Tuesday, September 30 2008
Tech & Innovation
Sandia tool puts Internet traffic on the map
System uses Google Maps to show where web traffic comes from.
Sales & Marketing
Blogs establish expertise
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Don't be nervous about asking for that raise -- negotiate for it
Does the idea of asking your boss for a raise make some of you shudder?
The entrepreneurial way to succeed in crisis
How can you succeed in the midst of calamity all around?
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Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Sweeping Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Land-Use
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Sweeping Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Land-Use
Continuing California's environmental leadership in fighting global warming, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he has signed SB 375 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), which builds on AB 32, California's first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by adding the nation's first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl.
The Council will also manage and award grants and loans to support the planning and development of sustainable communities.
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© 2007 State of California
Autumnal greetings to all of our Google friends. We hope you enjoy
this month's update on our products and services.
Google Moderator is a new way to facilitate question-and-answer
sessions during talks, presentations and events that involve large
groups of people. Anyone can submit a question and then people can
vote on the questions that they'd like answered.
NEW PRODUCTS & UPDATES
As part of our 10th birthday celebration, we launched Project 10100
(that's "ten to the hundredth"), a call for ideas that could help as
many people as possible, and a program to bring the best of those
ideas to life. We're committing $10 million to implement these
projects, and while money may offer a jump-start, it really comes down
to the great ideas that we know are out there. We're accepting
submissions until October 20, 2008, and then we'll open up voting in
Updates to Picasa, Picasa Web Albums
There's a new version available of our photo editing software. Picasa
3.0 makes it even easier to share photos with friends and family,
thanks to a new web sync feature that automatically keeps your web
albums up-to-date with the photos on your PC. Picasa 3 also includes
intuitive new editing tools, like a powerful retouching brush, text
tool, movie maker and revamped photo collages. We've also updated
Picasa Web Albums with "name tags" to help you automatically organize
and share your photos by who's in each picture.
This month we released a new open-source web browser. Google Chrome is
fast, secure and lets you access your favorite Google services, such
as Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs, more easily than ever. There
are some unique features too, like a single box for web addresses and
searches, a simplified download manager and an interface to maximize
your browsing experience. (Windows-only at present.)
Google Maps for mobile with Street View
If you use Google Maps for mobile on your BlackBerry or Java-enabled
phone, you can now access Street View while on the go. The new release
incorporates Street View into business listings and directions --
you'll be able to see a specific location before you get there. Other
new features include business reviews and walking directions.
Transit on Google Maps for New York
New York City has about a third of the country's public transportation
volume, and now Google Maps includes public transit information for
the entire metro region, making this the biggest Transit launch for
Google Maps to date. You can find Transit coverage for more than 70
cities and countries; we'll keep you posted as we add more to the
September marked the first 10 years of Google, so we took a moment to
reflect on the enormous impact the Internet has had on people's lives
since our company's founding. The power of the Internet has changed
the way we find, manage and share information -- and we believe it
will only continue to change the way we live. While we don't have a
crystal ball to see exactly what the future holds, we asked a number
of our in-house experts to share their thoughts on how this phenomenal
technology will evolve in the next 10 years. You can read their
responses in a special blog series. We hope you're inspired by their
The Google Blog offers frequent updates and insights about our technology and products, and the company at large.
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|September 30, 2008|
Posted: 30 Sep 2008 12:38 PM CDT
What do Frank Sinatra, fake RSS feed subscribers and professional mourners all have in common? We explore how social imitation proof and why it could help explain why people flock to your site or leave in their droves.
It was the screaming girls that spurred J Edgar Hoover into action. Francis Albert Sinatra was a threat. If the letter was right then the "shrill whistling sound" of those girls screaming for him was planting the idea in the minds of Americans that their very own Hitler would be ok. It was the anonymous letter about those screaming girls that brought him to the attention of the FBI chief.
Sinatra's first solo appearance at New York's Paramount Theatre was deemed a sensation. The young women in the crowd loved him. How was J Edgar Hoover supposed to know that a year on from starting that FBI file on Sinatra that the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, would invite Sinatra to the White House for tea? Roosevelt praised Sinatra telling him, "Fainting, which once was so prevalent, has become a lost art among the ladies, I'm glad you have revived it." How was either, the director of the FBI or the President of the United States of America supposed to know that some of those girls were actually paid to scream for Ol' Blue Eyes? Here's some background on the story:
In December 1942, on one of the biggest nights in the musician's calendar, Bob Weitman, of the Paramount Theatre in New York, booked Benny Goodman's clarinet and big band, still thought of as the best in the country. For reasons he never could explain, Bob Weitman also booked Frank Sinatra to sing with the band, despite the fact that Goodman was bringing Peggy Lee. Then George Evans made his move. He arranged for fans, young women, who were paid $10 a pop, to attend and make as much of a scene as possible. They didn't disappoint.
