September 29, 2011
Test post

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August 30, 2011

This is genuinely Microsoft’s idea of a “streamlined”, “optimized” UI for Windows Explorer. They were so proud of it they wrote a blog post about it.
The post is a sort of masterpiece of crazy rationalization, but I think my favourite part may be this screenshot:

Here, they proudly overlay the UI with data from their research into how often various commands are used. They use this to show that “the commands that make up 84% of what users do in Explorer are now in one tab”. But the more important thing is that the remaining 50% of the bar is taken up by buttons that nobody will ever use, ever, even according to Microsoft’s own research. And yet somehow they remain smack bang in the middle of the interface. The insanity is further enriched by this graph:

Again, this is Microsoft’s own research, cited in the same post: nobody — almost literally 0% of users — uses the menu bar, and only 10% of users use the command bar. Nearly everybody is using the context menu or hotkeys. So the solution, obviously, is to make both the menu bar and the command bar bigger and more prominent. Right?
Microsoft UI has officially entered the realm of self-parody.


This is genuinely Microsoft’s idea of a “streamlined”, “optimized” UI for Windows Explorer. They were so proud of it they wrote a blog post about it.

The post is a sort of masterpiece of crazy rationalization, but I think my favourite part may be this screenshot:

Here, they proudly overlay the UI with data from their research into how often various commands are used. They use this to show that “the commands that make up 84% of what users do in Explorer are now in one tab”. But the more important thing is that the remaining 50% of the bar is taken up by buttons that nobody will ever use, ever, even according to Microsoft’s own research. And yet somehow they remain smack bang in the middle of the interface. The insanity is further enriched by this graph:

Again, this is Microsoft’s own research, cited in the same post: nobody — almost literally 0% of users — uses the menu bar, and only 10% of users use the command bar. Nearly everybody is using the context menu or hotkeys. So the solution, obviously, is to make both the menu bar and the command bar bigger and more prominent. Right?

Microsoft UI has officially entered the realm of self-parody.

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Filed under: tech ux ui 
August 17, 2011
5 Ways to Quantify Social Media

It’s hard to sell a company on a web service if you can’t provide them with hard numbers. At this point, the phrase “social media” is tossed around so much, it’s a banality. When it comes to actually rigorously applying it to a brand, ROI is critical. Corporations are going to want to get as solid with the numbers as possible. Whether you’re currently employed in social media or looking to crack into your first consulting gig, it’s well worth arming yourself with means of quantification. Here’s how to get started:

It’s important to have a means of comparison. Start by measuring the baseline prior to funneling resources into the social media campaign. There are several statistics that should be recorded. More obvious ones include followers, bookmarks, current flow of referrals, and amount of traffic garnered from social media. Additional information that a social media campaign can affect should also be recorded. Example include rankings for relevant keywords, search traffic, levels of communication, and more.

After you’ve quantified what the business is already doing, here are 5 key metrics to track as the social media effort gets off the ground:

1) Sales

Any good social media effort should have at least some sort of impact on sales. Once targeted traffic comes in via news, updates, and dialogue on twitter, as well as contests and interaction on facebook, it will invariably have an impact on the bottom line.

2) SEO and Rankings

At first glance, you wouldn’t assume that social media has a big impact on rankings. However, a successful social media has huge implications for SEO. As word of mouth spreads, so do links to your site. If a steadily increasing expanse of relevant, inbound one-way links doesn’t speak to you, then you’re missing the picture.

3) Traffic

Traffic is easily quantifiable. In addition to visitors pouring in from social media properties, one can also assess the quality of the traffic. Length of time spent on the site and conversion rates are two great ways to distinguish the quality of visitors stemming from your campaign

4) Interaction

The number of comments, conversations, and posts involving your brand can be tracked and compared to the baseline. In addition to the numbers, observing the content of these interactions provides enlightening insight into how people really feel about specific products and services

5) Leads

Although the internet moves at a lightning-fast pace, seeing the full extent of the results of web related marketing efforts can take many months. Inquiries and other forms of requests can be immediately quantified, and eventually expressed in a more formulaic way as data pours in over time. Regardless of immediate results, the increase in brand awareness perpetuated by social media may also have a strong positive effect on future exposure to brand advertising, such as a PPC effort.

