Plus Google+

At the end of September, Google+ went public for everyone to use. With previous social stints such as Google Buzz, which is phasing out in 2012, Google offers another social network next to all the others available. Though still in beta but with some time to crystallise itself out, let’s take a look at Google+, what you can do with it, and share some examples and context.

Google+ is a platform that lets you share your thoughts, links, photos and so on with specific groups. It allows its users to +1 and recommend items across the web to their friends and contacts, using e.g. sharing buttons and adding visibility in Google search.

You can create groups of contacts, called “circles”, around for example colleagues, family or a running group. So you use these groups to control who you share with and whose posts you see. You don’t have the issue of agreeing to be friends with each other, like some networks, where the lines can be blurry; someone you work with may not be a friend, an old friend may not be a current friend, etc. That is, if you are the stricter type on categorisations and on who is in your digital sharing world. On the other hand, people may wonder, how far does one want to segment their world and connections?

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

One of the nice features in Google+ is video “hangouts” that lets you bring up to 9 people into your world via live webcam. It seems Skype, iChat, and chat roulette combined. There are lots of possibilities here for individuals and organisations. With YouTube under Google’s wings, and integration opportunities aplenty, you can also use the Share button under a YouTube video to suggest watching the video with friends in a Google+ hangout.

To start a Hangout just invite your circle(s), who will see the Hangout appear in their stream (updates), and other people. The threshold here is that you have to download yet another plugin (I think I had about 25Mb) and have to get people, including yourself, to actively join Google+. However, Drew Olanoff’s article on The Next Web reports on a fantastic example of Hangout use by musician Daria Musk. An uplifting read, you get to understand how she was able to reach 24,000 followers. Also, it allows for live shows with viewers from all over the world and co-creation as fans are helping Musk prepare her next album.

Other features include games, ability to download your content from Google+, a visualisation tool called “Ripples” that shows in-depth how resharing activity happens regarding a public post. Another feature is “Google+ Pages”. This allows organisations and publications to set up profiles or pages, with the posting and syndication of posts relating to them. Sherilynn Macale reports in another The Next Web article about this feature and, in almost brand ambassador style, is very much in favour:

The +1 is Google’s way of tracking who all is recommending and interacting with your brand across the web. Soon, all the +1s around your brand will be connected directly to your official Google+ Page, anchored to your identity and allowing you to analyze data related to those +1 clicks. With more +1 clicks in aggregate, Google will be able to take those recommendations and analytics then put your company in places that actually matter. In this manner, Google+ will extend your brand and put it in front of users across the globe.

Some context of Google+ is that Google is still the main gateway for searching things on the web but more and more things are unsearchable because they are off-limits to search engines. Massive amounts of users are in these places, such as Facebook, spending a lot of time there looking at many pages and sharing things. This means that Google loses valuable information that can be used for advertising and product improvement. Note that this debate revolves slightly on the ever-present tension between public and private information on the web. Another contextual factor is that also other search engines are catching up and social networks are increasingly performing functions of search engines, i.e. recommendations.

Surely there are some strengths here with bringing a social network like Google+ to the table. There is lots more to tell and learn about this case and its impacts but overall; social, search, stats and good integrated user-friendly features seem a powerful combination.

What do you think? Are you using Google+? What is your experience? Do you think Google+ will go beyond the project stage and scale up in the short or long-term?

Order food from experienced local cooks

Another great business, which combines delivery of takeaway food prepared by local cooks and online community.

Housebites in the UK offers restaurant quality food, cooked by chefs in a local area, delivered to your door. You can browse the daily menus by a local chef and read their biographies and customer feedback. For dinner parties Housebites recommends that you order at least a day in advance if catering for large numbers. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and pre-cooked food are in the pipeline according to their website.

It is a nice concept to connect the community with great local cooks and their food, while increasing their exposure, business, and flexibility in work arrangements.

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Restaurant quality takeaway

Customize a can of Coke sighting

The Share a Coke campaign from Coca Cola spans both online and offline.

Via Facebook you can share a virtual Coke with friends. Create a bottle specifically for a friend, by choosing from 150 different names, and add an individual song. But if your friend’s name is not in the list of 150, then go offline and into a shopping mall near you to customize a can of Coke.

Today I witnessed a massive queue of people who wanted to create a personalized can. Yes, even when there is a limit of one per person. The person who the can is intended for must be a special someone.

» Check out the iPhone images below.

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Finding and doing what you love

Like many others I am saddened by the news of Steve Jobs passing away.

Across the globe, world and business leaders paid tribute and people went on social media. Yes, as Barack Obama mentioned, I learned of the sad news on a device he invented. Twitter could have had record traffic. Official figures still have to come in but they may be around the 10,000 tweets per second according to social media monitoring firm SR7 (Source: Sydney Morning Herald). Just putting it in context, last record was 8,868 tweets per second with Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement at the MTV Video Music Awards and average of 600 tweets a second across the whole of last year according to Twitter (same article).

