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stephen fluin googleio

The Last Glass Survivor

I started wearing Google Glass the day I received it in May of 2013, and I’ve worn it almost every day ever since.

The early days of Glass were interesting. There was a ton of excitement and interest about the technology, and an instant community among those of us that had the luck to get a hold of a pair. Every day I would be approached by tens of people confused, surprised, or curious about Google Glass.

Being someone who wore Google Glass meant that I was called a Glass Explorer. This name was direct in the fact that when Google Launched the product, they didn’t exactly know how the public or the industry would react to the product. Google’s strategy was to let it into the wild and see what happened.

At first launch, there were about 4 Explorers in Minnesota. This number grew over the following year to 7, then 11. Ultimately there were about 15 of us that wore Google Glass every day in Minnesota.

There were more pairs of Google Glass out in the wild, but most of these weren’t worn by real users, they were examined like a science project by large companies like Target or Medtronic or Delta Airlines.

Among the crew of Glass Explorers, we had technologists such as Kate Agnew who brought us together for happy hours, we had Breon Nagy who proposed to his then Fiancee while wearing Glass, and we had Norton Lam who found a way to wear Glass over his regular glasses by awkwardly interweaving the nosepieces. I had many Explorer friends and for a moment we formed a community and a family.

google glass explorers minnesota

We wore Glass because it broke down the barriers to engagement. Rather than pulling out an Android to send or receive a text message, we used a simple glance and voice commands. Rather than fishing for an iPhone whenever you wanted to take a picture, it was a wink away.

The funniest thing about wearing this piece of high technology on my face is the way that it has opened up a whole world to me with interacting with real people. Since May 2013 I’ve had over 700 people come up to me and ask about Glass. I kept a rough count of how many people approached me each day throughout my time with Glass. Never underestimate the curiosity of 300 drunk SEO experts in Seattle. I even set a rule for myself that I would take a picture of every single person that tried them on.

people wearing glass

Most commonly it was people asking me if I liked it. Sometimes people would have no idea what it was, sometimes people would act as if they were terrified for their lives, as if taking a picture of them (which I hadn’t done) might steal their soul. A very common reaction was for there to be a mix of people with and without experience with Glass. One of the my associates tried to downplay it’s “cool” factor and focus on it’s negative qualities by telling everyone we met “He’s filming you right now”.

Being a Glass explorer even had unexpected social impacts. I was a little shocked at first, but more than a few times, Glass drove women to compliment or approach me at night and in social situations. In the same way that a $10,000 gold Apple Watch makes a bold statement to everyone around you, so did Glass. This appeal has faded over time, however.

The times haven’t always been good. The battery only lasts about a day of standard usage, less depending on what the Glass Team has fixed or broken in the latest release of the platform. As of the “final version” XE22, I only get about 12 hours of standard usage.

There have been about 5 negative reactions in my time with Glass. I was kicked out of a bar in Seattle. I’ve had a gentleman yell obscenities at me as he drove past me in a car. I was kicked out of a museum once, but only after I had taken pictures of everything (They didn’t ban photography).

Two of the harshest reactions came from Apple Store employees. One told me that I couldn’t take pictures in the store. An Apple store … where every device they sell has a camera and is one of their top selling points, hrm…

Glass is still a fantastic piece of technology in March of 2015, but the shine and excitement around the technology is gone. In Minnesota, at least, there aren’t anymore Glass Explorer meetups. All of my friends that wore Glass every day have slowly taken them off. I’m sure there’s more out there, but we grow fewer every day. They stopped wearing them because the social impact of wearing them were too great for them to overcome when compared to the usefulness of the product.

I still wear mine today because I have reached a point where when I am without them, I feel cut off. Moments pass me by without being able to take a picture. I feel like I have to move my hands and my attention to interact with technology to check the time or read an incoming email. When I don’t have Glass, texting and Driving becomes a dangerous diversion from the road, rather than a short conversation with long distance digital pen pals.

I’ve been wearing a smart watch now since June of 2014, most recently the stylish Moto 360. In some ways, Android Wear is better. Android Wear is the wearables platform from Google. It has instant support for all of my applications out of the box, notifications come in synchronously with my phone, and biggest of all, there’s no culture of stigma against it.

Android Wear is great and it’s one part of the future, but in a lot of ways, it doesn’t solve the same problem as Google Glass. If my hands are full because I’m carrying groceries or if I’m driving, a watch is a distraction virtually equal to that of the phone. When I hold my wrist up to my mouth to give a voice command, I feel like I’m using a piece of technology, whereas when I use Glass I feel like the technology is an extension of myself.

So I’ll continue wearing Glass for now until the functionality of the Explorer device starts to become deprecated. I hope the planned consumer release from Tony Fadell at Nest brings improvements and a permanent place for this type of technology. I hope that the the Glass team learns from the ideas and mistakes of Android Wear. I hope they find for a way to bring this type of hardware into my life without visibly confronting the people around me and forcing them to have an opinion about the technology I choose to use for myself.

Apple Pay and The Impending Rebirth of NFC 729x360

Tap To Live: Apple Pay and The Impending Rebirth of NFC

When Apple announced the iPhone 6, one feature stood above the rest. In 2011, Google and Microsoft added Near Field Communications capabilities to their flagship devices. In 2014, Apple finally followed the industry, announcing that the iPhone 6 uses NFC for Apple Pay.

applepay

In 2012, I used the still-young technology along with the Google Nexus 7 tablet and a team of six to win the company’s international hackathon at my old employer, Pearson. Unfortunately I am unable to disclose the nature of our project. Suffice it to say I understand the promise of the technology well.

