Google Buzz: Takes on Twitter as a ‘Wave’ with Training Wheels

A few months ago, I documented my first trip to ride Google’s new Wave.  In full disclosure, since that time, I’ve been back only a handful of times.  Through exchanges with students, friends, and co-workers, I’ve found this to be the case for a majority of “Wave” users… or potential Wave users.  My own hypothesis: Google attempted to re-invent the wheel.  A wheel that they already possessed and improved.  A clear example is listed just below:

To the left is a “Google Wave” contact list.  When I first joined, there were only a few people who were on my contact list.  Though I frequently chatted with friends using GMail‘s “Gtalk” (commonly referred to as “gchat” by many)  feature already, I (and the rest of my friends) joined Google Wave hoping to find something different.

What we found though, was not only something that we had used seamlessly in our day-to-day electronically mediated interactivity, but also something that didn’t include everyone we were used to interacting with.  It was a cheap imitation and lacked the social component that drives electronically mediated interactivity in today’s culture and society.

To the right is a screen shot of my own gtalk contact list located within my Gmail window.  Immediately, the anatomy gtalk’s contact list reveals more people, a video chat option, and (most important of all) more users!  The third of these three characteristics was the most damning of Google’s Wave from the start.  Google, hoping to spark electronic phylogenic progress with Google Wave, remained stagnant if not receding due to the lack of users.

Judging by Google’s introduction of “Google Buzz” as an application on it’s gtalk, the company realized this was a major flaw in the makeup of Wave.  The nonverbal omission of failure resulted in yesterday’s worldwide introduction of Buzz and  today’s worldwide unveiling on many Gmail/gtalk users’ windows.

Instantly, users liken Google Buzz to Twitter.  It’s hard not to.  From the ability to “link” (or sync) to your Twitter account to the terms “follow” and “follower,” Buzz reeks of Twitter.  Below is a visual example of this:

Just above was my last “tweet” before going to bed…

Today, when I activated my “Buzz,” this was the result of “linking” (or “syncing”) my “tweets” into Google Buzz.

Google Buzz’s central separation from Twitter is something that my Communication and Media Studies recitation group and I discussed yesterday during class.  The lack of opportunities for “public feedback” on Twitter requires users to take extra steps to “see” what other people are commenting about any given “tweet.”  An example of this is displayed just below:

Paul Levinson‘s initial tweet about last night’s Lost episode appeared on my Twitter feed without any alert as to other people who’ve commented or responded to his initial commentary.The very same tweet (“linked” or “synced” from Paul’s Twitter account right into Google Buzz) makes public commentary or feedback a possibility.  Further, private feedback via chat (both textual and video) is also an option for users.

If Google Buzz can wrangle users in a way that the company was unable to do with Wave, this addition to GMail will be a wild success.  The pressure and attention now moves to Twitter.  The social networking, micro-blogging site must now take steps to making public feedback more visible to users.  Failure to do so, may result in a decrease in activity and more web hours being spend micro-blogging on Google Buzz.

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“Twitter Bowl”: Instant Commercial Feedback

While joining the tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Super Bowl viewers on Twitter, I noticed that I was repeatedly locked out of Twitter due to “over capacity.”  Several Facebook statuses later, I knew I was not alone…

Personally, my use of Twitter coincides with Television viewing.  Whether it be quality programing (Lost, 24, Dexter, Entourage), guilty pleasures (Jersey Shore, Real World/Road Rules Challenge, Keeping up with the Kardashins), or one-time events (New York Jets football, the World Series, the Super Bowl), I find myself tweeting with others who have no physical contact during the course of these programs.

During sporting events it’s unbiased statistics and exacerbated fandom. For entertainment dramas, comedies, and reality television it’s love verses hate.  During the Super Bowl, however, millions of “analysts” made their way to Twitter for both play-by-play and commercial-by-commercial analysis.  This virtual bottlenecking resulted in a slow, frustrating version of a normally instantaneous medium in Twitter.

