More Thoughts on my Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone vs. the iPhone

Puppy Love

Last week I bought a new Samsung Galaxy S Android phone and changed my phone service from my iPhone 3Gs on AT&T to T Mobile. I had some initial frustrations around getting the Galaxy to work the way I wanted it to and wanted to do an update after using the phone for a week. This isn’t meant to be a review, just random thoughts from your average user.

1. T Mobile’s service is *much* better than AT&T’s in the Bay Area. My main reason for switching was because I was so tired of AT&T’s lousy service. It’s refreshing to pretty much be able to connect to a high speed internet connection 100% of the time. Web pages load faster, it’s more reliable. I couldn’t believe it when it even started working in the BART tunnel between West Oakland and MacArthur, someplace my iPhone has never worked once and where wireless service technically is not even supposed to be available. Goodbye crappy AT&T.

Also in general, this phone is *much* faster than the iPhone. It’s amazing how fast it can scroll through an internet page. The browser is lightspeed ahead of the Safari browser on my iPhone. I love this.

2. The phone has things that still don’t work. I can’t figure out how to view my favorite contacts. I can’t add contacts to groups. It seems like some of these are known issues. I’m surprised that finished software would still have these sorts of major bugs in it.

3. Connecting the phone to my MacBook Pro is a *nightmare* and not at all intuitive. Here are the steps I have to take. 1. Go to the main settings menu. 2. Go to the applications submenu. 3. Go to the Development submenu. 4. Select USB debugging. 5. Select my notifications bar at the top of my phone. 6. Pull this bar down. 7. Click on the Ongoing “USB Connected.” 8. Click on Mount. I then get two drives that show up on my Mac. Both are called “No Name.” One just has two folders: movies and music. The other has a bunch more of the phone files. This process is not at all intuitive.

You can blame Samsung for this bad connectivity if you are an Apple fan boy. If you are an anti-Apple fan boy feel free to instead blame Apple. Either way it’s a chore.

4. I like the display on the Galaxy better than the display on my iPhone, unless I’m outside in the sun. The Galaxy has a beautiful vibrant display and I love the way it looks. It’s big and bold and bright. But trying to look at the display outside in the sun is almost impossible. My iPhone looked a lot better in the sunlight. Not sure why this is.

5. I miss the autocorrect feature on the iPhone. I’m pretty clumsy when it comes to typing on a phone. I make a lot of errors. Apple seemed to do a pretty good job at getting what I was going for when I’d type San Franncisvo instead of San Francisco and auto correcting things. I think I have auto correction turned on with my Galaxy, but if I do it doesn’t do a very good job. I make a lot of errors and it doesn’t seem to catch them at all. On the plus side though, the new “swype” technology is really cool and I suspect I’ll get used to that and like it even more over time. With swyping you simply move from one letter to the next without lifting your finger until you have the entire word. Then the Galaxy guesses what the word is and I’ve found that it’s really good at guessing correctly. You select the word from possible choices and it inserts it.

I still can’t help thinking about that little fox Swyper though on those Dora the Explorer shows that my kids used to watch when they were little when I hear swyping though. Swyper, no swyping.

6. Google Maps on this phone rock! So much better than the iPhone. I can literally pull up all of the Google Maps that I’ve created online and get them on this phone. The key here is using “layers” (again not the most intuitive way to figure this out). When you are in maps you click on the settings bar and then select “layers.” You then click on “more layers.” And then you click on “my maps.” Then the phone gives you all of your Google Maps that you have created and you can just select the city or map or whatever that you want and it imports it right in. Then you can select any of your pins and the maps app can give you direct driving, public transportation, biking, or walking directions to that location.

I could never get my Google Maps into the mapping program on my iPhone and this is a key reason why I want a smart phone. To be able to use my Google Maps when I’m out shooting and exploring new cities.

7. I miss Hipstamatic. I loved that app on my iPhone. I loved all the funky preprogramed vintage film feels that they’d create. I loved how I could shake the phone to randomize it. The best app I’ve been able to find for the Android platform so far to kinda/sorta approximate Hipstamatic is Vignette. The photo above of my son William and my brother’s puppy was processed with that app. With Vignette you sort of do the post processing manually after you’ve shot the image instead of using pre-built combinations. I hope Hipstamatic releases an Android version of their software soon.

