When Google Apps Go Down…

I’ve expressed interest in using a service besides Gmail for my email for awhile now. Today Google apps Gmail went down. That’s the equivalent of a blackout for me. When things like that happen I’m reminded of what I dislike about Google products. I pay for several digital services, hosting comes to mind. The customer service I get for these services is nothing short of spectacular. Even during crippling hosting outages I usually get prompt replies sent by real customer support staff. That kind of service is worth paying for. I would be willing to pay a little something for real customer service for Google products.

Instead what I get with Google products is ads in my email, difficult interfaces to navigate and no clear way to get help when I need it. Every time I want to get a different email client I’m reminded that inspite of the awful interface decisions made on Gmail the actual search technology behind it is second to none. So they’ve got us, ads and all.

Sadly I have no brand loyalty to Google like I probably do to Apple. But the truth is I need it as much as I need Apple. I guess I don’t like being in a position with no alternatives. I hope some clever startup comes up with a better way to do email and blows Gmail out of the water (and soon!)


Facebook knows (us) best

Of all the top social networks Facebook most successfully satisfies our vanity. We’ve all gone online. We want our existence reinforced. Facebook has claimed a monopoly on our actual personal networks. Twitter, Google+ and Diaspora are biased to connecting outwardly, helping us forge new networks. While this is a more noble premise if you believe in the potential of the world wide web, it also makes these networks much more disposable.

I recently allowed my birthday to appear for my Facebook friends. I received over thirty birthday wall posts. This personal and very human connection got me thinking that this is where Facebook’s advantage lies. Only Facebook virtually guarantees feedback on the signals we put out now matter how small our networks. This is because for most we’ve replicated our real life social networks on Facebook and nowhere else online.

Continue reading Facebook knows (us) best

The Promise of Diaspora: The Future of Social Networks

Diaspora was introduced to most as an idea that was to be the open source, privacy focused alternative to Facebook via Kickstarter in 2010. That’s how I learned of it and originally that’s what I expected it to be. Now that the dream is in alpha reality and I have joined the network I can tell you that Diaspora is not exactly an alternative to Facebook (although for some it is). What I’ve come to realize is that Diaspora represents the future of social networking.

Diaspora doesn’t have the luxury of humble beginnings like the great open source success of WordPress. There are too many people who simultaneously love social networking and hate Facebook for Diaspora to evolve slowly and organically. The pressure for features will come from this group. However the most important task Diaspora has ahead of it is to become a connector between social networking sites. Continue reading The Promise of Diaspora: The Future of Social Networks

Social Fatigue: How Google+ could dilute social. The return of the niche.

With the hype of Google+ fading we should brace ourselves for it to renew itself when the product officially launches. I’ve been critical of Google’s lack of design as a source of many of its product failures. It seems that they have invested more deeply in visual design for Google+ although I remain unimpressed by much of their infrastructure design. The array of Google apps seems like a messy afterthought. I don’t mean that they’re bad products but the compounding of them and the assumption that everyone will find them useful feels like an even more convoluted version of Microsoft’s mess of business applications. (Note the tangent, let’s move on.)

The tidal wave of techies declaring Facebook and Twitter as defeated by Google+ only highlights that many people just didn’t like these services all that much. I too think G+ does a lot of things better than the aforementioned. The problem for me at the moment is that it won’t replace either Facebook or Twitter. While I do feel Facebook is stagnant it also represents connections with real people I know. I always thought this was the true value purpose of Facebook and I’ve rarely ever friended anyone I haven’t actually met face to face. Twitter in conjunction with the Flipboard iPad app has made Twitter really work for me in terms of consumption. Google+ has devised a way to have the best of real friends and real interests. Both Twitter and Facebook already had these capabilities yet Google takes a rare win for design in making Circles of who you’re following their main differentiation. Even so I now have 3 social networking services open daily. The end result is that I just look at Facebook and Twitter a little less. Continue reading Social Fatigue: How Google+ could dilute social. The return of the niche.

