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    Entries in Google (16)


    Creating a more human relationship with technology

    I have been thinking and writing about the early and potential future impact of voice-enabled digital assistant technologies (like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and others), pretty often in 2018, so much so that I had pretty much decided to lay off the topic for a bit, as it was getting kind of repetitive.

    But as keeps happening, over the weekend I read a really interesting article from the Think With Google team sharing some survey results on how people are using and perhaps more interestingly, feeling about their interactions, usage, and relationship with these digital assistants and platforms. There are two really interesting data points from the survey I wanted to share, as they both reveal something interesting and important as HR tech providers and HR practitioners and end users consider the development and application of voice enabled/driven assistants in workplace tech.

    One: People who own voice activated technologies like the Echo and the Google Home are quickly incorporating them into their daily lives and routines:


    Why that matters: Driving user adoption of workplace technologies has always been a challenge for technology developers and implementation teams. But these voice activated digital assistants are showing that new tech that is easy to access, provides value quickly and clearly, and provides a kind of fun and engaging experience while also providing value, will be readily adopted by most people.


    Two - The nature of the voice interface and activation is making the relationship between users and technology much more personal, even human. 


    Why that matters -  It seems like the nature of how these digital assistants are created, how we interact with them, (more or less conversationally), how they have names (Alexa, Siri), and how they even have some level of personality (ask Alexa to tell you a joke, or tell her 'I'm sorry' sometime), and the technology seems to become more a part of our overall way of experiencing the world, and not a separate thing or tool we have to learn how to use. The technology and capability continues to blend into the world and into the other kinds of tools and tech we use all the time - cars, thermostats, appliances, and computers. In the workplace, we need to start to think about making our HR and workplace tools and technologies ones that are just 'there' - embedded in other workplace systems, active in workplace settings like conference rooms, and accessible at all times with a simple voice command.

    I continue to find the entire voice activated / digital assistant space incredibly interesting. Hope you do as well. 

    The next project to work on is getting an HR Happy Hour Podcast skill/update on Alexa!


    Soon, Google will be able to Tweet for you

    What's the worst thing for the average person trying to deal with the incredible growth of social networking?

    I'd probably say it is the ridiculous amount of time and energy that adults spend wishing each other 'Happy Birthday!' on Facebook.

    But for many other heavy users (and business and professional accounts) of social networking one of the main problems is simply keeping up with the flow of information, finding ways to sift and organize the constant streams of updates, and finding the time and energy to respond, engage, and interact in both a timely and relevant manner.

    It is exhausting. A professional connection of yours is always posting about a new job on LinkedIn, someone you are hoping to curry favor with is updating their Facebook status with their latest vacation pics or athletics triumphs of their kids,  or some colleagues are mentioning your latest blog post or presentation on Twitter.

    You should take the time to say 'Congratulations!' or to 'Like' the fact that little Joey scored 4 goals against a bunch of 6 year-olds, and to say 'Thanks!' to everyone that says something nice about your work on Twitter. You should do those things. 

    But like I said it is exhausting. And time consuming. And kind of boring.

    Enter your friends at Google who are seeking to patent a system/solution for the 'Automated generation of suggestions for personalized reactions in a social network.' 

    From the text of the patent filing:

    The popularity and use of social networks and other types of electronic communication has grown dramatically in recent years. With the increased use and popularity of social networks, the value of these networks has increased exponentially. However, this also means that the number of messages and information each user must process has increased exponentially. It is often difficult for users to keep up with and reply to all the messages they are receiving. Therefore, it is important for user to keep to most critical message based on their interests and more importantly, based on how other users reacted to that message.

    Many users use online social networking for both professional and personal uses. Each of these different types of use has its own unstated protocol for behavior. It is extremely important for the users to act in an adequate manner depending upon which social network on which they are operating. For example, it may be very important to say "congratulations" to a friend when that friend announces that she/he has gotten a new job. This is a particular problem as many users subscribe to many social different social networks. With an ever increasing online connectivity and growing list of online contacts and given the amount of information users put online, it is possible for a person to miss such an update.

    Ok, we get all that.  Too much data, too many contacts, missing updates and opportunities to engage. So what does Google propose to solve these challenges?

