SiliconFilter

The Future According to Eric Schmidt

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Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt took the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this afternoon to talk about the role of technology in the “world we live in today” and how it will shape the societies of the future. Schmidt, for example, noted that the number of people who use smartphones is still very small, but “think how amazing the web is today with just 2 billion people” and what will happen when another 5 billion get online.

The Future According to Eric Schmidt

In Schmidt’s vision, societies will be split into three strata in the future and will be divided by how they use technology and how much access to it they have.

The privileged few, the hyper-connected, are likely to face a future that will only be limited by what technology can do. They will have access to unlimited processing power and high-speed networks in most major cities.

In Schmidt’s vision, this group will soon be represented by robots at multiple events at the same time while sitting in your office. For them, technologies that once looked like science fiction, will soon be available. Driverless cars, for example, will soon reduce accidents. At the same time, though, technology will actually become much easier to use and ideally just disappear.

Besides these high-connected folks, though, another group, which will also be well-connected but less so than the first group, will form the new global middle class in Schmidt’s future. This group, though, will use cheaper technologies for its work – though its members will focus less on building new services and products – and maybe use simpler technologies for telepresence, but still use technology effectively to do their jobs. This group, in Schmidt’s view, will also be made up of more sophisticated consumers and those who will be smart about using the Internet to organize politically.

A third group, though, will have no or only limited access to the Internet. This “aspiring majority,” as Schmidt calls them, will likely have some form of access to technology, but it will look different from what we expect today. Maybe, though, they will use mesh networks to create local networks that isn’t even connected to the wider Internet. For Schmidt, it seems, mesh networks represent the easiest and cheapest way to get these underprivileged users at least partly online.

What this will make possible, too, is for these users to share their experiences with the rest of the world, whether that’s a political uprising or a famine.

There will, however, in Schmidt’s view, still be elites and this digital divide will likely exist for quite a while. Technology, however will enable “the weak to get stronger and those with nothing will have something.”

Technologists will have to act now, though, to ensure that everybody will be able to participate in this future where everybody will be connected.

Ice Cream Sandwich and Chrome for Android

Very little about today’s keynote was focused on specific technologies, with the exception of Chrome for Android and the latest version of Android.

Talking about Ice Cream Sandwich, the most recent version of Android, Schmidt noted that he thought Google finally got the user interface right ‘for a global audience’ and stressed that most reviewers agreed with him. Implicit in this, of course, is an acknowledgement that earlier versions of Android weren’t quite as polished.

Schmidt was joined on stage by Hugo Barra of the Android development team at Google. Barra provided a demo of Chrome for Android, the mobile version of Chrome the company announced a few weeks ago. Schmidt used this opportunity to take a brief jab at other mobile operating system by calling Android “a real mobile operating system.” Barra demoed a number of the browser’s top features, including pre-loading, link preview, syncing between mobile and desktop, as well as the fact that Chrome doesn’t limit how many tabs you can have open at the same time.

 



10:14 am


Google+: It’s Time to Let the Teens In

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Facebook, Twitter and even MySpace allow you to sign up for their respective services if you're 13 and up, so why can't Google live a little? Back in June of 2011, the internet was ablaze with reviews, commentaries, and first-hand tutorials of the seemingly stellar service, and quite a few focused on how Google+ grabbed such a stupendous size of users in a short time. Google has decided to keep one group of users off the service and is doing so at its own peril: teens.


This guest post was written by Alexander Burger. He is a teen himself and would love to join Google+, if only Google let him. Alexander usually blogs at Phone-Fritz.com.


Smartphones have spread like wildfire in the past few years and more and more adults, children, and especially teens, have them. With Internet-capable devices in hand, teens can do more than just text or tweet… the revolution of what one has on them now has grabbed hold and is sticking pretty hard. Teens are probably the most sought-after group of consumers. Television ads, billboards and websites all trying to grab their attention… and teenagers being teenagers – they soak it all up. One day it's Sperry Topsiders [editors note: don't feel bad, I had to look that one up, too…], the next it's Nikon cameras, all based on who wears what, what shows where, and who speaks in such a way. Let's just say, if Jersey Shore moved to Connecticut, our tourist business would go through the roof.

