App review: Do

I guess we all know how frustrating it can be to have to sit in meetings that just feel like a waste of time or that could have been dealt with in 30 minutes (instead of 3 hours). I know that there are quite a few apps out there which help us to run more productive meetings, but I decided to focus on Do:

  1. How did this app come to my attention? – I got an alert from Product Hunt about Tools for Product Managers, promising me a list of “the tools the pros use”. Do was only ranked 10th on this list, but I guess it was this comment from one of the Product Hunt voters, that intrigued me the most: “I was a Yammer PM. Do.com is the meetings platform I wished I had.” Especially given that it came from a guy who used to be at Yammer – who are all about collaboration within the enterprise – this comment made me want to find out more about the product.
  2. My quick summary of the app (before using it)  Do helps you to have more productive meetings; I therefore expected a tool which helps its users to make their meetings as efficient as possible. The tool doesn’t yet seem to be available on iOS or Android, only on PC.
  3. Getting started, what’s the sign-up process like?  I have to sign up to use Do. At present, Do only seems to support Google users; all non Google users will be notified as soon as they will be able to sign up (see Fig. 1 below). Once I’ve selected my Google account, I get presented with a permissions screen (see Fig. 2 below). I click “Accept” and my personal dashboard appears. All fairly straightforward.
  4. How does the app explain itself in the first minute? – The default page of my dashboard shows a simple timeline with meetings on the relevant dates and times (see an example in Fig. 3 below). To be honest, I felt a bit underwhelmed at first , thinking “is this it!?”. However, the subsequent overlay which consisted of six ‘how to’ screens was quite useful, explaining in a simple but effective way how to best get started on Do (see Fig. 4 below).
  5. How easy to use was the app? – Using the tool felt very intuitive and easy. The layout of the dashboard is clear and easy to understand. Adding a new meeting to the dashboard felt no different to doing the same thing in Google or Outlook (see Fig. 5 below).
  6. How did I feel while exploring the app? – Like I mentioned above, exploring Do felt incredibly easy and intuitive. The signposting used in the tool is self-explanatory and the navigation options have been kept to a minimum. A quick click-through on an individual agenda item highlighted a key purpose of Do; the ability to create and share a meeting outline, making it easy to collaborate around meeting goals and agenda items (see Fig. 6 below).
  7. Did the app deliver on my expectations? – Yes, it did. I felt a bit underwhelmed at first, expecting Do to provide more, ‘less obvious’ features. However, whilst playing with the application, I discovered features like “Invite” and “Takeaways”, which I believe are missing from most standard diary / meeting applications.
  8. How long did I spend using the app?  A few days to start with, but I expect to be using it a lot more in the future!
  9. How does this app compare to similar apps? – I had a quick look at MeetingHero which serves a similar customer proposition to Do. At a first glance, MeetingHero seems a bit less advanced and intuitive in comparison to Do. MeetingHero is, however, available as an app on iOS which means that the app can be used on the go.

Main learning point: Do is a straightforward and easy to use meeting app. I like its interface and its key features; the app makes collaborating around meetings very easy. It will be interesting to see how Do will perform in already crowded marketplace, with apps and systems that enable similar things. I’m now curious to see what the mobile version of the application will look like!

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of Do’s sign-up screen

Do 1

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of Do’s permission screen

 

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of sample meeting in my meeting calendar in Do

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 Fig. 4 – Screenshot of one of the introductory ‘How to’ screens on Do

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of functionality in Do to create a meeting 

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Fig. 6 – The ability  to share a meeting goal and agenda items

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Twitch and its appeal for Google and Microsoft

The other day, I heard about the rumoured takeover of Twitch by Google for the handsome amount of $1 billion. I have to be honest; up until that point I had never heard about Twitch. Reason enough to look into Twitch and a possible ratio for Google willing to spend such a large amount of cash on this startup:

  1. What is Twitch? – Twitch is a video streaming platform and a community for gamers. Geekwire describes Twitch as “the ESPN of the video game industry” and says Twitch is a leader in that space. Twitch has over 45 million monthly users and about 1 million members who upload videos each month. In a relatively short space of time (Twitch was launched in June 2011), Twitch has successfully created an online streaming platform for video games.
  2. Who use Twitch? – I’m not an avid video gamer myself, but browsing the Twitch website tells me that are in effect two main user roles, which are closely intertwined: game players and broadcasters. Clearly, you can be both and I’m sure that a lot of Twitch members fulfil both roles. One can play games on Twitch channels like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or World of Tanks or one can create their own pages from which you can broadcast games. A great example of Twitch’s success in engaging its community around a game is TwitchPlaysPokemon which has had over 78,000 people playing a game that turns chat comments into controller inputs, parsing hundreds of thousands of ups, downs, and starts and translating them into in-game movements.
  3. Why is Twitch such an interesting acquisition target? – Twitch is reported to have snubbed Microsoft’s takeover offer but is rumoured to have fallen for Google. This raises the question as to what makes Twitch such an interesting takeover target? I think that the answer can be split into two main factors. Firstly, scale. Twitch has a rapidly growing and very engaged user community who all share a passion for (video) gaming. Secondly, live broadcasting. Going back to the example of TwitchPlaysPokemon, Twitch streams games that get people excited and gets them participating in real-time. This simultaneous element is something that for instance YouTube is lacking. YouTube is great for on-demand video content, but (currently) less so for live event coverage or participation. The combination of both factors (as well as a very rich vein of user generated content and data) makes Twitch an extremely interesting target indeed.

