Live now: This Week In Google 57 with Gina Trapani and Chris DiBona. Watch live at http://live.twit.tv, chat at http://irc.twit.tv, or comment here!
Something happened tonight that made me question everything I’ve done with social media since I first joined Twitter in late 2006.
You know me – I’m a complete web whore. I sign up for every site, try every web app, use every service I can find. It’s my job, but I also love doing it. I believe in the Internet as a communication tool. I love trying the myriad new ways people are using it to connect and I believed that social media specifically had some magic new potential to bring us together.
When Google announced Buzz last year I was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. I welcomed a competitor to Twitter that had the community features I loved in Friendfeed and Jaiku, and I thought Google had the best chance to create a second generation social network. I defended Google for its initial privacy stumbles and I began to use Buzz exclusively, replacing Twitter, Friendfeed, and Facebook. I built a following of over 17,000 people. I was happy.
Then last night I noticed that my Buzzes were no longer showing up on Twitter (I use a service called Buzz Can Tweet that has been pretty reliably rebroadcasting my Buzz posts to Twitter.) I looked more closely at my Buzz feed and noticed that there had been considerably less engagement over the past few weeks. Then I noticed that I wasn’t seeing my posts in my Buzz timeline at all. A little deeper investigation showed that nothing I had posted on Buzz had gone public since August 6. Nothing. Fifteen posts buried, including show notes from a week’s worth of TWiT podcasts.
Maybe I did something wrong to my Google settings. Maybe I flipped some obscure switch. I am completely willing to take the blame here. But I am also taking away a hugely important lesson.
No one noticed.
Not even me.
It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. All this time I’ve been pumping content into the void like some chatterbox Onan. How humiliating. How demoralizing.
Thank God the content I deem most important, my Internet and broadcast radio shows, still stand. I believe in what I’m doing there, and have been very fortunate to have found an audience. I’m pretty sure I would have heard from people if there had been 16 days of dead silence there. Hell, if we miss one show I get hundreds of emails. But I feel like I’ve woken up to a bad social media dream in terms of the content I’ve put in others’ hands. It’s been lost, and apparently no one was even paying attention to it in the first place.
I should have been posting it here all along. Had I been doing so I’d have something to show for it. A record of my life for the last few years at the very least. But I ignored my blog and ran off with the sexy, shiny microblogs. Well no more. I’m sorry for having neglected you Leoville. From now on when I post a picture of a particularly delicious sandwich I’m posting it here. When I complain that Sookie is back with Bill, you’ll hear it here first. And the show notes for my shows will go here, too.
Social media, I gave you the best years of my life, but never again. I know where I am wanted. Screw you Google Buzz. You broke my heart.
My father-in-law just asked me an interesting question:
How much would an inch of water covering an acre weigh?
It’s not such a difficult question. It seems like a perfect query for Wolfram Alpha.
WA doesn’t get the question at all. In fact, it seems to have classified an acre as an animal. Maybe I should have said hectare? Nope. It does no better.
Interestingly, Google makes solving this problem trivial, thanks to the useful “convert” command. I solved the problem in two steps. (It helps to know that a cubic centimeter of water weighs a gram – in fact, that’s the definition of a gram.)
Convert 1 inch x 1 acre to cubic centimeters -> 102 790 153 cubic centimeters
We already have the answer, 102,790,153 grams, but to put it into terms that are more human I Googled:
and got the correct answer, 113.306748 short tons.
No matter that my father-in-law used a calculator, we both got the same answer, proving that Google is, in some cases, better at numeric analysis than Wolfram Alpha.
The real problem with WA is that it’s not easy to formulate a query that produces the results you’re looking for. Type ‘blood alcohol‘ and you’ll get fascinating results (thanks to Chris Heath for finding that, by the way), but not necessarily results you can expect. And, as it turns out, predictability is an important feature of any search engine, or computational knowledge engine for that matter. Before it’s useful you need to have some idea of what kind of answers you might get, and, for the moment, Wolfram Alpha’s results seem utterly random. I’m rooting for it, but it may be that it’s just too smart for The Rest Of Us.
(Thanks to Edward Coffey who points out that the query “1 acre * 1 inch * 1g / cubic centimetre” works on Wolfram Alpha. Quite well, in fact. But I don’t think that changes my point.)
UPDATE: Google’s response is here. Seems that someone left a slash ‘/’ on a line by itself in the list of spyware sites – which means all sites were flagged.The problem occurred from 6:30 to 7:25 Pacific Saturday morning.
This is an incredibly stupid error and shows how vulnerable the net is. Also, where do I turn off phishing filtering in my Google results?
Great news for Jyri and Petteri and the Jaiku team – Google has just bought the company.
This is so well deserved – the Jaikus have been working so hard and have created a superior product.
Google already owns Dodgeball – but Jaiku has so many additional cool features. I presume this means a native Jaiku client on the GPhone?
And you can continue to follow me on Jaiku at chieftwit.jaiku.com.
I’m in the middle of the radio show so I’ll make this brief. I can’t search on Google. In Firefox, Safari, and directly from the Google site I get the same error message:
Even when I supply the captcha it refuses to perform the search.
Has anyone seen this before? This is bizarre! It’s only happening on my Mac. The PC on the same network works fine. Must be something I’m running on the Mac. (Stickam? Wakoopa?)