Google’s Social Envy Leads To The Worst Kind of Buzz

Google is getting too Microsoftish in its behavior and choices lately. I want to believe it is still an innovator; both hip and cool. But clearly Google has been suffering from social envy on a variety of fronts.

My previous two blog posts focused the power of social searching and the rise of Twitter as a specialized search tool (In Twitter Search I Trust).  I offered speculation on Google’s next move and commented on their envy of the social network.  So folks, I feel obligated to post a little something that acknowledges Google’s Buzz debacle. This is just my personal two cents of the past week that you can roll in to the millions of other Buzz reactions out there.  I’ve embedded links to resources on privacy settings and tips for your reference. Please comment, respond, etc.  I am sure the buzz on Buzz is far from over.

First: Don’t Ignore the Privacy Buzz
If you’ve ignored the Tweets and headlines about Google’s privacy gaffe with Buzz, please familiarize yourself with the basic issues. What happened this week with Buzz  impacts everyone, whether you use Gmail or not. For my educator friends, and really anyone working in a profession where privacy is critical, brush up on some of the Buzz issues.  Read up on the privacy concerns and changes to learn how to best manage your profile and identity. Most of the heat on Google has been focused on publicly viewable contact information. Users were unaware that their personal contact information, and the contact info of others in their address books, might be unintentionally exposed without setting up their Google profiles properly.

Lesson learned: Do not assume social networks should be based on a user’s email habits
Google initially set Buzz’s default to opt-in for all of its Gmail users.  Let that wash over you for a minute.  If you have a Gmail account, you were automatically up and running on Buzz when it was released this week (hence the privacy panic). Personally, I think this is a bold assumption that:

  1. I have room for more social networking
  2. The hub of activity should be within my personal email
  3. The  people I email the most are the same people I want to socialize with online.

I have many lovely email exchanges with my kids’ teachers, but this doesn’t mean we should become instant online pals. The same goes for my relationship with my own students. Aggregated data on my email habits usually does not reflect my true social network. In fact, the people I socially network with I tend not to email as much.  I mean, hasn’t Google heard that people really don’t use email as a social network tool, or at the very minimum email is an “old” technology? Of course they have and this has resulted in Buzz and Google’s acquisition of social search tool aardvark this past week.

So What’s Next?
Personally,  I am exhausted from all the buzzing about Buzz.  It is a stretch to find positive praise about the tool.  And Buzz users reactions range from lukewarm to outrage. Before Buzz, Google had clumsy attempts at social networking, including its acquisition of Orkut. If Buzz is an improvement on past efforts, and a true competitor to Facebook and Twitter, any shred of interesting potential with Buzz is overshadowed (justifiably) by Google’s amazingly poor judgement about privacy. It made me wonder just what does “social” mean to the folks that work at Google?  It also showed me that Google should stick to doing what it does best, and social just isn’t its expertise.

Since Tuesday, Google engineers are scrambling to put new privacy options in place (Read Google’s spin and updates on their blog).  And even though I found the fine print at the bottom my gmail to turn off buzz, that was not good enough as I had to hunt down my Google profile settings and manually manipulate the options located there to lock down my information. (See Lifehacker Blog for detailed tips).

I haven’t written Buzz off completely. I am waiting for Google to treat Buzz less like the global beta-release experiment that it is.  When I push aside all of the privacy press, and really look at Buzz the tool, I am underwhelmed.  The UI is less than fresh to me and is too linear. Frankly, when thinking about people new to social networking, I think Buzz is less than user friendly for them. I will wait on reporting more on this aspect once I take the full Buzz plunge, assuming this privacy buzz gets figured out.

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Twitter Search v. Google: A Superbowl Postscript

So a couple of days ago I penned a little ditty called “In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less).” Since then it seems like my radar is tuned into articles and comments that I should have mentioned in my earlier post.  So folks, I offer a quick postscript inspired by the following;

  • The NY Times talks about the potential of social search engines in  “A Search Engine That Relies on Humans” from Feb. 5th.  Aardvark and Mahalo are mentioned as emerging examples of the new social search trend. To use either site you can create an account with them or authenticate to their sites via your Facebook login and with Mahalo you can use also use Twitter.  I haven’t been sold on either of these services, and welcome comments from anyone that has some insight and experience here.
  • Also from the Times blog roll is an article from January 27th  on Google’s plan to add more social searching. In my earlier post I mentioned Google’s inclusion of Twitter feeds, and this Times article gives you an overview of more things to come (and a link to the Google blog).

