Google this week began sending out invitations for the beta version of Google Wave . Demand for these invites has been pretty high—Matt Cutts tweeted that he's already out of invites  (Really Matt Cutts? Can't you like, snap and someone rollerskates up with more invites on a tray?) and one invite sold on eBay for over $150 .
Aside from this crazed desperation for invites reminiscent of the search for golden tickets in Willy Wonka (that's right, I compared you to Augustus Gloop), most of the conversation has revolved around the question of success: Will Google Wave be a game changer?
Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal  lands squarely on the fence: "Could be yes or could be no. It depends on how good it will [be] and how much users will actually use it in their daily online activities." Certainly, if it's slow or user-unfriendly, that will be an impediment to adoption. But even if it works as advertised, do people really want/need this functionality? Or is it kind of like email feature creep?
Ben Parr at Mashable outlines some doubts and questions about Google Wave —it doesn't work well in Internet Explorer and the interface is rather complex, for starters—but his feeling is that the product will probably succeed in the end. He lists four reasons, not all of which I find particularly compelling:
- "It's Google. The company has a very good track record, even in established markets. Just look at Gmail." Well, yes … but look at all the products Google has launched  that didn't take off … not every Google brainstorm turns out to be a Gmail.
- "The anticipation is unmatched." Hmmm. Unmatched? I don't think Google Wave is nearly as anticipated as the iPhone, especially among "regular people" as opposed to tech geeks.
- "Its features really are revolutionary." This may in fact be true. I know a developer who did some early testing and we tried it out for chat; we actually found some of the features distracting, if not annoying, if not creepy (e.g., being able to see what your interlocutor is typing in real time; so much for having second thoughts). My guess is, you need to throw a crowd into the mix before the majority of the features become useful or awesome.
- "It’s open-source." This one I definitely find compelling. Firefox is the obvious precedent for an open source product that's gone mainstream (and is evidently better than its closed-source rival).
I'm not exactly a luddite, but I remain skeptical about widespread adoption at this point. Email is an outdated technology, no doubt—Generation Z, or whatever letter they're on, find it slow and useless, preferring texting and Facebook.
I assume that the Wave is meant to attract attention back to email by making it less like email and more like chat and social networking. But don't people need to be dissatisfied with their current solutions before they'll turn to something new (especially if it's more complicated)? I'm referring to regular people again, not early adopters—the tipping point where grandmas are signing up seems very far off.
For me, the burden of the learning curve sort of outweighs the novelty value … I still get that sinking feeling when I get a new phone, having to learn how to do everything all over again. OK, so maybe I am kind of a luddite. Or kind of a grandma. Someone send me an invite and change my mind!
Fitcorp: Reputation Management Win!
As a followup to last week's post on rep management nightmares , this week I offer a true story from the files of successful reputation management.
Wednesday I tweeted a complaint about my gym, Fitcorp. Long story short(ish), I signed a year-long contract in April, and subsequently found out our office is moving (we're packing everything up by EOD), so I'm trying to switch my membership to a location closer to the new office space. For some silly reason they said I can't start using the new location until November, because my credit card had already been charged for October at the other location. Um, what? Aren't you all one company? Can't you just transfer the funds? What?
Yesterday morning, I got an email from the president of Fitcorp himself; he said he'd seen my tweet, that "delivering great customer service is [their] ultimate goal," and he offered to resolve any issues I'm having. I wrote back and explained the problem, and the manager at the new location wrote back to say I can start using that facility immediately. Yay! Great example of a company monitoring brand mentions and reaching out where necessary to smooth over customer wrinkles.
Not-So-Terrible SEO Advice
Among the worthwhile SEO posts I read this week:
- Terrible SEO Advice: Focus on Users, Not Engines : In this post Rand argues that most of the work involved in SEO is for search engines, not users. If you ignore all that work (XML sitemaps, URL canonicalization, accessible link structures, etc.) you will certainly pay the price in your rankings. I think this is very good advice (note: the opposite of terrible), as long as you don't make the mistake of thinking this is a binary, mutually exclusive choice. Optimizing your site means making information accessible to users and search engines.
- Think Search Before You Name Your Next Product : Great advice from Marty Weintraub on what to check before you settle on a product (or company) brand name, from basic keyword research to avoiding ambiguity to checking out the competition in YouTube. (I've noticed design firms are especially prone to choosing ambiguous, single-word brands that are virtually unsearchable on their own, like "Hype" or "Millennium." They are also addicted to Flash. Ugh.)
- SEO: Where Is It Going ? More analysis than advice, but very interesting stuff: SEOBook's Peter Da Vanzo takes a long view on search, touching on the "unraveling" of the page as a unit, Google vs. content producers, disintermediation and more.
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