Hello sports fans! Are you ready for the big games this weekend? Well, before you settle in to watch the action, consider this inconvenient fact:
In all likelihood, you’re tacitly supporting the controversial — and misleadingly-named — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
“SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act. Essentially, it is a bill that was created to protect American intellectual property… While the intentions of the bill were good (to protect American intellectual property), the vague language of SOPA will empower corporations to censor the internet. Which is not good. If the bills were passed, the attorney general could create a list of sites that were essentially blacklisted by search engines, service providers, payment providers, etc – without a court hearing or trial. (Um hello, first amendment violation, anyone?!)”
As you can imagine, people — or more appropriately, We The People, not big media conglomerates and the politicians that they contribute to — are mostly outraged by the potentially chilling effects to free speech that could result from SOPA. Many companies have even publicly expressed their objections to the proposed bill.
But not all companies are against SOPA. GoDaddy, the web hosting and domain registration giant, posted a blog entry backing SOPA, only to withdraw its support after individuals and businesses alike threatened to boycott GoDaddy. But GoDaddy isn’t (or rather wasn’t) alone. At least 142 companies have pledged their support for SOPA. And some of the names of might surprise you.
The National Football League (NFL) supports SOPA. And so do Major League Baseball (MLB), ESPN, ABC, CBS, Comcast/NBC Universal and the United States Tennis Association.
Good luck watching a game this weekend without silently supporting censorship.
So what’s an anti-SOPA sports fan to do? The way I see it, you have two choices:
Option 1: The Scorched-Earth Approach.
Cancel your season tickets. Show up to stadiums with handmade signs to protest SOPA. Get rid of cable and cease visiting ESPN.com for news and scores (you know they make money on website ads too, right?). Stop buying merchandise from your favorite teams. Toss the t-shirts and hats that you have into the garbage. And so on. You get the picture.
Not a very attractive option, is it? And moreover, as Evo Terra points out via a great post on Google+, it’s extremely impractical to boycott each and every company that supports SOPA. Which leads me to the other option:
Option 2: Voice Dissent, But Get Real.
Yes, it’s fine to pressure companies to drop their support for SOPA. Hit up the NFL, MLB and other sports media entities via social media channels. Tell them that the presumed intent of SOPA — curbing online piracy — is admirable, but that the means do not support the end. Your efforts might even get a few organizations to change their positions (after all, GoDaddy caved in to pressure).
“Focusing our attention on these companies is a waste a time, though. We are wasting our precious energy and resources on these corporations when we really should be doubling down our efforts on getting people to call, email and snail mail their Congressman.
There are far better ways to fight piracy than SOPA.
You may think that contacting your Congressman doesn’t work, but trust me: it does. I used to work for the House of Representatives. I know first-hand what impact jamming the phone lines has on a Congressman looking to get re-elected.”
So while you’re busy cheering on your team and tracking your fantasy football statistics this weekend, put together your own plan of action to help defeat SOPA. I’d suggest the following actions, all of which can easily be done while you watch the big game:
- Research the OPEN Act, an alternative to SOPA that has drawn support from Google and other companies as an alternate means of fighting piracy.
- Look up your local congresspeople here. Voice your opposition to SOPA and educate them about OPEN. Make an appointment to see them in person, if possible.
- Contact the co-sponsors of SOPA to express your views. Ask friends and family who reside in their districts to reach out to them as well.
- Follow up with an email to your congressional leaders. There’s a handy form for that purpose here.
- Take a quick moment to sign the petition to veto SOPA on the White House’s official “We The People” page. This petition has already received enough signatures to merit consideration by the Obama administration, but more signatures cannot hurt.
- Reach out to your favorite teams via Facebook, Twitter and other channels.
In summary, it’s likely that while you’re cheering on your favorites sports teams, you’re also supporting organizations that back SOPA. Unfortunately, it’s impractical to boycott every organization that has thrown its weight behind this controversial proposal. You can make a difference in the fight to prevent a bad bill from becoming law, however, by taking the actions that I’ve outlined above.
Please act now. Also, let me know if you have any additional suggestions. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter, so please consider posting a comment below.
