Making Google+ a Little Less Lonely

I admit it, I used a coworker’s Google+ invitation to sign up two days ago, and now I’m surrounded by … no one I know. For the first day I couldn’t even find anyone I didn’t know.  I’m here to tell you, a social network with no social is extremely depressing and a little creepy. It was starting to feel a little bit like The Blair Witch Project, when they were separated and scrambling through the woods in the dark lost and alone. “I’m so … scared….”

Why was it so hard to find anyone else on Google+? How long would the typical new user really put up with this sad experience on a new social network? Not very long. But I’m a geek. And I want Google+ to win with an unreasonably strong desire.

Then I discovered the “Nearby” screen in the mobile app’s Stream. When viewing your Stream in the Google+ Mobile android app, just swipe to the right to switch to the Nearby Stream. At least now I could see comments from people I didn’t know physically nearby having conversations I didn’t really care about. But they were people — I’m not alone anymore!

Better than skulking around after random people, today I discovered that Mashable and The Next Web are on Google+ and followable! Following them led me to discover their writers, such as my favorite Mashable author Ben Parr. Ben is single-handedly lighting up the stream with Google+ chatter, Hangouts and generally helping folks practice their Google+ing. Now my stream has content in it, and I can see the appeal of Google+ a little more clearly. I’m more eager than ever to invite my friends so that I can use Google+ how it was actually intended.

Today Google+ is a mini-Twitter to me. Content streaming in from a couple of blogs I already follow in my feed reader.  Not that interesting, but a novelty.

In the future, I can see Google+ as a maxi-Facebook. Google+’s sharing and communication features are superior to Facebook’s. Hangout is brilliant, and I don’t even like video chatting. The idea of “hanging out” with a group of friends near and far online over video somehow seems more desirable than video chat, even though I know it’s the same thing. Incorporating it into a social experience where I’m likely to be signed in most of the day anyway on my PC and phone, though, makes it somehow feel more interesting.

All I need now are my friends and family. And guess who has them: Facebook. No, you can’t add your friends directly from Facebook to Google+ since Facebook and Google don’t Like each other. But Mohamed Mansour developed a Chrome plug in that let’s you export your Facebook friends to CSV or Google Contacts, from which you can add them to your Google+ Circles. Way to go! I’m trying it out right now. With 400+ Facebook friends, it’s a slow process, but it’s working in the background so what do I care. Hopefully someone I really care about out of those 400+ friends will be on Google+ too.

LinkedIn also allows you to export your connections here I should do this anyway, but importing these 460-some connections into my Google Contacts now will likely yield a  few more Google+ers.

Google+ logoAside from those import options, I wait for invitations to open up again. Care to follow me? Jill Kocher on Google+.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Pie(Rate) Chart Tee on Woot, So Happy!


Woot’s daily t-shirts often amuse me, but until now I haven’t felt compelled to buy one. Lets count the reasons the Pie(Rate) Chart shirt is awesome, shall we?

  1. Pun on pirates featuring the word pie. Obviously awesome. (*cough* PieRat *cough*)
  2. Features a pie chat detailing stereotypical pirate attributes.
  3. Pie chart does not appear to add up to 100%, which will perturb friends and strangers.
  4. Pleasure experienced in explaining the joke to the unenlightened.
  5. Last but not least, it’s a geeky pirate math joke on a t-shirt. Come on, people!

If you’re still wondering what the punchline is, here you go. I love a geeky discussion thread even more than a geeky t-shirt.

From the shirt’s description:

“Well, ye blasted fool, did ye not notice that the circle has a great big patch in the center? Aye, lad, and that patch be coverin’ a missin’ 9%, most likely! And don’t ye be feelin’ foolish now?”

From a forum geek:

9% missing
“i” is the ninth letter
i = eye
Patch = to fill
therefore: eye patch fills in the missing value
It is a simple case of pirate math people

From the shirt’s creator:

haha, sorry the lack of 100 percent add-up has made some people jump overboard on this shirt’s purchase! There were actually two reasons/jokes we were going for here and both have been mentioned already:

1. 9 percent eyepatch!

2. Pirates ain’t no good at mathimacation, land lubbers!

As for some of the pie slices not matching up to their percentages perfectly, we felt melding the pie colors in a visually pleasing way was more important than aligning to the exact percentages. For instance, the red pie slice is supposed to vaguely look like a sideways pirate hat, as well as the peg leg placed around where the leg might be on a person, the squawk on the shoulder, and the booty…well, I won’t sink as low as our tee does on that front.

