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Category Archives: Google
The legacy of Google+: Google’s Internet backbone for digital identity
The news that Google would be splitting Google+ into Streams, Photos and communication has already led to dozens of articles opining about what went wrong in the search giant’s pursuit of social media. Someday, Google Hangouts and Google Talk may become part of a wireless service from Google.
One challenge for judging its success or failure is that the majority of media accounts and analysis of Google+ always compared it to Facebook. That comparison is not entirely unreasonable, given reports about how Google executives were concerned about the rise of the world’s largest social network in 2011. If Google was trying to “play catchup” after having missed social, and Facebook is the leader, how can someone not compare the efforts?
If you looked at Google+ in terms of the ability of its social stream to attract and retain the attention and participation of a billion users for an hour every day, as Facebook does, it’s hard to argue that it succeeded. If you compared the time people spend on Plus +1’ing, sharing and commenting to Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or Twitter, Google’s effort paled.
No doubt because of my former colleague Edd Dumbill, however, I’ve always thought of Google+ as a social backbone for all of Google’s products, not simply a destination. Google+ was a way of associating an identity for hundreds of millions of users across applications and services.
When viewed in that context, it may be that Google+ is much more successful than many people have yet realized: according to Federal News Radio, the U.S. General Services Administration has quietly added Google to the list of identity providers that the federal government has authorized to provide secure digital credentials for logging into digital services. Today, it looks like Google will be be part of the federated identity strategy that could allow U.S. citizens to renew passports online, download personal heath data and reserve campground sites in the years ahead.
Even if “Streams” does end up going away, look for Google’s identity layer to endure and mature across all of its products and services, from Documents to Maps. In 2015, being able to confirm that you’re not a dog on the Internet can sometimes be useful, too.
[Image Source: JanRain social login trends]
Google Trends shares data on the U.S. “Veepstakes”
If you think that search trends, Google News mentions and YouTube video views offer insight into the selection of a vice presidential nominee, Google Trends has you covered with a new VEEP Stakes” dashboard. Below, I’ve embedded the data around the candidates that the Washington Post has deemed most likely to be chosen by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to round out the top of the Republican ticket this fall. (Due to the limited width of this blog template, you can’t see Virginia governor Bob McConnell or Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuno on the far right.)
Here’s how the Google Politics and Elections team introduced the dashboard in an update on Google Plus:
The summer before a Presidential election typically brings unending speculation about potential Vice Presidential picks. Veepstakes, as the process has commonly been referred to since 1988, has become a favorite topic of discussion among journalists and politicos.
We are excited to partner with +Washington Post’s +Chris Cillizza and The Fix to launch our first Veepstakes Trends Dashboard to track the buzz around GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s potential VP pick. The Veepstakes dashboard allows you to take the web’s real-time political pulse by comparing potential VP candidates’ YouTube video views, search traffic, and Google News mentions. You can even drill down and check out which potential nominee has been searched the most over the the last day, week or month.
While this is an interesting use of Google data, I find it of limited use in guessing who the Romney campaign will choose. The InTrade prediction for the 2012 Republican VP nominee ranked probabilities offer a much better instant insight into where the smart money from the collective wisdom of observers is pooled (Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) currently leads, at 21%) or, for that matter, Nate Silver’s statistical analyses of the vice presidential nominee’s effect on the race. All that being said, there’s a great deal of interest in who the next potential VP of the United States might be — and this data from Google reflect that wave. Make of it what you will.
Googling the 2012 election
The Internet will be a core component of the 2012 election cycle. Of course, you follow technology and politics, you know that’s been increasingly true for years. Last week, speaking at a briefing in Google’s DC offices, Google’s Rob Saliterman cited a 3/10/2011 op-ed by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal, where he wrote that The impact of the Internet on elections has only begun to be felt:
The Internet makes it likely that more campaigns will be self-directed from the grass roots. The tea party movement, for example, would have been impossible to organize and coordinate without email and the Web. Thus campaign managers will have to rely less on activity in centralized headquarters and more on volunteers—working at their pace and in their way—to reach voters on their laptops, tablets and smart phones.
