Is Google+ is future? At least Google believe it is !

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It’s common currency in internet punditry circles that Google won the battle to dominate search while Facebook won the battle for social, and that Google+ is just a failed competitor to Facebook. But Google hasn’t given up

It has been clear for a while now that, to make up for the fact that not very many people actively use Google+ as a social network, Google is turning it into a platformon which the rest of Google’s web services are evolving—something that has the effect of making people use Google+ by default. Results from Google+ already clutter search results. YouTube’s commenting system has been replaced by Google+. Chat and Talk, once stand-alone services, were combined into Hangouts and incorporated into Google+.

In a revealing interview with the Indian business newspaper Mint, Steve Grove, a Google+ exec who inks deals with content providers and influential figures, makes it clear that this is just the beginning. Grove tells Mint that “the reason for that is that Google+ is kind of like the next version of Google.”

Why? According to Grove:

There’s a lot of great value here, because Search also shows results from Google+ and this is going to bring more people into Google+; people are going to see that there’s a lot of value in logging into our services, before doing a search.

We’ve written before about how Facebook’s strategy for getting users in emerging markets is to convince people new to the internet that Facebook basically is the internet. Google’s strategy looks a bit like the obverse of this: convince people already on the internet that the internet runs on Google+

But when you look at it longer-term, Google’s strategy is actually very similar to Facebook’s. New internet users, such as the hundreds of millions expected to come online in India in the coming years, will find that being on Google’s social network is increasingly a prerequisite for using Google’s other services. Roping those new users into Google+ from the get-go is the company’s best chance for coming from behind and defeating Facebook’s dominance in social media. And that clearly seems to be Google’s goal, given how much effort it’s pouring into the network.“We focused a lot on Google+ here [in India], and it’s already very active, and people are getting on board on their own,” Grove said.

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Don’t Worry About the Trade Deficit––It’s Meaningless

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What happens when one country’s imports consistently exceed its exports, creating a deficit in the international balance of trade? There is probably no greater misunderstanding about the real nature of wealth than when a discussion turns to the balance-of-trade question.

Henry Hazlitt, author of Economics in One Lesson explained this phenomenon when he wrote:

… the same people who can be clearheaded and sensible when the subject is one of domestic trade can be incredibly emotional and muddleheaded when it becomes one of foreign trade.”

I recently taught an economics course to a group of learned professionals, and this one topic was the most contentious. Most everyone seemed to have an inordinate fear of China, India, and other foreign nations accumulating more and more of America’s debt.

I asked the group a simple question: If China and India become wealthier, is that a threat to America? The general consensus seemed to be yes, illustrating how zero-sum thinking is endemic to this discussion. Adam Smith eloquently wrote about this in 1776 in his seminal book, The Wealth of Nations:

Each nation has been made to look with an invidious eye upon the prosperity of all the nations with which it trades, and to consider their gain as its own loss. Commerce, which ought naturally to be, among nations, as among individuals, a bond of union and friendship, has become the most fertile source of discord and animosity.”

 

USA = Free Trade Zone

One of the reasons the United States of America is such a relatively wealthy country is that it maintains a free trade zone among its 50 states. The Constitution prohibits the states from interfering with trade among their respective citizens; there are no tariffs or import, export, or other restrictions within the 50 states. No individual state worries if it is running a deficit with another.

Economist Russell Roberts posed this challenging question in his delightful academic novel,The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism:

Shouldn’t Florida help out Minnesota by importing just as many oranges from Minnesota as Minnesota imports from Florida? Trade flows should be unequal. … if you pick any one state in the United States and look at its trade position with respect to other states, you’d see a lot of deficits and surpluses.”

 

People Trade, Not Governments

Trade deficits and surpluses are merely accounting conventions with no explanatory relationship to the underlying reality of an economy, which is why accountants and economists have different worldviews. If a free trade zone works internally for the United States, why would it not work internationally among the countries of the world?

It helps to keep in mind that countries do not trade, people do. In any transaction, as Adam Smith pointed out, both parties must gain for it to take place at all––the antithesis to a zero-sum condition.

You buy a Lexus only because you perceive it as being of higher value than the price you are paying. The government, for all practical purposes, has nothing to do with it; nor is it any of its business.

As individuals, we run trade surpluses and deficits all the time. I run a deficit with my local grocery store, importing more from them than I sell to them. You run a large surplus with your employer, who pays you more than you buy in products or services from them in return. So what? The resulting accounting deficits and surpluses simply do not reflect the economic reality behind these billions and billions of individual transactions around the world.

This is what Adam Smith meant when he wrote, “Nothing can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.”

The gains from trade are what we import, not export. The purpose of production, in the final analysis, is consumption. The more imports we can acquire for fewer exports, the wealthier we are, either as individuals or as a country.

