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Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”

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Google needs to fix the +1 idea

If I could change anything about Google Plus, I’d add tagging to the +1s.

Ciao Enrico - Google +1

Years ago delicio.us revolutionized bookmarking with the use of tags. For some reason, an idea this simple wasn’t adopted by Google when they developed the whole +1 philosophy. Which is too bad for +1s.

It’s POTENTIALLY a great bookmarking tool. Unfortunately, the way it works now, everything you +1 gets gunked together into one great big ball of weblink. If they were tagged, you could make a beeline to each link you saved there, anytime you needed it.

If a pop-out was added for anytime someone +1’d something, they could put in a few simple tags to denote why the link is important.

People could also share lists of content this way. It wouldn’t be unlike a collection of YouTube favorites, except I could do it with everything.

Also, advertisers could preload tags onto them, more as suggestions to anyone +1-ing, say, a paid search landing page. Include a “clear all” link so they can be wiped off the +1 if the user doesn’t like what the webmaster put on there, and it removes the impetus to spam.

Google, this should be an easy thing to implement! It’s the kind of product that would give people a reason to stay logged into Google, and using Google Plus.

Please, please, please update the +1 structure with tags. I’ll be your best friend, I swear. 🙂

How to do a “Quick Accept” of a GoDaddy Domain

I got this message from GoDaddy about a domain transfer:

“IMPORTANT: You must log in to your account and Quick Accept or manually accept the domain. If the Change of Account is not complete within 10 days, the transaction of Change of Account will expire.”

However, they didn’t include any instructions on how to do this.

GoDaddy, you really do frustrate us, you know? I only found out how to do this by Googling it. If it’s really so important you need to say “important” in all caps like that, don’t you think it might be important enough to include a link?

Well, because I’m better at this than you are GoDaddy, I have.

If you got the above message in your e-mail while trying to transfer a domain, go to:

http://support.godaddy.com/help/article/1670

Google adds Snippets to Google Maps

I know I already posted about how I wouldn’t post about social media anymore. But I changed my mind. I’m just going to post about what interests me, if it happens to, because frankly I’m not making any money off of this blog anyway. I may as well enjoy myself.

That having been said, I’m going back to one of my favorite subjects today, Google. That is because today Google announced they are adding Snippets – or, “+Snippets, if we are to start correctly employing their attempt at owning addition – to Google Maps.

All you have to do is click on the “Share” button in your G+ toolbar when you’re on a map, and you get a number of options for storing or sending.

Now, if you’ve been wondering why Google Plus would have as much potential as Facebook in the social network arena, this is why.

You see, you probably already use Google Maps anyway. It’s likely you already use Google Search, Gmail and YouTube, right? So you’re reminded that there’s functionality you’re missing out on when you go to these things and don’t have a G+ account of your own.

We’re maybe another two or three years away from Google taking over creating the phone book. The nice thing is, before you call someone, you’ll be able to read their profile, look at satellite images of where they live, get reviews of them from co-workers, read where they like to eat…

Slowly but surely, Google is creating a stalker’s paradise, where no one will have privacy or be protected. Who else is looking forward to all those home invasions?

Why I don’t love the Cloud

There’s a lot of talk about Cloud Computing lately. There’s been a lot for the past couple of years, but with Apple’s announcement of the iCloud, everyone’s doing the talking.

iCloud Media Cloud

This is also something Google has gotten into, with their Google Music and to an extent Google Docs. So this isn’t just a slam against Apple, they’ve just gotten all of the press lately.

Like most good ideas, iCloud is a simple one: Since there are so many devices you may have – an iPod, an iPhone, an iPad, and/or an Apple computer, iCloud would be the place where all of your files and contacts live, so all of your devices can be synced up easily. Rather than living on your base computer’s hard drive, and updating everything one by one, the Cloud will simply do it for you. What’s more, your files would be accessed wirelessly and not have to live on an old fashioned, poopy hard drive.

So where do I begin with my complaints on this? All of them stem from two things that drive me crazy with modern technology: The over-large corporation that tells its users this is a good idea, and the mass of users who go along with the hype.

First off, storing all of my files on an Apple server means I no longer have my own files. There is a flimsy contract between the provider and myself that my files will be secure and always waiting for me. What happens when they aren’t though? If I am a salesman, and I lose all my contacts through a snafu with their cloud, how will I be compensated for all the lost sales that would result?

Then there’s the purely selfish reason: I have a LOT of illegally burned content. Not necessarily stolen, but I do burn my own copies of CDs and DVDs – if you’ve been online for at least a few years, you do too. What’s to say the owner of the cloud service doesn’t bow down to the RIAA or Paramount or Universal, and let them look over my collection to see if there’s anything lawsuit-worthy?

