Tag Archives: google

ROCKSTAR Product Management at HTC and Sprint Underpromises, Overdelivers

HTC’s product management is a great example of under-promising and over-delivering on customer expectations. Not only have they been surprisingly transparent on committing to release dates, recently they have been getting to market early and allow service providers to push updates ahead of schedule. All great news for HTC end users as well as good PR for the providers servicing those devices.

This weekend, Sprint customers were able to download the latest HTC software update, which includes (KitKat) Andriod 4.4 update, even thought it wasn’t supposed to be ready until Feb 11. This is a major update, bringing the long-missing inclusion of Google+ updates into Blinkfeed (THANK YOU HTC and Google!) as well other enhancements, especially for HTC Share service.

The update will be pushed out next week, but it was nice to be able to manually download and get it early, especially for a geek like me. The product management team responsible for developing these releases has demonstrated a clear ability to deliver high-quality developer packages to service providers ahead of schedule. In other words, they are being ROCKSTARS!

Do you want to be a ROCKSTAR product manager? Set clear expectations, transparently share them, and then habitually beat those expectations–Underpromise; Overdeliver!

Party Mode = Crowd-source Event Pics

Recently, I waxed philosophical about certain demographics’ adoption of Google+ and how it drives participation and content there. Another great example of how Google is implementing content driving services to their new G+ adopters is the crowd-sourcing photography feature, Party Mode. Basically, Party Mode enables smartphones to automatically upload any photos or videos taken during an event to the Google Event, sharing them with other attendees in real time.

What a great feature! Live, real-time photo sharing?! There are vendors charging an arm and leg to provide this kind of service, including hardware and complicated infrastructure set ups. However, by capitalizing on the phenomenal growth of the BYOD (bring your own device) craze and the ubiquity of high-speed data network access (4G, LTE, etc) for smartphones, groups of any size can crowd-source party pics!

There are unlimited possibilities for nonprofit organizations and special event managers to use this free functionality:

  • Stream photos from the Event page on a big screen
  • Devise photo “scavenger hunts” to drive participation (eg, a couple dancing, group shot of your table, self-portrait)
  • Provide props to boost creativity. (eg, silly hats, mustaches on sticks) Make it fun.
  • Schedule a photo “flash mob” time, when everyone takes a photo at the same time. Got an MC? Have them call it out. “Everyone smile!”
  • Silent Auction: Post photos of items with recent bids. Consider assigning a volunteer to do this rather than the bidders themselves.
  • Too busy at the event itself? Encourage participants to upload their photos “after the fact” when they get home.
  • Honor your best photographers with acknowledgements, praise, and prizes 
  • Share photos in event follow-up communications. Don’t forget to include a call to action!

If you want to try this at your event, start by setting up your event in Google+ and inviting attendees. Provide instructions to attendees when they get there: Log into G+, Join Event, Enable Party Mode. If attendees have already joined the event on Google+ and have a Droid smartphone, the event will already be on their calendar and (depending on settings) they will receive automatic notification to start Party Mode at the start time of the Event. (Bonus! = You don’t have to do a thing!) For other attendees, consider providing a 2D bar code (QR code, MS tag) that links to the Event page itself, so they can join too without having to search for it.

Screenshot of Google Event example with 4 contributing photographers in Party Mode

G+ finds its audience! And it’s not who you think.

My husband never joined the infamous Book of Face… and now he never will.

At first, he was just being contrary; he actively avoided doing what everybody else was doing. But after a while, I think he was just intimidated. The thought of managing the flood of all those friend requests was too daunting and so he avoided the unpleasantness altogether.

Now, he has finally initiated himself into the ranks of social networking–without the Facebook baggage. And he’s not the only one of my friends to do so. I now have several friends in G+ who are not anywhere else. They are all male, thirty-something and have families.

I’m sure Google wanted entrepreneurial, tech savvy Millennials to flock to their new social network, and we did at first, but then we never really engaged there. Who Google is actually attracting and getting engagement from are thirty-somethings: fathers, busy with kids, who have never joined a social network before. This means that techies like me now have to update multiple social networks if I want all of my friends and connections to see my pictures, posts, and event invites.

My husband on G+

What a great opportunity for Google! They have at their fingertips a brand new audience as yet untapped by social media marketers. This demographic is ripe for opportunities for marketers of all types–sports, food & beverage, entertainment, news & weather.