In the years before the announcement, Apple fans tirelessly insisted that NFC was dead and that Bluetooth LE or iBeacon or yet another unrelated technology would replace it. Less than a year ago, I was questioned by a clueless tech reporter whose thesis was that NFC had died. He called his article an obituary and he merely aimed to find experts who would carve its epitaph for him.

I wouldn’t join this parade of fools. Highly-trained programmers still misunderstand what NFC is and what it isn’t. All the focus on payments has given intelligent people false impressions about what the technology is and what it offers.

Let me tell you what it is. NFC is a means of exchanging information at very short distances.

The “N” in NFC means “Near.” This hints that limited range is a feature which offers value to you. For the last few years, the calling card of Apple fanboys was complaining about NFC’s inferior range. This supposed weakness is the top value proposition for NFC. Simply put—the state of device pairing today sucks. NFC offers a means for devices to talk when tapped.

NFC interactions are described as “Tap to X.” NFC payments are “Tap to Pay.” NFC Bluetooth or WiFi devices like speakers and mice are “Tap to Pair.” Samsung phones incorporate the S-beam feature, which offers “Tap to Share.” By programming cheap, unpowered NFC stickers or tags with simple apps, you can “Tap to Do Almost Anything.”

I have a special affinity for user interactions that resemble the user interface of real life. For example, car makers initially experimented with unlocking car doors by smartphone app. The user experience offered by unlocking your phone, finding your app, logging in, and waiting for a door unlock message to reach a server on the Internet is a catastrophe compared to smart keys which unlock the car doors merely by proximity. We all understand proximity because of its powerful role in nature. Likewise, tapping is an action which even a child understands.

nfc marker

What tapping offers is security, privacy, and specificity. A tap is an intimate gesture that requires letting someone invade your personal space. One could imagine tapping devices to share contact details or an unpublished manuscript to a friend.

When we imagine the Internet of Things, a single apartment could have dozens of devices connected to the Internet through WiFi and Bluetooth. Now imagine that the apartment building has hundreds of other apartments with similar devices sharing similar names. If we rely on Bluetooth or WiFi to configure everything, how do we know that we’re talking to the right device and that no intruder configures our devices before we do? It may be easier to tap the device than to select it from a list.

There are already many interesting uses of NFC technology in hardware. From medical devices to door locks to appliances to Bluetooth speakers and mice, applications of NFC are already plentiful. One would expect NFC to replace QR codes in small advertising and retail displays as the interaction is much simpler.

Even without building devices, hobbyists have found many NFC applications of their own. One simple idea I’ve used for convenience is tagging my clothes washer with an NFC sticker to set a wash alarm on my smartphone when I tap it. This simple trick costs less than a dollar and always impresses people unfamiliar with the technology. These stickers or tags require no power of their own, since the NFC reader powers them wirelessly to read their stored data.

Another great idea is tagging your car door and office door to turn on or off Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi to match your needs. We haven’t even scratched the surface of interesting uses of NFC technology because so many vendors have been waiting for Apple to move before investing their time and money.

2014 is the year of Apple Pay and NFC came along for the ride. There’s only one problem. MacRumors reports that the Apple Pay’s NFC chip arrives locked down on the iPhone 6 and offers no programmable uses at launch. It seems Apple made the decision to leave developers out for now.

Many Android and Microsoft app developers have had a two or three year head start using NFC technology. Famed angel investor Paul Graham suggested the recipe to successful tech startup ideas is to “live in the future then build what’s missing.” What does it imply if Apple developers are forced to continue living in the past?

Hopefully, Apple moves quickly so that their device owners may also soon Tap to Live.

why moto 360 is better than google glass

Why Moto 360 is better than Google Glass

There’s a reason that during this year’s Google I/O conference a large wave of disappointment moved throughout the audience when they announced that the Moto 360 would not be ready until later this summer.

There’s also several reasons Moto 360 is better than Google Glass and they are as follows:

Moto 360

  • Does not make you look ridiculous

  • Allows you to order pizza in less than 20 seconds

  • Makes you look more suave

  • Does not creep people out

  • Does not introduce security & privacy concerns

  • Is socially acceptable

  • Makes you feel like a secret agent

  • Has natural touchscreen interface

  • Does not impede vision

  • Is subtle

  • Is affordable

  • Has long battery life

  • Is water resistant

  • Has a larger screen size

  • Is not on your face

  • Has an elegant scratch-resistant sapphire display

  • Automatically installs app functionality from your apps on your smartphone

Google Glass

  • Makes you look ridiculous

  • Does not allow you to order pizza in less than 20 seconds

  • Makes you look less suave

  • Creeps people out

  • Introduces security & privacy concerns

  • Is socially awkward

  • Makes you feel like a cyborg

  • Has an unnatural interface

  • Impedes vision

  • Is not subtle

  • Is not affordable

  • Has short battery life

  • Is not as water resistant

  • Technically has a smaller screen

  • Is on your face

  • Has a dull scratch-resistant sapphire display

  • Automatically installs app functionality from your apps on your smartphone, but apps are less likely to support it

What do you think?
Cast your vote below!

4 Things Missing from the Google IO Keynote

4 Things Missing from the Google I/O Keynote

On Wednesday, one of the geekiest conferences of the year, Google I/O kicked off with a keynote that has brought us everything from Google TV to Google Glass. This keynote touched on a huge variety of topics including the “L” release of Android, a completely new cross-platform design framework, and Google’s technology reaching into our homes, our cars and our lives.

stephen fluin googleio

That being said, the two and a half hour keynote failed to touch on 4 key technologies that have been huge features in the past few years.

