Google +1

The announcement by Google that users could flag content or a search result with a “+1” button has been taken by some to be an answer to Facebook’s “like” button.  John Bell thinks it is very del.ici.ous-like and that tagging is a natural extension that will follow. Over dinner last night with Ming Yee, SVP at Edelman Digital, he delivered the opinion that Google’s addition of its version of a thumbs-up indicator is a brilliant move to enhance search results — a verification of content and intent that plays to one’s social graph. In essence, he believes this allows Google to socialize search in a very simple, but emphatic way.

I have yet to see a result tagged by any of my Google contacts. But if you are in my Google rolodex and you search on Cotuit, you should see some indication of my recommendation. Twitter and Facebook are sure to follow. John Battelle’s take here.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Not sure what all the fuss is about Amazon’s granting anyone who with an Amazon account a free five gigs of storage for their music. I’ve been storing music in my Dropbox account for three years. But what is very cool about the service is the integration with Amazon’s MP3 store — a fine alternative to Apple’s iTunes — and the uploaded app that plows through an iTunes library and can transfer it out of that ugly file management hell to the cloud where it is truly device independent.

 

So I signed up, downloaded the uploader, let it scan my music, selected a few albums and move them up to the cloud where I can now play them on any Android device or through any PC web browser (not sure if I can play music on my iPad via Safari and the web player… nope, Safari pukes on Amazon, imagine that).

The five gigabytes are free, and if you buy an album from Amazon you get upgraded to 20 gb — which is a decent amount of free storage — for one year (after which it reverts to the original 5).

The catch is that Amazon reserves the right to go through your files, so uploading a stack of crappy MP3s you downloaded from Napster is not a wise idea. I put my paid purchases from iTunes up there and for once I can listen to my music on something other than the single PC that holds the library or the device that is synched to that PC.

God bless the cloud. Google is allegedly working on the same concept – not a surprise — and we certainly would have had an easier time with the late Skylight project which really desperately needed a music source. This ends my mixed affair with iTunes at last.

 

Salesforce-Radian 6: social lead gen

Salesforce.com’s acquisition of social monitoring company Radian 6 isn’t that big of a surprise — although I had to think for a few minutes on why the poster child for cloud-delivered application services and sales management tools would acquire the Canadian monitoring service for $326 million.

The metrics and analytics space is crowded with social metrics vendors — most of which put pretty dashboards on top of gross census figures (how many followers, fans, likes, retweets, etc.) and data crawled by Google — who don’t bring a lot to the table in terms of precision and salient insights that a web metrics platform like Adobe’s Omniture has done in classic web site measurement. The fact that Adobe didn’t grab Radian 6 (or any of the other players that are crowding for attention) is not surprising — but why would Salesforce take on social? For the cachet? To get on the frothy bubble?

If Salesforce’s sweet spot is sales management then Radian 6 could be used for social lead generation — that detection-of-desire model I wrote about two years ago.

If the first phase of social monitoring was to prevent Dell Hell from happening, and the second phase was influencer identification, I think the third and most lucrative will be the detection and analysis of people in market for stuff and talking about their need for that stuff within their social graph. We messed around a little with this at Lenovo — looking at Twitter for indications such as “I need a PC” or “Should I buy a Mac or a ThinkPad” — and then tried to seal the deal with a one-off discount coupon to get the Tweeter into the e-commerce engine.

The problem with most social metrics is sentiment. The “red-yellow-green” type of analysis that a brand would use to see if people think positively or negatively about them or a specific issue or a specific product over time. Sentiment is the province of pollsters and professional surveyors — and any conceit that it can be automated is just that. A conceit.

But — if social analytics can provide attribution of an action — be it a news story, ad campaign, etc. — to a change in fundamental business results: sales, reduced costs, or improved customer loyalty, then bingo, it makes sense for a company focused on the provision of sales tools to acquire a company focused on pulse taking.

Here’s Nathan Gilliatt’s trenchant analysis of the announcement.

The New York Times Paywall is Coming

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. spammed me this morning to say that the NYT.com is moving to a subscription model very soon.

I blog about this topic only because I was once such an ardent front line promoter of the free-and-open model back in 1995 when Forbes.com launched and the traditional newsroom wanted the Wall Street Journal paid-sub model. I still maintain subscription content is a mistake in most cases, or at the very least, digital access should always be free to those antediluvian enough to continue paying for the print version.

Anyway, here’s the terms of the Times – of some interest as they surveyed me last fall with a lot of different possible scenarios and permutations. I’m moot due to the print subscription:

“On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at nytimes.com/access.

Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to NYTimes.com and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to homedelivery.nytimes.com to sign up for free access.

Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all “

The local rag, the Cape Cod Times, went to a metered paywall late last year. Maddening as hell to pay into a tiered model that tells me I have used 7 of 50 story clicks in a month. Whoever the financial whiz was that came up with that complex tiering system needs to be spanked.

I pay because I used to work there and somewhat like their local coverage — but a lot of the locals around me have moved on and given up on the Cape Cod Times. A death sentence for a local product that can only survive with local impressions. And if the pricing is going to happen — go flat and keep the complexity out of it. Please.

