Geosocial Media

Google adds Snippets to Google Maps

I know I already posted about how I wouldn’t post about social media anymore. But I changed my mind. I’m just going to post about what interests me, if it happens to, because frankly I’m not making any money off of this blog anyway. I may as well enjoy myself.

That having been said, I’m going back to one of my favorite subjects today, Google. That is because today Google announced they are adding Snippets – or, “+Snippets, if we are to start correctly employing their attempt at owning addition – to Google Maps.

All you have to do is click on the “Share” button in your G+ toolbar when you’re on a map, and you get a number of options for storing or sending.

Now, if you’ve been wondering why Google Plus would have as much potential as Facebook in the social network arena, this is why.

You see, you probably already use Google Maps anyway. It’s likely you already use Google Search, Gmail and YouTube, right? So you’re reminded that there’s functionality you’re missing out on when you go to these things and don’t have a G+ account of your own.

We’re maybe another two or three years away from Google taking over creating the phone book. The nice thing is, before you call someone, you’ll be able to read their profile, look at satellite images of where they live, get reviews of them from co-workers, read where they like to eat…

Slowly but surely, Google is creating a stalker’s paradise, where no one will have privacy or be protected. Who else is looking forward to all those home invasions?

Top 5 Useless New Technologies

There are a lot of gadget toys available to us these days. They’re all pretty neat, but how useful are any of them anyway? These five are, in my opinion, the most worthless of the lot.

Sorry ladies - theyre married!

1) Facetime/Video Phone Calls

I know a lot of Apple people will, again, cry foul at this. It’s a great idea, and why do I keep bashing Apple? I’m doing it because no one uses Facetime, and no one asked for it. How many people bought an iPhone 4 or iPod Touch because it afforded them the ability to place a video call? I sure don’t hear anyone telling me to get one so they can see me while they’re talking to me.

And I’m incredibly handsome!

Out of curiosity, I ran a search for, “does anyone need Facetime,” just to see if there was any consensus on this. What I found were forum posts from people asking complete strangers if they had an iPhone 4, and could they call them “just to try this Facetime thing out.” There’s even an article on how Apple now has a service so you can Facetime them, because they know full well no one uses this thing.

BTW, can this really be called “innovation” when most laptops now have built-in cameras, and there are programs like Skype that people don’t use very much either? The only industry that’s found any niche with video chat so far are sex cams. And I don’t see too many consumers or marketing people in that industry doing a lot of bragging.

2) QR Codes/MS Tags

Heres the QR code for this very post - if you really care.

Both of these things come from the same idea: A physical bar code that can be read by a phone, and call up a web site or video for the consumer. See one on your favorite soda? Scan it and see a commercial for the movie “Avatar!” That’ll be fun!

But it’s not. Setting up the app to scan these things for most users isn’t easy, and the payoff is just seeing the company’s advertising. That’s so lame it defies language.

3) Augmented Reality

Here’s one that sprang up a while back and never took off. The idea was that, though your phone’s camera, you could see your surroundings with additional information – like the location of your Twitter friends, or Google Maps information on the shops your camera was looking at.

The reason this flopped seems to be two-fold: First, an app has to be set up, which is not fun to have to do. I know the first few that came out required several apps running at once. I, like most, gave up after that.

Second, the result was never terribly Earth shattering. Sure, it’s tripy to see a row of restaurants with their review information hanging over them, but actually reading the reviews is easier on a plain old flat page of text.

4) Geosocial Networking

I’m looking at you, Foursquare and Gowalla and Facebook Places. I’ve bitched about these things long enough I don’t feel I need to do much more here. But I did finally, for the last time, end my relationship with Foursquare because of the fruitlessness of it. No one cares where you went to lunch today, no one cares that you’re the Mayor of the local pizzeria, and getting 1/2 off a taco when you buy another taco of equal or lesser value is a stupid offer. I’ll just buy two tacos, and not look like another douche playing with his phone in public, thank you.