Unscientifically, I’d like to think that Google’s Superbowl ad is the icing on the cake that supports my original blog post on shifting search habits.  As the Google ad aired, Superbowl tweeters gave a collective  “huh?” and “what?” One Tweeter asked the simple question “Since when does Google need to advertise?” And Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch tweeted his blog headline: “Hell Freezes Over As Google Runs Its First Super Bowl Ad.”   (By the way, did anyone notice that the style of  Google Superbowl Ad is eerily similar to Kansas State University Professor  Mike Wesch’s famous  The Machine is Using Us/Web 2.0 YouTube video from 2007?) As I watched, and monitored the tweet traffic, I considered  it Google’s  attempt to remind us that they remain the best search game in town?   But if you are the best, do you need a Superbowl ad to remind me?

This is all a to be continued story with all signs pointed to Google playing catch-up in the social network sphere.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will announce a new social feature as part of its Gmail suite on Tuesday, Feb. 9th. For more coverage also check out TechCrunch‘s articles.  So stay tuned folks…

In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less)

When Twitter first launched I did what any entrepreneurial educational technologist did and registered for an account.  It was the infancy of Twitter, when tweets read more like a public collection of Facebook updates. The media coverage was full of speculation, curiosity, and of course humor (see the famous “Twouble with Twitters” video). I only had a couple of colleagues trying it out, so I really didn’t have any lively banter or collaboration going on.  And it seemed most people interested in following me were spammers.

Somehow this didn’t dissuade me from checking regularly on Twitter’s evolution and progress.  I searched for keywords and lurked with interest on a few regular hashtag conversations, especially  #edtech, #eLearn and the more recent  #edchat .  Folks whom I’ve never met, but with similar professional interests, were sharing resources, tips,  ideas and articles that provided just-in-time relevancy to my field.  And then somehow, without really noticing, my web searching habits began to shift. I was soon doing searches on topics  first via Twitter, and  then Google, but only if needed.  This completely surprised me because back in March of 2009 I read  “Twitter Destined to Replace Google Search” on twitip and thought “whatever!”

So what changed? Well for one, my Twitter searching seems to follow a pattern. Generally, I am trying to do one of the following things;  answer a question, solve a problem quickly, or get recommendations for resources.  Doing Google searches is somewhat effective –but not exacting. As the twitip article describes, Twitter is positioned to give a better search experience because people are directly powering the content, which provides context to the search.  A search engine can not find context, or even relevance within the content.

Twitter provides me two ways to carry out my searches; I can ask my question to my twitter community, while also performing a key word search through Twitter, or using  a Twitter search engine like Topsy. Generally, I get good leads from each approach, and often these leads will help me refine a more effective and efficient  search of data via Google.  The icing on the cake is that my Twitter community is only a touch screen away via a mobile device. There is no shortage of mobile apps for smartphones or the iTouch.  I can truly have one information hub no matter what device I am connecting with, bringing continuity to the search process.

I am not alone in appreciating the differences and unique benefits of a Twitter search.  I found a piece from Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research describing  Twitter search “your own personal groundswell.”  Which brings me to the social aspect of the search process and the immediate ability to receive validation on a topic or a new direction and theory. I compare the social search aspect of Twitter like attending a social event at a conference or seminar. I am able to engage as much or as little in the conversation as I want, and I am bound to pick  a good tip or resource just from listening in. Obviously the folks at Google seem to think there is something unique about this since they have started including Twitter feeds as a part of the Google searching experience.

I haven’t thrown Google out the window but I continued to be surprised and delighted at the number of professional communities on Twitter.  In my case, my work in ed tech spans k12, higher education and eLearning communities. I no longer need to wait 8-12 months to read about a new innovative teaching method in a  journal because we are able to report and share our experiences immediately.  In the case of education, I argue this allows us to innovate more rapidly since we are able to accelerate the publication process and avoid long peer-review processes, that while important, can take away from the timeliness that is essential.  I am pretty confident other professional fields are experiencing the same thing. But I am digressing and should pick up on this riff for a future posting.

So friends, fret not if you are Google fan, or even  if you are Google.  There is a something for everyone and Browsy brings us the ability to Twoogle (but of course!). So now can have the best of your aggregated data and social searching worlds in one web interface.  Thank goodness.

Updated– Twitter v. Google Search: A Superbowl Postscript

Watching Digital Nation Feb 2nd –will you?

