Google chief outlines brave new world of online television

THE BATTLE for eyeballs is not really a battle at all was the message of Eric Schmidt’s MacTaggart lecture at the Mediaguardian Edinburgh International Television Festival this weekend.
The launch of the online television platform Google TV, he claimed, would “increase television viewership significantly”, growing the revenues pie for all. Most importantly, he said of television’s next wave of interactivity, “this time it’s social”.
Schmidt is the first person to give the MacTaggart lecture in its 36-year history who does not hail from the world of television or film production, and a degree of scepticism lingered in the theatre as the Google executive chairman struck a diplomatic but firm tone on issues such as copyright, advertising revenues and funding the production of content for YouTube (or, rather, not funding it).
The spectre of Google TV threatens to drain power away from the major British broadcasters, who are still working on the development of YouView, an internet television project of their own.
Google TV’s success on this side of the Atlantic is not yet assured, in any case. In the US, where it was introduced nearly a year ago, it has failed to bring on board the major American networks ABC, CBS and NBC, which have blocked their websites from the service.
Schmidt’s explanation in a post-lecture QA on Saturday was that there was “a presumption” that the service would affect revenues that flow between cable companies and distributors – economics of the US television industry that wouldn’t apply in the UK. But the deal with UK broadcasters has yet to be done, he conceded.
“We are talking to them,” Schmidt said. “The real key is that will become part of your TV over the next five years,” he added, citing the example of a children’s television show that has interactive games “layered” on top. But he didn’t wish to dwell too much on Google’s tardiness in recognising the importance of social media, preferring to talk up its new Google Plus “identity service” instead.
Online television platforms will make television “more personal, more participative, more pertinent” and actually help preserve “appointment viewing” (much in the way that Twitter does) in an era marked by greater use of on-demand services and time-shifted viewing, Schmidt claimed.
The “linear programming model” of channels whose “live” output is fixed by one-size-fits-all, in-house schedulers would probably remain as “an organising principle”, however, especially given more than 90 per cent of broadcast TV viewing in 2010 remained live. “It’s pretty clear that it’s not going to go away in our lifetimes.”
While Schmidt talked up the opportunity for independent production houses to trial content on YouTube, there was no chance that Google would risk denting its profit margins by commissioning content – if it did, it would probably just be “bad sci-fi”.
At the same time, Schmidt argued in favour of less regulation of the television advertising market – the same market from which it is on the verge of taking a major slice.
On the question of dominance, he simply dismissed the idea that Google could replicate its 85 per cent share of search advertising in television advertising as “highly improbable”.
The MacTaggart lecture, described by television executive Peter Fincham as “the closest most TV people get to going to church”, takes place annually in the country where television was invented.
Schmidt’s thesis was that – as successful as British TV format exports such as Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars have been – a combination of an education system deficient in computer science, a marketplace too highly regulated for his liking and a cultural fear of scale businesses has undermined the UK TV industry’s ability to dominate the rest of Europe and the world.
This, he said, reflected Britain’s track record for being technologically innovative, but then losing the early lead and letting overseas companies capitalise in terms of hard cash.
In his address, Schmidt made sure to pay tribute to the strengths of each of the broadcasters whose representatives were present. “I have just one request,” he said as he praised the BBC for its iPlayer app for iPad. “Please hurry up and make an Android version.”
He also peppered his lecture with references to the actual television programmes made by the people in the room. He remained committed to Google even though Larry Page now has “the keys to the Google Tardis” and joked that though it was impressive that more people had watched vajazzle-touting reality show The Only Way is Essex online than when originally broadcast, “I must confess that I have not seen this high-quality show myself”.
He also took Alan Sugar to task for comments made on The Apprentice that engineers do not make good entrepreneurs. “Okay . . . ” said Schmidt, who has a degree in electrical engineering. “Shall we check a few facts here?”
The Google executive chairman acknowledged that some swathes of the television industry blamed the search behemoth “for the havoc wreaked on your business by the internet”.
But he wasn’t going to have much truck with open hostilities. “You ignore the internet at your peril,” he warned. “The internet is fundamental to the future of television for one simple reason: because it’s what people want.”

At the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, Google chairman Eric Schmidt spoke On his ideology: “I speak as an American entrepreneurial capitalist who’s also a technologist, so my bias is pretty clear.” 

