Google Wave Is The Future of Real Time Collaboration

Google Wave

It’s been a very exciting week for me, as it has been with the select few of you who were lucky enough to snag one of  the 100,000 invites for Google Wave.  Being an early adopter, I have been ecstatic trying to get my hands on the next new shiny object. The hype that has gone on for months billed it as the next generation collaboration platform, an email replacement, a Facebook and Twitter killer, and the list goes on.

Google Wave UI

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So what exactly is Google Wave?

You could classify it as a real-time collaboration tool that enables communication between a group of people. The environment enables a multitude of media that can interact within a wave or be embedded, such as  text, photos, videos, maps, gadgets, bots and more. It’s also  a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services and to build extensions that work inside waves. Just as with Twitter, it’s the developer community that will make or break Google Wave. It’s very early in the game, but product innovation potential is there.

What a typical wave looks like:


Wave

A wave is  conversation with multiple participants. You can add as many people as you like to the wave to participate and collaborate. Rich content can be added to the wave by anyone is who part of the wave. The content can consist of gadgets, games, maps, video, photos, files and more. Similar to a message board, participants in the wave can reply any time and anywhere within a wave to anyone. Replies are threaded and can be edited anytime. You can also keep replies private and  select the participants that should see it. The real in real-time in here is watching the other participants in the wave type every key stroke,  and of course every spelling error right in front of your eyes.  Think before you say it applies here, because there is no comfort zone as there is with typing an email.  In an odd way, watching the other person type in real time changes the experience too.  To some extent this has existed already in some instant messaging platforms, but if I recall correctly,  it would only say ” the other user is typing”, and not broadcast the other users text in real time.

Wave With Gadgets


A wave with a simple gadget embedded in it. Diving a bit deeper into the wave you will notice on the navigation bar it has some of the characteristics of an email. Reply, archive, read, unread, spam and playback. Play back lets you play back each part of a wave so you can see exactly how everything unfolded, in chronological order. Above the navigation bar you see all of the participants in the wave. You can easliy add a person to the wave as long as they have a Google Wave account, it also populates contact list based off your Gmail contacts. Currently there is no way to delete a person from a wave.

Tweety on Wave

I added the Tweety bot to this wave, allowing me to easily broadcast a Tweet.

Waves,  extensions and bots, oh my!

Extensions are the plugins that will allow you use gadgets in wave. Gadgets are shared applications that run within a wave and to which all participants have access, such as real-time games and voting tools.  In the above screen shot you can see the Yes/No/Maybe Gadget in action. Out of the box others gadgets that can be installed are a, map gadget, Sudoku, Conference, and itinerary gadget.

Then there are are Robots. This reminds me of IRC on steroids. Depending on the bot, they can do numerous things in a wave. They can automate tasks, but they can also function as a participant in a wave, interacting in the conversation based on their capabilities.

To use a bot add its email address to your contacts list. Create a new wave, then add the bot to the wave.

Some of the bots I have come across are:

  • Polly the Pollster (polly-wave@appspot.com): Creates and distributes multiple choice poll questions.
  • Yelpful (yelpful@appspot.com): Adds an in-wave interface to Yelp.com
  • RSSyBot (rssybot@appspot.com): Adds an RSS feed to Wave.
  • TwitUsernames (twitusernames@appspot.com): Links @usernames to Twitter.com.
  • Blog bot (blog-bot@appspot.com): Publishes waves to blog posts.
  • Emoticony (emoticonbot@appspot.com): Turns smiley faces into images.
  • Eliza the Robot Shrink (elizarobot@appspot.com): Talks to you when no one else will.

A more comprehensive listing can be found here.

Final verdict:

Google Wave is intended to be a powerful collaboration tool. As a tool for collaboration, I think it has great promise and once the rough edges are worked out, it’s something I would see myself using in a controlled environment perhaps with coworkers.  I think it will evolve into an enterprise tool at some point, and for it to become a true collaboration platform it needs full integration with Google Docs. This in no way represents a new social networking tool, and I think using it as such would be rather cumbersome. The beauty of it is, the user can control the experience and dictate its purpose. When the bugs are worked out, and the developer community fully embraces the Wave protocol, and integration with Google Docs is seamless, this will undoubtedly be a game changer.