Google+

google plus screen

Google+ made a huge splash when it was forced onto the scene. Users of Google applications are constantly poked and prodded to join the social network. Led by Vic Gundotra, and expanded at I/O 2013, Google+ was a core part of Google’s strategy, even tying every employee’s bonus to the success of the network.

Since then, Vic Gundotra has left Google. Despite a huge number of Google+ updates over the last year, there was no mention of this important network this year.

Hangouts

Every Google+ user has a Hangout-capable account. Hangout is a combination of an instant message network, video call system and integrated digital phone, allowing users to communicate, or even make/receive phone calls from their computer. Google has another voice product called Google Voice, which has been slowly collecting dust for over a year. All indications are that Google Hangouts will replace Google Voice, but as of I/O 2014, these two systems still live in parallel, neither offering a complete solution.

Google Glass

The week before I/O, Google Glass was brought to the UK via an expansion of the Explorer program. The day before I/O, it was announced that the new hardware version of Glass has a slightly larger battery, and double the RAM for the purpose of making the device faster. At Google I/O 2012 there was a huge excitement around Glass, with Sergey Brin showing up personally and staging a skydiving stunt directly onto Moscone in San Francisco.

Today, Glass is on version 18.11 and things are pretty much the same. Although all US and UK consumers can get a hold of Glass, it’s still $1500, and the product itself is not ready for the mass market.

Google seems confused about where they want to take Glass. They refuse to release it as a general consumer device, and for developers they have built an entirely different wearable framework called Android Wear that Glass doesn’t conform to. This means developers have to use different technologies, strategies and approaches whether developing for a watch or a pair of Glass.

Android Studio

At Google I/O 2013, Google announced a new way of developing Android applications. Android Studio was a dedicated development environment for Android from Google. This launch marked two changes. Instead of using Eclipse, developers were now supposed to use the new Intelli-J derived editor. Second, instead of using Ant as the build system for Android Applications, Android Studio fully adopts the Gradle model.

Gradle and Android Studio are more powerful, but more complex tools. With the launch in 2013, Android Studio was an early beta version, full of bugs and not ready for real development. Since then, things have improved greatly via updates approximately every two weeks. Complicating things, new development documentation and code samples from Google now exclusively use Gradle and Android studio, despite its continuing beta status.

But where are we now? Android Studio is now the Lingua Franca for Android development, and approximately every two weeks developers run the risk of experiencing new bugs and having their projects break.

Suspicious Omissions

It’s unclear if these omissions are marking a shift in strategy for Google, or merely an artifact of the limited time in the behemoth’s conference. This is troublesome for developers because we rely on communications from Google to make the right long-term choices every day. Clearer communication would help Google grow and retain its legions of developers.

Greatest Advancements in Mobile Tech

Greatest Advancements in Mobile Tech

When writing a post that spans a lot of time, the most important choice is where to start. Obviously the evolution of mobile technology goes back to the first computer, calculator, pencil, abacus, the wheel and probably fire. We don’t need to spend too much time on the super obvious stuff. I decided to start with the consumer electronics revolution.

Let’s fast forward to the point where it became inevitable that nearly everyone would eventually need a computer to be a functional part of society. Mobile technology is, after all, just computer technology that is easier to manage and use. What were the most important advancements in consumer electronics?

1984 – Apple Macintosh Release

While the Mac was not the first computer it was the first computer with a graphical interface to be available to the public. The mouse peripheral was also new, previously computers could only be controlled by keyboard commands. The Macintosh was introduced in 1984 and during that Superbowl the famous “1984” commercial helped give the machine its start.

This very capable 8MHz machine could be yours for only $1995 ($4,473.04 in 2013). The Macintosh attracted many users who were originally intimidated or uninterested in a text-based interface. It isn’t important that Apple made this machine, what is important is the user interface which made it accessible to a much larger group of people. This machine, and those that followed, would set the stage for considerable innovation in the mobile technology field for years to come.

1990 – Windows 3

This was Microsoft’s first successful (the first two iterations fell a bit flat) graphic user interface (GUI) system set to compete with Apple’s Macintosh. At this point it was very clear that GUI are a must in all future consumer devices. It made computers accessible to people other than just computer geeks. Exactly that, is showcased in one of the early advertisements:

Learn about the capabilities of Windows 3 just for fun:

Microsoft licensed Windows and Apple quickly started losing market share to Windows-equipped competitors with cheaper hardware like IBM and Compaq. Apple began fading into the background of computer manufacturing as Windows took over the business world. Spoiler alert: Apple will be back.

1996 – Windows CE

The busy bees at Microsoft didn’t stop at a desktop operating system. They also created Windows CE, a self-contained solution for embedded systems. It is a bit like Android before there was Android. It was primarily built to run simplified Windows applications in the erupting hand-held market. Since then, Windows CE has evolved to run on a huge variety of devices and is still in use today. Many people have no idea what CE even is, but chances are they have had many run-ins with it throughout their lives. It was the precursor to many mobile system to come. It is used in scanners, gps devices, automobiles and various other electronics.

800px Windows CE Timeline.svg

1996 – Palm

The IBM Simon was the first smartphone, released in 1994. However, few people have ever heard of it because of its poor sales and circulation. The Simon sold only 50,000 units in its entire shelf-life. Other companies tried to enter the handheld PDA arena: AT&T with the EO, Casio with the Zoomer, Apple with Newton and Microsoft with PocketPC, but all of them came before their time and failed.

