google

Deleted my Google+ Pages

I've maintained social pages and accounts for the more popular business ventures and websites I run on Facebook and Twitter for a few years now. These pages and accounts have driven a good amount of traffic to my sites (and they would drive more if I put more time into making them more relevant/personal).

When Google+ announced pages similar to Facebook's, I quickly set up a page for each of the same sites. But since I don't have time to manually post and manage each of these pages, they sat dormant since the day I set them up.

Plus, nobody 'circled' any of them.

Plus, nobody's really on Google+ anyways, besides the regular early-adopter crowd that, like me, jumps from new service to new service just to test it out and see what's neat and what's not.

Plus, Google+ doesn't have a real API that provides any value to me. Heck, I can't even have my site post an update to a Google+ page automatically... that's like feature #0 that should be in the API.

Google Plus is like a Rotary Telephone
Like a rotary telephone, Google+ is not really relevant.

So, anyways, I haven't really posted much on Google+ in the past few months, and I'll probably end up not posting at all sooner or later. You can still find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Maybe if Google+ becomes relevant, and builds a useful API, I'll come back. As it is, the only neat thing about Google+ that provides any value to me over Facebook or Twitter is the Hangouts feature.

Switched back to Safari from Chrome... Again

Google Chrome No MoreGoogle lit up the hornet's nest yesterday when they announced that they were dropping built-in support of H.264 for their own 'open' WebM and OGG video formats.

I reconfigured Xmarks on all my computers (to sync all my bookmarks between FireFox, Safari and Chrome), and I'm back to using Safari full-time, with FireFox as my main backup. (FF 4.0 can't come soon enough).

It was good knowing ye, Chrome. I actually had my sights set on using Chrome indefinitely until yesterday.

(One of the many reasons I detest this decision by Google is that I have tested the waters of using WebM and/or OGG video for some web projects (using the HTML5 video tag), and found it sorely lacking, and a major pain to even attempt to use.* If I'm having so much trouble getting video into this ridiculous format, how can I ever expect my Mom/Sister/Friend/Brother/whomever is not as tech-y as I to do it?!).

Google: Please rescind your decision. For the good of the web, and for the good of my 500+ already encoded videos, and for the good of web developers, video content producers, and device makers everywhere.

For anyone else switching from another browser to Safari, here are a few tips:

  1. Install Xmarks to sync your bookmarks. It's awesome.
  2. Install Keywurl to search from Safari's address bar - it's even better than the 'wonder bar' or whatever it's called in Chrome. (How to install for Safari 5).
  3. Install the Ultimate Status Bar extension for Safari, and ditch the status bar. It's also awesome.

The only thing I love about Chrome that I can't do with Safari is use the Shift+Command+N shortcut to quickly open a 'private browsing' window. Oh well.

Just six months ago, I switched from Chrome to Safari when 5.0 was released... but then I switch back to Chrome again for it's private browsing keyboard shortcut (I used that a lot for website anonymous user testing...). Now back to Safari!

*See: HTML5 Video Embedding on a Drupal website

Using Google's New Font Library for Headings...

Today Google announced they'd help advance web typography by hosting open-sourced fonts on their CDN, and by giving the code to easily embed fonts on websites on a new website, the Google Font Directory.

It was amazingly simple: just copy the <link> code and paste it in your template's header, then set any element on your page to use the Google-provided font(s). I started using OFL Sorts Mill Goudy TT, and I like the look (except for the lower-case y, which seems to be cut off).

(The code simply adds an @font-face declaration via a Google-hosted CSS file... I wonder if it's legit to self-host the CSS and font file; I haven't read through the terms and conditions yet).

I'm thinking of using this library for a few other projects on which I'm working. Much easier than Typekit, and it doesn't require any javascript or flash overhead, like alternatives such as Cufon and sIFR do.

Rupert Murdoch: No More Google News?

After reading a few articles mulling over the implications of Rupert Murdoch's purported move to pull out all News Corp content from Google News, I thought I'd share a few thoughts, especially since the 'pay wall' issue is something I deal with from day to day with a local news publication...

