Tag Archives: Opinions

Nexus 6 is Fantastic, but it’s Not the Smartphone I Want or Need

Google launched the Android 5.0 (Lollypop) powered Nexus 6 yesterday. The new Google flagship is manufactured by Motorola and boasts of top of the line specs. Yet, for more than one reason, it’s not quite the device I was expecting from Google. In fact, it’s the most anti-Nexus device yet from Google.

Nexus 6
Nexus 6

The Nexus line started with the Nexus One released in Jan 2010. Google hoped to revolutionize the US smartphone market with the One. Its ambitious goal of ditching carrier lock-ins and getting people to buy phones online at full price didn’t find many takers. Nexus One was a commercial flop. The price tag of $529 dissuaded most buyers. However, it was well received by Android enthusiasts and critics. Google scaled back its ambition and partnered with carriers for the following devices. The Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung fared better. However, the first major success in the Nexus line-up was Nexus 4. With Nexus 4 Google managed to deliver flagship quality hardware in a mid-range price bucket. Nexus 5 kept up the same tradition and delivered a comfortable and beautifully designed phone with great hardware at just $349 (16 GB). However, the Nexus 6 marks a stark departure from the LG Nexus phones.

To begin with, the Nexus 6 has a six inch display. This firmly puts it in the phablet category, and it’s technically incorrect to even call it a phone. In fact, it’s about half a centimetre taller and wider than the Galaxy Note 4. Have a look at the comparison below. The Nexus 6 is appreciably taller and wider than all the devices in the list, and two of the devices in the comparison are phablets, and the other two are phones that are already too big to be comfortable. It’s worth noting that in response to the user feedback, One Plus is considering reducing the size of its next flagship. Forget about single handed operation, the Nexus 6 might even be too wide to grip comfortably while talking.

Nexus 6 Size Comparison
Nexus 6 Size Comparison

The next major issue that I have with the Nexus 6 is the price. At $649, it’s almost twice as expensive as the previous Nexus devices. I wouldn’t call it overpriced – not when Apple is charging upwards of $749 for the iPhone 6 Plus. The Nexus 6 boasts of top of the line specs including a 2K display and Snapdragon 805. However, the question that needs to be asked is do we really need the 2K display? I haven’t used the Note 4 or the new Nexus, but I did review the LG G3. While the increased resolution was noticeable, its impact was limited. You won’t feel the difference during most of your day to day activities.

For the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5, Google took flagship devices from LG, found areas of compromise (like the display size and camera), and produced a top performing device with enough restraint to be affordable. For the Nexus 6, Google took Motorola’s sensibly priced Moto X (2nd gen), and amped up the specs to give us a Nexus that beats every other device in the market in terms of specs, but quite possibly not in terms of the overall experience. May be Google has decided that Android is now popular enough that it doesn’t need to sell low-margin devices. May be it wants to make Android smartphones an object of desire like the iPhone. Or maybe, Google feels that current gen smartphones are mature enough to have a two year shelf life. It has not discontinued the Nexus 5. Future Nexus phones might alternate between a smartphone and a phablet. Whatever be the case, Nexus 6 isn’t the smartphone that I want or need.

Opinion: Goodbye September, You Sucked!

Here I sit at my PC at the end of September 2012 and wonder where all the time went. Looking back on this past month, “lackluster” is the only thing I can come up with to describe it. Maybe I am just a little extra grumpy today and if that is the case, please accept my apologies up front. However, I can’t help but look at this past month and not wonder what good came from it. My colleagues and I have conversed back and forth several times about how dry the news cycles seem to be in regards to the tech industry. Not that there isn’t any news, but most of it lacks any pizzazz or appeal for our audience. This could be the result of an abysmal global economy. However, I believe there is a greater underlying issue and the wretched economy is merely a symptom of that issue. The issue I speak of is the severe lack of INNOVATION! Google search defines innovate:

 Make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

We’ve had no shortage of press releases from high tech vendors touting their innovation, but I ask you, which of those supposed innovations has made you want to dump out your pocketbook and go shopping? To be honest, this reality isn’t all bad, that is if you have the ability to think creatively and the guts to take a risk in this market.