When Sinatra took to the stage, a small army of girls became hysterical, yelling, 'swooning', in a display that shocked even the tough-arsed Goodman, who'd seen a few crazes. Sinatra became the latest 'teen sensation' virtually overnight. He stayed at the Paramount for a couple of months. Evans coined the term 'bobby-soxers' to describe his nurturing fan base, and set about building Sinatra into a national force. They set up fan clubs everywhere, and ensured a loyal following at every show. Pretty soon Sinatra could write his own contracts with Columbia Records and RKO Pictures. On a return visit to the Paramount in 1944, the street ground to a halt at the mercy of screaming crowds, estimated at 25000. Monkey see; monkey do.
The Washington Post report confirmed the story that a "press agent later conceded that at least part of the Paramount hysteria was staged". The press agent admitted:
"We hired girls to scream when he sexily rolled a note," the agent said. "But the girls we hired to scream swooned, and hundreds more we didn't hire swooned with them."
So why did the women who weren't paid scream for Frank? George Evans understood that people tend to imitate one another. By paying a few women to scream it eventually lead to more screaming and a huge contract with Colombia Records. Terms, like social proof, informational cascades and bandwagon effect essentially describe the same thing – that people tend to look to others to make their own decisions. The women in the crowd that night decided copy the others who were paid to “swoon”.
In their influential paper, A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades, Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch put forward the theory of "informational cascades". From the paper [PDF]:
"An informational cascade occurs when it is optimal for an individual, having observed the actions of those ahead of him, to follow the behavior of the proceeding individual without regard to his own information."
People will often imitate the actions of others without thinking for themselves if they think they are learning something from others. In James S book, Wisdom of the Crowds explains information cascades happen because people "…believe they're learning something important from others" (p.54)
Terms such as bandwagon effect, social proof and informational cascades may be relatively new, but there are examples of them occurring in the ancient world. Egyptians even hired professional mourners to cry at funerals:
A person's status was judged by how many mourners were present at the funeral. Sometimes, families would hire professional mourners to cry hysterically at the funeral. These women would wave their arms, throw dust in their hair, and weep. The better the performance, the more they were paid!!
Social proof and your site
If people have used social proof since ancient Egypt, then there's a reason behind it – it works. Information is costly, either in time or money spent, so it's often rational to follow what others are doing. Visitors to a site are likely to make decisions based on what others people think. This could come from
Depending on the browser or add-ons they use or what third party sites they visit people could also make a judgement based on:
• Votes from social news and bookmarking sites
Most of those topics have already been discussed at length and there are already a number of excellent resources for helping to increase feed subscribers, comment counts, incoming links and other social proof elements that you might like to look at. Instead, we thought it might be interesting to explore the topic from a slightly different angle and ask – is it ever worth faking social proof elements on a website?
Faking social proof?
We've already seen that Frank Sinatra's manager paid for girls to scream and as far back as ancient Eygpt people were faking social proof, so is it really a surprise when the same thing happens online?
Recently, thenextweb.org found that Feedburner subscriber numbers can be artificially inflated (although this has since been fixed). Some articles I've read recently even suggest taking the Feedburner chicklet from successful blogs and using them on your own site.
It's easy to see why people would be tempted to fake their feed numbers. The perception that a site is popular will almost inevitably lead to that site becoming even more popular. Like diamonds, value is based on perception.
There are also articles recommending that you pretend to be someone else to increase your comment count and various tools for sites like Youtube to make it appear that multiple people are commenting on your video. There are other examples of people faking sales to increase their rankings on sales charts.
Author, David Vise, was caught buying 20,000 copies of his own book. Some publishers claimed that it was to manipulate book charts (although Vise denies those charges). John Kremer didn't buy his own books, but instead used email lists to get his books onto the Amazon best seller lists. He explains how manipulating these numbers can lead to more than just book sales:
People know that becoming an Amazon.com bestseller does not mean that the book is a bestseller elsewhere, but people do pay attention to such sales. Foreign rights buyers, book club buyers, larger publishers have all contacted people who have been successful at creating an Amazon.com bestseller. And for good reason. Such an achievement, while temporary, does say that the author/publisher is willing to do what is necessary to get attention and to sell a book. That is significant.
[Note: this isn't to suggest that John Kremer has done anything underhand to get his books to the top, it his just his explanation of how perceived success on Amazon can result in more success for an author]
Personally, I think the subsequent success of the author is less about showing that one is willing to do whatever is necessary to get attention and more to do with the value of social proof. Once a book is deemed a success then more success will follow. We look to our peers to determine if something is worth our time or not.
While social proof elements undoubtedly help to increase a site's popularity, if those aspects are faked then would you still trust the information or services that the site provides?
Frank Sinatra faked his fans initially and then turned into one of the most popular singers in the world – it also landed him on the FBI list. What do you think, would Sinatra have made it anyway?
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