Google+ Gets More Useful Notifications, Multi-Admin Support for Pages and Noise Control for Circles


The Google+ is ending the year with a massive number of updates and new features. Besides giving users greater control over what appears in their main stream, the Google+ team also launched support for multiple administrators for Google+ Pages and more useful notifications that provide users with what Google calls "sneak peaks" at updates from your stream. In addition, Google+ now also features a redesigned lightbox for photos, which have quickly become a central feature on the site.

All of these updates are rolling out now and will be be available to all users within the next few days.

Noise Control

Ever since the launch of Google+, its users have asked for better ways to control what appears in their streams. With today's update, Google introduces a slider for each of your circles that allows you to fine-tune how posts from this circle appear in your stream. As Robert Scoble, one of the site's most prolific users points out, Google+ users now finally have a "first form of noise control this morning. Good first step. Now we need Gmail-style filtering on top of this."

New Lightbox

Ever since its launch, photos have been a significant part of the Google+ experience. The new Lightbox, which Google introduced today, has been redesigned to enhance navigation, comment legibility and "better overall utility."Google also launched a new tagging experience that it calls "fun and fluid."

Finally: Useful Notifications

Also new today are a set of improvements to the notifications that Google prominently displays in its redesigned Google bar. Until now, there was very little information in these notifications. Now, instead of saying "Mr. X and 3 others commented on your post," you will actually see the comment right in the notifications window, for example.

Multiple Administrators for Google+ Pages

For businesses and publishers who manage Google+ Pages, today's updates also finally introduce support for multiple administrators (up to 50). In addition, these administrators will now also get access to a new notifications flow and an "aggregated count of users that have engaged with your page, either by +1’ing it or by adding it to a circle."

Support for multiple administrators was probably the most-requested feature when Google launched these brand pages. Indeed, it came as quite a surprise for many when they couldn't add additional managers to their new pages. It's good to see that Google has quickly added this feature, though I can't help but wonder why this feature wasn't available at launch.

Enhanced by Zemanta

3:19 pm

Hotmail Launches Improved Email Flagging


Managing email is something very few people enjoy. Over time, though, a few tactics for keeping the steady flow of messages under control have proven quite useful. Using flags or stars to mark important messages, for example, has become one of those tactics that most of us use to keep our inboxes in working order. With the latest release of Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft thinks it has found a way to improve email flags for its users – though most Gmail users will likely be familiar with this system already. Now, when you flag a message in Hotmail, the email will be pinned at the top of your inbox. This is quite similar to Gmail, which also allows you to create a section for starred messages (and provides you with a bit more flexibility for setting up your inbox, too).


As Dick Craddock, Microsoft’s group program manager for Hotmail, notes, until now, “flagging a message still leaves it in the message list, which can keep your Inbox cluttered.” The new behavior, which moves flagged messages to the top of your inbox, should make it easier to keep track of important messages without adding clutter to your inbox.

For those who aren’t interested in this behavior, Microsoft also offers a way to turn this feature off by simply closing the area with the flagged messages at the top of your Hotmail inbox.

Some New Features for Power Users

While this new behavior for flagged messages isn’t too exciting as it mainly copies existing systems, Microsoft is also introducing some new features for power users that are pretty interesting in their own right: custom Quick Views and customized Instant Actions.

For a while now, Hotmail has offered Quick Views as an easy way to see emails that include pictures, documents or shipping notifications. These features allow you to quickly create new categories like “For Review” for incoming emails. Once you have these features set up, it only takes one click to pin these emails with custom categories at the top of your email list or to find them in your custom Quick Views inbox. The Microsoft Blog features a detailed description for setting this up.

Enhanced by Zemanta

6:55 pm

New in Google+: Popular Posts, Ripples and a Creative Kit for Photo Editing


It’s a busy day for the Google+ team. Not only did Google just open its social network to all Google Apps users, but the team also rolled out a number of interesting new features. These include the ability to see what the most talked about posts on Google+ are right now, a very cool visualization tool to see how a story was shared and discussed on the service and the Google+ Creative Kit, which adds some basic photo editing features to the service.