During the touch-and-go process that was “Super Bowl Twitter” (ironic, considering Twitter was anything but “Super” during the secular holiday) did, however, result in instantaneous feedback for Super Bowl commercials.

Among the “trending topics” of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning were Betty White, Doritos, and ‘Googling.’  One of the highest reaching commercials on Twitter’s “trending topics” was this Vizio commercial:

Within the commercial is the further merging of our Twitter-Television relationship on display tonight.  Does Vizio play the role of soothsayer on Super Bowl night?  Potentially.  Two weeks ago, during an interview on Colin McEnroe’s WNPR radio program, I suggested that we were moving toward a meshing (if not metamorphosis) between the web and TV.  This commercial, to me encapsulates just that.

Years ago, Vizio was a cheap American alternative to the Sony’s, Toshiba’s, and Panasonic’s of the world.  This commercial, however, suggests there is nothing cheap or second-rate about this company.  As I’ve come to realize about movie trailers: a “good” trailer does not make a “good” movie.  The same can certainly be said for Vizio’s exciting Super Bowl commercial.

All things considered, it is very exciting to see the infant stages of the marriage of Internet-and-Television via Twitter and the Super Bowl and where it could potentially evolve via Vizio’s Super Bowl advertisement.

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URL-Only Tonight Show: The Creation of a “Lukewarm” Medium?

As relayed in my previous post, I had an issue with Conan O’Brien’s claim that The Tonight Show is immune to DVR and Internet technologies.  This week, a friend and former colleague, Steve Melfi, tweeted something that I considered a very real possibility:

The shared link delivered me to a New York Times Bits blog post, by Nick Bilton, about O’Brien and his Tonight Show gang leaving television for a Internet-based version of his program.  In his post, Bilton suggests:

“Mr. O’Brien’s youthful supporters won’t crowd around the television at a specific time, instead they go to YouTube, Gawker, [and Hulu] to watch their late-night television, and share their own commentary around each clip.”

The last part of this quote (“share their … clip”), is arguably the most interesting.  This afternoon, I briefly conversed with Patrick Skahill about the evolution of television viewers.  Our conversation focused on a local news viewing audience’s desire to know more, ergo the popularity of multi-informative sites like Wikipedia.  The same can be said for Bilton’s community of viewers, or forum of viewers.

In the case of this potential “URL-only” Tonight Show, the viewer has the potential to act as both producer and consumer (a sentiment displayed on the very first page of Paul Levinson‘s New New Media).  Obviously, as one logs on to this potential Tonight Show webcast, the initial act is done to view the show (consumer).  This act, however, is followed by (potentially) added content to the page/forum/group as the show “airs” (producer).  If there were a middle ground between Marshall McLuhan‘s “hot” and “cool” media, this imaginary land of a “lukewarm” Tonight Show webcast would be it.

As it stands today, I don’t think today’s viewers are ready for such a “lukewarm” medium.  With this evening’s news that Fox purchases URL rights for a potential future with Conan O’Brien all but shutdown the potential for Bilton’s “URL-only” Tonight Show.  That said, O’Brien’s lack of faith in URL-based entertainment doesn’t mean such a show will never exist.  It remains to be seen if media seekers and consumers are ready for the emergence of “active passivity” (as introduced in a earlier RSS/Twitter post).

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Conan O’Brien: ‘Tonight Show’ Immune to DVR/Web

Less than an hour ago, Bill Carter of the New York Times posted a statement from Conan O’Brien on the Times’ “Media Decoder” blog.  The statement, for those who’ve avoided hearing this, refers to NBC’s late night shake-up, moving Jay Leno back to 11:35 PM, O’Brien to 12:05 AM, and Jimmy Fallon to 1:05 AM (for more on this story, please read Carter and Brian Stelter’s article, here).