July 30, 2011
It’s Risky to Participate in Google +1 Rings

Lately we’ve been reading concerned articles about sites offering to sell visitors more +1s to a website or article, sold in a similar fashion to site back-links and Facebook likes. Many believe that this will undermine the value of a +1 rating, if a person can simply purchase as many as they wish to generate more buzz for their article or website.

Plus One Schemes

There is one thing people don’t seem to realize about this practice:

Google can easily punish anyone involved in a +1 scheme.

Every website you +1 is remembered by Google, and it is attached to your Google account. Google also obviously keeps track of how many people +1 a page, but as a bonus is also keeping track of which people +1 a page. Through a few simple steps, one of these +1 rings can be quickly uprooted and destroyed via a digital sting operation:

Step 1: Create a website

Keeping it hidden from search, create a website to be used for the sting operation with a +1 button installed.

Step 2: Purchase orders from the +1 services

By making these purchases, you can collect data on which users +1 a page. 

Step 3: Ban everyone involved

It may seem draconian, but banning users who get involved in such practices would certainly send a message to anyone who participates in such schemes. Allow users to petition for account reactivation, but perhaps with less weight/value on the +1s of those individuals. 

It’s dangerous to participate in a +1 scheme if you hope to keep your account around. While at the moment some of these services may be getting away with it, the combination of stings and a public announcement about the policy toward such things would go a long way in improving the value of these social recommendations.

July 21, 2011
Making a Turn Off Creepstreet: Why Facebook has Sent Droves to Google+

As Google+ keeps swallowing more users from Facebook (to cast it in creepy terms), one can seemingly only anticipate the days ahead when the phrase, “Hey, remember Facebook?” will be as commonplace as today’s reminiscence of Myspace and Friendster. In light of Google+ stacking up its active user base, one has to ponder why so many users are casting off their Facebook chains in an almost-vindictive manner.

Aside from the yearning for a fresh start, one of the marquee reasons we’ve become disenfranchised by Facebook is simply by how creepy it’s become. Here are a few of the many “features” of Facebook that have made millions of users slap palm against forehead in a gesture of frustration and disappointment:

Privacy Issues (in general)

Remember that picture of you passed out on a couch half naked, blowup doll tucked under one arm, with friends giddily applying sharpie to your face? Whether or not you do, the HR hiring team secretly vetting you via FB profile probably wasn’t too impressed when considering you for that high profile job.

By the time Facebook finally managed to offer less complicated security and privacy parameters, the whole situation had already left a bad taste in our mouths. On top of that, the implementations were initially cryptic and complex, with many users unknowingly leaving their profiles as exposed as before.

Wall to Wall Feed

If Facebook’s “wall to wall” feature snuck across the thin line between useful and creepy, its mutation into “see friendship” had it bursting across that line blaring trumpets. What was once the ability to see public wallposts between two friends was stepped up to include every facet of communication between any two people you desired.

Now able to neatly discover picture, link, and post comments, general wallposts, mutual tagged photos, and much more, this “see friendship” button might as well have been called the “One touch stalking tool”. If you spend more than a few minutes racking your brain about how else this feature could be intended, you’ve already made a statement. Even thinking about using this tool makes the phrase, “Hello Clarice” echo into imagination.

Photo Memories

Ahh, sweet, sentimental memories. Wait, what? You don’t know this person at all?

Photo Memories is one of those great “features” that occasionally rotates onto the upper right hand side of your homepage. Like an STD or allergy, this creepshow of a feature pops up in a random and unwelcoming manner, hauntingly reminding you that virtual strangers are served up a totally random personal album from anytime in the past.

We’ve all been there - lost in a haze of boredom, cruising facebook for way longer than intended. Suddenly we snap to awareness and realize we’re 60 pictures deep into a photo album of someone we barely (or worse yet, don’t) even know. As a creepchill sets over us, we navigate back into familiar waters, wondering how we ended up so deep down the rabbit hole. Thanks, Photo Memories.