As always, Google is rolling these services out over the course of the next day or two, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see them in your account yet.

What’s Hot?

According to Google, over 1 billion posts are shared and received on Google+. To help users to find out what’s being shared across the whole service, Google today launched a “What’s Hot” section in your stream. This new section will appear after your regular updates and should, at least in theory, help you discover interesting posts that were shared publicly across the service. Hopefully the algorithms will be smart enough to ensure that it’s not just posts by Robert Scoble…

You can see this new feature in action here:


This is probably the coolest of the new features Google announced today. With Ripples, you can see how a post was shared across the service. Ripples lets you browse through a post’s history in an interactive visualization that lets you replay a post’s “activity, zoom in on certain events, identify top contributors and much more.”

Describing it really doesn’t do this feature justice, so have a look at the video blow or if you are a Google+ user, have a look at what it looks like on the site (and here is a whole list of interesting Ripples):

Creative Kit

In addition to these two features, Google is also adding some photo editing tools to Google+. Right from the beginning, sharing photos was one of the main features of the service and quite a few professional photographers also embraced it to share their works. Until now, however, you couldn’t really manipulate your photos in Google+. Now, with the Google+ Creative Kit, you can apply Instagram-like filters, add text and stamps.

To get started with the Creative Kit, simply select a photo from your albums, look for the Edit menu and click “Creative Kit.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

5:58 pm

As Check-Ins Fizzle Out, Gowalla Pivots


Check-in services like Gowalla and Foursquare were the most hyped kinds of apps of 2010, but for the most part, it has become pretty clear that mainstream users don’t care a lot about checking in. It makes sense then, that Gowalla today announced a major reshuffling of its feature set at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco today. Instead of focussing on checking in, the new Gowalla now puts an emphasis on sharing “stories” and building travel logs. Also among the new features are “guides,” which are “curated travel guides for numerous cities around the world.”

Just a few weeks ago, Gowalla also announced that it was planning to jettison most of its gaming features. The company clearly saw that its current feature set didn’t allow it to compete with FourSquare, which has become the largest player in this space (even though it, too, doesn’t have a lot of mainstream traction).

A Small Pivot for Gowalla – A Harbinger for the Check-In Space

What seems like a small pivot is actually a harbinger for the check-in space in general. Checking in is, at best, a feature and can’t be the central focus of a service as only a small minority of potential users will bother to check in when they get to a new location. What users do want to do, though, is to share photos (also a feature that the new Gowalla highlights) and their stories.

Gowalla’s move sounds like a smart pivot away from the basic check-in model and towards a more sustainable and interesting concept. Gowalla already had some travel-focused features in its earlier incarnations, but this new version pushes these ideas further. Thanks to these earlier features, Gowalla also has a number of partnerships with companies like National Geographic that will now also become partners around its “guides” feature.

7:21 pm

Mozilla Officially Launches Firefox 6


Mozilla today officially launched Firefox 6, the latest stable version of its popular browser. Since its switch to a more frequent release schedule, Mozilla has already pushed out a number of releases, so version numbers themselves are becoming significantly less useful at this point and most of the updates are rather small. Indeed, users who expect this to be a major update will be sorely disappointed as Mozilla only made minor tweaks to the user interface and didn’t add any major new features in this new version besides a new permissions tool for site-specific permissions.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a plethora of bug fixes and new features for developers in Firefox 6. Regular users, however, won’t notice much of a difference if they were already using Firefox 5 before. Most of your addons should also continue to work just fine. While earlier updates often broke many of the most popular updates, this has become less and less of an issue over the last few releases.