The State of Social Media (as I see it)

Facebook is hemorrhaging American users. It’s been slow to evolve. No good Facebook iPad app? That’s unacceptable for the ‘premier’ social network. Twitter has recently been blessed by all-powerful Apple as the sharing destination. Twitter is an amazing informational resource. It’s also a terrible social network. I held great hopes for Diaspora. I even tried to sign up. It looks like it’s not going to happen and its moment has passed. Ironically Facebook still instigates with its privacy trespasses. I’ve read that Facebook is losing users because of the privacy issues. Not true. People really don’t care about or understand privacy. That’s for elite activists (god bless them.) People are losing interest in Facebook because it has bad User Experience design. It doesn’t easily give them the information they actually care about. Twitter is great and very democratic. But it works better in conjunction with an app like Flipboard to distill all the chaos into a palatable format. I’ve gotten into Instagram. I think it’s more about the effects. It doesn’t seem that great unto itself as a social network except that it sends my pictures to Twitter and Facebook. I’ve come to question why we need Twitter or Facebook to be our hub of social. Google could probably shake things up a bit if not for their ADD/disinterest in terms of UX quality. Apple went with Twitter because it doesn’t see a clear way to eek out profits from really getting into the Social Media game directly. No one wants to buy Myspace. Listen Twitter bots and spammers and marketers. People don’t like ads. They are disingenuous. People can smell them a mile away. It really doesn’t work. It’s why Myspace is crumbling. That need to turn a profit leads to the path of least resistance…advertising. And it is certain death in the social space. Facebook already feels dusty. Are they really giving us something we can’t get elsewhere. They are not. Twitter hit the jackpot by getting into bed with Apple. They can actually sidestep the advertising swamp they may have been heading to by continuing to allow real connections through devices. I believe that there’s a hidden and obvious social winner, still dormant. It’s not Tumblr. Tumblr is a nice and harmless fad. No, it’s WordPress. It still has different concerns and hasn’t tackled social in a meaningful way. But it has the power to change the game in an open source and moral way.

I am Jason Paul

What does it take to exist in this world? It was brought to my attention that I don’t have a great Google ranking. A quick search for Jason Paul brings up a page of other Jason Pauls. Actually I do sort of appear on that page. The last Jason Paul is me but it’s a link to my old and now obsolete site which I still keep online because I’m not ready to deal with the volumes of data I have stored there. This site, jasonpaul.net, is probably on page 2. Who are these other Jason Pauls?

Topping the list is 20 year old Jason Paul from Frankfurt, Germany who is dedicated to the sport of tricking which I only just learned about based on his profile. You can read about tricking and probably come to the same conclusion that I did. With nearly 5,000 Facebook friends and superhuman athletic ability, this kid will probably be number one for a long time to come. So I go to see whose number 2 and it’s a cluster of Youtube videos…for this Jason Paul’s acrobatics…and uh…wow! I can honestly say I’m a Jason Paul fan (my own prospects for fame declining by the minute). This kid is a real ninja:

Ok, so finally we get down to the next Jason Paul…and oh dear. It’s a website for Jason Paul Design. That’s interesting…because I’m a designer. On first glance of Jason Paul’s website I can breathe a sigh of relief because it’s a very different design aesthetic than I would employ. If you’ve worked with me in a design capacity you’ll know that I’ve done my utmost to retire the use of Helvetica (Arial). Jason Paul is using Arial and a lot of very tight leading and tracking, a combination of things not in my aesthetic toolbox. He presents himself as Advertising & Marketing which are two words I’ve stricken from my descriptions (although admittedly there is overlap) and it seems his work leans more to the promotional side of design. A little sleuthing from his vcard links reveals that Jason Paul is really Jason Mullins from South Carolina. Well that’s ok…am I really Jason Paul? If you don’t know my surname then you probably don’t need to.

The third Jason Paul is a fashion photographer. The overlap here is that his bio says he’s in New York City. The photo on his about page is really badass…such intensity. I’m not writing this to critique other Jason Paul’s but I must say that Jason Paul the fashion photographer desperately could use a new website. His current website is in Flash which, as we know, is terrible for the social web (and for interactivity in general). It’s also considered bad for Google to find your site but this Jason Paul has bypassed the laws of SEO and still managed to hold the number 3 rank despite the use of Flash. Jason Paul fashion photographer, I strongly encourage you to upgrade your site to WordPress. At bare minimum choose one of the many photo WordPress themes available for free on the web and do the content management work to get your photos into that system. You will thank me for this.

