Google Plus Hangouts Adds Screen Sharing, Upgrades To An Ideal Web Conferencing Destination

Hangouts in Google Plus is a pretty exciting technology which adds a unique color to the social network. For example, users can discuss over a PowerPoint presentation from their Google Docs account and every member participating in the hangout gets to see it in real time. Then you can also pull in a YouTube video and every member can watch the video and exchange text messages from the same page.The user interface of Google Plus Hangout is far better than any web based group video chat app I have ever seen. I have used Facebook’s video calling feature but Google Plus hangouts still remains a close favorite.

The good news is that Google will be rolling out screen sharing support in Google Plus hangouts within a day or two. This is confirmed after Christopher Johnson, a UX designer who works at Google, announced the following on his Google Plus profile:

When we launched Hangouts with extras last September, we wanted to test new features and get feedback from users. We’ve learned a lot over the past few months, and today we’re rolling out a new Hangouts look and feel that incorporates some of the “extras,” and better reflects Google’s overall design. Highlights include:

– Screen sharing: share what’s on your computer screen with everyone in the hangout. This is the first of many extras we’re graduating to Hangouts.
– Bigger video: we’ve put more emphasis on the live video itself by optimizing white space and other screen elements.

Here is how the screen sharing UI of Google Plus hangouts looks like:

google-plus-hangouts-screen-sharing

This takes screen sharing and online collaboration to a whole new level, given the fact that users can also join a Google Plus hangout from their mobile device (iOS, for example). From now on, conducting online meetings would be much more simpler, as Google Plus hangouts have a “social” nature that broadcasts itself. Google Plus hangout is not a Skype alternative yet, you can’t share files or send entire folders to remote participants and neither you can call a phone number from your desktop. But its free and gets the job done for many, doesn’t it?

The best part: you can provide remote assistance to your rookie friends who have never heard of Skype, Teamviewer, Join.me or a remote desktop application. Please note that Google Plus hangouts will only allow you to see the shared screen, not command full control over it (like Teamviewer does).

If your organization needs a decent free solution for online collaboration, tech support or remote assistance, you might want to give Google Plus Hangouts a spin. It is indeed getting better after each update.

Google Search Gets Even More Personal But “Our World” Is Not Just Google Plus

That’s right, Google search results will now be accompanied by results that are more “personal” to you. This is one of the biggest changes Google has incorporated in the past couple of years and it is expected that more changes are a “work in progress”.

Search Plus your world takes personalized search results to a new level; whereby a user can get answers from not only webpages, but people with whom they are connected on Google plus, Picasa photo albums, Google Plus brand pages and more social stuff that Google offers. No Facebook, No Twitter, No Flickr – Only Google. That says something.

Here is an example where people and pages from Google Plus are highlighted on the far right of a Google search result page:

Wow.

Google’s main product is acting as a “catalyst” and pushing Google Plus as far as it can. Britney spears has a verified Twitter account, a Flickr photostream and a Facebook fan page but none of them are shown. Blind eye!

“Search Plus Your World” Is Not Evil But It’s Not “Complete” Either

Some bloggers are saying that this move is not evil.  Yeah, not “so” evil but it is definitely headed towards being one. Here is why:

A search engine is like a court room where every website is treated equal in the eyes of the “law” (in this case, it is the algorithms and Google’s way of determining the relevant answer to the user’s query). But with this social mix, it appears that Google’s own properties are thrown on the face of the user.

Consider a typical Google Plus user who perform searches while he is signed into his Google account. For a “people search” query, Google Plus profiles and brand pages will be ranked higher than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles (almost always) . I update my Twitter profile almost every day and it has been months since I even logged into my Google Plus account. But, when I perform a keyword search for my name, I see my Google Plus profile on the way top.

Why this favor? I agree that I am using “your” search engine but you are assuming that my Google Plus profile is important than my Twitter or LinkedIn profile (and hence showing it on top). Not fair mate, not fair at all!

Social data is not just about a single social networking site that “connects people”. It is “the whole thing” and unless you have the system or ability to gauge, measure and evaluate “the whole thing”, it is too early to call this change “Your World”.

“Facebook, Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only social network that provides such a persistent service.” Google Fellow Amit Singhal told Search Engine Land.

It’s like –“Since they are not giving us your data, we will create our own Facebook and Twitter and force you to use it sooner or later. We will plaster Google Plus in every nook and cranny , be it Google Maps, YouTube, Google Reader or Gmail, we wont stop anytime soon. We will introduce new markups that influences search results, and we will slowly use search to propel our social network, which has failed over and over and over again.”

And it sucks. Not for Google, Facebook or Twitter but for us. For the entire web.