5) 3-D

That James Cameron decided this was the “Next Big Thing” should have clued in  everyone that this was not the next big thing. I saw “Tron: Legacy” last week at IMAX, in 3D, and you know what? The IMAX screen is what was impressive – but I forgot I was looking at anything in 3-D.

In fact halfway through the movie I was trying to force myself to see the 3-D and couldn’t. My mind had adjusted to depth – just the way it does when I’m in the real world. The real world is 3-D and I don’t hear anyone saying, “Wow! Driving is such a rush! It’s like all the other cars are coming at me! Classic.”

Even Adolph Hitler knows "Avatar" sucked.

My point with all of these things is that they will not last, unless the developers of these technologies can find an easy way to make us need them. E-mail didn’t need much to become widespread because it’s simple to set up, and simple to understand. It came along when people wrote letters – on paper! – so the concept was pretty easy to get.

If all these companies celebrating their innovation were really innovating, they’d work on fulfilling a current need. Creating a solution, then telling us how we have the need for it, when we don’t, is silly and wasteful.

Great Foursquare Cheats

I recently had someone accuse me of cheating on Foursquare.

I was accused of this because I cheated on Foursquare. So it was  a fair call. A while back I wrote a post explaining why I cheat at Foursquare, so I don’t want to go into that again.

All I’ll add is that there isn’t much to Foursquare, and too many people are invested in it. I refuse to legitimize people’s obsession with Mayorships and Badges by obeying rules that are meaningless and easily broken. If your day is really made or broken because someone takes your Mayorship, please, put down your phone and get a puppy. I swear, puppies are a lot more fulfilling in the long run.

But since I know a lot of people are more interested in gaming Foursquare than using it the way they are supposed to, (because how fun is that?) here are some of the things I’ve done that work, make enemies, and go against both the rules and spirit of Foursquare. Enjoy!

1) Faulty GPS Checkins – My phone’s GPS isn’t the best. For some reason, it often thinks I’m miles away from where I really am. This used to frustrate me when I would try to check into a place I was actually at.

If you see this happening, it means you can actually check into a LOT of places you aren’t at! If this happens to you a lot, try looking at what is close by according to Foursquare. If you’re at home, and it thinks you’re a couple of miles away, start checking into those places. You could become Mayor of an ass-ton of venues, without even leaving your couch. This is how I managed to become mayor of my work place – much to the chagrin of my boss. 🙂

Remember, checking into a place a bunch of times won’t make you Mayor. Only checking into a place the most days in a month will get you a Mayorship. So just set a time each day to check into places you aren’t at, and eventually you’ll get a lot of those tiny yellow crown symbols.

2) Make stuff up – This is a no brainer. If you want to be Mayor of more places, start creating them! A lot of people invent venues for public bathrooms, their parking space, or homes. No one else is going to bother checking into “Don Noodlemeyer’s Bologna Factory,” so you can become Mayor of that pretty quickly. (And remember, 10 Mayorships and you get a badge!)

3) Moving the location pin – This is probably the sneakiest way to get a check-in, and frankly I’m surprised Foursquare hasn’t done anything about it.

When you reach a certain level on the site, (and I swear, I don’t know how I got to this level myself,) you have the ability to edit locations. On a Google-generated map, you can grab the red location pins and move them somewhere else.

That means, if you want to be mayor of the Eiffel Tower, all you need to do is go to the Eiffel Tower’s location on the Foursquare site, pick it up, and drop it in your area. Then zoom into it on the map, fine tune a little by dropping it closer and closer to your home… and presto! The check in for the Eiffel Tower is now in your living room. Check into it as many times as you can in a month, get the mayorship, then put it back. Or don’t! Who cares? Obviously Foursquare doesn’t, or you wouldn’t be able to do this in the first place.

4) Badge Lists – Foursquare isn’t all about Mayorships, it’s also about badges. Making that happen means knowing which ones are available. There are a lot of lists of available badges and the ways you can get them. This is a good list from The Kruser to use as a reference.

Armed with this, you can see what you’ll need to do to get some of these. For instance, the Pizza badge needs 20 check ins at pizzerias. So anytime you’re anywhere, look around to see if you’re near a pizzeria and check your ass in!

