Category Archives: Google

Leadership at Google, talent and education

Interesting article on how Google’s HR team uses “data” to uncover leadership qualities in its employees. Their findings may surprise a bit…”successful managers”, or however they define such qualities, are not necessarily correlated to their undergrad/bschool, SAT boards or pedigree.

Its probably some combination of autonomy, gumption, grit and innate talent?




On this topic, i recently finished a wonderful book by Amanda Ripley titled “Smartest Kids in the World”. This book outlines teaching methods and approach in disparate countries like Korea, Finland and Poland. The book juxtaposes these approaches to teaching math vis a vis “how its done” in the US. Fascinating if you have children and think about the US education system, if you are interested in US competitiveness and labor, how math influences skill sets for the work population, etc…smartest kids

Web 2.0 Women

Fast Company wrote a good article on some of the most influential women on the web.

Some names you would expect to see, including Marissa Mayer at Google and Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post, along with a few others that were interesting to read about.

Fast Company Women of the Web

Fast Company Women of the Web

Web traffic hitting all time highs? Maybe in some categories!

Mediabistro mentioned in a recent article that “ broke its monthly record of Nielsen unique users, posting nearly 13 million unique users in September. This is a 43% increase from Sept 2007, and 15% over the previous record of 11.2 million unique users in August.”  I think October is going to surpass even those types of numbers for web sites covering the news and finance space.

CNET's graph for the Finance vertical


Yahoo Finance is also experiencing some fantastic leaps, according to Nielsen’s metrics (and a recent CNET article). So whether you agree with Nielsen’s metrics (or methodology for that matter), directionally, its interesting to see large increases in on-line usage during this most volatile of periods. As always, when traffic spikes in the Finance vertical, often its due to economic calamities, which in turn cause advertisers to pull back spending.

According to another CNET article, “…we continue to believe that paid search-ad budgets will remain intact, based on our previously published analysis on the historical experience of direct-mail budgets during recessions. We also believe that display advertising could experience negative growth (we are projecting mid-single-digit growth in 2009), which would weigh heavily on Yahoo,” the analysts said.

October may register one of the biggest month’s ever for traffic in these verticals?!  I would like to see usage of online vs TV over the past 6 months and attempt to determine if users are going online more or less (vs turning on their TV) to follow the banking crisis?

iPhones, android, and the new T-Mobile G1

First time in over a year that I am excited again for a new phone / gadget. I will admit, the iPhone has kept me entertained and involved with the continuous stream of apps (currently enjoying the recently downloaded Vicinity), Pandora for music and as always, the photo tool whereby I can show friends snaps from past weekends.

But, I have now had it with that ever frustrating device.  My patience has been expended and my nerves are frayed (not really, but sounded dramatic).  Sometimes my iPhone rings, sometimes calls go straight to voicemail? Hmm, and I rely on my phone for business!  Since this is my third iPhone in under a year, I dont think this specific device is buggy. Its much bigger than that!

NYT Rendering of a Google mobile enthusiast!

NYT Rendering of a Google mobile enthusiast!

Thus, my curiosity for the latest shiny object is (drum roll) the latest android based phone from Google. When does this hit AT&T’s network? Please….soon?! The NYT article suggests it has similar functionality to the iPhone, will enable additional apps that the iPhone (and Apple) prevent (ie free calling via skype type tech) but will not have Flash enabled video?

* Side note: Adobe came out with Flash 10 this week after many months of beta…and yet mobile is so far behind with using Flash? Flash enabled video on the web accounts for 85%+ of all videos viewed according to a recent article….so why isnt the iPhone (or any of these smart-phones) enabling Flash? Obviously to engender the usage of their own core tech…but annoying! Requiring video content publishers to encode in various file formats for the web and then for mobile platforms (expensive and time consuming and limiting adoption)…but that is for another rant!

What are the pitfalls for this new device you ask? As the article suggests, “…where Android really falls down is in the department. There’s no companion program like iTunes to sync your photos, music and videos to the phone; you’re expected to drag these items to the phone manually after connecting via USB cable to your Mac or PC. More time-consuming fussiness.”  Since I sync my life (music, photos, calendar) daily, this could be very problematic?  MocoNews (a PaidContent site) has an interesting review of the feature set.

What I look forward to are the android features: “voice dialing, picture messaging, built-in audio recording and the ability to turn any song into a ring tone are all included — no charge.”

Not earth shattering, but enough fun on long train rides to keep this enthusiast from catching the bored bug. As the Google blog on mobile described in an article titled “The Future of Mobile”, “…. it’s safe to say that the mobile phone may be the most prolific consumer product ever invented.”!

NYT photo of android handset

NYT photo of android handset

Google launches meme tracker

Techcrunch (and Google’s blog) reported today that Google launched a new blog tracker and search site.

I often look at Digg or Yahoo‘s “top search” box on Yahoo’s home page to get a sense of what people are talking about, looking for, etc. Digg may have a delayed effect and Yahoo’s result may be more mainstream than what interests me?