Thanks again for the love/indifference!

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Whose Definition of Great User Experience?

Google’s SEO liaison and head spam cop Matt Cutts is repeating his mantra on user experience every chance he gets these days. But who’s to say what that great user experience consists of?

Search Engine Journal quoted Cutts at Inside Search:

“Google is trying to figure out what users want. And so rather than you as an SEO chasing after Google, and Google chasing after what users want, if you chase directly after what users want, then both you and Google are trying to get to the top of the same mountain in some sense.”

In principle, I agree. SEO changes frequently. Quick tricks that worked last year don’t work now. Stop looking for the easy way to game the engines and focus on what matters long term. But Cutts isn’t saying that SEO is dead (sigh). He’s saying that the kind of SEO that looks for loopholes to exploit is shortsighted and SEOs who rely on those loopholes are just asking to get smacked down by whatever the next Panda-esque update is.

But back to the focus on user experience focus rather than SEO. Put 10 people in a room and you’ll get 12 different opinions on what great user experience means for single site. I work with a lot of people who are certain that great user experience means AJAX-y navigation and personalization. As a user I tend to agree. However, if a site focuses solely on that lovely user experience and doesn’t provide a crawlable alternative, how exactly is that going to equate to great organic search visibility?

As with all SEO advice, the key is in moderation. You have to have both SEO and user experience. You can’t focus on one strategy, tactic, trick, fad, news item. SEO is a moderate blending of all the cool stuff you read in SEO blogs, filtered through your experience, webmaster guidelines, and analysis of your unique site’s data and business requirements.

So, abandon all SEO and read up on a bunch of UX books? I wouldn’t. Instead, think about what aspects of SEO might have a positive or negative impact on user experience and vice versa:

  • Keyword stuffing vs unique, engaging content
  • Shallow synopsis of other sites vs unique, engaging content
  • Link stuffing vs intuitive and relevant cross linking
  • Bait and switch tactics vs giving users what they expected when they came to your site
  • Spamming up forums and comments with irrelevant links vs thoughtful community participation

The core goals that SEO and search engines share still come down to valuing unique content, earned links and crawlable sites. These three values create a positive user experience. And that positive user experience increases the likelihood that you’ll earn more quality links. That’s what ethical SEO is all about.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Dilbert Flashes His White Hat

I guess SEO has gone completely mainstream: from outing articles in the New York Times to Dilbert’s cartoon take on black hat activities.

Yesterday’s strip has Dilbert’s boss intentionally asking for black hat SEO methods. In reality most management types don’t actually request for the black stuff by category, rather they request SEO tactics that they are unaware are discouraged by webmaster guidelines. SEO tectics such as buying links, doorway sites, cloaking, keyword and link stuffing, and other tactics all fall into this camp. Still, it’s far funnier this way.

So what happens? It’s unclear whether this result could be classified as banning or some form of bombing, but who cares. It’s funny!

PS: Scott Adams, if you’re listening, your Facebook Share button doesn’t share the image thumbnail, only the text and URL. At least on Chrome. Sad face.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

As Seen on GKT’s Maiden Voyage: Clothing Optional

Google Keyword Tool is a window into the world’s innermost desires. Often the keywords reported are mundane and predictable: [palm springs hotels], [hotels in palm springs], [cheap palm springs hotels]. The relative search frequencies for variations on search terms are occasionally interesting, but usually the terms themselves are pretty predictable. Some days, however, I’m struck by the oddity of a phrase that I see in the reports. To the keywords that brighten my days I dedicate my new “As Seen on GKT” column.

GKT clothing optional hotels palm springsToday’s As Seen on GKT: [clothing optional hotels palm springs]

My favorite aspects of this phrase:

  1. Clothing optional, not nudist. As if these searchers are either uncertain that they want to commit to full nudity, or recognize that perhaps there are some situations in which nudity is not preferable. Or perhaps one member of the party prefers to be nude and the other prefers to remain clothed. OR perhaps the searcher wishes to remain clothed but likes to be among nude people. So many interesting reasons why someone might prefer the optional option.
  2. Palm Springs is a frequently searched destination for those who prefer optional clothing. It’s sunny and warm year ’round, so that makes sense. But Palm Springs is in the desert, known for its intense rays. I’m hoping their lack of packed clothing leaves lots of room for sunscreen. In case you’re wondering, other popularly searched options include Key West and the Caribbean.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.