Other countries face the same realities, and we are no more likely to obtain the goods and services we desire by trading pieces of green paper with other nations than we are to send letters to the North Pole and get gifts from Santa Claus.

Being a creditor or debtor nation simply has no correlation with a country’s standard of living. Thomas Sowell exposes this fallacious concept in Basic Economics:

In general, international deficits and surpluses have had virtually no correlation with the performance of most nations’ economies. Germany and France have had international trade surpluses while their unemployment rates were in double digits. Japan’s postwar rise to economic prominence on the world stage included years when it ran deficits, as well as years when it ran surpluses. The United States was the biggest debtor nation in the world during its rise to industrial supremacy, became a creditor as a result of lending money to its European allies during the First World War, and has been both a debtor and a creditor at various times since. Through it all, the American standard of living has remained the highest in the world, unaffected by whether it was a creditor or a debtor nation.”

 

No one revealed the specious reasoning behind balance-of-trade concerns better than the French economist, statesman, and author Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850), whom the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter said was “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.”

Bastiat used entertaining fables and carried the logic of the proponents of protectionism to their logical extreme, with biting wit. One of his most famous essays, “Petition of the Candlemakers,” was a parody letter from the manufacturers of “candles, tapers, lanterns… and generally of everything connected with lighting,” arguing against the unfair competition––since its price was zero––of the sun.

Bastiat understood that exports were merely the price we pay for imports, and having to work harder to pay for those imports did not lead to wealth. Using impeccable logic, Bastiat wondered if exports are good and imports are bad, would the best outcome be for the ships carrying goods between countries to sink at sea, hence creating exports with no imports?

Stop worrying about the accounting fiction known as the trade deficit. It’s meaningless, and leads to harmful effects in public policy that destroy wealth.

Big Data is here to stay !!

 

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The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, according to research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office. Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.

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Deep analytical talent: Where are they now?
Deep analytical talent: Where are they now?

Research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office examines the state of digital data and documents the significant value that can potentially be unlocked.

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MGI studied big data in five domains—healthcare in the United States, the public sector in Europe, retail in the United States, and manufacturing and personal-location data globally. Big data can generate value in each. For example, a retailer using big data to the full could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent. Harnessing big data in the public sector has enormous potential, too. If US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent. In the developed economies of Europe, government administrators could save more than €100 billion ($149 billion) in operational efficiency improvements alone by using big data, not including using big data to reduce fraud and errors and boost the collection of tax revenues. And users of services enabled by personal-location data could capture $600 billion in consumer surplus. The research offers seven key insights.

1. Data have swept into every industry and business function and are now an important factor of production, alongside labor and capital. We estimate that, by 2009, nearly all sectors in the US economy had at least an average of 200 terabytes of stored data (twice the size of US retailer Wal-Mart’s data warehouse in 1999) per company with more than 1,000 employees.

2. There are five broad ways in which using big data can create value. First, big data can unlock significant value by making information transparent and usable at much higher frequency. Second, as organizations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance. Leading companies are using data collection and analysis to conduct controlled experiments to make better management decisions; others are using data for basic low-frequency forecasting to high-frequency nowcasting to adjust their business levers just in time. Third, big data allows ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more precisely tailored products or services. Fourth, sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making. Finally, big data can be used to improve the development of the next generation of products and services. For instance, manufacturers are using data obtained from sensors embedded in products to create innovative after-sales service offerings such as proactive maintenance (preventive measures that take place before a failure occurs or is even noticed).

 

3. The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take big data seriously. In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information. Indeed, we found early examples of such use of data in every sector we examined.

4. The use of big data will underpin new waves of productivity growth and consumer surplus. For example, we estimate that a retailer using big data to the full has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent. Big data offers considerable benefits to consumers as well as to companies and organizations. For instance, services enabled by personal-location data can allow consumers to capture $600 billion in economic surplus.

5. While the use of big data will matter across sectors, some sectors are set for greater gains. We compared the historical productivity of sectors in the United States with the potential of these sectors to capture value from big data (using an index that combines several quantitative metrics), and found that the opportunities and challenges vary from sector to sector. The computer and electronic products and information sectors, as well as finance and insurance, and government are poised to gain substantially from the use of big data.

6. There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

7. Several issues will have to be addressed to capture the full potential of big data. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability will need to be addressed in a big data world. Organizations need not only to put the right talent and technology in place but also structure workflows and incentives to optimize the use of big data. Access to data is critical—companies will increasingly need to integrate information from multiple data sources, often from third parties, and the incentives have to be in place to enable this.

Much waited PlayStation 4 is launched by Sony

 

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Sony has launched the PlayStation 4, its new gaming console in the Indian market for Rs 39,990. The console will be available in stores starting January 6, 2014.

