Are Google News Badges another sign of digital laziness?

This morning Google announced a new feature in Google News - Badges. The badges (as explained in the video above) are earned through reading around your topics of interest on Google News - i.e. the more you read on one subject the more likely you are to earn a badge - or add more "Stars" (Google love their stars) to that badge. These can then be shared through social networks (of course) and you can "connect" with others who read similar stuff.

This is yet another example of digital life that is being influenced by the "gamification" trend - the concept of turning previously private activities into to gaming experience where people are either rewarded socially or physically with a some kind of "capital" (If you are playing buzz-word-bingo whilst reading this post then you are likely doing very well by this point).

The question that this development has to beg of course, is do we really need to be incentivised in such a way to consume the world around us? As a world of fairly advanced adults with access to  a rich and diverse media landscape, do we need the digital equivalent of being given a cookie for doing our homework? As much as I am pleased to say that this is another example of the "recommendation economy" at work - I do sometimes wonder if this is encouraging a culture of digital laziness - a condition of the millennial generation that is actively promoting the suspension of discernment, making us all follow the breadcrumbs of "Likes", +'s and RT's.

Google's view on the Recommendation Economy

Today you may tapping your latest request into the friendly white abyss that is the Google Search Box, just like any other day right? WRONG.

Today, (if you are logged into your Google Account) you may just see a little something different in your search results. A tweet from a friend, a blog post from someone you subscribe to on Blogger, a Flickr Photo from your favourite photographer or maybe a post from a brand you follow on Facebook. Why?

Because as of today Google is beginning to roll out it's Social Search feature to Google Account holders. (See the video below for a demo).

The recommendation economy thrives on the fact that we trust our friends and those we follow more than advertising or even editorial content from those we don't know. However until now the search results we have been served up for many years have always been somewhat lacking of that social integration.

Google's actions in this area show that one of the biggest powerhouses on the web believe this too - that we value what our friends share, like, post and blog about, just as much (or maybe even more) than the stuff that SEO's and PPC specialists have been trying to push to the top of our daily search grind.

Over To You:

Do you want to see your social feed in your search results? Will you be using Google Social Search?

As always thoughts on a postcard... or just in the comments ;-)

Extending the Chrome: 9 Extensions Worth Knowing

Just before Christmas Google Chrome for Mac & Windows got an update - (the Windows one sadly the more exciting however recent rumblings suggest Mac soon to follow) in the form of Extensions and Shared Bookmarking. A note firstly on Shared Bookmarking - a clear step at carving another chunk out of the Apple Safari / Mobile Me proposition - allows Chrome and Chromium users to share their bookmarks made in browser across multiple machines using their Google account. A nice little addition however as soon as you dive into the extensions you soon realise this is minor (if not redundant) news - a the first of my 9 Worth Knowing sorts that out far more effectively.

Delicious

This is nothing new, you login to Delicious, it remembers your details, gives you a button next to the address bar. Click it and it will bring up the standard Delicious tagging option. Like I say - nothing new, but interesting as Delicious far outstrips Chrome for organising and syncing bookmarks across multiple machines (and Mobile Me for that matter), therefore making my previous point redundant. Sorry for the wasted time spent reading that.

Google Wave

Another neat little notifier, providing a little icon to let you know how many messages/waves (still haven't made my mind up what to call them) are unread in your GWave account. However seeing that no one seems to know what to do with Google Wave, there is a bigger issue at play here.

Google Sidewiki

Sidewiki has made headlines, not least with a number of my clients, worrying that consumers will start slander campaigns in the footnotes of Sidewiki all across their websites - a fair concern, but an unlikely reality I feel. However for those who are worried about the sanctity of their sites, the Sidewiki extension is a good option for keeping track of what is going on, along with picking up handy titbits about services (I recommend checking out the SideWiki comments about Twitter & Facebook - interesting stuff).

NPR (National Public Radio)

This is my second fave at the moment, not only am I a bit of a Yank-O-File - but an avid fan of the US' NPR network (All Things Considered / Planet Money and This American Life to be precise). This little extension gives you single click access to the best audio and text content from NPR, with in-built streaming of audio and the ability to customise tabs by category. Very well done.

Google Mail Notifier

Much the same as the Google Wave Notifier above, this extension is great if you are a GMail user like myself, and gives handy updates for those who prefer to use the web interface rather than running yet another IMAP or POP account out of OutLook or Mail.

Google's Social Circle & The Trust Network

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlpTjP6h6Ms&feature=player_embedded"]

Social search... interesting development. Or is it.  Google have been including social web results in search results for a number of months now. Google's next development seems (as explained in the above slightly creepy and uber conservative video - count the amount of mentions of security related words) is to use the content from the social sites that you have added to your Google profile into your main web search results.

This creates some level of helpfulness in cross referencing friends, comments and answers to questions across social platforms.  Meaning that if I look up details about where to go on honeymoon I will get trip advisor, expedia and the gang, but also results from my friend Tim's blog about where he went on holiday last week - a result that would never usually hit page 1 of a search result list. All of this is nice enough and interesting in a slightly geeky, if you're into that stuff, kind of way.

However what is interesting is the greater trend that has prompted this technology from Google - personal networks of trust. We have known for a long time now that word-of-mouth from friends and contacts is the most trusted source of information to us. The entire public relations industry thrives on this single fact, we trust those who we know more than those who we don't. Therefore it is logical that when I want honeymoon ideas, or where to rent a Tux for my wedding (which is in June by the way - presents welcome, gift list link to come!) I can use Social Search to check what my contacts and friends across my social circles (the Google terminology for our networks of trust) think about the topics I am searching for.

