January 2010

Want to text? Ask a kid!

Last night, I called my niece up to wish her good luck on her auditions for the school musical. A sophomore in high school, she’s a bright and talented young person, and she has that gift that children do of explaining things as simply as possible. When I asked her how it is that she texts with her friends, she explained it to me in just a couple of sentences.

– You use a phone number to reach someone (I didn’t know that!)
– Lots of people don’t use punctuation
– My Nexus One is apparently cool when it comes to texting because I can just automatically reply to people who text me, and some phones make you bring up a different screen to reply

In short order, I had sent her a message and she had sent one back to me. Then, I sent one to my other niece at college and she messaged me back. We sent one another text kisses, bridging long distances with remarkable ease. This was all so much simpler than trying to read a manual, look up instructions online or figure this out all by myself.

Do you remember this about childhood? A few words, a gesture, a quick demo from a friend would instantly incorporate you into a hobby, a habit, a fashion? The ability to mimic one’s companions begins in infancy; for good or ill, it’s one of our defining human characteristics. When it comes to technology, young people pick things up so quickly and learning from them is a treat. My nieces gave me a gift last night – the gift of easy entrance into a world they know so well. I felt very proud of them…and a little proud of myself for still being quick enough on the pickup.

My nephews, now, they are not into cell phones, they tell me. They love music, iPods and iPod Touches. I was fascinated to learn that my 16-year-old nephew is a podcast fanatic. He listens to books being read aloud and to technology news. I hadn’t been hearing much about podcasts lately, but this was confirmation to me that they are still very big. His younger brother delights in having his favorite tunes with him at all times – both popular and classical pieces.

In another branch of the family, two more little nieces tote their cell phones to school so that Mom can be in touch with them in case of emergency while she is away at work all day. One brilliant niece, age 14, is using her computer to write her first novel and the littlest one loves playing educational video games.

The territory my nieces and nephews walk in is not foreign to me. I am young enough to have grown up with the development of video game systems and PCs. My daddy was a programmer and computers were part of the furniture of home. I took to the joystick and the keyboard without even having to think about it. I remember that, and I see this same innate ability in all the young people in my family. For a few minutes last night, texting with my niece, I felt like the kid-me again. I’m grateful to her for that, for the quick and fun lesson she gave me and for making me welcome in a corner of the technological world that is new ground for me.

Voting Now Open For SEMMY Finalists!

2010 SEMMY Finalist

How exciting to wake up today to discover that one of my articles has been nominated as a SEMMY finalist! Voting is now open, and I predict all voters will have a tough time choosing just one of the six fine pieces that have made it into the finals. Please let me congratulate each of my confreres in this portion of the SEMMYs: you have all made exceptional efforts to provide excellent reading materials for the locally-focused public. Well done!

Though this is my third year in the SEMMYs, I am thrilled afresh by the honor in 2010! My badge will be proudly displayed year-round here. Looking for something fun to do on a chilly winter afternoon? Go vote in the SEMMYs and we’ll all be certain that the best piece wins!

Taking Photos With The Nexus One

photo taken with the nexus one

You may have heard, we’ve been having some pretty crazy weather here in Northern California. Yesterday afternoon, there was a break in the near-ceaseless sturm und drang , and so we seized the moment and took a little drive. We were rewarded with the above rainbow. We surely live in a beautiful place!

Taking photos with the Nexus One is as easy as finding the camera icon on the screen and clicking the shutter button. The photos are then stored in a gallery feature and you can gmail them to your desktop in order to bring them into Photoshop or whatever you’d like to do. You can also share them via texting and Facebook and there are Bluetooth and Picasa options, too.

Yesterday afternoon, there was every type of cloud in the sky. Funnel shapes, cotton balls, mesas, waves – symphonies of clouds.

photo taken with the nexus one

photo taken with the nexus one

As darkness crept over the land, the sky took on an abalone shell radiance. Coyote time, frog song time.

photo taken with the nexus one

Rest assured, spring is coming. You can feel it in the spirit of the land. It’s a wonderful time to be out, taking photos, noticing the changes that are beginning to happen all around you. I know many of you are still deep-banked in snow, but before you know it, spring will be with us all again. Take my word from it, here in California

photo taken with the nexus one

Using Google Maps On The Nexus One

Mike Blumenthal just received his complimentary Nexus One for being a top contributor to the Google Maps Help Forum, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is well-deserved! I’m also pretty sure that, now that Mike has this smart phone, we’ll all be getting to read some great future articles about Mobile/Local and the Nexus One. I thought I’d kick things off with a basic post about using the built-in Maps feature on the Nexus One as post #4 in the brand new Mobile category here on the SEOigloo blog.

It’s Not What You’re Used To
Okay, so, you’re probably pretty used to the setup of the desktop version of Google Maps by now, if you’ve got any interest at all in Local SEO. What I found, in trying to access Maps the traditional way on this cell phone is that it didn’t look too great (it seems a little fuzzy) and that the layout for the whole thing wasn’t working well on my device. The sidebar seemed to be missing, for one thing and I couldn’t get the small popups to appear over businesses I was searching for.