There’s a well-known remedy for saving smartphones that have been damaged after being submerged in water. As detailed in this thread on Quora, the solution involves filling a plastic bag with rice, sliding your phone in, sealing the bag up, and letting the rice wring the moisture out of the phone.
For a whole week. Seven. Whole. Days.
So there I was yesterday, holding my iPhone in one hand and a bag of rice in the other, all the while regretting my choice to read Twitter while holding my phone over a pint of beer (yep, it fell in).
As I prepared to slide my phone into the bag of rice, I stopped for a moment and pondered whether the actions that I were about to take were realistic. I was moments away from a week without Instagram. No foursquare or Path. No texting. None of the magic of Siri. And perhaps most frightening, time apart from mobile Twitter.
Slowly, I put the bag down. I decided to spend an afternoon field testing life without my smartphone, and make a decision based on the experience.
I could go into the whole afternoon and evening, step-by-step. But here’s the short it: Waiting in lines without the ability to kill time by reading Twitter was painful. I couldn’t check in anywhere — and this has become as reflexive as breathing. I wanted to Oink, but couldn’t, and had no idea what was going on within Facebook. And to top it off, some dude was wearing a huge furry hat with horns and I couldn’t even Instagram it.
So what did I do? I went home, cooked the rice, and made an appointment with the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store to trade in my phone for a replacement unit.
It’s going to cost me $199. But get this: there are 168 hours over a seven-day period. For $199, I don’t have to go without my iPhone for those 168 hours. That’s a cost of $1.18 per hour.
Think of it another way. If someone offered to pay you $1.18/hour to go without your smartphone (whether it’s an iPhone, Android device, or Windows phone), how long would you be willing to take the deal? Could you go a whole week?
And what if you had to rub salt in the wound by using a BlackBerry in the meantime?
I couldn’t do it. And no, I’m not made of money. The $199 replacement fee is going to hurt, especially after I’ve just finished buying Christmas presents. But my smartphone has become an integral part of nearly every waking hour of my day — so I just couldn’t.
Could you? Let me know with a comment below!
Google+ is still a new social channel, and consequently, there is a relative dearth of guidance on how to successfully navigate and stand out on the network. Mistakes will happen, and in fact, may even be probable.
I should know.
You see, my employer’s Google+ Page — the one I created and continue to manage — was recently suspended, forcing me to dig deeper into Google+ and learn some of its nuances. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I’ve learned a lot from the experience, and have decided to share some of the lessons learned here in hopes that others will benefit from the process.
Here then, are some trial-by-fire lessons that I hope prove useful:
1. Leverage both Google+ Direct Connect, and the Google+ Page Verification Process.
Google+ Direct Connect accomplishes a couple of important things. First, it connects Google+ Pages to brand websites via a snippet of code. This code produces a badge to embed on an official website to add a measure of authenticity for a Page. Second, Direct Connect creates a shorthand search operator (“+brandname” — such as “+Angry Birds” or “+Dell“) to enable quick searches of official brand pages — both within Google+ search and via Google’s main search engine. The + shorthand operator even provides a mechanism for re-claiming a brand name that has been high-jacked by clever SEO techniques, as this article points out using Rick Santorum’s Google problem as an example. In combination with Google’s verification process for Google+ Pages, these steps signal to Google that a G+ Page is an official brand account.
Key takeaway: Take the time to send the proper signals to Google that your page is legitimate. This will save you time, effort and possible embarrassment later on.
2. Don’t Fret about Brand Impersonations. These Fears are Overblown.
Almost immediately after Google+ launched Pages for brands, fake profiles — such as this Bank of America spoof– sprung up. This sparked fears among large organizations that Google+ would become a problematic platform that would, (a) require significant monitoring, and (b) place a heavy burden on community managers.
In response, Google pledged that it would monitor Google+, spot fake brand Pages, and suspend them until steps were completed to verify the authenticity of suspect Pages. This approach is what affected my employer’s page.
As a member of the Google+ team explained to me by email, “We do some impersonation sweeps regularly… The best thing you can do to make sure it’s all correct in the future is connect your page to your site,” so that Google “can see a bi-directional link between the two… [which] ensures that you also have control over that website. That tells us it’s the authoritative page for that site.”
