Vic Gundotra Visits Dallas to Talk Google+

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a couple of direct messages through the Hangouts app on my Samsung Galaxy S III. I’ve been running Cyanogen Mod 11 for a while and absolutely love the pure Android experience, despite the few programming bugs. It’s amazing that software enables you to get so much out of hardware that already seems antiquated.

The messages were from two good friends of mine, Matthew Rappaport and Robert Anderson. They were both asking me if I was going to see Vic that night. I had no idea what they were talking about. Curious, I went to my computer and noticed that I had been mentioned at least a dozen times in various posts about Vic Gundotra‘s upcoming visit to Dallas. Immediately, I informed my fiance that we would have to adjust our plans for the evening.

My agenda for that day was nothing short of Herculean. In 8 hours time I would receive all of my goods that had been moved from Nashville, register my car, have my apartment re-keyed, have the car taken to the dealership to have the front plate mounted (I was missing the appropriate bracket), obtain a driver’s license and make it downtown by 5 o’clock for a meeting with someone who I very much admire.

How I was able to make it to this discussion about Google+ was almost as exciting as the discussion itself. In fact, most of the things that got me there are things that we take for granted.

First of all, without Google Hangouts, I probably wouldn’t have been made aware in sufficient time that I had the opportunity to meet with Vic and a wonderful group Google+ evangelists in the area. Then again, if it weren’t for the two separate public video Hangout calls that led me to meet Matthew Rappaport and Robert Anderson, I wouldn’t have received those messages to begin with.

Getting back to my agenda for the day, I’m new to the area, so where I would need to go to accomplish the day’s tasks was all new to me. Luckily, through the help of Google, I was able to find the appropriate websites for the Tarrant County Tax Assessor, the Nissan of Texas Grapevine dealership and a list of Department of Motor Vehicle locations in my area. Using Google Maps, I was able to get a rough idea of where I would be going and what timing would be necessary to successfully orchestrate everything. Brittani and I are both professional meeting planners, so we’re pretty savvy at scheduling a “full day.”

Once I left the house, I relied on navigation from Google Maps. Apart from the mess of construction on the connector, Google was able to get me everywhere I needed to go in time to make it back to the house for the apartment to be re-keyed. I knew it was the apartment complex calling me because I had them stored in my GMail contacts.

Like clockwork, the truck with all of my belongings appeared in the driveway. After unloading everything, I used the Google Drive app on my phone to quickly scan the paperwork from the driver. As I was unpacking boxes, I used the camera on my Android phone to upload pictures of damaged boxes to Google+ Photos so I could later send them to the moving company for compensation in the case that any of the contents were damaged. (Luckily, no problems so far.)


Brittani arrived while I was unpacking and we quickly changed and got ready to leave. As we were getting ready, I used Google Maps on my phone to estimate the travel time to the DMV and then to the Magnolia hotel downtown where I would meet Vic. Brittani was very concerned that we didn’t have all the paperwork needed to obtain our licenses (and rightly so). It turns out that you need am armful of documents to get a driver’s license in the state of Texas.

Once we made it to the DMV, I assured Brittani that we had plenty of time to get through the process and that we would make it downtown with time to spare. (Was I fooling myself? Did we really have time to get both of our driver’s licenses and make it downtown in under two hours?)

Almost immediately after we were done filling out our paperwork, our numbers were called, 395 and 396. We each enthusiastically proceeded to our assigned desks to begin the process. As I handed the stack of paperwork to the clerk, she started sorting through everything and nodded with approval as she moved each document to the side. “Wait, this one is expired,” she said.

I panicked. What could it be? It turns out, of the registration papers that I keep in my car, I had handed her the old Proof of Insurance and not the new one. With a sigh of relief, I handed her the updated form that I had in the envelope of other papers. “Okay, it looks like we have everything but your social security card,” she said.

“I need my social security card and my birth certificate?” Surely my birth certificate along with my old driver’s license from Tennessee would be ample proof that I was who I claimed to be. Clearly not the case in the state of Texas.

“You’ll need to either provide your social security card or your most recent W2 in order to get your license,” she clarified.

My stomach sank. I didn’t have my social security card with me and my fiance would be devastated if I didn’t get my license taken care of that day. Immediately, a light bulb turned on in my head. My W2, it’s on Google Drive, I could e-mail it to her!

“No, it couldn’t be that simple,” I told myself. “Would I be able to e-mail it to you?” I asked.

