A challenger appears

If you look on my company’s team page, you’ll find my picture captioned “Overrater”. I take this caption somewhat in stride, because being involved in developing many of the analytic algorithms at our office means that I’m spending a lot of my days “rating” client’s Facebook Pages and presences. The reason the caption is there though, is that I have a strong tendency to not be impressed with things most people seem to like (“Shark Week”, “Avatar”, “Top Gun”, college football, to name a few) and call them overrated.

Which brings me to Google’s new, much touted social network called, simply: Google Plus. Google+ isn’t Google’s first entry into the social arena, but it’s their newest and inarguably their strongest. And while Google enjoyed excellent early reviews as well as an early influx of 10 million enthusiastic users, my impressions of Google+ are much less enthusiastic. My initial impressions of what’s wrong with Google+, after the break.

Two steps forward, four steps back

A couple years ago I read a book for class called The World is Flat, written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. It’s a great read for a lot of reasons, but I think a lot of times we take for granted what the Internet has done. The World Wide Web has been in existence for not quite 20 years, and already it’s a completely critical part of our society. Businesses are run without any need for a brick and mortar office, employees can work from nearly anywhere, and for many companies it’s not only vital to their success, but the Internet is vital to their core purpose.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

I think we all know how the Internet has augmented our society, but one thing we may forget is how disruptive it’s been to other parts of our society. One person who hasn’t forgotten is News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch (I heard he was around when we discovered the world was round), who is planning to hide all news content from Google News’ index. Murdoch claims that Google is giving this content away and thus, he’s losing money because visitors get content for free from Google where they’d normally have to pay on news sites.

When I heard this claim, I immediately thought of another resistant-to-change part of American society: unions. One of the recurring effects of “flattening” that Friedman talks about in World is Flat is outsourcing labor to other countries where the labor can be performed more efficiently. Unions are resistant to this (somewhat understandably), but let’s be honest: if you’re a CEO, and you’re faced with the choice of outsourcing labor to India and getting the same quality for a lower price, or dealing with unions that demand higher wages for less work, what would you choose?

The fact is that the union’s way of dealing with flattening has been to hamper progress: passing laws that tax companies that outsource, quicker walkouts, and really just being a pain.

Now looking at this from the perspective of Rupert Murdoch, here you have a very well-trusted company who’s effectively parsing your news sites and allowing consumers to search them to find news, all at no cost to you or the consumer. Google doesn’t show you the full article, they have consumer click through to the article, generating you free traffic. Not only that, if the consumer wants more information, Google aggregates similar articles from different sites (which, since you’re Rupert Murdoch, it’s likely that you own more than one of those links), getting even more traffic.

If you’re Rupert Murdoch, you have two options:

  1. Realize that you have all this traffic coming into your site for free. Figure out a way to monetize said traffic. Maybe pay Google some money to put your sites first in their news results, or buy some ads. Profit.
  2. Furiously conclude that since Google isn’t paying you for the privilege to index your site, you’re not making any money from them. Make Google pay you, or “take your ball and go home”, and force users to pay ridiculous subscriptions for content they used to be able to get for free.

I’m not denying that Web hasn’t disrupted (read: seriously hurt) the newspaper/journalism industry. But I also contend that the new web, if handled properly, could be great for journalism. Look, you’re not going to get many people to pay for news, but a flat world has enabled the journalism industry to succeed outside of the big office building, away from the big printing press. In short, instead of having the 50s style newspaper building where everyone comes to work to file their stories, have them stay at home and submit their stories online. Print some papers, but mostly make sure your online presence is strong and rapidly changing. Make use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Lastly, make friends with Google. If there’s one company that we can define as “Internet, Inc.”, it’s Google. Telling Google you don’t want their help would be a little bit like South Korea getting into a war with China and then telling the US, “you know what, we got this on our own”. And maybe that’s where Murdoch is failing here: the Web isn’t about monolithic, opaque companies that work on their own; it’s about transparent, dynamic companies working together with other companies and relying on user content for everyone’s mutual benefit.

Look, it is the Web’s fault that newspapers are dying, but newspapers aren’t the only industry that’s being forced to change (radio, TV, etc.), and handcuffing your customers is a good way to speed up your trek into bankruptcy and irrelevancy.

Allergies

Spring is here! In my world, that means baseball is back, school is almost over (but not winding down) and the flowers are in bloom… which means my eyes are itching like crazy.

I’ve never had really intense allergies that require a perscription or anything like that; it’s more often than not just a minor annoyance for about two weeks while the pollen is really heavy. But seriously, why can’t I have allergies in the winter time? If things have to go bad, I might as well get it all out of the way at one time, right?

  • In computer world, particularly Linux world, the big news of this week is Ubuntu 8.04’s launch on Thursday. I’ve never really liked Ubuntu, as most of you who read this blog know, but it’s nice that it’s able to make Linux so easy for those who want to pose as computer nerds for a while or those who are too cheap to buy a copy of Windows and too lazy to pirate it. One thing Ubuntu has got going for it, however, is a lot of driver support – when I installed 7.10 on my laptop a few months ago, the wireless just worked, there was no fiddling with getting firmware, cutting it up and then wrapping the drivers with NDISWrapper.

    I’m using Fedora 8 (Werewolf…I know, Ubuntu’s codenames are much cooler) on my laptop and on my desktop. I’ll probably keep it on my desktop for a while as part of a dual boot system – Fedora does a great job at doing what it needs to do. On my laptop, however, I like it more and more every time I try it but at this point it still doesn’t quite have the polish that Windows XP has. (For example, for some reason when I move my mouse around in this textarea while editing this blog post, Firefox decides it needs to grab the icon of the Blogger favorites icon and insert the URL into the post. First of all, why would I ever want to do that? And secondly, where do I shut that off?) I like the prospect of using Linux exclusively on my laptop (primarily because instead of having to install bloatware like Dreamweaver and Acrobat Pro I can get much better software that doesn’t use as many resources), but I’m not quite there yet.