Sony also said that the PlayStation camera will be retailed at Rs 4,990. The PS4 controller has also been priced at Rs 4,990 in India. PS4 exclusive titles Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall would be available at a price point of Rs 3,999.
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The PlayStation 4 was released in November for $399 in the US market. The eagerly-awaited PlayStation 4 sold more than 2.1 million units after less than three weeks on the market after its November 15 debut in North America and Sony said it was on track to hit a worldwide target of 5 million units by March.
The PlayStation 4 is powered by an eight-core AMD Jaguar CPU, and features 500GB hard drive, 8GB of unified memory, built-in Blu Ray drive and the new DualShock 4 controller. The PlayStation 4 also features 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connectivity option, an Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Sony has streamlined the PS4’s on-screen user interface, and the menu features large app and games icons in a horizontal bar with another line of smaller icons above it that let users connect with other gamers, tinker with system settings and access the PlayStation Store, to download new games and buy or rent multimedia content.
The launch lineup includes 22 games to attract fans of just about any genre, from military shooters to sports simulations to family-friendly adventures including “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” and “Drive Club.” It also offers media apps, including Hulu and Netflix.
The PlayStation 4 competes with the Xbox One, Microsoft’s next-generation console, that has been priced a $100 higher. Microsoft also claimed it sold 1 million units in in 24 hours following its November 22 release.

Believe it or not, Some Workaholics people do have fun…

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Maybe being a “workaholic” is not as bad as everyone thinks.

The term “workaholic” is generally used in a negative context. But perhaps its reputation is undeserved. If you are driven to work extremes by an external force, such as your employer or even a financial reward, then it is more akin to slavery. But if you are driven to work extremes by an internal force, such as the desire to make something truly great and innovative, your motivation is achievement.

External rewards such as money can only drive people so far. However, the pursuit of a great achievement is a far more powerful force that can drive people beyond the known limits of mankind. After all, it wasn’t a pot of gold that motivated man to put people on the moon; it was patriotism, pride, achievement, and a dash of adventure.

So, if people say you are a workaholic, try to identify what is motivating you. External drivers will only lead to exhaustion. Internal factors will bring joy and satisfaction. These are the workaholics that have more fun.

Facebook wants to know why you didn’t publish that status update you started writing.

 

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A couple of months ago, a friend of mine asked on Facebook:

Do you think that facebook tracks the stuff that people type and then erase before hitting <enter>? (or the “post” button)

Good question.

We spend a lot of time thinking about what to post on Facebook. Should you argue that political point your high school friend made? Do your friends really want to see yet another photo of your cat (or baby)? Most of us have, at one time or another, started writing something and then, probably wisely, changed our minds.

Unfortunately, the code in your browser that powers Facebook still knows what you typed—even if you decide not to publish it.* It turns out that the things you explicitly choose not to share aren’t entirely private.

Facebook calls these unposted thoughts “self-censorship,” and insights into how it collects these nonposts can be found in a recent paper written by two Facebookers. Sauvik Das, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and summer software engineer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, have put online an article presenting their study of the self-censorship behaviour collected from 5 million English-speaking Facebook users. (The paper was also published at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.*) It reveals a lot about how Facebook monitors our unshared thoughts and what it thinks about them.

The study examined aborted status updates, posts on other people’s timelines, and comments on others’ posts. To collect the text you type, Facebook sends code to your browser. That code automatically analyses what you type into any text box and reports metadata back to Facebook.

Storing text as you type isn’t uncommon on other websites. For example, if you use Gmail, your draft messages are automatically saved as you type them. Even if you close the browser without saving, you can usually find a (nearly) complete copy of the email you were typing in your Drafts folder. Facebook is using essentially the same technology here. The difference is that Google is saving your messages to help you. Facebook users don’t expect their unposted thoughts to be collected, nor do they benefit from it.

Facebook, on the other hand, is analyzing thoughts that we have intentionally chosen not to share.

It is not clear to the average reader how this data collection is covered by Facebook’s privacy policy. In Facebook’s Data Use Policy, under a section called “Information we receive and how it is used,” it’s made clear that the company collects information you choose to share or when you “view or otherwise interact with things.” But nothing suggests that it collects content you explicitly don’t share. Typing and deleting text in a box could be considered a type of interaction, but I suspect very few of us would expect that data to be saved. When I reached out to Facebook, a representative told me that the company believes this self-censorship is a type of interaction covered by the policy.

In their article, Das and Kramer claim to only send back information to Facebook that indicates whether you self-censored, not what you typed. The Facebook rep I spoke with agreed that the company isn’t collecting the text of self-censored posts. But it’s certainly technologically possible, and it’s clear that Facebook is interested in the content of your self-censored posts. Das and Kramer’s article closes with the following: “we have arrived at a better understanding of how and where self-censorship manifests on social media; next, we will need to better understand what and why.” This implies that Facebook wants to know what you are typing in order to understand it. The same code Facebook uses to check for self-censorship can tell the company what you typed, so the technology exists to collect that data it wants right now.

