So today we’re excited to introduce Smartbox—a better, smarter mailbox that fuses physical mail with everything you love about the electronic kind:
Smartbox is currently in field trial—stuck in the ground, in a field—for Inbox by Gmail customers. If you’re not yet using Inbox, simply email email@example.com anytime before April 2 to be invited, and to reserve your spot on the Smartbox waitlist.
Posted by Merrill Anovick, Project Manager
(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)
As a publisher, however, it’s New Media Expo (known as NMX) that helps us produce the tactical roadmap for the site and business: Knowing what to write about is helpful, but getting our hands dirty with how-to specifics is critical, and that’s what NMX is all about.
April 13-16 (just a few weeks from now!) the expo and conference takes place at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and features over 250 speakers, hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees. Better yet is that it’s co-located with the National Association of Broadcaster’s annual conference, so it’s easy to attend both. That’s what I’m doing!
Better yet, turns out that not only is my buddy Joel Comm one of the keynote speakers (he’ll doubtless promote our book Twitter Power 3.0 that just came out from Wiley) but one of my favorite actors from one of my favorite TV shows is going to be on a panel at NMX too: Steven Yuen who plays Glen on The Walking Dead is joining a panel discussing how the hit series uses new media to keep the fans happy and gain additional visibility for the show.
Oh, and the list of other speakers includes a few other interesting folk like Adam Carolla, Dennis Miller, Norm Pattiz, Emily Morse of “Sex with Emily”, Mignon Fogarty and many more.
And then there are all the exhibitors and speakers at the National Association of Broadcasters event too, if you really want to expand your horizons. I’ll be splitting my time between the two conferences to maximize the benefit of my time in Las Vegas.
Don’t just live vicariously through my tweets to learn why this is a must-attend conference if you’re in the new media space or are a content creator, come join me!
Use discount code “AskDaveTaylor20” to receive a 20% discount!
Oh, and if you are planning on attending NMX 2015, please let me know and we can try to meet up too.
How’s that for an offer?
With over a billion users, it never fails to amaze me how Facebook puts effort into the trivial. Stickers on photos? Ah well, I suppose in some contexts it’ll make complete sense, but it’s quite possible that the quality and breadth of stickers might need to be improved for this to really catch on. Then again, with a billion users, if 0.01% of people use this feature, that’s still a whole lot of stickers showing up on photographs on Facebook, right?
Stickers have been part of Facebook for a while, actually. The difference is that you haven’t previously been able to superimpose the sticker images over photos or other content you upload. Now you can.
To demonstrate, I’m going to take a Reality Check comic and sneak a little monkey into it…
To start, here’s a regular ole’ status update box on Facebook:
I bet you’ve seen these a few times!
To add the image, rather than click on the camera — how 2014! — I’m going to just drag the image from my desktop onto the input box:
Once it’s uploaded, you’ll see a small square thumbnail of it below the text input area.
Move your cursor over that and you’ll see the design’s changed just a bit:
The left button lets you tag people, while the right button, the paintbrush, lets you move to the image editor. I like the design, actually. Seems rather inspired by Pinterest.
Click on the Edit button.
Notice along the bottom there’s a rotate feature (handy!) and the Stickers button.
Click on the Stickers button to bring up the Stickers window…
Cheery, and there are more sticker sets I haven’t even seen (that’s what the “9+” indicates on the top right edge).
I’m going to choose a “Confused” sticker image by clicking on the appropriate button.
Here are the resultant choices:
Given that the original image has King Kong, the original big ape, let’s go with the confused chimp image in row two.
To add that particular sticker to the photo, all I have to do is click on it, then it shows up on the image in what I’ll call the modify bubble, as you can see:
At this point, the blue arrow can be used to change the size of the image and rotate it (click and drag to move it around the circle), and of course the “x” lets you remove the sticker if you change your mind.
You can move the sticker graphic by simply clicking and dragging the center of the bubble. I’ll move the little chimp to be neatly sitting atop one of the buildings:
If you look closely, it’s slightly larger and I reoriented it so that the base of the image is aligned with the angle of the building roof too. Just a bit neater.
That’s it. I click on “Done”, add a text phrase and post it. The result is terrific:
My guess is that most people are going to simply assume that questioning chimp is part of the original cartoon. I won’t tell anyone and we’ll see, shall we?