8. Music is a bit more work with the Galaxy S than the iPhone/iTunes combination, but not that much more difficult. There is a free program called doubletwist which feels pretty much like an exact iTunes clone. You can import the music that you want from your iTunes library into doubletwist and then sync that music to your phone with that program.

I think I like the headphones that came with my iPhone a little better than the ones that came with my Galaxy, but I can actually use either in the device. Of course you can buy whatever headphones you want for whatever phone that you want so this is of little consideration.

9. You can’t take a screen shot with the Galaxy, at least the basic user can’t out of the box. This is surprising to me. I’d think that this would be sort of Smartphone 101 basics. Maybe in the next version of Android (Froyo, which is coming to the Galaxy S in September) this will be available natively. You can do something called “rooting” your phone, which as I understand it is like jailbreaking an iPhone, and then use developer tools to take screenshots, but this is not something that I want to do and not something that would appear easy for an every day casual user to do.

10. The Picasa integration with this phone is fantastic. It is seamless. You can access your Picasa photos on Google very easily as galleries and it feels more like they are actually on the phone than you are connecting to the web to see them. Google has done a really super job with this integration. I love how you can pull directly from your Picasa galleries to pull artwork to use for your screen background. The Picasa/Android integration is so much more elegant and beautiful than anything I’ve seen come from Flickr yet. The Flickr mobile experience is awful in my opinion. This Picasa integration on my Galaxy makes me want to use Picasa a lot more.

11. Tethering this phone is awesome. I can hook the phone up via USB to my MacBook Pro and use it’s connection to browse the internet on my laptop. Unlimited and for free. It’s not as fast as wifi or my uVerse network at home, but it definitely will suffice in a pinch. I probably won’t use this feature alot, but it will be very nice to have when I need it. Right now I’m using a 21 day trial for an app called PDAnet which makes this super easy to do. The app costs $19 to buy after the trial, but from what I understand, much easier native teethering ability will be coming out with the next version of Android, Froyo (which again, I’ll get from TMobile next month).

12. The battery life on the iPhone was better. But since I can keep the phone connected and charging via USB to my computer this helps keep a charge up. I can also use the same cable with the cigarette lighter charger that I was using for my iPhone. I think I’ll be able to manage the battery life. I like that the Galaxy gives me an analysis of what is using my battery life. AT present it breaks down as follows for me. 78% display, 10% Android system, 7% Android OS, 5% cell standby, 2% dialer.

13. I am now paying $60 a month for phone service (without a contract) that includes 500 talk minutes per month and unlimited texting and internet.

By contrast, my wife (who is still on an iPhone) is paying $75 a month for a comparable plan except that she only gets 450 minutes and is limited to 200 texts per month. So I am getting just a little bit more from T-Mobile for $15 per month less on a much superior network.

Better service, lower cost. Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

14. Almost all of the above workarounds, etc. that I figured out for this phone came from Google Buzz, one of the best social networks around. You can follow me on Google Buzz here.

Thanks to everyone there who has given me advice on how to use my new Galaxy over the past week. Google Buzz has a tech savvy community that is very enthusiastic about the Android platform, smart phones and technology in general. Even more impressive, many of the people who gave me advice and help over this last week are Google employees. Certainly I’m an active higher profile Buzz user, but I’ve been super impressed at the personal interest that Google employees take in passionately resolving technology issues around Google products.

The “community” around the Android platform is by no means limited to Google staff, many other developers, and just geeks in general have been just as helpful, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company whose employees are so willing to engage their customers.

Earlier this week a Google employee, Adewale Oshineye, posted an interesting quote on buzz that struck a chord with me which I’ve reposted below. The Google culture seems to empower their employees to act as tech support, evangelists, etc. however and whenever they wish. This is refreshing to see. There is an enthusiasm for Google Products that I’ve seen from the employees that I’ve followed on Buzz.

Customer service is so easy and still so hard. All it takes is genuine interest in the customer and in your own company. And some simple protocol, like saying hello in order to get the communications channel open with the customer and asking in the end, if he has been satisfied.