Leave it to Google to provide a much nicer solution for Mobile users. The Nexus One comes with a built-in icon for the Mobile-ready version of Maps. The quality of my photos won’t quite do the clarity of this display justice, but it should give you a good idea of what things look like. To start with, the map is nice and clear, correctly sized for Mobile, and by using the Voice command tool or the keyboard, I can search for a business. We get a lovely silver pin with a garnet-red center designating the business I’ve searched for in the SF Bay Area:

using maps on the nexus 1

If I tap my finger on the pin, I’m taking to a handsome silver, black and white display of potential information I can access about this business. It’s very different from the layout of a Place Page, as you can see:

nexus 1 business display

The information I can get from this page includes:

-Contact info (address, number, etc)
-Details (Hours, Payments Accepted, Description, etc.)
-Show on Map
-Get Directions
-Street View (only available for some businesses on Mobile)
-Report a Problem
-Add as a contact

Amazingly awesomely, if I click the Phone link, the phone will start dialing this business for me. How cool is that?

Now, let’s click the Review link to see what that gives us:

nexus 1 sentiment analysis display

We’ve got the starred sentiment analysis graph and a single text snippet, inviting us to read all of the reviews, which, of course, I want to do:

nexus one, reading user reviews

Here, we get to a more Google-Maps-looking display, with a white background and black text, showing us all of the reviews for the business. The one thing I’m not seeing here that I expect to be seeing is the request for me to leave a review of this business. Maybe Mike can find that. I’ve not been able to yet.

But, after just an hour or so of fooling around with the way Maps works on Mobile, I’m feeling I can use it with comfort and pleasure.

One last thing of significant interest that I just figured out this minute!
Going to Google’s main search page in the browser, I see something else that is very different. You know how Google has always had that row of links to their major components: Web, Images, Videos, Maps, etc.? Well, well, well. On my Nexus One, that list has been simplified down to: Web, Images, Local and More. Oh-ho. I’ve just found how to get to the display I know best where the Place Pages are easily accessed via a business name search (remember, you can use voice or keyboard). I see, I see. Thanks for learning along with me as I go.

Open Letter To Google Regarding New YouTube Popup Ads

olympic spirit
With Much Respect To The Folks At Google,

The 2010 Olympics are coming, and to get into the spirit of things, my family has been watching great footage from past Olympics and other sports events on your marvelous website, YouTube.com. Every four years, everyone from my littlest niece to the honored patriarchs and matriarchs of our family catches Olympic fever as the Winter Games approach, and YouTube is simply matchless when it comes to finding out how favorite athletes have been doing in the various competitions leading up to the Games. We’re especially strong on figure skating around here and it’s pure joy to spend a January afternoon viewing past highlights, medal-winning programs and other fun videos that have been posted by the YouTube community.

But you’ve put a fly in our celebratory Olympic ointment this past couple of weeks with what appears to be your newest methods of ad placement and I think this is important enough to write to you about. I’m well aware that there are many different types of content on YouTube, catering to people with widely different tastes. I can choose to watch or not watch any given video. But choice is abruptly whisked away when I’m watching a lovely, family-friendly figure skating program and suddenly find myself looking at sexual content in the form of a pop-up ad. The campaign I’ve now repeatedly encountered while watching winter sport videos hails from some sort of dating website and the imagery and calls to action are not appropriate for general audiences. The pop-ups appear across the video screen about 10-20 seconds into the videos, without any warning, on videos that have absolutely no relation to the content of the ads.

in response to youtube popup ads
I’m not going to attempt to dictate which companies YouTube/Google might consider as appropriate sponsors, but I do want to issue a request that you start matching ad content to video content. I firmly believe that the responsibility for protecting young people from unwanted messaging falls on the shoulders of parents and guardians, but I also know for a fact that many adults grant their children carte blanche when it comes to Internet use and am certain that children are now being exposed to these sexually-themed pop-up ads on YouTube, even if they are just looking for videos of their favorite skaters, skiers or snowboarders.

Yes, it’s the parents’ responsibility to monitor Internet use, but on a societal level, Google (with its Montessori background) is as aware as I am that many children grow up in neglectful homes and only receive protection of their basic rights and dignity through societal norms and laws. In some nations, it’s illegal to slant ads towards children, and while we have no similar laws in the U.S., I would like to believe that Google doesn’t take this as an invitation to act without conscience in this regard.

I understand that YouTube, like nearly every other Google property, makes its money from selling ad space. I know this won’t change in the near future, so my request is very simple, and I’ve already stated it above. It deserves repetition: please, consider matching ad content to video content. I’d rather you did away with forced pop-up ads all together, folks. As a human being, I find this run of dating ads to be demeaning, depressing and ugly and I don’t like to see them. As a web designer with a strong interest in Human Usability, I find the delivery of pop-up ads to be pushy, overbearing and obnoxious. I always shut them. I never click on them. I feel annoyed that my *choice* has been interrupted by someone else’s choice. I feel a loss of control and a loss of enjoyment. From a marketing standpoint, too, you are hardly serving your sponsors well by showing this type of content to such a broad and irrelevant audience, though this is really the last of my personal concerns.

If this ad format is here to stay on YouTube, please start doing a better job of showing ads to a correctly targeted audience – not my family who is simply trying to enjoy the good spirit of the 2010 Olympics to the fullest. What you are choosing to do with these ads does not have a good spirit, and as a person who has enjoyed YouTube for many years, I thought this was important enough to write to you about.

I welcome your response, as well as public comment.

Miriam Ellis, CEO
Solas Web Design

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