How to Communicate With Geeks

no comments

A lot of “normal people” tend to have trouble understanding geeks. In companies around the world, IT departments are avoided, because the people there have such a different method of communication. Marketing and Sales departments, in particular, tend to see the geeks down in IT or Development departments as an alien race.

I will postulate that the problem isn’t that geeks are seen as alien. The problem is that they aren’t treated that way. The “normal people” think the best way to communicate is by following “normal people” rules. Instead, they should treat their interactions with geeks as they would first contact with an alien race. This alien race happens to be able to speak the same language, but underneath they draw from a completely different set of memories and experiences.

When approaching this alien race known as geeks, it is important that one not make wild, unpredictable movements or noises. This can cause hostility or wariness, and is not conducive to effective communication. When approaching, carefully observe the geek’s actions. If the geek is busy on a task, quietly move into peripheral vision, six to ten feet away if possible. This may not be possible in a common urban geek lair known as the cubicle. In this case, stand quietly on one side of the door and wait to be noticed.

If you are noticed, but not acknowledged, it is safe to say something at this point. Choose your words carefully. Safe things to say at this point include the following:

“When you have a moment…” There is no continuation to this incomplete sentence. This is interpreted as either the start or end of a sentence. Allow the geek to complete the sentence mentally if they wish, but do not complete it yourself. Anything you use to complete the sentence may cause this contact to go horribly wrong.

“I can wait.” This simply conveys that you value the geek’s time, and that you are willing to trade a bit of your own time unproductively waiting while the geek produces. Underlying this is an understanding that geeks, throughout history, are the ones who brought us the greatest improvements from the wheel to the Internet. Who knows what this geek will accomplish with the time you value?

“I have an emergency.” This says to the geek that something very horrible is going wrong, and that the specific geek skills needed to avert complete disaster are being requested. This can greatly reduce or eliminate the wait time while the geek finds a stopping point in their current activity. I should also note the importance that this only be used in real emergencies. Your reliability in judging what constitutes an emergency will be a major factor in whether you will eventually be accepted in heavily-populated geek communities.

Once you have been acknowledged by the geek, you may approach. Step closer, but no closer than three feet. A submissive posture is also important if you are in the geek’s home environment, so stooping to be closer to eye-level is a perfectly acceptable posture. In a cubicle-home, you may ask if you can sit in the second chair, if there is one.

Now it is time to present your gift. If this is your first interaction with this particular geek, you might use an opening line at this point before getting into the business you came for. An acceptable opening line is, “You’re exactly the person I need for this stuff.” This is a show of great respect. You are acknowledging the superior abilities of the geek in an as-yet-unnamed area. There is also a promise of a puzzle that needs to be solved. Perhaps, if the geek is very lucky, the puzzle will be a new one.

If this is not the first time meeting this particular geek, then your gift needs no wrapping. It is time to state your problem. State it clearly and concisely. Context is good, if relevant. If the explanation is complicated, then reduce it to simple bullet-points and give those first, fleshing them out with detail afterward. The geek needs a simple overall picture to be presented, followed by the details. Following your presentation comes the Q&A.

Expect questions. Don’t expect many questions, but do expect them to go into details that had never occurred to you. Answer honestly, even if you do not know. In some environments, the geek may be able to find your answers for you. If not, do not forget the questions. Write them down if you cannot immediately commit them to memory.

Some research time may be required. If there is quiet time during the research phase of this contact, then social small-talk is acceptable. Neutral subjects are best, though it may not always be possible to know what is neutral. Mentioning the weather may result in an analysis of the cumulonimbus cloud formations, and the likelihood of stormy weather further East in an hour. You want to avoid deeper subjects that might be distracting, sticking to subjects which require little thought. This allows the geek to keep the conversation within the automated portions of their mindspace. A non-automated response requires a shift in concentration. Like a car, concentration is much easier to stop than to get back up to speed.

Geeks have compartmentalized brains, you see. There are three major portions that matter. There is the main processing center, where active thought occurs. There is the background processing center, where great ideas go to work while the main processing center is in “play” mode. Third is the automation center. The automation center of the brain handles everything that doesn’t require much thought. Most “normal people” use quite a bit of the automation center’s capacity for social interactions. Social interactions a highly-complex application, and true success requires that most of it be automated. A geek uses the automation center of the brain for other things, and processes more advanced social behavior in the main processing center. It’s a trade-off, but a geek never loses his keys.

