Tag Archives: Services

Apple Ping: Apple’s Social Network that’s Not Very Social

Apple Ping
Apple Ping

I took the time to download iTunes 10 over the weekend. With it, the new service – Ping. A social network within a walled garden of iTunes.

But not really that much of a social network

The service is simple to activate. Apple – just like Google did with Buzz – placed an icon on the sidebar of iTunes. You select it and the service asks you to turn it on. You can turn the service off at any time, but you have to go hunting that option…

Once you set up your profile, you are ready to start. Just like Twitter, you find your friends and start following them. They can turn around and follow you – or maybe not.

Why it’s not a Social Network

It’s simple: you don’t get to be social at all unless an approved action or transaction takes place. You can friend someone, you can like and comment on something that happened, but you cannot really initiate a conversation. At least, I cannot seem to find a way to do that…

There is no “What are you doing now” type option. I have to wait for someone to purchase something to reply. It’s like sitting in class until a teacher says something – you can then raise your hand to comment or question.

Selective content to Ping

Since I don’t have cable in my house, I purchase the season pass for “Mad Men” through iTunes. I was surprised to not see that Ping did not post: Jeffrey Powers watched episode 405 of Mad Men. It didn’t post: Jeffrey Powers just subscribed to these podcasts or that I just downloaded the latest and greatest iPhone app.  I couldn’t even press a button to announce that I was doing stuff on iTunes.

However, I can download a song, choose to “Like” it and that information will show up in Ping.

What? I have to keep iTunes open now?

Some of us don’t think too much on this – you might have iTunes open all the time. However, I try to keep a minimum amount of programs open.

When iTunes is open, it also opens up Apple Mobile Device Helper, disnoted (for iPhone connection) and a series of other processes depending on what you have connected to your iTunes. The full list  of processes are on Apple’s website. Not all of those processes end when I close iTunes.


Apparently, spammers hit the page as quickly as they did with Buzz and Facebook. Apple has taken steps to resolve that one. Being behind that walled garden might help curb issues. Still, if people stop using this service, it could become a constant problem. Spammers seem to love any open door.

Will Ping replace Facebook?

Not at this current stage. I always said you would have to add Farmville and MafiaWars to have that happen. Apple doesn’t even let people know what apps you bought on your iPhone.

At most it’s a sounding board for musical artists. Instead of hearing about politics, technology or sports; you find out about what music is new and what people’s tastes are in music.

For instance, if you looked at my Ping profile, you will find out my musical tastes and what songs I just downloaded.

In summary, Ping is the social network that lets you talk when it’s your turn. You can only talk about the stuff posted on the board – which is limited. I cannot even find my Twitter friends easily, which might be a good thing. You must use iTunes to use it, so if you don’t use iTunes to purchase music, this service is completely useless.

One more thing: I tried to check out the privacy policy and all I got was this (it’s the only link on the page that fails):

Ping Privacy Policy
Ping Privacy Policy

What Makes A Tech Success?

It seems in the world of computers and the Internet there is always a steady stream of new things on the horizon, as well as a steady stream of new products and services. It’s been this way for many years at this point.

There are always winners and losers. Winners can win big, and losers at worst fail to make any marketplace splash or even a ripple and end up in the tech dustbin of obscurity with few people ever knowing that the product or service ever existed.

What is it that makes for a successful product? Why is it that some products and services that seem very similar to other products and services end up becoming household names, while others end up being cancelled domain name landing pages?

It’s obvious there are a variety of factors that come into play. If it were easy to predict these things, we would have a lot fewer losers. Why did Twitter become a household name, whereas similar services such as Plurk and Jaiku languish in the shadows? What enabled Facebook to steal most of the MySpace thunder?

New products and services that end up being successful frequently incorporate elements and principles of previously-existing successes, but package them in more compact and useful forms.

Initially when Twitter came along a couple of years ago, I heard people talking about it, but I was a bit resistant to sign up. I felt like I had plenty of ways to communicate with people, so why did I need to add yet another account to a service that would steal away time I already had filled, only to ultimately let yet another account go dormant? I finally signed up for Twitter, and after I began using it I began to understand the value of it. With a service like Twitter, the more people that are using it, the more valuable it becomes.

About the same time I signed up for a Twitter account, I also signed up for a Plurk account. After a few visits to the Plurk website over a period of a month or two, I haven’t been back to the site since.

