The Digi-Cult

A New Religion for a Digital Age

Posts Tagged ‘google’

Google introduces Transit Layer to Maps

Posted by Shannon O'Grady on January 15, 2009

Montreal is currently the only Canadian city avialable with a Transit Layer

Montreal is currently the only Canadian city avialable with a Transit Layer

Many of you have probably used Google maps over the years and found it’s geographically correct maps pretty handy.  Well they just got a bit handier, especially for those who ride public transit.

Google Maps has added a Transit layer to it’s mapping system that allows users to view transit routes super-imposed over the previously mentioned geographically accurate maps.  The service is available for 50 + cities currently, but Google being Google, I’m sure they’ll add more.

Users and writers across the Internet are saying that while the maps are awesome and neat to look at, they’re a bit more complicated than most Transit maps (which are simplified representations of the transit system). The better you are with maps the more comfortable you’ll be with the new Google feature.

Don’t dispair though!  If you use Google’s Transit site you can have it plan your trip, snag your accompanying maps from Google Maps and be set!

Frankly I think this will be a good add on for Google, though I suspect it won’t be that highly used a feature until more maps are available.  For a full list of cities and links to view thier transit maps visit the Google Maps team blog.  What would really make this feature is full integration with Google Transit.

I’m waiting for a cost effective GPS device that does this same thing.  Input your destination, it picks your starting point and gets you on the right busses etc, alerting you a stop ahead of when you get off that your stop is coming up, AND can be programed to avoid certain routes (if one is blocked for example).

A girl can dream, but maybe it’s something for you to get on Google 😉

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Posted in Digital Culture, H/S Reviews, Hardware/Software, Interaction, Tech News, Web News, Web reviews, Websites | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THEMES (omg!) for Gmail

Posted by Rod Leland on November 19, 2008

Google has just started rolling out a new feature in Gmail Labs that adds Theme support to gmail.  Many add-ons and plugins have added this feature previously and now google themselves have stepped up. For so, so, so many people who use gmail in the browser as an online web-app this is great news.  Hopefully Google will add a feature that allows user-submitted themes as well.  The rollout has already started but google tends to roll things out slowly to balance server load and detect bugs early on.  Check for the Themes tab under settings and if you dont have the setting yet, It should drop soon.   Some Samples Via Google:
skins_grid1-Rod

Posted in Buzz, Digital Culture, Geekdom, Tech News, Websites | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

President of the Intertubes.

Posted by Rod Leland on November 7, 2008

“Undoubtedly Obama’s rise to the presidency will be studied for years to come as the textbook example of a new kind of electioneering driven by people and technology” -Ralph Benko, principal of the political consulting firm Capital City Partners, in Washington, D.C.

picture-7
Barack Obama is now officially the president-elect of the United States, and it’s certainly no accident. Obama drew the largest voter turnout in a century.  He managed to awaken voter demographics that were dormant for many, many terms. Yes, he’s a great speaker, yes his platform is solid, and yes he’s riding the wake of a 20% approval rating for the current republican president. But what really won him the election?  The Internet and social media tools.

It’s no coincidence that Obama’s team at campaign headquarters is packed full of ambitious 20-somethings.  These same 20-somethings understood that this election is completely different because for the first time the Internet was massively, fundamentally, important.

So, Obama has a great website. It’s easy to read and navigate with a standards-compliant, clean, functional design.  However, every candidate has a website nowadays.  Where the real differences start to come is in Obama’s use of the free online social media tools like YouTube and Twitter, Barack’s use of different communication methods for different demographics, and probably most importantly, the creation of his OWN SOCIAL NETWORK.

Let’s start with the free online social media tools.  Barack leveraged all the major pre-existing Internet staples and built huge followings within each. The important metrics (at election time):

125 THOUSAND Twitter Followers (the most of all twitter users, ever)
100 MILLION Youtube Views,
865 THOUSAND Myspace Friends,
and 2.6 MILLION Facebook supporters.

It should also be noted that Obama’s Youtube channel has close to 2000 videos and in the final days of the election new videos were being released at a rate of roughly one an hour.

I think those numbers speak for themselves.

These are tools a vast majority of us already use and love.  When we can show support for, and interact with our presidential candidate, it helps immensely to build personal brand.  It’s certainly very cool to “be friends” with Obama on MySpace or receive a Tweet from Obama thanking YOU for helping to elect him.  This is why building personal brand becomes so important to help with Obama’s message.  He wants to drive home the point that every single voter matters, and the use of social media re-enforces this.  These relatively simple, passive tools that can (and most likely are) run by members of Obama’s team help personally connect voters to their candidate.

Barack and his team also used individual communication methods to contact different demographics.  For the younger voters, text messages were the weapon of choice.  Appropriately, for the older demo, clearly-worded, short, concise emails were sent out.  The personalization of campaigning helped Obama reach each generation in the best way.  In past elections, a TV spot goes out to everyone watching TV, and it’s much tougher to customize your message for a specific set of people.

picture-8On to Obama’s own Social Network.  My.BarackObama.com launched in the middle of February and by the end of his campaign had 1.5 Million accounts.  The social network launched pretty much without bugs and feature-complete showing again, that Obama’s team was CRUSHING the web aspect of his campaign and know the do’s and don’ts.  Through this social network, Obama’s followers arranged their own rallies, meetups, and contributed a vast amount of money that helped fuel Obama’s campaign.