At the end of the research time comes the conclusion of the contact. You will receive your answer. The answer may be complete. It may be a set of options, each with its own tests that you can perform to determine which is true. It may be a request for more information.

If you need to get more information, then you should be able to prove that you understand what information you are gathering. Say, “I need to get for you,:” followed by a concise list of the questions you need to answer. The geek may clarify. Take notes. This is a test.

Similarly, if you are given a range of options, you should be prepared to repeat those options along with the test that accompanies each option. I hope you wrote all this down.

Got your answer? Great! Now for the closer. You must close with yet another acknowledgment of the geek’s superiority. “I don’t know where I’d be without you,” in this context is considered to be high praise. Do not be offended if the response seems derisive, but we all know the geek is correct in saying, “You’d be screwed.”

Given the proper preparation and understanding of geek society, it is possible for “normal people” to navigate. I hope that this lesson has been helpful.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

1 comment

I have quite a few vivid memories with my Mom that stand out over the rest. There are many memories, but a few stand out as vivid points in time. I count myself as having one of the best Mom’s out there.  Not because we were best friends, or because she let me do anything I wanted, or because she gave me everything I ever asked for.  On the contrary, Mom was Mom first.  She and Dad gave me clear boundaries, and me work for what I got.  That last part had mixed results, but I got a foundation that helped me improve later in life.

I remember when I was very young, perhaps 3 or 4, and I decided I wanted to read.  My Mom read a lot, and we always had books around the house.  The kids books on the bookshelf in my room had nice pictures, but words too.  I walked up to my Mom, who was standing at the sink and told her I wanted to learn to read.  She told me to go get a book, and I chose “Now We Go to Church” from the shelf.  I would point to a word, and she would tell me what it was.  I would repeat it, and move to the next word. It went like this for a few days until I could read through the book unaided. From that day forward, I was a reader.

Mom has always been quite musical.  She played the piano as long as I can remember.  She sang in church often, and led the church choir. She transferred this to me through singing, piano lessons, and violin once I was old enough to join the school orchestra.  I joined her, singing in church.  Often we would sing duets, or she would play the piano while I sang. One of my favorite memories is my Mother and her sisters, gathered around a piano singing “Mockingbird Hill.” These days, Mom’s tickling the keyboard of her PC more than the ivories of the piano, but so aren’t we all.

When I was in the latter half of my school career, Mom was the School Food Supervisor for our school system. This gave me input into the school lunch menus, as Mom would ask my opinions.  I’d ask the other kids at school what they thought about things.  On days where lunch choices were particularly good or bad, people would come to me to comment.  The good would return, and the bad would never be seen again on the lunch menu.  Little did Mom know that her job choice actually slightly elevated her son’s social standing.

One day I was talking to Mom in the kitchen.  I forget the details of the conversation, but I do remember my adolescent mind coming up with a joking smartass comment.  When I said it to Mom, she took the glass of water she was drinking and threw it at me.  There I stood in the kitchen, my wet shirt a sign that I had reached a boundary. Mom wasn’t one for sass, and I wasn’t one for dishing it out. As it turns out, I spent most of my time growing up well within those boundaries.  I made mistakes, but I always came back to my comfortable place, following the lessons that taught me what boundaries should exist.

This is the same Mom that decided she wanted to sell books on the Internet, so she learned how.  I helped her a lot, but she studied, practiced, and improved.  Eventually she decided to go to school, so she proceeded to graduate at the top of her class in Internet Technology.

One thing, though, that Mom has done is endure.  I know my Dad.  Great guy, but he must be a pain in the ass to have as a husband. For sure their kids are all pains in the ass to varying degrees, myself most-definitely included. There was also another sibling, my sister Denice.  She lived for 9 years, severely mentally retarded (the acceptable term of the day) and generally sickly. She died young, but not before exceeding pretty much every grim outlook the doctors gave. Mom endured us all, and still does.

For a while Mom handled the business end of Dad’s shop, later in the day. She would be working in the shop, her hearing-aids turned down low, concentrating on numbers.  Unfortunately, my brother and I were often in the shop together at that time.  There are many stories to tell, but suffice to say she endured that too.