Cutting-edge campaigns have quickly grasped how the Web makes it easier and less expensive to transmit information. But campaigns are only starting to understand how to use the Web and social-networking tools to make video and other data go viral—moving not just to those on a campaign’s email list but to the broader public.
It took decades for the changes inaugurated by the “We Like Ike” TV ads to fully take hold. It will likewise take time for political practitioners to figure out what works and what doesn’t work on the Internet. But we are seeing a version of Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” fundamentally alter the landscape of American politics. It will have huge implications on how campaigns are run, who we elect, and what kind of country we become.
A year later, we’re seeing that reality writ large upon the canvas of the 2012 elections. The portrait of the impact of the Internet and mobile devices upon the decisions that Saliterman painted through statistics offers a glimpse at where the future is trending. (Sources noted where provided.)
- 83% of mobile phone owners are registered voters. (Nielsen Mobile)
- One third of voters learn from online-only sources. (Pew).
- 33% of likely voters don’t watch live TV. (Accenture)
- 70% of likely Republican voters in South Carolina went online before the primary.
- 2012 Primary voters viewed 14-20 sources before voting.
- 49% of people compared different candidates online.
In that context, Saliterman shared out to the room of Washington politicos and media three ways that campaigns are using the Internet — or, more specifically, Google products — to reach voters and influence the political conversation:
- Google search advertising, used for rapid response to the political news cycle, anticipating what people are searching for and putting a campaign or media’s story where it will be found.
- Geotargeted advertising, where likely voters in a primary, municipal election or state election can be served contextual messages based upon the location from which they’re accessing a webpage
- Promoted video ads on YouTube, the world’s biggest video platform
More information on Google Elections is, naturally, available online, along with a toolkit.
There’s also a directory of public data that contains information on countries far beyond the borders of the U.S. that will be of interest to journalists and researchers who are not engaged in electoral politics.
Postscript: For an excellent discussion of where campaigns are going in search of the digital voter, read Amy Schatz in the Wall Street Journal.
Correction: A statistic provided by Google about the percentage of smartphone/tablet owners that are registered to vote was removed from this post after it could not be confirmed.
HUD, Veterans Affairs and Jon Bon Jovi’s foundation launch app challenge for homeless veterans
To paraphrase President Kennedy: Ask not what your country can code for you — ask what you can code to help your country. If you’re a developer, consider empowering your fellow citizens help the homeless veterans in your community. The Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation have collaborated to back a new challenge to developers to create a better way to help the homeless veterans using the Internet and mobile devices.
“Last year’s 12 percent drop in Veterans homelessness shows the results of President Obama’s and the whole administration’s commitment to ending Veterans homelessness,” said Secretary of House and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Jon Bon Jovi for being a part of that effort and for using competition and innovation to advance the cause of ending homelessness.”
The idea here is relatively straightforward: use the open innovation approach that the White House has successfully applied elsewhere federal government to tap into the distributed creativity of the technology community all over the country.
“This contest taps the talent and deep compassion of the Nation’s developer community,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, in a prepared statement. “We are asking them to make a free, easy-to-use Web and smartphone app that provides current information about housing, health clinics and food banks.”
While “Project REACH” stands for “Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless (REACH),” it actually aspires to do something more meaningful: give mobile citizens and caregivers the information they need to help a homeless veteran where and when it’s needed.
This app “will better connect our nation’s homeless to resources that are already available to them in a manner that reaches them where they are,” said Aneesh Chopra, the first US CTO, in a conference call today with reporters. Chopra, who left the administration earlier this year, later clarified that he was serving as a volunteer and judge for the challenge.
To say that improving the current state of affairs with homeless veterans is needed would be a gross understatement. “Homelessness for anyone is a national tragedy,” said Sean Donovan, secretary of HUD, in today’s call. “It’s never worse than for our nation’s veterans.”
The “Obama administation believes that no one who has fought for our country should ever be invisible to the American people,” said Donovan, who noted that while HUD has housed 28,000 veterans and has gotten nearly “nearly 1 in 5 homeless veterans off our nation’s streets,” more effort is needed.
He’s right. Here’s your jarring statistic of the day: One out of every six men and women in the United States’ homeless shelters are veterans. Veterans are 50 percent, according to the VA, are more likely to fall into homelessness compared to other Americans
The Project REACH challenge asks developers to create a mobile or Web application that will connect service providers to real-time information about resources for the homeless and others in need. “What if we had the ability, in real-time, drawing on local data, to help the homeless vet?” asked Donovan today. He wants to see information that can help them find a place to sleep, find services or work put in the palms of the hands of anyone, giving ordinary citizens the ability to help homeless veterans.
Instead of offering spare change, in other words, a citizen could try to help connect a homeless veteran with services and providers.
The first five entries to meet the requirements will receive a $10,000 cash prize and the opportunity to test their app at the JBJ Soul Kitchen. The winner will receive a $25,000 prize.
“At the Soul Kitchen we’ve seen the need for a simple, user-friendly, comprehensive application that connects those in need to resources in their community,” said Jon Bon Jovi, legendary rock musician, chairman of the JBJ Soul Foundation and White House Council Member, in a prepared statement. “As we sought out a solution to resolve the disconnect, we found the VA, HUD and HHS to be of like mind. Together we can provide the information about existing services – now we need the bright minds in the developer community to create a platform to tie it all together.”
Empowering people to help one another through mobile technology when they want to do so is more about the right-time Web than real-time. And yes, that should sound familiar.
Community groups and service providers sometime lack the right tools, too, explained W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of veterans affairs, on the call today. The contest launched today will use Internet and smartphones to help them. The app should use tech to show which community provider has a bed or find an employer with openings, he said.
“It’s a high tech, high compassion, low cost solution,” said Gould, that “puts the power in the hands of anyone” to use data to help veterans get the help that they need. He wrote more about using technology to help homeless veterans at the White House blog:
Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) challenges applicants to make a free, easy-to-use, and broadly accessible web- and Smartphone app to provide current and up-to-date information about housing and shelter, health clinics, food banks, and other services available to the homeless. It is designed to tap the enormous talent and deep compassion of the nation’s developer community to help us deliver vital information to the people who care for the homeless.
People caring for homeless veterans will be able to use this app to look up the location and availability of shelters, free clinics, and other social services – and instantaneously be able to share this critical information with those in need.
Bon Jovi, when asked about whether homeless veterans have smartphones on today’s call, told a story about a man at the Soul Kitchen who stayed late into the evening. The staff realized that he didn’t have a place to go and turned to the Internet to try to find a place for him. Although they found that it was easy to find local shelters, said Bon Joivthe websites didn’t inform them of hours and bed availability.
“People like me, who want to help, sometimes just don’t know, real-time, if there are beds available,” he said. “Think about the guys like me that have a computer, in the Soul Kitchen, that want to help.”
As healthcare blogger Brian Ahier noted this afternoon in sharing his post on Project REACH, this is the sort of opportunity that developers who want to make a major contribution to their communities can be proud to work upon.
Improving the ability of citizens to help homeless veterans is a canonical example of working on stuff that matters.
“We will, through our broad and deep network at HUD, make sure that whoever wins this competition, will make sure that app and tech is available to more than 8,000 providers,” said Donovan.
If that network Bon Jovi’s star power can help draw more attention to the challenge and any eventual services, more of the nation’s civic surplus just might get tapped, as more coders find that’s there’s a new form of public service available to them in the 21st century.
A Conversation About Social Media, Open Government and eDemocracy [VIDEO]
If the town square now includes public discourse online, democratic governments in the 21st century are finding that part of civic life now includes listening there. Given what we’ve seen in this young century, how governments deal with social media is now part of how they deal with civil liberties, press freedom, privacy and freedom of expression in general.
At the end of Social Media Week 2012, I moderated a discussion with Matt Lira, Lorelei Kelly our Clay Johnson at the U.S. National Archives. This conversation explored more than how social media is changing politics in Washington: we looked at its potential to can help elected officials and other public servants make better policy decisions in the 21st century.
I hope you find it of interest; all three of the panelists gave thoughtful answers to the questions that I and the audience posed.