“You may, but I’m not going to wait a half an hour.” Faster than a speeding bullet, I whipped my Android out of my pocket, tapped on the Google folder, the Drive logo and then the search window. Right as I keyed in W and the number 2, my most recent W2 appeared. I quickly opened it to ensure it was what I was looking for. I tapped my phone twice to share the document through GMail as the clerk slipped a piece of paper across the counter with her e-mail address. Confirming each letter aloud as I typed it into my phone, I tapped the send arrow and held my phone in the air as I clung on to the one bar of 3G service I had with every hope. For two seconds there was silence. I panicked. Did I not have enough signal? Was the attachment too large? Would I have to come back another day?”

“Got it!” She proclaimed as the laser printer started to roar.

Triumph! Google Drive had saved the day.

The Meeting

After we both received our temporary licenses, we got into the car and proceeded to the Magnolia hotel in downtown Dallas. Neither of us had been there before, so we relied once again on the navigation of Google Maps. Within 30 minutes, just as Google had predicted, Brittani and I arrived at the hotel and valeted my car.

As I was getting out of the car I donned my sport coat and Google Glass and proceeded to the second floor where we quickly spotted the bar. Brittani suggested I try one of the local brews, Fireman’s #4 from the Real Ale Brewing Company. As the bartender exchanged my credit card for the beer, I noticed a couple of lanky fellows sitting in a dark corner on the other side of the railing wearing Google Glass. I handed Brittani her glass of Pinot Noir (Meiomi if you must know) and we proceeded to the table in the dimly lit corner.

Around the table were eight or so chairs. Sitting in the back corner was a female wearing Google Glass Cotton (the white model) and a man in his 40’s wearing a business suit. Around the table were a few more casually dressed people. We all shook hands and made introductions. With our mutual excitement for meeting Vic, I doubt many of us remember each others’ names. The introductions almost seemed as though they were an obligation or formality.

During the time leading up to Vic’s entrance, my phone had been vibrating constantly. People that knew I was in Dallas wanted me to ask questions on their behalf and “dial them in” to the conversation. One of the updates I noticed was from Vic, on his previous night’s post, indicating that he was heading up the stairs.

As Vic walked towards the corner, everyone immediately stood up from the table, very eager to greet him. Vic made his way around the group (probably about 12-15 at this point) and shook hands with everyone there. I introduced myself simply as Peter to see if he would recognize me. He responded by saying “Nice Glasses!” I then introduced him to my fiance before we both sat down.

In meeting Vic in person, I noticed several things. He is extremely polished, well-mannered, sincere and doesn’t look like he carries an ounce of stress with him. How is it possible for someone to carry such an important position to seem so cool, calm and relaxed, I wondered.

After a few more handshakes, Vic found an empty seat at the table, four seats down and almost directly across from me. He started off by thanking everyone in the group for coming to spend time with him and thanked us all for our adoption and continued use of the Google+ platform. He seemed genuine in every word he said. Without delay, he explained that his reason to meet with us was to learn as much as he could and offer answers to any question we might have.

The Questions

Vic opened the discussion to questions. The first to ask were the well dressed man and woman sitting to his right. They introduced themselves as a newscaster and meteorologist for the local CBS radio and television affiliates. They were asking how Google was going to help newscasters and the press with the use of the platform now that they have begun to adopt it.

A few local technology professionals asked questions about API-integration, multiple-page management and the absence of true analytics for the social platform.

There was a high school student that stated that he felt like he was the only one of his peers that felt like he used the network and wondered when Google would make the push to encourage his friends to adopt the use of Google+.

I asked Vic how Google was going to use user signals to improve the home stream algorithm to make browsing Google+ a more personalized experience.

Questions and conversation arose about the future improvement of the network in terms of nearby communication, circle management and overall improvement of Hangouts.

There was a question of “recommended users” and how Google is working to provide better suggestions for people you already know.

After almost every question, Vic tactfully summarized the inquiry and responded with (in most cases) “we hear you” and we’re doing X to make Y better.

The Conversation

As the first questions started to roll, I removed Google Glass from my face and set it on the table. I removed my phone from my pocket, silenced it and put it face down on the table. I didn’t want to document everything that was said. I didn’t want to try to get a video of the entire conversation and I certainly didn’t want to “live tweet” the event. I wanted to immerse myself. I wanted to be there.