The Palm Pilot was the first successful PDA. Palm sold over 1 million Pilots in the first 18 months of release. Although that sounds like a joke now, in 1996 Palm consumed 70% of the handheld market in the United States. Palm released a series of Pilot PDAs, and then moved on to the Treo which actually had telephone capabilities.

There is plenty of debate on why exactly Palm didn’t remain a leader in the handheld/smartphone field, poor management, failure to evolve, poor software, maybe a bit of everything; but it stayed around long enough to prove that the mobile landscape is viable.

1999 – BlackBerry

blackberry

The first BlackBerry was a two-way pager with a relatively large keyboard. It gained marketshare and popularity among business professional by focusing on email services. Even more than the Palm, this device paved the way for modern smartphones.

The BlackBerry infiltrated the business world and converted that large and important segment of people into avid mobile users. There was a business need for connectedness even when away from the office. People really started to feel like they couldn’t function with out it, so it became a part of their lifestyle.

2001 – iPod

Advancements in mobile were not just phones and PDAs, Apple introduced a new music player in 2001.

Although it didn’t really take off until about 2005, there is no doubt that iPod was a game changer. iPod met every consumer need: it fit in your pocket, it could hold all of your music, it was easy to use and it had a reasonable price tag. The iPod is arguably the first mobile device that nearly everyone could see the value in. It was simple to understand, and even easier to explain. All of these benefits helped the iPod sell over 350 million units as of 2012.

Who can forget these memorable ads?

Not everyone wanted a PDA or cell phone. Many people didn’t see the need to be connected all the time. But nearly everyone had some form of mobile music player. If you were in the market for a music player, it was very hard to make a case for anything other than an iPod for quite a long time.

2006 – YouTube, Twitter, and Community Generated Content

Around 2006, a paradigm shift took place in regard to internet usage. Instead of just being a place people go to get information, the internet became a place people could share information. Granted, people could share information in the form of email, chat and message boards, only web developers could make websites. Html knowledge was required to be a content creator.

Being a web developer was no longer necessary to create content for the web. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogger and many more, created a critical mass of content outlets for users. Suddenly sharing photos, videos, and social posting became fast and easy. People had more reasons than ever to be connected, they wanted mobile internet.

2007 – iPhone

After many rumors and much speculation Apple finally released its phone. The financial success of the iPhone hardly needs to be pointed out but just to put it into perspective ~330 million iPhones have been sold from 2007-2013. iPhone incorporated all of the benefits of a PDA, phone, and music player into one beautiful device. Heck, it even had a decent camera! The device was so revolutionary and all-encompassing the advertising team had to work pretty hard to help people realize how much power they had.

Even though mobile devices have been around for many years by now, none of them clicked like the iPhone did. Like the iPod before it, iPhone was accessible to everyone.

2008 – Android HTC Dream

Google was on Apple’s heels entering the marketplace less than a year later with the HTC Dream. Once the first competitor entered the market the floodgates opened and hundreds of manufacturers began creating Android devices. Carrier plans made the devices affordable. Mobile music players and portable cameras were rolled into mobile phone offerings.

Today it is all but assumed that you have a smartphone. Everyone has access to the internet at all time. Both app stores have thousands of applications.

2012 – Wearables

Today we find ourselves in the era of wearables. You can’t look at tech-news sites without seeing multiple stories about some kind of new smart watch, smart band, eye piece, or heart rate monitor coming out. The field has yet to be proven, but that isn’t stopping many from diving in. Some of the established players are Google Glass, FitBit, Nike Fuel Band and Pebble.

Even with their limited releases wearables have already gathered a strong following, and they make impressive promises. The ability to measure everything from caloric intake to sleep patterns can help people greatly improve health and fitness. Having a GPS chip in nearly everything will greatly reduce theft and provide valuable data to both users and companies. Hands-free devices like glass and watches will make interfacing with the online world easier than ever.

The Future

the-future

Saying “the Future” almost feels misleading considering the speed of current innovation. It’s difficult to predict what mobile technology will be like just in the next 5 years, before even considering “the future.” There are many technologies that are primed for a breakthrough like NFC, Virtual Reality and motion control. Other technologies we haven’t even thought of yet are probably going to take the world by storm. It is important than ever to keep listening, keep learning, keep an open mind, and try to keep up.

wrecking ball

What Miley Cyrus Can Teach Us About Bing & Google Image Search Results

In a previous blog post we analyzed the differences between identical searches in Google and Bing; however, we never compared image search results. They are probably pretty similar right?

Actually they are wildly different! Stephen Fluin brought this to my attention. Take a look at a Miley Cyrus image search on Google and Bing.

Google Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus google image search results

Bing Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus bing image search results

As Stephen delightfully put it:

“Bing is like a loving grandmother who is in complete denial about her granddaughter’s behavior.”

Bing’s image search is completely devoid of Miley’s entire 2013 MTV VMA performance. The twerking, the tongue, the short haircut make no appearances. That performance is arguably the biggest splash Miley has ever made and Bing is pretending it didn’t happen?

Clearly the image search algorithms employed by Google and Bing are very different. Lets look at another pair of examples and see what we can figure out.

