San Franciscan Beginnings

A New Beginning

I’m living in San Francisco.

How this came about still seems unreal to me, but I’ve officially departed New York City–the East Coast, for that matter. That is not to say I won’t be back at some point, but not anytime in the foreseeable future.

In the spirit of unpredictability, for no writing could ever capture what lies ahead, I’m raising my glass to new adventures, new friends, and new experiences.

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Google+: An Inside Look

An Inside Look to Google+

My Google+

My Google+ Homepag

I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to Google+ today. There’s a lot of hype, so seek out other articles for well-documented accounts of Google+ if you want more background. Instead, I’ll be sharing images along with some of my initial impressions on how Google approaches usability and design.

Google+ Homepage

The “homepage” mirrors Facebook in both design and function. Your profile image sits in the upper-left corner with content modules below. Centered is all stream activity, regardless of stream source (think news feed). To the right, friend-related modules prompt you to categorize your friends. It’s a clean presentation, though its emptiness provokes curiosity as to how Google may utilize the space in other ways. RSS Reader? Email? Yes, please.

Google+ Photos

Google+ Photos

Google+ Photos

The Google+ Photos page shows your friends’ profile pages by default. Clean and elegant–similar to a Google Image search. Not included are ways to sort photos: image size, tags, etc.

I’m not sure how I feel about how Google pulls in all of your photos. If you’ve been a Google user for a long time and have all sorts of albums uploaded on Blogger or Picasa–which I do–then those will be automatically uploaded. Google continues its tradition of gathering everything/everyone you have come in contact with and displays everything in front of you. Fortunately, it’s not all visible to your contacts, courtesy of customizable privacy settings.

Google+ Photo Screen

Google+ Photo Screen

Clicking on a photo maximizes the window into a Facebook-esque screen. Comments appear naturally along the right and allow for numerous comments to be shown simultaneously. What is not shown above is the facial recognition Google has incorporated to help with tagging. This didn’t work on some other photos though.

Although this preliminary setup is pleasant and user-friendly, it’s lacking in navigation features that could help streamline the process. The lower right hand corner could help users navigate by person, album, tag, etc. It could even imitate Google Search

Google+ Profile Page

Google+ Profile

Google+ Profile

The profile page is reminiscent of the non-Google+ profile page. You can view all your posts, photos, and videos; you can also customize your privacy settings. There’s also an added ability to view your page as if you were someone else–anyone you choose.

Buzz, however, made me giggle.

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles

Google Circles is easy-to-use and intuitive. You click on a contact and you drag it into the circle you desire. What is not so intuitive is contact management and circle management. After using Gmail for many years, I’ve accrued an excessive number of contacts, many with whom I do not keep in touch. An automatic archive feature–rule based like “haven’t contacted in the previous 1,2,3 years etc–would help simplify this somewhat cluttered view and suppress my OCD mania.

Circle-wise, although the creation and removal of circles includes some cool visual effects, having more than 10 will further clutter your page. If circles could nest inside one another — a list view may be the only feasible way thought — then contact management for overlapping friends may improve significantly.

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks leaves something to be desired. If you’ve used Google alerts to notify you for keyword-related updates, then you’ll be familiar with the “lazy” kind of updates seen above. It’s understandable that Google would push content to increase its paid search reach, but the above results don’t appear too relevant.

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts is an exciting feature that few other instant messaging services offer at this level for free. While “hanging out,” you can also watch a few videos in-window with YouTube. That’s pretty amazing. It’s also a clever way to sneak in more ads.

When chatting with multiple people, I wonder if it’d be possible to message an individual rather than the whole group. That’s something that needs to be explored more.


In conclusion, my short time with Google+ has rekindled my relationship with the search giant. Its current services fit a gap left by Facebook and other chat/social network services, but it’s still supplemental at best. The addition of this social layer, however, will propel Google forward in what seems like a countless number of ways that will only be discovered with time.

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Domino Project: Do the Work Review

Domino Project: Do the Work Review

The Domino Project

The Domino Project

Disclosure: I am a BzzAgent. I received Do the Work for free.

In April, as part of the BzzAgent campaign The Domino Project, I read the Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. It’s a motivational work that moves you from rumination into action, explaining how to act and how to conquer any and all resistance. I also read this on the Kindle app for the iPhone. I’ll therefore look at both components: 1) the book and 2) the experience of reading a book on the iPhone Kindle app.