But Google doesn't buy that. It doesn't see how you need to snatch up the socialites and get within the walls of schools and football fields. Does the G-Giant think Farmville flourished because of my mother's addiction to the game? No. Did Words with Friends get big because the scholars in our society decided to spend their time unscrambling letters to hit that triple word tile? No. Teens rule this terrain, teens decide whether you win, or lose, and if Google wants its social venture to come out golden, they have to play the game, they have to let them in.

So where does this leave our lack-luster social network, the one that Google keeps trying to back up with ideas like "Search Plus Your World?" It leaves them with questions about when they will open the gates and let the sea of younger students surge in and get a hold of all that popularity and more importantly, profitability.

Google+, to its credit, is a slick take on social, and one that could really be preferred over Facebook, but at the moment… it's a vacant wasteland collecting dust, pictures of cats, and absolutely no kind of human activity.



3:28 pm


About Time: Gmail, Google Calendar and Docs Get Offline Access

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Google just announced that it is finally launching offline access to Gmail, Google Calendar and Docs. Once upon a time, Google allowed users to access their data offline through Gears, but the company shelved this effort in 2010 and never replaced it. Now, Chrome users can install a new pluginfrom Google that will give them offline access to Gmail offline. Docs and Calendar users will be able to download the respective plugins over the next few weeks.

Gmailoffline

One caveat, though, is that you can’t edit documents in the offline mode. That’s probably a deal-breaker for some, but it’s definitely better than having no access to your documents on that non-WiFi equipped plane. Google hopes to offer offline editing in the future, though.

Gmail and Calendar, on the other hand, will allow you to perform virtually all your regular activities offline as well.

Getting Started with Offline Gmail

To access Gmail offline, you can’t just unplug your computer and keep using Gmail. Instead, you have to open a new tab and launch the Gmail offline app from there. Interestingly, the offline interface is pretty much the same as the Gmail tablet interface.

Chrome-Only For Now

For the time being, of course, this new functionality is only available in Chrome and ChromeOS. Google says that it hopes to bring this functionality to other browsers in the future. In a slight jab against its competitors in the browser arena, Google notes that those will get these features once they “support advanced functionality.”

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4:24 pm


Share and Share Alike – Where Is the Google+ Etiquette Manual?

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Anyone who has used Google+ for more than a few hours has, no doubt, discovered a very high level of engagement. Users are sharing great content and are eager to share opinions on just about any topic, and there are many ways to share and connect. One can share, re-share, comment, +1, tag others, and even comment on comments and re-share re-shares. How, then, does one effectively participate? Are there established rules of etiquette for all of this communication?

The short answer is no. What follows is not intended to read like rules. It is simply a collection of my opinions based on what I’ve learned over more than twenty years communicating with others online. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong, but please be nice.


This guest post was written by Bill Soistman. Bill is a programmer, educator, and trouble maker who has been sharing his opinions online since 1995.

He has more than twenty-five years experience solving real world problems and turning ideas into websites, mobile applications, and actionable strategies. He lives in Delaware with his lovely wife and two brilliant children. He cares far too much about baseball and blogs about faith, family, freedom, and fun. He currently spends a lot of time hanging out on Google+.


Sharing “Your” Content

If you have something original to share, share it. If you discovered something great online, share it. Sounds easy, right? So, what about the noise? With whom should one share and how often? I can’t answer those questions. I have a much better handle on what to do with content posted by others, but the same standard should apply to original content. That standard is added value. In the end, quality should always win out over quantity.

Comments

Comments should be reserved for real commentary, but the value of a comment is relative to the nature, tone, and intended audience of the post. A well thought out opinion on an important social issue is much more valuable when followed by carefully articulated consenting and dissenting opinions.

