This is an inelegant metaphor but Google+ was the racehorse who entered the race owned by the very wealthy and brilliant owner. That owner was a master in other animal sports (greyhound racing, perhaps) but he had never tried horse-racing. How different could it be? He went out and hired the best trainers and horse experts and horse whisperers. He was feeding it the finest quality foods. He was keeping the horse well-groomed and trained. The owner convinced many of the fans of his other sports properties that he had a real winner, that it didn't matter if he had never tried to compete in this sport (although he did dabble in it once before with a horse named Buzz). He was going to be a champion, too. He was going to take down the Triple Crown winner, FaceBook.
On the day of the race, the owner had a bunch of his friends bet on Plus. He even bought tickets for fans of his other sports that had no interest in horse racing. Plus, stood attentively in his gate, ready for the bell. FaceBook had been here before and all of her fans were accustomed to her winning. She knew what to do. Sure, she had a few flaws in her game but she was working those out. The bell, rings, the gates swing open and FaceBook flies out. Plus just stands there. Then, he starts into a nice trot. His pace is torrid. There's no possible way he'll catch up to FaceBook. Is there? The Plus fans are hopeful. Maybe he'll figure it out and get going and catch up. But, it doesn't happen. Plus will lose. The owner has misjudged this sport. His horse has never raced before. It didn't understand what it takes to be a winner. Sure, it had the training and preparation. But lacked the experience and momentum.
Like I said - inelegant.
The problem that I have with Google+ is that it gets things precisely backwards. I realized that when I wanted to post something, I posted it to a select Circle; to my "Buddies," let's say. Of those buddies, maybe three of them were actually participating on Google+. The other 25-30 had no idea what was going on and they weren't really an audience for whatever I was sharing. Those 25-30 were having a hard enough time figuring out Facebook, let alone be introduced to entirely new social media ecosystem. The Barrier to Entry was just too high for most. Facebook approaches is from the other end: blast everyone with a post by default and, if you want to change who sees what, you can. This is the best social approach. Not the other way around. Half the time, I forgot who was in what circle anyway.
Then, you've got Signal-to-Noise ratio issues which I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that most of the items coming up in my main Newsfeed (Stream) were from famous people I was following that I had little interest in getting a million posts from. No one in my real life, aside from a few, were posting. Lots of noise, no signal. The effect was that I felt like the guy standing on stage, talking to an audience of about four. In this social media world, that's a lonely feeling. What does that say about my ego? I'm not sure...
Finally, Google is flooding the news wire with stories about how many users it has (and gaining) without explaining that those are all PASSIVE users. Basically, if you sign up for Gmail, you get a G+ account. Even if you never use it, they count you as a G+ user. Who cares?
Social Media networks are only as good as the number of people who actually use the damn thing.
As of February 1st, I'm moving my activity back to Facebook. Not that anybody really cares.
There’s an old adage. Mark Cuban uses it a lot when talking about why you shouldn’t invest the stock market. It goes like this: In any given situation where you have an investment at stake, take a look at all the players in the room. If you can’t find the sucker, you’re it! Basically, you have to have an edge in today’s volatile markets if you expect any kind of real return (or to avoid serious losses!). By edge, I mean some kind of inside information that tips you off as to which way the chips will fall.
I don’t have this edge. Vegas has had this figured out for years. It’s precisely why I don’t gamble and why Warren Buffett has long advocated that the small investor (that’s you and me) forgo “playing the stock market” on individual company stocks and simply put our money into cheap index funds. We just don’t have the time to find the edge.
Better to not play at all than to be the sucker in the room.
I play an internet game called the Hollywood Stock Exchange. It emulates the real stock market and contains many of the investment vehicles that you might find in real life (e.g. – Movie Stocks, Star Bonds, Opening Week Derivatives, etc.). And you can buy, sell, short, and call all day long with these things. It’s a great testing ground for finding out exactly how bad I’d actually be with real money. Of course, there’s the benefit that I can usually tell you with great accuracy which movies are coming out this weekend and, on Monday, how much they made. Basically, I lose my ass on a regular basis. For instance, I shorted The Devil Inside last weekend and lost about $1mm. It killed my HSX net worth. After seeing the trailer and reading a few early reviews, the movie looked (and likely is) awful and I thought that the word would get out after Friday night how bad it was. I figured that the numbers would fall off the rest of the weekend. Oh, how wrong I was. On Monday morning, Pajiba had a nice little piece on the Ten Highest Grossing Movies of Any Opening Weekend to Start the New Year. Hello! Meet the sucker!