On satisfying current tax laws in Europe: “It’s true that we could pay more tax, but we would have to do so voluntarily.” 

On David Cameron’s idea that social media sites be “turned off” during riots: “I think it’s a mistake and I hope that’s a clear answer. It’s a mistake to look in the mirror and break the mirror.” 

On previous MacTaggart lecturers: “When he spoke here two years ago, James Murdoch described himself as the crazy relative everyone is embarrassed by. I wonder what he’d call himself now.” 


Accessing Google Plus ‘Huddle' from Desktop

This edition of NetSpeak discusses a tool that helps effectively use Google Plus (Google+), the new social networking service from Google. Google Plus, the latest sensation in the social networking segment, is gaining strength. It offers multiple tools for sharing/communicating/interacting with friends/peers/relatives/general public. 

An advantage of this social networking tool is that it allows splitting your network into different compartments — circles of friends, family, acquaintance, professional and so on. The implication is that you can direct your updates to specified set of people rather than sending them to all members of your network. 

One of the features (or rather shortcoming) of Google+ is its tilt towards the mobile world (especially towards the mobile phones based on Android platform). To get a complete experience of Google+, currently you need to be accessing it from a mobile phone. For instance, the Google+ application ‘ Huddle' can be accessed only from a smartphone. Huddle is an application in the ‘Google+' pack that allows you to conduct group chatting via mobile. If you have a mobile phone with Google+ support, you can easily install the Google+ client and once installed, along with other Plus application icons, you will find ‘Huddle' icon as well. Though Huddle helps us conduct (text based) group conversation with ease, it does not seem to have gained much popularity among Google+ users. The limitation could be its access only with smartphones and hence the low adoption. Here we discuss a means to use it from a PC. 

If you wish to access Huddle from your PC, one solution is to create a virtual Android phone on your PC. As you are aware, one can install multiple virtual PCs — running on different operating systems — using a virtualisation software such as VirtualBox. 

Once the VirtualBox is installed, to generate a virtual Android, download the Android image from the Android-X86 project site

Now, from the VirtualBox interface, create a new virtual machine using this Android image and install the Android OS on it.

Virtual Android
Before running the Android virtual machine, choose the option ‘Create a fake SD card' for creating a virtual SD card. Once this Android machine is loaded, access the ‘Machine' option (from the ‘ VirtualBox Manager'), and select the option ‘Disable mouse integration'. This will enable you to access the virtual Android with your mouse. Now click on the Android window, press ‘Capture' button and you are on your virtual Android. 

Once on the Android, initially you will see the Android lock screen with an arrow; just drag the arrow icon to the opposite side for opening the phone's menu screen. On this virtual Android home screen, you will find several application icons. Access the option ‘Applications' from the ‘Settings' button and enable the option ‘Accept applications from unknown sources'. Also, link your virtual phone to your Gmail account (via the ‘Account and Sync' option). Now, you need to install the Google+ client application package. For this, click on the ‘browser' button and download the Google+ APK from the Net (this author used the one available at: http://www. google-1-0-2-google-plus. html). 

Now, use the virtual phone's ‘FileManager' and install this APK. Once installed you will find the Google+ icon displayed on the virtual phone's desktop. Now you can invoke the ‘Huddle' application by clicking on the ‘Huddle' icon and start sending group messages. Besides helping you run ‘ Huddle' and other Google+ application from your desktop, the virtual Android phone provides you an opportunity to try out the wide variety of Android based applications being released on a daily basis. You may also note that Android SDK project is yet another means to create a virtual Android on your PC. 

Wi-Fi access point 
Assume the following scenario: you are in a different city, to do a presentation that requires access to the Net. Due to some unforeseen reason, access to the Net is disrupted and you get tensed up. Despite the widespread Net penetration, most of us come across situations similar to this quite often. Now, thanks to the amazing developments in mobile technology, one can easily overcome such trouble spots. If you have a smart phone with Net connectivity, the solution is right in front of you. Several mobile applications exist that can easily convert your mobile phone into a Net hotspot. The mobile software, Joikuspot, that works with Nokia phones is a good instance. 