Facebook App Lets You Post Your Last Status Update From The Grave

Facebook has an internal policy which “memorializes” the personal profiles of users who have died. The account of the deceased person is sealed from future login attempts and is not shown on search results and friend suggestion sections. If any of your friends or family members have recently died and you want to close his/her Facebook account permanently, head over to this form and complete your request.

Some savvy Facebook users are rather worried about the fact that they wont get their last chance to update their Facebook profile, when they are dead.

“Is there any way to authorize someone else to post on behalf of me and announce my death on Facebook?” The short answer is that as long as you don’t share your Facebook username and password with the person whom you want to post on behalf of you, there is no way you can execute this crazy idea. I agree the thought is grim but to some blind Facebook addicts, this is a concern. An important one.

An Israeli company named Wilook thought that if users have spent their entire life on Facebook, they have the right to post their last status update or publish a sweet video message to their friends and followers. The Facebook app “If I Die On Facebook” is the first and only Facebook application that lets “you” create a video or a text message that will only be published after you die. Super creepy!

if-i-die-facebook-status-update

The app lets you compose a text message as your “farewell speech” and then designate three of your friends as “Trustees”. When you are dead, these trustees will have to confirm your death and then your custom farewell messages will get posted on your profile. There aren’t any limitations on the number of messages you can create, so this is one good way to achieve a state of “social media immortality”.

Personally, I would just share my Facebook username and password with a close friend and request him to post a “farewell message” on behalf of me (of course when I am dead). But if you want your virtual friends to “Like” your death and comment upon it until eternity, you might want to use this app. Just make sure your “trustees” don’t have any grudges against you or this thing can misfire. The following video explains how the app works:

Sadly, you can’t “poke” someone from your grave. If I am forced to use this app, I would leave one short message – “You are next.”

Facebook Chat Emoticon Trick: Use The Profile Photo Of A Person, Page Or Event In A Chat Message

Some good news for Facebook addicts who always wondered whether it is possible to use the profile photo of anyone as an emoticon in a Facebook chat message. The answer is a clear Yes, even for people you aren’t friends with.

When you are chatting with any of your Facebook friends and want to use the profile photo of any Facebook user, page or event as an emoticon, follow these steps:

1. Copy the vanity URL of the user whose Facebook profile photo you want to use as an emoticon. For example: if you want to use the profile image of Techie Buzz Facebook fan page, simply copy TechieBuzz(without quotes).

2. Some fan pages or event pages have a unique ID associated with their URL. Copy the page ID if the vanity URL is not available.

3. Enclose the vanity string or the number within double brackets e.g [[TechieBuzz]].

4. Hit send. The double bracketed text will convert into an emoticon of the user whose vanity URL was enclosed within double brackets. Sweet!

Here are a couple of examples I tried with my friend Jatin on Facebook chat and it worked as advertised:

facebook-profile-emoticon-chat-trick

 

As long as your Facebook profile is publicly viewable and people know the vanity URL of your Facebook profile, page or event, anyone can use the profile photo as an emoticon. Locked pages or groups, which requires an invitation to join, shows a blank white thumbnail but such is not the case with real Facebook users.

These profile emoticons are viewable from web only and does not work in mobile apps e.g the messenger app on Android or the official Facebook application for Android. You can send the emoticons from mobile and the web but the thumbnails will only appear when you are viewing the chat log from the web. An example is shown below:

facebook-profile-image-emoticon-android

This new profile emoticons may actually redefine online personification. Two people conversing on Facebook and frequently using their friends profile emoticons e.g why are you behaving like [[mr X]]?or you sound so much like [[Ms Z]]. The best line I have heard until now, comes from Josh –   Don’t be such a Justin bieber.

Thanks Jatin.

Gmail Gets Google Plus Integration, Lets You Filter Email And Contacts From Google Plus Circles

Since the day Google Plus opened up for everyone, the message from Google team has been pretty clear. Lets focus our attention towards people and re-invent every other Google product (keeping Google Plus in the centre). This includes Google search, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps, Authorship in search results, YouTube and what not.

Google is heavily focusing on the strength of peoplewith whom you connect and share in real life; familiar faces have already started appearing on search results, Google Maps, Google Reader and so forth.

How can Gmail stay behind? With the new Gmail and Google Plus integration, you get all your Google Plus friends and contacts within your Gmail inbox, so this update makes it easy to find messages that are related to specific Google Plus friends and contacts.The next time you login in to your Gmail account that is tied with a Google Plus account, you might see a new drop down menu on the left sidebar, as shown in the following screenshot:

 

gmail-google-plus-circles-contacts

The Circlesdropdown works exactly as labels work in Gmail and allows you to filter sent or received messages from people who are present in your Google Plus circles. For example: I have a circle named mediain my Google Plus account, which I have made to filter journalists and reporters I know. Now that the Circle filterin Google Plus is active, I can quickly find all the emails that were either sent to or received from anyone, who is present in the circle named as Media. I don’t have to remember their names, email addresses and the subject of a previous conversation.