(Unfortunately, I can’t give you any sound bites. I can’t directly quote Vic on anything he said because I wasn’t writing it down with pen and paper. I was living the moment and didn’t want to miss out on the experience.)

During the talk, Vic eluded to something very important, Google+ is more than what it appears on the surface. Google+ is helping to make Google better.

Now think about that for a minute. Normally you would think that Google and its other products would make Google+ better, but when you really think about it, the social interaction that you carry out through Hangouts and Google+ is incredibly useful in improving your traditional and predicative search experience.

Google is doing some incredible things in making our lives easier and connecting us with one another. My example of how I got to the Magnolia hotel would not have been possible without the magic of Google and its incredibly diverse teams.

Our Relationships

According to Vic, Google has been doing a research in what we want to see from whom and when we want to see it. He pooled the group and asked us if we wanted to see our friends checking in at Chipotle with a selfie (he must have been following my stream that day as I stopped there for lunch and checked in on Google+). The group shook their head and said things like, “of course not!”

“That’s what we thought,” he said. “It turns out you do like seeing stuff like that.” (Keep in mind, I’m roughly paraphrasing.)

Through their research, Vic unveiled that Google was trying to discover what people really like to see in their streams and when they like to see it. He addressed the concerns of “stale” posts appearing at the top of people’s streams by explaining that they’re there because people don’t want to miss them. Consciously, we might find them out of place, but subconsciously, we really want to know what is going on with those people that Google ranks closest to us.

So how does Google determine who is closest to us? Vic explained a lot of “signals” that Google uses to determine who we really care about and who we are most inclined to interact with. That’s why you might see certain people at the top of your stream more often, or at the top of your circles when you go to manage them.

Google is using a lot more signals and gaining a lot more data as more and more people use the network and use it more often to help improve those rankings and offer a much more personalized and intimate experience.

Moving Forward

Expect a lot of change coming soon. From improved circle management, to less confusing ways to share and even more rich features that users have been asking for over the last few years.

I asked about threaded comments and Vic assured that they were on the way, but as part of a completely improved discussion system. It’s hard to imagine what that would look like, but I could hypothesize something like YouTube’s new comment system coming to Google+. Imagine a new subthread in the original post for each share much in the way that comments work on Blogger and YouTube. My guess is that–or something similar–is coming to Google+ soon.

There will be improvements in “local sharing.” Vic hinted that we might soon be able to use features in our phone that have been laying dormant to start sharing information with those around us.

Ever leave a party and wonder how you could thank everyone for coming, whether they RSVPed or not? Currently, there’s no easy way to do that, but Google+ will soon have a solution that will make it effortless.

The best thing to come? Analytics. Soon pages and profiles will be able to see who and what is driving interaction to their accounts. I imagine this data is going to be extremely rich and much more useful than anything we have seen from third party developers.

Another thing Vic promised was better spam filtration. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this one, but Vic explained some of the signals that Google uses to determine who is likely to be a “low quality account” and does its best to filter those from bothering you with notifications and unwanted communication.

On the whole, Google+ is about to offer users a much more intuitive, seamless product that is going to work hand-in-hand with other Google products than it ever did before.

Tacking & Tachometers

Throughout the conversation, there were a few questions along the lines of “Why hasn’t Google _____ or ______.” Vic responded to those in sum by explaining a sailing technique called tacking. In tacking, the sailor “tacks” the boat by steering its bow through the wind so the direction that the wind blows changes from one side of the boat to the other. The maneuver helps the sailor to take advantage of the wind and get the boat to its destination with great speed in a zig-zag fashion.

Vic explained that in order for Google+ to succeed, it needs to continuously change its course and focus to ensure that it is covering ground in the fastest way possible. Because the Google+ has limited resources, instead of spreading them thinly, they work in a concentrated effort to overcome large obstacles together. This technique of tacking enables Google to stay ahead of the curve. The only downside to the strategy, is that not everything can be developed simultaneously. It takes a great deal of time and effort to make the smallest change to the platform because of the considerations that must be taken every time. Suggestions that seem simple to us may be quite complicated in execution.

Right as the conversation was wrapping up, someone asked Vic about the watch on his wrist. Personally, I was curious to see if he had a Pebble, Sony Smartwatch or Galaxy Gear, instead, he tugged back on the sleeve of his jacket and unveiled a beautiful and unique timepiece. This watch was not smart in terms of its Wifi connection, LCD display or processor. It was smart in terms of its design, its rarity, and the incredible story behind it.