Once installed on the phone, you can convert it into a Wi-Fi access point with a couple of keystrokes. When you start the programme, it senses the different Net links available to your mobile network and prompts you to choose the appropriate one. As soon as the programme gets launched successfully, the Wi-Fi enabled devices (like your laptop) detect the signals from your mobile phone and you can start accessing the Net as if it is coming from your home network or your organisation's Wi-Fi facility. One shortcoming of the free version of the utility is that it creates an open access Wi-Fi spot without any password protection. You may also note that most of the new Android phones have this feature in common. 

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Keep Your Eyes on the Future of Advertising on Google+

That gaping gap of whitespace on the right rail of Google Plus may look like prime display ad real estate, but if Google wants to profit from their social platform, the search behemoth may need to learn a few new tricks.

Early eye tracking studies from EyeTrackShop show user attention on Google Plus mirroring that of Facebook almost exactly. Social networkers who have learned to ignore the right rail on Facebook over time are already directing their attention to the social stream on Google Plus, suggesting users come to the platform with a predisposition for ignoring the right rail.

This form of banner blindness has pushed other networks to offer forms of social advertising, leaving us to wonder what Google Plus may have up their sleeve moving forward. With brand pages and an API still on the horizon it will be interesting to see what comes into play, but with everything in its infancy and talks of traffic drops, it’s smart that Plus has shunned advertising on the platform to date.

It would be a shame to see Google Plus lose user confidence with a social ad mistake that resembles LinkedIn’s misstep, so playing it safe feels right for awhile.

If the platform takes hold and users become disciples, Plus stands to gain significantly from innovative social advertising models. Odds are we have no idea what that means today, but there’s one thing we know without a doubt. Every time a user takes action on Google Plus they’re giving Google new data. Right now that data may seem frivolous, but over time that database of knowledge could help advertisers reach target audiences with absolute precision.

Another social flop could push Google back to the days after the failure of Buzz, but if this takes off the company could hold the key to more knowledge about us than anything (or anyone) to date. What this means for advertising is hardly imaginable, but for anyone looking to target specific audiences with intent, this is one opportunity worth keeping an eye on.


Use Google Earth to solve The Great Global Treasure Hunt and win €50,000 prize money

A mind-bending encounter with the creators of The Great Global Treasure Hunt, plus a chance to win a luxurious mystery holiday by solving the Telegraph’s exclusive riddle. 

Use Google Earth together with the book to solve the €50,000 puzzle
It’s an unusual scene, to say the least. In front of a giant 21st-century computer screen showing the Earth as seen from outer space, a very medieval type of transaction is taking place. 

Illuminated by the monitor’s blue-green glow, a man holding a small flame is melting a bright red stick of wax on to the back of a crumpled envelope. As the liquefied drops congeal, he presses down with an ancient-looking seal, leaving an imprint of a longbow and three arrows.

At which point, he thrusts the sealed document into the hands of a black-clad lawyer, who promptly leaves the room, for a location no one is allowed to know.

It all seems rather strange and mysterious, but there is, in fact, a rational explanation. We aren’t attending some weird pagan ritual. Rather, we have come to the London headquarters of publishers Carlton Books in order to witness the launch of an extraordinary book: namely, The Great Global Treasure Hunt.

Inside its covers are 14 mind-and-imagination-stretching puzzles, ranging from the fairly easy to the super-fiendish. But these aren’t just any puzzles. Solve all 14, and you’ll find that the answers form the clues to the final puzzle – an exact location on Google Earth – thereby winning yourself a €50,000 (£43,740) cash prize.

Too late, it becomes clear that the envelope which has just been whisked from our presence contained the only piece of paper in the world on which the ultimate solution has been written. 

The form that solution takes is, in fact, a series of numbers, except that their significance is not mathematical, but geographical. For between them, they express, in ultra-precise latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, a small point on the globe, measuring no more than 20 sq ft. 

How are you supposed to track it down? By buying a copy of The Great Global Treasure Hunt (see overleaf) and poring over the text and pictures inside, at the same time as constantly cross-checking and cross-referring with the website Google Earth. 

It is, not to put too fine a point on it, an Everest-sized challenge. 

To help you limber up, the creators of The Great Global Treasure Hunt have devised an exclusive one-off puzzle set for Weekend readers: the Standing Tall Treasure Hunt, which will win the solver of said conundrum a trip to an exciting location – the clues and hints are overleaf. 

