Round and Round.....

by Joseph Akbrud


Once again summer is coming to an end.  Nothing represents summer better than an amusement park. 

Lynn's Trapeze

Lynn's Trapeze


Google+ ends its real-name policy

by Joseph Akbrud


In an interesting turn of events Google+ has decided to end its real-name policy.  Google+ users will now be able to use the service using a pseudonym.  While there are many legitimate reasons to maintain anonymity online, this latest move by Google+ has a certain air of desperation to it.  In its post explaining the decision the search company claims that it's real name policy "...has been unclear" leading to "...unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users." 

While Google's policy reversal should make it easier for users to register for the service, one has to wonder whether this will actually help increase user adoption and engagement on the site.  I personally feel that the real-name policy helped keep conversations on the social network far more civil and thoughtful than they probably would have been.  As we all know a bit too well, anonymity online is a double-edged sword.


Foursquare, Swarm and the Evolution of the Check-in

by Joseph Akbrud


When Foursquare recently announced that they were planning on splitting their app in two, many criticized the change.

In this post I would like to focus one particular aspect of the revamp: mayorships.  Analyzing mayorhips, and more importantly, why they are being downplayed significantly is in my opinion a model for how and why Foursquare is changing as a company.

Dennis Crowley has been saying for a while that Foursquare, while popular, has a perception problem.  Most people view Foursquare as a game.  It’s the app where users check-in to try to win badges and mayorships when the fact of the matter is, Foursquare offers far more than that.  Over the years it has matured into a product that thanks to billions of check-ins, features a fairly comprehensive and easy to use recommendation engine.  Downplaying the gamification aspect of the app while highlighting discovery is their way of forcing their community of over 45 million to alter their behavior.


Discounts seem to be going away as well.  I’ll admit that as a user, this is probably the one feature that I will miss.  From a business and product perspective, I can understand why they are making this change.  By eliminating discounts they are eliminating the need to strike deals with brick and mortar businesses.  Anyone who has visited a bar or restarurant’s outdated, tacky flash based website will attest to the fact that many small businesses are not exactly leaping into the 21st century head first.

Keep in mind that while Fousquare is a social network, at the end of the day, they're competing with the likes of Yelp and Zagat, not Facebook and Twitter.


The Case for Bitcoin

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier today the New York Times published a piece written by Marc Andreessen (a co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) titled "Why Bitcoin Matters".  This article is, in my opinion, the most compelling case that has been made for Bitcoin  thus far.  While many have defended the virtual currency, here is what makes Andreesen's case so compelling:

He has a knack for accurately predicting tech trends:  

He's predicted the rise of social, the cloud and the web browser itself to name a few.  Andreesen introduces his readers to Bitcoin my making the following claim:  

"Eventually mainstream products, companies and industries emerge to commercialize it; its effects become profound; and later, many people wonder why its powerful promise wasn’t more obvious from the start.  What technology am I talking about? Personal computers in 1975, the Internet in 1993, and – I believe – Bitcoin in 2014."

Because he isn't the type to make grandiose statements often, when he does he should be taken seriously.

He puts his money where his mouth is:

Andreesen Horowitz has invested over $50 million in Bitcoin related companies so far (including $25 million in Coinbase alone).

He sees Bitcoin as more than just a digital currency:

When most people defend or denounce Bitcoin they focus solely on its application as a digital currency.  Andreesen goes beyond that and focuses on its potential as a secure method of transfer for digital and physical goods.

"...Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.

What kinds of digital property might be transferred in this way? Think about digital signatures, digital contracts, digital keys (to physical locks, or to online lockers), digital ownership of physical assets such as cars and houses, digital stocks and bonds … and digital money."

 


Facebook's App Strategy and the Fragmentation of Social

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier this week The Verge ran a story stating that Facebook will unveil a “suite of standalone mobile apps”.  These apps will most likely be lean and utilitarian, similar to the messenger app.  This is part of Facebook’s evolution from a social networking behemoth focused on a single product (Facebook.com) to a layered, complex organization that weaves together many products.   

When Facebook launched in 2004 Myspace was by far the most popular social network in the United States with millions of registered users.  Myspace was used for photo sharing, dating, microblogging and video and music sharing making it the social hub of the internet at time.  Myspace’s success however was short lived.  College students began flocking to Facebook because of it’s clean design and lack of spam (issues that plagued Myspace since its inception).  By the time Facebook opened its doors to the world, it was clear that Facebook was the new de facto standard for social networking.   

Fast forward to 2014 and the social landscape is a very different place.  Almost half of online adults use multiple social networks and that number continues to grow.

People use Facebook to share personal updates with friends and family, Twitter to share news, Instagram to share photos, Foursquare to share location-based tips and Linkedin to share professional updates.  The rise of mobile has only helped accelerate this trend.  In its infancy the internet was so difficult to navigate that the most successful websites of the time were walled gardens that helped users navigate the internet (Yahoo, AOL).  Today people are migrated to mobile social networks that are lean and singularly focused.  Instagram makes it easy to take a photo, apply a filter to it and share it with the world.  Sharing your thoughts with the world is merely a 140 character tweet away.  Facebook realizes this and is adapting by focusing on expanding their catalog of apps and making them as easy to use as possible.  

Whether their multiple app strategy will work remains to be seen.  On thing is clear, there will no longer one social network to rule them all.  Mark Zuckerberg knows this and is realigning Facebook as a result.


What Will Your Verse Be?

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier this week Apple release a new ad titled "What Will Your Verse Be".  The ad features Robin Williams narrating poetry (including Walt Whitman) in the background while iPads are used in various ways.   The beauty of the ad is that it perfectly represents what Apple strides for: elegance and simplicity.  There are no obvious slogans or calls to action.  The ad showcases what the iPad was designed to do: make technology as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.  The cinematography, music and overall production value makes the ad resemble a movie trailer.  Technology companies and and Ad agencies the world over should take notice. 


Smartphone Photography Tips

by Joseph Akbrud


About a year ago Instagram began posting tips from some of their most famous photographers in their "How I Shoot" series.  These tips provide users with insight on how some of the most creative users on Instagram shoot their photos and videos.  Even if you're not a fan of Instagram these tips are invaluable for anyone shooting photo or video using a smartphone.  Most of the posts are split into the following categories

Hardware - the phone preferred by the shooter

Vantage Point - how the shot is framed

Shooting - how the photo is shot (tripod, lighting, etc)

Editing - the software used to edit the photo to obtain the final result.  

Instagram does a nice job of choosing photographers that shoot their photo on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.  Each post is short, succinct and well worth the read.