  • Today is Earth Day, meaning Google has their obligatory Earth Day logo and everyone else is all “save the Earth!”. Still not sure what the point of Earth Day is – sure, we can all respect the environment today, but tomorrow… I mean, we have to go to work, right?
  • The Indians play the Royals tonight, C.C. Sabathia vs. Gil Meche. Given these two starters’ ERA thus far, this is a pretty unfair matchup. But C.C. has to turn it around sometime, right? There may be no better time than tonight.

    In other Indians news, Jake Westbrook got put on the 15-day DL (I have no idea why, he seemed fine the other night), and Ben Francisco was recalled to the Major Leagues. If I were Eric Wedge, I’d start Francisco tonight and see what he does. The offense needs a spark, particularly in left field.

  • Quote of the Day:
    If life throws you a curveball, take it to right field.

    Rick Manning, color commentator, STO

On a final note, it’s nice to have The Office back, isn’t it? Looking forward to the rest of the season, even though its shorter than it’s supposed to be, because word is that NBC ordered 30 episodes for next fall. Until later, stay well and enjoy the weather!

Some Analytics Results

A few weeks ago I installed Google Analytics on my blog (actually, I remember when that was, it was actually about 3 weeks ago exactly because it was a Sunday night which I couldn’t fall asleep. Fingers crossed that we don’t have that problem tonight.) Anyway, I’ve referenced it a few times, and talked about it a bit but most of you have never really seen what I get to see often (I say “get” to see because data like this fascinates me), so I thought I’d do a little post with some non-personal information on the visitors this blog has seen thus far.

First, a world map view:


It may be a bit hard to see because of the size, but the United States is dark green, and the countries of Spain (hello, Taylor!), Germany and Australia are light green, meaning my blog is slowly embracing globalization and is being read by others in different countries. Next, let’s zoom in on the US Map:


This one’s a bit more interesting. Count up the green states and you’ll see that I’m reaching 13 states, with very frequent visitors from Ohio, visitors with some frequency from New York (and not just Rochester, surprisingly enough) and some rare visits from Washington, D.C., Idaho and others. And finally, last but not least, a distribution across Ohio:


Keep in mind that for whatever reason, Analytics renders Ohio a bit wrong and so a lot of those cities in northeast Ohio should be much farther north (the big dot, for example, is supposed to be Cleveland). But while northeast Ohio is the clear frontrunner, there are other cities making a Ron Paul-like push for the top.

Anyway, just some interesting statistics thus far about who’s visiting me and from where. I’ll post more meaningful stuff tomorrow between classes. Until then, stay warm, stay focused, and go hard or go home.

Early Friday tidbits

It’s March 14th today (Pi Day, for those who are unaware) and as I write this, it’s 43 degrees outside! I hope we’ve seen the last of winter, but I doubt it. Anyway, onto the the musings:

  • ESPN.com is running a nice piece on Travis Hafner. I’ve said for a while that Hafner is just as good as Jim Thome on the field, if not much better, and as this article shows, Hafner is just as good off the field. There are many reasons he’s my favorite player on the Indians and his sense of humor is just one of them. (The fact that he never struck out used to be, until last year, when he, you know, struck out a lot. Hopefully that changes this year.)
  • Got some new business cards at Lazorpoint. They’re nice, although it just says “Jimmy Sawczuk”, not “Jimmy Sawczuk, Programmer Extraordinaire” like I requested.
  • I got around to updating my website, http://www.jimmysawczuk.com/, today. There’s a little link to the blog in the navigation bar and everything’s a different shade of blue than it used to be. Also…
  • Google Calendar now syncs with Outlook! This is the main reason I don’t keep a calendar because its mostly a tremendous pain to update and actually use, but now that I can use Outlook and Google Calendar concurrently, maybe I will. There’s a link to my calendar on JimmySawczuk.com for everyone looking to plan their Jimmy time.
  • The delegate war between Obama and Clinton continues. Florida has apparently come up with a plan to “redo” their primaries, and not surprisingly, it was rejected. Seriously, a mail-in primary? Are you kidding me? Dear Florida: Make a website at http://www.voteinprimary.fl.us/. Open some public computer labs, or allow people to vote from home, people would log in using their SSN or Driver’s license ID and pick a candidate. And guess what: counting would not only be instantaneous, but it would be accurate! That would be a huge step up for Florida who has had problems doing arithmentic for years. I’ll even help you write some of the code, for the counting:

    SELECT CandidateChosen, COUNT(VoteID) FROM tblVotes GROUP BY CandidateChosen

    Ah, the power of SQL. (See? I blogged about something technical!)
  • Quote of the day (and this has been my away message before, but it’s worth repeating):
    I left the comedy club there and walked down the street. On one corner, there was a Starbucks. And across the street, from that Starbucks, in the exact same building as that Starbucks, was a Starbucks. At first I thought the sun was playing tricks on my eyes. But no, there was a Starbucks, across from a Starbucks. And that, my friends, is the end of the universe.

    Lewis Black
  • By the way, Lewis Black may be my favorite comedian to listen to, especially about politics because while I may have a calm demeanor on the outside, Lewis Black does a good job of showing the rage I sometimes feel on the inside.

Sorry about the lack of updates this week. When I’m working there’s not as much to talk about because I try to keep the specifics of what I do at work confidential, but hopefully I’ll be back to my usual pace next week. Until then, have a good Friday and weekend!