G+ has won in 2 ways: Not only to they get a brand new, untapped audience of thirty-something men with little exposure to existing social networks, but they also get the tech savvy mom who just wants to see the cute pictures of daughter that dad is sharing from his ‘Droid…

Stacy Dyer on G+

Why Google+ will kill Facebook

I know what you’re thinking. “Ridiculous! I checked that out a few weeks back, but since none of my friends are on Google+, I went back to Facebook. Wasn’t that just some sort of craze?”

It’s true. Usage dropped off significantly after the first initial rush. And Facebook has matched most of the functionality that made Google+ unique in the first place, but there is a reason why Google will eventually win this battle. They have a key integration that Facebook can’t touch – Picasa.

I love Google’s Picasa. Here’s why: I can edit, tag, annotate, and organize my photos offline. You can’t do that on Facebook or on Flickr.

With the stand-alone Picasa application that installs on my computer, I do not have to be connected to the internet to create an album. This is crucial when I’m, for example, on vacation and don’t have a regular internet connection. No one wants to spend their scarce holiday hours locked away in a coffee shop, fighting with Facebook’s photo uploader, wasting precious daylight tagging and commenting. With Picasa, I can do it all “back at camp” in the evenings and then upload the whole album, tags, comments and all, when I get to a wifi hotspot.

Because of this offline capability, I use Picasa all the time, even when I’m not on holiday. There is no (and never will be) an easy way to share my Picasa albums on Facebook, so I would love to have all my friends leave the book of faces behind and come over to the Goog-side. I want them to have their account so they comment, +/like, and share my photos, just as they would if I had uploaded all my images to Facebook. That way, I get all the benefits of the social sharing, but I can keep using the offline, stand-alone Picasa app to manage my photos.

I’m not saying that Picasa is the best photo manager out there – far from it. But its integration with Google+ will be the killer feature that encourages more users to share their photos on Google+ rather than on Facebook. Status updates with photos are 120% more likely to get interaction than text only posts.

The more photos I post, the more content there will be, the more of my friends will come over to browse.

Wake up Facebook and smell the photo management app! It will be the key to future social site adoption!

Which browser do you use?

I recently read a study on internet browser adoption. No surprise MS’s Internet Explorer still rules the roost with Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari coming in next. What did surprise me was the level of adoption for Google’s new Chrome browser.

I wonder how much overlap is in these statistics.

Myself, I use all 3 browsers, each for different purposes. For many years, my preferred daily browser has been Firefox. It won me over with innovative features (remember when tabbed browsing was new?) and faster speeds. Unfortunately, some websites do not work with it. When accessing my corporate Exchange email from home or the road, Microsoft requires I use a version of IE.

For a while, I was able to “cheat” with the IE tab extension for Firefox. But ever since the upgrade to v3, IE tab has been buggy and causes random crashes. These crashes are inevitably more painful to me than opening an instance of IE for the one site that requires it. So I have 2 browsers.

But wait, there’s more! Recent upgrades to MLB.com, where my family and I enjoy watching the Red Sox nearly every single night, caused problems in Firefox. Technical support was unable to resolve our issues and recommended trying a different browser. Enter Chrome working like a charm, and faster than Firefox to boot. Unfortunately, it is still young, and not as stable as Firefox. With my habitual tabbed browsing, and multiple open windows, I managed to crash Chrome on a nightly basis. (For the record, it does not crash under “normal” use – ie just a couple of game day tabs open and the baseball game streaming.) Now I have 3 browsers.

What internet browser to you use? How many folks use multiple browsers? Do you use different browsers for different purposes?


Palm Pre vs iPhone, Round 2: Road Trip

As promised, I wanted to review my experience with the Pre’s Google Map and Sprint Navigation applications. For comparison, a more traditional GPS unit (the Garmin Nuvi 750) also made the trip.

The hands-down winner in this head-to-head was clearly the Garmin Nuvi, but then it’s not really a fair comparison. As I have stated before, I have always found that dedicated devices do a much more complete job than any multitasker. However, since the trip started without the Nuvi, having at least some navigation functions on my Pre was great! Read on to find out how it went…

Google Maps

Using Google Maps on the Pre requires a Sprint data connection. Generally, along interstates and in cities, this is not a problem. Particularly in cities, I find the Google Map app useful for navigating while NOT driving. For example, when you are searching for a restaurant and want to see how to get there from where you are.

Directions can be programmed either from your current location using the GPS signal, or you can input an address. If you tap an address in your Contacts, it will automatically pull up directions in Google Maps – handy.

Unfortunately, there is no scale on the Google maps display, so it can be difficult to determine the time to your destination while en route.

In terms of the routes themselves, I found Google to be overall very good at choosing a main route, avoiding unpaved roads, and displaying traffic info (in urban areas only.) It would not alter the route if I made a wrong turn or help me get back on track.

Sprint Navigation

Once en route to my destination, I found the Sprint Navigation app more useful. It gives a time to the destination that updates based on your current position. It also states turn-by-turn directions with the actual street names (rather than just “turn in 500 ft”) – a favorite feature of mine on the Garmin devices.

You can adjust the display of the Sprint Nav for either 3D or bird’s eye views and it includes scale.

The down side of Sprint Nav is that, despite being GPS-based, it requires a connection to the Sprint data network to program a trip. I found that once the trip was started, it continued to update my location and ETA even after I lost the Sprint data network. But if the trip was cancelled, I needed new connection to the Sprint data network to be established before I could relaunch the Nav app. This was highly annoying.

It appeared that the maps for the Nav app are not stored on the device itself, but rather downloaded on a per-trip basis. I can appreciate the desire to save memory, as there is no expansion slot. However once a trip has been started, it would be nice if it was stored in local memory until the GPS reaches its destination (or the trip is cancelled, or a new trip started) even if the app is closed. This would allow me to close the app when not needed to save battery life and return to the trip directions when I neared my destination.

I also found Sprint Nav sent me down a dirt road in the middle of a very urban area when there was perfectly good paved road right there. Not only highly annoying, but also potentially damaging to my car! Yikes!

Garmin Nuvi

Unfortunately, for much of my road trip, I was not able to connect to the Sprint data network and so was not able to launch either Sprint Navigation or Google Maps apps on the Pre. Luckily, my Garmin nuvi was able to load (albeit very, very slowly.)

I believe the slow loading nuvi maps may be caused my Garmin embedding a satellite search parameter in with the maps updates. Since I haven’t purchased a 2009 map update yet, I believe it will continue to take longer and longer to find the satellites until I purchase that update. At least I hope it’s just a software update because taking 4 min+ (and getting longer) to find signal is not going to be acceptable. Then again, the Pre wasn’t finding any signal at all, so maybe I was just on holiday out in the sticks… ha ha!

Once on signal, though, the Garmin performed admirably – avoiding obstacles and selecting a fairly good quality route, somewhere between Google Maps (best routes, IMO) and Sprint Nav (worst routes) Still sometimes, the Garmin would choose a smaller road (ie, get off the interstate, just to cut a corner, and then get back on – what up with that?) so I wouldn’t follow blindly.

I liked locating nearby services (gas, coffee, food, etc.) and adding them as “via” points on our trip. While I could use the CitySearch or other 3rd party app for this on the Pre, it wouldn’t add them to the nav directions automatically. If this functionality could be integrated in WebOS, that would be a great enhancement.

The Garmin would also go to sleep at night and remember our trip in the morning so it did not need re-programming. Note, this is the second time I’ve mentioned this feature. On a road trip, batteries of every size and type are always in need of charging, so any feature that helps me conserve power is going to get the thumbs up in my book.

Other Road Trip musings

At one point in the car, I was playing with the Facebook app. While it let me update my status, it did not read the comments on my status, or allow me to comment on those comments. Luckily, I was able to log into facebook.com on the browser and comment from there. Ironically, my comment, which was on the subject of the Pre itself, encouraged my friend to go out and purchase a Pre the very next day!

I wanted to play more with mobile uploads, particularly photos, as the camera on the Pre takes some nice quality images. But with little cell service on the island, I was at the mercy of open wi-fi connections in cafes and at family’s homes. When I was in a location with a signal, I inevitably didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted before it was time to go.

With spotty cell service, text messaging is the way to go. Even if I couldn’t maintain a signal long enough to check my voicemail, a short text (SMS) message was usually able to be delivered. The keyboard of my Pre makes texting a dream too! I’m a new convert of messaging! I even tried to send my father a MMS (movie/photo) message, but his iPhone’s AT&T network doesn’t support MMS messaging yet. Funny, his new S iPhone is supposed to support it… wha ha ha ha! Although, really, I shouldn’t laugh too much, I still can’t take any movies yet at all, even though I can watch them…. Where’s my movie app? Palm WebOS developers, I’m looking at you!

The last thing I will mention is the WebOS 1.1 update, which was released while I was on this road trip. I was able to download it over the network very quickly (it was a 90mb download) and apply it without a hitch. Although, I do not have a need for all the EAS enhancements, I will be looking forward to playing with my new NFL app. Thanks, developers!

That’s it for this installment. Watch for more reviews on that new NFL app and more as my Pre experience continues!