So far as The Great Global Treasure Hunt goes, the good news is that in the race to the €50,000 summit, Telegraph readers will have an advantage over all other treasure hunters, as each Saturday we will be printing an exclusive clue, in addition to the intermittent hints and tips that will be available to the whole world, both on the competition website ( and via the tweets emanating from 

And who, or what, pray, is Dedopulos? Why, none other than The Great Global Treasure Hunt puzzle-setter himself, who spends most of his life knee-deep in obscure manuscripts relating to codes, symbols and esoterica both scientific and paranormal. Today he has arrived, blinking, in the big city, to hand over that precise combination of digits that make up the winning solution, now entombed inside the unknown solicitor’s safe. 

“The solution is not written down anywhere else, I have not disclosed it to anyone, and you cannot even extract it by getting me drunk, as I do not touch alcohol,” beams the splendidly ponytailed Dedopulos beatifically, “All I can advise you to do is to look at all the clues from different angles and, by considering their implications with respect to each other, you will discover the swiftest path to the solution.” 

Try to press him further and he merely grins and urges you to look at the book again, only harder.

Even then, the answers hardly leap out at you. Open up The Great Global Treasure Hunt and, alongside colour illustrations that look like the work of Salvador Dalí, M C Escher and René Magritte combined, you find passages of quasi-poetical text, both allusive and elusive. 

Each puzzle has a cryptic title, such as Facing The Gallows or Scarlet Chambers, and each page is fringed with a border of circular symbols (flowers, waterfalls, multicoloured marbles), plus seemingly random sets of numbers. 

They are, in fact, geographical coordinates, relating to real-life locations on Google Earth.
Key in some of the digits on the first puzzle, and you will come up, surely, with part of a vital piece in the jigsaw? 

“Quite possibly,” comes Dedopulos’s cryptic reply. 

“On the other hand, it may just take you to some beautiful or amazing part of the planet which I feel you should know about. I must confess, I will feel bereft if this quest does not engender, among the participants, a sense of wonder at this amazing world.” 

Ah well, what do you expect from a man whose ancestor bought a Grecian dukedom from the doges of Venice, and whose emails all bear the legend: “If there were two of you, which one would win?” 

Slightly more helpful is the book’s illustrator, Jon Lucas, who has also come to witness the handing-over of the solution. He reveals that, with each puzzle, Dedopulos’s instructions to him were to put in five or six key images, 10-15 secondary images, and however many red herrings he pleased. 

However, try and quiz either the artist or the puzzlemaster on exactly how to solve the 14 challenges and they go very silent. It’s left to Piers Murray Hill, the editorial director for Carlton Publishing and the man who came up with the whole concept, to explain where Google Earth comes in. 

“You cannot solve this puzzle without constant reference to the Google Earth website,” he stresses. “And I mean constant. It’s not like trying to solve The Daily Telegraph general knowledge crossword on a Saturday, where you only go on the internet as a last resort, having already rung your friends and asked for help with the clues about atomic numbers. 

“With this competition, you have to go on Google Earth from the start. In fact, the whole idea came to me when I found that you can stick a virtual pin into your favourite locations on Google Earth. 

“It struck me that you could also use a pin to mark a spot where virtual treasure was hidden, thus enabling you to go on a worldwide hunt without leaving your armchair.” 

Thereby making this a different kind of quest from the last great treasure hunt to grip the nation, some 32 years ago. Back in 1979, author and artist Kit Williams informed the world that he had buried a valuable, bejewelled golden hare at an undisclosed location somewhere in England. The only way to discover its whereabouts was to buy his picture book Masquerade and try to solve the clues. 

The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide as puzzlers first pored over its pages and then set out, spade in hand, to dig up large parts of the English countryside. 

After two and a half years, one participant correctly identified the place where the hare was buried, in the Bedfordshire village of Ampthill, at the precise spot touched by the shadow of a monument to Catherine of Aragon, at noon on either the spring or autumn equinox. Sadly, the prize later lost its sparkle when it was revealed that the winner had received insider help from Kit Williams’s ex-girlfriend. 

Since then, though, says Dedopulos, treasure hunts have come a long way, and for some time now have bridged the divide between the printed and the virtual world. 

“There now exists a vast, alternate-reality gaming community, much of it based round the website It began with a game in the 1980s called PiMania, which took several years to solve, and which eventually led the winners to a golden sundial located at the site of a chalk horse carved into the Sussex hills. 