Google has also integrated contact information of your Google Plus friends within Google contacts.

google-plus-contacts-circles

This has two advantages. First, you can export the contact details of all your Google Plus friends as a CSV file and import it on another Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail account. This is lifesaving, when you are permanently switching to a different email address and need a one click option to export all your email contacts and Google plus contacts from a central location.

I use a separate Gmail account for Google Plus and my work email address is on Google Apps, which is not tied to any Google Plus account. Hence, in my case, Gmail contacts and Google Plus contacts will be disjoint sets. But if you are not like me and use the same Gmail account for Google Plus and as your primary work email address; this update will simplify contact management to the next level.

Please note that only people who are sharing with you on Google Plus and have added you to their circles, will be added to your Google contacts. Adding someone to any of your Google Plus circles wont add his email address to your Google contacts list, so this will keep spam emails at bay. Another strong reason why you should be very careful in choosing whom you are sharing with on Google Plus.

The People widget, which Google started showing on Gmail’s right sidebar from May2011, will now include status updates, posts and recent links from people who are involved in a conversation.

gmail-people-widget

Whenever any of your Google Plus friends send you an email, you will be able to interact with them, directly from the people widget on the right sidebar. Another nice feature I must mention is the ability to share photo attachments in Gmail directly on your Google Plus profile. Just hit the Sharebutton next to any attached photo, type in your message in the browser overlay window and choose the circles with whom you want to share.

share-gmail-photo-attachments-google-plus

Be careful with whom you share photo attachments in Gmail because once you hit Sharewith the default option (Your Circles) being checked, anyone can see that photo or download it on his computer.

As usual, Google Apps users are out of luck but Google said that it is a work in progress.

TweetDeck’s Native Client For Windows, MAC And Web Requires No Adobe AIR

Some good news for TweetDeck users.

Now you can permanently remove Adobe AIR from your system and still use TweetDeck on Windows and MAC computers. Twitter, after unveiling a completely re-designed interface has pushed major upgrades on TweetDeck’s arsenal. A native TweetDeck client for Windows and MAC is available for free download, while you can use TweetDeck’s web interface at web.tweetdeck.com

Tweetdeck’s web UI (which was earlier available as a Chrome extension) now has a permanent web address, so in case you want to catch up on updates from your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare accounts on a web browser, TweetDeck’s web UI is for you.

No need to install anything, simply sign in with your TweetDeck account and that will be all.

tweetdeck-web-ui

The native desktop client of TweetDeck for Windows is a complete mirror copy of TweetDeck’s web interface, just see it to believe it:

tweetdeck-desktop-client-windows

The idea here is to provide an exactly same interface everywhere, whether you’re using the Adobe AIR application, the native desktop client or the web version of TweetDeck. However, the native client has a couple of shortcomings, which makes it less attractive that its Adobe Air counterpart:

  • No single column view is supported on the native TweetDeck client for Windows and MAC and neither the single column view is accessible from the web interface. You have to remove all the columns one by one and then resize the client window. Bad, real bad!
  • Very few settings and controls, no way to position notification windows and neither you can turn off the notification sound. Desktop alerts of mentions and direct messages might be distracting, if they arrive too frequently.desktop-notifications
  • No ability to choose advanced options for specific columns. All the columns get the same notification settings, so I will not be using Twitter lists on the web version of TweetDeck and overwhelm myself with a storm of updates every nanosecond.
  • Both the clients run well without Adobe AIR but memory consumption is fairly high in the Windows desktop client of TweetDeck. This just doesn’t make any sense, the Adobe AIR client consumes around 62 K while the Non Adobe Air one consumes 52 K of memory alone?tweetdeck-memory-consumption

Comparatively, the web UI of TweetDeck consumes a lot less memory

tweetdeck-web-ui-memory-consumption

Is This A Downgrade?

The new clients removed features which are useful, I use them every single day. On one hand Twitter is removing TweetDeck’s core features, while on the other; they have nothing new to offer in their so called desktop clientsand web user interface. TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter on May 2011 for $40 Billion and the Adobe AIR app has not been updated ever since.

Google Buzz has closed shop but the Adobe AIR app is crying for an update.

tweetdeck-adobe-air-app

Both apps hog down system memory like anything but at the end of the day, I will be sticking to the Adobe AIR app. Unless they kill it already.

