Google Hotel Finder Is Pretty Suite Indeed

This post was originally published on Lalawag.

Need A Hotel? Google It.

Yesterday, Google booked itself into a whole new realm of the web — the hotel search business. The web giant unveiled Google Hotel Finder, which allows user to search listing from sites like Expedia and Hotels.com as well as the web sites of many individual hotels.

What makes Google Hotel Finder different from the countless similar services already out there is how users conduct those searches. There’s plenty of the data filtering you’d expect from a service coming out of the Googleplex, including price filtering, hotel class and ratings. But, there are also two relatively cutting edge features that are pretty cool indeed.

First of all, when you enter a location, the tool draws a shape around that area on a Google map. Want to adjust your location to be closer to a particular landmark or broaden the neighborhoods your’e searching in? Just adjust the shape. It’s a brilliantly simple touch that makes searching for the perfect place to hang your hat that much easier. Google also highlights major tourist areas, and gives you the benefit of that big, all-too-familiar Google map to help you make your search area that much more precise.

The other major feature is the ability to search by the discount you’d be getting if you booked a particular hotel. Because Google is indexing historical pricing data, they’re able to tell you how much of a discount a hotel’s current price is versus their typical price. And, they’re letting you search via the percentage of that discount. For example, you can limit your search to only return hotels that are currently 50% cheaper than their usual cost per night.

Google isn’t yet in the business of booking hotel rooms — when you’re ready to book you’ll still be directed to a travel site or to the hotel’s website. But, if Google is looking to get into the full-on travel booking business, this is certainly a suite place to start.

Google+ Gets Advice From The World’s Most Recognizable Friend

Myspace’s ‘First Friend’ Offers Google+ Some Friendly Advice

This post was originally published on Lalawag.

You may recognize Tom Anderson as the first smiling face to friend you on Myspace.  The social networking pioneer, who helped found the company back in the early 2000′s, is now accepting friend requests on FacebookTwitter and the new darling of the social media world, Google+.

In fact, over 8,000 people currently have Tom in their circles. Those aren’t exactly Myspace-level numbers, but hey, Google+ is still young. And, today Anderson posted a whole list of good advice for the fledgling social site on TechCrunch, based on his very public ups and downs as the president of one of the web’s biggest success-story-turned-cautionary-tale.

Tom’s five main points:

1) Start seriously courting the journalists, tastemakers, and celebrities

2) Exhaustively think through the privacy issues

3) Move Google’s top analysts (probably focused on monetization right now) onto the Google+ project

4) Hire the best product executors & visionaries in the world

5) There must be one ring to rule them all.

A few juicy gems to takeaway:

“I don’t believe Privacy is a real issue to most people, but most people think it is a real issue to them. As thus, it plays a big role in the psychological justification for defecting from competitors. “Safety” hysteria destroyed MySpace in the press. It got MySpace banned from schools, Apple stores, and by well-meaning parents who had been terrorized by what they were reading. Privacy advocates have tried to destroy Facebook and Google in the past. You need the best PR person in the world on your team, Google, but even more so, you need to make sure the software doesn’t give the privacy hounds something to be rightfully angry about.”

“Mine the data about G+ usage like it’s Gold, because it truly is the future of Google’s long-term revenue and profit growth. (And I actually don’t think there’ll ever be advertising on Google+, theme for another article.)”

“Though I love G+, some parts of G+ are really a mess right now, and two that are incredibly important at this stage are in need of much work: onboarding & photos.”

“Making a website is similar to making a movie—hundreds of people work on it, one person makes the final decision, and they make them every minute of the day. I use the LOTR analogy because there may be 12 extremely important product people (point #4). But someone needs to make the decisions [...] The Internet moves at lightning speed. If you mess up, a resolute leader can iterate and fix [...] You learn a lot when you mess up. I messed up a lot, so these are just a few of the things I learned. By the way, these lessons aren’t just for Google.  They also can be applied to any startup, so good luck everyone. I’m hoping to see you all make your mark on this world.”