“Nowadays, the online gaming community engages in collective puzzle-solving and I would not be at all surprised if people got together to tackle the Great Global Treasure Hunt. 

“For many of them, the motivating force is not the prize itself, but the glory of having solved the puzzle. That said, when it comes to the final sprint to the finishing line, things might get a little tight-lipped as regards sharing information. 

“As to how long it will take, I am confident no one will solve the puzzle in five minutes, but equally confident that someone will get there within the allotted seven months.” 

Not that speed is of the essence. Final date on which you can submit your answer to the Great Global Treasure Hunt is March 31 2012. However, you’re only allowed one entry per email address, so how can you be sure you’ve got the right answer? 

“All I can say,” declares Dedopulos, “is that if you believe the answer to be, say, the Labyrinth of Knossos in Crete, and you are unable to find corroborating evidence on Google Earth, then you have an erroneous answer. 

“The great thing is, though, that in order to solve my puzzle, no specific skill is needed, no particular expertise or cultural background or age,” he says. 

“All you need is an inquiring mind, a careful eye – and, of course, the will to seek the solution.”

New Version Of Google Plus Android App Released, Gets Reshare Button

Google yesterday released the latest version of its Google + app for Android phones. The new version comes with new, and much neededm features. Google + for Android now allows users to reshare a post, the app now supports 38 languages (shamefully, the world's 4th most spoken language Hindi and all other Indian languages are missing).

It has also tried to fix the problem related to instant uploads, it now offers clearer Instant Upload options in the initial setup dialog.

Warning: If you are using Google+ app on your smartphone or tablet make sure to turn off instant upload feature. If you keep it on all the pictures that you shoot from your devices will be uploaded to your Picasa account. It is very important as you may mistakenly upload private images. One of my friends made the same mistake and uploaded the images of his credit card with CVV number. All he wanted was to take a picture and send it to his wife. So, be careful folks.

The version also fixes numerous bugs including eliminating Instant Upload duplicates on HTC models, fixes 'No name' issue in Huddle, hidden 1:1 huddles now reappear when new msgs are sent, fixed issue with notifications count changing when switching from portrait to landscape. There are minor UI tweaks as well.

You can install Google+ app on your smartphone/tablet by searching for it in the Android Market.

The app doesn't offer full experience of Google+. Feature like Hangout is not available, and you can't share videos from the app. However, you can still do a lot with the app, which you can't do with the browser, such as Huddle.

What features you think are missing from the Google+ app?


Google Plus +1 Button Now Lets You Share Video Content With Your Circles

Doing more with the +1 button, more than 4 billion times a day

Google Plus +1 buttons have been popping up all over the web for the last several weeks–you might have noticed them here on ReelSEO. But up until today, the purpose and function of these buttons has been rather nebulous. What happens when you click +1? How is the “vote” used? We knew that it impacted the search results of your friends in some way, but that was about the extent of it. Today Google announced that they’re rolling out the ability to share directly with your Circles from the +1 button.
Sharing with your circles on Google+
Clicking the +1 button is a great way to highlight content for others when they search on Google. But sometimes you want to start a conversation right away—at least with certain groups of friends. So beginning today, we're making it easy for Google+ users to share webpages with their circles, directly from the +1 button. Just +1 a page as usual and look for the new "Share on Google+" option. From there you can comment, choose a circle and share.
When you share content from the +1 button, you’ll notice that we automatically include a link, an image and a description in the sharebox. We call these "+snippets," and they're a great way to jumpstart conversations with the people you care about.

Of course: publishers can benefit from +snippets as well. With just a few changes to their webpages, publishers can actually customize their +snippets and encourage more sharing of their content on Google+. 
We're rolling out sharing and +snippets globally over the next week, but if you’d like to try the new +1 button now, you can join our Google+ Platform Preview. Once you're part of the Preview, just visit a site with the +1 button and +1 the page. Thanks for all of your feedback so far, and stay tuned for more features in the weeks and months ahead!

Facebook vs. Google Plus: Social network showdown

There has been a lot of buzz about Google Plus lately and how it may be able to challenge Facebook for social network dominance. So far it has made an impressive start, signing up more than 20 million users in the first month. However, Facebook has 750 million members and it is still growing strong and most people will only want to use a single social network to keep in touch with their friends.