Review of Do the Work

Do the Work is a sound work. It coaxes you into taking action using various anecdotes and metaphors. It identifies your allies and your enemies. It hones in on your inability to act–due to fear or doubt–and delves into each deeply. I recommend this book for anyone on the fence about changing careers, becoming an entrepreneur, or taking any sort of life-changing action. I do not recommend this work to the pessimistic, the antagonistic, or the complacent. If you aren’t constantly thinking about the future and how you can bend it to your will, you won’t find this book interesting. That said, as a tolerant and generally optimistic individual,  I enjoyed the book. It was a fast read I finished in less than a week, reading this only during my commute (about 50-minutes per round trip).

Some parts I did not enjoy. I found the structure of the book confusing. Pressfield discusses how your action should be structured into a beginning-middle-end style such that all your actions revolve around threes. He then introduces another substructure that focusing on fives. I blame the platform as the primarily culprit for this confusion as the iPhone is not well-suited for these abstract reads (Do the Work utilizes numerous styles and one-liners). Additionally, the material became a bit stale as the same message was being recycled. Using more historic examples would have helped broken up the monotony of the messages and better validated the logic behind Pressfield’s argument.

Review of the iPhone Kindle App

Despite my preference for paperbacks, I found my first read on the iPhone Kindle app a smooth experience. For the record, I have not yet used a dedicated e-reader. As mentioned previously, Do the Work incorporates some pleasant stylistic elements to enhance the read. It uses headers and sentence structure creatively, taking negative space into account. I’ve seen other free books like Treasure Island on the Kindle app that show one big block of text, and previously found it difficult to read. Do the Work successfully created a flowing reading experience on the iPhone as it was light on text and its content allowed for this abstract style.

Overall, I enjoyed reading my first e-book on the iPhone. The content was interesting and the device delivered a sound experience. I recommend trying both the book and the Kindle app.

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A Mobius World – Ad Age Global Cover Contest Submission

A Mobius World - Global Cover Contest Submission

A Mobius World - Global Cover Contest Submission (note: slight color distortion)

I submitted a piece for the Ad Age Global Cover Contest called “A Mobius World”. Creating a work that speaks to the theme of a connected world, I drew upon my professional experience to show how the digital space is uniting a world, and how advertising both fuels it and shapes it at the same time.

As someone working in a more technical field that often operates under limiting internal and external constraints, I welcomed this opportunity to exercise some creative muscles. Search engine optimization is a field that draws upon technical creativity as SEOs continually chase search engines–or get ahead of, if they’re good.  Unless we’re tightly woven into the processes involved with building a new site, we  merely build upon previous constructs. Even then, we don’t completely own anything. Title tag change? Link building campaign? Not something to call home about.

That said, social media has enabled SEOs to flex their creativity in new ways. As search engines’ algorithms now account for all sorts of signals like tweets, likes, fans, and more, we can now hone our link building craft using infographics while building a brand. By optimizing all of a brand’s online properties, we can also further branding efforts while preparing for any PR efforts to counter negative press. Coincidentally, an inflexible organizational structure that cannot accomodate the fast-changing pace of search, or one in which the social and SEO departments are isolated from one another, has become one of the greater internal hurdles inhibiting the creative process. At RBM, where I work in the SEO department, we’re integrating SEO, paid media, and social media to better offer digital marketing services that reap the benefits of a wholesome digital strategy.

Back to the original point though. I sought out this challenge to test my creativity, technical design skills, and my commitment. The trials of learning to design while learning the finer intricacies of a digital drawing tool resulted in a 3-week run of late nights and, on occasion, some head banging. While I don’t get to fly out to the Cannes Festival, I did gain a deeper understanding of PhotoShop while trying to express a connected world through my own lens.


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Paranoid Perspectives: Chromebook and User Data

When I started college, I had all-you-can-print printing services.

25-page essay? No problem.
500-page e-book? Why not?

Three quarters of the way through the year, however, that changed. The dean sent out an email stating how the school would be moving towards a greener lifestyle. Specifically, starting from 2000 printable sheets the next year, we’d decrease that total each year by 500 to a target 500 a year. The real goal, however, was to reduce the number of e-books that were being printed as students were circumventing hardcover prices by purchasing and printing the more cheaply priced e-books.

This astounded me. The environmentally conscious cover secretly fixed a problem that was plaguing the school–and its profits–while achieving a socially responsible objective. It also made me paranoid, as I had suddenly realized how naive I was. Nowadays, I always give companies benefits of the doubt that there lies, in every move, a hidden agenda.