A thousand comments of mere agreement or raging hate do not add real value to the discussion. A political rant shared with a circle of like-minded people, on the other hand, may warrant a barrage of comments reading “amen” or “you go girl!” Same goes for the pic you buddy posts of his world record waterski jump or new Lamborghini, and your friends posts about graduations, promotions, engagements, anniversaries, births, etc. Go ahead and say “Congratulations!”

What About +1?

Giving a post a +1 may be preferred to posting a very short comment simply to express agreement, disagreement, or amusement.

I tend to draw the line based on the nature of my relationship with the author of the post. If that water ski jump record was set by a close personal friend, I will +1 but I am more inclined to also add a comment. A casual acquaintance of mine posts the same thing and I will +1 and leave my commentary out of it, even though I am just as impressed. On the other hand, if a complete stranger is proud of his accomplishment and I have reason to believe that he cares about my two cents, I’ll comment. It all comes down to added value to others. If I find I’m commenting for my own benefit, I probably shouldn’t.

Re-Sharing

Another way to participate in the discussion is to re-share content posted by others. This is widely regarded as a favorite feature by users because it spreads content to new circles and invites others to participate in the discussion. The benefits seem obvious, but there are questions to consider before indiscriminately re-sharing everything.

In my experience, re-sharing is the biggest contributor of noise. Some in my circles have proposed an arbitrary limit to the number of re-shares as a solution to the added noise. If you see something in your stream five or more times, for example, perhaps it is best not to share it again. I disagree. I think Google could mitigate the noise with an option to hide redundant posts (though I haven’t thought of solutions to the open questions this raises). I think the consideration, once again, is one of adding value for my friends. If I have something to add to the discussion or a qualifying remark, then I’ll re-share. Otherwise, +1 is the way to go. Simply hitting the share button because I like something is not, in my opinion, the best approach.

One must also consider fragmentation before re-sharing. Inviting others to participate in a discussion is great, but if the new comments are posted on the re-shared thread, the discussion is now fragmented. Sometimes that’s fine. Re-sharing is an excellent way to take the discussion in a different direction, but what about cases where fragmentation distracts? Should there be some protocol for requesting comments be added to the original post? Should Google implement some method of comment aggregation (or have they already done so)? The best course of action, for now, is to simply consider these questions before re-sharing and act accordingly.

Finally, privacy is at issue here. If something was shared publicly, it stands to reason that it is open for re-sharing, but one should think carefully about re-sharing something that was shared in a limited context. One of the favorite features among users is the ability to selectively share content with others by using circles, but that value may be diminished when posts are re-shared. There are restrictions and polite reminders in place for re-sharing non-public content and I think Google is working on more in this regard, but the best approach is careful consideration before you re-share.

Re-Sharing Re-Shared Posts

When one re-shares content that was re-shared already, the new post will look as though it were re-shared from the original post. This takes care of proper attribution for the original author, but does the re-sharer deserve some credit? Some users have begun to add something similar to the “hat tip” or “via so and so” that many bloggers use when they comment on news stories and such. I tend to think this is the best approach for now and may be one of the better ways to use tagging.

Where Does It End?

What should one do about commenting on something that was re-shared? Is one obligated to comment on the original post? Is it appropriate to leave a “thanks for sharing” comment on the re-share, or does that add too much noise? When is it appropriate to tag someone by name? Is it necessary to return the favor when one is tagged by someone else? Is it always inappropriate to tag those who are popular simply to get the attention of the attention getters? What about the etiquette of adding people to circles? If I create a circle for the express purpose of avoiding people while leading them to believe I am “following” them, does that make me a bad person?

Bottom Line

Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or should not participate. When I first started using Twitter in 2006 there were a lot of opinions, including mine, about the wrong way to use it. Many of those opinions, including some of mine, lost in the free marketplace of ideas. Like other communities before it, Google+ will evolve based on the behavior of users. We should all stop to think about how our behavior changes the experience for others, and we should, in my opinion, adjust our behavior for the benefit of the community.