Exhibit A

In my case against the tech industry, let me introduce exhibit A, Apple. Go to Apple’s website, http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/, and see “what’s new”. Notice, I went ahead and put the entire URL there because I want you to see that Apple literally put the words “whats-new” in the link. Now glance down the page and tell me what is the first thing you see listed. Here’s what I see, “Maps Take a Whole New Turn”. Seriously I don’t even know where to begin here. Let’s start with their original logic. You’re telling me that with all the genius that resides in the headquarters of Apple, the most innovative new thing they could add to their IOS was a map? Please let me jump off the couch, go trade in my iPhone 4S, which by the way, many AT&T users have found that their upgrades aren’t available for upgrade to the iPhone 5 yet, and shell out massive dough for an upgrade. Of course, if you have the iPhone 4S, you can upgrade its IOS to 6 for free, but then you’ll probably end up like my boss who came to me freaking out because he no longer has Google Maps anymore. But Apple gave you a map, right? Yeah and unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you know by now that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, had to write a public apology for the horrid piece of work their map turned out to be. Now, to my second question. Why in the world is that stupid map still listed as your number one addition on your IOS 6 “what’s new” page? Unfortunately, the lack of innovation doesn’t stop there. Siri gets some tweaks by adding additional languages and letting you ask for sports scores. Facebook is much more integrated into IOS 6. Yet with all these lackluster features, people are flocking to get their iPhone 5’s. This to me, is beyond all logic and speaks volumes about the cult that is Apple. Now there are some who believe Apple is going to pull us out of the recession. Folks I don’t know if you realize that kicking out Google Maps and YouTube from Apple makes them more of a closed system. A closed system stands to help no one besides the ones inside that closed system.

So PayPal Practically Screws Indians Again

If you want to get behind the history of me and PayPal, you better head over and read this older post rant of mine. PayPal has been and is being screwing people in India because they basically cannot adhere to standards laid down by the Reserve Bank of India.

In a recent email sent out to PayPal users in India, they have said that they will be laying down new rules for Indian users starting from March 1st, 2011. Here are some of the highlights, you can read the rest here.

In order to comply with the RBI Guidelines, our user agreement in India will be amended for the following services as follows:

  1. Any balance in and all future payments into your PayPal account may not be used to buy goods or services and must be transferred to your bank account in India within 7 days from the receipt of confirmation from the buyer in respect of the goods or services; and
  2. Export-related payments for goods and services into your PayPal account may not exceed US$500 per transaction.

So PayPal is practically telling Indian users that they cannot buy anything from their money in PayPal and instead have to use their "f*cked up" exchange rates so that you lose money and then pay a "premium" on exchange rate conversions when you buy things from out of the country.

In addition to that they are telling developers and web designers that you cannot earn more than $500 per transaction. Now try explaining to your clients that they will need to take the effort to send you money in multiple transactions.

Alright, I am not going to go on with this humbug, please continue for me in the comments.

Please don’t blame the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for this. For the record, here are the FEMA regulations (Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999)  which clearly state how businesses like PayPal should operate in India, and PayPal is definitely one of the biggest violators of it.

More PayPal shenanigans at their official blog. At least they didn’t f*ck royally when it comes to intimating users.

What Is Quora?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following an increased interest about Quora on social networking sites. Tech evangelist, Robert Scoble, started a Quora frenzy with his post; Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?

Quora

Now I certainly did not agree fully about Quora being a blogging innovation, however, after using it for a while now I can say that it is addictive, interesting, informative and has the A-Listers answering questions from anyone and everyone.

So What is Quora?

I believe that this question is very well answered in the about page of Quora and also a question which was posted on Quora itself. However, here is an easier interpretation of what Quora is in my honest opinion.

In a nutshell, Quora is a simple site where you can ask a question and expect an answer from other community members. It is similar to Yahoo Answers and Answers in that sense. However, Quora goes much more further than this.

Quora basically documents knowledge through questions and answers and provides users with an easy way to find it. Think of it as a knowledgebase created by people for the people.

In addition to that Quora also provides users with a platform to collaborate and make things better. For example, if one person has asked a question, a second person can edit it to make it more descriptive or to frame it in a proper way. Similarly, when one person answers a question, another user can suggest edits to the answer. Using the collaborative feature in Quora, people can improve on the quality of the accumulated knowledge.

Quora is also a source for continuous knowledge by the way of it providing each and every user an opportunity to add their answers to any question. This way newer and maybe better answers can always be added.

As many people think, Quora is not overwhelming at all since it allows you to choose which topics you want to follow and only displays questions related to those topics. For example, if you would love to know more about Startups, you can follow the Startup topics and you will be displayed questions and answers

This is the most basic definition of what Quora does according to me.

Is Quora A Social Networking Platform?

Yes and No. Quora is not exactly a social networking site, but it does borrow quite a lot of features from sites like Twitter, Facebook and maybe several others.

For example, Quora has an option to allow users to follow other users, this feature is similar to Twitter. In addition to that it allows users to comment and up vote answers, this feature is seen in sites like Reddit and Digg. It also has an Inbox feature which can be tied down to LinkedIn or Facebook Messages.

Quora also allows users to subscribe to questions without asking or answering it, so that you will know whenever a new answer has been added.

Overall, there are several aspects of Quora which make it to look like a social networking site. However, those features are not the USP of Quora. Those features basically provide an enhanced community experience for Quora users.

What do you think of Quora? Have you used it? Do you like it? Do feel free to tell me your opinion about the service through your comments.