“This is a very personal story, but I want to share it with you,” he began.

It was a wonderful story, and it showed how vulnerable Vic felt during the launch of the product that we have come to love. I would share it with you, but some stories are just best left to be told in person.

What to Expect

I would imagine that this year’s Google I/O will be more about the human element than it ever has been before. Hangouts was recently the number one app in the iOS App Store, Google now offers the most immersive and intuitive platform to store unlimited photos and the way that those photos and videos can tell stories will be taken to an entirely new level.

We’re all story tellers, and I’m betting that this platform will soon help us become better at discovering, sharing and telling our unique and personal tales.

Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away

My journey on Google’s Suggested User’s List for Google+

In July of 2013 I found myself added to Google’s Suggested Users List (or SUL). The list is displayed to new users as they create an account as well as existing Google account users when they first go to use the Google+ social platform. Up until the second week of March 2014, I was displayed to millions of new users as someone “Fun and Interesting.” During that time, over 400,000 additional users added me to their circles.

My addition to the SUL came without much warning. I simply noticed a large uptick in followers and later received an e-mail from a Googler informing me that I was being offered as a suggested person for new users to circle. They asked me for feedback after my first couple of weeks, but initially I didn’t notice much of a change.

Over time as I first crested 100,000 followers, I thought being on the SUL was going to be a great opportunity for me to grow an audience overnight, become well-known for what I do and hopefully introduced to opportunities that I would have never found before.

Eight months later, I can confidently tell you that not many of those things happened. Just after I eclipsed the 500,000 mark (507 actually), I got yanked from the list. Again, no warning, no communication, I just noticed that instead of gaining an extra thousand followers each day, I was losing 50-100. This “falloff” happens for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I assume it is from the removal of spam and phantom accounts that have been reported. But, unfortunately, I think it comes from a number of users that actively remove me from their circles.

While I enjoyed my time on the SUL, I think it negatively impacted the way I thought about producing content. I focused my efforts on Google+, at one point abandoning Twitter and then later deleting my Facebook account. Now, as I look back, I realize that I ignored some pretty simple advice from a number of smart people, “don’t make Google+ your only platform.”

Platform is a funny word, when we think of it as it relates to technology, we don’t always think of it as something you stand on, but if you could imagine Google+ as being your only soapbox, regardless of how many followers you have, you’re standing atop one of the weakest soapboxes in terms of frequency of engagement.

Even with over half of a million followers, I rarely see over 100 +1’s on a post. To put it simply, that’s two hundredths of two percent. or 0.02%. That’s not very much engagement.

I think the reason for the drop in engagement with growth of audience is due to some very simple math. When a social media platform like Google+ evaluates the “relevance” of your post, it looks to see how much engagement you are getting in a short period of time. I imagine if your content eclipses that threshold, it will be “pinned” so that more of your followers will see it when they next log in. The problem with large audiences is that the more people that follow you, the more engagement you need to ensure the preservation of your posts in others’ streams.

Basically, unless all of your followers live in your time zone and you have a large audience, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Now, if you stick to traditional tactics like posting the about the most trending subjects or just humorous (but not otherwise valuable) content, you can game the system and gain traction that way. However, if you are trying to share original content beyond bumper sticker philosophy, funny GIF’s or the most popular news story, you are going to be met with a serious reality check.

When I was on the SUL, I felt like I censored myself more, trying to keep content within some mysterious criteria that would keep me in Google’s good graces. I wanted to do whatever it took to keep myself on the list so I could guarantee maximum audience exposure (it’s what almost anyone would do). However, in doing so, I did myself–and my followers–a large disservice. I was no longer taking the time to carefully craft the content that I did when I was being discovered organically.

Now that the ride is over, I am focusing on redesigning my blog, building an e-mail list and trying to build a tribe that is actually invested and grateful for my message. All of that is going to take place here, so if you’d like to become a part of it, I invite you to come back often and join the conversation.

This is my platform now. I make the rules, I decide when to change the design and I respect the people that come to visit and be a part of it.

Google may give, and Google may take, but this is my website and these are my stories and I’m happy to start sharing them with you again.

What happens when you stop responding?