Oh, an the food.  If you know my Mom, you’ve at least heard about the food.  Mom has been cooking all of her life, with fresh ingredients.  She cooks with the simple flavors of good ingredients, allowing the flavor to shine through.  That’s called good, homecooked, Southern cooking in general, but Mom’s was always special.  The table was full of a variety of often one-ingredient choices at dinner, supporting at least one more complex side dish and a meat or two. It resembled a buffet as much as a family dinner, and it was all delicious.  Well, except for that one time that Mom insists was an experiment every time I bring it up. I think of that one major gastronomic failure from the woman in my entire life as endearing.  I don’t think she does.

Mom, you’re awesome.  Thanks.  Here’s a picture of a squirrel levitating a nut.

Happy Birthday to Me: I’m Going Bald

no comments

I want to apologize publicly for the horrible things I said about Sports Clips in Dayton Ohio. It turns out I got a pretty good haircut for someone who didn’t know his hair was falling out. I got the haircut the third week in January, and it wasn’t until about three weeks later that I realized the truth.

This wasn’t without warning. My facial hair started falling out a couple years ago. I’ve had to stop wearing the van dyke since bald spots started to intrude. Once I could have grown a Tom Selleck, though it would have looked horrible on my face. Now, if I don’t shave, I have a sort of thick, crooked Hercule Poirot. My worst fear is that I’ll end up forced into an Adolf. Good thing I work from home.

My wife discovered the actual problem when she looked closer at the obviously poorly-cut spot on the back of my head. Since I couldn’t see it, I had her take a photo with her phone. What followed was an amazing laughing fit I have seen in years. My wife could barely hold the camera still enough to take a photo, she was laughing so hard.

As I’ve said, this didn’t come without warning. It’s actually a form of alopecia, and my sister has already been through it. Hers lasted around 12 years. Since she’s 12 years older than I, I’d say the timing is right. Hers started pretty much like mine, with bald spots forming then thin white hair sparsely filling the gaps. Gradually more of her head was thin white hair and less was the formerly dark brown.

Here is a “before” photo of my sister. It’s a little outdated. It’s her 6th grade school photo.

You might think I’d follow with the “after” photo, but I don’t have any good ones. Instead, I’ll select a photo that I think conveys the right feel.  I try to imagine what it must have been like for her,  because I know it’s coming for me. I took what I imagine my hair will like at its worst, and I found the perfect photo.  Below is, I’m sure, how my sister FELT the “after” looked.

So, Happy Birthday to ME!  I’m going bald, bit by bit, and not in any way in a good way.

I’ll live, but don’t be surprised if you see me with a shaved head in the future.

You Probably Should Avoid the Thong

no comments

I know you say they’re comfortable, though I can’t understand how that can be true. I just can’t support your choice to wear a thong. It’s not that you don’t have a nice butt. It’s just that thongs only really work on about 5% of butts out there, and yours isn’t one of them. Yes, I know you think you look great in a thong. You don’t. That girl in the magazine looks GREAT in a thong, but not you. That girl in the magazine is one of a tiny minority whose butt looks so great in a thong that she makes a living looking good in a thong. You aren’t.

I realize that these may seem like harsh words. Lots of people could have told you this, but it was left to me. I hope, now that I’ve broken the ice, that more of your friends will tell you how your thong-wearing has negatively affected their lives. Perhaps now, they will be able to face their own great white whail-tail.

Oh, that reminds me. The whale-tail issue only really comes up because you’re wearing hip-hugger jeans and a shirt that shows your belly. You really should avoid both of those. They work together with the thong to create an illusion of a car’s dipstick, and nobody wants to check those levels.

Okay, that may have been too harsh. Maybe someone WOULD want to… I mean… it’s not that you…wait. Let’s arbitrarily assign a value to your appearance. Let’s say you’re a 5. The top shows what should hide. The bottom shows enough that I can determine sanitation habits with a flashlight. The thong doesn’t so much cover at all as much as it makes one wonder if there’s a flashlight on the end of that string. You’re losing points left and right. If you aren’t at least a 9 already, you end up a two so fast your head will spin.