Finally, assuming there aren’t any technical or draconian legal issues, there’s still the problem of bandwidth. Loading all of your music onto the iCloud and syncing it with your iPad on the go is great – until everyone else does it too. I actually like the idea of cloud computing to store some files. But what happens when everyone’s device relies on a mobile data plan to get its music?

What happens is everything will get slower.

It is possible to get enough servers and towers to make this work. That will be incredibly expensive, of course, and that cost will be passed onto the consumer – namely, you. And me, in fact, whether I use it or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or two Android or iPhone data plans drive the monthly cost up to $200 per month.

The current cost is already too high for something as simple as a phone in my opinion. All the market needs to do is tell companies they’re willing to spend twice as much on their service just to avoid manually syncing devices. Then they can charge almost as much as they want to.

All just so Apple can stop putting hard drives in iPods, and sell you more crap exclusively on iTunes? It sounds like we’re all lining up for a major screwing.

Service Code: Netflix’s other neat idea

We all know what Netflix is by now, so I won’t bother starting with that. Movies, ques, blah blah blah.

But I found something new about their site last night that is such a brilliant idea, I’m surprised other websites with a lot of Customer Service call volume haven’t adopted it: Online Service Codes.

Here’s how it works – you have  a problem with Netflix for whatever reason. You’re logged into their site, and you click the “contact us” link on their page. What you get is something that looks like this:

Netflix knows most people come to the “contact us” page because they have a problem. A lot of companies hide their customer service phone number on their site because they don’t want to hear from customers with a problem. Netflix seems to understand they need to be available to their customers if they want to keep them.

So they have a link to their customer service phone number plainly visible on the contact page. (Beneath the two other links for most common problems of course – still need to try to keep the call volume down!) But when you click on the CS number, you also get a wait time for your call, so you can try again later if it’s bad, and a service code.

This service code is what really has me jazzed. When you call in, rather than go through the standard giving of name, customer ID, address, phone number, secret question… you simply give this number while on hold, waiting for the operator. Since you can only get this code while logged in, the system generates a code that verifies you, and gets the operator into your account.

Simple! So why isn’t everyone using this? Why am I still trying to remember the Arizona state bird or my first girlfriend’s last name whenever I have password trouble with Bank of America?

Looking around, I see other write ups on Netflix’ service code dating back two years, so it isn’t exactly new technology – but it does seem to still be relegated only to Netflix. If anyone else is using it, either they aren’t big enough to notice or they aren’t bragging about it.

Still, it’s damn smart and I wish all companies with call centers were using it.

What I love about.me

If you’re digitally hip, you’ve likely heard of this site before – about.me.

But if you’re normal, you haven’t. Normal people don’t care about things like this. They just care about e-mail and Facebook at best. Twitter is one of those dumb things you hate because you can’t get into it. QR codes seem designed to make you feel inadequate because you can’t even install Angry Birds onto your phone without throwing it across the room, much less a QR scanner.

The truth is, though, that’s why about.me is such a perfect site for the technically challenged: It is an online business card that introduces you to anyone who lands on it. It’s less of a “social networking” site than it is a social networking Hamburger Helper – it accentuates what you’re doing, but doesn’t add anything to the content.

Okay, bad metaphor. Moving on…

I'm an SEO, a blogger and a zombie killer.

About.me works because it’s easy to get, easy to use, easy to understand. AOL recently bought them, I think because they see the potential behind the online business card and want to grab it up before it becomes expensive.

If you’re a tech geek, it’s great because you can show the various profiles you have on other sites like WordPress, Twitter, Flickr, Linkedin, whatever.

For the luddites in the audience, (see how the word “luddite” is underlined and/or colored differently depending on your browser preferences? That’s because it’s a link – if you’re a luddite, you can click on it to find out what you are!) about.me is easy to use and easy to understand. You simply plug in the URLs of the sites you’re on and like into the profile when you sign up. When you need to add a page link to yourself somewhere, if you don’t have a blog or site of your own, you can leave your about.me page in it’s place.

This is my own about.me page. This took about 10 minutes to sign up, and as you can see it has links to a LOT of different profiles on the web. While it gives me a lot of options for modifying the look, the majority of the screen is whatever picture I want to upload to it. I like that too – it means I get to dominate the look of my page. Where Facebook dictates the entire look of the page, and WordPress practically requires a Master’s degree in tedious coding to make it pretty, all about.me needs is a picture.

Finally, it’s a lot less obnoxious sharing an about.me page than it is a lead gen form or a blog on social media profiles. Sure, you don’t get all the traffic from your profile link to your blog – that’s a strike against it. But if you’re more into sharing your real life with people, you look less like a desperate marketer and more like an actual, real life person.

Check it out – it’s very cool stuff.