On Google+: First Impressions

There’s a new social kid on the block and he’s raring to ‘rassle. When I first heard about Google+ (G+), my thoughts were along the lines of “Oh,crap. Another thing to look at.” As these social platforms proliferate, it takes a lot of time to familiarize oneself with them, ramp up in how to best use them, and then sit in them to gain value.

The vast majority of people who have added me to their G+ circles *seem* to be doing so from a SharePoint slant, which is to be expected, as that’s my most socially available persona. That’s gratifying, of course. (One of my beefs with the emails I get telling me that I’ve been added to someone’s circle is that it doesn’t say what circle it was. “SharePoint” or “Jerks who bloviate”? I have to guess why they might have added me.)

It seems that the largest flaw with Google+ circles isn’t the circles themselves, but how people are using them so far, at least based on my minimal watching. (So far I’m primarily a lurker.) While it’s important to put people into circles which makes sense to me for consumption, those selfsame people should be sure to publish to their circle(s) which is/are relevant to the content, IMO.

So we still seem to have the classic metadata problem which we always run into with any social or collaborative tool. How the consumer wants to receive content is often not aligned with how the publisher wants to send it. If I publish photos of my kid – as awesome as he is – to my SharePoint circle, I’ve in essence lost a point of trust with the people in that circle, or at least I should.

One of *my* mistakes so far has been to add too many people to my SharePoint circle. I started grabbing people who added me to one of their circles and dropping them into my SharePoint circle somewhat blindly. Now I’ve got a smaller version of the same issue I have with Facebook: I’ve accepted too many people into my “realm” (I needed a transcendent word) and I need to pare it back. It’s the same issue I had when I started with Twitter and the reason why I’m following relatively few people compared to many other people. I don’t care about the popularity contest part of this: I want to know that I will see good content on the topics I choose. (As with Twitter and Facebook, likewise LinkedIn: I want the connections I have to people with there to mean something. See my Collecting Souls posts: 1, 2 and 3.)

Tom Resing (@resing– I’m going to stick with Twitter handles for links, at least for now) shared a post on G+ which I found really interesting:


(What’s the best way to share a G+ post outside of G+? As far as I know, there’s no good mechanism for it, so a screen grab seemed like a reasonable approach.)

If Mike (G+: Mike Elgan) is correct and G+ is successful, I could see G+ beginning to supplant blogs, Twitter, and personal emails, but I’m not sold yet. I’m going to continue to sit back a while and watch how this Google+ thing plays out.

* Thanks to Kiran Voleti for the really big +1 graphic: http://www.kiranvoleti.com/google-plus-one-vector-logo-freebie

Should You Use a CDN for jQuery Libraries?

I frequently have people ask me whether they should store jQuery libraries in house or reference external Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) instead.

I see plusses and minuses for using the various CDNs out there. (There are several big ones: Google, Microsoft, etc.)  Reducing the ‘hits on the server’ thing is potentially one plus, but unless you are seeing significant performance issues, there’s not really a benefit there.

My biggest concern is always one of control. By using a CDN, you are deciding that you trust Google or Microsoft more than you trust yourself to store and serve up the files. Yes, that’s their business, and they have a fantastic track record, but.

Another thing is the whole firewall question. While you may be reducing the traffic on the server and from your server to the browser, you’re increasing the traffic across the firewall. In many cases, I see the network as a far bigger problem than the SharePoint server(s) when it comes to throughput.  Make sure your firewall guys can handle it and sign off on it.

Finally, by hosting things yourself, you have control over naming, version management, etc.  If there’s a new version of jQuery (or anything else), you probably don’t want to just have Google flip you to it automatically.  Given this, the whole ‘kept up to date’ argument sort of falls apart.

All in all, I’m not sold on using a CDN at all. If you want "out of sight, out of mind", then it’s a decent option, but if you have problems, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability

With Microsoft’s Bing launched today, I’ve been spending some time trying to understand the whole online advertising thing better.  I’m trying to figure it out using a $50 budget to advertise our company with Microsoft adCenter.  The principles look similar to Google‘s, but are undoubtedly different enough under the covers to keep Microsoft up at night.  To be fair, I’ve also tossed a $50 budget Google’s way to try out AdWords as well.  We’ll see which one brings better traffic to our Web site.

Ever wondered how Google determines which ads are shown on a given results page?  A great article in this month’s Wired Magazine entitled Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability tells you how it all works (minus the special sauce, of course!). plus a lot more about the history of how Google got to where it is today with ad auctions.

Here’s an excerpt:

Most people think of the Google ad auction as a straightforward affair. In fact, there’s a key component that few users know about and even sophisticated advertisers don’t fully understand. The bids themselves are only a part of what ultimately determines the auction winners. The other major determinant is something called the quality score. This metric strives to ensure that the ads Google shows on its results page are true, high-caliber matches for what users are querying. If they aren’t, the whole system suffers and Google makes less money.

Google determines quality scores by calculating multiple factors, including the relevance of the ad to the specific keyword or keywords, the quality of the landing page the ad is linked to, and, above all, the percentage of times users actually click on a given ad when it appears on a results page. (Other factors, Google won’t even discuss.) There’s also a penalty invoked when the ad quality is too low—in such cases, the company slaps a minimum bid on the advertiser. Google explains that this practice—reviled by many companies affected by it—protects users from being exposed to irrelevant or annoying ads that would sour people on sponsored links in general. Several lawsuits have been filed by would-be advertisers who claim that they are victims of an arbitrary process by a quasi monopoly.

You can argue about fairness, but arbitrary it ain’t. To figure out the quality score, Google needs to estimate in advance how many users will click on an ad. That’s very tricky, especially since we’re talking about billions of auctions. But since the ad model depends on predicting clickthroughs as perfectly as possible, the company must quantify and analyze every twist and turn of the data. Susan Wojcicki, who oversees Google’s advertising, refers to it as “the physics of clicks.”