In another show of web prowess, just a single day after being named president-elect, Obama launched the Obama-Biden Transition Project (as the organization is legally known) under the domain Change.gov.  Obama and his team know that keeping their followers in the loop via the web is not optional anymore, and this new project is a perfect example of the fact that Obama is committed to pursuing this view not just in his campaign, but in his presidency as well.

(Props to Techpresident for the killer metrics.)

-Rod

Posted in Buzz, Digital Culture, Geekdom, Tech News, Websites | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Twitter Could Save Your Life.

Posted by Rod Leland on September 24, 2008

Twitter. It’s likely you’ve heard the name thrown around on CNN, by your friends, on the radio, or just overheard someone talking about it.  ‘Twitter’ is much more than a word that may be quickly disregarded as a catchy avian onomatopoeia. It’s an Internet site, a social network, a recent online phenomenon…and it could just save your life.

Twitter, (as googled) would warrant the searcher something like this:

“Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

Sounds simple enough, right? It can be.  Twitter is simply a way to keep connected and informed about what’s going on in other peoples lives.  This is carried out through checking twitter.com in a browser, or using a client to access the same information.  However, a website to tell people what you’re doing isn’t all that exciting or groundbreaking. Similarly, a website relaying information about what Susy thought of that movie or how Sally met a cute boy has an ice cubes chance in hell of saving your life.

The plot thickens a metric shit-ton when you add in everyone’s mobile phones. Twitter can be used via a cell phone.  Now before 95% of you shout at me about not having data on your phone, calm down: It can be all done using SMS, or for the less acronymically inclined, TEXTING. Again, before you start, Its nothing like Facebook. If I had a car for every time I was asked “Isn’t that just like Facebook” I’d be rolling like Leno. The difference is in the details.

Let’s set up a totally valid situation for an example.  You’ve just finished seducing a member of the opposite sex far outside your league successfully after an unhealthy dose of courage thanks to over consumption of adult beverages.  Second-base-dancefloor-debauchery leads to a mutual agreement to leave the venue to pursue aforementioned goal of sleeping with this complete stranger.   In infinite wisdom the decision is made to drive home.   During the walk stumble out to the car you receive a text message from “21212” saying “Checkstop on (insert road unavoidable on the way home here)”  Thankfully, you have twitter linked up to your phone, avoid the obvious disaster of jail,  grab a cab, and still manage to score.

Facebook wouldn’t have messaged you to tell you that, and even more importantly, someone you have never met wouldn’t have messaged you to tell you that either.  Twitter pushes down the messages to your device (“active”) whereas you would have had to suffer through facebook’s mobile interface and checked everyone who was out at the bar that night’s profile to find this information (“passive”). Not feasible.  That’s also assuming someone would have had the foresight to update their status to something helpful in that situation.  Additionally, (in most cases) random helpful user would have had to head home to do this. Sending a quick text (just one) that ends up being viewed by everyone who’s interested, however, is a pretty powerful idea.

Yes, often times Twitter can be relatively mundane banter about service at a restaurant, or a roadtrip or a missed class, but when you take everyone utilizing twitter together and add the instant, active, push-notification attributes of the service, you have a tool that can be leveraged for MANY uses. In the tech world, we would say it SCALES to many situations.  Recently, an earthquake hit the L.A. area.

“Twitter co-founder Biz Stone notes that the AP pushed out its first wire item on the news 9 minutes after people were already tweeting about it on Twitter. The first tweet about it came mere seconds after the earthquake started.”

This is the cool part. Just about everyone carries a mobile phone. Twitter transforms millions of people into first-on-the-scene reporters with the facts. Sure, it’s not the most reliable source in the world and one message isn’t enough to confirm or deny a school shooting or volcano-no-longer-dormant but most of the time, the volume of tweets can filter out any misinformation.

My grandmother and Aunt/cousins are still without power after being run over by hurricane Ike.  The day after Ike hit, I leveraged twitter to find them Points of Distribution, the first stores open, fuel for generators, and other important information about surviving in the wake of hurricane douchebag.  Most (99%) residents had no power, but the cell towers stayed up, and updates started flying in about what was going on where in Texas.

The whole global twitter network can be queried for keywords.  I don’t follow anyone in Texas, but in this case I used “Ike”, “Conroe” “POD” and searched EVERY PERSON ON TWITTER.  That’s over 2.2 million people. When I found this info out (again, instant, firsthand accounts) we called it down to Texas.  No power means no TV, and radio stations are slow enough that by the time they had announced a new POD, they were already out of Ice and water.  By searching for first-hand, instant updates from people who are IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, I gained insight ahead of everyone else, and helped my family survive a natural disaster.

Call it crowdsourcing, social networking, or whatever you like. In the end, it may be finding out a friend enjoyed a movie, avoiding a speeding ticket, or surviving a natural disaster, but the power of instant, first-hand, easy-to-post updates and information from millions of people everywhere and anywhere in the world might just be more powerful than you had thought.

-Rod

Posted in Digital Culture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »