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March 2013

Our Modern Day Passover Miracle

Splitting_the_red_seaRabbi Aharon Kotler asked, why does the Haggadah say that in Egypt the Jews became a nation, but ignore the massive assimilation that took place in Egypt? Why does the Haggadah omit to mention the many Jews who did not wish to leave Egypt for Israel?

He answers, that the Haggadah teaches us to focus on the positive. We may have had our challenges, but we became a people.


And I believe that this is the modern day miracle of Passover. This is the one night a year where we forget the many challenges we face as a people and invite all four sons to the table. We celebrate with those who don't believe and those who don't want to leave. The rich will eat the bread of poverty and the poor drink wine like kings. We will all declare - all are welcome can come and eat. This is the one time a year where Jews around the world celebrate our shared past. This link to our past is our common bond in our present and our hope in the future.

Passover is not just about the challenges we faced, but our ability to focus on our shared positive bonds and build a link to the future. After 3,000 years of change, our continued celebration is our modern miracle.

10 features that will make "Keep" a killer app

Google-Keep-700x400A few hours ago, Google lifted the lid on Google Keep. This simple reminders web/mobile app is pretty, well designed and syncs cross-platform. But it's far from the solution it should be.  Here are the 10 features that will make Google Keep a keeper.

10. Automation
I don't get the point of storing my photos in Google+. I store my photos so I can access them when I want them - for social as well as personal reference. I love the idea of scanning my photos and making them search-able. I want my Android phone to automatically back all my photos up to Drive, to keep the people and geo tags added in Picasa, etc. Don't just leave this as a list. This may go beyond Keep, but I want to see a platform and an ecosystem, not just a list dammit!

9. Topical Search
I'm going to be storing all kinds of things. I would love to be able to find my "music" without needing to tag it as music. Google knows how to recognize a file. Make my search smarter! 

8. Link Previews
This could be a great platform for storing my bookmarks or items for reading later. If I save a link, give me a link preview. This includes video previews ala Google+ or Facebook.

7. Link "Deep" Search
Let me search inside the media and links I've "Kept". Index not just my text, but the content within and across them.

6. An API and a Chrome Plug-in
I want the Facebook photos on my phone to also backup to Keep. I want to save to Keep as a backup of everything I do. Google's not going to build all of this - so we're going to need an API. I would also love to save links ala Pocket without needing to open a second window. Make it happen Google! 

5. Drag to Organize
I have recently fallen in love with Trello. The organizational features are incredible. You just drag it over to organize. Keep is impossible to organize, which is going to make it pointless as a to-do list or a media library. 

4. Third Party Cloud Doc Integration
I already have most of my content in Drobox, and even Carbonite. I would love to access this cloud content through Google Drive. If I'm going to leave myself a reminder to do something to media in Dropbox, let me preview it in Drive. Yes, there is an API for that. 

3. Prioritized Lists
I get that Google wants to avoid the chore of hierarchy and rely instead on search, but a bit of organization can go a long way. Let me re-prioritize my lists, sort my lists, etc.

2. Geofencing and Alerts
If I have a list, reminder me when it's coming do. Remind me to pick up the milk when I'm near the supermarket. Google Now can do a lot of this for me, so please, for the love of all that is holy, get on it! 

1. Social Collaboration
Let's be real. There is little I do in life that doesn't involve others. There are many times my wife picks up the milk. Other times she sends me a long shopping list while I'm on the way home. There are tasks I give to the developers, and many times they assign tasks to me. A little bit of social collaboration could go a VERY long way. 

Graph Search Gets Louder

This morning I logged into Facebook and found this:

I'm not sure if this is part of a broader roll out, but it makes all the sense in the world. If Facebook wants us to use Graph Search, there is nothing better than a Call To Action to get us started.

This shift to a dedicated box and text is not the most elegant design, but it will be sure to boost engagement with this new feature.

Here's why Google kills products we love

Google Reader RIPClayton Christensen and Google both know something that the screaming masses don't. They live The Capitalists Dilemma.