This post was intended to give a brief overview of Google wave. I barley scratched the surface with the capabilities and technical aspects of what Google Wave can do. In the future once I have had more time to use it, I will do a thorough deeper examination of the inner workings of Google Wave.

A big thank you goes to Eric Logan and Ted Pedersen for inviting me into Google Wave.  Before you ask, my invites are all gone, sorry.

Other points of view on Google wave:

Google Wave Hits Shore. Flash Flood Warning In Effect. via @louisgray

Google Wave’s unproductive email metaphors. via @scobleizer

The Point You’re Missing About Google Wave. via@bluecockatoo

Internet Marketing: Don’t Skimp On The Basics

internet-marketing

It’s the year 2009 and maybe you are a late comer to the Internet. You have an existing business but you have finally been persuaded to start an Internet marketing initiative. You might be a local small business or you might be a national brand, whatever the case may be you know, you need to establish a presence on the Internet. It’s no longer an optional decision, it’s a mandatory. After all, your competitors are way ahead of you, your customers are on the Internet, and in todays economic climate, it makes sense to look at alternate marketing solutions.

Starting with the basics first: your website

Assuming you own your business domain name and have a reliable web host,the next step is web design. You probably already have a website. It’s more than likely a static brochure that’s years old. What worked years ago is ancient today. Invest the money and have your website professionally designed. Your website is not a set it and forget it strategy, don’t let it become a dinosaur from 1999. You may know a little html and probably have played with Front Page, this does not qualify you as a graphic designer. Establish a  clear road map of what your website will be, then let the pros do the work. When I see an ancient website I walk away, but when I see a modern website, it catches my attention, and personally I’m more in tuned to stay on the website. Your customers are no different. An old, outdated website is a reflection of your business, that’s not the image you want to be portraying. The web gives you an advantage, a well designed site can make you appear larger than you may in fact be, it can make even the smallest of small business’ be as grand and large as a major corporation. There are many key components that go into designing a website, site navigation, layout, content, usability and so forth. A good designer knows this, so it’s crucial to work with them every step of the way on these details. Clutter is a turn off, if you must put a lot of information on your website, do it an organized way, a CMS system might be the route you take.You get the point. Just as in real life image is everything. You never get a second chance to make a first impression on the web, WOW them the first time and win their business.

If you build it they will come:

That is if you were lucky enough to secure a premium .com domain that has plenty of type in traffic. If you have the budget, domain name acquisition is always a good strategy, but a very costly one at that. Chances are you don’t have $20,000 and up to wash away on a good domain name.  Where is all this leading to? One word, search.
If you are not listed in the search engines, you might as well not even be in business online. The last study I read, was that 90% of all people looking for information or services use search engines, and when I say search, I’m mainly referring to Google. You should focus on all the search engines, but the main emphasis is on Google, for the simple fact that is sends the most traffic bar none compared to Yahoo or MSN. If you’re a national brand with deep pockets, the logical choice is to hire a reputable company or individual who specializes in search engine optimization. If this is done right, it’s money well invested. The smaller businesses are often pinching pennies and can’t afford to outsource their search engine initiatives. That’s fine but it will require more time and patience. My word of advice is this, learn, learn and learn as much as you can about optimizing for search engines, read, read and read more. There are a hundreds of websites and blogs dedicated to SEO. The information is free, and of course there are plenty of books on the subject matter too. Before you go broke wasting your entire budget on a PPC, do some research and use the tools that are ready available to help guide you in making sound logical decisions.
Start small with everything you do, if you take the PPC route don’t go for the big target keywords, you will end up going broke in no time with little to show for it. Focus on the long tail keywords, don’t always go for the obvious. The companies with the deep pockets will win in that game hands down. As you gain more experience and see an increase in sales, you can start to compete on that scale at a slow measured pace, but never from the get go. PPC is a great way to get some traffic circulating, but remember it comes with a price. The focus of your search initiatives needs to be on organic traffic generation for the long term. Always remember domain authority is a big deal with the search engines, starting out you have none. You need to build it with inbound links, fresh content and constant tweaking. For anyone who is seriously looking to get involved with SEO, set up a Google Reader account and subscribe to as many search engine strategy blogs as possible, read the feeds every day and start implementing what you have learned. It’s trial and error just like everything else, but in time you will see the rewards, and then you will not have to rely solely on PPC.
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What about email marketing?