The New Twitter Is A Lot Better But Is it Inching Towards Complexity?

The Spartan form of Twitter’s old web UI was killed back in June 2011 and now, Twitter is all set to push another major redesign in coming weeks. Twitter’s new design is coherent with the re-design of their official Android app, the new web UI of TweetDeck and the native TweetDeck installer for Windows and MAC that runs without Adobe AIR.

Something is up!

The new version of Twitter’s web UI is not available to everyone yet, but here are a few screenshots for you to enjoy.

Direct Messages in the revised version of Twitter are a lot simpler, follows a top to bottom nested flow but Twitter is shying to show the inbox folder in its main navigation. Notifications for new messages has finally arrived but I am really disappointed to see the DM link being hidden under a drop down menu.

Nevertheless, direct messages in the new Twitter continue to work like before, no group DM’s though.

twitter-dms1

twitter-dms

The timeline is where all the fun begins.

Photos, videos and other media elements will now be embedded right within the timeline, unlike now, where you have to click the slide to right  link, in order to view the embedded media. This is in some ways better than the current design but in case you are following a large number of tweeples, you will have to practice faster scrolling.

twitter-new-timeline

I like the retweet count and favorite count feature added right in the bottom of a tweet, which is a quick way to find out popular retweets within your timeline, without having to visit the link in a new tab. Twitter has swapped left and right columns, the compose window is not The center of attractionanymore.

The new Connectsection is where you get in on the conversation. It is a new dedicated page where you can find out who has followed or mentioned you, retweeted or favorited one of your Tweets. So that explains why Twitter was busy experimenting with an activity feed for the last couple of months.

section_connect_web_en

Search is being taken very seriously in the newer version of Twitter, which is yet to be enabled for my profile. I haven’t used the new Twitter search yet, so can’t comment on how precise and accurate the results are. But from the screenshots below, it appears that Twitter wants to be more like a meme with its #Discover page, organizing all the hottest links, retweets, favorites and relevant tweets right into your doorsteps. Hashtags, that match closely with your search query is embedded within the timeline while relevant photos and videos are showcased as and when they become available. In real time!

Another really

section_discover_1_web_en

Importing contacts from your email account is still available under the Find Friendssection. Not to forget the Who to Followfeature which scans your Twitter following and suggests profiles you should follow or may want to engage with.

import-contacts

find-people-categories

Once Upon A Time, Twitter Was Simple.

So damn simple that when I created my account three years back, I confused it with a big chat room where people can send an IM message to anyone. Twitter has been following the KISS philosophyfor years. No mumbo jumbo features, no friend requests, no chats, nothing. Plain broadcasting!

I loved it then, still do and I am sure I will be loving the new Twitter even more. But the bigger concern is   Is Twitter drifting towards complexity? Is this the first step towards Lets make it attractive so that more users hop over it right away?

I guess so, and there is no harm in making the cover attractive. Well played Twitter, well played.

No one Interacting With You On Facebook? Probably, You’re Sharing with No one But A DEAD List

I have never been a huge fan of Friend lists. I believe virtual lists becomes unmanageable after a certain period of time and neither they match the purity of offline ones. You keep adding random acquaintances on Facebook and it is practically impossible to create subsets within a bunch of 600+ friends.

Unfortunately, Facebook imposed automated friend lists (read smart lists) a couple of months back, which scans the profile information and mutual connections of all your friends and automatically divides them into different sets. Facebook even names those lists for you, so you never have to waste a single minute managing your friend lists, which is beyond your control anyway (you can’t delete these smart lists from your Facebook account).

Now here is a typical problem some Facebook users have to face with automated smart friend lists.

When you share a status update, photo or a link with a specific smart list, Facebook remembers your choice of the most recently used smart list. The next time you post something on your Facebook profile, the smart list option is retained from the previous update and not changed to Public.

Result: you end up sharing with the same people you shared your last status update with. It is not public or openby default.

Confusing? Let us take an example

This is an update for a small list I created on my Facebook profile:

facebook-smart-friend-lists

Now this list has less than 10 members and I shared something with these 10 people only. The next time I post another update, Facebook keeps it visible only to this list, which is ridiculous!

Imagine a scenario when you shared something with only one friend and then completely forget about it. Until you change those translucent sharing settings, you will keep sharing with only that person.The worst part – there is no way to figure this out at one glance. Geeks and Tech savvy people know how this works but novice people often inherit a feeling of rejection, being neglectedor not getting enough attentionfrom their near and dear ones.