Irrelevancy to the point of Creepiness

As if once is bad enough, our news feeds constantly display interactions between our friends, and people with whom we share no mutual connection. Do you really need to hear about a coworker gushing to a total stranger about that stranger’s baby on your news feed? You’re not friends with that person, you have no connection to them, so why does Facebook think you have any desire to know about this stream of conversation? The irrelevancy is blindingly obvious in cases like these, and because of the extent of the irrelevancy, this baffling communicative oversight wades deep into the waters of creep creek.

Facial Recognition and Auto-Tagging? Really, Facebook?

Really? Despite the cornucopia of creep Facebook has subjected us to over the years, implementation of this feature is stunning in its deplorable level of sci-fi level creepiness. It begs the question of whether or not developers at Facebook took an inside joke made at a bar after work and giddily played it out into fruition. Regardless of its origin, this Orwellian ogre of a feature is wrong just as often as it is right, causing countless millions to log on for a notification check, only to become red-faced in discovering that they’ve been tagged as the kid that crapped his pants in middle school.

These are just five of the probably dozen+ examples of turn offs we’ve experienced over the years. Google+ has the benefit of hindsight in avoiding these unpalatable features that left a lot of us scratching our heads. With neat, crisp compartmentalization via Circles, users are pleased to discover their social interactions aren’t scampering away from them into murky territory, often confronting a disagreeable fate much akin to Will Smith’s wayward dog in I am Legend

July 16, 2011
How to Bolster your Online Reputation in Google+

In social media there are particular strategies that seem to work better than others. You could say that the secret to success with building your personal identity or that of a brand simply requires a person to “use it more”. It is possible to spend your time unwisely on social networks. We hope to focus on the most effective usage strategies. 

There are a few social media fundamentals that seem to hold true across different networks:

1) The more people you add/follow, the more visible to those people you become. 

2) The more you have filled out on your profile, the more your followers would know about you.

3) The content you share and post is extremely important.

4) Engaged followers are always a lot more effective.

Sound about right? Let’s delve into what you need to do on Google+.

Social Influencers

Finding social influencers

Social influencers are extremely important individuals found on all sorts of social networks - they are people who have large audiences of engaged followers who listen, respond and participate in things that the influencers share.

On Google+, you can follow influencers, but as with twitter you are probably less likely to receive a follow back in return. That’s ok, because when influencers post content on G+, you can comment and still participate.

Commenting as a means of gaining exposure

The posts of social influencers get quite a lot of visibility, and engaging in conversation with other users or sharing your well-thought-out-thoughts as a comment can pique the interests of lurking eyes. 

I think Google did this on purpose - it significantly increases the benefits of participating in discussion, as that added visibility can increase your own following, building an audience of your own. 

So, does this mean that more comments means more followers? Sort of. 

The most important factor is not the number of comments, but rather the number of high-quality comments that contain more content. Not just a “wow!” in response to an article - but rather a well thought out paragraph can gain more traction by sparking debate and discussion.

The importance of your user profile

Some people see their user profile as a sort of “resume”, and I think that’s the best angle to approach it. If the user profile is going to be the first thing that a new follower is looking at, it’s going to need both enriching text and some media to look at. Google+ delivers us the opportunity to provide both. 

From a marketing perspective you also have to think of your user profile as a sort of landing page. You can use the links section or the user summaries to provide links elsewhere, but really the most important part is to gain that new follower. So, you want a rich description  and a nice selection of well thought out images to compliment. 

For Google+, remember this: Content and Commenting. 

July 12, 2011
What Google+ Means for Marketers

As marketers, even the smallest stir behind the scenes at the big G will snap us to attention fast enough to sprain necks. Following the progress of Google+ has been exciting, allowing a wafting reminiscence of what allowed the originators of web-based “minimal chic” to take over the internet to begin with. We all know the pitfalls of being reactive rather than proactive, and this is yet another case study. For example, Facebook’s privacy policy mishaps and sheer “creep” factor of wall-based interactions have caused disenfranchisement, while new Google+ users are celebrating the simplicity and comfort of the Circles system. It’s clean, predictable, and won’t have you auto-tagged as your middle school’s infamous nose picker based on eerie facial recognition technology.