In the statement, O’Brien breaks down the reason for the ratings failure that has been the Jay Leno Show which has lead to a lackluster ratings share for O’Brien’s own ‘Tonight Show:”

I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like [Leno], I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

O’Brien continues, attempting to justify his reasoning behind refusing to leave the 11:35 PM time-slot:

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

The last part, hi-lighted in blue, raises an interesting point.  Yes.  By definition, the Tonight Show should actually air.. tonight.  But to suggest that television overrides DVR technology and the Internet is short-sighted.  Not that I’ve been checking every day (mainly because I wasn’t expecting this to happen), but when I do visit Hulu and check on the Most Popular videos of the day, the Tonight Show is always at the top of the list.

Now, does that mean that O’Brien’s wrong and the Tonight Show thrives on the web?  Not exactly.  The vague calibration of “popularity” does have a bit of a kill date as popularity per week, month, year has each episode of the Tonight Show buried by shows like The Office, Family Guy, and The Simpsons (ironically, O’Brien’s former employers).

The mobility of the web makes it more of an ally to the Tonight Show than a foe.  That same mobility, or lack thereof, handicaps DVR technology.  The Tonight Show airs at 11:35 PM, if someone DVRs the programs and watches it before heading to work in the morning, the content is still ‘fresh.’  However, if that same person doesn’t watch the program until coming home from work, most of the material has ‘expired’ (via other media, water cooler talk at work, interpersonal conversations, etc), making a DVR’d version of the program less of a reward for said viewer.

In the end, O’Brien is obviously concerned about the tradition of the Tonight Show more than anything.  His argument against DVR and Internet assistance is documented and the introduction of ‘fresh’ and ‘stale’ media content demonstrated why.  As to the future of NBC’s late night programming and current Tonight Show host, O’Brien offers the following:

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Essentially, he cannot contractually talk about any pending offers from Fox, or any other network.  It’s a messy situation for the three hosts and an obvious black-eye for NBC.  O’Brien’s comments about television daily evolution toward Internet and DVR technology sheds an interesting angle on the story.

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Mike Francesa, Marshall McLuhan, and “Hot” Sports Media

A few months ago, while listening to Mike Francesa on the YES Network, the normally sports-oriented talking head took a tangential moment to talk media evolution:

Beginning with the evolution of sports media (evening news anchors to ESPN), Francesa notes that the evening sports anchor’s power was in his knowledge of scores.  In the end, anchors on ABC/CBS (Warner Wolff, 1976-1980/1980-1995 & 1997-2004)) and NBC (Len Berman, 1982-2009), New York.  Obviously, there has been an abrupt shift in power.  As mentioned in my previous post (Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?), the consumers became producers.  This shift first began with “SportsPhone.”

Amazingly, there’s no Wikipedia entry for “SportsPhone,” but, essentially, this service was, initially, a free service .  After providing sports fans with a desirable product, much like fantasy sports, the content provider began charging money.  According to a member of HFBoards:

“I lost my cable TV and internet service last night and had no way of getting a score for the Isles’ game. That made me think of Sportsphone, which I think was from back in the 70s. The younger people might find this hard to believe, but there was a time before cable sports channels and the internet when, if you missed the nightly TV news or it was a late game, you could not get a result until the next day. So, someone got the idea of “Sportsphone”, a number you could call which played a tape of game results.”

The author of this post, an obvious former SportsPhone user, depicts the necessity for such a service.  A breaking trade?  An extra-innings/overtime game?  A late game?  No matter the time, Sportsphone would provide a up-to-date delivery of the day’s sports news.  As novel as it seemed, dialing a combination of digits into a telephone at work or home would give one what one wanted.

Today, there’s a reflection of the same with the network television and, more-so, the Internet.  Much like local news’ relationship with network news stations, local sports anchors share the same relationship with the advent (1979) and success of ESPN.  Minus the cost, the web provides up to the second (a minute is much to slow in this day-and-age) scores for sports fans across the globe.  The question now: is there room to grow?

I surmise there is.  The aforementioned YES Network has teamed with Cablevision and Verizon (independently, not as a conglomerate) to bring “live” Yankees’ games to fans wherever there’s Internet access.  In the end, it’s fantastic to have scores and statistics to temporarily quench one’s thirst for sports, but reading about Kobe Bryant’s career defining performance and seeing it with one’s own eyes are two completely different things.