Number four is Mr. JaSoN PauL Chad. JaSoN PauL is somewhat of a mystery. I could call him (which reveals that he is also in NYC!) or email him, but can’t dig him up on the social web. He doesn’t explicitly say what he does, but I’ve deduced that he is also a web designer. A closer inspection of his site and his work shows that JaSoN PauL is still building static website pages in the old way, with HTML tables. Hopefully he’s made the leap into CSS and his site will soon reflect the benefit of acquiring that essential web design/development skill.

Number five on the Google rank list is entertainment photographer Jason Paul Roberts. I’m glad that the name Jason Paul has such great representation in the arts. It looks like Jason Paul Roberts is doing fairly well for an individual on the Social Web with his Facebook page receiving over 1400 Likes. His website is a little antiquated because it’s done in static html pages yet also acts as his portfolio and blog. It must be tedious to keep this up-to-date. I have been there yes I have. I’d have to also recommend to Jason Paul Roberts that he consider upgrading his site to a WordPress CMS. (Yes I know, I’m zealous about WordPress and the previous post ‘Why I Use WordPress‘ seemed to put me in a position as the sole defender of WordPress as an exemplary content management system…but I digress.)

Number six is disappointing. It’s the outdated resume (2006) of some Jason who goes by the name jigl who is not even a Jason Paul. It’s results like these where I must go off on a tangent about how Google could really do a lot better. Google search obviously is not that smart and has a long way to go. It’s no wonder that Google is held hostage by black hat SEO charlatans who dedicate their lives to gaming the system. It seems to me that the system is not hard to manipulate.

There are two things I despise about Google search. The first is that I always have to reset the search date because Google defaults to giving me old results. Apparently it puts a larger premium on page views than freshness and relevancy. If a crap page has been sitting on the web for a decade it will naturally have a higher rank even though it’s completely useless. I always have to click ‘Show Search Tools’ which thanks to Google’s terrible UX and contempt for design is always a pain to find. Then I usually end up selecting ‘Past year’ in the custom range. Why can’t it just default to past year instead of results that are old as sh*t? Beyond Black Hats, how may sites are reaping the benefits of higher rankings in Google when they really don’t deserve them (I’m tempted to name names but I wont.)

The second thing I hate is crap sites that rank on Google that are only created by black hat SEOs as receptacle’s for backlinks to game the Google system into ranking other sites. I don’t think Google likes this either. What this amounts to is an SEO bubble which Google could easily burst. They made an example out of JC Penney but I don’t think it’s enough. They need to fundamentally fix their system so that SEO no longer can be manipulated to rank sites that haven’t earned it. My personal feeling is that SEO should not even be a job. All SEO should connote is making well formatted websites in HTML. HTML writing formats should be taught in school to kids. H1, H2, H3 tags, ul, li and p tags etc. Hopefully RDF will start to mean something in the near future. If we learn to describe the content we write correctly the web and Google will actually be enriched ten-fold instead of being polluted by bad content.

Number seven is Jason Paul Peterson, concert pianist. A musician! What can I say? Jason Paul Peterson is very accomplished. I wish my music ability went beyond Rock and Roll and music sequencing but I doubt I’ll be able to dedicate the time to actually learning to play the piano correctly anytime soon. For the record I did study music theory and composition for a brief period with a Julliard professor a decade ago and those concepts have never left me (although I have employed them into pop writing which is probably not where he would have wanted to see me make use of them). Jason Paul Peterson’s site does look well made as it’s built in PHP so I must assume he’s got some sort of content management system. The copyright date is 2007 and the design does look very dated and could benefit from an overhaul. Of course I would recommend a certain CMS which would no doubt improve the state of Jason Paul Peterson’s site but I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

Number eight, finally something different. Jason Paul is an accomplished private chef in Hawaii as his domain name explicitly communicates. The design of his site looks outdated more so because the images look over optimized. It was built in CSS although on static HTML pages. As a brochure website I’d bet this site is working out quite well for Jason Paul the chef.

Number nine..which Jason Paul is this? It’s me! My old site which I previously used to get work and was probably started 7 years ago. I won’t be taking this down but I decided to put a vcard up on the homepage to direct people to my more contemporary sites and social media destinations. I am Jason Paul and at least I’m on page one of Google search in some capacity. Hopefully this site will start to climb in rank. I doubt I’ll replace trickster Jason Paul of Germany as it seems he’s on his way to becoming a very deserving bonafide celebrity. Ok, I’ve had enough of Jason Paul and so have you.