Main learning point: Recently there have been some major takeover deals in the digital industry – think Instagram, WhatsApp and Beats – but the rumoured acquisition of Twitch by Google is interesting for a number of reasons. If I have to highlight one key reason, then synergy is the main aspect that makes this potential takeover sound like a very exciting one. How will Google potentially integrate YouTube and Twitch or at least find a way to combine both platforms? Will the acquisition of Twitch help YouTube in cracking the real-time broadcast element of its offering? Lets wait and see if the deal actually gets done in the first place, but if it does then I will definitely keep an eye out for any future developments involving Google, YouTube and Twitch.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/05/28/why-youtube-buying-twitch-for-1-billion.aspx
  2. http://www.geekwire.com/2014/microsofts-xbox-shot-potential-twitch-buyer-matters/
  3. http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/youtube-to-acquire-videogame-streaming-service-twitch-for-1-billion-sources-1201185204/
  4. http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/27/tc-cribs-tours-twitch-tv-gaming-office-headquarters/
  5. http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/05/29/twitch-now-lets-filter-counter-strike-global-offensive-game-streams-map-skill-level/
  6. http://thenextweb.com/google/2014/05/19/google-reportedly-wants-buy-video-streaming-service-twitch-1b-deal-boost-youtube/
  7. http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/why-google-wants-to-hitch-twitch-and-youtube-1201188093/
  8. http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/20/5734108/why-twitch-could-be-the-best-billion-google-ever-spends
  9. http://guardianlv.com/2014/02/twitch-live-broadcast-to-be-included-in-xbox-one/

Twitch

Facebook Graph – Can it really take on Google?

With the amount of data that Facebook has on its users and their activities, I guess it came as no surprise when they recently launched Facebook Graph.

One of the first questions raised was whether Facebook is now looking to take on Google when it comes to search. In essence, Facebook Graph generates a variety of results (e.g. people, places, interests, etc.) all based on the social data available through your network on Facebook.

An obvious first comparison would be with Google+ and it triggered to me think a bit more about what Facebook Graph entails and how it compares to Google+:

  1. Facebook uses the data it’s already got – I thought this post on Fast Company explains Facebook Graph pretty well: “Graph Search leverages Facebook’s social data to pinpoint any combination of people, places, photos and interests. It is designed to field queries such as “photos of my best friend and my mom” or “friends of friends who like my favorite band and live in Palo Alto” or “Indian restaurants in Palo Alto that friends from India like.” In essence, all Facebook Graph does is using the social data it already has. In contrast, the launch of Google+ signified a venture into a fairly new area for Google, with it having to build a new social platform almost from the ground up.
  2. Facebook Graph has its (search) limitations – It was interesting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that “We wouldn’t suggest people come and do web searches on Facebook, that’s not the intent” at the launch of Facebook Graph. Indeed, Graph is no Google when it comes to web search; searches on Graph are limited to data that are either public or visible to you. Also, as the aforementioned Fast Company article points out; if one of your friends has wrongly labelled a certain picture it’s just a case of tough luck with Facebook Graph.
  3. Different algorithms – Whereas Google’s search algorithms are predominantly based on keywords and links, Facebook Graph takes into social data around “likes” and “check-ins”. Consequently, the search results that Graph returns are likely to be a lot more personalised and authentic than Google’s. As I mentioned under point 1. above, Facebook has an almost endless amount of social data at its disposal which Google will struggle to compete with. Unlike Google, Facebook Graph enables users to search by using combined phrases such as “My friends who like cycling and have recently been to France.”

Main learning point: the main question I asked myself after having done this brief comparison of Facebook Graph and Google (Plus) was: “is it really fair to compare the two?” Google has clearly established itself as a very reliable web search platform, whilst Facebook Graph is clearly concentrating on “social search”. Having said that, I can see Google+ eventually suffering from Facebook Graph, mostly due to Facebook’s head start when it comes to social data. Facebook Graph, however, is currently only available in beta and it might not hit the dizzying heights that Facebook has hit. Facebook users might not sign up to Zuckerberg’s grand ‘one stop shop’ vision and prefer to search through Google …

Related links for further learning:

http://blog.immediatefuture.co.uk/facebook-graph-search-vs-google-plus-who-will-win-the-battle-for-social-search/

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/01/22/facebooks-social-graph-is-a-google-plus-killer.aspx

http://www.fastcompany.com/3004819/why-facebooks-new-graph-search-no-google

http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/01/what-facebook-search-could-mean-for-google-and-bing/

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671647/the-design-process-behind-facebook-graph-search

How cool is Google’s Project Glass?