Don’t rule out email marketing. Ideally you want to market to your existing customer base assuming you already have newsletter in place, at the very least you need to be capturing email addressees on your site. Customers or potential customers who have expressed interest in your product can be golden lead sources. Learn how to market to them via newsletters always with usefulness and incentives, it could be a coupon code for their next purchase for instance.  You can also buy lead lists for targeted industries. You will also need a solid mailing solution to handle the mailings, ISP white listing, filtering of lists and so on. There are quite a few affordable solutions that offer this that won’t break the bank. Don’t waste your time with free self hosted mailing scripts, all this will do is generate a ton of spam complaints, and most likely will have your web host coming down on you, or worse you risk getting your hosting suspended. Let the third party vendor handle of this. Gather as much data as possible about the people visiting your website and use it to your advantage, otherwise you are just flying blind.
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Affiliate programs still work and they work well:

If you’re running any type of e-commerce website you should be looking at an affiliate program to help sell your product. Let other people sell your product for you, it’s as simple as that. Of course there are plenty of things to factor in with this, such as conversions, cost, break even points. You need to decide what payout structures will work in order to stay profitable. Your product, its market and the pricing point will help you determine this. Typically the payout structures will work in a per lead, per sale, per click, or rev sharing model. Use a third party vendor for this. There are plenty of companies in business for this, a quick Google search is all the research you need. These companies usually handle all the risk, the link tracking and payouts.  Your job is mainly creating the graphics, landing pages and all promotional material for the affiliates. Most of these companies have a pool of websites that can promote your product. Spend the time and fine tune your product offering, conversions and marketing goals. Once you arm yourself with an affiliate program, you can then seek out the relevant websites in your niche to promote your product. Look at what your competitors are doing and try to do it better than them. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, just fine tune it.
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Okay, but what about social media?

My ideal marketing mix for any online business would first and foremost be a search engine strategy, second I would incorporate a social media marketing campaign. Should you use social media for marketing? Absolutely! Point blank, if your customers are using it you need to be as well. Social media should not and will not be the magic bullet, it’s simply another channel or layer of marketing. Social media is about conversations and how it relates to your brand or products. The cost barrier is relatively low, and it’s a well known secret social media will greatly improve your search engine rankings. If your customers are using social media, find out where and actively establish a presence where they are. Invest the time, contribute and participate in any way that will be add value to the communities. Join the conversation, create the conversation but never try to control it. Make your content shareable, start a blog and create useful content about your product, or your areas of expertise. Be open and transparent with your motives, and never treat social media like an email marketing campaign. Social media is a two way form of communication, never one way.The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C’s. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution. These are the five fundamentals that companies and marketers must understand to be able to successfully market on the social web.
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There are plenty of other things I left out, but in the scheme of things are not as important as the ones I touched upon today. Marketing on the Internet is not hard, it takes time to create and find that perfect formula that will work for you. Search engines are still king, they have been since the mid 90′s and will continue to be for quite some time to come. Focus the majority of your time and efforts on search, everything else is important but should be secondary.