But half of customer service people ‘just work here’. They are not genuinely interested neither in the individual customer or in their own company success. Something wrong with incentives? You are not paid for serving well?

Update #1: Thanks to Sumyunguy who in the comments below was able to point me to a convoluted but possible way to take screenshots of my Galaxy without rooting it. I followed these instructions from the link he provided and found I was indeed able to take a screenshot (now you can see how colorful my Galaxy desktop is). This is nice to know. A lot of work just to get a screenshot but nice to know that it can be done. 🙂

Update #2: Thanks to Brian Hall and Brian Criscoulo over at Mark/Space. I was able to use their software The Missing Sync for Android to sync all my contacts from my Mac Address book over to my Galaxy contact list — and over wifi, which was super slick. I can now add these contacts to groups which solves my problem up there at point #2.

It looks like this software will also help me manage a lot more of the synchronization between my MBP and my new phone as well including my music, files, videos, photos and lots of other computer based media. But I’m going to figure that part out later. Pretty awesome stuff. 🙂

12 Hours on the New Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone, Early Thoughts on the Switch from the iPhone to Android

I bought the new Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone from T Mobile yesterday.

I think the thing is that the mac and iphone are designed for each other. Hours and hours and hours and hours go into making sure that these two devices work together flawlessly. There is only one phone and there is only one mac. Well, not literally, but you get the idea. In a closed environment things can be tested and retested and retested and retested to make sure that the devices stand up to Apple’s litmus test of “just works.”

So that out of the box and afterwards the consumer has a positive experience with the product without having to resort to hacks or workarounds or the what not.

Android by contrast can be used by any device on any computer. So individual combinations thus probably don’t get the testing that they should. My phone should be recognized out of the box by my Mac. Except that it wasn’t. If it had been an iphone it would have been. So I resorted to a hack (turning on USB debugging, something not at all intuitive) in order to get it to work. (Thanks Brian Rose)! Still there it didn’t work quite right. It showed up as two devices instead of one. It showed storage of 1.86GB when there really was more. I had to manually turn USB sharing off after the sync in order to get my music to actually play.

My initial experience with other areas of android as well are that it seems to crash more than the iPhone. Things are harder to figure out. Why can’t I add a contact to a group on the phone? It has contacts. It has groups. Shouldn’t you be able to simply add someone to a group? Why can you fave a contact but then not generate a list of those favorited contacts on the phone?

The device costs as much as an iPhone (at least I think it does, I payed $550 or so for it without a contract for a 16GB phone) but it’s not intuitive at all and far more difficult to use, at least so far for me.

If someone is really tech savvy they might prefer Android. I suspect that I can do far more with this phone in the long run than I can with an iPhone. But it’s like a Windows PC in a lot of ways. Yeah, you’re not beholden to Apple as to what can work on it, but you just spent 5 hours trying to burn a DVD because the driver for the off brand internal 3rd party DVD burner that you’re using from Malaysia inside your PC doesn’t want to work with Windows 7, at least the version of Windows 7 that you’re using.

Positives for Android

1. It’s not AT&T and it feels really, really, good to stick it to AT&T by leaving them after they’ve provided such a crappy network over the past several years. I’m sure they are happy to see me go. I was tweeting about once every 48 hours about how bad they sucked when the iPhone would choke over and over and over and over again on their craptastic network.

2. It’s faster.

3. It’s Google.

Negatives for Android

1. It’s buggy as hell.

2. It lacks apps like Hipstamatic that are important to me. It has alternatives which look promising (I bought vignette last night), but it’s not Hipstamatic.

3. The battery life is probably worse than my iPhone, but I haven’t really had enough experience with this yet. I’m just going by word of mouth here.

One interesting contrast. When I walked into the T Mobile store yesterday to buy my Galaxy S (at about 4pm on a Thursday afternoon), the Embarcadero 1 Store was quite literally empty. I mean there was not a single other customer in the store when I showed up. In fact, in the entire 30 minutes or so that I was there buying it, not a single other customer even walked into the store. It was actually really nice. I was helped right away. The service woman there was very friendly and seemed very happy to have a customer. It was quiet. Not at all rushed. She was playing with the Galaxy phone herself when I showed up there. I asked to see one and she handed me the one that she’d been playing with. So easy.