Hey Google, Can We Have Some Meaningful Results? Please

You don’t use Google because it’s “Google”. You use “Google” because it offers relevant and meaningful results.

AdSense Scraper Sites Joke

Image credit

Back in the year 2000 – web search was largely dominated by short web queries and the results were very “generalized”, users had to click through multiple links until they were able to find the exact webpage they were looking for. The search volume was fairly low, hence the requirement for a polished algorithm was not laid forward.

Also Read: Hey Google, Here is How You Can Make Google News Spam Free

Then came Google and web search took a significant turn in it’s “relevancy”, “exactness” and “value”. Google changed the way   folks used to find content, people started writing blogs, created information and Google organized all the information in their “index”.

The sad part – Newton’s third law of motion holds true universally.

The reaction: Google’s way of ranking webpages was huge, so big that it gave birth to a giant search marketing industry. The welcome mat for SEO Firms was laid out, which consequently gave birth to content farms, aggregators and scraped websites. Their entire goal of producing content is from the outside in – find the phrases which are profitable, judge the competition, gain a good amount of links and make your way to the SERP’s.

In recent times, there has been much speculation on the way Google search is populated with content aggregators and scraped websites. TechCrunch, Venture Beat and other tech blogs have put down their observations earlier.

It’s not that only we are saying this. Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror recently nailed down their observations

In 2010, our mailboxes suddenly started overflowing with complaints from users complaints that they were doing perfectly reasonable Google searches, and ending up on scraper sites that mirrored Stack Overflow content with added advertisements. Even worse, in some cases, the original Stack Overflow question was nowhere to be found in the search results!

Why Do Content Aggregators Beat The Source In Search Results ?

Let’s take a look on the factors that influence the ranking of a webpage in search results.

Google says that there are more than 200 signals but practice shows that the most important factors which determine whether you page is going to rank well or not are:

1. The quality of the content
2. Number and authority of the links to your content.
3. The Title Of the page.

Let’s say you wrote an informative article on “iPhone cases” and published it on your blog. Since “iPhone cases” is a profitable phrase, this will alert the content aggregators, link farms and scraper sites running AdSense ads. These guys have set up Google Alerts and other ways to get instant notifications whenever a phrase they are targeting, gets found by Google.

They come to your blog, copy an excerpt from your article, publish a new post on their “Aggregation channels” with a link back to your post.

You think it’s cool? ” “Hey Mike, I just got a backlink from xyz.com they have 60,000 RSS readers. I am famous !”

Yes, a lot of people will read your thought but not on your blog. The majority will read it on the “Aggregation channel”.

The Result

Since a large portion of the blogosphere is paying attention to that Aggregation channel, who do you think is going to attract more links?

Social Media Influence Aggregators

As soon as the scraped post hits an “Aggregation channel”, a huge number of blogs will start linking to them (not you). They have an enormous amount of social media subscribers, Twitter followers, newsletter readers and getting 6 dozen backlinks to their own article is child’s play.

Yes, you have written that 900 word article but that doesn’t qualify your post to be linked from other sites. Social media influences search rankings and these content aggregators use huge social media influence to dominate SERP’s.

Conrad Sam from Search Engine Land performed an internal study on profitable keywords, in order to find out which search engine (Google or Bing) returns relevant results. The SEL team followed this convention:

  • 5 points were awarded for a good quality result ranking first, 3 for second and 1 for third.
  • 2 bonus points were added for top 3 results being on a highly authoritative site.
  • 5 points were subtracted if the entire first page didn’t contain any good results.

Search Engine Ranking Authority
It’s no wonder that Google is losing it’s ground on relevancy and exactness. Richard MacManus from Read Write Web puts an interesting comment on why blogs and search engines need to embrace a “change”

I can only hope that Google and other search engines find better ways to surface quality content, for its own sake as well as ours. Because right now Google is being infiltrated on a vast scale by content farms.

That pretty much sums it up. Google has been promoting leechers more than the actual publishers and we ourselves have been victim of this problem. You can read more about it on this post.

What is your opinion of the quality of search results in Google? Are you happy with them? Do you think that they need to improve? Are you a victim of RSS scrapers? Don’t forget to tell me your thoughts through your comments.

What’s Lacking In Chrome OS Cr-48 Right Now? 100% Cloud Storage

I have been playing around with the new Cr-48 (check out pictures) for over a day now and I can tell you that I can live with it for a long time. However, before I do my full review of the experience, I have to talk about certain things that are lacking in the Cr-48 and in general.

Chrome OS Cr-48 Netbook

One of the important things I have missed is the password sync, of course it should come out soon, so I will not delve much into it right now, however Chrome OS and Cr-48 have a bigger problem on hand than that.