    The present disclosure overcomes the deficiencies and limitations of the prior at least in part by providing a system and method for generating suggestions for personalized reactions or messages. The system according to the present disclosure includes a suggestion generation module. In one embodiment, the suggestion generation module includes a plurality of collector modules, a credentials module, a suggestion analyzer module, a user interface module and a decision tree. The plurality of collector modules are coupled to respective systems to collect information accessible by the user and important to the user from other systems such as e-mail systems, SMS/MMS systems, micro blogging systems, social networks or other systems. The credentials module cooperates with the plurality of collector modules to allow access to those other systems. The information from these collector modules is provided to the suggestion analyzer module. The suggestion analyzer module cooperates with the user interface module and the decision tree to generate suggested reactions or messages for the user to send. The suggested reactions or messages are presented by the user interface module to the user. The user interface module also displays the original message, other information about the original message such as others' responses, and action buttons for sending, discarding or ignoring the suggested message

    Awesome. In case you missed the process flow buried in the dense verbiage here it is simply put:

    Since Google knows so much about you (using data from 'e-mail systems, SMS/MMS systems, social networks, and other systems') it thinks that it could generate for you the kinds of personalized reactions you would be likely to post on social media and then post them on your behalf. It still would allow you or a corporate brand marketer to be in the approval process, a dialog or UI would be presented to the user and would ask for an approval before each tweet was sent.

    Think about it. Instead of just a calendar pop-up or a Facebook notification telling you that 'So and so's birthday is today', the new Google social media robot would have your appropriately crafted reply all ready to go. Instead of scouring LinkedIn all day for the career ebbs and flows of people that you are interested in, just have the social media robot keep watch for you and let you know only when something that truly requires your attention surfaces. Note: This will hardly ever happen.

    I dig it. I hope it gets made. That is what social networking really needs too.

    More robots.


    Note: The blog is on vacation the rest of the week. To all the folks in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! 


    The end of Reader and the trouble with filters

    I am not sure how you managed to find this post today, but as most of us have heard by now, the demise of the once dominant feed reading platform Google Reader means you're certainly not reading it there.

    Google Reader was for me, the primary mechanism where I discovered, (via the previously sunsetted 'shared items' feature), consumed, saved for future reference, and shared interesting content out to my friends and social networks. Reader was almost always an open tab for me in Chrome (Google please don't get any silly ideas about axing Chrome), and I easily checked it five or ten times a day.  Most nights, the last thing I'd do was run through the 400 or so feed subscriptions I had to make sure I had not missed anything important, seen what my friends and colleagues were writing about, and most importantly for me, saved items for possible use as sources or ideas for blog posts, articles, HR Happy Hour Shows, etc.

    Reader, more so than any other mechanism, became the primary filter through which I interacted with information and experienced what was going on in the world.

    Sure over time, other and arguably better news and information tools began emerging, primarily developed to take advantage of the display and touch capabilities of iPads and smart phones. News readers like Pulse and Flipboard, and my personal favorite Zite, have taken news and content discovery and consumption into the modern technology age. They look great, they are fun to use, and they continue to get better at presenting content in personalized ways. Zite, when given feedback in the form of 'likes' and 'dislikes', over time will 'learn' what content you'd probably be most interested in, and will then serve up more of the content it expects you want to see, and less of what you don't. 

    So while I still relied on Reader as my primary source of news and information, tools like Pulse and Zite began to fill in some of the gaps and problems that Reader, (and really my use of Reader), exposed. Namely, unless you actively sought out new and different sources of information, you'd pretty easily fall into the trap of reading the same kinds of information sources all the time, and perhaps more importantly, you'd end up reading (again mostly), the same things everyone else you knew was reading too.

    And if you spend a lot of time hanging out with the same kinds of people that read the same kinds of things, well, that all can get kind of boring kind of quickly. 

    The demise of Reader should not simply be an exercise in finding and replicating how we used Reader in some other tool. Rather it should be an impetus for all of us that love to read, that love to be challenged by new ideas, that are looking for perspectives that are different from our own, (and that of our friends), to more actively seek out and share something that is just a little bit different, just a little out of our comfort zone, and maybe something that is not the same thing everyone else is reading too.

    Since Reader is gone, we have a chance and a reason to think a little bit more expansively, and to loosen up the filters that we were comfortable with, and that we applied to ourselves and to how we experience the world.

    What are you reading that is different or interesting or makes you a little uncomfortable? 


    Work, productivity, and driverless cars

    The last 30 years or so have seen the dramatic impact of technology upon the workplace - from the PC revolution, to email, to sophisticated ERP systems to better manage the flow of material and information, all the way to the present day, where social, mobile, and video technologies continue to disrupt how, where, and with whom work gets done. Certainly the workplaces and the methods of getting work done, almost to a job, look nothing today like they did just 15 or 20 years ago. And no doubt technology will continue to advance and impact work - what the future of wearable computing like Google Glass holds is of particular interest to me.

