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the Focus

the Focus

What happened to the Google Wave?

Photo: MorroBayChuck (flickr)

Google made a splash with their demo launch video for Wave. The ripples flowed through the social web as some, me included, anticipated great things. It was Google after all, and when do they fail? (more often than you’d think, it turns out). Beyond the great Google stamp of awesome though, any communication product that could translate two-way conversations on the fly surely was a game-changer, right? That feature wasn’t even core to the product, in fact, it was almost mentioned as an afterthought — “… by the way,” the demonstrators seemed to say, “this Phaeton also turns into a plane. Moving on…”

Later, (though, probably not soon enough later) the Wave was unleashed to general users with “limited” invites. They joined, linked up, and tried to ride the Wave.

And, if Google Trends had been hooked up to Wave, the highest term would have been “uh… What now?”

Days later, the Wave never hit the shore.

So now that it’s gone, what can we learn?

Even the savvy users didn’t get it. (perhaps some of the savviest did, but I digress) What was the purpose? What problem is this product solving? It was undefined, or too complex.

Google seemed to go against it’s own process, so giddy on it’s own cleverness. What happened to Marissa Mayer and her crusade for simplicity? When the iPhone launched, it didn’t offer the app store or iTunes. These features were introduced later. Even when Google itself launched, it was a search bar and a results page. The value revealed itself, and seemed to work as if by magic.

So the Wave team didn’t answer the most crucial question – who is it for? Did Google understand it’s customer, or just focus on the product? As Steven Gary Blank describes in “The Four Steps To The Epiphany,” companies that are creating a product for a new market must sell simplicity. If it’s a new concept that I have to try to understand and a new set of behaviors I have to adopt, you’d better make it easier for me than whatever I’m already using (waaay easier). Moreover, did Google think past the launch – how the product would roll out socially as well as technologically? To what influencers did they roll the product out, first? As in the case of the recent Flipboard launch, where Robert Scoble tested first and was very happy to extol the virtues of Flipboard at launch. Wave could have partnered with not only individuals, but organizations to demonstrate through case studies or events just what it was for, and how it improved our lives.

Instead, the launch was pseudo-Steve-Jobsian, a tablet-on-the-mount speech that blew us away, but had no pay-off. With iPhone launches, however, there is physical social currency, whereas passionate Wave advocates and avid users were hidden. Which brings us to the most important point – one that Google of all companies should understand and execute without fail: Connection.


Ironically, this is what Google Wave set out to improve, and yet this is what it failed to provide. Modern services developed for widespread use must connect with other services. Wave didn’t even connect properly with Gmail. The most basic connection, notifications, required a hacky plug-in and a significant time investment. Of course, once one user had installed notification, there were few other users with it, so the Waves would stall anyway. Further, there was no connection to other tools and services that we use on a daily basis. If Wave activity was associated with a user’s existing social profile, on Facebook or Twitter, the product might have had a fighting chance.

Like Apple’s Newton, this could be another case of too much, too soon. As with Apple, its Newton and its iPhone, the market wasn’t ready for the technology or the change in behaviour. We knew it would happen, eventually, but there was still a long way to go. Will it be Google that reintroduces the wave concept in a few years, or will it be another provider, say Facebook with it’s unmatched engagement and depth of profile to facilitate Wave 2.0’s introduction; or an entirely new provider, with a more disruptive vision and an understanding of the future of on-demand, live, ubiquitous connection? Will it be you?

Regardless of whom starts Wave 2.0, at least we’ll always have the Pulp Fiction Wave:

Magic Fingers Ads: Separating The Muggles From The Wizards


When a new technology comes along, or in this case, a new video effect, the first use cases are rarely contextually appropriate.

It must have just got easier to build 3D composite videos, because they’re being churned out faster than auto-tuned hip-hop songs as many creative minds are overwhelmed by the razzle-dazzle of their spot actors invoking Hogwartsish incantations of product features out of thin air. Examples are piling up and running back-to-back in some instances.

Before we look at who’s getting it right, let’s look at a few examples that didn’t quite…

Finance Canada

The Canadian Government tries to metaphorically represent their new website experience with citizens plucking grant options from the clouds, but the message – the benefits – are lost among the gimmicky visuals.


Ford goes through a similar experience, as the car buyer is building her Escape in her mind’s eye by shoving animated features one-by-one in to the SUV.