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4:00 pm


Google+ vs. Twitter: Planned Community vs. Organic Growth

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In many ways, the story of Google+ and Twitter is that of a planned community vs. organic growth. Twitter was never conceived to be what it is today. Its success was purely accidental and thanks to being in the right place at the right time. Its early years were chaotic. Users invented features that Twitter later canonized (@ replies, RTs etc.). Now, Twitter has grown to be a major success, but even after all these years, the company still struggles to explain what it really does and the old conventions that made perfect sense as it grew up now make potential mainstream users feel like they don’t understand how it works.

Compare that to Google+. As GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram rightly points out today, all the major features and attributes that venture investor Mark Suster praises about Twitter can also be found in Google+. It’s social and features real-time updates, an open architecture, asymmetric following and has all the hallmarks of a system where content can go viral.

Google+ = What Twitter Could’ve Been if it had Known What it Wanted to Be

While many pundits prefer to think about Google+ in terms of what it means for Facebook, I’ve argued elsewhere that Twitter should be more concerned about it than Facebook. The reason for this, I think, is that Google+ is very similar to Twitter, the difference being that Google+ was always meant to be what it is today. Instead of retweets, the @ namespace and other clunky conventions, Google+ uses a vocabulary and design that encourages sharing. Instead of having to write public replies, you just click the “comment” button. Want to share a story with one of your circles? Just click the ‘share’ button. Twitter makes it hard for new users to get started, but you don’t need to learn any new conventions to use Google+.

Google’s Advantage: It Knows What it Wants Google+ to Be

Google had the benefit of seeing what worked and didn’t work on other networks. Twitter obviously didn’t have this luxury. Instead, it is now stuck with trying to rein in its chaotic ecosystem. That ecosystem, of course, is what’s still missing from Google+. A Google+ API is forthcoming, however, and we will likely see most of today’s Twitter services (or at least those that are still under active development) hook into Google+ as well.

Celebration, FL vs. New York City

For Internet users, just as for those who live in Celebration, Florida (Disney’s planned community), the question will be if Google+ is the more interesting service, or if the chaos that stems from Twitter’s organic growth makes it a more vibrant community. Currently, it seems like Google+ could win this fight.



7:17 pm


Now that Google Has Launched a New Social Network, What Will Happen to Buzz?

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Google announced its new social network Google+ earlier this morning. Given that the company now has two competing social networks – Google+ and Google Buzz (or three, if you count Orkut as well) – it’s hard not to wonder what will happen to Buzz in the long run. Google launched Buzz with a lot of fanfare and clearly thought it would be a major hit. Buzz, however, never recovered from the negative publicity around the privacy flaws in its earliest incarnation, though it continues to live on in virtually every Gmail user’s inbox.

Is Buzz’s Fate Sealed?

It’s hard to make any predictions about the success of Google+ yet, but I think the future of Buzz is sealed at this point. Google+ doesn’t even offer any connections between Buzz and Google+. The two products completely separate entities, even though they share the same ideals in many ways.

google_buzzBuzz has been lingering in limbo for a while now anyway and even though Google pushed it out to millions of users, it’s mostly a wasteland today. There actually haven’t been any meaningful updates to Buzz for months and the whole project feels dormant at this stage. I assume this is partly due to the fact that most of the current Buzz team worked on new Google+ features instead of focusing on the old network.

Shutting Buzz down would affect relatively few users – especially if Google decides to make it easy to transition links and contacts between the two (that’s a bit “if”, though).

As Wired notes, Buzz’s failure clearly became obvious to the top brass at Google and the company started the project that has now become Google+ (and was apparently called “Emerald Sea” in an earlier incarnation) just months after the launch of Buzz.

Google has clearly learned from the failure of Buzz (launching it as a limited “field test” instead of an open beta is one example of this) and Google+ clearly represents the next step in the company’s evolution to become more social. Buzz itself, however, has served its purpose at this point and I assume we will hear about the its fate pretty soon.



6:54 pm