However the features stack up, market share is already shifting. Whether or not G+ will unseat the giant is currently up in the air, although the bloom of users swarming the invitational Beta is surely causing at least a little anxiety at the Facebook offices. Once google inevitably monetizes their social network, it’s going to be a big game changer for marketing, and not just because they’re moved a few numbers from the F to the G column.

Google’s ad dollar triumph will relate to how it empowers marketers. As it stands, there’s an advertising disconnect between Facebook’s social network, and search engines. When someone moves from the web onto Facebook and vice versa, the tracking trail runs cold. The separation is distinctly clear, like North Korea and South Korea; water and oil; Lebron James and a Championship. There’s just no crossing over

The deep and rich user-entered information on social networks like Facebook create powerful parameters that Facebook marketers love to target. Since users spend lots of time (and for some, virtually all of their time) on Facebook, it provides ample opportunity to expose the target set to your advertisements. Unfortunately, as soon as that user leaves the social network, opportunities to target vanish.

For Google, those surfing the web are served up ads both on search results as well as on the Display Network. In similar fashion, as soon as that user hops onto Facebook, tracking abruptly ends.

If Google+ keeps growing its active user base and gracefully monetizes, it will overcome the great advertising barrier between search and social. The ability for Google to take the vast wealth of information gleaned from its own Social network and apply it to the search/display ads in a fluid manner will be huge. Rather than solely relying on context, Google can display ads based on behavioral and interest-based parameters. As you can imagine, this will also take remarketing to a new level. Combining the strengths of both realms of advertising is going to provide increased personalization and exposure, making for an awesome opportunity to make sales conversions more efficiently.

How Google confronts the looming privacy issues surrounding this will be interesting. Perhaps lessons learned from Facebook’s public blunders in this area may be enough to keep Google’s PR team out of the hotbox. Until then, we’ll roll our sleeves up in anticipation of the latest evolution in advertising.

July 12, 2011
Why adding the +1 button to your websites is IMPORTANT.


I had a discussion recently with someone who wanted to hold off on implementing the “+1” button to a series of news sites. He wanted to wait and see what effect it would have on traffic and ranking in the SERPs. 

I insist that it is the right time to add it, and that having that button will, in the long run benefit any web properties that regularly produce quality content and a good user experience. 

facebook recommendations

Let’s look at an existing implementation of the “like” buttons: on facebook the “like” button affects ads by boosting CTR. While you are surfing Facebook, you will often see ads that also display, neatly beneath, which of my friends have also liked that product/brand/service. 

This is very attention grabbing to the users.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’d go as far as to assume that the most influential factors are the familiarity of the face/icon as well as the idea which gets instantly planted into the user’s head:

"this person recommends this. Perhaps it is worth checking out."

When I search for something on Google, with +1 activated I see which of my friends or connections +1’d a link . When not logged into my Google/Google+ account, I see the number of people who +1’d the site. 

This integration and added meaning for Google+ users will very quickly become widespread for many millions of people. Already Google+, in 2 weeks, has 10 million users. 

Derived benefits from having the +1 feature installed

By integrating the feature now, you can derive some benefit, and in the near future even more once the usage begins to hit its peak. This means higher CTR for results in search engines - the sites with the most +1s will gain that essential social advantage.

Right now the +1 feature (and the number of people who +1’d something) are shown on only certain results for searches — like twitter, facebook, google translator, etc. There aren’t really enough +1s built up there for them to show (or even count) them for many other sites, but I imagine that this is bound to quickly change. But believe me - Google is aligning this feature to be a major player in how search results are ranked. Already, search results are being indirectly affected by the introduction of +1. 

I think that beginning to collect them now will be a benefit on the long run and that there is a very high probability that they will mean a lot more even on results displayed on computers that lack a logged-in personal Google account. Backlinking is still not necessarily the best way to provide rankings to search results.

Why backlinking is still a very flawed system (and how spammers take advantage)

I believe that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best possible search results for the users that search for specific things. That’s obvious, isn’t it? Backlinks are flawed in that it is very very difficult for a spider and an algorithm to determine the authenticity of the backlink’s creator. Spammers rule the system with automated programs which can beat captchas with ease. It’s a joke to me when people say that captchas are the best defense against spam. There are entire offices full of teams of indians who are filling out captchas by hand for a few cents each and sending them back overseas to the spammer’s automated software that makes forum posts or sends messages. The captcha is not the answer. It’s not worth any potential drop in conversions, so as a webmaster you have to be smarter than spammers. 

