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Friday Five – July 1, 2011

Friday Five is my [most]weekly technology tidbits post that I write for my internal Praxair blog and cross-post here.

#1 – Google+ invite received, we go hands-on [Engadget]

When news of Google Plus’ arrival broke today, we called the service an “all out assault on social networking.” After playing around with it for a bit, we believe that our previous description seems even more apt. Past services like Buzz have suffered from a half-baked approach to the space, but Google has clearly pulled out all of the stops this time. With direct shots at some of the leading market software in the form Facebook and Skype, Google is in a position to extend its search dominance to other realms. As usual, the company has created a smooth, intuitive, and enjoyable experience. However, now comes the hardest part: convincing people that they need another social network in their lives, because without friends, you’re just hanging out by yourself.

The big news in tech this week is about the launch [to some] of Google+. Of course, in typical Google fashion, it’s a buggy beta product and you will have to beg everyone via your other social networking tools for an invite to it. That’s a poor launch plan in my book, since a social network without users is useless. So will it be a Facebook killer? Given Google’s track record in this arena… probably not. Although what could give Google an advantage is that they’re designing from the ground up for mobile, vs. Facebook which is continually being adapted for mobile devices via a litany of device-specific apps. And what about that other social network – My…somethingorother?


#2 – MySpace Sold to Ad Network for $35 Million [Mashable]

News Corp. declared it was ready to sell MySpace in an earnings call in February. The media company was reportedly hoping to get $100 million out of the sale.

In 2005, News Corp. bought the site for $580 million from its original owners, but MySpace’s traffic has plummeted in recent years. All Things Digital reported that News Corp. will still hold a 5% to 10% stake in the company.

Other reports this week indicated that close to 50% of the site’s staff could be cut after the sale, and it’s likely that any further iterations of the service will focus on music.

I don’t think the fact that MySpace being sold is a surprise to anyone. I think what’s surprising (and funny) is that it sold for less than it cost to make a movie about Facebook.


#3 – Another study distorts the cost of employee social networking [Stop Blocking!]

Shame on CBS Radio News.

On its June 23 6 p.m. (EDT) top-of-the-hour newscast, CBS reported on the results of a study that indicate Facebook and other social networking sites are costing companies lost worker productivity.

I dashed home to find the source of the report. What I found was a month-old study that focused on all manner of workplace distractions. In fact, email processing and switching windows to complete tasks both ranked higher as sources of distraction (33%) than social media activities (20%).

Interestingly, the study was commissioned by harmon.ie (formerly MainSoft) which is a product we use here at Praxair, but the point of the study is not to put down social networking sites, but to sell their product which integrates into the email client so you don’t need to switch windows and can process email more efficiently. Ironically, they pitch themselves as “a provider of social email software that brings document collaboration to every business user by transforming the email client into a collaboration and social workspace.” That document collaboration includes a tool specifically for Google Docs which of course integrates into Google+ (see article #1) which would be one of those social networks. One-sided studies are dangerous, and news organizations are generally lazy looking for something sensational to push. This study fits both descriptions.


#4 – Should I Change My Password? [ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com]

ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com has been created to help the average person check if their password(s) may have been compromised and need to be changed.

This site uses a number of databases that have been released by hackers to the public. No passwords are stored in the ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com database.

Great way to quickly check and see if you have to worry about your password being out in the open for hackers to steal.


#5 – Xerox PARC: Still Inventing Cool New Stuff After All These Years [Forbes]

Launched in 1970, PARC has given the world an amazing array of inventions: laser printing, graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, Ethernet, and various advances in lasers, document printing, data storage, fiber optics and other technologies.

While PARC may be doing more applied research than it was known for in the past, the research center is still doing work on the cutting edge. Hoover notes, for instance, that PARC has been working on a concept called “content-centric networking” that would radically remake the way information moves around the Internet. The original ARPAnet, Hoover notes, was really engineered for point-to-point communications. But that’s not really the way the Internet is generally used now. Ergo, he says, a lot of complex stuff has to happen if millions of people simultaneously want to watch the same YouTube video if you want to avoid bringing the network to a standstill.

I’m a former Xerox employee, and the joke was always on Xerox when it related to PARC. PARC had developed some of the most important computer-related technologies and Xerox could never figure out how to sell them right. It took Apple and Microsoft to fully realize the GUI. But putting the business management aside, you have to appreciate the outstanding visionary work done by PARC researchers. It’s great to see them continuing on in that vein.

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