Key takeaway: Don’t let fears of “brandjacking” cause you to jump into Google+ before you’re ready. It’s a great idea to get started with Google+ while nearly everyone is a novice and the repercussions of mistakes are minimal. But understand that you have ample time to outline a clear plan for Google+. Nobody is going to steal your brand name.
3. The Google+ Community is Awesome. Leverage Them, and Give Back.
Shortly after learning of our Page suspension, I posted a plea to members of the Google+ community to help identify members of the G+ team who could help expedite the process of reinstating the Page. After a short time, Denis Labelle (whom I’d mistakenly placed into a Circle of Google employees — he now resides in my Most Awesome People in the World Circle), responded with an offer to help share my plight. Denis — along with a handful of other Google+ members — re-shared my post, which quickly caught the attention of the Google+ team and led to a speedy resolution.
The G+ team had also picked up on my original plea for help and was busy working through internal channels to resolve the issue. But Denis’ offer to help was the true catalyst toward quick resolution of the issue. Members of the Google+ community saw Denis’ post, voiced their support, and helped build awareness of the issue.
Key takeaway: The early adopters of Google+ are passionate about the current and future prospects of the network and are extremely engaged and helpful. Now is the time to get engaged on Google+, learn from the community, give back to it, and build an invaluable network that will continue to grow in exciting new directions.
Key takeaway, part two: Denis Labelle is pure awesome. He is not only helpful, but he posts interesting and helpful content to Google+ every day. You should pause right now and go Circle him. I also owe thanks to Chris Vennard, Oscar Fuentes, Raphael Polanco, Yan Tseytlin, Harp Grewal, Kamal Singh and others for their help.
4. Tap Into the Power of Shared Circles.
Google+ makes it easy to share the Circles that you’ve created with friends and other G+ connections. This feature is helpful for sharing Circles of subject matter experts or photographers, for example. It’s also useful for curating a list of customer support representatives for your brand, or from brands that you follow. Google+ is a great vehicle for building a list (or even several specially-targeted lists) that can be shared with current and potential customers, partners and suppliers. Stakeholders can then post queries to these support Circles in order to reach several customer support members at once.
A shared Circle, in fact, is what led me to Denis Labelle and the other Google+ members who jumped in to help resolve our Page suspension. Another Google+ member had created and shared a “Members of the Google+ Team” Circle, which I found and added to my own Circles. While Denis and a handful of other members of the Circle were incorrectly identified as Google employees, the Circle did help alert several Googlers to our Page suspension.
Key takeaway: Consider using Shared Circles to make it easy for your target audiences to connect with groups from your organization. It’s also a good idea to seek out Shared Circles that will prove useful to you in a time of crisis. A good starting point is the list of Shared Circles on G+. It’s also advisable to Circle Google+ Your Business. It provides up-to-date information related to G+ that is targeted to brands and Page owners.
Google+ may be the fastest-growing social network in history. And yet, it’s still far from being a mainstream channel for brands and individuals. There are few established paths to success on Google+, and mistakes are inevitable. Use the guidance that I’ve provided above to help your brand to not only avoid a suspension, but to also overcome obstacles that could impede success.
Do you have any Google+ tips? If so, let me know with a comment below!
Google Music has finally shed its “Beta” moniker. At this week’s “These Go To 11” event, Google announced that it has secured licensing deals with EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and over 1000 independent labels, thereby enabling a music store to emerge as a core component of Google’s music locker.
And the reaction from online and social media? Tepid, at best. Predictably, most of the discussion seems to center around what Google Music is not. It’s not freemium subscription service, like Spotify or Rdio. It’s not as polished as iTunes. In short, it’s not the game-changer that many had hoped for.
But changing the game isn’t really Google’s goal here, is it? Google isn’t really trying to “kill iTunes,” just as Google+ isn’t designed to “kill Facebook” and Google Wallet isn’t a real threat to “kill PayPal.” This simply isn’t Google’s modus operandi. Rather, Google seems intent on launching products in beta, watching them get skewered with criticism in the media, and then evolving them into “good enough” products. Google’s real goal is to be just competitive enough in an array of battles to build out a moat to surround its Search Castle.