Frontline officially premieres its Digital Nation documentary Tuesday, February 2nd at 9pm. The full video is already posted online. I’ve asked my online Emerging Technology students to tune in and participate in the live twitter feed found at #dig_nat . They will also tweet to our course hashtag #ecomp7010.  We haven’t even got a full week of class under our belts and we are going full throttle into the world of Twitter while we watch a documentary that examines and questions this very behavior of instant connectivity and communication. Poetic? Maybe.

99% of my students are current teachers with the average time in the classroom around 10 years. Almost all of them are new to Twitter as of this week. So either they are going to get a kick out of this or tear their hair out.  Or both.  I am curious to see how all of it transpires.  I am curious to see how I facilitate via this medium or if I really need to. When you teach a class called Emerging Technologies one thing is certain that no matter how much you prepare and plan, you are flying by the seat of your pants for most of the time. There is always something new to try, and new products or announcements pop-up  (iPad anyone?) that need to be addressed.

More on Wednesday about our Twitter experience and also thoughts about the series.

Why another digital tech blog?

Why another ed tech blog? Why not, but truthfully it’s a personal journey and exploration of community, interacting, and just being a better online writer for this blogger.

Well first off, I hope this is not just another digital tech blog. Let me explain.

I am an avid reader of many edtech blogs and twitter feeds. Before Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)  became the hot trend du jour,  I was quietly engaged in my own little self-created personal learning networks/links via RSS feeds on my Google reader page. I imagine many of you reading this have the same set up too.   I have benefited and learned greatly from so many people willing to share their thoughts, insights and ideas so freely online.

For me,  I never really felt the need to blog because there is already so much blogging going on in whatever topic matter I am interested in. So really, what more could I really say that isn’t already being said? Ironically, given my field of employment and general research interests, that is the kind of statement my colleagues would kindly remind me “misses the point of blogging.”  Maybe I’d get a sharp *tsk* from a couple of them given the fact I helped design a learning module about blogging and I am giving a workshop on the topic.  So immediately, one reason for this blog is to “walk my talk.”

For most bloggers,  this medium is not just about marketing your content, or making a name for yourself (though we know it can be).  I find that particularly within the ed tech and eLearning blogosphere, as well as PLNs, most of us are enthusiastic sharers of information and ideas looking for kindred spirits to share our geekry and passion of the field with. “Ooo did you see this new tool”  “Oh my gosh, I just did the coolest thing with my class today!” And so on and so forth. It is a platform from which we can reach out and connect more deeply than the 140 character feed of our twitter microblogs.

On a completely practical level I was never really good at keeping any kind of diary or journal as a kid or teen.  Many of the fabulous bloggers I know were loyal journal keepers.  I am a verbal thinker by nature and much rather enter into animated in-person dialogue  rather than writing a report or summary of an idea that I’ve had. (The irony since I teach online). In fact, depending on what I am writing, it can be very intense and laborious to me. Let me rephrase that: Writing efficiently and interestingly has never been much of a natural gift.

This  brings me to one of the other primary reasons why I’ve finally decide to seriously give it a go with this blog. Beyond creating yet another digital, educational, elearning, techology, online training, free tool focused blog to join the rest of them, I want to become a better and more effective online writer and communicator. Online writing is much different from traditional, narrative prose writing.  I preach this in my day job as we design online and hybrid courses.  Online readers, especially of blogs, are skimmers by nature, looking to glean those quick useful tidbits quickly. If you are still reading this, bravo– this will probably be one of my longest posts.

I thought about choosing a topic that was not work-related (cooking, travel) but the truth of the matter is that I am passionate about my work and field.  And for a blog to work for both reader and writer, there needs to be passionate interest and connection (or so I think). As I take part in more twitter groups and conversations I feel the need to develop a bigger space to capture all of the thoughts and ideas I see flash by my tweet deck each minute. I hope this blog provides a nice little springboard and collection of some of the more intriguing thoughts and concepts I’ve seen pass through my twitter feeds, journals, and other RSS feeds. If anything I hope it keeps me more intellectually organized.

So while this blog will focus primarily on digital learning and ed tech, I feel, no matter how many years of professional experience and schooling I have in the field, I am in a constant state of digital learning.

So to answer the blog post heading: What another digital tech blog? Well I think I’ve answered that, albiet in my own meandering way. Please comment, follow along, etc. I plan to post ideas about resources, articles, thoughts from the twittersphere etc. Give constructive feedback. Recommend feature enhancements. Most of all,  thanks for reading. And hopefully, I’ll stick with it and so will you.

Now, if I could only get this proofreading thing down.. maybe with time. :>)

Best,

Rebecca