In this post, I’m going to direct my paranoia towards Google and Arby’s.

Just the other day, Google released the Chromebook, the first cloud-based computing device that can be purchased from your local retailers. If you’re a business or education institution, Google is offering a “hardware-as-a-service” where you can rent a Chromebook for $28 and $20, respectively. There’s a 3-year subscription minimum, but your hardware is warranty-protected. At the end of time period, you can continue to subscribe and receive a free hardware upgrade.

Many people are speculating that Google expanded into the software sector to eat away at Microsoft’s core businesses by promoting its own OS and online services. Course, but what else is there?

1) Google didn’t bundle its subscription price with Google Apps. That’s another $4 a month that’ll be a necessity with a Chromebook if it’s to be synchronized with a school or business. This is also similar to Microsoft’s Windows and Office unbundled offerings, though Google’s is notably cheaper. What Microsoft doesn’t have is advertising incorporated into nearly every channel. This is how Google will be milking the golden teets of its revenue cows: from Gmail’s ads to its search listings, and every other application imaginable. Leasing a computer to a workforce that is searching for 8 hours a day, or to students who ignore their teachers for an approximate time period to earn that much more revenue? What a royal scheme that makes $4 per month fee seem nominal.

2) Perceived cost vs actual cost. The base cost of the Chromebook is comparable, if not cheaper, than their tablet competitors. It’s easier to coax smaller, steady streams of money from wallets and purses than it is to rob them of all contents. After 2 years, an Acer Chromebook costs $1,021 (not including tax). After 3 years, $1,357. This is fairly pricey considering you aren’t offered full computer functionality. It’s also fairly comparable to a tablet. An iPad with a keyboard using Chrome OS.

3) The Data Treasure Chest. The true worth of this operation, arguably, is from the unimaginable amounts of user data Google will collect. Not just from the browser, but from the computer itself. What Google always seeks to do is understand user behavior. Chromebooks confine users–assumedly–to the browser from which they access all applications. While users are constantly interacting online, Google is quietly collecting. And to kick, Google gets the hardware back, which they would conceivably set up with tracking technology. Maybe we’ll see a black box once someone takes apart these computers come June 15th.

With this data, Google can better refine its services:

  • Search. Provide more relevant search results by refining its algorithm, through increased understanding of how users surf (EG reasonable surfer model).
  • Advertising. Increase clickthrough rates (and revenue) by improving its retargeting.

It’s hard to predict how successful the Chromebook will be. Users will have to adopt new computing behaviors, learn to trust the cloud, and understand how these technologies work (misunderstanding leads to fear and mistrust…think Apple and location tracking). Cloud computing services will also need to become more sophisticated, as Google Docs is no MS Office killer. Greatest of all, Google will have to outcompete Apple’s iPad in the same space.

Regardless of widespread adoption, Google’s already winning if it only chips away a meager percentage of mobile computing. It’s still advertising to you and collecting your data.

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Advertising Age Global Cover Contest

Ad Age Global Cover ContestAd Age is hosting their annual cover contest for their global issue. The theme is: a connected world. Nothing too mind-blowing there, right? Easy enough to understand conceptually, but another thing to display it through a digital canvas. In their words:

“A Connected World: Brands can transcend national boundaries and connect with people everywhere, on their own terms. The issue will look at global marketing strategies, trends and campaigns, and the people behind them.”

The winner will be flown to the Cannes Lion Festival, where the individual will have his or her work showcased via billboard, through all the magazines distributed to the top CMOs and Creatives around the world. A special toast will also be given during an exclusive cocktail party at the Majestic Hotel.

I can barely draw with a pen and pencil. Time to start e-fingerpainting in MS paint.

Read more about the contest rules.

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Walkin’ the SEO Walk

I’ve been talking a lot of SEO recently at work. I’ve been dishing out to-do’s passively through deliverables and actively through presentations. I think it’s time to walk the (SEO) walk.

Tonight I refined my chaotic category and tagging structures. When I just started off my site, I was recklessly tagging one post after another, inserting humor whenever possible. Thankfully, since my readership is almost exclusively limited to myself, I stopped acting clever and started optimizing my own blog.