Up until now — and even including now, really, as Google hasn’t yet proved that this strategy is a winning one — all efforts to fortify Google’s Search Castle have been largely disconnected. But that’s where Google+ comes in, bringing along the two keys to Google’s castle: (1) data, and (2) Android.
The First Key: Data
Each time a website (or any other object, for that matter) is shared to Google+, a Google Music song is purchased and/or streamed to Google+, or a YouTube video is +1′d, two things are happening in the background.
First, user data is being collected and aggregated to build a more complete individual profile. This data is a prized and saleable asset, of course, as part of Google’s AdWords platform. Second, as information from Google’s products and services is shared to an integration layer (Google+), Google is effectively advertising these services for free on Google+ and encouraging other members of the network to adopt them. Then, as adoption rates rise, more data is poured into the integration layer, thereby buiding a self-reinforcing process and raising the value of Google’s trove of data.
This isn’t a new concept, of course. Facebook has been doing it for years, and they’ve been doing it so effectively that it’s become almost a forgone conclusion that Facebook will release a search engine to rival Google Castle — er, Search — and further siphon away lucrative advertising revenues. So clearly, there is a strategic imperative to get products to market that enable Google to rival the type of data that Facebook is collecting — music preferences, reading habits, social connections, etc.
These products don’t have to be world class, at least not initially. They just need to be of a reasonable enough quality to gain some traction, integrate seamlessly and enable the network effects described above. In other words, lay the groundwork for a larger moat.
The Second Key: Android
This is where Android comes into play. Let’s assume the following scenarios hold for the next few years:
- Google Music doesn’t become as slick as iTunes
- Google+ lags behind Facebook as a fun destination for keeping in touch with real friends
- Google’s Zagat is dwarfed by Yelp in terms of the quantity of reviews
- Google Places is never mentioned as a serious competitor to foursquare.
But Google has something that none of those competitors have — the 1-2 punch of world’s fastest-growing mobile operating system (according to this report by Mary Meeker) and the fastest growing social network in history.
Update 11/17/11: TechCrunch is reporting that new devices running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android, are prompting users to register for Google+ and enter their credit card information, in order to enable Android Market purchases via the Android Market.
As the world continues to trend toward mobile information consumption instead of PC-based consumption, Google is uniquely positioned to ride that growth by placing its portfolio of competitive, albeit flawed, products onto a larger and larger share of mobile devices.
Granted, Android’s fragmentation issues have been well-documented, and they pose a problem for Google’s ambitious ploy. The likely remedy involves Google leveraging its acquisition of Motorola Mobility to set an Android standard that embeds its services so deeply into the Android operating system that music, location, photography and other services become a core part of the user experience. In this scenario, Google Music doesn’t have to be better than iTunes or Spotify, it just has to have evolved to the point where, as a “me too” service, it gets the job done while keeping friction to a minimum for end users.
The Long View
So cut Google Music some slack and take the long view here. There’s a bigger picture to consider, one that extends several years into the future and involves not only music, but also commerce, location, mobility and social networking. Only time will tell whether Google’s strategy is a winner, but its moves start to make sense when you begin to arrange them as pieces of a larger puzzle.
What’s your view? Is Google Music a viable component of a broader strategy, or merely a half-baked sign of desperation? Let me know with a comment below!
Google+, the social networking product from Google, has been available for use by individuals for months. But Google+ had been off limits to companies and other organizations (except for a handful of test partners) until last week, when the search giant opened the door for brands with the release of Google+ Pages.
Many brands have jumped into Google+ right away to begin communicating and engaging with various Circles of stakeholders. Others, however, have stayed away from Google+, as questions and misconceptions about the product have spread by worth of mouth and through social channels. Most of the concerns about Google+, however, are entirely without merit.
You’ve probably heard them. Hopefully, however, you haven’t let these common fears stop you from getting started with Google+:
1. You can’t transfer ownership of a Google+ brand Page!
While it’s true that Page ownership transfers are not currently allowed, Dennis Troper (a member of the Google+ project team) has already posted an assurance that this feature is in work and coming soon. According to Troper, Google+ will soon provide “multi-admin support, ownership transfer and page analytics.”
