Monthly Archives: June 2011
Google has announced a social media project called Google+ that looks very promising. The service will attempt to be more comprehensive than other social media services, combining many features into the same application. While Google+ is still at an invitation only proving stage, there are some details available to spark your interest. Take a tour at http://www.google.com/intl/en/+/demo/. Here are what I believe to be the highlights:
Comparisons to Facebook will be inevitable with this project, and I want to make one right away. Google+ has a feature called Circles which is made to handle sharing different content with different people easy. Facebook users are still struggling to separate their close friends from their families and from business contacts. When I started using Facebook, I was a freshman in college, and only college students were able to create an account. We didn’t worry about privacy too much back then. Now that Facebook is open to everyone, and we see the potential for business, privacy is trickier. Google’s Circles seems like a much nicer solution than the limited profiles and public fan pages from Facebook.
Google+ gives you the option of having all the photos and videos from your smartphone instantly upload to a private album in the cloud. This probably scares the buh-jeezes out of some people, but I’m actually really excited about it. Uploading and organizing the media that I want to share online has become a real chore. Since I’m already trusting Google with private info like email and documents, it doesn’t take much of a leap to start trusting them with my photos and videos as well. This feature is particularly timely for me because I recently shot some video on a MiniDV camcorder, only to realize that my laptop doesn’t have the necessary firewire port to capture the video. For quick videos where quality is not a huge concern, you can’t beat the convenience of uploading directly from a smartphone.
Mobile social media apps tend to be junk. I’m not very impressed with any Twitter app, and Facebook’s app is pretty much garbage. Google+ was created with mobile in mind from the start. As an Android user, I’m hoping for some really awesome smartphone integration.
Not too long ago, if you wanted to read about a topic on the Web, you had to search for a Web site on that topic, then visit the site. For a while, I replaced this method of collecting information with RSS feeds that would pull the info in to one location for me. Then Twitter sort of replaced my RSS reader. Now I mostly use the Pulse news reader app on my phone to read about my interests on the Web. Sparks is sort of a hybrid solution where my searches are aided by the recommendations of my friends to find content I’m interested in. I can’t wait to try it.
There are many other cool ideas baked into Google+, and Google is promising that this is just the start. I won’t know how well it all works until I get to try it, but if it lives up to the potential I see in these ideas, I will use it for sure. Now Google just has to overcome one massive hurtle: adoption. People have to try it for it to be social. I think there are two big reasons people may not use Google+. One reason is that many people are already on Facebook, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by that. They may not want to add another social network. The other reason is email. Facebook creates an account using whatever email address you already have, and there is no user name separate from your own real name. Google will probably require a Google account, and use a Gmail address for email. People who are not already using Gmail may not want another email address to remember. If Google can work around these issues and get people to try Google+, I think it could be an awesome new service.
Jetpack is a fairly new WordPress feature that allows some of the tools found on freely hosted WordPress.com blogs to work on self hosted blogs. I installed Jetpack because it provides stats on site traffic. What I didn’t realize is that it uses a small smiley face image to track when someone visits your page. Suddenly I had a smiley face in my footer, and I had no idea why it was there, or where it came from. After a quick Google search, I found the culprit, and the solution for making it disappear.
Here is the explanation and the solution from one of the creators of WordPress stats, Andy Skelton:
When we started developing stats for WordPress.com in 2005, Matt thought it would be cute. That’s his artwork.
No doubt, people will want to hide the smiley face. There are wrong ways to do this. Basically, anything that causes the image not to be loaded by the browser will break your stats.
Applying “display:none” to the image will break your stats. Don’t do it. If you want to hide the smiley face, add this to your stylesheet:
Most of the comments I found in the WordPress support forums used the display:none solution which will apparently break the stats function, so watch out for that. I’m using this code from Andy Skelton, and so far, so good.
Today I received an invitation to try Lightbox Beta for Android. Lightbox is an app for sharing and viewing photos. It has the ability to integrate with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Tumbler. The user interface consists of three tabs: My Lightbox, News, and Popular. Each is simply a tiled grid of photos that you can enlarge and flip through. The My Lightbox tab pulls photos from your connected social networks. The app also gives you a photo wall for sharing photos publicly. You can see mine at lightbox.com/wall/timrohe. The app is still very much in beta form, but right away I see two negative aspects that the developers need to fix. The first is that the public wall profile picture is automatically pulled from Facebook, rather than allowing the user to choose a different file. The second is that sharing your location from your smartphone is the only way to use the app. There is no option to turn off location sharing. I am hesitant to use the app for this reason alone. I like the idea of using Lightbox to push photos to Facebook and Twitter though. Hopefully the app will get better with age.
Here is a photo of the user interface.
My first attempt at a social media widget for the sidebar of this blog kind of stunk. The links functioned like they were supposed to, but they looked kind of sad and boring. The first thing I did to fix the problem was get some design help. For that, I went to Smashing Magazine.com, which provides plenty of links to free icon sets.
After I found some icons that I liked, I had to customize them to be black and white. I loaded the image files into Photoshop, and applied a simple black and white adjustment layer. Then I saved a new copy of the file so that I had a color version, and a black and white version.
Take a look at the sidebar to see the final result!