Google Blog Search

Google Blog Search

Will see if Google’s new site surfaces timely and relevant stories or themes “before the masses” and/or at the same time as Drudge (which acts as a proxy for mainstream media).

Chat, Social Media and Virtual Worlds

How do these three mediums converge in the coming year(s)?

While IM, text and email are firmly planted into our daily rituals (unless you are under the age of 21, where communication is via a social network site). Recently, the question of this convergence bubbled to the surface as I spoke with a 17 year old and found out he and his friends rarely, if never, used their email accounts? His group of friends, not unlike other people his age, supposedly converse via the platforms such as Facebook. You dont use email I asked?

Is this a tidal shift in user adoption or a “stage of life” whereas once the late teens and early collegiate kids hit the work world, their email address will become indespensible…like the rest of us? Or, will Facebook (or fill in the blank social media platform supplant email and its ilk to become the connectivity factor that is dominant?

Thinking more on this subject, if social media becomes the entry point to the web and THE platform for communcation, then a more personalized experience will gradually morphy/evolve from the static experience of today. Thus, virtual worlds (or elements of these experiences – games, sticky apps, personalization via avatars, etc) will make their way into the mainstream dialogue.

Thus, I took a look at a few of the virtual worlds that are teeming with small, but very active users. Sites such as Gaia with their bobble heads focusing on the early teen market with their sticky casual games made me think the casual game market is going to continue to explode. 

Club Penguin, geared towards the 6-14 year old was not that interesting but then again I wasnt the target demo! and the ability to personalize one’s “room” was intriguing in that its controlled experience, ie one room (unlike Second Life’s free for all) suggested personalization for the college dorm set. which was geared towards late teens, provided hip avatars that personified the zeitgeist of that age bracket – wanting to be someone much cooler than reality!  Habbo was another interesting site that focused on the early teen market and had an active chat community. I wont touch on Second Life, arguably the most profound and social developed of all sites with its DYI model and functioning currency.

Other sites caught my attention, like Moove with its edgy avatars seemingly geared towards an older audience.

Active Worlds was another DYI build and linux based for the more sophisticated EE amongst us. Zwinky, which was bought by IAC was geared entirely at the tween girl market. Other sites that hit my radar were Stardoll for the late teen demo, whose consumption oriented fashionista behaviors seemed the most likely for ecommerce based revenue streams. Kaneva with their edgy avatars had a high “cool” factor.

Google’s Lively (which I couldnt access since they dont support Mac based OS….annoying) is a must see at this point, despite a lack of fanfare from those I know who have toyed with their app. Meez, a site with 3d avatars and games was another site speaking to the interactivity of entertainment and personalization,

Sites that I plan to review are Cyworld and Roma Victor (an MMORPG based on Hadrian’s wall and Rome;  where in 2007, corporal punishment was instituted amongst its players for crimes against others for misdeeds).

Making Money with Widgets? Not quite…..

I enjoyed the recent article on CNET about widgets and the struggling business models associated with these apps. Even if Slide or RockYou (40m people use the Wall app) have an installed base on Facebook, Hi5, Myspace, Bebo, etc etc  and millions of dollars in VC funding have been plowed into these social startups, the ability to make money and grow these businesses into a $100m revenue line is elusive.

A few take aways from the CNET article “Widget Makers Get a Makeover”:

– Atomization of the web has proved to be viral and scaleable on the usage front. Not necessarily so on tying revenue to those usage models. I think there is an analogy watching what Google is doing with the Feedburner asset (blog on feedburner), AdSense and RSS monetization?

– Advertisers dont seem to like UGC and are still skeptical on this “new medium” where they still dont understand the interactivity factors. Fast-forward to the end of the article….advertisers take a long time to understand where their customers reside and understand what their customers are doing online. Curious to see how Visa fares, for example?

– Education: Widget makers are moving to language such as “social entertainment applications” to describe the experience; putting lipstick on the pig or evolving the landscape and maturing the marketing message?

– And the forecasts….”Forrester Research predicts.. in a report late last year that ad spending on “emerging channels,” which includes social media and widgets, will grow to more than $10.6 billion by 2012, one-sixth of the overall $61 billion spent on interactive marketing by that time. That’s up from about $2.1 billion it expects in 2008.” Seems really really aggressive? I am quite skeptical to say the least. But these are the types of numbers that support the ridiculous valuations of Slide, RockYou and Facebook (oh yeah, and LinkedIn)!

– Again: “Within emerging channels, the research firm forecasts that social media will drive most of the ad spending. In 2012, it expects ad sales to social media sites will be $6.9 billion, up from $1.5 billion this year and $600 million last year.”

– I completely agree with Ms. Li in that “this market is extremely confusing to marketers, some who even don’t understand what Facebook is,” said Charlene Li, a former analyst at Forrester Research. “The VCs are taking a step back, but what’s the reality behind this, is that it takes a long time for marketers to understand where their customers are at.”