You can also check for places with a lot of check-ins, check into it yourself, and get the Swarm badge! Or schedule a reminder for yourself to do some shout out that got people a badge for something in the past… It’s all about being prepared with the instructions that worked for others before.

My Dog Peed on your Foursquare

Foursquare is exactly like a dog peeing on the ground to claim territory.

Let me explain…

MMy Dog Peed on your Foursquare

I was walking our dog Martini the other day. (Her full name is Ms. Martini Kookoo-Bear, Contessa de Guadalupe, in case you really want to know how insane my Girlfriend and I are.)

Anyway, while walking, she saw a wet patch on the ground where another dog had urinated. This instantly got her attention. She went to the puddle on the gravel, sniffed at it, then squatted over it and peed on it herself. To break that out:

1) She went for a walk.
2) She sniffed another dog’s pee on her turf.
3) She marked it herself, in the hopes other dogs would recognize the area as her fiefdom.

Now break out what you do with the Foursquare app:

1) You go to a place.
2) You look the place up to see if anyone’s been there.
3) You check in, in the hopes that you’ll become “Mayor.”

This is part of why Foursquare works for so many people. It isn’t the badges, which few people I know brag about. (Not many people get anything more exotic than the “Crunked” badge anyway.) It certainly isn’t the points, which no one – including Foursquare – knows what they mean.

What people do understand is, “I’m king of the hill, come try to knock me down.” At my own company, there’s a check-in war going on between several employees to become Mayor of the place. Why? I’m not sure – I may be more of a cat person myself.

It does offer a new take on how to get traffic to do something. We know using “free” is always great for getting people to click through, and many sites including Foursquare have already seen the value of including badges, which are cute, but cost nothing to provide and are worth nothing monetarily.

Now we have proof of a new incentive: Territorial pissing ground.

Some businesses have already started giving away coupons or free product to their, “mayors.” Starbucks will give a free coffee a month to them, so it becomes actually worth something to be “mayor” of one of their stores.

Of course, this shuts out all of the other people who check into a Starbuck’s, but so what? For them, the value is in showing how many connected people show up at their stores. They don’t need to reward everyone who checks in, they just need to make sure they keep checking in.

This is something about Foursquare that has amazed me for the longest time: How little they need to do to get people to spend time checking in, without there being any end-user benefit to doing so.

I get Tweeting from a location, or posting pictures of what you’re eating for lunch on Facebook – I really do. You want to share part of your life. If people have a hard time with that, you tell them to go jump in a lake, this is what you want to share.

But it seems Foursquare has tapped into something primal within us: The need to beat our chests and declare an area as, “ours.” And when we get old and weak and stop maintaining our territory, some younger cub will come along, check in a lot, and be the new King of the Wolves.

But when you know it’s the same thing as a Maltipoo urinating on a tree, it sort of takes the fun out of it.

10 Things you’ll be sick to death of by the end of 2010

Everyone writes the introspective, year-in-review blog post around this time of year. As I am someone, that means I have to as well.

But I can’t easily write a, “Top 10 Things about 2009,” because for the most part, 2009 was rotten. Recession, the mortgage crisis, that Twilight sequel… This very blog was born out of my own layoff, since I no longer had my old company’s blogs to spout off on.

So instead, here is my warning of things you will have had just about enough of by the end of 2010.

(By the way, I specifically did not mention Microsoft here, because we’ve all been sick of them since 1998 or so. So if you want to add Windows 7 or Bing, just know that I am with you. I am with you.)

1) Augmented Reality – This is already a buzz word that’s making the rounds, with marketing managers scrambling to find out what it’s all about and iPhone app developers making “squwee!” noises loudly over this new use of GPS tracking and camera.

It’s a nice idea: Mash up your location with various social networking tools, so you can, say, see where geographically all of your Twitter friends are, or view a street with the names of all the shops listed on it. It is pretty neat stuff – but the deluge of articles and videos and seminars teaching you how to “harness this powerful new tool!” is going to hurt after a while. My suggestion: Just make sure your store is listed on Google Maps and all the other social tools you’ve heard about, and leave it alone.