2. The inability to cross-post to Google+ and other networks (such as Facebook, Twitter etc.), is a serious liability that will doom Google+.
Question: What would Google+ would look like if it provided an API to support incoming posts (from other networks and tools)?
Answer: A lot like Google Buzz, which accepted posts from other channels and quickly became irrelevant.
Google needs to build a critical mass of daily Google+ users before opening an API to permit incoming posts from other networks, and from tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Otherwise, there will be very little incentive for brands to develop a unique G+ presences.
Update: Google has announced that a handful of third-party apps, such as Hootsuite, Buddy Media and Vitrue have been chosen as partners for a pilot program to enable posts to Google+ via social media management systems. It’s worth nothing that these solutions cater to enterprise customers.
3. You need to hurry and reserve your Google+ Page name! Or it will be gone forever!
Fake brand pages — such as this parody of Bank of America – have already sprung up on Google+. However, verification badges will be made available soon distinguish “official” brand accounts from impersonators. This approach follows Twitter’s verification model, and balances freedom of expression against the need to recognize authentic Pages. Launch partners like Angry Birds and Pepsi already have badges to promote the authenticity of their Pages, for example.
4. Google+ is a ghost town.
Google claims over 40 million Google+ accounts and boasts an early-stage growth rate that exceeds the rates witnessed by Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. Undoubtedly, however, Google+ doesn’t enjoy an engagement rate anywhere close to Facebook’s 50% daily sign-in rate. And Google has been coy about the number of active daily G+ users.
But a ghost town? Hardly. G+ may currently be dominated by early adopters and geeks (I include myself in both of those groups), but anyone who actually spends a significant amount of time on Google+ knows that the “ghost town” assertion is false.
5. Facebook’s promotion guidelines are too restrictive, but Google+ is a new opportunity!
In fact, Google+ is even more confining. While Facebook’s Guidelines permit administration of promotions via third-party apps, Google does not allow any promotions on Google+. The Google+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies clearly outlaw them, and instead permit only links to separate websites that host contests and promotions.
6. Google+ is just another social network.
Google+ is much more than just a social networking platform. Instead, in Eric Schmidt’s words, Google+ will be “a social component [to Google's core products] to make them even better.” Most notably, Google+ Pages offer a distinct Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advantage over content from Facebook and Twitter. While Google+ already has limited integration with Google search (You can see +1s from your friends in search results! Yay!), Google+ posts will soon populate search results in near real-time. Compared with content from Facebook and Twitter, which Google is unable to crawl as effectively, Google+ content will offer an SEO advantage over content from competing channels.
Furthermore, as Google continues to weave Google+ into its other products and services (as it already has with YouTube and Google Reader), the service will fetch an ever-increasing set of valuable data for use in ad targeting.
7. Too many features are missing; Google+ just isn’t useful for brands.
Do you remember what Twitter was like in its infancy? No lists. No automatic URL shortening. No auto-completing of @usernames within Tweets. No promoted Tweets for brands. Lots of Fail Whales. In short, it sucked compared with the service that we all know and love today. And let’s not even get started with Facebook. In both cases, users demanded features, and the services matured. Google+ will follow the same path, evolve into an increasingly-valuable platform, and offer first-mover advantages to brands that adopt the service early.
8. Circles make it easy to manage Google+ Pages!
The bad news about Circles is that they don’t scale well. After a person has Circled a Page to express an interest in a brand, a G+ Page owner has to then assess the person and then decide how to categorize them into an appropriate Circle. This quickly becomes a time-consuming task.
This cumbersome process may have driven Google to acquire Katango, a startup that has developed powerful algorithms to sort people into groups automatically. For now, however, human-decision making is still required to sort people into groups for targeted content delivery.
Overcome Your Fears and Get Started with Google+
In summary, don’t let FUD dissuade you from building a presence on Google+, but be sure to know what you’re getting into ahead of starting a brand Page. There are many misconceptions about Google+ that can cause a misalignment between expectations and reality.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Google+ in the comments section below.
