19 Sep

Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users

As of today, Google’s Wallet service is officially available, according to a post on the official Google blog. Now that the program is live, owners of Sprint’s Nexus S 4G and a Citi Mastercard will be able to process payments through Google with a tap of plastic on plastic. It’s a small audience, but one Google plans to quickly expand.

Google Wallet works through near-field communications (NFC), a system that uses RFID tags to communicate between two capable devices. Once logged into the system, users who have connected their Citi Mastercard to their Nexus S 4G phone will be able to pay for items by tapping their phone to a card reader at participating stores.

The launch is not only limited to certain customers, but also to specific retail partners. The primary base of retail stores includes pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, CVS, and Duane Reade, with some representation in stores like New York and Company, Footlocker, Best Buy, and Home Depot.

The release of Google Wallet is more a signal of intent than a real step into a payment processing arena that contains a number of competitors that haven’t yet tangled themselves with NFC, including Square and PayPal. What Google’s NFC and Google account integration will bring to the fight is not only convenience, but also the opportunity to track customers even more closely.

With a program like Google Wallet, Google can track the offline spending and shopping habits of its users as closely as those online. While outlets often try to target customers by doing things like collecting e-mail addresses to send coupons and ads, Google could offer even more seamless ad integration by connecting the offline retail outlets consumers favor with their Google profiles, even affording competing outlets positional advantages. This has been referred to as the “closed loop,” where no consumer purchase escapes the eye of the banner ad, to the delight of retailers, market researchers, and everyone in between.

While the launch is extremely limited, Google states that Wallet will eventually “hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today.” The page goes on to say that Google Wallet will also replace loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, and “even your keys.” Hopefully you don’t keep your own address in your phone, or if you do, you at least keep the screen locked.

via Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users. I’m a fan of anything that possibly limit the amount of stuff I need to carry especially in my wallet. That all being said there are definite privacy implications as Google stretches itself more from the digital world into the physical world.

07 Dec

Electronic Frontier Foundation – Join EFF in Standing up Against Internet Censorship

Let’s be clear — in the United States, at least, WikiLeaks has a fundamental right to publish truthful political information. And equally important, Internet users have a fundamental right to read that information and voice their opinions about it. We live in a society that values freedom of expression and shuns censorship. Unfortunately, those values are only as strong as the will to support them — a will that seems to be dwindling now in an alarming way.

On Friday, we wrote about Amazon’s disappointing decision to yank hosting services from WikiLeaks after a phone call from a senator’s office. Since then, a cascade of companies and organizations has backed away from WikiLeaks. A public figure called for the assassination of Assange. PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa axed WikiLeaks’ accounts. EveryDNS.net pulled Wikileaks’ DNS services. Unknown sources continue to cripple WikiLeaks with repeated denial of service attacks. Even the Library of Congress, normally a bastion of public access to information, is blocking WikiLeaks.

There has been a tremendous backlash against WikiLeaks from governments around the world. In the United States, lawmakers have rashly proposed a law that threatens legitimate news reporting well beyond WikiLeaks. We expect to see similar efforts in other countries. Like it or not, WikiLeaks has become the emblem for one of the most important battles for our rights that is likely to come along in our lifetimes. We cannot sit this one out.

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – Join EFF in Standing up Against Internet Censorship. What more do you need to know?

18 Nov

Keep Lowering the Bar: On Everything

Want to become a successful candidate, business, tool, whatever – then keep lowering the bar towards people interacting with you. Companies that raise the bar towards interaction with the business and the people involved in the business will eventually fail. No matter how large you are, the people want and enjoy easy access. Even if they don’t consciously realize it they will go for the business that has a lower bar to buy from.

Apple’s first genuine hit was the Macintosh with a graphic user interface that made it easy for everybody to understand how to interact with a computer and see what was going on. What sparked Ebay’s first real success ease of access, selling was quick and painless. If you didn’t sell well who cared it was junk anyways. YouTube lowered the bar towards sharing videos online, Flickr photos, Google searching, Obama to donate and get involved, the list goes on and on. Why is MasterCard adding the ability to pay with out even pulling out your card, ease of access towards that card. The easier it is to use your MasterCard the more likely you are to use it.

As a business you should not create artificial barriers towards letting your users interact with your business/product. This means provide lots of free samples, make it easy to get in touch with you, make your web site easy to navigate and fun to use.

If you are a software company make you applications easy for your customers to get their hands on and use. Interfaces should be clean and easy to grasp. Limit preferences, most of the time the defaults are just fine, the more settings you have the more chances you have to confuse your customers. If a customer can’t grasp an interface the user doesn’t need to be educated the interface needs to change.

I don’t know if the bar can ever be low enough or if it ever is too low, but the lower you make the bar the more likely you are to attract people to your product (be it software, hardware, food, information, skill, or even yourself) means that many more potential customers.

Thanks to Matt Cutts for the inspiration of this post based on his review of the Google Voice Search iPhone App. Specifically “The easier/faster it is to search, the more I searched.”