2) Facebook – I’m going out on a limb with this one, but I really think people are going to start to sag with Facebook. It’s great for people to get in touch with people they haven’t seen in a while, but haven’t you noticed that a lot of your long lost friends have been lost for a reason? You don’t have any need to talk to them. Everyone else is a short found friend you talk to every day. That’s what phones and coffee shops are for. After that there are some games, but really, no new or useful information is shared on Facebook.

They’re at a tipping point – a bad one, where people could start falling off at any moment. Add to that their ever-increasing need to monetize their user base, and they’re sure to mess it all up for themselves. As soon as someone introduces the, “next big thing,” Facebook will join MySpace out on the curb.

3) AT&T – Let me say, again, that while I don’t own an iPhone, I do think it’s a pretty rad little device. I have a G1, which I’m sad to say always makes me think of Ziggy from the show “Quantum Leap”: An amazing piece of hardware, but one that gives me so many problems I feel like I constantly need to hit it in order for it to work.

While it is a great phone, stories of AT&T’s idiocy abound. From denying Google Voice’s app to asking users to not use so much data, they’re begging people to switch carriers as soon as the AT&T/Apple contract expires. As much trouble as my G1 gives me, I’m thankful T-Mobile doesn’t give me as many headaches.

4) Information Overload – We’re in this now, but someone’s GOT to make this an issue in 2010. Between my Facebook Wall, Google Reader, Twitter, the blogs I read, the blogs I should read, SlideShare, YouTube… there’s just way too much stuff to stay on top of. I still seem to hear about the latest thing from actually talking to people who are in the know.

It’s actually what keeps me hopeful that FriendFeed will remain afloat for some time, as it’s the best aggregate of everything that still exists.

5) Social Celebrities – I will not name names, but there are far too many people famous in this enormous little circle to take seriously anymore. Some of them have great things to say, most of them are just brilliant at doing their own PR. The result is the interesting people are hard to find because they can’t be heard above the noise. The plus-side of this is it will be good for the publishing industry – because it seems if you really do know what you’re talking about, a publisher will be willing to commit your wisdom to paper.

In short, you aren’t an expert at anything unless you can prove you’ve done something more than get a lot of views on your YouTube channel.

6) Cable Television – Speaking of risky predictions, here’s a great one. Why the hell would cable television be at risk this year? Because the way we get content has changed so dramatically, we aren’t going to be willing to wait for our shows or movies to appear at their scheduled times. Netflix and RedBox are killing Blockbuster with this, as they’ve already killed Hollywood Video. Add to that Apple’s forthcoming subscription service, and you can see that consumers will soon be getting what they want when they want it.

Cable companies themselves see this writing on the wall, and are – smartly – making a good deal of their content available through their on-demand services. I have a feeling the flood of options coming our way will eventually make all cable television on-demand.

7) Web Cams – I know this is just me, but with handheld video cameras now so cheap, and each with a USB slot, there’s no longer any excuse to shoot your 12seconds posts or Vlogs with a web cam. No one hears what you’re saying, because they’re asleep from the visual of another nerd sitting in front of their computer. Unless you have an Internet strip show, you can take it outside.

Let me also say I’m so thankful to my girlfriend for getting me one of these for my birthday, so I can finally openly chastise other people over this. 😉

8 ) Social Media Marketing – I’m already seeing this now, in fact: Agencies abandoning social media as a marketing tool, and going back to traditional venues that have proven their worth before, like SEO and media purchases. This is because social media is supposed to be the voice of the user. You can teach a company how to use the tools, but you can’t out and do it for them quite as easily.

SMM itself isn’t going anywhere, but the idea of hiring someone to do it for you will slowly die. In it’s place, consultants will sell their services training businesses to do it for themselves, and specialty shops will make a fortune building phone apps, games, and anything else that seems like a good idea.

9) Digg – I don’t think I need to do too much of a tap dance on Digg‘s head here. While there is still a huge amount of traffic going to this site, it’s usefulness as a “social” news site is over. Let’s see if they improve after Google buys them up. It’s over, hammer.