Google builds products, but they aren't a product company. They are a conduit company. They build paths to information, and in-so-doing build paths to tomorrow. As their sector is ridiculously fast moving, Google's best shot at sustainable growth is in betting the farm on change. Google is betting their future on productive rather than migratory capital.

Here's how this works:

Sustained growth doesn't come from return on net assets or capital, but future return on not-yet-conceived products. In the long term, Google can't afford to sit on their cash or maintain stagnant products. Google's best shot at the future is to invest their capital in 10x ideas that create new markets.

In the long run, Google's success will not come from owning a category as much as being the pipeline through which innovation will flow.  Google is trying to become the platform for the next-wave industrial revolution, not an also-ran in commoditized arms races around decade old technology. 

This is a bold mission that hinges on the latest economic theory. And it makes all the sense in the world.

I would gladly trade Google Reader today for serendipitous computing (aka wearables like Glass) or automated transportation (self driving cars) tomorrow. Google has the economic strength and confidence to focus on tomorrow. Even if it means sunsetting a product with a few hundred thousand steady users today.

Here's to hoping investors and the market understand and appreciate what the press and many frustrated influencers don't.

Facebook Steps Into Google Reader's Shoes

Facebook Reader
After years of decline and neglect, Google Reader is finally joining the deadpool. As the saying goes, In a social age the news finds you. And right on cue, in steps Facebook's new News Feed.

The new News Feed includes both new relevant to your interests and a new, dedicated a Following feed. This personally prioritized feed contains updates, news and links from all the pages and personalities you have subscribed to.  This could well become a killer stand-alone app, particularly on mobile with a reskin as a "magazine reader" ala Flipboard.

Facebook Reader just makes sense.

And I don't know how easy it's going to be to compete with Facebook Reader. Google, the company that brought you Priority Inbox, didn't have the social signal or dedication to make Google Reader smart or dynamic enough to make it as compelling as it could have been. What does this say for the rest of this space?

Facebook Knows Something The Publishing World Doesn't

Facebook EdgeRank Redemption

The publishing world has been crying foul over Facebook's EdgeRank changes for too long. There is something fundamental that Nick Bilton and all the rest seem to misunderstand time and again.... Facebook is not a one-to-many platform. Facebook is rarely even a one-to-one platform.  Facebook is an "us to us" platform.  

Facebook was built for human connections. Most human connections are few-to-few in a defined and limited social circle.  Whereas print was built for broadcasting, Facebook was not and I believe that we are seeing EdgeRank go so far as to optimize against broadcasting overall. Facebook tried out the model, but like so many others (ex. Answers) made the decision that the short or long term value of the generated media was not strong enough, and downgraded the media type's prominence in EdgeRank.

With this in mind, building successfull reach on Facebook is not just about accumulating fans or followers, but building armies of loyal fans who share your content with their friends by tagging them in their posts or posting it to their walls.  In a different context, this was true in our analog past. And this is the future of social distribution.

The tagged economyThe Tagged Economy

When I share a post on Facebook, EdgeRank will only show the post to a dozen of my hundreds of friends.  And if my friends happen to go a couple of days without logging in, fewer still will notice y post as EdgeRank will show them more timely content.  

However, when I tag two or three friends in a Facebook post they will be notified that they have been tagged. You can be sure that they will click through to the content at a higher rate than a generic, non-friend-specific share. And based on my own Facebook usage, I am generally more likely to share content that I have seen others sharing - further increasing the traffic to a the content in question.

I'm not the only crazy one...

Nick Oneill nailed this point in his latest response to this ongoing discussion.  Email is designed as a one to many platform, but in reality few of the many actually receive the broadcast message.  In this context, EdgeRank is far less evil.

And when one factors in the number of bots, fakes and other unquantifiables in their follower counts, the value of many of the measurable metrics many pundits are using to cry foul is further called into question.

Facebook built an evolving platform that adapts to user behavior.  If you're not seeing the performance results you were looking for, it may be time to stop blaming the equipment and start rethinking the way you play the game.