Classic “hot media” v. “cool media” take place in this statistical realm.  As Marshall McLuhan describes, “hot media” require less participation… whereas “cool media” require a bit more interaction.  When seeing an athlete, like Kobe Bryant, penetrate defensive pressure, artistically maneuver through the paint, and  finish with a “pump-handle-slam” it’s easy for the viewer to identify this performance as “career defining.”  Especially when this sequence is repeated during a performance.  As McLuhan, himself, states:

“Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue” (Understanding Media, 25).

Though the Internet provides instant statistical delivery for consumers, the YES Network’s partnership with the aforementioned cable companies displays the “warming” of sports entertainment and media from “cool” to “hot.”

Though Mike Francesa didn’t read up on Understanding Media before his broadcast, his TV broadcasting partner, the YES Network, assuredly did.  In my prediction, this move– whether it be revolutionary for the time or not– will result in many television/Internet networks partnering to provide sporting fans with similar “hot” content.

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Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?

Over the past few months, Wikipedia‘s push for public funding has evolved from spokespeople (in the form of both celebrities and “everyday” people) to a “voice of reason” via Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder).  Upon logging on to the site, the user is greeted with a banner the following banner, requesting you take a moment from your browsing to consider what Wikipedia is… and what Wikipedia could be:

Once the user takes a moment to read Wales’ appeal, they’re brought to a page with a personal note, the bulk of which is displayed below (click picture for full note):

It’s easy to see where Wales is coming from.  If  a company like Microsoft or Google pruchased a percentage of Wikipedia (much like Microsoft did with Facebook), it would certainly make it easier for the “non-profit” to stay afloat… but would it affect the information provided?

I submit, and I trust you will agree, that it certainly would.  Imagine you, a Wikipedia user, are interested in researching Professional Wrestling storylines (a personal favorite procrastination search of my own).  As you find yourself reading about a feud between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan during Wrestlemania VI, you discover a link for “Mr. Perfect,” one of your personal favorites wrestlers.  When you click on the link, however, it’s not “Mr. Perfect’s” Wikipedia page that opens, it’s his “Bing” or “Google” search results (depending, of course, on the partner).

Here in lays the problem.  As Wales points out, “We Need to Protect Wikipedia.”  If Wikipedia is publicly funded, as Wales hopes, the above scenario will not come to fruition.  Instead, a site where “every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge” will be possible.  As Paul Levinson notes in New New Media (Penguin, 2009):

Wikipedia is the most thorough-going, consistantly user-driven system on the Internet.  It is the pick of the new new media litter, at least insofar as its primary, revolutionary charactersitic of allowing consumers to become producers (p. 90)

Tonight, while watching Monday Night Football (MNF) with my girlfriend’s family, I was asked what the lineage of announcers since the start of MNF was.  Logically, I searched Wikipedia and came to an answer within seconds (if not sooner).  Some of the article, I’m sure, was written/edited by ABC (long-time broadcaster of MNF).  Other components, likewise, were indubitably composed by ESPN (who has held the rights to MNF since 2006 — yes, I got that bit from Wikipedia).  Furthermore, there are the multitudes of NFL fans and MNF traditionalists who have added and edited their factual components of “all-things” MNF.

In a microcosm, this is what makes Wikipedia “revolutionary.”  As the title reads, I wonder if Wikipedia can, one day, become this all encompassing “good’ that Wales depicts in this open-letter to Wikipedia users?  My best guess is that it will.  There are millions of people in the world who can’t stand not knowing “who sings that song,” “what other shows is s/he in,” or “what’s the meaning of life?”  Wikipedia does, for these questioners and more, represent a haven for knowledge.  And it is a haven that Jimmy Wales hopes will remain safe from taint in the near future.