It is easy to connect this to all the recent news about NSA surveillance. On the surface, it’s similar enough. An organization is collecting metadata—that is, everything but the content of a communication—and analyzing it to understand people’s behavior. However, there are some important differences. While it may be uncomfortable that the NSA has access to our private communications, the agency is are monitoring things we have actually put online. Facebook, on the other hand, is analyzing thoughts that we have intentionally chosen not to share.

This may be closer to the recent revelation that the FBI can turn on a computer’s webcam without activating the indicator light to monitor criminals. People surveilled through their computers’ cameras aren’t choosing to share video of themselves, just as people who self-censor on Facebook aren’t choosing to share their thoughts. The difference is that the FBI needs a warrant but Facebook can proceed without permission from anyone.

Why does Facebook care anyway? Das and Kramer argue that self-censorship can be bad because it withholds valuable information. If someone chooses not to post, they claim, “[Facebook] loses value from the lack of content generation.” After all, Facebook shows you ads based on what you post. Furthermore, they argue that it’s not fair if someone decides not to post because he doesn’t want to spam his hundreds of friends—a few people could be interested in the message. “Consider, for example, the college student who wants to promote a social event for a special interest group, but does not for fear of spamming his other friends—some of who may, in fact, appreciate his efforts,” they write.

This paternalistic view isn’t abstract. Facebook studies this because the more its engineers understand about self-censorship, the more precisely they can fine-tune their system to minimize self-censorship’s prevalence. This goal—designing Facebook to decrease self-censorship—is explicit in the paper.

So Facebook considers your thoughtful discretion about what to post as bad, because it withholds value from Facebook and from other users. Facebook monitors those un posted thoughts to better understand them, in order to build a system that minimizes this deliberate behaviour.

 

Top Video Ads and Brands making most of the Noise !!

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Which brands managed to take the most advantage of the burgeoning online video advertising space this year? A pair of new reports reveal the big winners this year: YouTube unveils this year’s Ads Leaderboard, while Unruly reveals the brands that scored the most shares of their ads. YouTube, recently forecast by eMarketer to generate $5.6 billion in ad revenues this year, puts Evian’s “baby & me” at the top of its leaderboard, which factors in paid views, organic views and audience retention when determining its rankings. Samsung, meanwhile, tops Unruly’s list.

The YouTube Ads Leaderboard tracks the most-viewed ads rather than branded content, measuring both paid and organic views. With more than 66 million views as of December 2, the Evian ad stood a significant distance from the second-placed ad, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” (59.6 million) which also happened to be the most shared video ad of the year, according to Unruly.

The other ads making the leaderboard were (all view counts as of December 2):

Internet Explorer’s “Child of the 90s” (47.9 million);
Pepsi Max’s “Test Drive” (39.6 million);
PooPourri.com’s “Girls Don’t Poop” (20 million);
Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” (20 million);
GEICO’s “Hump Day” (18.6 million);
Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” (16.6 million);
Volkswagen’s “Get Happy” (14.7 million); and
Audi’s “Prom” (10.7 million).
Not too surprisingly, 6 of those ads landed on Unruly’s chart of the most-shared ads of the year. One more might have made it if not for a later launch: Volvo Trucks’ “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme” took the 6th spot in YouTube’s top 10 trending videos of the year. It joined 2 other branded videos to make the list: Evian’s commercial and the Carrie promotion “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” were the others.

Top Social Video Brands of the Year

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Several of the above-mentioned ads were so successful that they drove the advertisers into an Unruly’s list of most-shared social video brands, which showed significant turnover from last year’s list.

Based on the number of video shares tracked between January 1st and November 18th, Unruly reveals that the top 10 brands were:

Samsung, with 7.3 million shares;
GEICO, with 4.93 million;
Dove, with 4.52 million;
Pepsi, with 4.02 million;
Budweiser, with 3.86 million;
Red Bull, with 3.75 million;
Evian, with 3.71 million;
Kmart, with 3.4 million;
Cornetto, with 3.39 million; and
EA, with 3.39 million.
Last year’s top viral video brand, Google, failed to make the list this year, coming in 12th. Unruly also notes that Nike, TNT Benelux, DC Shoes, P&G, Abercrombie & Fitch and Volkswagen also couldn’t repeat their successes from last year to make it into the top 10. The fairly high turnover from last year suggests that making the list is dependent on the virality of a limited number of ads: 6 of this year’s top 10 brands had a video ad make Unruly’s list of most-shared ads.