How the Google + Project will Make Our Lives Easier
I’m sure you remember Google Wave right? What about Google Buzz?
When those services began I have to admit I was very excited to get in and try them out, and before I even had the chance, I was convinced they’d be successful.
As I look back and try to determine the basis for that belief or excitement, I find it challenging to see what led me there besides my “biz-crush” on Google.
I’m thinking I must have been blinded by my admiration and was allowing myself to believe that whatever they attempted to do, they’d do, and do well.
Well … I learned my lesson, and I’ve made a commitment to never arrive at an “absolute” opinion again without taking the time to do some research and think things through more thoroughly before establishing my opinion.
I’ve been spending a significant amount of time over the past couple months thinking about, and researching what the Internet is going to look like next. It’s been quite awhile since Web 2.0 became the rage, and most of the information I’ve consumed lately has been equating the new Web 3.0 with something called the Semantic web.
If you’re anything like me you may have heard that term before, but simply nodded your head as though you understood what it meant. Well I decided to refer to one of my best old friends, Wikipedia, to find out the definition of the Semantic Web. That definition it as follows:
The Semantic Web is a “web of data” that enables machines to understand the semantics, or meaning, of information on the World Wide Web. It extends the network of hyperlinked human-readable web pages by inserting machine-readable metadata about pages and how they are related to each other, enabling automated agents to access the Web more intelligently and perform tasks on behalf of users.
The definition, to me, sounded a bit out there. Almost like an explanation of the technology behind the Terminator series or Minority Report. I became a little more of a believer when I found out the original person behind this thinking was Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Internet.
What’s that? You still thought Al Gore started the Internet?
Oops … perhaps you should simply stop reading now and go take your medication. 🙂
Anyhow, there are many people and companies out there currently looking to “crack the code” and figure out how to develop the algorithms necessary to conquer this thing Mr. Berners-Lee named the semantic web.
If you really look at the description of the semantic web you’ll see it relies heavily on computers recognizing the true meaning of information displayed on the web.
I don’t know about you but, I have a hard enough time understanding what my kids mean as they tell me something is “Bad” or “Whack” or whatever new word of the day they are using. How in the world are computers going to have the ability to constantly track the ever-changing meaning, or true intent, of the words we use.
The next challenge that these algorithms will face is evaluating WHO is making the statement and how much of an authority that person is on the topic.
Remember the old saying, “Garbage in = Garbage out?”
These algorithms will need to consider the source and the level of influence these individuals have on the area in which they are commenting. This is a very significant piece to the algorithm and one that Google and the other search engines have done a good job doing over the years.
Remember when you used to search for something in the late 90’s and get a bunch of irrelevant results because the algorithms weren’t mature enough to overcome the people who would manipulate the results and get their porn site to show up regardless of the search term?
The search engines have seemingly figured out how to rank content accurately based on the amount of links coming from other sources on the web, and in the process, have placed more value on these links based on the relevancy and influence of the site the link is coming from.
The final challenge I’d like to address, which certainly isn’t the only remaining one, is people’s fear of their privacy being violated.
Ummmmm …. it amazes me about how fired up people get about this one.
I see someone go on a 5,000 word rant about how their privacy has been violated by Facebook and they write this rant 1 minute after…
posting what they had for lunch on the Twitter while posting a geo-tagged picture of their young child who was eating with them at lunch.
If you are such an advocate for privacy perhaps you should cut up your credit cards, move to the middle of nowhere in Alaska (where there are no surveillance cameras ), throw away all your technology like cell phones and computers which have geo-tracking abilities within them, and cut yourself off from the rest of society.
The bottom line is … PRIVACY NO LONGER EXISTS!
Google is Getting Close
The Google + project is, in my opinion, the final piece that will tie everything together and pave the road for the algorithms to be developed to complete the early iteration of the semantic web. I’ve had an idea that they were getting close for the last couple of months as they’ve been rolling out new products which seem to point in that direction. Those products are as follows:
Google Wallet will give users the ability to pay for their purchases with their mobile device. These devices will be linked to their credit card and the transaction will be captured. The users who are utilizing this technology will have the ability to easily rate their purchases and provide feedback on their happiness. This may sound like it isn’t very significant, but work with me as I show you the relevance.
Google Plus 1
When the Plus 1 button came out, I heard quite a few people talking about how it was simply a knock off of the Facebook “Like” button. If this were a stand alone feature, I might agree … but it isn’t. The “Plus 1” feature gives individuals a way to interact with content and “rate” it by clicking the “plus 1” feature. This is significant only when tied together with the identity, history, and profile of the individual interacting with, and rating the content. With these elements it starts to lend much more significance to the functionality.