The expanding world of open data journalism
From healthcare to finance to emergency response, data holds immense potential to help citizens and government. Putting data to work for the public good, however, will require data journalists to apply the powerful emerging tools in the newsroom stack to the explosion of information from government, business and their fellow citizens. The promise of data journalism has been a strong theme throughout the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting’s (NICAR) 2012 conference.
It was in that context that I presented upon “Open Data Journalism” this morning, which, to paraphrase Jonathan Stray, I’d define as obtaining, reporting upon, curating and publishing open data in the public interest. My slides, which broadly describe what I’m seeing in the world of open government today, are embedded below.
How do you build online community and moderate social media?
Had so much fun at our #smwdc #smwengage panel: instagr.am/p/G9uDPjJyHh/ Thanks to @phoebedoris @AlexHortonVA @mjenkins @NishaChittal @digiphile
— merici (@merici) February 14, 2012
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsLast month, I wrote a popular post on the value of blog comments. My take: Whether you choose to have comments or not speaks to whether you want to create an online community, which requires a human’s touch to manage and moderate, or to simply publish your thoughts publicly online, without making the necessary commitment of time and patience.
As is often the case, I agree with Mathew Ingram: blog comments are worth the effort. Last week, I had the opportunity to expand upon what I meant in a public forum here in the District of Columbia during Social Media Week.
Creating and managing high quality online conversations isn’t easy but I strongly believe that it’s worth it. Following is a storify of the online conversation that emerged on the Twitter “backchannel” during the panel discussion and some rules of the road that explain how I’m approaching moderation on Facebook and Google+, where I now have over 50,000 circlers/subscribers combined.http://storify.com/digiphile/a-story-of-online-community-comments-and-moderatio.js
[View the story “A story of online community, comments and moderation” on Storify]
On moderating Facebook and Google+ public pages
Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of spam and pornography links pop up on the blogs I moderate, on Facebook and on the Google+. Fortunately, Google and Facebook both give us the ability to moderate comments and, if we wish, to block other people who do not respect the opinions or character of others. Last month, I saw a lack of clarity about my approach to online community, so here’s how I think about it, with a nod to Dan Gillmor’s example:
I can and do block spammers and people posting links to pornography.
I generally leave comments on my blogs, precisely because I value conversations, despite the issues that persist online. I have been moderating discussion in online forums and blogs for many years, including those of my publishers.
Insulting me, slandering my employer or my professional work won’t help your case. Insulting others will ruin it. I was a teacher in my twenties. I would not tolerate disrespectful behavior in my classroom, either to me or to other students. If you can’t be civil and continue to insult others, much less the person hosting the forum, you were asked to leave and see the principal.
If the behavior persists, you will lose the privilege of participating in the class at all. Eventually, you get expelled. On Google+ or blogs, that takes the form of being defriended, banned or blocked from my public updates. I prefer not to block users but I will do so. I respect your right to speak freely on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, whether that involves cursing or ignorance.
I strongly believe in the First Amendment, with respect to government not censoring citizens. That said, I do not feel obligated to host such speech on my own blog, particularly if it is directed towards other commenters. I believe that building and maintaining healthy communities, online of offline, requires that the people hosting them enforce standards for participation that encourage civil dialogue.
I hope that makes sense to folks here. If not, you are welcome to let me know in the comments.
A tale of 42 tweets: Highlights from my first Social Media Week in DC
Last week was “Social Media Week” here in DC. The week featured speakers, panels, workshops, events, and parties all across the District, celebrating tech and social media in the nation’s Capital, including a special edition of the DC Tech Meetup. I moderated four panels, participated in a fifth and attended what I could otherwise. I found the occasion to be a great way to meet new people around the District. Following is a storify of some of my personal highlights, as told in tweets and photographs. This is by no means representative of everyone’s experiences, which are as varied as the attendees. It’s solely what I saw and what lingered from the social media week that was.
http://storify.com/digiphile/selected-highlights-of-my-2012-social-media-week-i.js[View the story “Selected Highlights of my 2012 Social Media Week in DC” on Storify]