There’s another arena in which I fear I have made a bad gamble with equally non-monetary losses. It’s the social media bet. Six months ago, Google+ entered the scene. In November 2011, I decided to go all in on G+ and exclusively engage there instead of FaceBook. I thought that a company as inventive and adept as Google would nail it. Was this a good move? I’ll tell you what I have found next week.
Here’s the deal. There’s really nothing wrong with Apple. Just like there’s nothing wrong with the New York Yankees.
Do the Yankees want to be the best?
Do the Yankees pay for the best (or the perceived best)?
Do the Yankees have an insufferable fan base in every corner of the Universe who have an undying allegiance to the team and will root any decision or product on the field for better or worse?
And this is what makes the analogy really work for me. As stupid as this may sound, I hate Yankees because of their fans. I hate the Yankees exponentially more than the ridiculous team management decisions and personnel strategies because, frankly, their fans, on the whole, are front-running, band-wagon-riding, non-New-Yorker douches. That may be pretty ineloquent but it’s dead-in-the-crosshairs accurate.
Now, take that paradigm and apply it to Apple and you’ll be closer to understanding my innate distaste of Apple than any therapist.
Irrational? Maybe. I can live with that.
What I can't live with are the a) Apple sheeple and b) the rabid fanboys/girls. There is world outside of your little ecosystem and it's pretty decent. Your iPhone may have been the game-changer in 2007 but we've moved on. The margin is now much smaller. The players are playing and, sadly, your leader's gone. Let's just tap the brakes on Apple being the "best" of anything and all the "it just works" rhetoric. It's tired.
I can live with Apple’s existence from the shear standpoint of competition. Push Google to be better. Push Microsoft to…find itself? Push Facebook to…do something? Push the start-ups. In fact, you start to combine Siri AI technology with what Google’s doing with self-driving cars, I think you’re going to be shocked at the direction in which humans have pushed the race.
Yes, Thermonuclear annihilation.
It's no secret that I've never been an Apple fan. It's not for lack of trying or appreciation. The first computer that I ever remember in the house was an Apple IIe. I guess that was '83 or '84.
We moved on to a Windows-based machine later. I have no idea if it was an IBM or "PC clone." But, the transformation was made and we never had another Apple.
It wasn't until I went to Baylor that I started using Macs again. This was before the days of the ubiquitous laptop. I had a PC in my dorm room but all over campus were these Power Mac 4000 series that you could check your email on. Some of us still have our Baylor.edu addresses some 10 years later (Brian???).
I continued to use Macs at my work-study job at Baylor's Media Lab. This was a center where faculty and staff could come work on projects with assistance from smart-ass lackeys like myself. I remember doing some rudimentary photo-scanning and editing in 1999. I also created a database in FileMaker for a music history prof who wanted to catalog his classical music CD collection. Fun stuff, let me tell you. All done on a Mac.
So far, so good. Meanwhile, back at the Hankamer (controversially pronounced HAN-kam-er, not HANK-a-mer) School of Business we were cranking out our TPS Report Projects in the computer lab on Compaq Presarios (or some approximation). It suited us b-schoolers well: MS Office suite, training module authoring, SAS. You know, the usual suspects. That lab was probably all donated by Arthur Andersen anyway, which had a tight recruiting relationship with Baylor in those days. That is before they went all Enron and re-birthed as Accenture. I had enough exposure that my college brain was being rapidly wired for compatibility with Windows PCs.
Early in my career I used, built and supported PCs and Windows-based laptops. At home, I enjoyed casually tinkering with my own PC and upgrading it from time-to-time. I never saw any reason to spend the money to switch to a expensive, secretive computer company that wouldn't allow me to crack open a case without violating every contract they had ever conceived. I stick with my sandbox, thank you very much.