This new website seems to simply be an advertising site for Google services. Right now you enter “What you love” into the search box and are returned with links to content on the topic that resides on many different Google properties. I personally believe this will become much more significant as time goes on and based on the online profile that is compiled about you, you’ll be presented with highly relevant content based on WHO YOU ARE and the content will be delivered based on your individual preferences. These preferences will be determined based on your online behavior and interaction and those of similar personas.
Google + Project Features
The “Sparks” feature within Google+ gives users the ability to “tag” themselves based on their interests. This starts to become very interesting when you can understand the consistencies amongst people within your social network. For example if I tag myself as a father, who is interested in basketball and Internet marketing and I love death metal music … there will certainly be a portion of the population who have those same interests. Once there is a system that can monitor how the individuals fitting that same profile feels about their purchases, content they consume, people they follow, and so on … the intelligence can be developed to soon predict their behaviors before they happen.
The “hangouts” feature not only gives the ability to determine the places the individual personas enjoy frequenting, it also allows access to the conversations that happen between those people and others who are at the same place. These conversations will quickly provide intelligence as to what is most important to each specific persona who would be doing business at those establishments.
When you tie this feature together with the “Circles” technology you can begin to understand the order of influence between the multiple personas this establishment may be marketing to. If all this functionality begins to seem a bit “big brother-ish” and you are feeling uncomfortable, wait until you realize the last piece. 🙂
Once an individual decides to participate with Google+, they won’t only be providing access to their activity with Wallet, Plus one, what their interests are, and who their circles of influence are …
They’ll also be allowing access to their search activity and what they find as relevant and not relevant. The cool … or scary thing is, depending on how you look at it, is now with the Google+ project, you’ll be tying all of that activity to individual profiles. Those profiles, and their level of influence, will be determined based on the engagement within their circles similar to how a Klout score is determined.
Many people have said that the ability to understand the true “meaning” of words is impossible. That’s the main argument against the semantic web ever becoming a reality. The one thing that I believe will make it a reality is whether there is enough feedback provided to eliminate the false positives that are definitely going to happen based on the sarcastic nature of human beings.
The best way to ensure there is enough participation and feedback is if the organization has a large enough user base, and if those users can be compelled to participate long enough, and be patient enough to work through the period of time where the “false positives” are dominant.
I believe Google has this base, and I think they’ve learned from the failed launch of Google Wave. They are doing a much more controlled release which seems to be building up the pent up demand necessary to get to critical mass this time.
If Google has this right, I believe it will make our lives easier and it will help the good quality companies rise to the top and will cut through the BS out there. If you are looking for a company to provide a specific solution to your problem, this algorithm will eventually present you with the perfect solution based on real feedback that has been gained from people who fit the same, exact persona as you. This technology will eliminate the question of “how” and allow you to focus on “what” you love and are interested in.
Thanks for taking the time to work through this post! I would love to hear your thoughts below. Please let me know if you think I am nuts, if you think I am missing something, or if you agree. Thanks!
Great post Pete.
Another tool in Google’s march in this direction is personalized search results and personal social signals affecting those results.
Yes most of Google’s properties are thinly veiled data mining tools. I agree with you there. And yes based on all this data perhaps we’ll get better prediction algorithms. In fact we will get better algos out of this. More data for Google historically has produced better outcomes.
However, where does discovery play a role? What if I want to change my intake of content? If I take the above detailed prediction to it’s end game algorithms will predict my reaction to content and thus choose to show it to me or not based on my data (likes/interests/connections/previous reactions etc) but then does my circle become very small and very self focused?
Right now the beauty of things like twitter (and search without personalized results) is that I can interact with whomever I want to, and yes sometimes I seek out accounts from strange places/interests etc to keep my intake diverse. What happens if the algorithm predicts that I won’t like it and my brain is only fed the things it thinks it likes?
It’s like never trying Fish Tacos because you don’t like Mexican food. You just never know if your taste buds will agree with it until you try it.
That is definitely one of the complexities of developing the algorithm and also the need for enough people buying in to get enough “feedback.” I think what you’re pointing out is more a matter of usability though and providing the ability take a different path if you so choose. One thing is for sure … it will be fun watching it play out. 🙂
“This technology will eliminate the question of “how” and allow you to focus on “what” you love and are interested in.”
Pete, will it also know the “why” ?