GOODFest: Google balances commerce and charity

Google is launching its own “first-of-its-kind livestream festival for good” called GOODFest this month. English indie band Glass Animals will kick off by performing at the BAM Cafe in New York City on November 29. A further four shows will follow across New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These five events will be livestreamed on YouTube.

GOODfest will try to bring together “music, community and technology”, says its website. Google hopes to raise money for non-profits through ticket sales and online donations.

“GOODFest is a celebration of progress, positivity, and the power of people to push the world forward. In five livestreamed shows, we’re bringing together music, community, and technology to raise funds and connect people in the name of good,” states the official communication. The festival plays for “generosity”, “humanity,” “earth,” equality,” and “love.”

Google is evidently also using the event to promote its new Pixel flagship smartphone. Pixel will be used to shoot footage onstage and backstage.

Interesting to see how the commercial launch of Googles new hardware fuels donations for good. The beginning of a new era?

The Battle for Social World Domination: The Stacks : taking over your life

How do you get absolute control? That quest for world domination has been around for a couple of millennia. There are ways: become a dictator, a Kaiser, a God, Charlie Sheen, President of the United States or start a religion.

But there are other ways. 5 big companies are silently plotting their ways to world domination. They hide in the open, their battle so obvious that it stays hidden. Bruce Sterling, Sci-Fi writer, Visionary in residence and Transglobal Futurist exposed them already at his #SxSW2012 closing keynote:

“There is a new phenomenon that I like to call the Stacks; vertically integrated social media. And we’ve got five of them — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They’re not hostile to the internet — they’re just looking after their own situation. And they all think they’ll be the one Stack… and render the others irrelevant. And they’ll all be rendered irrelevant. That’s the future of the Stacks.

People like the Stacks, because the internet is scary now — so what’s the problem there? None of them offer any prosperity or security to their human participants, except for their shareholders. The internet has users. Stack people are livestock — ignorant of what’s going on, and moving from one stack to another. The Stacks really, really want to know you’re a dog.

They’re annihilating other media… The Lords of the Stacks. And they’re not bad guys — I’d be happy to buy them a beer. But really, a free people would not be so dependent on a Napoleonic mobile people. What if Mark Zuckerberg trips over a skateboard?

This structure won’t last very long… But you’re really core people for them and their interests. You are them. I’m them. And your kids are going to ask embarrassing questions about them. And there are voices here and there complaining about them, [like] Jonathan Franzen. He says Twitter is destroying literature. And he’s right. So don’t make fun of him. He’s telling the truth.”

What does it take?

Bruce has his way with words, and is passionate beyond suspicion. But is he right? Are Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft silently taking over our lives? What would it take, to achieve Social World Domination?

1.       Knowing where you are

Have you noticed it? That small side remark during Apples latest event? “We have our own maps now!”. So, maps are important. Knowing where you are, where you go, and how you get there gives the Stacks priceless information. That is why Google is happily mapping the whole planet, why Facebook is desperately trying to make its Places work (killing Gowalla as an afterthought). Apple just got its hands on the trusty Tele Atlas digital maps through its deal with TomTom. Microsoft nicely obtained direct access to the maps of Tele Atlas’s direct competitor Navteq, currently owned by… Nokia.

2.       Owning your hardware

So Microsoft got a lot more out of the Nokia deal than meets the eye. They have access to maps. But also, they secured an option on a vital world domination component: hardware.  After decades of software-only, Microsoft is desperately trying to get a bridgehead in hardware land. Through Nokia and HTC they aim for the smartphone, with the Surface they bring their technology into your living room, and their version of a tablet was announced last week.

Apple of course has a plethora of hardware devices, two of them sticking to your life as glue: the iPhone and the iPad. Google is making sweet eyes with Android, ensuring Google phones in every store. And tablets. Rumors of an upcoming  Facebook phone are all around…

Amazon has a hesitating first step into the hardware through its Kindle. You might not have noticed it, but Microsoft, Apple and Google  are even making it into the car…

3.       Owning your operating system

The heart, core and soul of your machine: your operating system. They own it. Apple and Microsoft obviously with their OS and Windows versions.  Google is quietly improving its Chrome OS.

