Our family's santa story ended up in a Canadian newspaper.
Parents beware: it's that time of year when 'is Santa real?' searches spike
Santa Claus tries the slopes on Whistler mountain in Whistler, B.C. on Saturday Dec. 17, 2011. Parents beware: with just a few days left till Christmas, it might be wise to keep the little ones away from the Internet.If past trends are any indication, Google is likely now seeing spikes of searches like "Is Santa real?". THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
TORONTO - Parents beware: with just a few days left till Christmas, it might be wise to keep the little ones away from the Internet.
If past trends are any indication, Google is likely now seeing spikes of searches like "Is Santa real?"
While Google declined an interview request, the search giant did confirm that queries such as "is Santa Claus real" and "Santa real" — which is the most common — have become more popular with each passing year and typically spike in the days before Christmas.
Ross Mayfield found out about the trend the hard way while watching TV recently with his nine-year-old son.
"We saw some car commercial where Santa was delivering cars as presents and he just couldn't believe that would be possible for Santa to be able to fit these cars in a bag," Mayfield said.
"He grabbed the iPad, Googled the phrase 'is santa real,' and after looking at one or two pages said to his mom, 'There, I'm convinced! Santa's definitely not real, I Googled it!'"
Mayfield never considered that his kids might have the big Santa question spoiled by the Internet and now hopes he can convince his son that Santa is real.
"Every Christmas Eve we have a really big dinner and I'll dress up as Santa, come to the door, say 'Ho ho ho,' give the kids a hug and deliver a bagful of presents. Somehow I've managed up till this point for him to not recognize me," Mayfield said.
"We decided to not change the tradition and if he ends up going, 'Oh it's daddy!' then I might see if I can explain it as, 'Well, Santa's really busy, he's got a lot of helpers and I'm one of them.'"
According to Google, the most searches asking if Santa is real come from users in Ireland. For the search "is santa claus real," Canadians were the fourth most likely to ask the question. Toronto ranked fourth on the global list of cities that asked the question most, behind Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago.
When looking just at the Canadian search results for "santa real" going back to 2008, most searches were in British Columbia followed by Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Calgary ranks highest among cities, followed by Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Waterloo, Ont., and Montreal.
Parents with the new iPhone 4S can relax. The popular voice-activated function Siri appears to feign ignorance and doesn't answer questions about Santa's existence.
Last night during dinner I asked my son about Santa. He said he didn't know who the person was dressed up as Santa, but he was a fake. And that he would try to believe and play along. In the end he is being rational, while enjoying part of the spirit of Christmas that is belief.
The interview happened because the journalist found a post of mine on Google+. What's interesting is every time I share our Santa story, it tends to get two reactions: how cute and good it is, or how we are horrible parents for tricking our kids. And I'm always amazed at how strong both reactions are.
Instead of constantly playing defense against congress, we should pass a Protect the Internet Bill.
SOPA and PIPA are very dangerous symptoms of an underlying problem. Powerful embedded interests from the entertainment to the telecom lobby will continue to introduce legislation that threatens the net. Congress will continue to be driven by these interests and their technical illiteracy will only make it worse.
While I can dream about a Protect the Internet Bill that would build upon the Framer's intent for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly -- a modern legal framework to support our basic right to connect would overreach.
Instead, I would build upon the US State Department's recognition of the role the internet plays for freedom and development of civil society. A bill that seeks enshrine Net Freedom as our National Interest, which begins at home.
A bill that says congress shall pass no law disrupting the fundamental technical underpinnings of the net. That's it.
By going on offense to introduce a bill that defines the technical boundaries of regulation, By going on offense, we reduce political risk to unleash further growth not only of net freedom around the world, but jobs at home. By going on offense, we can raise the net literacy of congress, beyond a series of tubes.
Net Neutrality was a great example of going on offense (albeit, when we were on our heels). Let's start again with more basic protection of today's net.
Its so fun to write oversimplified posts about such-and-such is dead. Not because its true. At best you can point out something is broken and alternatives are rising fast.
But I wonder how the people behind the aging technology and cash cow think of it. And some of the most interesting conversations must have been within Google as Facebook was rising up to close the open web, by making new things the web was perhaps missing openly available at scale. Conversations that effect us all.