Owning my name in Google

Lately, I have been reading quite a few posts on the importance of owning your name in search. For whatever the reason may be, personal or financial, getting your name out there on the web is the most important factor that decides if you will sink or swim. The first thing you must realize on the web, is the if you build it, they will come mentality will not get you very far, and will seal your fate rather quickly. Unless you have a premium dot com domain with type in traffic, or you are a corporation with money budgeted to engage in online ad campaigns, your only alternative is to start creating organic link relationships and opportunities with search engines, more specifically Google. Search engines are still the number one destination consumers go to for their search and discovery.

I find that in terms of traffic, Google is more social media friendly and relevant in search results compared to other search engines. This brings us to my favorite two words, social media.  Social media provides us a multitude of tools to help us achieve search engine ranking zen.

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Consider your personal brand an empty baseball field. You should be focused and dedicated into making it a field of dreams. The fans, your audience is the dream.

I’m focusing on personal branding. These tools and methods can be applied to any type of branding or promoting on the web. Results are easier to obtain because your brand or keyword is your name, rather than a consumer brand or product such as Apple, or iPod. Your only competition in search is with people that share the same name as you. If you have a real common name such as John Smith, obviously it will be a little harder, but still very achievable. Consider a study that was just released using Eye Tracking technology to determine search pattern behavior. It reveals that:

Fixations are studded around the top 5 results and the majority of clicks are upon the top 3 results (discounting the sponsored link).

Now more importantly then ever, you must be in the top five search results. It’s no longer good enough just being listed anywhere on page one of the search results. Personally, I give more weight to the top results, because usually they are the most relevant sources of information for the desired topic. I will scroll through at least 4-5 pages of results, if I am not satisfied with results from page one. But does your average non informed, non tech savvy surfer scroll past page one? The answer most likely is no.

Chris Brogan touches on the subject of personal branding extensively in a free eBook he just recently compiled and released. This is your starting point, and a required read. Now let’s talk about the easiest way to achieve search engine zen with social media.

Passports:

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Passports are simply accounts or profiles on other social networking sites and platforms. Passports gives us shiny badges for our blogs, more importantly they are a key traffic source. Establishing profiles is important because it promotes your brand’s url.  Almost all social networking sites and tools allow for links to your various social networking profiles.

Considering myself to be an early adopter, I’m often very quick to establish multiple passports on and across the social media platforms. The core objective with all shiny toys, new and old is to establish presence. Profiles all have one thing in common, they link back to that empty baseball field, your brand.

I ran a search query on Google for the keyword Mike Fruchter, and realized I now own the search term. There are 79,800 results for the keyword Mike Fruchter, albeit my last name is not as common as Smith. I can rest assured anyone typing in those keywords will find a link back to michaelfruchter.com, and/or a new point of engagement if need be.

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Start with some of the basics first:

  • Buy your domain name
  • Install a blogging platform such as WordPress
  • Establish a FaceBook account
  • Establish a FriendFeed account
  • Establish a Google Profile
  • Establish a photo sharing account, ideally Flickr or Picasa
  • Establish a Twitter account
  • Tag when applicable
  • Establish multiple social bookmarking accounts

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Establishing accounts is the easy part. Sure this will get you some search engine exposure, but not nearly the amount you would get from using these services on a daily basis. The minimum upkeep of your profiles can take 5-10 mins of your day. By continually updating your statuses on your services, you are increasing your search rankings and branding relevance. Remember a Twitter profile is indexed by Google, but so are those precious tweets. Same goes with those blog posts, FriendFeed comments, Disqus comments etc. Update a minimum of 3-5 times a week if need be. Tags are powerful for search engine traffic as well. Make sure you tag as much as possible when applicable. While I am on the subject of tagging, it’s good practice to tag your blog postings with the subjects name. This is a great way of two way personal branding. I am seeing this used more frequently on blog postings. Here is an example of myself being tagged by Svetlana Gladkova on a posting she wrote titled No Data Portablity? Ok, We’ll Use FriendFeed. The positive from this is the obvious search engine listing.

Sign up for any new social media service that comes along. Take your profile and “set it and forget it.” Repeat the process several hundred times and you are on the right track to reap the benefits.