I suppose how busy a store is might anecdotally be looked at as a measure of popularity for a given product.

The Apple store by contrast is chaos. iPhones are out of stock. You can’t get anyone to help you without an appointment even if you want to buy something. If something breaks later (like my headphones not working), you can’t simply go into the store and have them swap them out as the phone is still under warranty. You have to schedule an appointment either 2 days later or at some other store 50 miles away for tomorrow afternoon to have a tech look at your headphones that probably cost Apple 89 cents a pair to swap them out for you.

If you show up 10 minutes early to the store and the doors are unlocked they’ll make you wait outside in 40 degree weather with two little girls while their employees stand around idly just behind the thick warm glass (probably laughing at you inside) in the warm unlocked store just staring at the poor sucker without an “appointment” and his daughters sitting on the concrete out in the cold in front of the store.

Apple treats people like crap. And there literally is no recourse. Except I guess maybe buying a competitor’s product instead the next time like I just did. Google seems to care more. I’m much more impressed with them as a company. I’m much more impressed with the people that work there that seem passionate about making a better phone and a better world more broadly speaking. I’m much more impressed that they are trying as hard as they can to make the best experience for me even if it might fall short for me initially. I’m impressed that they want to do the right thing for the user. These sorts of things should and do count.

I’ll update this post with more thoughts on the switch in a week.

Updates: A couple of other things while working with this phone today.

1. It boggles my mind that the phone can’t natively take screen shots. There are cumbersome ways to make this work, but not without “rooting” your Android phone. Something that doesn’t seem very easy to do with my Samsung.

2. Tethering is really cool and it’s free on T-Mobile. You have to buy an app called PDANet to do it easily. You get 21 days to use the app for free and then it costs $19. I was able to access the web and upload photos to flickr at perfectly acceptable speeds while tethered. It will be nice not having to pay for hotel wifi in the future for the limited amount that I need it while on the road.

3. The problems with not being able to add contacts to Groups seems to be affecting other users of the Samsung Galaxy as well.

Google Goes Transparent with AdSense

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Back in 2005, I considered using Google’s Adsense product on my blog. I never did use it. The thing that bothered me the most about it was that it wasn’t transparent — that Google would not share with you as a content publisher what the split was. If I am going to go into business with someone, it seems crazy to be in the dark about revenue share. The “trust us, we’re being fair with you,” argument that Google seemed to represent never sat well with me.

Instead I later ended up working with John Battelle and his wonderful team over at Federated Media, a relationship that I still have today and am very happy with. They really do a first rate job managing the advertisements for my blog and they seem to get very high CPM rates at that.

That said, I was very pleased earlier today to see, in an act of transparency, that Google had finally chosen to disclose the Adsense split between publishers and Google with their primary Adsense products.

From the Google Inside Adsense Blog:

AdSense for content publishers, who make up the vast majority of our AdSense publishers, earn a 68% revenue share worldwide. This means we pay 68% of the revenue that we collect from advertisers for AdSense for content ads that appear on your sites. The remaining portion that we keep reflects Google’s costs for our continued investment in AdSense including the development of new technologies, products and features that help maximize the earnings you generate from these ads. It also reflects the costs we incur in building products and features that enable our AdWords advertisers to serve ads on our AdSense partner sites. Since launching AdSense for content in 2003, this revenue share has never changed.

68% seems like a very fair deal to me between publishers and Google, and so after learning this news, I’m going to add Google Adsense to my blog in addition to the ads also currently being run by Federated Media. Thanks to Google for opening up this split and making it easier for publishers like me to work with you going forward.

Now hurry up and get going with building a stock photography business for us to use with Google. The paltry 20% that we get paid out for our photos with Flickr/Getty is way too low.

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over My Computing Life

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over my Computing Life

Years ago I used to only use Google to do internet searches. Slowly but surely though Google has been taking over more and more and more of my computing life. This is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. Google makes things that make my life easier and their corporate values are more in synch with my own than most publicly traded companies. I’ve especially noticed in the past six months that the trend of Google taking over my computing life has accelerated dramatically. This could have to do with the time I’ve been spending on Buzz, but some of the changes (like changing my internet browser) have involved big chunks of my computing experience.