Online Ads - a Faltering Art

With the popularity of Google Ads and other similar ad networks, where impressions are free, and clicks cost money, it's no surprise companies are hard-pressed to make any real money with this traditionally-based advertising medium. Heck, only 16% of Internet Users actually click on ads—that's not something the accountants and marketers are excited to hear, when all their business models are based on CTRs (click-through rates). Impression-based pricing is problematic, as well, especially considering the many different techniques people have for tricking ad-impression trackers.

There are a plethora of problems with online advertising metrics, and with revenue from online advertising. There are a few areas where online advertising is extremely effective (YouTube and other video sites have a successful pre-video commercial model, which works well). But for simple news and blog pages, the flashy, arrogant and often irrelevant ads that display in and around the content are largely ignored.

I don't propose any solutions to this huge problem—especially for news companies who, in the past, received more than half their revenue through advertising dollars. However, it's necessary to acknowledge the problem.

The Google Generation

Bing, Google, Yahoo - whatever the site is, online search and aggregation is the way of the future—I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have any particular website besides the three above (or one of their sub-sites) as their homepage. The fact is, people don't use the Internet as a replacement for the morning newspaper and bagel. People browse topics that interest them, then follow a topic around to different sources, and gather more information about this topic than was ever before possible in such a short period of time.

Google News, RSS feeds, and links from popular blogs are the main ways members of the Google generation receive news from around the web. If you cut off your content from these sources, your site will be inaccessible to the Google generation. (See another post of mine on this topic: Why Your Diocese or Organization Needs News Feeds).

You can create a 'pay wall,' but you have to be prepared to become a niche player. For certain entities, this is okay. I pay to receive Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Our Sunday Visitor, and the St. Louis Review (and their online editions/content), because all four of these publications give me access to a niche of news and information that matters to me. Heck, if Whispers in the Loggia or Mac Rumors became pay products, I might even pony up for news from these sites, since it's worth reading for me.

Crowd-Sourced News

"Mr Miller admitted News Corporation could not make the bold step alone but was prepared to lead other media companies in this direction. “We will lead. There is a pent up need for this. There has to be a resolution for the free versus pay debate otherwise we cannot afford to pay for things like news bureaus in Kabul.”

The problem I see is that, with the Internet helping remove many international barriers to communication (albeit slowly, in many areas), many people don't see why News Corp should need a news bureau in Kabul, when news from Kabul's local papers can be aggregated in the same place as news from Zimbabwe, China, Russia, and the United States. Translation issues aside, what's the point of a New York-based paper having an office in a foreign country, when one can connect directly to the foreign country online?

Crowd-sourced sites like Now Public are becoming much more popular, and, as the saying goes, 'content wants to be free.' Of course, niche markets and fields might be able to use pay walls to keep the revenue flowing—but even then, they have to be careful to (a) not lose relevance, and (b) remain the best in their field. The St. Louis Review is the best and most comprehensive Catholic news source inside the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, so they can afford to use a subscription model.

But is the New York Times the most comprehensive general news source on the whole planet? Nope. Why pay for it if you're living in Talahassee or Seattle? No news entity, in my opinion, can be a comprehensive general news source anymore, besides, perhaps the Associated Press (or similar agencies without a particular publication). The USA Today is the closest thing, but they are not really as relevant or as popular online as they have traditionally been in their print product.

Solutions?

If every general news source on the planet, including all the 'open' and 'crowdsourced' news sources, closed its doors to Google and set up a pay wall, that might work to bring revenue back into their idyllic gardens of journalistic endeavor. Even so, the second this happens, I would be the first to set up a new open platform for news sharing... even if it had the worst/most fallacious content on the planet, it would be read and visited, because people like getting something for nothing. Just stick a few Google ads on it, and I'd have a nice, free revenue stream :-)

It's time for innovation in news media. Solidifying niches, finding new ways to utilize subscriptions or micropayments, and considering alternate ways to increase ad revenue are certainly on the table. I, unfortunately, don't have any really amazing or groundbreaking ideas in this regard. But, for news organizations' sake, they should definitely keep this on the front burner for a while.

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