I have been using Google Plus since its launch and while I like how it has combined many of the features of Facebook and Twitter together, it’s not very useful when only about 5 of my friends regularly use it. The audience so far is predominately technical geeks and other people in the technology industry, which doesn’t always make for the most exciting socializing. This may change as the social network grows as Google has the money and the technical expertise to pull it off.

Overall, Google Plus is an impressive product and it’s forcing Facebook to innovate faster (and respect people’s privacy a little more) which is good for everyone. This infographic provides some interesting statistics and visual data on the social network showdown between Facebook and Google Plus.
click to preview 

Google Plus Gets Ignore Option

Previously, Google Plus users were able to block people on Google+, which basically meant that those people would be removed from a user’s circles and would lose the ability to comment on a user’s content or view contents shared with that user’s circles.

Google Plus users are not notified that they have been blocked, but it is possible that they find out about it because of the restrictions that goes along with it.

The new ignore option is a lighter form of limiting what you see from a user on Google Plus. Google+ users won’t see posts of ignored users in their incoming stream, won’t get notifications about their activities and won’t see them on their circle page.

Ignoring basically hides the ignored user on Google Plus, while blocking removes the user and blocks interaction. Google has uploaded a video about the new ignore option and the existing block option.

Google Plus users can ignore other users from three different locations. The ignore option becomes available under notifications next to each user’s name there. 

Users can also be ignored directly from the incoming stream or from the circles page.
Google has built-in an option to remove the ignore again. This is done under More Actions on the Circles page.

The ignore option is not yet available for my account, which indicates that Google is rolling out the new feature gradually.

Blocking people on Google Plus makes sense, as you may need that option to remove spammers and annoying users completely. Ignoring on the other hand feels like a strange addition. What’s the difference between ignoring a user and not adding the user to your circles? Is it the notifications part that gets blocked out when a user posts a comment or mentions you? There is actually a third option available for users, the mute post option.

This is again different from ignore and block, as it only mutes a specified post on Google Plus.


A look at Google Bothell (and who will work there)

Plans filed with the City of Bothell for the second floor of the new Google office space show a call center format.
Google's new digs in Bothell look like they'll be more like a traditional office than a space for the famously easy-going company.

Plans filed with the Bothell Community Development Department for the building, located at 11831 North Creek Parkway in the Schnitzer Tech Campus, show that the 59,665 square foot building will hold up to 840 Googlers, mostly in a call center format.
Google plans to use the new Bothell offices for a call center, according to plans filed with the city.

Most of the space will be taken up with rows of workspaces, holding the majority of the Bothell employees. On the first floor will be an employee café (a standard for tech companies) as well as workspace for 324 employees in the main workspace, plus space for another 60 administrators. The second floor will hold 516 employees and includes multi-person offices and a couple of conference rooms.

According to the plans filed with the city, it also appears like Google may be attempting to receive LEED certification.

The first floor includes a cafe and seating for 324 people. The shaded area on the left will be the nearly 6,000-square foot cafeteria. 
Google has operations in Kirkland as well, and those offices look a lot like the company's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters - features there include an indoor climbing wall, pool tables and a private gym.

The Bothell offices will be located just off of I-405 and is just across the highway from the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College campuses.

Are We Growing Too Addicted To Google Products? (Or: All Your Base Are Belong To Google)

Google makes great products. That’s why I use Gmail for email, Gchat for instant messaging, Gmaps for directions, an Android phone, Picasa for photos, and Buzz for…. Just kidding. Buzz sucks. But for the most part, Google makes great products. They have historically struggled with social products (if you ignore their success in email and chat), but their latest offering, Google Plus, is pretty great in my and others’ opinions. Though, at this point, it’s like an awesome party which hasn’t quite gotten started yet. It’s early in the night and most of the guests are still having dinner at Facebook’s house. Our Mountain View host has lots of microbrew beers features in the fridge but there aren’t a ton of people on the service to drink use them. 

The big criticism that Google Plus has encountered (beyond the “there aren’t enough people here doing stuff” one) is the company’s insistence that people use their real names, rather than pseudonymous ones. Facebook has the same policy; it’s why that site has become a universal social directory. Google would like Plus to be that too, and I think also has aspirations to become the gateway to “real identity” on the Web, something the U.S. government is pushing for to make the Web a more secure place where it’s harder to obscure your identity to make fraudulent purchases. Commerce aside, real names just make it easier to find and connect with people, knowing they are who they say.