Like a lot of other people — about 4 million, to be precise — I’ve recently upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone 4S and started enjoying Siri, the personal assistant that is perhaps the smartphone’s most talked-about new feature. Siri has garnered attention for several reasons, including:
- Siri’s ability to understand and translate natural language into useful responses. Limited commands, such as “Get Weather Report” aren’t required. Instead, Siri does an admirable job of interpreting regular speech, such as, “Is it going to cool off next week?”
- The potential for integrating Siri with a wide array of apps once developers are given greater access to Siri’s API. Imagine being able to use Siri to compose tweets, check in to venues, and buy movie tickets — all through natural language as opposed to a limited set of commands. This will happen, and it will be incredibly powerful.
- The application’s human-like sense of humor, which has spawned websites such as Shit That Siri Says. Apple’s engineers have apparently had a lot of fun enhancing Siri after Apple’s 2010 acquisition of Siri Inc.
Clearly, consumers are captivated not only by Siri’s current capabilities, but also by its potential to tie apps together through voice. And after several days of using Siri, I am too.
But do you know what data point jumps out to me as a far more important fact? The number of times I’ve used Google search since my first use of Siri = Zero.
That’s right. The idea of launching my mobile web browser, typing words into a text box (on a small screen, no less), and clicking a button to initiate a search suddenly feels about as antiquated as file/folder structures do in Microsoft Windows in comparison with touch-based app experiences. Just as Apple took on Microsoft by re-inventing (or at least perfecting) the process for storing and retrieving data, they’re taking on Google by attacking the search giant’s bread and butter. Why type the words “Best Mexican food Phoenix” into a text box when I can simply say, “Siri, I want a burrito?”
A few caveats that favor Android
If a humble end user like me can recognize this potential disruption to Google’s crown jewel, then Larry Page and company almost certainly do. They’ll counterpunch, and in fact, may have an upper hand for a few reasons:
- From a growth perspective, Android is far outpacing the iPhone (which you can learn more about in Mary Meeker’s amazing Presentation on Internet Trends, which I’ve embedded below). This may blunt the impact of Apple’s attack on Google Search.
- Android phones have had solid, if unspectacular, voice-based functionality for years now.
- Competitors (which can be acquired) will undoubtedly emerge to offer a competing level of Artificial Intelligence. For example, Iris (yes, that’s “Siri” spelled backwards) has already sprung up — with similar functionality — as the result of a mere eight-hour hackathon project.
Undoubtedly, however, Apple has changed the future of search with Siri. And if one company has proved that it can re-imagine an existing process, provide a user experience that promotes its rapid adoption, and turn the process into “the new normal,” it’s Apple. Siri is an outright assault on Google’s position as the dominant player in search, and this assault will become even more effective when Siri’s API permits interactivity with popular apps such as Yelp and foursquare.
So sorry Andy Rubin, but you’re wrong.
Rarely does a day go by now when we’re not prompted to follow a brand on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, or snap their QR code. Organizations large and small, from large multi-national corporations to non-profit causes, are embracing social media and seeking to engage with customers and supporters. It has become easy to connect with the brands whose products and services we enjoy.
This is the good news.
But the bad news is that most brands are not providing compelling reasons for consumers to make connections. Sure, they’re describing “how” consumers can connect with them. But they’re not answering the critical question: “Why bother?”
Is your brand guilty of this approach?
If so, you may be missing out on opportunities to connect with customers and/or supporters. Fortunately, however, the steps required to effectively prompt engagement are simple:
1. Ask your target audience to make a connection.
Whether you’re asking consumers to follow your brand, Like it or even join your email list, make a specific call to action and let your audiences know where they can connect with you. Most companies seem to have this part down.
2. Tell your target audiences what they’ll gain from making the connection.
Will they get member-only discounts? Will they be the first to know about new products? Will they have access to exclusive content? Or will they just find news about your brand (which is a perfectly good reason, by the way)? Tell them, using concise, plain language that informs them of potential benefits.
3. Follow through on your promise.
You will lose the trust of your new audience if you dangle exclusive benefits as bait, for example, but deliver only a steady diet of links to press releases. Don’t waste your organization’s time and money by making this mistake. Deliver on what you’ve promised.