I believe what is valuable about Twitter is that 140 character limit per Tweet, forcing people to be succinct with their wording. Twitter and Tweet are cute names. The site design is simple, the blue bird logo pleasing to the eye, and the developers kept the API and name open to other developers, allowing an entire ecosystem of ancillary products and services to develop around it at the same time it was rapidly increasing in popularity. Twitter is very much like chat, which was already well established, but it had the added value that it either could be in real time, or not, able to be accessed from a vast array of devices beyond the Twitter website. Twitter also allows you to subscribe to just the people you want, and ignore or even completely block the rest. Twitter also allows you to reach out and touch people, and it allows you to monitor what others are up to whose lives are at once very similar to your own, yet often radically different. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish interacting with the service. Another thing that turned out to be incredibly useful with twitter is the vast 24/7 real-time data stream that it generates. Real-time Twitter data mining has proved to be quite valuable to many people.

To be honest I have always thought that many MySpace pages were often monstrous, unbelievably cluttered messes that often took a long time to load. Nonetheless, MySpace became popular because it obviously served a need with a younger demographic.

I’ve always thought Facebook’s interface is somewhat confusing, though allowing for far less cluttered and confusing-looking profile pages. I still don’t quite understand what got Facebook to the level of critical popularity – perhaps the less-cluttered, faster-loading profile pages gave it the critical edge over MySpace.

It should also be noted that Facebook allowed for an open API, allowing a myriad of interesting and often useful applications to be plugged in to its interface.

However it did it, Facebook managed to get to a critical mass of users where it became THE thing to sign up for and THE place to be to stay connected with family, friends and business associates. Something interesting has happened with Facebook that has never happened before – everyday, non-geek people who had never built website profiles in all the years they had been doing email and web browsing were suddenly signing up for Facebook in unbelievable numbers. Mothers, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, etc. were suddenly showing up on the same service with their kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids. Once the ball rolled, Facebook became an incredible success.

I started noticing a while back that many people were starting to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other in lieu of email. At this point I find myself getting pulled into that trend myself. These services don’t offer the relative privacy of direct email, but they allow for easy, frequent public conversations and easy sharing of personal media such as photos between friends and family on a global scale.

What I take away from the success stories versus the less-successful competitors is that oftentimes the differences in design and implementation can be slight, but those slight differences can offer real, tangible advantages to the end user. If those often-slight advantages can somehow help get the product or service to a critical mass threshold, they can find themselves catapulted to the point of planetary awareness.

Drivesafe.ly Hear your Text messages while you drive – CES 2010

Drivesafe.ly For Blackberry and Android phones and soon for iPhone and Palm. The program runs in the background and reads off your emails and text messages in real time.

CES 2010 Content Sponsor: Try GotoAssist Express free for 30 days! The perfect IT Toolbox! For this special offer, visit GotoAssist.com/techpodcasts

Your App Shop – Legal Application store alternative for iPhone – CES 2010

Maria from YourAppShop.com found a way to legally publish their own application store on the iPhone. You can get some great magic applications and other store verticals.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine

CES 2010 Content Sponsor: Try GotoAssist Express free for 30 days! The perfect IT Toolbox! For this special offer, visit GotoAssist.com/techpodcasts

Dyyno Video Distribution System – CES 2010

Dyyno is a Video Service that was one of our picks of the day, Andy McCaskey from SDR News takes some time to go over this innovatie Video Distribution system. Dyyno lets webcasters manage their entire online video lifecycle. Dyyno is deploying what they are terming “Dyyno’s Hybrid Reliable Streaming (HyReS™) technology” It sure is a moutful but for a bunch of guys that shot well over 250 videos at CES in 2010 we know the impact of managing and distributing all of that content.

CES 2010 Content Sponsor: Try GotoAssist Express free for 30 days! The perfect IT Toolbox! For this special offer, visit GotoAssist.com/techpodcasts

Do you read ALL of that email?

In this day and age, it’s easier to send a message to someone across the world than ever. I remember watching my mom write a letter to someone back before I knew about email. She would be meticulous in what she had to say simply because she knew that she had only one shot to get all her information in. After all, she wasn’t going to write an snail mail that said:

Hey. How are you?

Could you imagine the timeframe of those postal transactions?

August 24, 1978 – Sent “Hey. How are you?”

August 30, 1978 – Received “I am doing great. How are you?”

September 5, 1978 – Sent “I am doing great. Did you catch Led Zeppelin last night?”