Then there’s the belly piercing. Really? You thought that would look good? Again, this look works for some people. Most of them spend their days on “movie sets” and to be honest, any little piece of jewelry they can use… anyway, they’re not you. You’re not them. You don’t need the pornstar belly-ring, or for that matter the tongue-ring.

There’s pretty much only reason to get a tongue-piercing. It’s for the sexual gratification of someone else. If that’s what you want, that’s your choice. I’m not going to judge your lifestyle choice. They don’t look good, they make you talk funny, they can cause tooth damage, and… ick. I don’t mind judging whether I have negative physical reactions to the clickety-clack sounds when you speak. I still don’t really know who Ktkeetm Tktartdashtshtiant is.

Ick on that nose-piercing, by the way. It’s small, and tasteful, and rather well done considering some of your other choices. I’ve seen worse. Still, though, every time you’re near and I need to sneeze, my brain starts conjuring elaborate fountain effects in a most interesting shade of green.

The tattoo is tasteful as well. This one, not the one we saw when my friend had a flashlight in his pocket. I hope you’ll make the right decision about the stripper-tat you are considering.

In fact, I think you can save money on the stripper-tat if you’ll just make the right decision. The one decision that can truly improve your life. You’ll have better friends. You’ll have an improved love life. Opportunities previously closed to you will open. You will be better. Just make that one, key decision.

Lose the thong.

The Buffy Project – First Ten Episodes of the Vampire Slayer

no comments

I’m a firm believer that any TV show can have a good first season. I’m also a firm believer that all long-lived shows have that one point that matters. It’s that one point in the show where everything suddenly clicks. You still love the shows that came before that moment, but the shows after really had something extra.

For M*A*S*H that moment was the cast change. Out were Col. Blake, Trapper, and Frank Burns. In came Col. Potter, BJ, and Winchester. The new cast, along with a gradual change in style, brought some of the best episodes ever to appear on television. We all love the early episodes, but there are far fewer moments that just felt great.

Star Trek – The Next Generation had that moment when they introduced the Borg. Until that moment it felt as if the Enterprise were the greatest ship in the Universe. Unless someone had a planetary weapon or was fairly lucky, the Enterprise could prevail easily enough. There were threats, but none felt overpowering. The Borg changed all that. Now there was an enemy that could swat the Enterprise like a gnat and move on through the rest of the fleet with ease. After the Borg were introduced, there was always that nagging feeling that they’d be back.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has that moment. Since I’m totally unspoiled, I still don’t know when that moment comes. Ten episodes in, it’s still just a pretty good show.

The first episodes dealt a lot with Buffy wanting to be a normal teenager. The later realization that normality would be impossible came none too soon. It was getting old quickly. At this point in the season she’s dedicated to her role, and things are improving.

The feel of the show is weighted toward the episodic. There are arcs that carry through the episodes, but each episode is bringing its own unique challenge. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can make storylines start to feel contrived. I’m early enough in the show that I expect this to change quite a bit. Being unspoiled except for how long the series ran, I do have certain expectations.

Buffy is a likeable character. She’s becoming more likable as the season progresses. She’s becoming less giggly and more rounded as a character. The short dresses are just a bonus, really.

Xander is starting to get a little depth to him. He’s useful as a third wheel character. He can provide comic relief, be cannon fodder, and a romantic interest (there must be a reason). Every once in a while he can even save the day. Buffy can throw him a bone now and then when he’s feeling particularly emasculated.

Willow is a perfect sidekick. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s not charismatic enough to overpower the main star. She’s very likeable, and she’s in LURVE with Xander, who’s in love with Buffy, who appropriately is torn on the issue.

Rupert is a problem. He’s a useless character. Willow is the smart researcher, so she could fill that side of Rupert’s role easily. He’s not terribly likeable, but we’re not supposed to hate him either. He’s just there as a false push to the plot. Actually, he does serve one other purpose. If not for Rupert, who would turn the school library into a cache of dangerous and deadly artifacts and weapons? Have you seen all of the felonies this guy has in his locked cage area? Does the main librarian, who knows all about them newfangled computers, have keys to all the storage areas in the library? Is she complicit or incompetent?

I digress.

I’m enjoying the show. It’s nothing special at this point, but it’s enjoyable. I’ve been watching them slowly, not trying to overload myself at once. I set my expectations low for the first season. The show has exceeded those expectations.