Pretty Simple, Huh?
These steps seem obvious at first glance. But the reality is that far too many organizations do not maximize the attention-grabbing connection requests that they’re investing time and money to create. By following the three simple steps above — especially step number two — you can avoid a similar fate for your brand.
Do you think I’m missing any steps? If so, let me know below.
I’m taking a timeout from Uptick Sports. There. I said it.
Over the past two years, this personal side project of mine — an NFL fantasy football stock market — has totaled over 6.2 billion shares of stock traded. Trading volume increased by 188% in 2010 to 4.6 billion shares, up from 1.6 billion shares the prior year. What mattered more to me than the growth, however, was the fun that I had connecting with people who share my passion for fantasy football.
When the 2010 season ended, I felt energized, and I set about designing improvements to the stock market. I created a set of badges that traders could unlock through specific achievements, in order to add an additional game layer to the stock market experience. I also began work on an improved user interface, and collected bids for iPhone and Android apps in order to provide a more mobile-friendly trading platform.
But the NFL lockout that followed last season diverted my attention away from the process of making improvements to the Uptick Sports website. During that time, I also started a new role that I really love. I’m passionate about the digital strategy work that I do now, and I find that the line between personal and professional time is increasingly blurred. I simply enjoy spending my free time doing research and work related to my career instead of programming new stock market functionality and keeping track of NFL roster changes.
So, while it’s tough for me to come to the conclusion that a timeout is, in fact, necessary, I’m taking one. Uptick Sports will most likely make a comeback, however, in a form that provides a better user experience on mobile devices. It just won’t happen this year.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank the traders that have made managing Uptick Sports so enjoyable. It’s because of your insights — through both your trades and your interactions — that I’ve had more fun than usual with fantasy football over the past two years. Let’s stay connected! I’m always willing to join a new league, so hit me up with an invitation if you’re in need of an extra league manager. Just be forewarned that I may have to employ Zaarly to find someone to sit in on a live draft.
Zaarly may have just saved my fantasy football team.
With less than 24 hours to go before my league’s fantasy football draft this past weekend, I faced a big problem. The draft coincided with a lunch date that my wife had scheduled with several friends (she had scheduled it weeks in advance). The conflict stood out like a sore thumb on my Google Calendar, and yet, I had somehow managed to miss it. To make matters worse, my son’s hockey practice was scheduled at the same time. Three events. One time slot.
At this point, I had a few options:
- Bail out on the draft, thereby forcing my league mates to scramble to find another manager on short notice (kind of a jerk move — not something I’d want to do to @LaurenC7)
- Ask my son to skip his hockey practice and play at home while I drafted my team (high opportunity cost given the price of ice time — also bad parenting)
- Negotiate with my wife to miss part of her lunch (wasn’t going to happen)
- Find a substitute to draft for me (tough to find someone to give up their valuable time)
That’s when I turned to Zaarly, a service that pairs up people who need help with a variety of tasks with bidders who are willing to take on the tasks for a fee. Think of it as an eBay for services. Zaarly launched back in May and has both iPhone and Android apps, as well as a web-based app that can be launched via Facebook. The service focuses on connecting buyers and sellers of services within specific geographic markets (i.e. San Francisco buyers receive bids from sellers in San Francisco, New York buyers receive bids from sellers in New York, etc.).
I quickly downloaded Zaarly’s app onto my iPad and HTC EVO devices and posted a job. I offered $21 under the listing “Sit in for me on my fantasy football draft.” Surprisingly, within a couple of hours, I had responses from two people who were willing to take on the job. One bidder backed his bid with credentials, stating that he had won his 16-team league the prior season. The other bidder took care to ask about the players I wanted, which ones I wanted to avoid, and which “sleeper picks” should be targeted in the latter rounds of the draft.
I went with the second bidder, whom I provided with instructions to nab both Jamaal Charles (RB, Kansas City) and Larry Fitzgerald (WR, Cardinals) for me if they were available early on during the draft. I quickly paid via PayPal (Zaarly also has options for cash payments and credit card payments via the app) and then exchanged a few emails with the provider to cover details such as the draft format and time (I also implored him to avoid drafting a kicker until the last round).
