Get used to “Ok Google”


Earlier this year, Google announced a new feature for search – conduct a search with your voice in the Chrome browser.

To conduct a conversational search, you’d fire up Google Search; if you saw a little microphone symbol in the search box, you could click on it to activate the function, and then speak your search phrase in conversational English (or any of the other supported languages).

When I tried it in May, I thought it was a bold step by Google in making everything easier in how you interact with your computer for conducting a routine task like a search.

Google has now taken this to another level by doing away with the need to click anything – now, you just talk – via an extension for Chrome called Google Voice Hotword that works on Chrome versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Once you’ve installed it, you’ll be able to do everything re your search just by speaking – without clicking anything. All you do is give the extension permission to use your microphone. You do that once only. And you can revoke permission any time you want to.

How easy is it to do a Google Voice search? Take a look:

At the moment, this cool feature works only on not any other geographic search location. I tried it at – no, it didn’t work. And it works only in English for now.

There’s a little more information in Google’s concise announcement on Google+ with a simple video. And here’s another video, one I did earlier: just a straight search for a news story.

Saying “Ok Google” to initiate an action is similar to what you do with Google Glass to record a video, do a search, take a picture, ask a question, etc. With that device, you say “Ok Glass.”

I can see “Ok Google” becoming the default for interacting with Google, via whatever device. It’s much more to do with what you want to do rather than the device you’re using to do it.

And it’s very easy to get used to.

Related posts:

Google Quickoffice just upset the Microsoft Office mobile cart

The news from Google that they have released Quickoffice, their Microsoft Office competitor, for free immediately gave me my headline for this post.

[…] With Quickoffice, you can edit Microsoft® Office documents across your devices, giving you the freedom to work with anyone no matter what hardware or software they’re using. Quickoffice also integrates seamlessly with Google Drive storage so you can safely access your files from anywhere.

Not everyone agrees with my cart metaphor.

On Twitter, for instance, Stuart Bruce says “However, just [the] ability to edit isn’t [the] same as actual Office app. I’ll compare Quickoffice on Android tablet v Office on Surface.”

QuickofficeAgreed, Stuart. But all I really want is the ability to, say, edit a PowerPoint presentation I made on my Windows computer that I’m about to use at an event when all I have is my Android tablet. ‘Edit with confidence’ is the key phrase.

From a quick use-tour of Quickoffice last night on the tablet and an Android smartphone, I have the confidence that a) formatting is good and b) the file I save in Quickoffice still opens fine in PowerPoint itself.

Of course, much will depend on the complexity of the deck, eg, fonts, animations, transitions, etc. Probably a similar risk to opening a PowerPoint deck in Open Office – the simpler the original file, the higher the confidence.

On Google+, James Cridland says, “But I can create and edit files that are readable with Microsoft Office with Google Drive, can’t I? Confusing.”

Agreed, James, a bit. I would expect community clarity on that point soon.

I think Microsoft missed a huge opportunity here to ensure the continuity of their major software platform apart from Windows itself on mobile that is at the heart of the post-PC era.

Imagine if they had developed Microsoft Office for mobile and given it away for free. I’d be right there to grab it as everything I do on the desktop is with Office software. I don’t want to switch to, say, Google Docs; a version of Office that I can use across my mobile devices as well would almost certainly keep me in Microsoft’s camp for years to come.

Quickoffice is available for Android and iOS (don’t expect a version for Windows Phone any time soon) – effectively covering the majority of mobile devices.

And did I mention it’s free?

(First posted on Google+; story via The Next Web)

Tweets that self-destruct

Spirit for TwitterI guess it’s inevitable that everyone reporting on Spirit for Twitter likens its self-destructing tweet service to SnapChat, the mobile app for real-time picture and video messaging that self-destruct after a sender-defined time, up to ten seconds.

Spirit is similar in outcome – tweets you send that you mark with a certain hashtag will automatically delete themselves after the set time has passed.

You get a lot more time flexibility than just ten seconds though: minutes, hours and days.