What’s New

Here is Mozilla’s official list of what’s new in Firefox 6: [list]

  • The address bar now highlights the domain of the website you’re visiting
  • Streamlined the look of the site identity block
  • Added support for the latest draft version of WebSockets with a prefixed API
  • Added support for EventSource / server-sent events
  • Added support for window.matchMedia
  • Added Scratchpad, an interactive JavaScript prototyping environment
  • Added a new Web Developer menu item and moved development-related items into it
  • Improved usability of the Web Console
  • Improved the discoverability of Firefox Sync
  • Reduced browser startup time when using Panorama
  • Fixed several stability issues
  • Fixed several security issues [/list]

Firefox 6 for Mobile

In addition to the desktop version, Mozilla also launched a new version of Firefox for Android. This new version features a slightly updated user interface and was tweaked to work better on tablets.

Get New Versions Earlier with the Beta and Aurora Channel

Intrepid users who want an early look at new Firefox builds can also switch to the Beta and Aurora channel (or even the Nightly channel if you feel really adventurous). This way, you can get new features even earlier and help Mozilla by reporting issues with these test builds.

3:51 pm

Firefox 6 Now in Alpha: Introduces New Developer and Privacy Tools


Mozilla’s new rapid release schedule remains on track. Firefox 5 is now in beta and, right on schedule, Firefox 6 is now entering its development cycle. The next version of Firefox will introduce a number of new tools for both regular users and developers. The alpha version of Firefox 6 Mozilla launched today introduces a new experimental privacy feature called the Data Management Window, an enhanced add-ons manager and some new features for Panorama. For developers, Mozilla is introducing a new feature for quickly building and testing JavaScript snippets in the browser, as well as enhancements to the Web Console and a new Web Developer menu that makes it easier to access these tools from the Firefox menu button. (more…)

8:32 pm

Google News: Now with Stronger Focus on Personalization, Video and Variety


Google just announced an interesting update to its news aggregator Google News. The service now defaults to displaying stories in a one-column layout and puts a stronger emphasis on personalization (with an expanded personalized top stories section at the top of the page). Other new features on the site include more multimedia elements when you expand a story box, as well as the ability to see if additional links are opinion pieces or more in-depth articles.

The new version of Google News should roll out in the U.S. today. Google did not announce when it plans to bring this new version to other countries.


Overall, these updates fit in well with the general developments we have seen from news aggregators in the last few months. Given the recent focus on personalized news experiences through services like Flipboard and Zite, it only makes sense for Google to also expand this section in Google News. By displaying six personalized articles by default (up from three), Google says that it will present its users with “more topic diversity.”

It also makes sense for Google to expand the multimedia elements on the news page, especially given that most news sites now try to add videos to many of their stories.

10:17 am

Digg Brings Back "Who Dugg This?" and Retires Legacy Design


Digg, the struggling social new site, pushed out a number of interesting updates today that bring a few new features to the site, but – most importantly – also reintroduced a feature that went missing when Digg launched its ill-fated V4 update a few months ago. Starting today, users will once again be able to see who of their friends dugg a story. In addition, the company is introducing a new algorithm for generating a more interesting personalized news feeds on the site and a top comments module on the homepage that highlights the best comments from the previous day. Today’s update also brings a new design of the site’s people search engine. Digg also announced that it’s making its new two-column design mandatory for all users and will retire its old design. At this point, the old design was only being used by 3% of its users.

The improved algorithm for the “My News” sections will make this feature more interesting for users who only follow a few other users and those who follow a very large number of other Diggers. According to Digg’s Will Larson “if there is not much recent activity in your My News, Trending blends in the most active content (diggs, comments and clicks over a period of time) from Top News to make sure you have something interesting to read. If there is lots of recent activity in your My News, it will bring the most active stories to the top, making it easier to see the stories your friends are most interested in.”

Still a Lot of Ground to Make Up

The earliest comments show that Digg’s users are quite happy to get the ability to see who dugg a story back, but the general lack of comments (and diggs) on the announcement post – which in the days before the V4 launch would have hundreds of comments by now – shows that Digg still has a lot of ground to make up if it wants the site to return to its glory days again.  

6:59 pm