Maciej Cegłowski has a new, but good-old social software post, about how the abstractions that are social networking sites will never reflect real social networks, and how brands awkwardly fit in them. Pull quotes:
"If the social graph is crude oil, doesn't that make our friends and colleagues the little animals that get crushed and buried underground?"
"Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender."
"Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers - that's the social graph."
"Now tell me one bit of original culture that's ever come out of Facebook."
Today Google+ opened up the first iteration of its Brand Pages. As with anything big and new in social they are met with both joy, fear and skepticism. A visceral new example of Maciej's quote on marketers above.
You see, as Facebook effectively took a massive amount of people's time off of the open and discoverable web, and with Like took their gesture otherwise as the big fat input. PageRank initially relied on a few strong inputs from people who realized their own power an skill to publish. Then with social search it didn't need so much power (e.g. this post). Then it was commoditized down to a single click. The single gesture of someone logged in somewhere. Probably where they have committed their time and identity because of a broad social pressure that exists in the real world.
But I found this single image today absolutely stunning:
If it wasn't clear, Google is all-in with +1 and Google+. And interestingly giving brands a very direct role in directing gestures with it. All +1s can be consolidated for a brand. And lo and behold, Google is creating a namespace to replace URLs. If you type + before something in Google or their browser bar, you get autocomplete for a Google+ Brand Page that has aggregated all the gesture in the direction that brand organizes and in part pays for. All SEO practices are about to be rewritten.
But here's what's interesting. +1 keeps evolving towards an alternative to penetrate the social and otherwise closed web without Google+ being sucessfull. I don't think this is a new point, or inherently evil. Its just become more visceral.
Maciej's post focuses on how nodes and edges in a graph can never truly be representational. No more so than how profiles will always be a lie and out of date, but at least they are from just the point of view of an author. But gesture of attention have always been simple enough to say, look here. And with social search you get that fuzzy implicit semantic bullshit to say this language means something like the way you are talking to the command line. Its not as perfect and impossible as ODF bullshit. But its coming faster, with new politics and commercial interests than ever.
The gesture equivalent to making a link of course got easier. But the ownership of that gesture for those who are at scale has as well.
(disclosure, I tried to get a job at Google in 2002. I told them I wanted to build a +/- gesture graph for search, blogging and social networking. Probably bad ideas. I didn't get the job, but that is more proof that I'm a loser than the need for disclosure)
This morning SlideShare launched a complete rewrite from Flash to HTML5, and a new mobile web app. You would think that as the world's largest social content network, with 60M monthly unique visitors (you too can be unique) this would be a big deal. Here's Liz Gannes from All Things Digital:
SlideShare Does Biggest Redesign Ever… But It’s Invisible!
Presentation-sharing service SlideShare today joins the HTML5 craze, and will transition its largely Flash-dependent site out of Flash into HTML5, making it significantly faster and able to be accessed by iOS devices. Multiple executives at SlideShare described this as their biggest project undertaken to date — but said users can expect the site’s appearance to change little, if at all.
That is the entirety of Liz's post. A classic. Love it.
But I think there are two important points here for entrepreneurs. The role of rewrites and, more importantly, the web is back.
I am so very tired of the word pivot. Yes, entrepreneurs need to change course when things aren't working. But a better definition of entrepreneurship is experimentation at the margin. You take your hypothesis and prototype and make small moves at the boundary of what you know and do.
The hardest move in many cases is a rewrite. Scrapping old code for new. Chosing to redo old features instead of developing new ones. Investing in better architecture over fresh paint.
What makes it especially hard is customers are more likely to pay for new features. Markets for startups are asymmetric, with your buyer having less information about your product's current and future state and the viability of your temporary organization. The only time buyers care about your architecture is when it fails so badly they will cancel on you. So you can't just listen to customers on this one, you have to listen to yourself.
One of the worst decisions I ever made was telling Sun they couldn't fund a rewrite in Java and delay our market entry by another six months, so we could keep the first six months of Perl. Longer story, that one.