At present, “Project Glass” is just a work in progress but Google assured its audience at last week’s I/O Conference that this augmented reality device will eventually be offered to the masses (how many of those masses ill actually be able to buy the device is another matter – a pre-order developer unit costs $1,500).

I guess the main thing to know about Project Glass is that it enables people wearing the glasses to search information, voice record messages, watch online videos, read text messages and post photos online without having to worry about fumbling with a handheld device.

With the device only scheduled to go on general sale in 2014, Google’s main aim at this stage is to receive as much developer feedback as possible. For example, a simple but obvious way for Google to get input on its latest project is through a dedicated post on Google+. Whatever you make of augmented reality, it is fair to say that this is a truly innovative device by Google and one that holds a lot of promise:

  1. Changing the way how we communicate – Think hands-free text messages, truly one-to-one tutorials and video conferencing that suddenly has become a whole lot easier.
  2. Access to and organising information – It will be interesting to see how ‘practical’ Google’s Project Glass will turn out to be, but I can imagine that the biggest draw of the device will be instant information access. From looking at some of the demo videos, it looks like the data overlays will not take up one’s entire field of vision but will instead appear in one’s peripheral vision. This will make the information present and instant enough for a user to access and organise.
  3. Posting and sharing will become even easier and quicker – With this new device the way in which we take pictures is likely to change dramatically. With the device stuck to your glasses, the opportunities for one to take pictures will increase significantly. Similarly, I can imagine it will become much easier to then post and share these pictures within one’s social network.

Main learning point: even though “Project Glass” is currently only in its prototype stage, it looks like a very cool and innovative device. The question remains how interactive and easy-to-use the actual consumer version will be. Like with all innovations, it is probably safe to expect something that will be very pricey, buggy and not super easy to use at first. It will be interesting to see if Project Glass or at it least its understanding technology will eventually turn into something that is here to stay.

Related links for further learning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz0o-y-2wT0

http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/27/resistance-is-futile-google-glass/

http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/06/27/googles-project-glass-a-promise-for-the-future-but-is-it-a-future-you-want/

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/augmented-reality-experts-say-google-glasses-face-serious-hurdles/

http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/07/02/project-glass-i-want-this-but-i-dont-want-the-google-that-comes-with-it/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57410789-71/googles-augmented-reality-glasses-is-it-all-pr/?tag=mncol;8n

Endless possibilities in the cloud

It was interesting the other day to read an online piece on 10 Technologies That Will Change the World in the Next 10 Years. Perhaps not surprisingly, the cloud was the third technology mentioned in this overview.

We’ve already got video and music being accessed and stored in the cloud, the general expectation is that the cloud will soon extend to ‘endpoint devices’ (read: mobile):

  1. Voice search on Android phones – A good example is the voice search on the Android phone which sends sends the query to the Google cloud to decipher and to return results.
  2. More intelligence built into communication devices –  Think for example about using the cloud to facilitate real-time translation or location based technologies.
  3. Rise of services to protect privacy and security – Having more services based in the cloud almost automatically means an increase in the number of cloud-based solutions available to protect devices against malware.
Main learning point: I feel like I’m continuously discovering new possibilities with respect to cloud computing, whether it’s real-time translation or tracking mobile users 24/7. The cloud is without doubt one of those areas that will keep developing and that I hopefully will learn a lot more about.
Related links for further learning: 

http://www.networkworld.com/supp/2009/ndc3/051809-cloud-faq.html

http://www.networkcomputing.com/wan-security/229500450

The main reasons behind Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility

On Monday, Google announced that it had acquired Motorola Mobility, the handset development arm of the telecommunications company for a price of $12.5 billion (£7.5 billion). Google was quick to assure the public that Motorola will be run as a separate division to Android. One of the main drivers of the success of Android is the open nature of its platform, which will not be affected by this acquisition and which will continue to serve as the sole operating system for all of Motorola’s smartphones. Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO, commented on the acquisition that “together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers everywhere.”