10) Paying for Wifi – If you have a hotel or coffee shop that has Wifi, for the love of God, give it to your customers for free. This is something so widely used it can’t be used as a profit center anymore. The occasional hip businessman with a laptop has been replaced by everyone. And everyone now has a smart phone and a netbook. If you just give this away, you’re enticing more people to come to you. You’ll get your money back, I promise.

If McDonald’s says it works, you know there has to be something to it. They’re 70 years old, make $3.9 billion a year, and they suck – so they know the tricks to keeping customers happy.

5 Reasons I’m Giving Up on Foursquare

I write a lot of these, “I hate” posts about social sites, and I don’t usually post them. That’s because a lot of my bitching about some site – while well founded and exceedingly intelligent – are my opinions. I don’t want to keep other people from using what they think is interesting or fun, no matter how wrong about that site they are. (My unpublished scree against Facebook would have certainly gotten me burned as a witch.)

Foursquare is definitely one of these sites that are popular, but flawed, and ultimately not very fun. I’m not trying to sway others away from using it, but I’m definitely out. And here’s why:

1. Foursquare is tough to navigate

My girlfriend puts up with a lot from me and my need to document things via social media. When I tried to explain to her that I had spent 5 minutes just finding the address of the place we were at, so I could enter it as a new locale, check in, and do nothing else, she was floored. I would have done this faster, but it isn’t possible to do this faster. Foursquare doesn’t look at your location and say, “know what? Looks like you’re at Fresh & Easy! Want to check in now?” Instead it makes you jump through hoops just to add a location, or find the one you’re at.

2. Finding ways around the shoddy mobile access resembles “Gaming” the system

Okay, this one is just me getting pissy.

I found that checking into a location was much easier to do once I got home and had time to myself. I didn’t have to ignore my coffee or stand in a busy Target aisle in order to find the mysterious button I needed to press in order to simply say, “I am here.” If I need to add a new place, (which I often do since none of the places I frequent seem to be visited by my fellow geeks,) it takes forever to find the address on Google Maps, type it into the “Add a Location” section of the Android app, all while hoping have a solid connection so it doesn’t time out.

I can do all that, or I can go home and type in the address from my computer. But if I do that I’m not really out in the world, which is what Geosocial pinions on. Also, other users then assume you are playing a trick on the system to get more Foursquare badges.

3. There’s no such thing as a Foursquare badge

Not really, anyway.

Sure, you get these baubles when you check into 10 places, or the same place some number of times, or tag things, (I think – the score card isn’t too clear,) but they only exist on Foursquare, for other Foursquare members to see. And once you are the “Mayor of Xtreme Bean,” which means you’ve checked into Xtreme Bean more than anyone, what have you got? Bragging rights that you go to a coffee shop?

No offense, Foursquare users, but I get trophies for beating levels of Super Smash Brothers too – I just won’t be adding that to my resume.

4. There isn’t much to do after you’ve checked in

You know all of those asshole reviews of Twitter that bemoan people posting about their meals? Foursquare is the ultimate extension of that, only it doesn’t ask people to post as much as, “I’m eating brisket” – not because that’s uninteresting, but presumably because that’s too much work.

No, Foursquare cuts out the need to type anything, and simply asks you to check in.  Just like Brightkite – the site that also lets you send and recieve messages and photos. With Brightkite, you might also find people in your area to meet. (Which, admittedly, is REALLY uncomfortable if you’ve ever pulled off that hat trick.)

Or there’s Yelp, where you can leave meaningful reviews and find new places. But with Foursquare, the best you can do is leave tips – quick samples of information about a place, but nothing too long or too meaningful.

After that… nothing. No chatting with others, no pictures, no video… At best it works as an add-on for your Twitter account, where you might end up talking to another human.

5. Foursquare is NOT social

Social networking and it’s sister philosophy Social media are grounded in – you guessed it – socialization. Talking, sharing, communicating… you know, that kind of thing.