    But our friends at Google are at the forefront of another new technology development that also has the potential to dramatically alter work and productivity - perhaps just not in the ways we are accustomed to seeing how workplace technology changes our jobs, patterns, and behaviors. While Google Glass has enormous disruptive potential, in some ways the autonomous car, being developed at Google (and several other places as well), perhaps has the potential to have a more direct and sudden effect on work and how work gets done, (and how much more of it potentially gets done).

    According to recent statistics, workers in large US cities spend as much as 40 minutes each-way commuting to work, and just about 75% of them make the journey by themselves in their car.  In the worst cities for commuting, perhaps a city where your organization has facilities, as many as 3/4 of your workers are, on average, spending more than an hour each day in their cars, stressed, getting frustrated, and with the exception of the occasional business call, (taken 'hands-free' of course), getting almost nothing productive accomplished. 

    The driverless car - and don't think it is THAT far away from becoming a reality, Google's testing has logged well over 300K miles so far - would instantly transform that hour or hour and a half from empty time to potentially productive time. From the Google piece linked above:

    This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter. One day we hope this capability will enable people to be more productive in their cars.

    Imagine cleaning our your entire email Inbox before arriving at work, or having that conference call with clients while actually paying attention, or even doing a video chat with colleagues that are kicking back in their driverless cars on the way to the office.

    If the recent hubbub from Yahoo! and Best Buy around the need for employees 'physically being together' catches on more widely - then it will just put more workers back on the road. Driverless cars are the one technology solution that has the potential to almost instantly turn down time into productive time, and enable your commuting workers to take back just a little bit of their lives. Which is kind of ironically what teleworking policies were meant to do.

    The next great workplace tech breakthrough just might be the one that takes you to the workplace.


    Google Reader: The shelf-life of formerly good advice

    I've been having a instructive and fun time this week out at Ultimate Software's annual user conference called Ultimate Connections. It is always great to learn more about what one of the major technology providers in HR space is doing, to hear from and meet some real customers and practitioners, and even attempt to share some of my own ideas with the attendees.

    Yesterday I had that chance, along with the great John Sumser from HRexaminer and Ed Frauenheim from Workforce.com (and perhaps more famously of the Frauenheim Disclosure), in a conference session titled 'How to Stay Current on HR Trends'. The session was meant to be a kind or survey of tools, sources of information, time management approaches, and overall recommendations for the busy HR pro on how he or she can try to keep up and remain informed about the industry when faced with the simultaneous crush of mountains of content combined with a 'day job' that gets more time-crunched by the week.

    In the session, which was yesterday at 1:45PM Pacific Time, both John and I sung the praises of feed readers, specifically Google Reader, as a fantastic tool for the busy HR pro to try and sort, filter, scan, and consume professional content. I even tool it a step further, calling out smartphone apps like Flipboard and Zite, (my personal favorite), that help curate news and information and package it up attractively for on-the-go reading. Both of these apps are much more valuable and relevant when they have a Google Reader integration to provide a rich source of content that these apps find ways to make much user-friendly and provide a great interface.

    At 1:45 PM I was advocating for the HR pros in the room to give Google Reader a chance. At 5PM when I got back to my room, turned on the laptop, and IMMEDIATELY fired up Google Reader and BOOM - this message smacks me in the chops -

    Clicking 'Learn more' took me to a short blog post on the the Google support site that basically said Reader is being shut down on July 1, and had a link to another Google post that cited a decline in Reader usage and the company's desire to focus more energy on fewer products as the drivers behind the decision to kill off Reader.

    Reader has been around a really long time by Web standards, since 2005 or so, but (and as we saw in our session at the conference where very few attendees said they used Reader), never really caught on with the mainstream web users. And with the incredible growth of Facebook and Twitter, (and more and more LinkedIn), as sources of news and information, setting up and maintaining a deep, diverse, and relevant set of Reader subscriptions probably seemed like to big a chore for most users, and really boring for others.

    Either way, Google Reader is going away, and probably at least a few of the apps and services that had come to rely on a user's Reader subscriptions for the bulk of their content. Sure, there are other feed reading tools around - and perhaps even some new innovation will hit the space that Google is leaving, but make no mistake even in decline, Google Reader was the 500 pound gorilla in the space.

    I feel bad about the impending loss of my favorite tool on the web.

    I feel even worse that about 3 hours prior to the announcement, I advocated in the most strident way possible for a room full of hard working HR pros to get their Google Reader set up.

    That was good advice at the time I gave it.

    Now it's just formerly good advice.

    I hope the rest of the things I said in the session will stay relevant a little longer.