The Passing of the Perfect Master: Norman Hobday Inventor of the Fern Bar

Norman Hobday invented the concept of the “fern bar” — transforming the dark  taverns and dives of our fore-drinkers into safe, well-lit meat markets for swinging singles seeking Mister and Mrs. Goodbar.

He passed away late in February.

Before Norman — or Henry Africa as he was once known — bars were windowless haunts with a neon martini glass, the kind of place women of good repute wouldn’t be caught dead in. By opening up the walls with plate glass, hanging Tiffany lamps, ferns, antique motorcycles, and oriental rugs, Norman transformed the art of getting drunk and getting lucky forever.  A picture of him hung next to his bar, him in a French Foreign legion hat, with the title “The Perfect Master.”

I’d never seen anything so weird before in my life.

I worked for his brother, Jack Slick, for one twisted year in San Francisco in the early 1980s. The Hobday brothers were from New York State — allegedly the sons of a pig farmer. Legend is hazy, but Norman apparently joined the merchant marine and found himself in San Francisco where he made the move into bartending and eventually bar owning. Jack followed, split off, and had his own place — The Balboa Cafe in the Marina on the corner of Greenwich and Fillmore. Norman’s palace, Henry Africa’s, had a couple homes before settling on Vallejo and Van Ness. The real action for the Hobday brothers went down at the intersection of Greenwich and Fillmore, where three bars faced off in the s0-called Love Triangle. There was the Balboa — an old institution with a celebrity chef —  Jeremiah Tower, owned by Slick in partnership with an East Bay developer named Doyle Moon and mid-70s disco legend/former bluesman Boz Skaggs and their accountant. The competition/feud between Norman and Jack was legendary, but probably concocted for the sake of their larger-than life, Harley-riding legends.

Norman opened up the Dartmouth Social Club diagonally across the street, capitalizing on the nascent Preppy Handbook craze and recruiting genuine Dartmouth graduates to man the bar in white button downs, aprons, and knit ties. The cultural collision of Ivy preppy boys and upstate New York pig farmers, combined with the pre-AIDs culture of swinging singledom, cocaine, and the entire Jerry-Brown-Have-A-Nice-Day gestalt of northern California made for a specific lunacy that in hindsight was like living and working inside of some Dr. Strange comic.

I went out to the west coast at the invitation of two Dartmouth friends and immediately got work as a doorman/bouncer, graduating to bartender within a few months. I camped on a couch in Mill Valley, commuted over the Golden Gate bridge on my Raleigh ten-speed, and migrated into the Haight to a basement apartment — living hand to mouth on the $100 in tips I pocketed every 2 am when the bar closed.

Jack was an education in himself — he dressed in black motorcycle leather like something out of Mad Max (on the side of the Great Humungous) and took great glee in late night paranoid tirades over dirty Hobart dishwashers and pilfering bartenders. He hired undercover “spotters” to come in and catch us in the act — but it seemed we never were really that guilty. The camaraderie forged between me and my fellow bartenders and waitresses was the best part of the whole weird experience. Some have remained friends to this day.

I got out of there within two years and returned east to get married and start a job as a reporter, and soon thereafter the AIDS epidemic struck, the party was over, and Norman shed the persona of Henry Africa, former member of the French Foreign Legion, and moved South of Market to Rickenbackers where he spent his final days amongst his antique motor cycles. Jack moved out of the city — apparently somewhere around Sacramento and the Balboa was sold to the Getty’s. Norman got into hot water for displaying the teeth of some long-dead Native American, but seemed to revel in the attention as always. Update: Thanks to Nancy in the comments for pointing out that Jack is managing Rickenbackers now.

I’d have to declare my time bartending in San Francisco as the high point of my education and early 20s — I definitely learned more behind the stick than I did in four years at New Haven.

 

The Great White Fleet

The horror of Japan has had me riveted to CNN and online news since Saturday morning. I have nothing to add but my sadness for a country I’ve been fortunate to visit twice.

James Brinton writes on Facebook a very interesting proposal on how the United States can turn swords into plowshares and adapt a soon-to-be mothballed naval fleet into a humanitarian “Great White Fleet”

“The original Great White Fleet of sixteen battleships sailed on a two-year around-the-world goodwill mission in 1907 at the direction of President Theodore Roosevelt. Its goal was to demonstrate than while the United States had become a nation with global reach, and that while its sea power might be a warning to others, its intentions were peaceful. Its white color scheme symbolized not surrender, but purity of purpose in an idealistic time.

The United States has several inactive super-carriers which could – should – be converted to disaster-relief ships. We should do this because we are America, and American would rather be a savior of nations, because The Fleet would demonstrate American compassion in the wake of disaster, and because — at least for now — we are the only nation that can.”

The notion of a flotilla of immense white-painted, red-crossed nuclear aircraft carriers heaving into sight of some ravaged land — and there will alway be some ravaged land to aid — is oddly compelling