more compelling and/or lucrative.

(NOTE: I originally published this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. Thanks to Tech.Blorge for the tip.)

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HughesNet Users Reportedly Cannot Search Twitter

HughesNet
Image by Justin Shearer via Flickr

NOTE: Dawn Stover has an update on this problem, see end of this post.

Increasingly, as Chris O’Brien recently wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, Twitter search is rivaling Google as a top choice to find out what’s happening right now. However, apparently some people who rely on HughesNet for broadband net access via satellite may be, at the moment, unable to use Twitter search.

I was tipped off to this by Dawn Stover of Popular Science. Dawn lives in a rural area of Washington state, and relies on HughesNet for satellite broadband. Today she wrote to me:

I can hardly ever click on Twitter Search without getting an error message: Status: 500 Internal Server Error Content-Type: text/html

I have searched Twitter Help to no avail. Googling suggests that this may be a problem unique to people who use HughesNet as an Internet service provider — satellite being our only option here in the hills. It doesn’t matter what browser I use. I’m not sure whether it is restricted to Mac users.

I’m wondering whether you’ve heard of others with this problem. It is REALLY frustrating because it makes Twitter almost completely useless.

I’m curious: Are many other HughesNet satellite customers are also experiencing this problem? Does it happen in some places and not others? Does this also happen to people using other satellite broadband providers? What’s causing it?

In the meantime I recommended that Dawn try Realtime Twitter Search Results — a Greasemonkey-based Firefox plug-in that incorporates the latest Twitter search results right into a regular Google search. I’ve been using it for a few days, and like it. (Hat tip to George Kelley for recommending it.)

UPDATE MAR. 10: Dawn Stover wrote me this morning…

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