So, ten episodes into the show the project is going well. It’s not a great show… yet.

Shannon at the 42nd St Subway

no comments

It’s True: New York City Is so Much Cooler, and So Is My Hometown.

1 comment

Since moving to New York City, I’ve come to understand why so many people from here felt so down when they came to my little podunk hometown of Sanford, NC. New York City really is that much cooler in so many ways. Don’t get me wrong.  I love my hometown for many reasons.  This big city, though, is a completely different scale.

First, there are the sights.  There is always something to see in NYC.  Whether it’s people-watching in Times Square, taking the water taxi across to Brooklyn, walking a new area of Central Park (still all new to me), or finding yet another great museum to see, you can always see something amazing and new here. I still haven’t been to the 9/11 Memorial, The Intrepid Air and Space Museum, The Statue of Liberty, or Queens.

There are the neighborhoods. Washington Heights is a wonderful place to live, but New York has a lot of them.  Chinatown itself can be a different place depending on whether you’re on Canal St or one of the smaller side streets. I much prefer the side streets, because they’re full of small shops and stands and some of the most amazing seafood. Hell’s Kitchen, SoHo, TriBeCa, they’re all different, interesting, and absolutely great for a walk.

Oh, and the food.  I cannot say how many fantastic meals I have had since moving to New York City. The local bar’s burgers are perfection.  We have a favorite Irish pub near Times Square that fills the comfort food need from time to time.  The pizza is better here.  The sushi is better here, though it would be in any large coastal city. Almost any food you want you can find, and it is probably delicious.  We’re talking “Lockjaw’s Mama’s Cooking” levels of deliciousness here.

You see, New York City has a lot of restaurants.  New York City probably has a lot of restaurants within three blocks of you in most areas of the city. This means you have choices.  If you discover a restaurant has bad food, you never have to go there again.  As a result the bad restaurants don’t last.  The good restaurants do.  The mediocre restaurants are at least cheap, but the converse is not true.  You don’t have to pay a lot for a delicious meal.

Hell’s Kitchen’s HK Diner is a good example.  This isn’t a place you go for bacon and eggs and a side of toast.  They serve a higher class of brunch faire.  My initial favorite was the HK Fritatta with peppers, onions, tomato, lamb sausage, and an avacado spread. I moved on to the lobster eggs benedict soon after.  I’ve had the steak and eggs and the salmon burger.  Everything was fantastic and nothing cost more than $20 for the plate.

I think the best thing about New York City is that I can decide I want to do something at pretty much any time of the day or night.  I can probably find something, somewhere, to do, eat, visit, or just see.

New York is also a busy place.  There are people everywhere.  As you walk down the street in many places you can be within 20 feet of a dozen or more people.  In some areas it can get quite dense.  Once you realize that none of those other people care about you at all, though, it’s much less uncomfortable.  Now I can feel as alone walking through Times Square as I did walking around the block back home.

There’s nothing quite like it, though, to walk around the block back home alone.  The little three-block-long downtown may not be the hub of the city anymore, but it is definitely more dog-poop-free than New York’s streets.

Oh wow, yeah.  That’s right.  New York City’s streets are COVERED with dog poop.  Most dog owners pick up after their dogs.  Unfortunately there is this one little old lady with three very productive beagles that walks the streets night and day.  I would guess that, on average, I see signs of dog poop once per block.  Well, each block has four sides, so that’s four.  Maybe six.  The bottom line is that I dodge more poop in this city than I used to when I walked through cow pastures barefoot.

Back home in Sanford I can drive my car through the countryside.  I can smile and say Hello to people on the street, if there are any there.  I can go to Wal-Mart, and while I’m there I can say Hi to people I know from high school.  I can easily find a normal breakfast joint where the staples of the meal are meat and eggs, and not bagels.  Grits.

As much as I love New York City, my hometown is still a cool place to me. It’s small, but growing.  It’s quiet, but comfortable.  It has a smaller selection of restaurants, but it has Mom’s cooking.  All in all, how can I choose which is cooler?

New York.  WAY cooler.


The Buffy Project Begins: Welcome to the Hellmouth Craptacular

1 comment

My project to watch and blog Buffy the Vampire Slayer has begun.  I watched the first two hours, which I assume constitute the original two-hour premier.  My expectations were low.  They were not exceeded.  It wasn’t that the opening show was bad, per se.  It’s that it was an opening show at all.