Below is a loose chronology of the evolution of my experience with Google Products.

1. Search (can’t remember exactly when, but years ago), got off Yahoo pretty early in the game and switched to Google. Google has the best search on the web today. I appreciate Google’s more open nature than other search engines and their better track record when it comes to keeping the web uncensored.

2. Blogger. Used Blogger since 2003. Abandoned Blogger for WordPress last year, mostly due to Blogger’s inability to deal effectively with comment spam.

3. Google Analytics. Still use this. It’s free which is good. I’ve never really gotten what I want and need out of this product though. It’s complicated to build things for me. The two most important things I want from a stats package are the number of page views and referring url information. My view I’m most interested in is the past 24 hours. Before Analytics I used Sitemeter. I liked Site Meter’s analytics product much more, but you have to pay for that and Google Analytics is free.

I get the sense that Google Analytics is a bit like Photoshop for me. You can do anything and everything with it, but I’m still only using about 2% of its true potential.

4. Google Docs. I’m a lightweight user of word processing and spreadsheets, so this works just fine for me. Replaces the need to buy expensive software from Microsoft to do this sort of work for the casual user like me.

5. Google Maps. I used to use Mapquest and Yahoo Maps. Now I use Google Maps exclusively. It’s the best mapping software on the web. I use it *very* heavily when traveling.

6. YouTube. Like everybody I’m on it. I rarely use it though. Occasionally I’ll consume content on it. It takes so much time to watch YouTube videos though. It’s probably the internet site that my kids use more than any other site on the internet though. My son Jackson has spent hours on there learning how to do Yo Yo tricks. One of these days I’m going to have to get him a Google Yo Yo. Actually I just ordered him a green one and a yellow one. He’ll love them. 🙂 I used Google Checkout to buy them from Google (not sure why the shipping charge is more than the yoyos though).

7. Google Earth. I don’t use Google Earth a lot. I find it a bit unweildy actually. But I do use it to do the geotagging with Geotagger for my photos.

8. Gmail, part 1. Unfortunately I was late to the game with Gmail. So alas, I’m thomashawk22 instead of thomashawk. I got a gmail account and then never really used it. A few years back though I was getting so much spam email that I began filtering thomashawk.com email through gmail first to filter out all of the spam. That worked tremendously well. My spam pretty much went away entirely overnight. So I was using Google gmail as a passive filter for my Mac mail reader for about 2 years. Part 2, later.

In the past six months.

9. Google Buzz. Buzz has really become my primary social network. I still use a number of different social networks (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed), but Buzz now gets the bulk of my social networking time and attention. One of my favorite things about Buzz is that it shows photos *really* well. You can feed your Flickr feed into it and if people click on the thumbnails they blow up huge to get an easy big view. There’s a link to Flickr included that I can cmd click to go fave the photo on Flickr too.

The majority of my faves that I’m faving on Flickr these days are coming from Google Buzz. If you haven’t hooked your Flickrstream up to a Buzz account yet you are missing out. 🙂 Even if you aren’t going to use Buzz, don’t have time for another social network, etc. You should still at least hook up your Flickrstream to it so that people can see your Flickr photos there and get back to your stream via Buzz.

10. PicasaWeb. I’ve had an account on Picasa for years, but just never really used it. I’ve started using it much more though. Presently I’m maxed out my free storage there so I’m just using it to host small sized screenshot files and deleting my larger high res photos as I need space. I’ve thought about paying the $5 to buy more ($5 is really totally insignificant for me to pay) but I need Picasa to convince me as a product first why I should do that.

If Picasa had photostreams and SmartSet technology I’d totally pay. But as it stands today, it’s too much work organizing my photos there manually without SmartSets and it feels to me like the photosharing community is still very much at Flickr. I do use the service though almost daily to host my screenshots.

11. Google Profiles. I like having a profile page on Google and look forward to seeing them continue expanding this product. You can find my Google Profile here.