Of course this has significant ramifications for brands who interact in the social web. The default of most web users when looking for information is to jump into the lap of Google, whether looking for a good deal on a TV or life insurance, and according to HitWise "The proportion of traffic that online retailers receive from social networking websites - such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube - increased from 5.2% in March 2008 to 7.1% in March 2009."

Brands who don't currently interact in the social web, or have poor SEO of the content that they currently produce are going to come a-cropper if Social Search moves towards a default. Clearly, if we begin to see the opinions of our contacts displayed right alongside carefully SEO'd content and Paid Search, competition for our attention heightens, and our default will be to go with what we trust - our contacts.

My Media Diet: Inhalation...

Maybe I Inhale More Media Than I Realise... It has come to my attention that I am literally inhaling media. I know I work in PR, and am a "Generation X"er and all that Jazz. But doing this little log over the past 24 hours is quite startling when you look at it all laid out like this. The little subconscious checks of twitter, the musing of blog posts yet to be written, it wouldn't suprise me if I start unwillingly speaking in 140 character sentences!

So much of this media has just become 2nd nature, a part of the stream of our consiousness, and so little of it we actually question. Monday Morning. Office. Sit Down. Boot Up. Log On. Tweet. Eat. Tweet Again. Blog. Read. Digest (Digitally & Physically). Google. Email. Tweet Yet Again. Tag It. Digg It. Cast it. Download. Power Down. Go Home.

You get the picture...

So back to where we started - I decided to conduct little survey of my media diet. Consumption. Call it what you will. Let me take you back via the medium of blog (and some wavy scoobie doo effects) to Monday morning...

6:50 AM -  *Beep Beep Beep... THWACK!* Alarm clock knocked lazy from bedside table, rolling over, pushing girlfriend aside reaching for iPhone. Missing iPhone. Rolling back over. Snooze Button. 20 Minutes of Chris Moyles drowning out my dreams and bringing me (not so gently) into the new working week.

7:00 AM - I take a second attempt at reaching for iPhone. More successful this time. Read/Delete Spam.

7:50 AM - On tube now, dive head long into the wonderous hub of investigative journalism that is The Metro... lose interest around page 13...

7:59 AM - Once again distracted by Twitter on iPhone... *silent wish that people would not keep writing "Good morning everyone!" tweets... the old adage rings true, if you haven't got something nice to say...

8:00 AM - 8:35 AM ... Listen to Podcast.

Monday: Friday Night Comedy - Radio 4 (Listen)

Tuesday: Relevant Magazine (Listen)

Wednesday: This American Life (Listen)

Thursday: NPR - Poetry Magazine (Listen)

Friday: Genius Playlist on iPhone... (Info Here)

8:37AM - 9:02Am - As i'm plunged into the darkness of the Jubilee line* (See More...)  and am severed from my 3G connection to the world I revert to a analogue approach in the form of Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller's fantastic mini essay series on non religious spirituality... (He blogs here). Until I succomb to the inevitable release of a Amazon Kindle 2 UK Version, paper reigns supreme for sub-terrainian entertainment.

9:10AM - 9:45AM - Arrive at work, bum on seat, Latte in hand, croissant in front of keyboard and all is well. Boot up, Log In, wait for work Email server to get it's act together, then begin to breathe in 1's and 0's in the form of Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail, Google Reader, Delicious Tags, Radian6 (our social media monitoring tool here at Ogilvy) and news source of choice (for usability not politics) Guardian Online...

11:00 AM 11AM jumps out from behind a bush at me, startling me somewhat about it's urgency in getting through the day. It's about this time (usually musing over a latte) that the latest round robin email from the London Ogilvy Interactive group catches my attention - usually in the form of a YouTube distraction or some other digital delight. Sip. Click. Sit. Click. Back to work. Wait. This is work.

11:10 AM Check back into the twittersphere... Not much happening. Does FollowFriday do anyone else's nut in or is it just me! (As an aside it is important to bring to light the troublesome issue that the MacBook - wonderful that it is - doesn't feature a hash key on the keyboard! Grrrr...)

12:50 PM As hunger strikes (cue the Shreddies soundtrack) heading for lunch deleteding more (and more) spam from personal email on iPhone - ooo. My next LoveFilm is on it's way... Michael Macintyre! 

13:45 PM - Stomach full, email inbox equally bloated. Quick twitter update before some serious digital digestion takes place, predominantly in the form of some Radian6 fishing and the odd blog inspiration from Google Reader.

2:00-5:45PM -As the sound of the neuvo-classical Flight of The Concordes hit thuds in my head, this point in the afternoon is officially "business time" - (for those of you unaquainted a little help from YouTube can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU)  The result of which means, that aside from the spiradic twittering and lingering tap of the iPhone, very little goes on here other that - as would be expected - work.

6:00 - 7:00PM - Pretty much a repeat of 7:45 AM - 9:15AM but in reverse order. After a fairly media heavy day I tend to tail off by the time I get home. Suprisingly I still remember how to speak to people face to face! (Those who know me well will know this has never truely been a problem however...)

So there we have it, that pretty much wraps up the day. And sadly (possibly not the case for you routine junkies out there) - most days it's the same story. Living a truely digitally native life, as one of the first generations to have never known what it is to not have a PC in the house is quite a priveledge I suppose. However this does provoke an almost subconscious dialogue within me, that is constantly thinking of the angle, the wall post, the tweet, a constant desire to replicate my offline life digitally. So how do you describe that? Inhalation. Breathe In.

(*Ironic titled as I think any old Testament Jew would adamently argue that there is in no way anything about the Jubilee line that embodies the spirit of Jubilee... I digress - further thoughts on commuting by underground in my poem 7.5 Minutes of Dark - Here)