+Taylor Swift (middle) and me (third from right) photo by +Sony 
If you were to poll 100 celebrity accounts with over 500,000 followers across social media, I think you would find something interesting. Most of them do not actively interact with their audience. Sure, they may call out an individual tweet or reply to an occasional comment, but for the most part, their audience interaction is limited.
For traditional celebrities, this seems very rational. +Taylor Swift probably doesn’t have time to reply to thousands of comments, and if she tried to, it would turn into a cascading time suck. However, if she started to reply to each and every fan, would it ruin all of the excitement for those that do hear from her?
Watching several “non-traditional” celebrities, more of the Internet type, writers, commentators and corporate big wigs, I’m starting to notice a trend, that people are more likely to engage with those that are less likely to respond. Take +Vic Gundotra‘s posts, for example. If you watch what he and his colleagues post, you will always see a myriad of responses, some form more prominent Internet figures. However, most of them know that the likelihood he will respond is fairly low. So why do they bother to comment on his content?
I’m wondering if there is a “critical mass” in terms of tribe size or follower count where content creators should limit their audience interaction in an effort to increase engagement on their posts. It’s a continuation on my theory of “manufacturing scarcity” but I think it also applies in the social realm.
I believe that in personal branding, we are taught to interact with as many people as possible as often as possible to help establish our authority in our particular niche. However, is there a point where well-followed individuals should curb their audience engagement to encourage more interaction with their posts?
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about totally eliminating interaction, but showing your audience that you’re busy doing important things and can only interact occasionally. By creating this artificial scarcity, does the engagement become more valuable?
It sounds crazy, but I think it might just work…


What are you known for?

talk to the experts by Mai Le is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday serves as a great day to ask yourself, “what are you known for?”

No, we won’t all move mountains. We won’t all change the course of human history. We won’t all make it into the history books, but we all have the opportunity to make a change in the world. It can be something small, something big, or something that only affects a single person.

Regardless of what you want to be in the world or what you want to do, people will always associate you with certain things. If you work with them, they might just see you as a co-worker, if you bowl with them, they might just see you as a bowling partner, if you do great things though, they might see you for your accomplishments.

One of my biggest struggles as I have created my personal brand identity, is to figure out exactly what I want people to think of me as. Do I want to be a SEO expert? Nah. A community management expert? Maybe. A social media guru? Definitely not. A storyteller? Probably.

The challenge of trying to define yourself as a topical expert of one particular niche is important if you want to be a known authority for that particular subject. But, what if you’re like me and you’re interests are all over the place? What if you love consumer electronics, but also have advice for how small businesses can better use social media to attract new customers? What if you like debating issues like social media platform design and application user experience?

Can you truly be the master of anything if you enjoy so many different things?

I have been watching quite a few characters on Google+ recently, and I’m starting to notice a trend. The people that are regarded as topical experts post a lot about their given topic. However, a large number of them seem to cross over, post and comment on things that might be tangential to their focus, but not necessarily their blockbuster topic.

The bottom line, though is these people always return to what they do best, and because of that, they are known for that. +Mark Traphagen is on top of everything related to Authorship in SERPs. +Ronnie Bincer knows every technical aspect of Google+ Hangouts, Hangouts on Air and YouTube interface. +David Amerland has established himself as an expert on semantic search while +Dustin W. Stout  is leading the wave on fresh, purposeful content and engagement. Need to know anything about Google+ on the whole? +Denis Labelle and a slew of others likely have you covered. Android news? +Derek Ross is all over it.

These examples are people that have chosen to focus, and because of their focus, they are rewarded with being known for their focus. Those of us that chose to be interdisciplinary won’t achieve the same recognition of these individuals, and won’t stand out in a crowd for being the best at any one particular thing.

By diversifying your interests, you have the ability to learn so much about so many different things. However, in doing so, you can sometimes sacrifice the opportunity to be known as an expert. Regardless, though, how important is it to be known as an expert of one particular thing?

As I look to shift my career, I’m learning that ambition is no match for hard work and years of experience. Hiring managers and companies looking for consultants don’t just want someone that knows what they’re talking about, they want someone that can prove that they have consistently performed. These individuals, by choosing their focus and continuing to teach and share have done exactly that.

For the rest of the year, I am going to be asking myself, “what am I known as?” But until I figure it out, maybe you can help, what do you know me as?

To Share +1's or Not to Share +1's

Yesterday I was perusing my stream on Google+ when I noticed that +Dustin W. Stout had +1’d a post by +Taylor Swift. Now, I couldn’t help but think it was out of place for someone as savvy as Dustin to broadcast his interaction on a post with a mega celebrity that doesn’t have much at all to do with his realm (being awesome at the Internet).