With this site, the most interaction you have is seeing who’s been at the place you’ve been before, and bumping people out of their “mayorships,” which isn’t the nicest kind of interaction. It feels more like an invitation to a flame war.

“Hey! I’m the master of all things IKEA!”
“Not anymore, jerk!”
“Oh yeah!?! Well I’m going to go there for lunch each day this week and THEN I’ll show YOU!”
“Oh yeah!?! Well I’m going to get a JOB there! For I am the God of IKEA!”

Of course, that would only happen if there was a way to communicate. I’m just extrapolating. My bad. This exchange could only happen on an actual social network. Oh, you can also leave “things to do” at locations, presumably so you can remind yourself and everyone you know that you need to stop at the place you’re leaving that note.

So it is an inovation on, “I’m eating brisket,” as you can now post, “I will soon be eating brisket.” Good job, Foursquare!

“But that’s just me, I could be wrong.”

As I said, if you dig Foursquare, good for you, and have fun. If you are Foursquare, I applaud you for putting out your site. That’s a lot more than I’ve done, as I’ve never put out any social sites. I just use them. Still, having used quite a few, this one has problems.

Which is hardly a unique position for a social site to be in. The list of social networks with big problems is long and distinguished: Facebook, Digg, MySpace, 12seconds, PhotoPhlow, Orkut, Delicious, Utterli, and too many Twitter clones to count.

As such, I think I’m done with Foursquare. When the site becomes more than a check-in game to get electronic badges, let me know.

Brightkite opens itself up for local promotions

Brightkite Ad

On their blog, Brightkite has announced they are now available for local shops and restaurants to create Brightkite based promotions. If you check in at the store that’s partnering with the promotion, a coupon post will appear that you can present for free stuff. The first one being announced is for the Rackhouse Pub in Denver, CO.

This is really a brilliant idea, for so many reasons. First, it helps Brightkite get more users. If people know that by regularly posting they could get something free, of course they’re going to check in more. That’s a win for Brightkite.

It works for the business, as more people will show up for the coupon offer. Brightkite users who wouldn’t have necessarily come in will now show up for something free, and likely buy more than that. If they like what they get, they’ll come back. That’s a win for the restaurant.

What I like most of all is the idea that a company can have a promotion like this, without having to build it themselves. I tell you now, the future of phone apps will be like this: Companies that do one thing, social media, offering their platform to companies that want to sponsor promotions.

Does this sound like selling out? It is, if the company sacrifices it’s user base at the altar of commerce. If Twitter posted text ads every 10th post, yes, that would be selling out, and we would all cry bloody murder.

That, however, is what will keep smart companies from ruining our day this way: We will leave them. I don’t believe Twitter or Facebook users would leave these sites if the companies started charging for use. We’re used to paying for things that we want, especially things we know we already like.

But if they soil the experience, they cut their own throats. If they do, then they will go away and there will be no funnerals. The smart ones will find a concept like this, one that attracts social media users AND turns a profit – the Rosetta Stone of on line marketing these days.

It’s also far more democratic for businesses to each be able to use a system that’s already been built, and not having to pay to build one themselves. Coca-cola could probably build their own Facebook, and then attract users to it if they wanted to. But a tiny cola company like Fred’s Bottled Yum-Yum, which doesn’t actually exist, but should, could never afford to compete on that level.

However, with a paid promotional strategy available through the real Facebook, Fred can be as powerful as Coke is. He can get a presence on a site that already has established users, and maintained by a company and employees focused on making sure the platform is running smoothly.

I’ve always loved Brightkite. Well, they’ve only been around two years, but I’ve been a huge fan of theirs for both. They were one of the first sites to realize the potential of moving social media off of computer screens and out into the real world. They were one of the first ones to find a real, fun use for mobile phones in social media too. And I could be wrong, but I believe they had the iPhone’s first social media killer app.

So it makes sense to me that Brightkite comes up with a strategy like this first. They think outside the box, and not in a silly way, but in a productive, “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” kind of way. If I was still working in the agency trenches, and I had a brick-and-morter business that wanted flesh-and-blood walk-in customers, I would be all over this.