(I don’t want to get into this, but advocates of pseudonymous speech have lots of reasons why forcing real name use is a bad idea. But Google is the decider here. When you open accounts with private companies, you’re subject to their rules. You couldn’t go to your bank and ask to open an account under a pseudonymous name.)
Recently, a blogger at ZDNet ran afoul of the Google “real name” policy. Her real name seems like a fake one — Violet Blue — and so Google flagged her Google Plus account for a shut-down. After seeing stories like that of a 10-year-old who admitted his real age when signing up for Google Plus, resulting in that being shut down along with his Gmail account, some folks are feeling worried about losing vital Google services because they mess up something on Plus. Violet Blue turned Scarlet Red with anger describing the possibility of being locked out of all of her various Google accounts over a wrongful accusation. “So now I faced losing business services I not only used, but depend on as cornerstones for my livelihood,” she complained. “Social networks are supposed to be fun, dammit.”

Google says to chill out: “Google Account suspensions are rare, and using Google+ doesn’t make them any more or less likely,” says a Google spokesman. “If a user violates our policies in YouTube, Blogger, Google+ or any other Google product, they may be suspended from only that product or from their overall Google Account. It depends on the severity of the violation.”

In a follow-up interview with CNet, Google made clear that even if Blue’s Plus account had gone black — it didn’t; Google realized it made a mistake — she wouldn’t have lost access to her Gmail, Gchat, or Docs, though her activity on Google Reader and Picasa would have been limited.

Having seen the many, many times that people have had their Facebook accounts revoked for unknown or unfair reasons, I can see why people would be concerned that activity on Plus would trigger a waterfall shut-down of their accounts. But losing access to all Google accounts will only be triggered by something truly egregious — like being under 13 years of age, or doing something illegal, like posting child porn. Google argues that this isn’t an issue that’s unique to Plus — previously, bad behavior on Gmail, YouTube, Picasa or another service could trigger a full account shutdown.

But it got me thinking about how reliant we are on Google services. A long time ago, I wrote a holiday-themed post on who knows more about us: Facebook or Google. I determined that Google was the winner (and would be where Santa would want his elves working to determine if we’re naughty or nice). That was back in 2009, before Google had augmented its services with a social network, and before it came up with Wallet, which would allow users to buy things with their phone (offering Google insight into our shopping behavior). I used to feel reassured that Google’s and Facebook’s had separate but equally intimate knowledge about our online activity. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the thought that all that knowledge might be stored with just one company.

Beyond the psychic, paranoid crisis over corporate surveillance, there’s a practical question about the wisdom of depending on one company for most of your online activity. After her realization about how dependent she was on Google products, Violet Blue made some changes to her online service providers, moving her bio page from Google Plus to Posterous and, and moving her RSS activity from Google Reader to NewsBlur. (It sounds like she’s still using Google Docs, Gmail and an Android phone, though.)

She exaggerated the potential consequences of a Google Plus shutdown, but her story does raise some questions about how dependent we want to be on one company for everything we do online.

A Great Google Plus Directory

I keep hearing about people who say Google Plus is not worth my time and do not see the value in adding yet another social media site to my already booked time schedule.

The difference maker for me is Google Plus is tied to search and that really is the key for me.  Think about it, when you post information on Facebook, the information is stored, but how can you access it. You can perform a search on people and yes, Bing may capture some of the post information, but where are people going to really find out more about you and your company.

  • Do you want to see what type of people use Google Plus?
  • Would you like a breakdown by Male, Female, Occupation, etc.
  • Do you want to see some examples of a person’s posts on Google Plus before you decide to add them to your circles?   – Check out this site!!
On one page, you can see all of this information. In addition, you can perform your own marketing analysis to see what type of users are on Google Plus. This directory may help you decide the following:
  1. Are your clients using this platform and what are they posting about?
  2. Demographics with respect to people who have added their name to this directory
  3. Who are the popular people on Google Plus
Also, for you Twitter Users – Check out the Twitter2Plus button. Now you can add your favorite people you follow to your Google Plus Circles.