I remember watching the series premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  For months I had looked forward to this show.  Plans were made to be able to watch that show.  That episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” set a new bar for exactly how awesome a science fiction show could be.  In retrospect, though, it really kinda sucked.  After the third season had begun, I barely wanted to acknowledge that the premier episode existed.

I wanted to set the proper expectations for this show, so I simply didn’t set high expectations.  What I found was a fairly formulaic first episode in many ways.  It has to be this way, and I’m fine with that.


The opening scene immediately made me happy.  That cute girl looks familiar.  Is that Julie Benz, who went on to such a great role on Showtime’s Dexter?  IT IS! Way to catch me off guard, Whedon.  You didn’t even know that would happen, but way to go.

I’ve seen at least part of the original Buffy movie, so I understand the idea of the show.  That’s good because they don’t spend any time on the origin story itself.  They quickly reference it, and quickly establish that her job isn’t over.  Onward!

As the characters are introduced, I’m finding that there are only two that seem really likeable.  Willow is one, and the other is the social nemesis, Cordelia.  The rest I feel I’m supposed to like more than background characters, but this isn’t the episode where character growth really starts to occur.

Buffy is really a bit of a bitch.  I realize that she’s just fought an invasion of vampires, burned down part of her old school, and been forced to move to a new town.  That doesn’t mean she has to emasculate Xander just because he tries to be a man. She seems to have accepted him and the others, though, providing the only bit of character growth you ever get in the first episode.  The main character makes the decision that there will be an episode 2.  Well, 3 in this case because Netflix has the premier as a two-parter.

There’s also this Angel character.  He strikes me as the black sheep, the outsider, the traitor, and the Sam Malone. The only thing I am sure of right now about this guy is that he has a spinoff show, so I’m guessing he’s important.

Another surprise was that the goofy guy, used as bait, was actually turned into a vampire.  I thought he was going to be the “Screech” of this show, and now he’s a vampire?  Soon enough he’s a dead vampire.  Poor goofy bastard.  I thought you were gonna be a star.

All in all I enjoyed the show.  It was bad because it was a first episode.  It wasn’t a bad first episode.  It definitely wasn’t “Encounter at Farpoint” bad.  Most importantly, I do want to keep watching the show.

Next: Lockjaw watches a few more episodes

New Project – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

no comments

Many of my friends know that I like to watch TV shows from start to finish.  Netflix has made this easier, so I get more opportunities to see new shows.  I decided it was time to choose a new show, that I’ve never watched before. What’s more, I’d blog the experience. This meant that the show had to be something special.  It had to be a show that I’d somehow missed out on watching, but that had appropriate “geek cred” to make it worthwhile.  I decided on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Why this show?  I’ve become a big fan of Joss Whedon’s work through Firefly and Dollhouse.  Alyson Hannigan is in it, which was pretty much enough for me to watch “How I Met Your Mother.” Even Felicia Day is in it, apparently, so you’d think this show would have been a slam-dunk for me.

Honestly, though, as much as the show had to offer, it was still a vampire show to me.  I’ve never really enjoyed vampires, or the glorification of the undead.  Give me a good old lumbering zombie movie any day.  I almost NEVER hear anyone wishing they could be a zombie.  Vampires, on the other hand, just bother me.

It’s not that I haven’t tried.  I’ve tried watching funny vampires, teenage vampires, silent vampires, serious vampires, vampires in other countries, alien vampires, and far too many simply bad vampires.  That is the biggest reason I didn’t watch the show.  I just don’t dig vampires.

Well it’s time.  It is time for me to put aside my anti-vampire bigotry and step forth.  Alright, Buffy, show me what you’ve got.

What’s So Bad About Google+ Integration with Google Search?

no comments

There has been a lot of complaining lately about Google’s integration of Google+ results into its search. There have been a lot of accusations. Many say we can no longer trust Google’s search results. Some have gone so far as to say that Google is going back on its pledge to “Do no evil.”

I see things a bit differently. Google offers a variety of services, many of which can be called apps in their own right. Google wants to integrate these services into a single app, each piece of which integrates into each other. The black toolbar added recently took a major step in this direction. The inclusion of social results from Google+ is yet another step.