When I privately alerted Dustin of what I thought must have been a mistake, something that he had overlooked, I got a reply that made me totally reconsider the way I thought about sharing +1’s.

Within minutes of seeing Dustin’s reply, I noticed this post in my stream by +Chris Jenkins that had been “vetted” by +Mark Traphagen+Derek Ross and +Eli Fennell (three people that I highly admire).

Prior to the screen capture, I didn’t have +Chris Jenkins in my circles. In fact, if the three people that I trust so much hadn’t +1’d the post and had their accounts enabled to show +1 recommendations, I never would have seen the post appear in my stream.

When the +1 broadcast feature was initially released, it was met with two schools of thought. One was that those that decided to turn the broadcast on, would either self-censor themselves or “over-share” and possibly +1 things that didn’t fit their brand or niche. The other school of thought was that by enabling the feature, you would allow your followers to be open to a whole new world of content and creative people.

Sadly, at the time of the release, I bought into the first theory. I didn’t want to censor myself by changing the way that I 1+ content. I wanted to +1 whatever the heck I wanted to, and not worry about someone else seeing it appear in their stream. I wanted to show everyone I was following that I was listening.

I guess at a certain point in your Internet presence, that school of thought is okay. But, with a large audience comes a bit of responsibility (at least in my mind) which is why I think I should take the opportunity to share what I find interesting with the rest of my followers. Starting today, I’m going to think about what I really enjoy reading, watching and engaging with. As I find things those things, I think it’s time to reward the people that took the time and effort to create and share those things.

Thanks, +Dustin W. Stout, for making me change the way I think.

The Mythology of Shared Circles

Brocken experiment, Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13579 / CC-BY-SA

A long time ago, when +Google+ was just a protostar, people relied on shared circles to tell who was active on the network and who was not. If you were new to Google+, at the time the “stream” showed everyone that was actively posting, not just the people that you had circled. As the network grew, people needed a way to keep track of the people that were active so they could narrow down their stream. During this time, the use of shared circles was very common, however it was necessary.

As time went on and Google+ started to become a star, circles were less about just who was “active” and more about specific interests and topics. A lot of people used them to help discover new users that were excited to grow an audience, but most of those attempts were extremely organic.

I, like +Mike Elgan+Robert Scoble, and others, worked on creating carefully curated circles that contained people specific to a certain set of interests. Mike’s best one yet, was the #BlogsofAugust  circle that introduced me to some great people, but Robert’s Circle of 500 Bloggers put so many Google+ early adopters in front of hundreds of new followers. Later on, I would go on to create an “Original Content Creators” circle which featured people that were sharing their own genuine content.

I didn’t want to jump into this argument and say that unfocused shared circles are bad, because that would be hypocritical. We definitely used them in the infant stages of the network. However, the ones referenced in this post are a different breed. They aren’t about the people in them, but the person benefiting from them, which is the person hawking them. If you’ve ever been pitched for an MLM, hen you know exactly how these circles work. You’ll never get the Bentley or the private jet, but if you keep on trying, you will only help the person at the top to go further.

The image above is of the Brocken experiment by British physic researcher Harry Price.

In 1932, Price travelled to Mount Brocken in Germany with C. E. M. Joad and members of the National Laboratory to conduct a ‘black magic‘ experiment in connection with the centenary of Goethe, involving the transformation of a goat into a young man. The “Bloksberg Tryst”, involving the transformation of a goat into a young man by the invocation of a maiden, Ura Bohn (better known as the film actress Gloria Gordon), produced a great deal of publicity but not the magical transformation. Price claimed he carried out the experiment “if only to prove the fallacy of transcendental magic.” – Wikipedia

The true magic of a shared circle, is one that is carefully curated, focused and limited to those who are truly engaging and consistent content creators. I encourage each and every one of you to curate several of these circles throughout your time on Google+ and share them with your audience to help others discover the great things out there.

These “other” circles, the “Mega Ball” and the “+1 and reshare to be included” circles are akin to the Brocken Experiment. No matter how well you advertise it, and how hard you try, you simply can’t turn a goat into a young scholarly man. In fact, when you think about it, the whole idea is just plain silly.

Don't Worry, Google+ Isn't Dead

Last night I was a bit puzzled when I came upon a breakdown of the interaction on my posts from 2013. The results weren’t in any way scientific and could possibly carry a certain margin of error (see the big gaping hole in my follower count?). Nonetheless, the folks at +CircleCount were kind enough to put together an immensely powerful tool that is second to none.

After reviewing my statistics, I started to review the statistics of others and realized that my numbers were down considerably compared to theirs. One of my favorite examples, +Paul Snedden, carried way more +1’s, comments and re-shares than I did (based on the number of followers). Paul’s raw engagement was only half of mine, but his follower count is less than 10% of mine. How could this be?

After being puzzled, I posted a thread on Google+ asking users if they were becoming bored of the network, or had noticed any recent in falloff in engagement. Plenty of people came armed with answers, suspicions and their two cents. There were some great analyses presented along with some profound comments (the post is embedded below).

The bottom line though is that there are plenty of people listening. In fact, there is so much more content being created that people have more to chose from. When the network looked like it was ebbing, it was actually flowing.

It turns out that Google+ is just following the footsteps of other social networks before it. The original “in crowd” gets grounded, sets up shop, brings the masses and then slowing recede away. In fact, I’m guilty of doing the same thing. I took a near 6-month hiatus earlier this year, only to come back more excited than I ever have been before.

Regardless of whether or not Google+ is or will continue to be successful, I want to make sure that I have a platform to catalog my ideas, my thoughts and my puzzles for you to put together. Posting them “in the stream” only creates the opportunity for them to get washed away and forgotten. Putting them on my blog where I can easily reference and organize them gives me hope that you will be able to come back, return and maybe even subscribe to these periodic rants.

Next year the game is going to change, though. I’m going to focus on sharing what’s important to me and how I think it can help you. One of those things, is usually Google’s free tools and services to make my life easier. It sounds hokey, and no I don’t get paid by Google to tell you any of this, but I have really found over the last year that by really adopting Google’s ecosystem and using the latest tools available (like my Android phone and Google Glass) I’m finding that everything is effortless, giving me more time to focus on the things that matter, like this blog.

I'm betting 2014 will be the year of long-form content.

Social media changed everything.

For a long time now, we have been conversing in short sentences. Curbing so many of our communications to under 140 characters, that some bloggers have taken to curbing their content as well, trying to hold onto whatever sliver of the American’s attention span that is left.

Do we all have ADD? Are we all incapable of reading a few paragraphs and getting through the entirety of one’s thoughts before forming our own opinions? Have we been reduced to exchanging memes and animated GIFs as each one of us tries to get wittier than the other?

At some point or another, it all needs to stop. We need to get back to what writers do best: sharing stories.

No, I’m not talking about the Cliff’s notes or the 15 second video. I’m talking about the 1,000 word essay, the 45-minute documentary, the high resolution portfolio that took months to perfect. I think it’s time for us to step away from the “quick and easy” and focus on investing some time an quality in the content we share.

The reason that so many of us create content isn’t because it feeds our family or keeps a roof over our head. The reason most of us create content to share freely is because we enjoy doing it. So what’s better than being the best at what you enjoy doing?

I think we are heading into a time where people focus less on the “idea of the moment” and start to hone in on the “concept that lasts.” Sure, we’ll still exchange puns and funny images that mock our popular culture, but those that are interested in creating things will focus less on the quick and easy, not so much on instant gratification but more on creating ideas and artwork worth spreading.

As everyone becomes an expert in “social media” the value of being a social media expert in cheapened. We have all figured out how to communicate with each other online. Some of us perhaps better than others, but we’ve all learned that creating an account, building a presence and carrying on a conversation isn’t all that hard. What’s really hard is creating a conversation that lasts.

I may be stepping out on a limb, but I really feel that this next year will be the year of carefully-curated, meticulously thought-of and passionately perceived long-form Internet content.

Safecast Sensors Track Radiation Levels Around the World


Wondering whether or not it’s a good idea to move into that house next to the old nuclear power facility? Well, believe it or not, there’s an app for that.

Fellow +Google Glass Explorer +Chris Sewell tipped me off on a new open-source project called +Safecast which is centered around collecting information on radiation levels in communities around the world to increase citizen awareness.

The project took off in April of 2011, just one month and one day after the chain reaction resulting from a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan, completely crippling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

According to the information on the website about the various devices available to collect and share the data, only 117 have been deployed in the field so far. You can learn more here.

My First Week with Google Glass

This is the second post in a series of three posts. Please click here for the first post.

I have officially had +Google Glass for over a week now and I am totally impressed. It has been an incredible effective tool for going about my daily life and staying in touch with the people I love the most. Through text messaging, hangouts and Google+, I have been able to use Glass to keep in touch without touching a thing.