SyFy’s recent brand announcement is more of the classic high-budget blue-screen big-CG style, but the partygoers are tossing around magic items with abandon. Each one, more awkwardly than the last.


Blackberry attempts to demonstrate that you can control your whole world in your Curve. The representation of the mobile digital experience though is cringe-worthy though, as the actor, as with all of these examples, just isn’t quite sure where to focus her eyes.

So, who’s doing it right?


HP’s “personal” celebrity stories commercials are instantly recognizable – yes, they have star power, but it’s the execution that works so well with this creative platform. Perhaps the best decision here was to cut off their heads. Not only does it invite the viewer to try to figure out who the celebrity is, but the celebrity doesn’t have to worry about looking silly and unfocused as they stare at their waving and empty hands. These ads have earned big viewcounts on YouTube, has boast lots of user-generated videos and parodies, further proving the success of the concept. These commercials could be about anyone, and HP has seized this opportunity, expanding the platform on YouTube with the “You On You” contest (which I wrote about it on Threeminds).


iPhone ads demonstrate the apps, sell the benefits and dazzle you with the product, not computer graphics of metaphors of potential behaviours that you could maybe have at some point.

You might think using the iPhone ads as a best practice example is a cop-out – the fingers are demonstrating the product itself, you say, not flicking around post-production 3D objects… and to this I say…


Threeminds Three-pack: Holistic Brand Experiences, Social Media Monitoring and iPhonic Flash

3minds3pack.gifIt’s been too long since I posted a three-pack from Organic’s ThreeMinds blog. These great posts are creating a lot of discussion:

  1. Where Does Brand Experience Begin and End? by Anthony Viviano and Sarah Jo Sautter examines the rare execution of holistic brand experiences, across media and from web to office or retail.
  2. Do Social Media Marketers Dream Of Monitoring Tools? by Anna Banks outlines the features needed for deep social media monitoring. This new discipline is noisy, and expanding rapidly. And also;
  3. Why You Shouldn’t Care About Seeing Flash on iPhone by Fang-Yu Lin shuts down the speculation. If you care about user experience, you’ll understand why.

Threeminds: The Prototype Experience pulls your Facebook data… and pulls you in deep

As the shimmering waters of Facebook, Twitter and other social spheres are opened, many marketers are diving in the shallow end head first and hoping that the API waterwings their social media guru has supplied will keep them afloat.

I blogged about a few of these examples here, listing some brands gasping for air as their Twitter API “strategy” gets pulled from their lungs, and others just treading water.


Enter, a console game site (the Mitch Buchanan of this metaphor), where users link the Prototype trailer with their social graph and assets via Facebook Connect.

This is an excerpt of a post… Read the rest of this post on Organic’s Threeminds Blog

Threeminds Three-pack: Valuating your MySpace friends, 404 ads, and Fave 2008 iPhone apps

3minds3pack.gifOrganic’s ThreeMinds blog has a couple of great posts that I think you’ll enjoy:

  1. Social media micro case study: “X-Men” by Russ Hopkinson estimates the value of a brands’ friends on MySpace, and what they may have lost.
  2. Turning Nothing Into Something by Michael Beavers examines a fantastic idea from — Advertising in context on a 404 error page. And also;
  3. A Look Back at Some Favorite iPhone Apps from 2008

Olympics Web Strategy: How the Internet is trying to tame the Beijing dragon


Photo by Chinaguccio

I’m an Olympics junkie. But, until the olympiad when I can watch the event I want, when I want, wherever I want, my craving will remain unsated.

Athens 2004 gave a glimpse at the potential of the future of Olympics coverage, and as Beijing 2008 approached, it seemed that on-demand, super-immersive web strategy and mobile tactics would be ubiquitous and all-encompassing.

As it turns out, it’s not quite there yet. NBC’s has no regrets however, as their lock down of the coverage has grabbed a 17.6 Nielsen rating and $1 Billion in advertising revenue.

Nevertheless, social media and Web 2.0 has opened new doors for the dissemination and celebration of the games to spread higher, faster and stronger.

Here are some of the strategies and memes that are defining the Olympic Games online and on your mobile device:


Wired’s “How to watch the olympics online”

Wired Olympics WikiIf you’re hunting for the ultimate on-demand and live coverage online, this is a good place to start.