I’ve spent a bit of time trying to get a better understanding of the main reasons for this deal and the key benefits expected by Google. This is a brief summary of the main things I found:

  1. Patents! (part 1) – Motorola has a portfolio of 17,000 patents which Google will now be able to license to other Android users like HTC and Sony. In addition, Motorola has 7,500 pending patents. This newly acquired patent portfolio could help Google in significantly expanding (and protecting) the capabilities of its Android platform.
  2. Patents! (part 2) – Probably the most vital reason for this acquisition is the protection Motorola’s patent portfolio should offer Android against future legal action from the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Android has already been subjected to a multibillion dollar lawsuit by Oracle and is facing ‘indirect’ legal challenges through the complaints brought by Apple against Android device makers including HTC and Samsung. Having an extensive patent portfolio in place should help to better protect Android in future.
  3. New commercial channels to explore – Google will also gain a new and valuable channel into users’ living rooms through Motorola Mobility’s profitable set-top box business, which makes receivers for cable TV operators.
  4. Vertical integration – In an attempt to learn from the best (i.e. Apple) this acquisition is also meant as a way to integrate vertically, with Google hoping to “supercharge” its future Android releases through seamlessly merging its hardware and software.
Main learning point: out of all the key reasons for the Motorola acquisition that I learned about, I feel that “patent” is the magic word here. Given that Android as a business is still in its infancy (it’s only been around for three years) it has to play catch-up when it comes to patent protection. Earlier this year, Google lost out to its direct competitors RIM and Apple in an auction of valuable Nortel patents and patent applications. Had it won this auction, it would have been like getting access to the holy grail for Google. With this recent acquisition of Motorola Mobile, Google is hoping to be better armed in the ‘intellectual property war’ that seems to have been sparked by its direct competitors.

 

Related links for further learning:

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/google-to-buy-motorola-991889

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/supercharging-android-google-to-acquire.html

http://investor.google.com/releases/2011/0815.html

http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/15/breaking-google-buys-motorola-for-12-5-billion/

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9219225/Are_Motorola_s_patents_enough_to_protect_Android_

Google+: will it reignite Google’s battle with Facebook?

The game is on (again): Google is seriously trying to take on Facebook by launching Google+,  its own social media network. The question rises whether Google will be successful in its latest attempt to beat Facebook on its own turf.

I started thinking about answering this question by reviewing Google’s previous (unsuccessful) attempts to overtake Facebook:

Attempt no. 1: Google Wave

Proposition: to offer an online communication and collaboration tool that makes real-time interactions more seamless, enabling users to communicate and collaborate around rich content in one place.

Assessment: despite an enthusiastic reception by the developer community and in the media, Google Wave never got the traction and user adoption needed to get closer to Facebook.

Lessons learned: build on some of Google’s technologies/features in a new social media product whilst offering a range of additional interaction oriented features that will make it a really compelling proposition.

Attempt no. 2: Google Buzz

Proposition: to offer a social networking and messaging tool that is integrated into Gmail, Google’s email client. Users can share links, photos, videos, status messages and comments organised in “conversations” and visible in the user’s inbox.

Assessment: since its launch last year Buzz has received a lot of criticism for violating its users’ privacy, with users running the risk of exposing all their email contacts to all of their followers. Also, potential adoption of Buzz is limited to Gmail users only (many of whom still tend to use Gmail purely as an email programme and don’t want to use it for anything else).

Lessons learned: provide (target) users with a clear incentive to buy into a new interactive feature and avoid any major disincentives such as users losing their privacy.

Taking the mixed success of both Wave and Buzz into account, is the future of Google+ looking more promising? “Yes” is my gut feeling and these are my reasons why:

  1. Google+ has some interesting new features – Take Circles for example, this feature enables users to select and organise contacts into specific, targeted groups. Another good one is Hangouts, which will enable users to drop in and out of video group conversations.
  2. Easy to use – I haven’t yet had a chance to properly ‘play’ with Google+ but the toolbar (which includes a drop-down showing the user their relevant Google+ activity) is a good start. Also, creating new ‘circles’ and adding new people to them seems pretty intuitive.
  3. The opportunity is there – Google+ looks like its off to a good start. To really capitalise on this, it will need to quickly venture into Android apps, add more compelling features and integrate fully with existing social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Main learning point: although I do feel that with Google+, the search giant will at least have a better chance of getting anywhere near Facebook. However, I guess the main problem with Google+ is that it doesn’t really offer anything that will keep Mark Zuckerberg & Co lying awake at night. Even though functionality like Circles and Hangouts is cool and adds clear value to the user, it isn’t anything that Facebook can’t easily replicate or venture into.

I would be surprised if Google eventually succeeds in positioning itself as a credible and hugely successful social network, it simply doesn’t have the ‘first mover advantage’ that Facebook has had up till now. If anything, with Google+ it has given itself the best thinkable chance to beat Facebook, so I will be keeping a close eye on this battle …

Related links for further learning:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/28/google-plus/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13953416

http://www.steverubel.me/post/7050013558/consumers-maybe-nonplussed-over-google

http://www.localseoguide.com/google-plus-shortcuts-tips/

http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/266640/the-week-in-tweets-facebook-rolls-out-skype-video-calling