Dear EU, Let Me Google That For You

In November the European Union launched an investigation over claims that “Google unfairly gives preference to its own services over that of competing vertical search services in search results.” Similar to the action taken against Microsoft concerning the vast swath of market share commanded by its Internet Explorer browser, the EU is concerned that the freedom of choice has been taken away from competitors in many areas where Google faces competition. The claim is that Google simply puts its own results in pole position regardless of quality.

This morning Kevin Rose sent out the latest edition of his Foundation newsletter. One topic: what stocks does he invest in. While Rose certainly is not encouraging anyone to invest in the same stocks he chose, one caught my eye: the Bank of Ireland. Obviously the “buy low, sell high” strategy is at play here given the economic turmoil the emerald isle has faced, but I was curious how low was low. With a right click in Chrome I searched the ticker symbol (IRE) included in the newsletter – an automatic Google search. What came up? This:

Ire

Yes, Google Finance is the first result and the provider of that nifty graph. But Google also offers four additional providers of that information. Is that enough? Maybe. As tied as I am to Google services (Gmail, Calendar, Chrome, Apps) I chose those over competitors because I felt they were better or served my purposes in a more convenient way.

For comparison though, this is what the Yahoo result looks like:

Ire_yahoo

No mention of any other services, no links, nothing. It is however, on the bottom of the search results page, not right at the top. Is this strictly better than the Google search? Is it worse? I guess that becomes personal preference. Anyone looking for the stock quote will be pleased to find it right at the top of the Google results but more general searchers will receive a variety of hits before being presented with the Yahoo Finance data. 

Cr-48: The Great Semester Test

Since a mystery box arrived on that magical day in November I've been plugging away with the Cr-48, trying to fit it into my computing life.  Last semester I scanned all my textbooks and loaded them onto an iPad, keeping my trusty MacBook at home and taking notes by hand.  There is something different about taking handwritten notes, but that's a story for another day.  Anyway, with the MacBook retired to desktop life, aside from a few occasions, I decided to carry another device with me in my treks to the city and the law school/library: the stealth Google Chrome laptop.

I have not made up my mind about typing notes in class, I probably won't, but when I type them up later on, it will be on the Cr-48.  Probably right into Google Docs, but maybe Evernote, though the latter is more limited in terms of formatting (random thought: wouldn't it be great if Google, Evernote and Dropbox all interfaced with the same bucket of data?).

Why go back to carrying a laptop again you might ask? First, I want to do my best in testing this thing for Google and using it more will lead to more bugs (in theory) and a wider variety of test cases.  Second it's smaller and lighter than a 3 year old Mac (and has only an SSD – my frankensteined laptop now had an SSD boot drive and a large magnetic drive in place of the DVD).

The only thing that really bugs me about the Cr-48 is the trackpad.  After begin spoiled by Apple, it's tough to go back to a barebones piece of hardware.  Since the Cr-48 is not final hardware I don't hold this against Google or anyone else.  The hardware exists to provide an outlet for Chrome to run, no more, no less.  And it's surprisingly speedy for most tasks not requiring Flash.

Book Review: Social Nation

Like many people, I’ve read my fair share of business books for work, research, and possibly some odd form of “pleasure.”  For the most part I’ve found them disappointing – either vague advice that could be applied to nearly any venture or narrowly focused and impossible to truly duplicate outside of the case study.  One of the better ones is Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, although it is as much a story of Hsieh himself as it is the story of Zappos.  But the ideas Hsieh proposes are interesting: culture and community as better business tactics.  When I was given the chance to review (full disclosure: free copy) Barry Libert’s Social Nation, I took it with the promise of fleshing out the integration of social media and business. 

Libert recognizes the benefits of social media and the difficulties that companies have in implementing these philosophies and tools into their business.  Expanding on themes echoed by Laurence Lessig, Libert begins the book by pointing out one problem with the tendency to pass knowledge down from one generation to the next: it is very difficult to change.  Both men use Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook as an example of what can be done today by those with drive and passion.  Social media breaks free from the “permissions culture” and lets people directly reach their audience. 

However, Harvard, home of many great minds, is merely a footnote in the story of Facebook, as it is in the similar tale of Microsoft.  Libert point out that Mark Zuckerberg broke free of the belief that we are to be “seen and not heard” and that “[t]eachers taught and the student were supposed to do little more than listen.”  This, Liebert says, is where businesses fail in building their own social nation.

Social Nation does more than simply chronicle the exploits of businesses as they try to modernize and set up shop on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else is yet to come, it breaks down the social skills into a number different attributes and qualities.  Sometimes this includes listening to your audience; other times simply recognizing that behavior in the online world should not really differ from that exhibited offline. 

Liebert looks to Zappos as a business that found its own voice in customer service.  He admits that not every company can or should build around that theme – each business is unique and should implement a social strategy that rings true. 

The main theme of the book is that the world is changing and businesses must adapt to compete; the question is how.  Social Nation is not a guide to riches or a guaranteed business plan, but more of an analysis of what others have done and a look at why some have succeeded and some have failed.  Guidelines to the rulebook that nearly every business will have to play by in the future.