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“Facehoo!” and the eVolution of RSS News Feeds

Every morning, I have the same routine: make coffee, shower, have breakfast, read tweets.  At times, checking e-mail leapfrogs twitter (especially during midterms and finals when my inbox is flooded with student e-mails), but for the most part– that’s the routine.  To say the least, a vast change from a black-and-white memory I have of my father sitting back in his worn-in easy-chair, coffee on coaster to his right, and newspaper in hand.  Within the multitude of reasons for this, I submit they key lays in “active passivity.”

In 1997, Paul Levinson‘s The Soft Edge noted that “speed is [...] the essence in delivery of news, [therefore] we might expect the online newspaper to easily exceed the sometimes soggy mess of print delivered to our doorstep only in the morning” (183).  As I write this post, my living room’s bay window offers a picture of a particularly grey, windy, rainy front yard and driveway.  The very driveway where a morning paper would be delivered.  While the physical elements do play a roll in my lack of enthusiasm toward retreiving a paper amid raindrops and wind, Levinson’s note of “speed” plays much more of a vital factor in my decision to not pay for news delivery (the monetary cost also playing a bit of a role).

Having covered the ‘passivity’ in “active passivity,” here’s where the footwork comes in: harvesting news sources.

Just months ago, I found most of my news from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds.  Most blogs and news websites offer an RSS Feed somewhere within or surrounding the text of an article/post.  If a website or web log does not offer a ‘clickable’ RSS link, secondary sites like Feedburner.com would provide writers with a unique RSS Feed URL.  Plugging that URL into a Feed Reader (much like those you see in the picture to the right) provides instantaneous updates to one’s blog or homepage.  The screen-shot provided comes from my iGoogle homepage.  Fully-customizable, iGoogle delivers immediate article/posts/news from websites/blogs I’ve visited and harvested for content.  In fact, popular sites like The Drudge Report and Huffington Post both represent “aggregators,” or sites that conjure a majority of content from outside sources (Drudge is more exemplary of this characteristic).

Recently, my aforementioned iGoogle homepage has collected a serious layer of dust.  Truthfully, multiple layers.  The central reason: Facebook‘s Newsfeed and my customized Twitter-Feed.  Both tools represent vehicles for news information and, better, a lack of initial RSS/website harvesting.

Now, because I share tastes in news stories with my “friends” (Facebook) and “followers” (Twitter), I read about news that they find interesting.  Which brings me to the premise of this post: “Facehoo!”

As you can see, the following post from a former classmate came to my attention three days ago.  The link Samia shared with her friends delivered me to the original article at MediaPost.  The most interesting component of the article comes here:

Yahoo users will see friends’ Facebook activities in “Yahoo Updates,” a tab found on key properties within the Web portal such as Yahoo Sports, News and Finance. (Mark Walsh)

This post arrived just days (if even that) before Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg‘s open-letter to the Facebook community, when he revealed the network had exceeded 350 million users (side note: notice the RSS Feed icon in the upper-left corner of the screen shot).  Further down, Zuckerberg acknowledges the same changes shared in the link provided above.  The partnership between Yahoo! and Facebook will undoubtedly result in an increase in Facebook users.

Think to those people who Mark Penn refers to as New Luddites, people who “don’t use [technology] because of age” among other characteristics (Microtrends, 257).  Though this group may have ignored the initial surge toward Facebook (and social networking as a whole), e-mail (specifically Yahoo! e-mail) and Yahoo! are two elements of the Web they all know.  Once they initially notice “comments,” “status updates,” and “sharing” links, this group will be lured to Facebook from their Yahoo! homepage.

This initial introduction to, what Howard Rheingold refers to as “reputation management” or “social filtering,” trail-blazes a way for more “active passivity” news sources.  Rheingold cites examples such as:

“Epinions [who] pays contributers of the most popular online reviews of books, movies, appliances, restaurants, and thousands of other items. [...] Slashdot and other self-organized online forums [that] enable participants to rate the postings of other participants in discussions, causing the best writing to rise in prominence and most objectionable postings to sink” (Smartmobs, 114-115).

All of the above, plus popular cites like Digg, all play into this individual news collecting trend of “active passivity;” a definite eVolution to take note of during the initial stages of this “Facehoo!” partnership.

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