By internalizing and gaining oversight of the link contributors (aka a person who +1’s something) Google has heightened ability to ward off automated programs [via phone verification, sms verification, Google+ user reporting, etc] and to ensure that each vote is more legitimate, and that gaming the system is increasingly expensive for those who will continue to spam.

It’s absolutely true that you could pay lots of people to +1 something, but that’s not much more of a problem than automated linkbuilders and there are a few ways Google could detect and punish such behavior that would make the process of gaming a vast social network really too expensive.

July 10, 2011
Why marketers should be excited about Facebook's new video and group chat.


What do you think? I do hope that Facebook makes the video calling more usable by brands and businesses. It could be like giving a press release - you get on camera at a designated time with a group of fans, let people ask questions, do a demonstration, provide customer service, et cetera. The possibilities are pretty endless.

You can expect marketing innovation to follow all of the social innovations you get out of social networks.

July 7, 2011
Google+ vs. Twitter - Why I think Google+ is a threat to Twitter.

I read an article today by Steve Hobson about Twitter vs. Google+, and I disagree quite a lot about the points he’s making. There’s a lot to be said about social networks, and the defining aspects that make one social network “win” while others lose. By “winning” I mean becoming successful and actually making money/sticking around for a while.

Here are a few of my points:

1) Using Google+ I have managed to connect with a large number of like-minded individuals and in a sense, “shout out” to the world. I can view posts by people in my home city, New York, and effectively reach out and participate in discussion with them. This is something Twitter does better than Facebook, but something that I believe Google+ does better than either. I mostly feel that way because you can say a lot more in a comment, and you can get more attention from other people who are not necessarily connected to you or to the person whose post you are commenting on. 

2) Twitter is used all the time to share rich media - my feed is full of links to pictures or off-site articles, not just people tweeting about what they had for breakfast or lunch.

3) Twitter does have the hash tag system which enables you to search and filter tweets very effectively, although I imagine google will do everything in their power to empower content discovery, so this is likely another area in which both will be in direct competition.

3.5) Hodson also mentions that Twitter is used for staying up-to-date with current events, which is something I think Google+ can do just fine. You can “follow” a user (and soon to be business entity profiles as well) and receive all of their news updates. Twitter won’t have any advantage here.

4) The most important thing here is whether or not Google+ will become a threat to Twitter, and that will happen if Twitter users decide that Google+ does everything that they need out of a social network, and end up switching. 

Which I think is also a possibility.

5) Twitter has an API that interfaces with a ton of different applications but we can expect Google to do the same.

One last point I’ll make is probably a tired out argument about the value of a 140 character post. 

With such a limitation, Twitter does limit the amount of content that can be found within the domain. Users have adapted to this, especially users who have more than 140 characters of content to share with the world, by linking to outside domains. Because of this I personally believe that Twitter misses out on all of that content. Every time you click a link, you leave Twitter. That makes Twitter even more difficult to monetize because that equals less time a person is spending looking at twitter pages/ad space. That also means that with less content, Tweets will have too little weight to show up in search engine results. I realize that Google had now incorporated (and now removed) Twitter posts into search results, but I think that this was done not because Google felt that Twitter’s platform was the best, but rather because it is out there, not able to be ignored, relevant, but unfortunately with a lifespan of minutes or seconds. 

Google’s intent as a company is to control the means for the exchange of all information, so naturally they will use feeds from Google+ discussion. 

In Google+, you already have more room for extended content pieces and as a result I anticipate users to spend more hours of the day on Google+ pages than they will spend on Twitter. Because Google+ is, well, Google, content will be seen by more outside eyes than on Facebook because Google search traffic is probably to be more likely to arrive back on Google+ posts.

I have some other thoughts which I can share later, but the bottom line is that I predict Google+ to be a platform which takes the best features from both Twitter and Facebook to be incorporated into Google search as the dominant conversational/blogging/content distribution channel.

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