A First For Me: I Found News on Google Plus Today

I found my first news tip on Google Plus today, that Google had acquired Fridge. Dain Binder of Computer Sciences Corporation shared a link to the Fridge blog and that’s how I found out it happened. I went into my Custom Search Engine of competitors and found that +Liz Gannes had written it up on All Things D an hour prior, and Mashable 15 minutes prior. (Later, I think I noticed that Biz Insider posted 2 hours prior). And then I wrote it up. Paused before publishing, gave it what I think is a much better title than originally planned (Google Plus is Eating Startups, instead of Google is Buying Up Startups to Bolster Plus Social Network) and there you have it.

I think I remember the first story I got thanks to Twitter; I believe it was a +James Governor tweet that Google had acquired +Jyri Engeström ‘s Jaiku. Twitter quickly became key in my work. And it still is today.

I also remember the first story I ever got to first thanks to Quora. Eighteen months ago I was organizing an event for RWW and decided to ask on that hot new social network, “when is Twitter’s rumored first developer conference next Spring? I don’t want to schedule a conflicting event.” +Ashton Kutcher answered the question! With the correct date! It was awesome, so I didn’t schedule the event that day and in fact I wrote up the news: Twitter’s first dev conference is, according to the site’s then #1 most popular user, going to be on April 14th. And indeed it was.

I used to break a lot of news stories first using RSS to IM/SMS alert tools, and I still do sometimes – that’s how I got my job as TechCrunch’s first news writer. Strategic use of tools helped me get to news stories faster than Michael Arrington – so he called me and hired me. Now everybody uses those sorts of tools so you have to be extra crafty to figure out how to win with RSS.

I wasn’t the first on this story on Plus and I bet some other people have broken stories on here already. (I roughly broke the story of the Circles feature at SXSW, but that was all shoe leather and beer, no web tool hacks on that one.)

I just thought I’d post a little note, marking today as a little milestone for me and thinking out loud about how I want to try to use this platform for work in the future. Thanks for being my Plusbuddies, everybody, hopefully we can figure it out together. If you’d like to connect on Google Plus, I am here.

Why I’ll Never Redirect my Personal Blog to Google Plus

A number of prominent web personalities have announced that they are going to redirect their personal blogs to their Google Plus pages – because they get so much more interaction with readers when they post there. I can understand that, but I’ll never do that with my blog. I have 3 times as many connections on Circles as I have RSS and email subscribers here (in 2 weeks, vs 5 or 6 years!) – but I’m not tempted in the slightest to give up what I have here. Perhaps it’s just about trade-offs and I’m not willing to give up the control I have over the way my personal site communicates with visitors.

I’ve got important things in the sidebar of my blog, for example. I like having my contact info, bio, links to information about my consulting practice and my media citations sitting right next to every article, no matter what readers came here to read. I don’t want to lose control over my own Information Architecture, no matter how under-developed it is, to Google’s vision of “posts in one tab and about page in another.” I want to put those things where I want, in the order I want and make them look however I want.

I’ve got some of my most useful posts on this blog pinned in the sidebar as well. Several of them are 3 or 4 years old. In the Plus world, those would be washed so far down the stream!

I like being able to choose what commenting system I use on my blog. I really like using Disqus because I can click on any commenter’s avatar and see what other Disqus-using blogs they comment on and how often. That’s a great way to get a quick picture of someone’s community of participation.

I like offering a search box, I use Lijit that searches my own personal blog archives and an extended network of sites I’ve identified (my tweets, my bookmarks, some of my favorite RSS subscriptions). I really doubt Google Plus will ever enable something like that.

Google Plus doesn’t have RSS feeds, or email subscription options. Both are important to me; I want to speak to my readers however they want to be spoken to. Some day, we’ll be able to write to and read from any platform in any other platform, just like we can call one phone network from inside another phone network now.

Rather than chasing people around from one platform to another, where they prefer to spend their time, I’m going to sit right here on a site I own and wait for the future to become interoperable with me!

WordPress plug-ins, the iPhone publishing app, the open source community, but more than anything my own control over how I present my self to the world – all those things are very important to me.

I do love Google Plus, though, and if you do too – here’s my profile there that you can add to a Circle so we can be Plusbuddies.

Google Plus’s Real Goal is Not to Kill Facebook, but to Force it to Open

I’ve been so focused on the user experience of Google’s new social network Plus that I haven’t thought very much about the big picture, I must admit. Listening tonight to an interview with Plus designer Joseph Smarr on the IEEE Podcast it became clear to me that for at least some of Plus’s leadership the goal is not to win social networking outright, or to kill any competitors, but to disrupt the social networking economy with a big enough, good enough and popular enough service that the walled gardens (Facebook in particular) are forced to open up interoperability enough that their users can communicate with the significant enough number of people in their lives that use a different social network. Back in the bad old days, customers of one phone network couldn’t call customers of other phone networks, then people couldn’t email out-of-network. Today people can’t be social across networks, but few people mind because everyone they care about is on Facebook. Plus is a big push to change that. Interoperability will be better for the open web and thus better for Google. It should also be better for consumer choice and satisfaction, in the long run. As long as Face-oogling or whatever doesn’t become as frustrating in the future as dealing with phone companies is today. But they do have interoperability!

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it this way before. I hope the plan works. One more cool thing about Plus.

I’d post a link to my Plus profile here but I wrote this whole post on my phone, sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house, in the dark. (Cutting sod that’s grown over my walkway.) I’m not hard to find there though and am lots of fun to talk to, I promise.


How to Think Up Cool News Hacks

Last Spring I was weeding my yard and thinking “what new fields of data online could I gain programmatic access to, subject to some analysis and then use for strategic advantage?” Blog comments came to mind as an under-utilized set of data: structured, publicly available and created as a result of casual gestures online. BackType came to mind because that’s what they did at the time, search for comments left by a particular person. I thought about a lot of different ways I could analyze or filter feeds of blog comments, cross referenced with other sets of information or delivered through various interfaces. Most of my ideas didn’t come to anything.

That’s when I thought “how about I take a list of high-priority individuals, track their comments around the web and use that as a way to sniff for news?” I used Robert Scoble’s Twitter List of Most Influential People in Tech, but it could have been any list of people with home page URLs published in a public, predictable place. If I was a geotechnology beat specialist, I might have used (heck, maybe I still will) a list of geotech industry specialists.

Source of data, available programmatically, with a structured field with which some data can be filtered out from others based on some criteria, criteria data-set available from another source already. Put all of those circumstances together and you’ve got an opportunity.

That’s what I did, as described in this post on BackType’s acquisition today by Twitter. That feature is probably as good as dead, now.

I just thought I’d share that thought-process here. I think about things like this all the time, but especially when I set aside some time for my brain to think about it. You can too. Publicly available, structured data enables all kinds of strategic possibilities.