My primary problem with social results isn’t that it only offers search results from Google+. My primary problem is that it only offers results from Google+. Google isn’t evil because they are only investing their own social service, but they are choosing to offer me special results from a service that is not high on my list of social tools. My primary social tools are Twitter and Facebook. I would find inclusion of those services to be quite useful, but they fall into the normal search results with no integration to show more focus on those I follow or friend on those services. Google is missing out on opportunity by not integrating more social services within its search.

The goal of the Google+ integration isn’t to improve search results directly. The purpose is to increase the value of the Google+ social network. I personally think that Google+ could use a bit of a value-increase. The proper tools are there to run a social network.  The value, though, is in the people.  Like it or not, the value in social networking is in Twitter and Facebook, and Google+ is still an also-ran.

What is bad about a company integrating various services into a single system? There may be a higher cost incurred by the user if they are required to pay for previously unneeded services.  There could be features that are forced upon the user that they are not comfortable with.  The company may use a dominant market position to force users to “lock-in” to their services, or to drive competitors from the market. I am sure that the list is longer.

Looking at these in turn, the first two do not seem to be at issue. Google is not charging users for access to its search engine, or many of its other services.  Those services that cost a fee still exist, unchanged.  I am not aware of any plans for this to change.  What if Google decided to move to a subscription service, charging $1 per month for access to their now unified application? Many would think of it as a good price for a valuable service, and would pay.  Many would make the opposite decision.  As the price for the service increases the percentage of users who will say and pay the price will drop. At the low price of $1 per month the percentage of takers will be quite high.  Raise the price high enough, though, and users will go elsewhere.

What about unwanted features? Users are used to these. Microsoft’s Ribbon interface replacing normal menus?  Horrible idea.  I don’t want it.  Ubuntu’s Unity interface? Why, oh WHY did someone think that was a good idea? Yahoo? Google putting results from a service you are using in a small area on the search page?  Honestly, I’ve had worse.  If it was a hill I was willing to die on, I’d stop using Google and go elsewhere for the same services they offer.

Google does have some significant dominance in certain areas. In the last half of 2011 Google accounted for just over 80% of all search traffic. Bing and Yahoo shared almost all of the rest. Microsoft has built a good search engine in Bing. The biggest reason it isn’t gaining better market share is inertia.  Similar inertia accounts for why such a large majority of us use Microsoft’s operating systems, Office software, and at one time web browser. Microsoft learned with Internet Explorer that a bad product, or even one perceived as bad, would continue to lose market share until it and its image have improved. With Bing they have a worthy competitor for Google, not only because it’s well-made, but also because it isn’t Yahoo.

What about email?  Google’s Gmail product is huge, right?  Not really.  Google accounts for 4% of email opens in a survey done by Litmus.  Microsoft’s Outlook product in various versions accounts for 37%. Gmail lags behind Hotmail, the iPhone, Apple Mail, Yahoo Mail (a strong point for them), and even the web-based version of Microsoft Outlook.

What other market besides search does Google truly have a dominant market share?  Office software?  No.  Instant Messanging?  No. Social Networking? Most definitely not. Chances are we’re using something other than Google for most everything we do except search. The one major exception is in Adwords Advertising, but this does not cost the user.  In fact, it is what allows the other services to stay free.

This begs the most important question in the argument.  Can Google leverage its dominance in search to gain dominance in other markets in which it chooses to compete? So far the answer to that has been no, except for Adwords. Even the Android operating system for mobile phones hasn’t succeeded in breaking the market dominance of Apple in smartphones. It may yet succeed, or a third party may become competitive in the race.

There’s always someone else in the race.  This isn’t like cable companies, utilities, and Standard Oil.  There’s no law saying we can’t use another service.  If Google upsets enough users, they’ll go to the competitors.  This is how markets correct. The fact that we can go to someone else denies a monopoly.  Google does not have a monopoly on search.  Microsoft has never had a monopoly on operating systems or web browsers, though it has defended itself against accusation on both cases.

In the end, to me, it’s just a little search feature.  I’d like to be able to disable it if I want.  I’d prefer to be able to select and link with services I use along with Google+.  It is not, however, the end of the world.

%d bloggers like this: