Mashable Monday: Is that really [insert celebrity here] on Google+?

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With lots of discussion early on about top Google+ users and their identities, Google+ has seen a need to create it’s own Twitter-like Verification Program to help ensure users that Mark Zuckerberg is indeed the real Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook), that Tom Anderson is really the Tom Anderson (creator of Myspace), and that Ashton Kutcher and Alyssa Milano are ready to battle it out for Google+. The new verification essentially fulfills the same purpose as Twitter’s verification system by separating the real celebrities, politicians and famous folks from the posers who registered with celebrity names.

The Google+ Real Name Policy makes is especially interesting, however, because users can possibly be kicked off of Google+ for failing to follow the name usage guidelines. The guidelines even specifically address the problem of using someone else’s name as your own:

Don’t use the name of another individual.
Impersonation is a serious issue. Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted. If someone is pretending to be you, go to their profile and click Report this profile. ~ Source

Obviously, this makes faking a celebrity identity a risky venture, as one guy found out:

Messing around with a pseudonym – or trying to convince users that you, a 23-year-old dude from New Jersey is actually Dolly Parton – will give you a four-day countdown to expulsion from the service, should Google notice. ~ PC Mag

So, if you’re registered as Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus  or Justin Beiber but can’t prove your identity . . . Change your name!

Looking for some verified celebs to follow? Check out the list posted here.

And finally, if you’re not on Google+ . . . You should be! 🙂

Have a great week!

Rebekah

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Will Google+ be worth all the hype?

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Like many of my tech savvy friends, I have been eagerly awaiting an invitation to sign up for Google+. I did not understand what it was and I already have a plethora of social media accounts. Why then would I be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to join another site? Two reasons rise to the top as causes for my impatience: pure old curiousity and a {possibly} unhealthy addiction to anything Google. I was very excited to receive my invitation today from a good friends of mine named Andrea! {Thanks Andrea!!!} After logging in, however, I wasn’t able to realize at first what was so special about Google+ over any other site. I still have not exactly figured it out, but hope to over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I plan to try to keep up with what other people have to say about the new service and its features. Below is a link to a great story on Mashable sharing others’ input on Google+.

10 Top Google+ Users Weigh In on the Web’s Newest Social Network.

After reading the story above and/or trying out Google+, what are your opinions about the newest addition to the social media world?

Please let us know in the comments box below and vote in our Google+ poll!

Augmented Reality: The Next Big Thing or a Springboard to Something Bigger?

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To stay on the cutting edge of social media, it is important for us to keep up with what new technologies are on the horizon and to keep an eye on the technologies which we believe might be the “next big thing” in social media. It was rumoured a few years ago that the next big thing for 2009-2010 would be Foursquare. While Foursquare has attracted a fair sized following, I would argue that Foursquare acted as a springboard to launch us into the new era of location-based marketing and applications. Similarly, there is a lot of buzz in the social media world that identifies Augmented Reality and Mobile Augmented Reality as the next big thing for social media for 2011-2012. But, I can’t help but ask myself if that will really be the case. Before determining my opinion, however, I felt that it was necessary to explore a bit more about Augmented Reality.

What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is defined as “a  type of virtual reality that combines real and imagined images in a real-time session” (PC Mag). AR has also been defined as “a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery” (Coolhunting). In plain English, this means that you can now use your cell phone camera to see things that aren’t physically there, but are placed there by digital/virtual markers. This could have some very positive implications for marketers who want to reach potential customers in the areas near their stores. It could also provide a great deal of added value to people who are already using location-based applications or are looking for deals, reviews or specific venues in a city.

How does it work?
So, how does augmented reality work? Since I’m not a technically gifted person, I looked around for some dynamic, visual explenations of how Augmented Reality works from a technical perspective. The best videos I found were by Common Craft and Hitlab who explain in pretty understandable terms how the technology behind AR really works.

It seems that there are several technologies involved and that there are lots of ways augmented reality can work. For Mobile Augmented Reality, the application on your cell phone reads a digital marker and is able to provide you with a secondary visual layer of information super-imposed over the actual reality. When AR is used with books or other physical objects, the objects usually has a card that transmits the information to your web camera or phone camera.

Will it catch on?
As you will notice from the videos above, it has taken a bit longer than expected for augmented reality to catch on . . . But, catch on it has! We are beginning to see Augmented Reality in cereal box toys, children’s books, mobile apps, zombie infested streets and location-based marketing. One of the most intriguing usages of AR that I found while researching the topic was the Axe Fallen Angels campaign. You may remember this ad from the Super Bowl featuring beautiful angels who fell from heaven because of the irresistible scent of Axe’s new body spray. What does this have to do with AR? Well, Axe brought their “fallen angels” to a train station via Augmented Reality.