In this case, the decision was easier -- listen to Steve Jobs. Steve decided to kill off Flash. Which, if you are written in Flash, kindof sucks.
Still it wasn't an easy decision. Five years ago the only viable way to build SlideShare was Flash. Today it still works, but doesn't on iOS. This year we developed Zipcast, which was made in-part possible by HTML5, which wasn't possible five years ago. This year the team made the very hard call to forgoe new feature development and do a 100% rewrite to HTML5. Read CTO & Co-founder Jon Boutelle's post on how the team did it.
As we got into the project we learned we could make SlideShare 30% faster, reduce page load by 40%, retain document fidelity in the conversion and redendering process, and consolidate on a single platform. The web.
Now I don't think we are at the beginning of such a platform shift on the web. The real platform shift is people, and how their behavior with the web is changing at mainstream scale. But there are new things you can do, like how Pusher uses HTML5 Websockets for real time messaging. And more importantly, HTML5 is a more than viable platform for mobile apps like SlideShare.
Yesterday Marshall Kirkpatrick blogged: Firefox Creator Says the Web is Dead Meat; Android Creator Disagrees. Joe Hewitt argues that web technologies need an owner to compete with the curated app store model. This goes against core principles of the web (nobody owns it, everybody can use it and anybody can improve it), but those are more under attack by governments than standards bodies that move slowly.
I really don't see entrepreneurs heading towards iOS or Android for innovation sake, more for the distribution opportunity. And when they do, they face the hard decision of developing on multiple platforms that made software such a pain in the ass before the web. Let alone potential revenue share.
And I don't think the web needs an app store, let alone an owner. Putting your app in a store only gives you distribution through the owner's model of curation. On the web, you market your app by giving back to the web. Sharing information and links that benefits the web's structure.
Think of your startup as a band and your app as music. The real distribution opportunity isn't happening in app stores. It's when your music is shared as a social object by people. And increasingly in seamless ways like Facebook's latest Spotify integration (yes, proprietary P2P, its a metaphor). You want your app to to be sharable across the social web in a way where people can engage with it in less than 2 seconds, not in over 2 minutes after downloading.
Five years out I'd bet on the web being the most successful mobile platform thanks to improvements to come, and its more organic distribution opportunities.
I had a little trouble understanding Circles in Google Plus myself, so I created this visual guide on how the Asymmetric Sharing model works:
Google Plus has a different privacy/sharing model than other social networks. Different from Facebook's confirmed tie model that they have been gradually breaking with ever more granular complexity. Different from Twitter & SlideShare's model of Asymmetric Follow, where people can follow/subscribe to posts that are public. Google+ is Asymmetric Sharing, where you selectively choose to share, but to make it into the main stream of view, someone nees to choose to share back. I give it high marks on privacy, but it inherently comes at a cost for complexity, virality, discovery and retaining social context.
This week I've been hanging out on Turntable.fm, a new social music site. Its a very simple and addictive way to share and listen to music with others. In rooms you join or create, you turns DJing songs from an extensive music library or uploading your own. People can vote a song Awesome or Lame. If its too lame, it skips to the next DJ. If awesome, the DJ gets points that lets them upgrade their avatar.
As simple as it sounds, rooms get a vibe going that is re-inforced by the pressure for DJs to play into it. I've discovered a ton of music, and its easy to save into your Turnable queue, Spotify or iTunes (for purchase). During the day, instead of having people at the office burried in their own earbuds, we set up an office room, with people sharing while heads down on work. At night, I've managed to coax in some of my friends who always shared the best music, and they've gotten sucked in quickly. At least to listen.
When news broke last night that poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron passed away, I set up a room to play his music and a couple of people quickly joined. Unfortunately we ran into a licensing restriction after a few plays, but it gave a hint at a different kind of shared experience that is now possible.
Turntable is brand new, and to get in you have to be connected to someone on Facebook that is already in. But they've managed to make a simple game out of sharing music that unfolds into an enjoyable social experience you should have.
This morning the White House posted Obama's birth certificate to their Pro Channel on SlideShare. While the politics around this are rediculous, I'm really proud that the White House would put so much trust in our service and are forward thinking enough to turn disclosure into a social object.