A great speech

Going through some of the coverage around the news, I stumbled on Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. The speech is moving and inspirational.

» Read the full transcript here. See and hear the story of a great speaker in the video below.

Some Highlights

  • By following curiosity and intuition, stumbling into things that turn out to be useful later on: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
  • Finding and doing what you love: “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  • Focus on what is truly important: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”


New trade practice: Selling local versions of giant global digital platforms

This takes business to a new playing field; cloning digital business models from overseas, launch them on the local market and selling them off with a premium.

Latest major deal: Google acquired German Groupon clone DailyDeal on September 19, 2011. Currently, Google’s own Daily Deals service is only available to North American customers in a number of states across the U.S. but Google also recently bought daily deals aggregator The Dealmap (Source: article by Alistair Barr, Reuters). DailyDeal began less than 2 years ago and covers the German, Austrian and Swiss market but has announced plans to expand to a wider European market. As DailyDeal already has an established presence, this acquisition will expand Google’s operations in Europe. (Source: post by Matt Brian, TheNextWeb).

This deal sounds familiar: German Groupon clone CityDeal was acquired by the world’s original and leading collective coupon buying platform Groupon. There is no indication of the exact sum, but according to sources close to the deal the transaction sum had been a “3-digit-million figure” (Source: post by Lukas Zinnagl, TechCrunch).

Now how does an original successful digital platform go about entering lucrative international markets? Surely being digital, it is global by default; there are no borders in the digital world. Therefore, it does not need to customize much for local markets and the platform can be transported abroad with minor tweaks. No need to pursue an acquisition strategy and pay so much money, or what?

The Groupon Citydeal case

In the case of Groupon, its CEO Andrew Mason indicated in the same TechCrunch article that it would not be so easy to bring Groupon to Europe. Apparently adapting Groupon to suit the differences between Miami and Philadelphia was enough of a challenge. Therefore succeeding in Europe was only possible with entrepreneurs who had an intimate understanding of local cultures. Also strong players were already in the market having first mover advantage. So there was a horde of European Groupon clones they had meetings with.

Unfortunately, we found them to be very much like the American knockoffs – without the strategic vision or operational chops to do much more than watch us and play Simon Says.

In other words, copying business models proved easy and was a redundant asset to Groupon. Strategy and operations are a totally different capability and Groupon was after this added value. So when they met Oliver Samwer, one of the founders of Citydeal, they expected more of the same but found the opposite.

Oliver and his two brothers are known for elevating the practice of cloning American business models in Europe into an art form, having successfully founded the German versions of eBay (eBay eventually bought them), Facebook, eHarmony, Zappos, and many more.

So what were some of the results these operators created, which set them apart from competition? Number 1 in every one of their countries, quickly scaling to 600 employees working from 80+ European cities, saving their customers over $5 million in April alone (their fourth month of operation). Another factor was similar cultures in both the Citydeal team and Groupon:

Hardworking and scrappy, blindingly fast executors, refreshingly blunt, no appetite for petty politics, and passionate about pioneering a new model of commerce while wowing every last consumer and merchant they touched.

And that was that, deal closed, rest is history. CityDeal services rebranded to Groupon and thereby Groupon entered the new markets smoothly and swiftly.

The serial cloners

Crucial and intriguing point in this case is that this is just one example of the new trade practice; the Samwer brothers had done it before. eBay and Facebook are other great examples. What do they, and other outperforming players in this practice, do so well? What is their pattern or process? There is admiration in what they do but they are not much-loved according to an extensive portrait in the German Manager Magazin. The article provides some clues on what may provide them with a competitive advantage. Instead of being visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg, they copy extremely well and seem to be able to pick up and foresee which internet companies are going to be successful. Also they have an investment vehicle with which they can rapidly fund and act on any promising initiative. They play it tough, ask a lot from their employees with their ambitious targets and one of the tactics is to buy competitors’ key people to weaken their position. (Source: article by Christian Rickens and Thomas Werres, Manager Magazin)

What can start-ups, new ventures and established firms learn from this to help them survive, grow, and have sustained profitability? More insights in these new (e-) entrepreneurs, cloners or original digital actors, are useful.

Deaf lady hears for first time thanks to implant

Imagine being born deaf. Imagine never having heard anything before.

And then you can hear again.

Thanks to new technologies it is possible to bring hearing back to deaf people.

I was born deaf and 8 weeks ago I received a hearing implant. This is the video of them turning it on and me hearing myself for the first time :)

Sometimes people ask. If you had to choose between being unable to hear or see, what would you choose? It is almost unimaginable if you are used to having your senses. And so easily taken for granted.

Watching this video, it makes me appreciate having sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. And thankful and happy for others when this is made possible through technological advances.


Spotify & Facebook closer collaboration

Changes were announced last week that music service Spotify and Facebook will collaborate closer.

Tracks will be played in the Spotify player within Facebook. And Facebook will track which music its users play. Also it will select “trending tracks”; music that is played by more friends and therefore is apparently popular. It is possible to add comments to music from friends and the played tracks are automatically linked with the artist’s Facebook page.