September 20, 1978 – Received “Yeah.”

September 21, 1978 – Sent ” How was it?”

November 11, 1978 – Received “Sorry. Got busy. What were we talking about again?”

Now let’s flip that. Today, I might send an email like this:

Hey Joe. I am writing to talk about that thing #1 we discussed last week over coffee. I really enjoyed the conversation and would like to proceed further on that. What is a good time to sit and discuss it?

Also, what is the time frame for that thing #2? I am looking for new people to research to see if this is going to be a hot item.

I would get an email back saying:

Hey Jeff. The time frame will be by September 1st.

What happened to thing #1? Why did thing #1 even get skipped? Wouldn’t you instinctively respond about thing #1 and not thing #2?

I am not sure if anyone has done a study on this, but it would be really interesting to see how you process an email in your head and respond. It is definitely not like the days of yore. Then again, when I responded to a snail mail, I would have the original letter next to me – in which I have highlighted the important items to talk about.

Do we have short attention spans on email?

I would believe not. I think it’s more about organization. For instance – my desktop is a dual monitor system with a resolution of over 1600×1200. My laptop is a single monitor with a resolution of 1280×800 (and to respond to those who are surprised on the notebook resolution: no, I am already legally blind – at least that is what the eye doctor says).

Still, I have more real estate on my desktop between 2 screens. I can move one item over to screen 2, then respond on screen 1.

There have been past reports saying that people with dual monitor systems get more work done. Imagine what I could get done if I had 4 – 32″ monitors on my desktop at a resolution of 3200 x 2400? Imagine the suntan I could get, too.

You can always organize your email

There is a very useful tool out there called “Highlighter”. It’s a Firefox application for when I use Gmail, and there is a highlighter option in Office that I can use as well. I can mark out the key points so I remember to respond to them.

If I have an important email to respond to (especially one that will cover multiple paragraphs), I will look at it, then – depending on urgency – close it. I will open it back up an hour later and start my response. When I am done I will save it as a draft and come back to it in no less than 15 minutes later. With the “Fresh Eyes” I will paruse and make changes.

Don’t fall into the Twitter approach

Email doesn’t have to be 140 characters or less. In fact, I always hated an email – or SMS for that matter – that would be 2 letters – “OK”. It’s not even punctuated correctly, so I sometimes think “Oklahoma”, which then puts me into a rousing verse of the musical (It’s my MTS – Musical Turrets Syndrome – kicking in. I have done a thesis on this condition. Something I have to live with).

I am reminded of an important email I sent a while back. I inquired on 3 points and marked urgent. I got this for a response:

Yes, No, No in that order.

Am I bothering you?

I don’t expect a dissertation on each point, but come on: let’s be real here. Especially since I only have a short attention span to begin with. I don’t remember what the Yes, No, No could even mean. So I make things up:

Yes (I am cross-eyed), No (I don’t have a million dollars), No (I dance naked in the rain) in that order.

I’ll tell you, I get a little annoyed when I get those very short responses. I try not to take it too seriously, of course. I may eventually stop corresponding if I feel that I am wasting your time.

We don’t write like we used to. We know that whatever we miss we can send in another email a couple minutes later. No 40 cent stamp required (or whatever it costs to send via snail mail). The art of communication is blindsided by 140 character tweets. Not to say that 140 character tweets are not an art form of their own.

Don’t use the Mobile Device to respond

A screen of 240 x 120 cannot be any better than 1280 x 800. Add to it a smaller keypad, and in some cases, a numeric keypad used to respond. I seem to still send email responses on my iPhone that are a couple paragraphs, but other times want to just send out a fast reply. No “O.K.” response though.

I suppose any email response is better than no email response (Gus, do you realize I send you email on a business nature? Tell me if you are alive at least). Then again, I might just send out a snail mail for old times’ sake.

Anyone have an address I can send a letter to?

Do you want Google Managing all your Mail?

Google has announced that users of Gmail, will soon be able to retrieve mail from  up to five other accounts. Those that are totally in love with web based mail may like this, but I still download all of my Gmail into Outlook and very rarely login to Gmail itself.

This feature has been requested for a long time and I know that Hotmail allowed you to do this as well. I already use rules within outlook to manage my multiple e-mail accounts so until Gmail brings more outlook like features to the service, I cannot see using them to manage all my mail.

What do you think? Would you prefer to have Gmail pull up to 5 other accounts email into your Gmail account? [TechCrunch]