Is getting a redesign?

Google has been known to continually improve upon the look and feel of their search site, but I just came across some changes that are a bit more substantial than a traditional Google refresh or improvement. This "redesign" includes a blue search button, eliminating the Google Search and I'm Feeling Lucky buttons and more changes on the results page.

The homepage now includes a voice search feature that will automatically use a built-in microphone or one attached to a webcam (thanks to HTML5).

They also seem to be trying a completely new color scheme in the left rail of the search results page, as well as a gray bar across the top.

Another example of a results page with different types of content.

And the line height on some pages just looks plain silly.

There's a good chance many of these changes will never go live. A couple years ago, Facebook redesigned and tested their signup process but it didn't last long.

Why Netvibes doesn't understand the freemium model

Netvibes is my favorite news reader and I've used it for years. It's the best way I've found so far to digest news delivered by RSS feeds on the desktop. But when Netvibes released their premium service last year, I was pretty disappointed to see what it offered:

  • Support response within 24 hours
  • Beta access and a VIP profile badge

And for this, they want $39 a year. I'm sorry, but I'm just not a fan of prioritizing support for paid users when it's basically your only benefit of upgrading. And it's certainly not a convincing enough reason to shell out $39.

Here's where I disagree with the Netvibes philosophy: Support is not a feature. Keeping users happy is a core part of running an internet business and should be top priority. I shouldn't have to pay to get help if I run into a problem that I shouldn't have in the first place.

What's worse is that I've noticed a significantly longer support response time since they released their premium service (average response time used to be 1-2 days; lately it's been 4 days).

And the fact that Netvibes wants to charge for access to beta tests is downright boneheaded. Usually beta tests are given away for free since it's prone to more bugs and can be less stable than a final product.

I should point out that I am more than willing to give $39 to Netvibes for some advanced features I could use. Heck, I'd give them $100 a year. But not for something that should be a "customer right". I would happily pay for an advanced featureset (known as the freemium model, where a subset of users pay for features that not everyone wants or needs). Ya know, like embeddable widgets of news stories I'm reading - like a feed, advanced formatting of feeds, heck, maybe even iPad support (although this was rumored to be coming a year ago). But I would more than likely do it just to support a service I've used for free for many years.

I hope Netvibes continues to innovate and create a better news-reading experience online, rather than relying on users to pay for support to supplement their revenue from enterprise accounts. As good as their experience is at presenting the news, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Netvibes: if you need some ideas, see Flipboard for iPad.

Netvibes needs to continue evolving their product to stay on top. And maybe come up with some features that users will pay for, rather than charging for something that should be free.

Dear internet, please learn to spell.

People. Your spelling is atrocious. And it's getting worse every day.

Far too many people confuse the difference between your/you're, their/they're, to/too, and its/it's - or even worse, they don't even realize there is a difference. There are even plenty of Facebook groups dedicated into setting people straight. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem they've worked yet. And what's even more depressing is that most 2nd graders understand the right usage.

So in an effort to do my part in making the world a better place, I'm providing a little guide of what words to use and when.

You're is a contraction of "you are". If you can't interchange "you are" and "you're" in a sentence, you're using the wrong one.

Same as above. "They're" is a contraction of "they are". If you can't interchange "they are" and "they're" in a sentence, you're using the wrong one. "Their" is possessive, when referring to an object of someone (like their car). If it's neither of those, use there (generally speaking). And if you want to use all three in a sentence, it'd look something like this: "They're putting their things over there."

Only use "too" in these cases: when it can be replaced by "also", like "I want some ice cream, too." or when it means "in excess" like "Your iPod is playing too loudly." An easy way to remember this is the extra "o" is only used when you're adding more on to something.

It's is a contraction of "it is". If you can't interchange "it is" and it's, then you're doing it wrong.

And although this one is probably more obvious, "we're" IS NOT the same as were. "We're" can only be used when interchangeable with "we are." "Were" is a something completely different.

Fortunately I'm not alone in this pet peeve. This little bit below is taken from postings found across the web:

Let's review:

"Your" signifies ownership or relation, which refers to something owned by someone, a title or friend/relation. Examples:

"Your car is cool."
"Your status is lame."
"Your shirt is ugly."

"You're" is an abbreviation of "you are", which is what you'd say when speaking to someone about who or what they are, be it insult, praise, fact or random statement. Examples:

"You're a moron."
"You're fantastic!"
"You're ugly."

Why people who quit using Foursquare (and Gowalla) are being ridiculous

There's been a lot of news recently about how people are checking in less with location-based services for a variety of reasons: lack of adoption, the task of having to check in everywhere you go, privacy conerns, or just burning out and thinking it's dumb. I think those people are being ridiculous.

I still check in everywhere I go and my check-ins are automatically aggregated to my site (a take-off on Where's Waldo, since Watilo - pronounced "waddle - low" - is my last name).

I don't buy into a lot of what Foursquare has tried to do (like giving badges to incentivize check-ins). I just check in because I think it will be cool to analyze the data in the future.

WeePlaces is one such site that analyzes and plots check-ins. The video below shows some of the places I've checked in according to WeePlaces.

I just think people are being short-sighted when it comes to the potential of what can be done with the data.

My buddy Christopher Gooley created Whirlfood, a site that analyzes my food check-ins. It allows me to rate places I've been and shows me suggestions based on my ratings. There are also all sorts of metrics like when I usually eat (apparently I eat out at lunch a lot), my food to nightlife ratio (a lot to very little), and what days of the week I usually eat out the most. It's pretty cool. Check out my public Whrifood profile here.

Some people complain about the privacy issue that comes along with sharing your location. But really, what's the big deal? Did you know that private investigators tracked people down without Foursquare? Turns out, it's pretty easy to find people without all these new tools. And it's not like I have the mob hunting me down anyway. I don't have any enemies and no one I'm hiding from.

I think the benefits of checking into places outweigh any potential drawbacks. Soon there will be even more cool location analytics apps come out. And if you're not checking in now, you're going to miss the benefits in the future.