The other day, one of my not so tech savvyfriends called me up, saying You know, no one comments on my Facebook status these days. Earlier there were a dozen likes but recently, I feel everyone has blocked my Facebook profile from their news feed. My fiancée goes liking updates of my friends but not mine?? There must be something wrong down there.

 

no-facebook-likes

You guessed it. She was sharing with Only Mefor the last 1 week.

On another note, it would be a real nightmare if you accidentally keep sharing with the wrong group, as the chosen lists won’t refresh after every update. This is unlike Google Plus, where you have to type the name of the list or the person with whom you want to share a specific update. If you don’t type anything, it will be shared with everyone, which is undoubtedly the most used sharing setting on any social networking site.

Facebook was never that bold with “lists” until Google Plus ambushed their audience. It is still a baby but Facebook was quick to copy several features from Google Plus and throw it on the face of their audience. Video calling, Messenger app, friend lists, you name it.

Probably, the engineers rushed on with the finer details, which leaves “sharing settings” in a “confused” state; far beyond the acceptance of an average internet user.

 

Another Reason Why Authorship In Google Can Not Be Ignored Anymore

A few months back, Google Introduced the new rel=authortag to highlight original content curators in search results. Married with Google Plus, the author tag uses a lot of signals which differentiates an original author from spammers and helps users discover useful content.

It is a simple way to inform Google that you wrote this content and your Google Plus profile image should appear on search results, as seen in the following example:

authorship

 

There is no guarantee that your Google Plus profile image will mandatorily appear on search results, after you have added authorship support on your website. The display of authorship was tweaked recently, in order to showcase the popularity of an author with his Google Plus circle count and more social data.

Now here is another reason why you should consider adding authorship support on your blog or website.

Earlier, when you clicked the name of an author from a search result page, Google would take you to the Google Plus profile of the author. This has been changed recently and Google now keeps the user on the search result page itself, showing more information about the author and some of his recent posts. Following is an example:

landing-page-authorship

Notice that a filter of author name has been added to the search box and you can add more keywords to refine the search. As long as the author name is contained in the search box, Google would show results that have been written by this author only. The results can be a blog post, a post on his Google Plus profile, a post on LinkedIn and so forth.

The idea here is to highlight the author and offer a way to filter content written by specific authors who hold Trustin the eyes of Google. All the search tools in the left sidebar will continue to work along with the authorfilter, so you can filter posts that are written by a specific person, within a specific time frame or date.

This is a nice and easy way to keep tabs on your favorite authors from one place, no need to subscribe to their author feeds on multiple blogs. No wonder, actual users will soon discover this feature and they will start using it to find content written by specific people. Hence, it makes sense to add authorship support on your website and tell Google that you are the person who wrote this content.

The future of searchis clear. Google Plus is slowly being integrated in every nook and cranny and you can no longer ignore its dominance.

The Father Of Hyper Search Is Preparing A “Google Of The Future”

massimo-marchioriEven kids know that Google has its own way to analyze the popularity and usefulness of a webpage using their own link analysis algorithm, dubbed PageRank. But very few people are aware of Hyper Search the first published technique to introduce link analysis for search engines.

Massimo Marchiori, an Italian Mathematician and computer scientist, created the Hyper search technique on April 7th 1997. The Goal of Hyper search was to analyze results not only on the ranks of single pages, but also on the relationship between the single pages and the entire web taken together. When Google co founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced their own link parsing algorithm in 1998, they cited Marchiori, Garfield and Kleinberg in their original paper.

14 years later, Marchiori is planning to shake the web with his new venture, nick named Volunia.

It is a new search engine. It’s not like a Google improved by 10 percent that gives you a new perspective to find what you are looking for. Instead, it’s a   perspective completely different from the normal search engines that exist now. It’s a new radical view of what a search engine of the future could be., says Marchiori, when he was interviewed by Coreiere della Serra.

Volunia is expected to launch during early 2012 and is now accepting beta signups for power users. Power users will be given a chance to test the features before the search engine goes live in 12 international languages. Here is the introductory video where Mr. Marchiori explains what Volunia is all about:

We are not focusing on creating a better search engine than Google. What we really want to do is offer a different perspective of search. I can’t reveal the details right now, given the fact that a company like Google, for example, would have no problems in setting up a team of 100 engineers to work day and night on our idea, Marchiori said.

In my opinion, it will take more than an algorithm to get past Google’s huge dominance on search market. Whenever someone produced innovation (YouTube for example), they were either acquired or killed. Starting 2000, Google won users who never knew what the heck a search engine is in the first place. Volunia has to deal with an already educated audience.

Marchiori never boarded the commercial ship of Larry and Sergey. He walked away, but its never too late.