Google Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Google Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Bing Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Bing Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Google Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Google Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

Bing Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Bing Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

In all of the Bing results not a single “bad” or “negative” photo is shown on any of these three female celebrities. My from-the-hip guess is that Google values social signals higher. Images with a greater amount of social shares appear more frequently and higher than lower scoring photos. Mug shots, or explosive pop culture photos often get shared quickly and appear on many gossip news sites which score large social numbers. Bing might take a more traditional approach and show pictures from highly authoritative websites?

Let’s use the example of Lindsay Lohan. Bing’s top 10 images from from:

mantoos.com
fanpop.com (two times)
blog.screenweek.it
stud-center.com (four times)
fotoblogx.blogspot.com
iwritealot.com

I don’t personally recognize any of these. Following through some of the links, I wouldn’t consider these sites reputable. Compare this to the Google’s sources:

businessinsider.com (two times)
nydailynews.com
hdwallpapersdj.com (four times)
imdb.com
vogue.fr
perezhilton.com

IMDB, Business Insider, and Vogue? I think most people would agree that these sites are certainly more reputable and authoritative. So what is going on here? I enlisted the help of our Director of Inbound Marketing and search engine wizard Andy Forsberg to provide analysis. First he put together this spreadsheet comparing the top five Miley Cyrus images:

image-search

And provides the following analysis:

Bing images search places little to no emphasis on the date or authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images by their resolution (largest photos first). The higher resolution images tend to be professionally taken and are therefore, more likely to be more “appropriate” for a general audience.

Google image search places significant emphasis on the date and the authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images primarily by domain authority, page authority, social sharing metrics & recency. Since the more shocking photos are more likely to be linked to more frequently and shared more frequently on social media channels, they are more likely to show up near the top of Google’s image search results.

Clearly the algorithms the two engines use are very different. Of course, analyzing search engine algorithms is more than a full time job. The sample size we used here is not large enough to draw any real conclusions, only for fun speculation. So based on our limited research, which engine is better?

If you are looking for a high quality, beautiful photo of Miley Cyrus to hang over your fireplace, Bing will deliver. Using Google you would likely have to use advances search and set a higher minimum size and do some hunting before getting the perfect picture. If, instead, you keep hearing things about Miley Cyrus and you want to find out what the fuss is all about, Bing will be almost no help. The most recent image it provides is from May 2012. Google is better suited at bringing images from the latest events to the top. It is thought-provoking how the engines attempt to satisfy different needs when faced with a search like “Miley Cyrus” and no additional context. I am now curious how these tendencies manifest themselves when searching for things other than female pop stars…

If you have any other insights, or simply prefer one search to the other let us know!

bingiton1

Google vs Bing Analysis

Bing is performing, what I consider to be, a very brave advertising campaign called “Bing It On new window link icon.” It’s like the Pepsi challenge of our generation. The idea is simple: people use Google without ever feeling like they need to change. Bing challenges Google in a head-to-head search-off to see who truly yields better results.

bingiton thumb

I am going to come clean – I am a Google user. I have NEVER used Bing unless I am testing something SEO-wise. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure all of MentorMate are pretty zealous Googlers. However, we are also technology agnostic. If Bing is a superior search engine we have no choice but to switch. I decided to run the Bing It On test to find out.

My testing process was systematic. First, I (with the help of my coworkers) came up with five common searches and discussed what our expectations of the results would be before running actual searches. We ran the searches to decide which results better met or even exceeded our expectations. Just for fun, we tried to identify which result was Google’s (something I will refer to as Google Signs). Once we began our testing process, we realized there were a few more common searches we were curious about so we extended the testing to ten total searches. As you’ll see below, each search is different and came with varying expectations.

Without further ado, bring on the test results!

Searching Something I Expect to Rank Highly

Search: “minneapolis software development”
SEO is one of our core competencies at MentorMate and we want to see the fruits of our labor. We work hard to get MentorMate.com and our client’s sites as high in the rankings as possible.

Expectation
I want to see five or more different mobile application development companies. I am curious which engine ranks MentorMate higher.

Results: Bing Wins
Both returned a nice list of software development companies. The results on the right, however, delivered more. The engine on the right also delivered a map and phone numbers. I like when my search engine goes above and beyond for me. You can tell that these are the Bing results because the map is clearly not a Google map. MentorMate is #1 for this term in Google and 4th or 6th, depending on how you look at it, in Bing. This makes sense because we spend less of our time optimizing for Bing, which makes me think… Are the companies above us optimizing for Bing or does Bing just value different things?

Searching to Spellcheck

Search: “mtstisfactoy”
This has probably become my most common usage of search. Looking through my search history will yield dozens of misspellings of words like necessary, entrepreneur, and diseases. In this case, I engineered a horrible butchering of the word ‘satisfactory’ by closing my eyes and attempting to type the word with the third knuckle of my left hand (I am right-handed).

Expectation
I expect to get a “did you mean satisfactory?” at the very top.

Bing vs Google analysis search term mtstisfactoy satisfactory misspelled

Result: Bing Wins
Google failed to find anything, while Bing gave me exactly what I needed. I ran this search again outside of the BingItOn challenge to see if it was some kind of glitch. Nope. Google really can’t figure out what I mean. This is very surprising because I search horrible misspellings all the time in Google and don’t recall stumping it outright. I ran a bunch of misspelled words after my original test and Google did fine in all of those. However, Bing did a perfect job 100% of the time while figuring out what I was trying to type so it gets the win.

Searching a Question

Search: “how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse”
Asking a question is classic; probably the most common reason to use a search engine. Recently, I remember asking “how to remove a stain from a tie”, “how does dry cleaning work”, and “how to best train my dog”.