People in the station could stand on the card which was stationary on the station floor and trigger the Augmented Reality on a screen above. While unsuspecting travelers watched, an “angel” falls and is within reach of people, but not quite close enough to touch. While I don’t intend to go out and buy Axe, I do believe that this is a very interesting example of what is possible with Augmented Reality in the next few years.

What do you think? Is AR here to stay or is it just a springboard for bigger and better technology in the near future? Will we be using AR for everything in a few years? Please share your opinions in the comments box below!

Thanks for reading!
Rebekah Bowen

3 Quick Tips for Social Media Use during Spring Break 2011

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1. A Picture is Worth 1000 Words.

What story will your Spring Break photos tell about you when prospective employers check out your profile? While it is fun to to take lots of pictures to help remember those fun days at the beach and nights on the town, remember to use caution when posting these pictures online. Even if you delete them later, they can still show up in search results for quite some time.

2. Google (and thus EVERYONE else) Sees You Checking-In

Since Foursquare and other check-in applications are really popular right now, we might be tempted to check-in at all the fun, unique places we visit over Spring Break. After the fun’s over and it’s back to work, it might not be quite so fun explaining to future employers that you aren’t a severe alcoholic or binge drinker. He won’t believe you if you check-in to 10 bars in one night while on Spring Break. Before checking-in, think about whether or not you really want the whole world to know you were frequenting the venue you are at.

3. You Don’t Have to “Friend” Everyone

Just because you meet someone on the beach and they seem pretty nice doesn’t mean you should be Facebook friending them so they can see all of your private information. Think about whether or not you are really going to be friends with this person next week or next month. If so, the connection would be worthwhile, if not you probably don’t want to accept that friend request!

Here’s wishing everyone a fun, safe Spring Break!

~Beka~

NPR’s “On the Media” tells us how to “cheat” Google.

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For some odd reason the whole Google Declares War issue has caught my attention and I keep seeing it all around on various media outlets. This morning as I was driving to church, I heard a very interesting piece by National Public Radio’s “On The Media” concerning the Google war and how certain companies have learned to cheat at Search Engine Optimization. Some of the companies that were mentioned as having been caught “red-handed” by Google were JC Penney and Overstock.com, as well as the obviously controversial Demand Media. One particular search that drew attention was the key term “dresses”. To make their site show up higher when people searched for dress or dresses, JC Penney had used the key term to link to their site from completely irrelevant websites for business and organizations. These sites included such things as a website for a dentist and a site promoting a casino. Overstock.com was allegedly paying college students to link to their site using relevant search terms.  Personally, I fee a bit concerned now that it is so easy to leverage the power of search engine optimization, and I am glad Google has the power to stop these sites from using irrelevant material and linking to fool people into visiting their sites.

The story also piqued my interest because it addressed the issue of Google perhaps having too much power. After discovering JC Penney’s misuse of SEO, Google buried the site that had ranked 1st or 2nd for searches in many clothing key term searches on the fourth or fifth pages. If they so chose, Google could also bury a lot of other websites promoting actual causes or issues that would actually be important to the people. We shall see how these algorithm changes progress and how our searches are really affected.

I could not figure out how to embed the audio for the NPR story, but if you would like to get the full story you can listen here.

Google image searches return interesting results . . .

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Poor confused Hermione (aka Emma Watson)…..No wonder they are improving their search algorithms! When I made the offhand comment that I didn’t know what Marilyn Manson looked like, my roommate felt it was nessecary that we Google a picture of him. We were shocked and to surprise that the first page of results returned a picture of Emma Watson (@EmWatson) from Harry Potter. Obviously, this is proof that we need to find some way to improve our searches. Kudos to Google for attempting to better their searches even if it doesn’t directly impact the image search!

Google Declares War

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Do you even know what a content farm is? I don’t but apparently they have crossed Google and greatly aggravated the technology super-power. News headlines throughout the technology word were filled today with variations of the same phrase, “Google declares war on content farms“. To those of us who knew nothing about so-called “content farms” until today, these are essentially companies that are paid to create content that raises websites to higher rankings in search engines without actually increasing the value of the website to people conducting the search. In general, Google has declared war on crappy, low-quality websites that cheat their way into the top search rankings. Good luck Google! We look forward to better searches!!!!

Original image courtesy of Shanzai