 

What’s the best strategy for configuring Google+ circles?

Here’s what I said a few days ago on Google+:

Finally figured out a method for the madness of adding people to Google+ circles…

Step 1: Add everyone I would share everything with anyway (aka: anyone who could follow me on Twitter) to an ‘Everyone’ circle.

Step 2: Curate ‘everyone circle’ into 2 smaller groups of contacts based on professional or personal relationships

What I ended up with:

‘Everyone’
‘Pros’
‘IRL’

While I was very pleased with my solution at the time, now that it’s been a few days and I’ve seen it in practice, I’m not so sure. So, I’d love to get the ‘wisdom of crowds’ take on this. And what better way to do that then by posting to Quora?

Hence:  What’s the best strategy for configuring Google+ circles?

Looking forward to some answers, which I will of course then share on Google+. I’m just not sure yet who I’ll be sharing them with. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Google+ Facts & FAQs: A Google Plus Cheat Sheet

This post was originally published on Lalawag

Given all the media hype surrounding Google+ lately, the ‘+’ might as well stand for the addition of countless new stories on the social service to the pages of tech blogs across the interwebs. Or, if you believe said hype, the addition of a third major contender to the social web playing field currently dominated by Twitter and Facebook. Of course, hype is all well and good, but Google’s history with social doesn’t exactly bode well for the mass adoption and worldwide domination of  Google+.

That said, Google has had a lot of chances to get this right, and it’s entirely possible that this time they succeeded. Thus far, what I’ve seen of Google+ does support the latter. But, unless your core demo is full of early adopters, I wouldn’t start ripping up your website to make room for tons of Google+ code just yet. I would however recommend reading up on the subject. And, to save you from wading through the sea of stories about the service, I’ve made a little cheat sheet of the most pertinent, pressing facts. So, you’ll know what you’re talking about when the topic comes up at a conference or cocktail hour, without wasting a ton of time that would be much better spent watching the new documentary from that “The Rent Is Too Damn High” guy.

What Is Google Plus?

In a very dumbed-down nutshell, it’s a service that attempts to unify searching,  browsing and sharing, and give you more control over who you share what with. The project, led by Vic Gundotra, allows you to easily create ‘circles’ of friends unified by a common theme or interest, like ‘family’, ‘co-workers’ or ‘college buddies.’ You can then share targeted videos, pics and links with those people, get algorithmic content recommendations called ‘sparks’ and plan ‘Hangouts’, which are group video chats.  There’s also a mobile component with a very cool auto-upload feature that means any time you take a photo or shoot video on your phone via Google+, the media will automatically get uploaded to your computer.

How Do You Use It?

Go to https://plus.google.com/welcome for an overview of the features. As of right now, you need an invite to use it, which you may be able to get from a social media savvy friend or acquaintance. Or, you can sit tight for the alleged July 31 public launch date.

Why Should You Care?

Purely from a practical perspective, if you have a private Google profile, you should know that Google plans to delete all non-public profiles on July 31 as part of their continued effort to encourage social sharing across the web.

If you’re a site owner, marketer or other interested webbie, you should also know that Google is now using the +1 button — another piece of the Google+ puzzle — as a factor when determining search rankings. Although, there is still no clear evidence of how much of a factor it is. You should also know that the +1 button, like Google+ is only relevant to those users who have Gmail accounts. Without a Google account, there’s no way to access Google+ or the +1 button. So, depending on your user base, that might make them both a less pressing concern for you.

And, if you just like checking out cool stuff on the interwebs, then you probably don’t need me to tell you why you should care. But if you do, feel free to add me to one of your circles and we can chat about it.

What Are The Pundits Saying?