The service was developed by Pierre Legrain, an ex-Twitter engineer, who told ABC News in the US, “It’s an invisible piece of software, like an enhancement to Twitter. You don’t have to download anything and will work from wherever you tweet from.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at the Spirit of Twitter website.
  2. Wait for a tweet from Spirit  to tell you that your account is active.
  3. Start tweeting with an end-time hashtag for when your tweet will self-destruct.

I signed up for the service a couple of days ago and got my account-active tweet today. So I tried it out.

I set the tweet to self-destruct after 30 minutes by including the “#30m” hashtag:

Make your tweets self-destruct...

Sure enough, after 30 minutes, the tweet had disappeared.

If you go to the actual tweet URL, you’ll just get Twitter’s standard ‘tweet not found’ error screen:

Sorry, that page doesn't exist!

It’s a clever idea, one that I can imagine marketers latching on to. Individuals, too, for personal tweets.

For instance:

  • Time-sensitive offers you want to tweet, where people have xx minutes to click a link. Great for contests.
  • Tweeting about an event or something where the tweet being seen hours or days afterwards would take it entirely out of context.
  • Tweeting your pals to meet up at a pub at 8pm; the tweet self-destructs after, say, 8.30pm.

So I’d expect to see a flurry of self-destructing tweets from experimenters as the service attracts more attention.

Yet I wonder what impact this disruptive tool will have on the Twitter ecosystem, eg, including the analytics aspect. And, once a tweet is gone, I think you’ll need something far more effective than just the standard Twitter error page, the equivalent of a 404 error.

And what happens to an embed of a tweet on some web page or blog post that’s marked for self-destruction? I guess it will show the error page as the actual tweet won’t be around any more.

How about retweets and favorites? I RT’d my original tweet – and that RT’d tweet did disappear. But the favorite I saved? It’s still there:


This latter behaviour may well be the off-putter to widespread use: if you want to use a service where tweets will self-destruct, you want to be sure of that. Sure, people can take screen shots, but at least you’d want to know that the tweets themselves will be gone.

And it’s not clear what Twitter thinks of this – they could pull the plug on Spirit’s API access, and that would probably be the end.

Still, I like the idea and can see benefits especially from a business point of view in a service that offers this type of outcome.

What do you think? Useful, or just a gimmick?

(Via The Verge)

Connecting content and the social conversations

Blog comments

A topic Shel and I discuss in this week’s FIR podcast episode 715 is commenting on blogs.

More specifically, about the conversation that can happen in response to a post someone writes and publishes on a blog, and where the conversation actually takes place.

Increasingly, it’s not on the blog itself – it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere across the social web except in the comments section of the blog post that prompted someone to add their two pence-worth.

Here’s an example: as the screenshot above illustrates – from a post I wrote last week about The Sun’s new paywall – there are no comments to the post directly, but ten comments across Twitter and Facebook that reference the post.

You might be wondering how those external comments appear on the blog. They do thanks to a nifty WordPress plugin called Social from Crowd Favorite that automagically finds and connects comments to a particular post where they appear on the major social networks

Actually, that’s not strictly true as conspicuous by its absence is Google+ and any comments about the post anyone makes on that social network. So conversation on Google+ is disconnected from content elsewhere, eg, on blogs.

But now there is one way in which you can connect Google+ to posts on WordPress blogs – albeit not in as integrated a manner as you might wish – via Google+Comments, a WordPress plugin developed by Alex Moss.

What this does is add a Google+ comments area below your post that’s additional to the blog comment area of what shows from a plugin like the Social one I have installed. So it’s a separate area. It’s similar to what you can do with Facebook commenting via plugins.

You can also manually add Google+ comments anywhere to a post, such as within it like this:


Try it – leave a Google+ comment!

From what I can understand in how it works, it doesn’t behave like Crowd Favorite’s Social plugin – that brings in links to comments made elsewhere – but is a full-blown comment system, as it were, in which you write and post your comments to Google+ and see related comments others have made on Google+.