Users only need a Facebook account now and do not require to start a Spotify account (a.k.a. single sign on). People with a Facebook account use Spotify for free at first. The free subscription with limitations (Spotify Open, max 10 hour per month, max 5x same track) has been temporarily canceled. After 6 months the limitations will return, thus deliberately lowering the threshold. Or users are so hooked they will take out a paid subscription (Unlimited or Premium). In short, a business model to share music.

So there will be a forced closer connection between the two platforms. There is some debate about this. Not everyone likes Facebook, although there are about 800 million users. Some have reservations relating to its privacy policy for example. And where does it end? Do you need a Facebook account in the future to get an appointment with a GP?

Spotify says most of its users are already social and connected with Facebook. So this development logically follows.

Anyway, benefits are great for both parties. Facebook adds a music platform without having to buy one. And Spotify connects with a platform that has great reach, which may make its brand as well known as YouTube is now.

Adapted from article on 3voor12NL by Atze de Vrieze.


SuperHeavy is  a collaboration between musicians/songwriters from different genres: rocker Mick Jagger, soul singer Joss Stone, reggae star Damian Marley (yes, son of), Indian composer A.R. Rahman and Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics.

The result of writing and recording together in different places around the world is exactly that; a fusion of different music from around the world.

Website & video

The SuperHeavy website contains a lot of news, information, video, images and of course a store.

» Check out the video of their debut song Miracle worker below. Note the use of the SuperHeavy logo (drawing of a tiger) on both the website and in the video. Establishing  a brand and recognition?

Create & share your own portrait SuperHeavy style

Shepard Fairey created a unique portrait of the band members using an orange, black and white color palette. Fans can create their own image in a similar style to the Fairey portraits using the Facebook app. The images are then added on the wall of SuperHeavy fans and happy sharing; fans can obviously share their pic and message on Facebook and Twitter.


2011 Canoe Sprint World Championships – Szeged

Between 17–21 August the world’s top canoe and kayak paddlers raced at the world championships Canoe sprint in Szeged, Hungary, for medals and London 2012 Olympic games qualification. 

Venue was the prestigious Maty-ér Regatta Course, which is 2,400-metre long and 122-metre wide. 2,000 people from 90 countries competed, drawing massive crowds of about 25,000 fans and international media on site. Also many enthusiasts tuned in from around the globe.

The campaign “kayak-canoe, rock & roll”, featuring three Hungarian Olympic champions (Katalin Kovács, Zoltán Kammerer and Attila Vajda) who play air guitar on their paddles, was everywhere; billboards, commercials and teasers at the movie theatre.
» Watch the great teaser video here.

Cutting edge systems provided unique images of the races, including spidercams, which moved across the nine lanes, and 400m long tracks slightly above the water. Fabulous technical and camera work by the crew. Supporters were part of the action and tuned into the fantastic atmosphere via television and online, such as the nice event website, Facebook and Twitter @szeged2011.

» View the races and listen to what the cool athletes from Team Canada have to say in these videos. See the amazing Australian athletes and their “summer slaughter” here.

Interview local hero Attila Vajda – World champion C1 1000m

Interview popular Adam van Koeverden – World champion K1 1000m

One of the highlights for many athletes and people behind the scenes was the daily ice-cream with choice of numerous flavors. Did you know that poppy-seed is everywhere in the Hungarian cuisine, from entrée to dessert?

Overall a smashing event that was well-organized, setting an example for future organizers.


2011 Canoe Freestyle World Championships – Plattling

World championships Canoe Freestyle are held once every two years, with the latest on 20-26 June in Plattling Germany. Some 25,000 spectators watched 400 athletes from 30 countries in action.

Through the coverage online, people from all over the world were able to follow and be part of the event. Some of the coverage included teasers, interviews, daily wrap-ups and updates via Twitter @icfplattling.

World Championships Freestyle in Plattling - just before the stormThere was even live streaming of the competition. So wherever your location, you could see the athletes performing their tricks in the 45s timeframe while listening to the upbeat presenting by the knowledgeable event announcers.

Lots of lively chat next to the live feed showed the buzz of a world engaged. Chat comments from Japanese enthusiasts brought the coach from Team Japan to read them aloud, in Japanese. Not sure about the meaning of what the coach said but the Japanese athletes seemed very happy, encouraged by the home support.

» Watch interviews, wrap-ups and more on the video archive and the live stream channel with archive footage of the competition.

Video wrap-up Final day

What is Canoe Freestyle?

Canoe Freestyle is a whitewater canoe discipline where the paddler performs acrobatic tricks and moves on a river feature such as a wave or hole. The different maneuvers and tricks are similar to those from freestyle snowboarders, surfers and skaters, where the athlete completes spins, flips, turns and more. Although the sport is not yet part of the Olympic program, top canoe freestyle athletes participate in competitions both nationally and internationally. (Source: ICF)