Facebook  has hired enough brainpower with  Kean Wong,   Christopher Tremblay,  Georges Berenger, Li Fang,  Robert Boyce and Zachary Landau (top-notch specialists from Palm, Apple  and RIM) for an own mobile operating system and applications platform…  Amazon is doing unspeakable things with its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and experimented with own versions of android.

4.       Owning your browser

The power lords have direct access to your online life through the browsers they own. Apple and Microsoft obviously through Safari and Explorer.  Google through its Chrome browser, Amazon is working on it with Silk, and Facebook is rumored trying to buy Opera Software  and its 200 million users worldwide of the Opera web browser.  Controlling the browser means controlling the internet history, and the internet behavior of the user. Controlling the browser means having the most intimate communication and marketing tool to influence people directly through their preferred web tool. Priceless.

5.       Owning your data, owning your search

Facebook, Youtube, Google,and Microsoft’s Bing. That is what people use to find what they are looking for: from social search, to factual search. Apple has no apparent own search engine, but is getting paid an amazing 1 billion dollar a year by Google to keep Google as the default Apple’s search.

With literally billions of user generated videos, pictures and texts hosted on their servers and platforms, and petabytes of personal data ready to be analyzed and data mined, the five power houses have more insights in consumer personality, profile, habits, spending behavior, and socio-environmental context than anyone else.  The combined stock value of the Stacks is only a fraction of what this goldmine in personal data is worth to seasoned marketers.

6.       Owning your cash

Amazon’s One Click Buying, Facebook’s credits, Apple’s iTunes and AppStore, Microsoft’s e-stores: the Stacks make it easy for you to spend money, or to get paid by third parties for anything you do online. Click on a sponsored link in Google generates hard cash. For Google. Not for you. Your online social life generates mountains of gold for Facebook. Apple is getting a whopping  30% on every paid application that gets downloaded from its AppStore . Amazon is getting a cut in every sale made through its notorious online long tail store.

7.       Owning your life

Quietly, the five Stacks are wrapping their mighty tentacles around the online consumers, sneaking their influence at the deepest caves of personal lives, thriving on direct hard cash and precious personal data that can (and will) be cashed in. The battle for World Supremacy is fought in the shadows, but it’s fought hard and relentless by young billionaires equally at ease on a skateboard, as in a corporate jet. It’s fought by mercenaries with great corporate hair, the whitest teeth you will ever see, and a lot at stake through their stock in the stack…

Bruce Sterling was right. Again. He always is ;-).

 

Kawasaki: Growing a tree takes time

Guy Kawasaki remains one of the most reachable social media stars around. Always friendly and savvy,  he is always ready to share his wisdom. After totally enchanting the Apple brand, he became a successful internet entrepreneur, founded Alltop.com, and is one of the most busy tweeps around.

When Kawasaki turns his eye to a technology, he tries to phantom the possibilities. And his eye fell on Google+. Google+ is under a lot of fire lately, but Kawasaki thinks that is not fair. In an interview with Porter Novelli, he lashes out to the people who want to burry Google+.

“If any other platform would grow this fast, and this influential, people would go oh and ah”, he said. “But because it is Google people have no tolerance, and no patience. Growing a tree takes time, and time will tell. But I have not the impression that this is set up to fail.”

Guy is right: time will tell. Watch the interview here:

So long Steve, long live the king

It’s sad to see how everyone, from markets, over journalists and influencers to White-Van-Man is overreacting when something terrible happens to one of the leaders of star corporations.

Steve Jobs passed away, and people all over the planet make his testament, and -in one breath- the one of his beloved Apple Inc. I’m sad that Jobs lost his yearlong battle against cancer. I feel for his family and friends. I feel for his colleagues at Apple, and I feel for the broad Apple community. The world lost a charismatic futurist. His loved ones lost a loved one…

But Steve Jobs is not Apple. Apple was never diagnosed with cancer. Apple never was one man. Hearing Bob O’Donnell from research firm IDC say that the timing of Jobs death is “unfortunate” gives me the creeps. What is a good timing then? Is it really better for anyone to read the obituary after the launch of the iPhone 5?

Analyst Chowdry from Global Equities Research said on abcnews.go.com: “Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation, only God creates innovation.” God? Really?

Apple’s stock dropped 2.3 percent after the sad announcement. Earlier this year, when Steve Jobs asked for some privacy and time off to deal with his health issues, the Apple stock dropped 5%, instantly.

When Eric Schmidt announced that Google did not need his babysitting anymore, black hatting tweeps preached the end of the world, and Google-as-we-used to know it. Remember the day Bill Gates told the planet he would find wise ways to spend his capital, and would leave Microsoft in the hands of Steve Ballmer?

Let’s get real. Apple will survive Steve Jobs.  That is why Jobs worked so hard. There will be Google after Schmidt. One might argue that Microsoft is experiencing a second youth under Ballmer.  William Procter and James Gamble; William Hewlett and David Packard, have found their place in history books (and on Wikipedia), but P&G and HP are still very real.

France had Napoleon, De Gaulle, Pompidou… the US had Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy… The UK still is a great nation, even with Churchill long gone… Good corporations, and most nations, survive the change of leadership.

The King is Dead, Long Live The King. Life, even corporate life moves on. Historically, change in leadership opens room for new blood, new ideas, new challenges. Darwin would argue that change, of all things, generates evolution.

Strong charismatic leaders are important. But not more than that… It takes lots of people to make a thriving company.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery voiced it perfectly – “How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on.”

Rest in peace Steve, we’ll miss you…

Social Networks: When trop becomes too much…

It must be the new 42 in my bio. I’m getting old. I’ve lost it, somewhere between the hipness and troubling youngness of 41, and the midlife grim of 42. I’m getting old. It comes with grey hair, faster cars and a certain reluctance to adapt to new things.

You want proof? I have not updated my Facebook profile picture for 6 months. And I still feel happy. And… I’ve given up on Social Networks. Seriously, I do not want to change. I have 6 email addresses. I only deal with two in earnest… the rest, I just automatically pick up.

I’m on all kind of Google stuff, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, Plaxo, Twitter, Friendfeed, MSN, Yammer, WordPress, Blogger, Delicious, Digg, Sphere, Tumblr, Foursquare, Gowalla, Heat!, 2nd Life!, YouTube, Spurl, ScoopIt, Netlog, Technorati, Flickr, Instagram, WordPress, Beknown, Evernote, Quora and a dozen other pieces of Social Sorcery. Honestly, I have more than I can handle, more than I can share, more than I can read.

What more do I need? Let’s be honest, the market of social networks is saturated. Yes, I daily subscribe to new ones. Yes, I do have a Google+ account. Yes, as so many others I fake to be everywhere at once. Bilocation is my middle name.  Reality is, if you look closely, that most of these networks are empty shells, populated by frozen avatars. Reality is, that you can only spend so much time on line. When I look closely, on most networks there is nobody home, but an automatic aggregator that faithfully mirrors a status update from another network.

Thank God for automatic status updates! Thanks for update mails, because, how many social networks can you really, truly handle? If I roam through Google+, I see mostly automatic updates. Do people need it on top of their Facebook and other Networks? And what is expected of me? That I link the people that I’m already linked to on a dozen networks yet again? Another invite? To do what exactly?

I’m getting old and tired. Yes, I’ll sign in on your new network. Send me an invite, it’s ok. But I’ll download an aggregator and CRM tool to centralize my online presence faster than you can say nerd.

I can. I’m 42. So many things to do, so little time…

Beware… I’ll Google you !