Allegedly missing some letters.
And, the marketing. Oh, the marketing. I'll never forget a particular exchange my roommates Winston and Matthew had over that famous late-90s Apple tagline: Think different. Winston explained that it was a concept. Think: Different. Like, think: wow! Only, Matthew-whose-mother-was-an-English-teacher would have none of it. "No way. It should be 'Think differently.' It's a adverb. They got it wrong." And, that was that. However, I never forgot the tagline so marketing must work. In hindsight, I'm wondering if Think different was the best that Apple could do. Were their products really that similar to Windows-based machines at the time?
It wasn't until the invention of the iPod that I really remember fans starting to come out the woodwork because then it was like crack just got distributed to the masses. "We'll give you a taste and get you hooked. Then, you'll come for our computers." Jobs had been back for a few years (from Pixar) and the Apple machine was really rocking. They ratcheted up the advertising and churned out some home-run products. There was no doubt that they were a quality company but the appeal to be cool by owning their stuff was a little obnoxious.
My "first" apple product in years was a 1st-generation iPod Mini. I played that thing until it died. No kidding. I modded it with a better battery and increased the memory and it finally croaked. It barely held together from my repeated breaches into its innards. I still have the carcass in a drawer somewhere. Saving it for the grand kids. I promptly replaced it with an 5th-gen iPod Nano. Fantastic music player. I bought a plastic shell for it and it's in pristine condition. I still use it in the car to listen to podcasts. Then, came the iPhone and that's when it all changed for me. But, that's for another post. Watch this...
So, that happened.
Back when the geniuses at NetFlix decided to up their rates, I said: “I’m going to make a clean cut, here. And say no way, Corky!” Which meant that I was dropping the Instant View streaming service. Little did I realize that I would be in-effect dropping NetFlix and staying with QuiXckStererer? It doesn’t matter what they call it. They have content that I want and it gets delivered in a reasonable time to my mailbox. Aside from the occasional DVD skip (Always at the 1 hour mark!! Why, God, why???), I still think the quality is superior to the streaming version. Until we have ridiculously-fast bandwidth coverage (Hello, South Korea!!) and HD-quality sound and video streaming along with more content that I could ever want (I’m looking at you Hot New Television Shows from 2011), then I ain’t biting.
So…cry me a river, everyone. Cause we’re Quickxquester People, now!
After reading the Fred Wilson's post on "The Fred Wilson School of Blogging," I was inspired to make a few comments. He says that: "based on the past dozen years that I've been writing it, I expect that my blog will in some ways be one of the most significant things I create in my life."
Wow. There is something profound in that. It makes me think what it might have been like to have a blog record from my grandfather or my great grandmother. When you couch it in personal historical terms--in autobiographical terms--it does, indeed, become something significant to others. Namely, your family. It makes me wonder what direction to take my own blogging.
Fred suggests having a long form blog and a short form blog. I do have a Tumblr blog that I created last fall and played around with for about a day. I think I might be firing that up again for my own amusement. It's a fun and free tool.
The rest of the entry is commentary on building your personal brand via networks and communities. Namely: Twitter for wide broadcasts, Facebook for friends and family, and Google+ for...? I think it's still too early to tell about Google+. We're not even a week into it. However, I have had the suspicion that I will go quietly into that night, away from Facebook, and leave her behind. Many have already forsaken FB for Twitter, reporting that tweets to a specific community are the way of the future, etc. I just haven't gotten any traction there. The big thing is that not many people I know are Twitterers, themselves, which means that I don't have anyone to say anything to. It also doesn't work for me in a visual way and, frankly, I just see a lot of noise there. In fact, I have had to unsubscribe to a number of feeds because they were just offending me with either a) the shear number of posts or b) irrelevance, or c) both. As the song goes, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Until Google+ came along. All of my Google Universe plus social sharing and networking? Yes, please.
Of course, networks are only as good as the number of people on them. This means people will have to make a decision about what direction to head in. I say people tired of the Facebook landscape and the uncertainty of where that company is headed will leave for greener (Googlier?) pastures. It remains to be seen.