It’s important to streamline your tagging methodology to extract the most relevance and authority out of your site as possible. Think of an upside-down family tree where you have your head terms up top and mid-tail and long tail terms branching out down below. Use the head terms to keep your tree rooted into the ground and build out each tag into a silo where you can pick one related keyword from another related keyword. For example, in this post I’ll use the Marketing category and tag it with Search Engine Marketing, followed by SEO. The idea is to present a hierarchy such as this: Marketing >> Search Engine Marketing >> SEO. This helps capture traffic that may be searching the web using a combination of those three keywords, and it helps denote your post’s topic.

Tonight, I spent a good hour building out a tagging structure and revisiting all my previous posts to adhere to this new methodology. Walkin’ the SEO walk may not be more fun than creating new blogposts, but it’s eye-opening. I wouldn’t have thought about updating my sitemap otherwise; I’ve had much previous experience seeing Google Webmaster Tools shout at me because crawlers were using my outdated XML sitemaps.

So anyways, don’t chop down your tree and submit your site to authority erosion by insensibly tagging to and fro. And practice what you preach.

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Study Shows Decrease in Clickthrough Rates of Paid Search

User Centric conducted an eye tracking study that noted an increase in the clickthrough rates of organic search. The first study, conducted back in 2009 after Bing launched, was originally launched to study the amount and distribution of attention on Google’s and Bing’s SERPs. The results show little change in how users utilize both search engines, but that’s not to say there haven’t been any changes.

Google and Bing Heatmap, 2011

Google and Bing Heatmap, 2011

Disclaimer: many sites have already dissected the individual components of this study. See one such example at Search Engine Land as I will instead focus on the results.

To the left you can see a heatmap of both Google and Bing, annotated with total % viewed and average seconds viewed. If you’re the average searcher, you’re rarely looking at the right-rail sponsored results and you merely glance at the sponsored results displayed at the top. Sometimes, you will look at the left pane. Sometimes.

What are you looking at then? Organic Search Results.

Here’s an official list of findings, comparing new data to old data:

  • Google’s top sponsored results enjoy longer gazes than Bing’s
  • Right-rail sponsored results show no difference, though Bing’s performance drops
  • Bing’s left pane sees more eyes (haha)
  • Bing’s flyouts still useless

To sum up, Google will continue making more money than Bing. Here are some other quick thoughts that came to mind:

  • search engines make a lot of money off of advertisers
  • search engines generate a lot of dough from a small set of paid search clickers
  • is there an seo-ppc budgeting disparity?
  • unbeknownst to all, there’s a secret scheme in which bots crawl the web and are the ones actually clicking and dumping advertisers’ money into search engines’ laps,  ie ppFc (pay-per-fraudulent-click)

Anyways, it seems that ads are becoming more useless as information overload is becoming a natural state of being. A lot of companies are also flooding money into display advertising as well, but I also think that these ads are producing a negligible impact. Instead, homepage takeovers and other premium buys generate the most impact. To compare it to search, I would say that premium buys are the head terms — the most costliest but most attentively viewed — while banner ads (medium rectangles, leaderboards, etc) are the longtail, capturing a less attentive audience who may or may not convert as readily.

Now let’s hope that someone starts throwing out heatmaps showing how users interact with the newer SERPs that contain a myriad of multimedia.

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Another Word to Describe Gen-Y

A few months ago, I was working on a group project for a New Products Development course in which we had to launch –you guessed it–a new product.  The brand my group chose was MTV. The product, a(nother) cruiseline. The target, Spring Breakers and Yuppies.

We conducted market research, varied our product offerings, and pseudo-coordinated our partnerships with various sponsors. What we ended up with was a targeted product suited to the particular characteristics of Gen Y: educated individuals who generally care more about today than tomorrow, and who spend their money & their parents money on new, personalized experiences.

Today, I was reminded of this when reading this Twitter usage statistic posted on Among individuals aged 12 and older, Twitter is known by 92%. It’s been adopted by a mere 8%. I then remembered reading some other research where Gen Y / Gen Z generally prefer Tumblr to Twitter as it’s a better platform for self-expression.

Shortly thereafter, I concluded that we’re self-absorbed.

Please, however, prove me wrong by donating to the Japanese Red Cross in light of the recent and on-going crises in Japan.

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Animal Pictures – Keroppi-Wannabe

I conducted an “animal pictures” image search for work today, with the intent of borrowing an animal picture for a mock-up. Borrowing.

Somehow, this keroppi-wannabe showed up instead.

Kitten Keroppi-Wannabe

What a ferocious piece of cute.

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