I think it’s a good concept and could be a credible complement to third-party commenting platforms like Disqus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate and others, as well as to native blog commenting.

Although I do have the Google+Comments plugin installed and activated, I haven’t enabled it for all posts. Not yet: I want to see how it works in practice, what others do with it and how people feel about it. Plus it look like it has some display/CSS styling issues with how content is presented in this blog.

Until knitting together the online conversation stream becomes more seamless – in essence, joining up all the dots that form online conversations centred on a blog post – and simpler and easier, and doesn’t require workarounds like plugins and other tools and services that perform the necessary connectivity, this at least enables Google+ to be part of the overall conversation.

The nature of commenting has shifted, too, along with the proliferation of places where you can add a quick opinion and the growth of short-form posts that almost resist anything longer than a quick tweet or a Facebook like.

Still, whatever the length of a post and a comment, Google+Comments will likely connect more of the dots. On WordPress blogs, at least.

(Via Debi Davis)

Vine comes to Android

Vine for Android

With some fanfare in the tech press, hot video app Vine made its debut today on Android devices. Until now, the popular Twitter-owned app has been available only for Apple devices.

There’s no doubt that Vine has captured imaginations worldwide since it launched in January, just four months ago. In that short time, it’s acquired over 13 million users who have published millions of 6-second looping video clips they created on their iPhones and iPads.

Among those millions of clips are some really imaginative and compelling examples of creativity in brand marketing. There’s equally no doubt that Vine has made its mark in advertising, marketing and across the broad business communication area.

So today I’ve joined the Vine hordes too. There were some teething troubles with the app’s availability on Google Play but those were resolved within a few hours.

My first effort was actually by accident – I loaded Vine on my Galaxy SIII LTE, started tapping the screen to see how to start and lo and behold, I made a 6-second clip.

For posterity:

(See the video at Vine if you don’t see it embedded above.)

I’m sure I’ll do better than that as I get to explore what Vine lets you do.

Now that Vine has come to Android, I’d expect to see usage explode well beyond its current 13 million. Look what happened to Instagram since it came to Android from being purely an iOS app.

20 million or more Vine users by year’s end? I bet that happens.

Related posts:

Google conversational search is a bold leap forward

Star Trek

The first thought that crossed my mind when I tried out Google’s new “conversational search” functionality in the latest version of its desktop Chrome browser was Star Trek.

You don’t have to be a huge fan of the sci-fi TV series (and films) to remember the ways in which Captain Kirk (Picard, Janeway, etc) did search or asked a question. “Computer?” they’d start saying, and then speak.

That also reminds me of the rudimentary speech commands with the first-generation Kinect for the Xbox. You’d start voice-command interaction with that device by saying “Kinect?” and then tell the device what you wanted.

With Google’s conversational search, you don’t start with commands like those, you just ask a question at the Google search screen in your Chrome desktop browser.

This feature has been part of Google’s search functionality on mobile devices running Android and iOS for a while. The big difference, though, is using it on the desktop browser, the “computer speaks back to you.”

It’s actually very neat. Here’s a short video of a very quick and simple test I did, asking Google search, “How far is it from Wokingham to Hammersmith?”

Given the conversational way in which I asked the question, and my own accent, word-pronunciation and grammar usage, I was hugely impressed with the function’s ability to correctly – and very quickly – understand what I said. The voice answer was great, much better than the Max Headroom-style I might have expected.

My test is very simple. A clue to the real attraction of this new functionality for search lies in its description: conversational search. This is about asking a series of questions, each relating to the previous, like a developing conversation. I asked just one question. So what’s it like if you conduct a series, a conversation?

Danny Sullivan has a great detailed review of his experiences with doing precisely that, with impressive results.

Google conversational search isn’t perfect, far from it (and Google doesn’t claim it is). The new functionality had some teething troubles yesterday when it launched. And correctly recognizing every spoken  word is nigh on impossible – look at the trouble we humans have.

But it’s a huge step forward.