12. Google Chrome. After a rocky marriage with Firefox for many years we finally split up a few months ago. Google Chrome is just a far better, faster, more stable web browser.

13. GMail, part 2. I haven’t opened my Mac Mail application for about a month now. I’ve been consuming all of my email directly from gmail on the web. Mostly it’s just faster to do email this way. So now it is not only my passive spam filter, it’s my main mail application that I use to consume all of my email.

14. Picnik. Probably technically not a Google Product yet, but acquired by Google recently so I’m including it. I just bought a Pro account there for $24.95 for a year. I did it just because I was curious about what you could do there more than anything. I don’t think I’ll renew it after my year is up based on what I saw. I didn’t really see anything there that I can’t already do in Lightroom or Photoshop. But for someone who doesn’t want to spend the money for Lightroom/Photoshop, this seems like an excellent way to go. You really can do quite a bit for $25 a year.

I need to play around with Picnik a bit more though. Maybe it will grow on me. Google should consider giving away the Pro version in Picasa to get more people on there.

15. Google Calendar. After using 30 Boxes for many years I switched to Google Calendar. Not sure why really. 30 Boxes was working just fine. I think I like Google Calendar better. I like how now that I’ve synched it up with my iPhone that I get a little notification from my iPhone calendar 10 minutes before I’ve got an appointment.

16. Google Chrome URL shortener. this is kind of a minor little tool. Not a product really. But I love it so much that I wanted to include it. You just click on a little icon in Chrome and it automatically copies a shorter url to your clipboard. 🙂

The future.

So what’s next for me in terms of adopting Google products. I’m not sure exactly but here are a few ideas.

Android. I suspect that when my contract with AT&T ends in July that I’ll likely switch to a Google phone of some sort. They seem to be ahead of Apple right now, are a more open company. And I can’t stand how poor AT&T’s 3G network is in San Francisco.

Chrome OS. This will be an interesting one. Switching your OS is huge. It took me years to get off Windows and on to my Mac about 5 years ago. Overall I’m pretty happy with my Mac. Still I paid over $3,000 for my last MacBook Pro. Chrome would seem to make computing cheaper. I don’t know enough about Chrome to really blog about it, but if I can install it on my MacBook Pro when it comes out (later this year?) to check it out I definitely will. Apple’s OS is pretty damn solid though, so I think this switch for me will be a harder one.

The Web’s a Buzz About Google Buzz

The Web's a Buzz About Google Buzz

I’ve only just been playing with Google Buzz for a few hours and I’m only going to make a few early comments and observations on it. I’ll probably be hanging out there *alot* over the next 48 hours or so, so stop by and say hi.

1. The Flickr integration is interesting. I really, really, really, like how they show a great little thumbnail slider thing of your flickrstream on your profile page. The thumbnails are in the correct order as to when you upload them to flickr (unlike Friendfeed which displays them backwards) and the slider is really slick. But I wish that they showed more in your actual buzz stream when you upload photos to flickr.

At present Buzz just shows the *last* photo that you upload to flickr, so people who upload in batches, like me and a lot of my friends, will miss a lot of photos and still have to go to flickr to better follow our contact’s activity there. It would be super slick if, instead of just posting the last photo that you posted to flickr, Google actually posted in that thumbnail slider showing the last *batch* of photos that you uploaded to Flickr in your stream.

2. I wish that there was a way that I could import my flickr contacts into Google Buzz. Is it that Google can’t/won’t do this or is it that Flickr can’t/won’t allow them to do this? I suspect it is the later.

On Flickr in my account settings I can choose to make my email public to my contacts. This is my choice. Why can’t Google use the Flickr API to suck in all of my Flickr contacts who likewise have opted to share their email address with me? Or at least use this data to give me a suggested user list from Flickr?

Flickr has never been a good web citizen about user data portability and I suspect that they won’t allow Google access to email addresses because they want to keep you locked into the silo that is Flickr. I could be wrong on this though and if anyone has any actual information on why this can’t be done today I’d be interested in that.

3. Google Buzz feels alot like FriendFeed. But I like it more because I feel sort of like Friendfeed has become a dead product now that the Founders have moved on to Facebook. Google Buzz feels like it has a lot more potential because it is a new service and likely to get significant resources from Google. I suspect Google Buzz mostly draws attention away from Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed. At least when it comes to my own personal use.