In the spirit of pristine crystal clear transparency: I will Google you. If you’re anywhere remotely near me, I already did. And I will again. The articles you wrote six years ago, that embarrassing picture with the dolphin and the frozen margarita, your funky status updates on a dozen social networks, your job-hopping on LinkedIn, and what your ex is eloquently writing about you on the blog my.six.years.in.hell.com… I’ve seen it all.

I’m just very good at keeping a straight face. Seriously. I’m Googling you. And so is everyone else you’ll meet. Your HR director. The headhunter you’re talking to. Your colleagues. Your future employers. Is that a little drip of sweat on your brow now? You thought you hid the ghosts from your past that well?

Reppler (www.reppler.com) thinks it can help you. The (for the moment still free) service continuously tracks and monitors your online social-networking reputation… well, on Facebook that is. Reppler is designed to keep a frowning eye on you, and manages the content you post. It monitors your privacy settings, and watches everything that that uncontrolled tribe you call friends post with your name on it. Reppler cries wolf every time it detects something that might jeopardize that precious reputation of yours.  In short, Reppler wants to be your online conscience, bodyguard and guardian angle.

But here is my advice. Forget Reppler. Forget any digital service to manage your reputation. Your best chance in keeping  you in check… is you. Be smart. Think twice before posting, educate your friends on how to behave, and educate them on their tagging behavior. Remove tags from pictures you’re not happy with. Ask friends to post pictures privately. Take your own online reputation seriously.

And learn to live with some mistakes. We all had off-weeks, bad hair days, and embarrassing moments.  It’s not the end of the world, even if there are online traces…

You know that. You Googled me…

Data is gold – 91,000 terabytes of uncharted web: welcome to the dark side

So, you use the internet? Congratulations, you have a couple of thousand terabytes of charted web @ your disposal: company websites, twitter streams, the magic Kingdom of Facebook, and the wondrous tentacles of Google land. But all of this mindboggling information is only a tiny percentage of what the internet really is: a gargantuan monster…

Picture this: The World Wide Web is rather huge, really… Google found more than a 1 trillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web, and is still trying to index all of those ( in 2006, 25 billion sites were fully indexed). However, most experts refer to this “visible” part of the web as the “surface web”.

Surface web is an adequate term, if you currently draw your nets  in the ocean of online info; you’re barely scratching the surface. The Dark Web, or Hidden Web is approximately 540 times bigger than the web you experience daily. Apart from secret military streams, long lost and forgotten early-day-experiments, over machine-to-machine botnets and criminal set-ups, there are whole sections of the web (like freenet for instance) that are concealed from the normal user.

While big players as Google, Bing and Facebook desperately try to chart, map, reach and index this Deep Web or Dark Web, none of them are making remarkable progress: the Dark Web is still uncomfortably dark, and “hidden”.  However, in this Dark Web, people are storing data, having conversations, expressions, opinions… that are now mostly lost for the indexing, tracking and measuring giants.

Michael Bergman is an American academic, specializing in this Deep Web. He found the deep web to be approximately 550 times larger than surface world wide web. His study says that: “The deep web is the fastest growing category of new information on the internet … The value of deep web content is immeasurable … internet searches are searching only 0.03% … of the [total web] pages available.”

Tim Berners-Lee, CERN scientist who stood at the very cradle of the world wide web has a compelling vision: “I have a dream for the web in which computers become capable of analyzing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people …” His dream of a Semantic, indexed and holistic web is still a distant dreamy thought however… But the key to a better understanding of knowledge, sentiment and vision might be found in the dark web.

Content is Gold. Measuring is knowing. 99% of the web remains unexplored. Leave the charted waters, Go West. Again ;-).

Ronald Reagan fathered Foursquare

There, did that get your attention? I thought it might… 🙂  Tim O’Reilly caused quite a stir @ #SxSW when he proclaimed that Ronald Reagan was the mental father of Foursquare.