Meanwhile, it really is pretty darn easy to work with these stickers on Facebook. Silly though they may be, I think there are going to be some fun additions to photos on my timeline in the very near future…
Germanwings Flight 9525
On Tuesday, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 people who were onboard. In the wake of the tragedy, people around the world have turned to search to learn more about the crash and subsequent investigation. Early searches included questions about Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, and about the type of plane that had crashed; search interest in the Airbus A320 family spiked 100x in the first four hours. But after investigations revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appears to have deliberately locked himself in the cockpit and flown the plane into a mountain, the questions got more specific. People asked questions like “How do you access the plane’s cockpit?” and worried: “Is it safe to fly after the Germanwings crash?” and “Is flying becoming more dangerous?”
Election Day 2016 is more than a year-and-a-half away, but the presidential race is already underway. On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy. The Texas Republican is known for his fervent opposition to the Affordable Care Act, in particular a 21-hour filibuster-style speech on the floor of the Senate in 2013 (at one point, he read aloud from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham). Searchers turned to the web to answer all kinds of questions about Cruz and his beliefs, sending searches for [cruz liberty], [cruz obamacare] and [cruz wiki] to spike more than a thousand percent in the last 30 days. The top questions, though, were around whether Cruz is eligible to become President because he was born in Canada. (The answer is yes, BTW.)
Pop culture mania
This week Zayn Malik confirmed he is leaving boy band One Direction, sending teens worldwide into a tailspin as they asked (and searched): “Why is Zayn leaving One Direction?” The British star said that he is leaving to “be a normal 22-year-old...out of the spotlight,” which may be tough given there were more than a million searches for him on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the rest of the band will go on without him—in fact, search interest in One Direction tours spiked 5x in the U.S. the day of the announcement.
If freaking out about Zayn isn’t your thing, maybe freaking out about “A” is? The mysterious villain of the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars was revealed—sorta—on Tuesday night, leading to hundreds of thousands of searches for the show. We won’t spoil it here, even though it was frankly a little hard to miss amidst the outcry. Let’s just say, the truth is out there. ;)
Finally, it’s barely spring but it’s already time to start thinking about your summer festival agenda. The line-ups of both San Francisco’s Outside Lands and Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festivals were announced this week. The top festival searched in each state breaks down almost exclusively along geographic lines and leaves us wondering: Are Massachusetts residents big Elton John fans?
Taking charge of your health
In a New York Times op-ed, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent cancer. This was the second preventative surgery for Jolie (she wrote about her double mastectomy in 2013), who made this decision because she carries a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, putting her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. There were more than 100,000 searches for Angelina Jolie on Tuesday, and people turned to the web to ask related questions about women’s health and cancer prevention.
Tip of the week
Who says National Puppy Day has to be just once a year? When you’re need of a furry pick-me-up, just ask the Google app “Ok Google, show me pictures of puppies.” Smiles are practically guaranteed.
Posted by Emily Wood, Managing Editor, who searched this week for [rural studio] and [izombie]
I’m always leery of any deal off Craigslist, sorry to say, so the first thing I would do is try to understand where the laptop came from originally and why he’s selling it. “A spare” or “it fell off a truck” or similar is definitely a big warning bell because if it’s stolen and tracked down by the police (or, perhaps, the original owner) they can take it from you without any compensation and you’re out the money you spent. Not good.
But still, there are other situations where you want to check whether Windows has been activated on a computer. And, for that matter, it might be useful to explain what activation actually is. Here’s what Microsoft says: “Activation helps verify that your copy of Windows is genuine and that it has not been used on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. In this way, activation helps prevent software counterfeiting.”
Sounds good. There are two ways to check to see whether the copy you’re running is Activated or not.
The more obvious path is to bring up the charms bar while in the Desktop:
Choose PC Info and the resultant Window has a ton of interesting information:
At the very bottom you can see that “Windows is activated”.
Now there’s also a smarter way to ascertain this information through the remarkably sophisticated search engine in Win8.1. Instead of guessing, simply ask it how to check for activation.
I do this by bringing up the search charm (use Windows-S as a keyboard shortcut) and typing in “windows activation”, or at least as many characters as needed to bring up something useful:
There we go. “See if Windows is activated”.
Easy enough, eh? Click on it and…
There you go: “Windows is activated”.
Now you know. And be careful with Craigslist.
The workshop, run by our Get Your Business Online team, showed her how to use Google My Business—a tool that allows business owners to control the info listed about their business on Google Search and Maps—to help more people find Dependable. Marieshia added an updated phone number, hours of operation, and a description to her business listing. Within a few months, she had more customers come through the door and referrals from doctors who could reach her. This one simple adjustment made a difference. In Marieshia’s words: “It’s huge.”
Huge might be an understatement. Four out of five people use search engines to find local information, like business hours and addresses, and research shows that businesses with complete listings are twice as likely (PDF) to be considered reputable by customers. Consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 percent more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings. Yet only 37 percent of businesses (PDF) have claimed a local business listing on a search engine. That’s a lot of missed opportunities for small businesses.
With this in mind, our Get Your Business Online team set out in 2011 to help businesses like Marieshia’s get found online. We’ve gone to every state in the U.S. and worked with thousands of business owners to create free websites and update their Google Search and Maps listings. But there’s a lot more work to do to help businesses take advantage of the vast opportunities yielded by the web. So today, we’re introducing Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map, a new program to help 30,000 cities get their local businesses online.
If we want to help every business in the U.S., we need to reach businesses where they are. So this tailor-made program provides each city with a custom website where local businesses can find helpful resources, including a new diagnostic tool that shows businesses how they appear on Search and Maps, a step-by-step guide for getting online with Google My Business, and a free website and domain name for one year with our partner, Startlogic.
We’re also forming partnerships with local organizations—like chambers and small business development centers—and equipping them with free trainings and customized city materials to run workshops just like the one Marieshia attended in Garland. These local partners know the challenges for local businesses more than anyone—and they recognize the value of getting businesses online. After all, getting Dependable’s information online not only means the world for Marieshia, it means even more for the city of Garland. Complete business info can help generate economic value up to $300,000 a year for a small city or up to $7 million for a large one (PDF). So when our local businesses are online, our local economies benefit.
If you have a favorite local business—a day care, a dentist, a dry cleaner—show your support by helping them get their info online and on the map. Visit your city’s website at www.gybo.com to find out how you can get involved.
Let’s put our cities on the map!
Posted by Soo Young Kim, Head of Marketing, Get Your Business Online
Another Microsoft Band owner. We are the few, the proud at this point, I think, but at least Microsoft’s figured out whatever gummed up the works in the supply chain, causing the product to be out of stock from mid-December until mid-March. Maybe it was them realizing that Apple’s new Watch would be going on sale in just a few weeks so they needed to push their product out the door. So far, so good, though: I hear from the Microsoft folk that they can’t keep the Band in stock they’re selling so fast.
And they are darn flexible and configurable, I’m glad to report. In fact, with its bright color screen, the Microsoft Band has a lot of different appearances you can set up. Do the math: 10 background colors and 12 wallpaper designs means that there are 120 different combinations. Not bad for a simple watch!
But let’s get into it. First off, here’s my default Microsoft Band color scheme:
Not too thrilling. To change the color scheme, you need to use the app on your smart phone. It’s not something that can be done on the Band itself, which is important to know.
In the Microsoft Health app (why they don’t just call it “The Band App” or something escapes me), tap on the tiny Band icon on the top right to get here:
You’ll notice I’m using my Microsoft Band with an Apple iPhone. Kudos to Microsoft: The Band works great with Android and iPhone devices, it’s not just wedded to Windows Phone devices.
Tap on “Personalize Band” to update the color scheme.
As you can see, it shows the current configuration (well, my photo makes the purple band look more blue, but yes, they are in sync if you could see it in real life).
To change the color, tap on the solid purple color box under the word “Color”.
Here are your choices:
As far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about Essentials vs Active. It’s just a color grouping.
I like the orange, color #2 under the “Active” section, so I’ll tap on it.
Now go back and tap on the “Wallpaper” options to see what you can select:
Notice that they’re all shown in orange, matching the color I’ve selected. Some of these are a bit busy for my tastes, but you might try them on the MSFT Band itself to see how they look.
I make my choice and the info is sent to the Band from the iPhone app:
This takes just a few seconds. Well, 20-30 seconds.
In any case, quickly thereafter my Microsoft Band has taken on a cheery new appearance:
I like it!