CCTV Olympics Flash interface

Flash designers are boasting about the scope of the content being delivered on a Flash platform implementation. It’s “pretty,” I suppose, but severely limited as far as organization of the content and usability. It’s possible this answers the question whether Flash can support large projects, but that’s secondary to delivering a good user experience… and Flash just isn’t the right fit for this type of content.

NBC using Silverlight

… but at least the CCTV site is Flash and not Silverlight. Users, if they’re so fortunate to own a Windows PC, are forced to download the new Microsoft Silverlight plug-in to view NBC’s online video. After that hurdle is cleared, the experience is good for some, terrible for others.


Google Olympics Web StrategyStartupMeme lists the many Google initiatives for the games, including Gadgets, One-box search, Maps visualizations and the (arguably) revolutionary dedicated YouTube channel.

And here’s Google’s mobile access to stats and updates.


All the major content providers have built desktop widgets.

Lenovo’s TVTonic Super-Widget

Lenovo WidgetLenovo’s has sponsored a skinned TVTonic app that allows you to subscribe to full-length events, viewable on- and off-line.

Interactive Strategies

CBC’s Sport Explainer

CBC AnimationCBC explains events with simple animations. You can learn water polo by clicking on the link at the bottom right here>

BBC Interactive Olympic Map

Interactive MapThe BBC leverages Microsoft Live Search Maps to surface blog and twitter coverage via a geographical visualization.

NYT’s Medal Count Map Visualization

New York Times VisualizationThe New York Times shows us the historical (and current) medal counts for all of the modern games.

BBC’s Olympic Myth: “Monkey”

BBC Monkey Viral VideoThe Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett adapt and animate a classical Chinese novel to promote BBC coverage.


Blackberry Cool’s Olympic Roundup

Blackberr ApplicationsFollow on your Blackberry with these apps.

Softpedia’s Blackberry Beijing Travel App

Travel AppGoing to Beijing? Here’s an interesting targeted Travel App.

Zumobi’s Olympic iPhone App

iPhone Olympics AppZumobi has a simple app – no video, but general coverage, including photos and blogs. If you have an iPhone, let me know what you think of this…

Social Media

Twitter Hashtags: BG08, Beijing, Olympics

The twitterati can’t make up their mind on a tag, so here’s all three as they are rolling out on Twemes.


Olympics on FlickrWow, Flickr had a great opportunity to capitalize on all the great photos from the event… but finding the good photos is tough. Most searches return almost an equal number of protest and political images as mediocre shots of the games.

Facebook Apps

Olympics on FacebookPramati has built an interesting Guess-the-Podium app for Sun. It’s a good idea, but tough to guess many events – that is, I could have an educated guess on a World Cup or March Madness app, but I’m not sure who to pick for 60kg Men’s Freestyle Wrestling. Will it be He Qin, Yandro Quintana or Mavlet Batirov who take the gold?

NBC’s and other also-ran apps are available too.



Bloggers Blog Olympics Blogs and Twitterers

A great list of bloggers and twitterers is collected here.

Athlete Blogs

Athletes' BlogsWith so many to follow, I haven’t had a chance to sift through these massive lists. (If you have any highlights of great athlete bloggers or entries, let me know.)

WordPress Tag: Olympics

Of course, there are lots of other bloggers talking about the olympics. WordPress aggregates the tags from these posts.

Reuters Olympics Podcasts

User-generated content and Memes

We can’t ignore the waves of UGC and the viral contributions of general public.

FriendFeed Spanish Faux-pas

Spanish Basketball TeamThis story exploded across the web, and gains strength still via social networks.

Blue Screen of Death @ Opening Ceremonies

The meme says Windows projected its infamous artwork on during the opening ceremonies. Real or fake? Either way, geeks grabbed on to the story and added another chapter to the Windows Fail mythology.

LOLBush @ Olympics

The Guardian wonders if Bush “can haz” anything else to do, besides watching Misty May dig sand.

Sponsor Strategies

Most of the official international sponsors have weak (if any) strategies – Flash timelines and movies that unapologetically cram the brands down the users’ throats. If your computer doesn’t crash, check out Panasonic’s “World Wide Wave.” Yikes.

On the other side of things

McDonalds’ The Lost Ring Cross-channel Immersive Storyline

Wow. I stumbled on to this only recently, and it looks expansive, and impressive. It also looks like it’s nearly over. I’ll be looking deeper into this multilingual social media play.

Atos Origin’s On-site Infrastructure

Here’s an overview of Beijing 2008’s IT provider’s offerings, including the “Olympic Family Intranet”

Kodak’s Blog?

Kodak's BlogMeh. Kodak’s final olympiad as an Olympic sponsor passes on a weak note online.

… one interesting post however, is the comprehensive gallery of Kodak’s Olympic Pins.

Samsung’s Medal Mania

Medal Mania is a cross-Internet hunt for medals. The clues are kind of lame, but it’s a good attempt at engagement.

Official Web Strategy

Beijing 2008’s official site

Beijing's Official Web StrategyOne wonders at the missed (?) opportunities for the official sites to host and stream on-demand content. And for revenue streams? Sponsorships, subscriptions and fee-driven access. How about a deal with iTunes?

Vancouver 2010

Vancouver's Official Web StrategyFinally, a shameless proud plug for the home team currently building towards the next winter games. Go Canada Go! (See you there.)

This list is a work-in-progress. Send me your links and thoughts on the games…

Meeting virtually in real life (Part 1): Web strategy and tools are changing the conversation at conferences

meshaudience1.jpgWeb conferences have become host to the new wave of viral tools and technologies that are enhancing community and business meetings. Carlson Marketing calls this next-gen conference style ‘Meetings 2.0.’ As a worldwide enabler of business meetings, Carlson has added mobile tools and social networking to their meetings and events offerings, which expands the experience from just ‘During’ to include ‘Before’ and ‘After.’

Twead carefully during your keynote

mesh-logo.gifRecently, at the Toronto Mesh web conference, a lot was revealed about the future of conferences. Specifically, the massive impact of mobile devices and social media tools on these types of get-togethers. The communication vehicle of choice? Twitter, of course. During the two-day event, power-tweeters (frequent users of Twitter) introduced the power and benefits of micro-blogging to dozens of twuddites. (Twitter luddites)

What was the call to action for these new adopters? Easily a quarter of the audience members in any given session had laptops open, and half of them were twittering amongst themselves, expanding the presentations and panels to deep discussions in the seats.

twemes.gifTwemes, a Twitter API implemetation, further enabled the conversation between tweeters, as Mesh attendees or ‘Meshies’ tagged their 140-character-or-less comments with ‘#mesh08,’ allowing the community to follow the discussion in real time as the comments rolled by. You can see all of these comments aggregated here.

I recommend trying out ideally, follow a “hot pick” in the top right corner (these are usually conferences) and click “start live update” to see the topic-tagged twitters roll by. You can imagine the additional engagement this provides for events and conferences.

The added value of the Twitter conversation backchannel was obvious. During the conference, Meshies were using Twitter to discuss the future of music as a business model, and taking the liberty of re-branding Saturn’s awkwardly named social network ImSaturn (the marketer from Saturn tried desperately to point us to the correct URL, but stumbled through the difficult address).

Do we even have to attend anymore?

scribblelive.gifScribbleLive was unveiled at Mesh ’08, a live blogging platform with real-time updates. In this forum, ScribbleLive users live-blogged forums and presentations, allowing multi-taskers and attendees in other sessions follow multiple discussions. For a great example of the group blogging output, check out the live blog of Steve Jobs’ Keynote at the WWDC, including his announcement of the new iPhone 3G.


My mobile meeting manager

Mesh ’08 also boasted an impressive, although slightly off-the-mark blackberry app. The technically-oriented (crackberry-addicted) audience presented an optimal opportunity for Sweet Caesar to offer a free downloadable guide to the event. The features and user experience of the app were quite valuable, even though it just left me wanting more.

Among the features were a venue map, schedule and presenter bios. Unfortunately, this information didn’t update over the two days and was incorrect (as conference schedules go) as soon as the first keynote began. Overall however, the implementation demonstrated the potential for great value in the future. Now event planners must consider “What is my mobile strategy?” “What is my web strategy?” Maybe next time we’ll see the integration of Twitter, ScribbleLive and social networking tools to enhance our next Mesh (or your next conference’s) experience.

Look for Part 2 of my post on the evolution of Meetings and Conferences: Meeting virtually in real life (Part 2): Entertain us, we’re bored and twittering.