But he has a point. Let’s go back into history: while the Beatles were working on their White Album, the U.S. Navy and Air Force slotted together a system that would enable navigation on a plethora of applications. A set of incompatible systems was developed, until the US Department of Defense decided in 1973 to unify the existing systems. With atomic clocks carried on geostationary satellites (predicted by Arthur C. Clark) , the Navstar Global Positioning System became a huge success. In the beginning, military use had priority, and accurate positioning was not possible for civilian systems.

The disaster with Korean Flight 007 in 1983, a mortal tragedy that could have been prevented with more accurate location awareness, made President Ronald Reagan decide that accurate GPS signals would be available worldwide and at no charge. Reagan’s directive angered quite a lot of military decision makers, but stood at the cradle of the location driven social media that is so popular today.

The military not only got us the backboned, dynamic rerouting internet (and an internet of things by that), but also stood at the very beginning of Google places, Gowalla and Foursqaure. Not to mention Augmented Reality, that made it directly from the cockpit of the Apache fighting helicopter into the smartphones. Presidents and generals at the roots of social media, a slightly disturbing thought….;-)

Location starts getting real value

#SxSW in Austin still needs to officially kick off, but one thing is for sure: it is still about location, location, location. In the night and early hours before the event, you see location based tags and check-ins popping up like warm popcorn all over the city.

Foursquare, Gowalla and Google Places are arm wrestling for love and attention, and mayorships, points and badges are being distributed to the convention goers like ice cubes on a warm day.

But I spot a mayor difference. It goes way beyond the boyish gimmicks now. Location starts to add value. The big three added a ton of Social Functionality to their offering: the fact that people now can rate places, add tips, and hint at things to do, hyper jumped location based sharing into a realm that makes social marketing interesting. We found a great Austin Barbeque Place to eat, based solely on tips of Foursquare and Gowalla. We were tricked to the coolest bars in town with the same applications.

Startup “Heat Tracker” (find it for free in the app store) shows where the most action takes place in a reasonable circle around you. “Heating up” proves to be a great indicator for finding cool places to hang out with likeminded people.

Social location linked with the endless possibilities of “rating” places opens a great added value: peer screening. Nothing better to guide your culinary escapades in an unknown town than tips of people who tried it before.

Checking in is not just for geeks anymore, it helps determining the places to be, the hot spots and the trendy locations. The time a selected group of journalists and critics, and specialized publications as Michelin Guides and tutti quanti could determine where in town you wanted to be seen is over.

The reputation is made by the countless people around you. And THAT is a good thing ;-).

And what if you really could ASK Google?

As I predicted, IBM’s Watson super computer configuration won a game of Jeopardy from some very smart humans on US national television. A bit humiliating for us, the human race, but on the other hand, we did design the thinking machine… so our pride should not take too big a hit.

Fascinating on Watson winning this brainy contest about hands down, is the machines striking ability to deal with complicated linguistic clues: Watson can process natural language with surprising ease, and is even able to filter and crawl through complicated things as irony and sarcasm, and cynic one-liners (that’s more than some humans I know :-)).

Apart from winning primetime TV quizzes, Watson and a comparable research logarithm Wolfram|Alpha open new horizons that are way more down to earth than thinking machines taking over the planet. “Search” for instance. The best search engines available to the public (Google, Bing, etc) are based on keyword driven search. You type in a series of keywords, and the search logarithm gives you a series of links where those keywords are found. Mind you: neither Google or Bing answer your question, give you an answer to what you want to know. It gives you a suggestion of pages where your keywords can be found. Often, just finding a page where the keywords are featured enables us, humans, to browse ourselves through the content of the page, and find the answer of our question right there. We all got good at this keyword based content suggestion. We even think it gives us answers. But it is not ;-).

Using revolutionary natural language driven concepts like Watson and  Wolfram|Alpha, the game will soon change. With their ability to cope with the eccentrics of our language, we will be able to ask these search engines a question and they will provide us with an aswer. As human-to-intelligence interface this is a giant leap forward, because we’re not taking shortcuts anymore but will be able to elevate “search” to its fullest extent: the ability to ask the web a question. Watch the video: Can you feel I’m excited? 😉

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