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler said “From the little that I’ve seen so far, Google+ is by far the best effort in social that Google has put out there yet. But traction will be contingent upon everyone convincing their contacts to regularly use it. Even for something with the scale of Google, that’s not the easiest thing in the world — as we’ve seen with Wave and Buzz. There will need to be compelling reasons to share on Google+ instead of Facebook and/or Twitter — or, at the very least, along with all of those other networks. The toolbar and interesting communication tools are the most compelling reasons right now, but there will need to be more of them. And fast.”

Mashable’s Ben Parr said “Google+ is a bold and dramatic attempt at social. There’s a reason why Google calls this a “project” rather than a “product” — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire[...]If Google can persuade users to come back every day, it has a winner. But the company will have to do even more to provide a truly compelling alternative to Facebook. At the moment, Google+ cannot compete with the king of social, but Google doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to take on Mark Zuckerberg’s giant quite yet.”

Foursquare In Los Angeles: Stats, Sports & Burgers, Oh My

This post was originally published on Lalawag.

A few weeks ago, the tech-o-sphere was all abuzz with the news that Foursquare officially surpassed the 10 million user mark. Foursquare even posted a  handy infographic to help visualize the location-based startup’s growth since its inception in 2009. And, that growth is incredibly impressive, to say the least.

So, in honor of the skyrocketing startup, here are a few other fun Foursquare facts that particularly pertain to those of us mayors, leaderboard-climbers and obsessive checker-in’ers who happen to call the city of angels home.

  • As of the week of May 25, 2,952 people had checked in to Dodgers games during the 2011 season. This put the Dodgers at #12 on the leaderboard of weekly MLB Foursquare checkin stats.
  • Over 17,000 people have checked into Dodgers stadium on Foursquare since the dawn of time…or at least the dawn of Foursquare. This makes Dodgers Stadium the #2 most popular venue in LA, according to Map.pr.
  • The Staples Center is the most popular Foursquare venue in Los Angeles, with over 37,000 checkins, also according to Map.pr.
  • The Feast crowned Umami Burger the 2nd most popular LA restaurant on Foursquare, with over 9K check-ins. Staples Center took the top spot on their list, although some hungry sports fans might be inclined to disagree with the characterization of Staples Center as a ‘restaurant.’
  • search for ‘Los Angeles, CA’ on Foursquare returns 50 venues and 50 tips. A search for Disneyland returns 44 venues.’
  • From Akasha in Culver City to the Viper Room in Hollywood, LA has at least thirty fantastic Foursquare deals on food and drinks that LA Weekly says are well worth checking in for.

Dodgers Declare Bankruptcy, Internet Declares. . .All Sorts Of Things

This post was originally published on Lalawag

So, Interwebs…How ‘Bout Them Dodgers?

Today, in what may have been the least surprising news in baseball since Babe Ruth hit his umpteenth homer, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt filed for bankruptcy protection.

In more predictable news, it also turns out that the interwebs has an opinion on the matter.

According to the aptly-named Twitter Sentiment app, which uses various algorithms to gauge positive and negative public sentiment surrounding keywords across the web, 62% of the feelings expressed around the phrase ‘Dodgers bankruptcy’ were positive and 38% were negative. A search for‘Dodgers’ returns an almost evenly split 51% negative and 49% positive divide.

Conversely,  Twitrratr registered 85% neutral sentiment around the phrase ‘Dodgers’, along with 8.07% positive sentiment and 6.28% negative. And, interestingly, whatdoestheinternetthink.comshowed an overwhelmingly 84% negative opinion about the phrase ‘Dodgers’ in the wake of the news, a number the site came to by crawling Google for sentiment.

So, sarcastically shockingly enough, the interwebs might not agree on what exactly the public sentiment surrounding this announcement is — even when competing bots are crawling the same set of search results. But, at least we have sports commentators to tell us what we should really think. And fortunately, a lot of them weighed in on Twitter after the news broke.

My personal favorite? Blogger Mike Petriello‘s reaction: “As a Dodger fan, this whole mess is beyond embarrassing, but as a blogger I do appreciate all of the quality material it generates.”