Details Matter – Facebook vs. Google Plus

This week, we had a lot of spirited discussion about the initial experience people will have using our as-yet-only-internally-named project and one of my mantras for the week was “we are absolutely going to have to get the details right”.  There’s a difficult line to walk with “don’t worry about the stuff that doesn’t matter” or “don’t sweat the small stuff” and “getting the details right”.  And I don’t know what that is.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for examples – and one of the examples this week was Facebook vs. Google+.  I shared my previous post in both services – and here’s how each service parsed the shared link.

Here’s Facebook:

Here’s Google+

Is this small stuff? I don’t know, I don’t think so. In the context of both services, you know what you are getting in terms of design.  And both are functional.

But detail-wise I think that Facebook gets this right.  It doesn’t repeat the title, it doesn’t add what is likely an extraneous (particularly if you click through) post date, author string, or comments indicator coming out of the wordpress post html.  It appears that Facebook understands a little bit more about wordpress’s html – and just that little bit extra makes Facebook’s implementation more approachable and less confusing with the initial impression.

This is the best example this week of where my thinking has been with “details matter”.

The Night Google Gone Evil

I came out of the OSCON conference with a renewed appreciation for Google. I don’t like Java, and that colors my perception of Android (and caused me to miss out on a Nexus One, because I dislike Java that much) – but between all of the activity surrounding Wave, and App Engine, and Android and my first time hearing Chris DiBona. I came away with a new appreciation for Google as a whole, even more questioning of my position on Android vs. iPhone, and I was ready to start building on App Engine, and especially on Wave.

When you take one’s normally highly cynical seen-too-many-technology-transitions-in-19-years self – and that begins to be overcome with the potential of the efforts a company is making – enough that you actually have more excitement than cynicism, moves against that excitement can feel a little like betrayal.

It’s silly really, it’s business, and collections of individuals operating behind corporate cultures are going to move in the directions that make immediate revenue sense. But when you believe a little in the product, it still stings a little. I believe in OS X enough, and I believed in iOS enough that the App Store policies still felt bad. Really, there are more important issues. But it’s my career, I’ll let it matter to me a little.

Yesterday was a bad day to have started down a bit of “Google fanboy” path. First wave, then network neutrality.

I’ll get to Wave in another post. Network Neutrality is the real issue here.

Google’s Public Policy team [ says that the New York Times was wrong.

I’d like to give Google the benefit of the doubt, but that feels like spin. GPP says “we aren’t talking payment”. The Times didn’t say you were, Google. They were saying that your conversations could lead to groups like YouTube paying for carriage.

David Weinberger points out Eric Schmidt’s comments (via GigaOm) on the matter.

But it’s OK to discriminate across different types, so you could prioritize voice over video

No. That’s not open. And it doesn’t matter if you aren’t paying, if you are making a deal with Verizon that says “hey, we won’t threaten your spectrum again, and we’ll back off, just let our ad-driven YouTube videos have priority over some LOLcats” – money doesn’t have to change hands to mess with the internet.

Bad day Google. Bad day.

Giving more of my life over to The Google

Not longer after Google bought Grand Central, I signed up before it was closed and I had a Grand Central number – which I used as my published work number (and am starting to use elsewhere) I signed up with the motivation that I needed email-notifications of voicemails – which NC State – at least NC State analog voice – doesn’t have.

In my current job, because of the IM, Email and other connectivity – and the nature of our work team interaction – I don’t have a lot of phone conversations with my immediate colleagues, I’m not very phone oriented to begin with – and most of the calls I received at work were cold-call vendor calls – and then sometimes cold-call support calls – which created enough interrupt problems that it all started me having the cold-calls go straight to voicemail. All of which was problematic because those were infrequent enough that I’d never check voicemail – and it all got worse as I started telecommuting more.

I hate voicemail, it has to be the most incredibly inefficient mechanism for notification ever. So at least getting email notifications improved at least the blind queuing problem – but voicemail is still incredibly bad.

That’s why I was a bit excited about the Grand Central to the Google Voice transition. And they didn’t disappoint.

Here’s what Google Santa brought me with Google Voice (and yes, I know some of you with asterisk or other actually modern voice services/company pbx systems have had this, but I haven’t with any of my services, other than AT&T’s visual voicemail on the iPhone):

MP3 Recording I can click on the link in the email notification and play the voice mail on my iPhone – I can send the mp3 to somebody else easily. I can keep them in an archive if I need to – it’s not tied up some bell-system computer somewhere, it’s not a proprietary format. I no longer have to hold up a computer microphone to the headset to try to get a recording, or figure out the arcane forwarding commands of somebody’s phone mail system.

SMS/Email Notifications that work – holy heck, I can get an email and a SMS when I have voicemail. The SMS was a bit hit-or-miss with Grand Central – but I’ll cut them some slack, they were pretty busy with this transition I imagine.

Transcription WOW. This actually works. I realize this technology has been out there in various places for a while. At least the voice mail hell systems I’ve been caught within know when I start cursing at vendors that stick me in them. But I get this – with my voicemail – and sent in the email and SMS notifications. It’s great – and it’s going to be a laugh riot for a while – case in point:

My Test Voicemail

Here’s the transcript:

hey i’m just trying out my very own blue foley service hopefully you ohh transcribe this email and then i will call soon send me an S M S notification to her anyway have a great day and maybe i can my dog to talk i’m not sure training can you tell anyway bye

To be totally fair – they do indicate the words they have issues with:

google-voice-inbox

Hi-laree-us. I almost want phone calls again.