4. Hat tip to Kreg Steppe. The biggest Win that Buzz has over Facebook is that Buzz doesn’t have Farmville or Mafia Wars notifications! Indeed. It’s so nice being able to get all that crap out of my social network.

5. The “mute” feature on Buzz is powerful and handy, even if it is a total FriendFeed Rip Off (not a bad thing by the way). They should put the mute button though down by the like button though, rather than have it hidden over on the left under a drop down menu. Like FriendFeed, managing the noise on Buzz will be important. This tool should be front and center.

6. Why will Buzz succeed? One word. GMail. The biggest problem for any social network is getting enough momentum up and running. The snowball never builds up enough critical mass to really get rolling down the hill. By integrating buzz into gmail, it gives Google a *huge* install base to ensure that the momentum gets rolling.

7. I haven’t figured out the “block” feature yet but I hope it works like Friendfeed where if you block someone it filters all of their comments out of your threads. It would be nice to mute out permanently all of the trolls, haters, etc. with a quick block command.

8. The text formatting feels cool. just type *asterisks* around any word and it bolds it. Minuses will strike through, and underscores will italicize. Thanks Adam!

9. It would be nice to see directories of buzz users based on interests as well as geolocational data. Show me a list of all of the photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area, for instance, ranked by number of followers. It would be great if Buzz could use the geolocational data to help connect me with new potential contacts based on geography and interest.

That’s all for now. I’ll try and post more on Buzz as it goes on. Overall, I’m VERY optimistic about the service. It’s one of the more exciting things I’ve seen on the web in a while. Feel free to post any of your own comments or observations on the service and if you read this feel free to post your Google Buzz ID in the comments section so that I can follow you.

You can find me on Google Buzz here.

Does Google Map’s Use of All Rights Reserved Photos From Flickr Violate Copyright?

Does Google Map's Use of All Right's Reserved Photos From Flickr Violate Copyright?

It was interesting to read over at Rev Dan Catt’s blog today that Google has now begun including Flickr photos into their Google Maps product. I love Google Maps and use it *heavily,* especially when planning trips to new cities to photograph.

Basically, when you are in Google Street View mode for any part of Google Maps, you are presented with an option to click on “user photos.” Google then presents you with a list of thumbnail sized photos that you can go through one by one and view actual photos on the maps based on their own Picassa photo sharing and now Flickr. As you click on the various photos, it pulls up a high res version of each of the photos, showing you the image.

When I first learned of this feature I thought for sure that it would be limited to Creative Commons Flickr photos. I wasn’t sure how Google could legally take high res photos for CC non-commercial photos or all rights reserved photos and integrate full sized versions of them into their product. But it seems as though this is exactly what they’ve done.

If you look at the screen shot above, it features a photo by Flickr photographer Patrick Boury, if you look at that photo on Flickr, it is licensed as “all rights reserved.” I surfed Google’s Street View around San Francisco today checking out lots of the photos and many (in fact I’d say most) of the Flickr images that Google is presently using are either Creative Commons non-commercial licensed photos or all rights reserved licensed photos.

While I know that in the past Google has used thumbnail images in their Google Image Search product of all rights reserved Flickr photos, I haven’t actually seen them use full scale large versions of all rights reserved photos in other products like this.

Me personally, I have no problem with Google using any of my own geotagged photos this way, but I’m pretty open and willing to share my photos. Especially though with thousands of Flickr users now formally licensing their all rights reserved photos through Getty Images, it makes me wonder if Getty Images would consider this sort of use by Google as infringing on the exclusivity that Flickr users give them over images when licensing them for sale with them.

I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not exactly sure if Google is infringing here or not, but it raises an interesting question about fair use. Google is a for profit company and even displays adverts on the street view pages using Flickr photos.

It should also be noted that Flickr has a way to exclude your photos from being indexed by Google and other search engines in your Flickr preferences. I suppose if someone felt strongly enough about this issue then they might consider hiding their images from search engines and I’d assume that they’d then not be indexed in Google’s Street View product.