Expectation
I want the top three posts to be informative blog, forum, or company links that sufficiently answer my questions.

Bing vs Google analysis search term how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse

Result: Bing Wins
Both engines returned worthy results from reputable sites. None were completely off-base, though they did range from funny to serious – but that is to be expected from such a question. I gave the win to the left side because it provided instructional videos while the right side did not. I was surprised that the left was Bing! I thought I was choosing Google because of the YouTube links. It’s pretty strange that Google decided not to display YouTube links for this search while Bing did.

Searching for a Movie

Search: “the adventures of baron munchausen”
Sometimes you want to learn who stared in a movie, what the DVD cover looks like, or see a trailer.

Expectation
I want to see a trailer, a link to the IMDB movie page, and a link to the Wiki page.

Bing vs Google analysis search term the adventures of baron munchausen

Results: Google Wins
Both engines delivered exactly what I needed. Google is on the right, obvious from the YouTube thumbnail in result three. Notice how Google displays star ratings from IMDB and RottenTomatoes? One of the core pieces of information from those sites is delivered without needing to waste a click. Bing tries to bring something special by displaying the site thumbnail images. Unfortunately, that does not stand up to Google’s increased usability and Google gets the win.

There is more to this story. Google’s Knowledge Graph. The BingItOn tester excludes any superfluous sidebar information. That sidebar is where Knowledge Graph information appears. Take a look at this same search on Google. It is a complete blow out! Look at all the information I get about this movie without clicking any links. Even if Google lost in the BingItOn test, it still would have won if the Knowledge Graph was taken into account.

Searching for a Movie by Description

Search Term: “low budget time travel movie”
Let’s say you forgot the name of a movie or video game, but know what is about.

Expectation
I expect to know the name of my movie, and get an IMDB and Wiki page as well as a trailer link.

Bing vs Google analysis search term low budget time travel movie

Result: Google Wins
They both correctly identified the movie. However, only Google returned the IMDB link. I find it strange that Bing decided not to pull IMDB even though it did in the previous search despite identifying the movie correctly. Google gets the win for this one because of the star ratings and, of course, the IMDB link.

Searching for Sports Facts

Search: “most homeruns this season MLB”
Sometimes you just need to settle an argument.

Expectation
I want to know the answer to my question without having to click on another link. I want the link title or intro text to answer it so that I can go on with my day.

Bing vs Google analysis search term most homeruns this season mlb

Result: Draw
Both search engines fail to answer my question without forcing me to click links. Digging deeper, I still worked entirely too hard to get the answer to my question. Maybe this is due to me being an amateur at navigating sport websites? Interestingly enough, Apple’s Siri was able to tell me exactly what I needed: “44 homeruns by Miguel Cabrera.” So I guess Apple wins.

Searching to Convert Units

Search: “how many cups in a liter”
This could be distance, volume, temperature, or even money.

Expectation
I want the results to my conversion without needing to click on any links.

Bing vs Google analysis search term how many cups in a liter

Result: Google Wins
Both returned the correct result in the way I expected. Turns out Google, on the right, brings extra usability to the table. It offers an interface where I can change either number and see real-time conversions without needing to search again. This feature must have been added recently because I do not remember ever seeing it. But for the increased usability, Google gets the win.

Searching a Business

Search: “Umbria Pizzeria Bloomington”
Sometimes you need to call a place to make reservations. Or write down the address. This process should be very quick and easy.

Expectation
I need to get an address and a phone number in the top three results, preferably without being forced to click any links. Then I would like the business website and some reviews.

Bing vs Google analysis search term umbria pizzeria bloomington

Result: Google Wins
Obviously, the left side wins with flying colors here. We can tell it is Google by the familiar review stars being displayed in the results. Another Google sign is the internal links it shows for the top result. Of course, the left result doesn’t win just because it is Google; it wins because the address and phone number are right at the top along with a “contact/map” link. Also, Bing doesn’t return any review sites while Google not only brings a Yelp review, but displays the star-rating without any extra effort. Take a look at Knowledge Graph information for an even more decisive victory.

Searching for News

Search: “japan riots in china”
Did you overhear something on the radio just as you arrived at your destination that you want to learn more about? Maybe you are fact checking some current event to make sure you aren’t only getting one side of the story?

Expectation
I would like to get relevant news posts from a variety of sources.

Bing vs Google analysis search term japan riots china

Results: Draw
Google brings us Examiner, News Asia, AFP, and the Globe and Mail as sources. Bing brings Bloomberg, CNN, Rueters, Yahoo Finance, and HuffingtonPost. While both returned a variety of sources and images, Google goes the extra mile and embeds videos. But both results pages met expectations and a YouTube video isn’t immediately a relevant news source. I give this search a draw.

Searching to Shop

Search: “mens dress shirts slim fit”
When I need to buy an item, searching is often my first stop. It helps me price check, informs me of which stores carry the item, and even provides me with some style suggestions.

Expectation
I expect to see images of the item so I know the search is understanding me correctly. I would also like to see some prices listed in the search page so I don’t need to click on any links to get a general idea of pricing. I would also like multiple stores which sell my item.

Bing vs Google analysis mens slim fit dress shirts

Results: Bing Wins
This was very surprising, but the left results are actually Bing’s! That’s right, Google returned 0 images and hardly any prices in the results. Google did a great job bringing a variety of retailers which sell slim-fit men’s dress shirts, but the results page is devoid of life. Bing meets my expectation by showing me images of shirts with attached prices. Although the variety of Bing’s results are more limited, I still prefer the result including images and prices.

But wait! This is another example in which Google’s hidden Knowledge Graph devastates Bing. Google does show images and prices, it just places them in the excluded Knowledge Graph. Comparing the images, it looks like Google does a better job actually showing “slim fit” shirts instead of just dress shirts. If I could factor this into the test Google would win this search, but I am limited to an honest BingItOn test.

Bing vs Google analysis final results draw 4 to 4

Conclusion

I am very surprised to see this end in a draw. But, it is clear that comparing search results alone is not comparing apples to apples. Two of the search results are suspect. When I searched for a typo, I somehow won the lottery in finding a word Google couldn’t figure out. 99.9% of the time that result will be a tie. Also, the men’s dress shirt search in Google actually does deliver superior results via their Knowledge Graph, which the BingItOn test appears to block. In my opinion, displaying star ratings in the results, interactive widgets like unit converter and calculator, and the useful and impressive Knowledge Graph empower Google with usability that goes beyond simply retrieving relevant links. Taking that into account, Google has the edge. While Bing is a fine tool, I am in no hurry to switch primary search engines just yet.

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Google Launches Web App Store for Chrome Browser

First released as a beta version for Microsoft Windows in September 2008, Google Chrome is a web browser developed by Google that uses the WebKit layout engine and application framework. For a product that was initially opposed by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Chrome has come a long way in the “alternative” (read: non-IE) web browser space.

According to Statcounter, Chrome was the third most used web browser (13%) worldwide as of November 2010, behind Firefox (31%) and ahead of Safari (4.7%). According to Google,

The store will be featured prominently in Chrome, helping people discover great apps and developers reach millions of users around the world,” says Google’s blog, noting that in 2010 alone, “the number of people using Chrome has tripled from 40 to 120 million.”

In no time, the TweetDeck has apparently jumped to the head of the pack:

“In the 3 days since the launch of the Chrome Web Store, our Chrome TweetDeck has had 45,851 users and been installed 62,477 times. To give these numbers some context it’s useful to compare them with the “big boys” of the Web Store such as the New York Times (43,542 users – 56,215 weekly installs) and Gmail (40,783 users – 37,921 weekly installs).”

The current layout is as simple and straightforward as a central repository should be. In the long run, the launch is a positive nod for the developer community, which now has yet another distribution channel for their creations in the form of mobile apps, browser applications, add-ons or themes.

In related (and potentially converging) news, Google has also made the case that “Chrome is enterprise ready,” opened the mobile “App Inventor for Android” to all Google account holders and announced Intel-based Chrome OS notebooks from Acer and Samsung to be available in mid-2011, with Verizon Wireless providing integrated 3G cellular connectivity..

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Link Building with the Experts – Our Link Building Tips & Strategies

Outspoken Media just interviewed 11 famous SEO experts to answer 11 great questions about link building. We saw that Dori had gone through and answered these link building questions on her blog, so we thought we’d do the same. We hope you find these answers useful to your own link building campaigns.

1) What are a few emerging link tactics that you’ve seen in the past 12 months providing tremendous value to sites/pages? Can you give a specific example or two?

I haven’t found any new link tactics in the past 12 months that provide tremendous value. All the great tactics that truly provide tremendous value have been around for a while.

2) The SEO industry has become so stingy with linking to quality content to the point that many people who used to share a lot of it simply don’t bother, as it is not worth the cost of doing so. Is this a trend which spreads? Are we canaries in the coal mine, or is this just an issue impacting the SEO niche because it is far too saturated? What can Google do to encourage organic linking on the WWW (outside of nepotism, hype, spin, misinformation & ego-baiting)?

We don’t like to look greedy, so we don’t perform the stingy acts on our company web site. However the reason we created SpyderMate initially was as a linkbait tool. So for SpyderMate we don’t freely post external links. We feel it’s justified there however because we are offering a free and very useful service to the community.

3) What are the criteria for the “perfect link”?

The perfect link has the following attributes:

a) High authority domain & page
b) Minimal amount of external links on same page
c) Web site is very relevant to yours
d) The anchor text matches a keyword you are battling for
e) It’s located within the obvious content section of the web page
f) obviously it’s not tagged id=”linkage”

4) How do you go about creating a link marketing plan that will A:) Get tangible search results in a 6 to 12 month period and B:) Create sustainability for the website you are creating the plan for (i.e. keeping the links clean and adding links with long term value)

Well first you find out what keywords they should be targeting. Then you go through all their competitors ranking  for the keyword phrases and scour all their backlinks. Once you make sure you got a link from every backlink they have possible then you move on. Next you target the more lower hanging fruit longtail keywords through your list of standard directories that you submit to. This helps re-enforce your short-tail keywords with long tail variation power. After this you go for the seriously powerful links. These are your premium directory listings, your serious linkbait web sites and your powerful friend’s web sites. These sites target the more generic short-tail keywords that help raise all your longtails associated around them. The maintain sustainability you consistently create great new content and linkbait to create a consistent flow of natural inbound, quality, relevant links.

5) If you could choose a link on a lower authority page that would provide a moderate amount of targeted traffic or a link on a higher authority page that would provide absolutely no traffic – all other attributes being equal – for ranking benefits on the site you’re developing links for, which would you choose and why?

This depends entirely on how relevant and how well converting the lower authority page would be. It also depends on current rankings, whether or not there is a keyword I could boost my rankings for that would beat the conversions coming directly from this link. So if i had a site with a low conversion rate that had a high payout I would go with the lower authority link. If I had a site with a high conversion rate and a lower average payout I’d go with the high authority link.

6) Do you feel that you can conserve pagerank or that it’s still worth the effort to sculpt your links, by limiting the number of links on a page, creating them with JavaScript, passing them through a blocked page or using nofollow?

I believe you can, but also don’t believe it’s worth the effort, especially on a site that you’re constantly updating. There are other tasks you can spend your valuable time on that provide more value to your web presence.

7) Please discuss what link deprecation is and what impact it may have on a link building campaign.

I believe link deprecation to be the result of poorly built links primarily. The only reason this should occur is due to the age of the links. Actually losing links only happens to links that were easily attained and therefore easily lost. The best links are very hard to come by and last the test of time.

8) Do you think search engines are trying to find a way to depend less on link popularity and more on other algorithmic/social media factors?

I believe they are, but I don’t think it plays much of a role currently. I also think basing searches on social media is not viable for many categories of web sites. The fact that social media sites like Facebook are social make your likes inherently based around your friend’s general interests as well as your own. Even though I’m heavily interested in SEO, it does not mean I’m going to bother liking SEO articles I find interesting left and right because I know it will annoy my friends. I want to share things that I know my friends will also be interested in. This is not a system that a true search engine can be built upon. A search engine can however leverage this information is done on the right level.

9) How much do you stress internal linking on your own or clients’ sites? Do you have a quick rule of thumb or strategy to maximize the effectiveness of internal links?

I’ve found that emphasizing your traffic generating pages through inbound links is critical. Using carefully placed inbound links to associate relevant topics and re-emphasize targeted anchor text is extremely helpful, especially for that highest level page in the link scheme. Enough said.

10) What’s a successful link development strategy many overlook or dismiss?

Linkbait. People tend to dismiss serious linkbait strategies because of the time/costs associated with them. They tend to think other efforts are easier, but nothing generates those truly unique, critical, powerful links like well done linkbait.

11)  What have you been most WRONG about over the course of your link building/SEO career?

I was most wrong about how effective thousands of links coming from the same authoritative web site, with different anchor text, coming from different pages, linking to different pages were at lifting my rankings. Domain diversity is absolutely crucial. I’ve learned that one great warrior is better than thousands of mediocre warriors.

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Google Android Application Development Utilizing Background Processes

Android is one of the fastest growing operating systems and software stacks for smartphones. OS smartphones ranked second among all smartphone OS handsets sold in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2010. Dell, HTC, Motorola and Samsung are some of the manufacturers using this operating system.

Google opened the source code under an Apache License and now the Android SDK allows developers to write managed code in the Java language, controlling the device via Google-developed Java libraries. The SDK includes a comprehensive set of development tools, such as a debugger, libraries, a handset emulator, documentation, sample code and tutorials.

Applications that run in the background are supported in Android in contrast to iPhone. All of these facts stimulate me to research this interesting technology. I decided to make an application running in the background and receiving the GPS location. The main goal was to inform the user not to write or read text messages while he or she is driving.

It is pretty easy to develop an Android application, especially if you are using Eclipse. You can download the latest version of the Android SDK from the official site. There are a lot of tutorials explaining how to install and use the SDK in Eclipse, if you are a beginner you can take a look at the developer’s guide.

Utilizing the GPS Module

As you may know smartphones have a gps module which provides the current location. This feature is used in many applications. To implement it you have to modify the AndroidManifest.xml, this is the main configuration file.

With these permissions you tell to the application that the GPS module will be used and the application is given access to it.

The Activity Class

There is one very important class in an application’s overall lifecycle – the Activity class. It takes care of creating a window for you in which you can place your UI. But this activity is not enough to create a background process. It should be used in conjunction with another object from the ContextWrapper to achieve the behavior of an application component that runs in the background and doesn’t interact with the user. This functionality is given up by the Service class. Both the activity and the service should be declared in the android manifest file.

My idea is to create a main activity class and in the onCreate() method call the service. But when something is started, there needs to be a way to stop it. The best place to stop the service is in the onDestroy() method of the main activity. These two methods are overridden because the main activity has to extend the Activity.java class. They look like:

This is how the activity class looks. The service class will manipulate the GPS module data. It will get the location in a time interval, get the speed or calculate it if it is not available and finally if the speed is more than 10km/h it will inform the user not to use the phone’s features while driving in order to avoid accidents.

The Service Class

As the main activity extends Activity.java class, the service should extend the Service.java class. The service is started in the overridden method onCreate() of the class.

First a timer object is needed which will take care of calling the service. To schedule the timer you have to prepare a TimerTask instance, which calls your business logic. In the example it is called the getUpdateLocation() method, its functionality will be explained later in this post. The timer is scheduled with the timer task and the specified time interval passed as a constant.

Lets take a look at the getUpdateLocation() method. As the title says, the method gets the location from the LocationManager.java class. The locations are separated by providers, so they are filtered with a criteria. Some GPS providers send the speed of the device. But if the speed is not received, it can easily be calculated as a quotient of the distance between the current and previous location with the subtraction of the two times.

The user will be informed with a warning message, if the calculated speed is more than a specified value. This is the business logic, but there is one other thing to take care of – the timer. The timer is started in the onCreate() method of the service class. It will be stopped in the onDestroy() method of the service class. The cancel() method will then be called in order to cancel the timer and remove any scheduled tasks.

The completed application will run in the background and inform the user with a message that his or her speed is more than 2.78 meters per second.