The search, it is a-changing

So, pagerank is failing me lately.

Like almost everyone else, I start almost all my web browsing typing words, urls, ideas into a search field – all funneled through the mighty Google. It’s worked for years. Enough web surfing has trained my eyeballs to avoid most ads – and for a while I’ve known to avoid most SEO-heavy topics (you won’t find me doing a lot of “[product] reviews” searches, at least without a fair amount of cursing).

But for the last few days, I’ve noticed a couple of searches failing me. I had a mysql problem earlier this week and all my searches turn up results from 2007. Some due to the fact that the problems date back that long – but there’s newer information that I don’t find, because over and over that 2007 information is what’s getting linked to.

And recently, I am looking for information about using a Mac Mini as a home theater PC. Same results, 2007, 2008. Nothing recent. Again, there’s newer discussion and newer information that I want – but I’m not getting it, because all the links are pointing at that old information.

I’m looking for discussion/conversation/real people experiences, and I’m not really patient to dig through ad-flash-heavy forum packages to find what I want.

And then I remembered twitter search. Not quite sure about it yet, but it’s more of what I’m looking for after a page or two of commentary.

Google is in trouble.

Dear Google

I can’t tell you enough that how glad I was to read that stood up for the freedom of expression and diversity of viewpoint in your exchange with Senator Lieberman. While I would find the message of groups that have ties or even sympathies for terrorists completely objectionable, particularly when those messages are often in direct opposition to the values of a open and diverse society. It is an incredibly slippery slope when you begin to censor the voices of any group, even those opposed to the very foundation which provides the protection to their voice. At no time should you ever compromise on the position to let such voices be heard. Thank you for the principles you showed here with the Senator.

But I do want to ask. Many of the world’s eyes will be focused on Beijing this summer for the Olympics. When the time comes again to take a similar principled position, when you are perhaps asked by a ranking official in the Chinese communist party to silence a voice that they do not agree with – will you answer in the same way?

You have compromised such principles at face value when it comes to your search service. A bit a different situation, sure, I’ll grant that. The Chinese government seems content in at least banning your YouTube property outright when the conditions arise – and it appears that you aren’t compromising on that particular service in the same way to maintain access to the service.

I and a lot of others gave you a pass last time, hoping and believing that getting a foot inside the great firewall would begin to open things up in getting information to the Chinese people. But I hope when asked again, particularly when YouTube comes to represent a significant source of revenue, like the search property on which you compromised, that you will show an even greater principle, standing on the bedrock principles of expression and diversity when you don’t have the power of the first amendment to stand upon, only the courage of your expressed convictions.

I for one welcome my health records overlord

So, in the next few days, you’ll have to be under a technical rock to not know that Google has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic on medical records access for patients and care providers.

I imagine that a lot of the reaction that I’ll be seeing in my aggregator will be a lot like Fred Stutzman – because I tend to surround my aggregator with folks that think like Fred. I always respect Fred’s viewpoints and I almost universally agree with Fred on his viewpoints on things.

But not this time.

Now, I really do think that Fred has some very good talking points. And normally, I’d be all up in arms about the privacy implications of this.

But not this time.

(conflict of interest alert – I own a whopping 2 shares of Google stock)

Admittedly, maybe it’s that I’m not passionately concerned about the strict privacy of my medical records themselves. Maybe it’s because I’m southern, and we’ll talk about our ailments with strangers like most of America talks about the weather. I am passionate about protecting privacy though in general, so I don’t think that’s it.

So what I think it is is that the state of the medical records today is garbage and Google getting into this can only make things better.

I know that my dentist makes pretty good use of information technology – in fact, the best I’ve seen. Their patient records system is available from the receptionist’s desk, to the hygienist, to the dentist themselves.

But it’s a vertical, closed system. Running on Windows. I think on XP, but it might have still been Windows 2000. And they were the most advanced I’ve seen.

I’ve got glimpses of the billing records system at my primary care physician. Enough to know how poor it seemed to be. And that’s billing, I think all my patient records are still on paper there. And I think they had to fax it back and forth between them and the specialist I saw early last year. And in theory, a x-ray I had was in electronic form, but that was only shared with them and the primary care physician.

The summary statement – the state of my records is likely incredibly poor. Incomplete items, various paper copies in multiple places. And I have none of them.

With a company like Google getting into this (or even, honestly Microsoft, even though they have yet to show that they have the faintest clue about building an online service for this sort of thing) – it can’t go anywhere but up. While the privacy implications of the text comments and images, and medical terms associated with them being all wrapped up in my gmail, and search history, website analytics is certainly something to watch, at least I have the faintest glimmer of hope of finally having full access to my records, using modern systems and modern architectures, built by developers that have at least shown a far greater clue about systems design and usability than almost all vertical integrators and medical software companies whose software I’ve seen.

I would have a greater hope that I would be able to access my records, to audit their use, and at least figure out what and who is doing with them (outside Google).

This revolution can’t come soon enough.