Another great search icon for Google Plus is the Google Chrome Extension Google Plus Search

Sidenote – Google Analytics
We are still in the beginning stages of all of this search functionality. I would really advise you to check out your Google Analytics profile and see how posts made in Google Plus are showing up in your analytics stream. Google will be evaluating our sites with respect to a social search metric.  If you want to make a difference on Google, you need to know these things. Here is an example of how these links are coming over.


Google Plus Begins Stamping Celebrity Profiles With Verification Badges

Mountain View, California -- Internet search giant Google Inc.'s latest social networking venture Google+ seems to be moving pretty swiftly. Earlier this month they launched Google+ games feature and now, in an attempt to further dominate online identities, Google Plus has started to roll out verified accounts.

The commencement of the verification badge roll out has now begun! The verification badge is initially aimed at helping celebrities and public figures, as well as particularly popular Google+ users who have been added to a large number of circles, can have their identities verified with a check mark and a small “verified name” badge.

The move, according to the company, has been taken in order to make sure the profiles of celebrity and public figures are genuine and authenticated. According to VentureBeat, back in July, actor William Shatner's Google+ account was debarred reportedly because Google+ had no way of tracking if he was the real deal or not.

However, his account was quickly reinstated and now, Mr. William Shatner has his very own verified name badge. Google has been striving to increase the number of celebrity members on the social network to help push it into a more public spotlight the way both Facebook and Twitter have done. The new verification strategy will help further that goal.
Google+ team member Wen-Ai Yu posted a message about the new program. She said, “We are beginning to roll out verification badges on profiles so you can be sure the person you are adding to a circle is who they claim to be. This will help you easily determine which profiles are owned by real, verified people,” Yu added.

“When you visit the profile of a celebrity or public figure, you will see a verification badge next to their profile name,” Yu explained last weekend in her Google+ Post.

Once authenticate, celebrities, public figures and high-profile member profiles will display a check mark next to the account holder's name. This novel feature intends to make users more comfortable including people in their friend groups, the company said.

The just unleashed feature is similar to Twitter's old “verified” badges, Google now shows a gray verification badge with a checkmark next to a member's name on his or her profile, as a mark that the celebrity is the real Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page or William Shatner and not an impersonator.

“Currently, we are concentrating on verifying public figures, celebrities, and people who have been added to a large number of circles, but we are working on expanding this to more folks.” Yu, however, does not explain exactly how accounts are verified.

According to the Google+ profile guidelines: “It is important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you. Your common name is the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you.”

The guidelines also warn: “Impersonation is a serious issue. Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted.”

Check out the video

Facebook and Twitter survive the Google Plus armageddon, for the time being

So far the potential giant that is Google Plus hasn’t knocked either of the leading social networks off course. Even a little. But it is, of course, early days.
The end of June saw Google launch its latest foray into the world of social networking. Buzz and Wave hadn’t worked, so Google went back to the drawing board and came up with, well, essentially a pared-down, improved-upon cross between Facebook and Twitter. Things happened quickly, with the site exploding in terms of user numbers despite the need for an invitation to join.

Google Plus reached the 10 million users milestone so quickly that many began making predictions and pronouncements that Google had finally cracked it, and that Facebook and Twitter should be very, very scared. Not so, it seems, at least for the time being.

According to the latest figures from comScore [via USA Today], both Facebook and Twitter had record visitor numbers in July. Facebook saw 162 million unique visitors to the site during the month, up from 161 million in June and from 146 million 12 months previously. Twitter saw 33 million unique visitors to the site during the month, up from 31 million in June and from 25 million 12 months previously.

Meanwhile, the biggest loser in all this is MySpace, which managed just 33.1 million uniques in June. This is almost 50 percent down on a year ago when MySpace was getting more than 60 million uniques every month.

The statistics for Google Plus aren’t yet being collected, but it’s thought that the search giant’s fledgling social network has around 27 million users at this point. Which compares unfavorably to the 600 million or more Facebook boasts. Granted, it has taken Facebook many years to reach this level, but it still means Google Plus is only a small player at this stage.

So, Google Plus isn’t yet impinging on Facebook and Twitter’s user numbers or visitor counts. Which should bolster the confidence of the two elder statesmen. However, it will be interesting to see if this situation changes in the months to come.

Do you think Google Plus will eventually start ripping users away from its rivals? Or will it just make Facebook and Twitter up their games in order to stay ahead?