Just like that, the transaction was done, and my problem was solved.
On draft day, I received an email from the provider to let me know that he’d drafted my team and had even managed to secure both Charles and Fitzgerald. All in all, a surprisingly good experience — I had a solid fantasy football lineup, my wife went to lunch with her friends, and my son made it to hockey practice.
It’s increasingly rare for an app to give me that “Oh wow, I LOVE this app!” feeling. Foursquare did it when it was released, as did the Monocle feature from Yelp’s mobile app. And now Zaarly has joined that group, with its easy, simple experience for offloading tasks. If I win my fantasy football league this year, I’ll have Zaarly to thank for the crown.
Like 20 million or so others over the past month, I’ve been getting to know Google+, the new social project from Google. I’ve created a handful of Circles, sought out people to follow, and pondered the future ramifications for brands (including my employer).
All very interesting, to be sure. I’m a sucker for new social networks, apps, and shiny new toys. So while it’s been easy for me to embrace Google+, shrug off the network’s controversies, and generally have a good experience, something else has happened that hasn’t been quite so easy for me to process.
I’ve started to re-evaluate the meaning of friendship.
You see, friendship always used to be born out of shared experiences in the physical realm. You grew up and played together on the same street, attended school together, or otherwise met and formed lasting bonds over recurring in-person events. When I take a look at my Facebook feed, most of the friends whom I see there meet this definition. We’ve met, broken bread, shared drinks, and have often laughed together over stories from past events.
But when I take a look at my Friends circle within Google+, I notice something peculiar: most of my Facebook friends aren’t there. It’s not because they haven’t made the jump to Google+, however. No, a large number of them are there… it’s just that they exist in different circles with names such as “Work,” or “High School,” or even the new equivalent of the first circle from Dante’s Inferno: “Acquaintances.”
And my Friends circle? Well frankly, it has very little correlation with the number of hours that I’ve spent IRL with the people who reside there.
To be sure, shared in-person experiences are manifest in my Friends circle. College roommates are there, as are a few grad school classmates and parents whose kids play sports with my children. But they’re in the minority alongside people whom, on average, I’ve met in person fewer than three times apiece (yes, I did the math).
Think about that for a second.
I trust these people with my important thoughts and personal details more than I trust the kid who grew up two houses down from me, the people who knew me when I had gleaming silver braces on my teeth, and even some family members.
To me, this signals that the criteria which constitute friendships are evolving. As geographic ties decrease in importance, the basis for friendships in the digital age now center around two different factors: (1) trust, and (2) shared interest graphs.
While trust has always been a key element of valued relationships, shared digital venues — centered around interests — have been increasing in importance relative to shared physical venues for years. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but Google+ amplifies it by forcing you to think about the people with whom you feel most comfortable sharing.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking. Right about now you’re whispering something along the lines of, “Nice work, Einstein, you’ve uncovered that people enjoy the company of others who share their interests.”
But that’s not it at all.
It’s not that I’m disinterested in receiving status updates via social networks from people with whom I’ve spent a lot of time. Instead, what’s happening is that I feel more comfortable sharing “the real me” with people whom I’ve hardly — and in some cases, never — met.
Why? Simply put, the alignment of interest graphs — the “the expansion and contraction of social networks around common interests and events,” according to Brian Solis — is increasingly the basis for trust in our lives. The more time we spend with people in social networking hangouts conversing over public and personal topics, the more we value the relationships within those communities. For me, shared passions such as social media, fantasy football, and technology form a background for more engaging, more trusting dialogues with others, even when our conversations stray from those topics and into personal matters.
The fact that my personal discussions now occur more often with people whose photos I recognize from Twitter, Facebook and Google+ — but have never seen in yearbooks or picture frames — is of little consequence.
I have Google+ to thank for this latest bout of introspection, and I bet I’m not alone in feeling this way.
In fact, I bet that if you take a good look at the one Google+ circle that you really trust above all others (whatever you call it), and compare it to your Facebook feed, then you might find the same thing.
Take a look, and let me know what you think.