Apart from the ease of use and constant communication, Glass has offered me the opportunity to be very social in almost any situation. Since wearable technology isn’t quite commonplace, I get a lot of interesting reactions from people in the real world. Those that are tech savvy immediately identify it, but the majority of people have no idea what it is. Some people are even afraid of it.

Trying it on for the first time:

One of the greatest opportunities of being a glass explorer is having opportunity to showcase the new technology to other people. My favorite part of demonstrating Google Glass is to see the look on the faces of each person as they try it on for their first time. Once they are instructed to tap their temple to activate it, they are immediately amazed by the display (I was too). After that, I usually ask them to read what is under the time (“OK Glass”). As soon as the voice recognition is activated, the person is usually amazed and even sometimes startled.

After they get the hang of the gesture controls, voice commands and how to navigate through the user interface, they take off trying to search for different things and test various features. So far, through all of my demos I have noticed that “take a picture” and “get directions to” are the two most common commands used by demo participants. I would imagine those to be two of the most popular applications for the product and also two features that I use quite often. However, there is a lot that Glass can do beyond just snapping photos and giving directions.

What you need, when you need it:

One of the coolest things about Glass is how intuitive it is. If you are familiar with using Google Now on your phone, you already have most of the commands and features down. For the most part, anything you can do on Google Now on your phone, you can do through Glass. This makes setting reminders and being reminded a total cinch.

In addition to reminders, Google Now gives you updates on the things you always do, like following your favorite sports teams, to knowing when you need to leave to get to work on time. You can customize your Google Now experience by using Google search. As you look up addresses, follow sports teams and frequent businesses, Google suggests information based on your preferences. This keeps you from having to search for the same things, instead they are always at your fingertips.

Get Directions To…

There is some controversy of whether or not Google Glass should be used while driving. Already, states are adopting laws to prevent motorists from wearing Glass while they drive. Unfortunately, this is more a lack of understanding than a true prevention of accidents. To prove my point, the photos below show me using turn-by-turn navigation with Google Glass and without. If you notice, when using my cellphone, the directions are on a small screen which interferes with my field of view across the windshield. With, Google Glass, the instructions are in my field of vision and don’t distract me from my primary task, driving.

Unlike a traditional GPS or using your phone for directions, Glass gives you constant reminders and only illuminates the display when you’re about to make a change in direction. This curbs the distraction of having a constantly illuminated display in your vehicle which can inhibit your line of sight. (Also notice that Glass is transparent, so although I can see the heads up display, I can still see through it.)

Somethings you just don’t want to know:

One thing that Google Glass will help me with is curbing calories. Every decision we make when we go to eat has caloric consequences. Sure, we could hunker down on our smartphone, type in our unlock code, find the app with the calorie counter and then search for what we’re looking for, or we could simply tilt our head and say, “OK Glass, Google how many calories are in a Little Caesars pizza.”

With search at your fingertips, and right in the corner of your eye, it’s almost impossible to find an excuse not to look something up that could help you or your health.

What it means to be an Explorer:

The greatest reward of being an early adopter and part of the +Google Glass Explorer program, is the opportunity to meet so many new and interesting people. Below are just a few snaps of people trying G
lass on for the first time. Having the opportunity to share such a unique and incredible technology with them for the first time is something that I truly love about being an Explorer.

Instant Photography:

It almost goes without saying, but Google Glass is a great tool for “capturing the moment.” The camera is always ready, you don’t need to fumble around, and with a press of a button or quick voice command you can have images and videos that will automatically upload to the cloud that you can instantly share with your friends and family.

Taking pictures with Glass is impossibly simple. Take a look at the first snaps below from people that were trying Glass on for their first time:

How to get Google Glass:

Okay, if you really like the potential you see from Google Glass and you’d like to get an invitation to order, you’re in luck. I currently have 3 invitations available to send to those of you interested. In order to receive the invitation, you must have funds available to cover the full purchase price plus any applicable sales tax. The current cost is $1,500.00, which includes free overnight shipping.

If you are interested in getting Glass and would like one of my three invitations, please share this post through social media and contact me with the form at the bottom of my blog and tell me why you want Glass. I will chose the three most compelling reasons by 11:59 PM CT tonight (Sunday, December 15, 2013).

Be sure to stay tuned for the next post to learn more about my first month with Google Glass.