Chrome OS Cr-48 is Not Cloud Safe

Let me backtrack a bit. When the came out, I started using a lot of , several of which provided me with in-browser experience (apps which were not just shortcuts). I reviewed quite a few of them including TweetDeck, Write Space  and Sticky notes and Note taking apps.

All of the above mentioned apps stored their data locally. I have also been using an excellent weather app called Weather Bug which works inside the browser and does not use a shortcut, however, all this data is stored locally.

Now the problem is not the apps itself, when I setup the Cr-48 and logged in all my apps were there thanks to Chrome Sync. Google is definitely driving the point of no data loss with it destroying 25 laptops, however, here is the BIG problem I wanted to talk about, If your Chrome netbook dies, you LOSE data.

What data? Well the data which these apps have stored locally, you lose them. You cannot get back that data even if you use Chrome Sync, maybe not for which stores profile information in the cloud. However, you will lose all your tabs in TweetDeck and have to set it up again.

So if you have taken tons of notes and stored it locally, when your Chrome OS Cr-48 crashes all that data will be gone, forever. There is no way to get it back and this is the biggest problem with Chrome OS and Cr-48 in general.

Like a good beta/alpha tester I reported this problem to Google, hopefully they should take note of it. Here is what I had to say to them:

I am not sure if you already do, but you should definitely provide App developers with an API to hook into Chrome Sync.

The biggest frustrating experience I have had with Cr-48 is having to reset all the settings for the apps I use. This is fair enough, little work, but your concept of having destructed several laptops to drive the cloud storage feature seems a bit flawed in this case.

If I destruct my laptop, I can get all my extensions back, but not the settings and saved data, so you are definitely not 100% cloud safe. I would seriously love to see developments in this area and also a push to developers to start using Chrome Sync rather than an external service to store data.

Of course not everyone will oblige, but I am Ok with it as long as I have access to my data no matter which laptop or netbook I use.

Cheers

Keith

As you can see, my biggest problem has been the lack of cloud storage for information which Chrome does not have access to. Of course, it is up to Chrome to provide an API to Chrome Sync so that developers can make use of it to sync data in the cloud. I believe that would be a good move since many developers do not have the money to setup their own servers to store data. And frankly, I would prefer all my data sits in one place rather than it being scattered across the internets.

I am very sure that Google will add this feature to and the shortly. But, if you wanted an honest opinion from me about the Cr-48, I would say that it is not yet 100% cloud-safe.

No Video Recording Capabilities

Another feature that is lacking in Chrome OS and Cr-48 in general is the lack of native video recording. Though this is specifically my own blogging rant, I do feel that it should include a feature.

For example, I wanted to record something on Chrome OS itself, but wasn’t able to do it properly. Of course I used a camera to do it but the video was not perfect at all. To top it there are no apps right now in the Chrome Web Store which support video screencasting. This is not a big deal but people will want it in future.

Overall, there are several more things which I am exploring right now, however, the app data store in Chrome Sync is definitely a feature I will be looking forward to.

Hey Google, Here is How You Can Make Google News Spam Free

Google has been removing publishers from Google News index for vague reasons because of new policy reviews. This was confirmed by a recent tweet from @mattcutts where he said:

@AuctionBytes I’ll mention this. The news folks are actually starting a nice crackdown on low-quality/spammy news sources.

So what is low-quality and spammy according to Google? Search Engine Land has an answer for that where they got an update from a Google News spokesperson who said “Yes, we recently removed a number of websites from Google News that we determined were not following Google’s quality guidelines”

Google News Spam

So what exactly are those quality guidelines? According to several forum posts on the Google News forum, quality websites are those who write original content. And what is original content? A post on a site which does not reference anyone else through links or otherwise. So sites which link to other sources provide low-quality news?

Google News Spam Gaming Websites

In my experience, one of the biggest spamming in news occurs for trending topics in Google search. Several hundred websites follow these trends and then post accordingly about them. Now the problem here is not those websites, it is with Google who display “Google News listings” above organic listings in Google search results.

Anyone with a bit of brain can game Google and write original pieces of news without attributing anyone and get tons of traffic. The throw in your face news results acts like a tonic for spammy publishers to push content and game the system.

I have been counting thousands of sites which do this everyday along with posting duplicate content on the same topic to get on top of the listings once they have been forced down by another site. This was a known fact but was more in news after CNET and Search Engine Land wrote about it.

This is one of the biggest reasons why sites which are originally good become spammy after they have tasted the traffic dose from Google. My one and only suggestion to Google is to not display Google News results in search results. Give everyone a level playing field and you will automatically see less spam in your index.

Of course, Google wants to do all the real-time fancy stuff too, so just display the Google News results there or post a link to the Google News search or provide it as an option, that too opt-in and not opt-out.

Once Google does this, we will all see less spam in the index. Removing websites from listings is just a way of telling publishers that we control the internet and will do as we want without caring about you. Sadly that is the attitude Google has right now.