Google Glass Review (Explorer)

Joe Hall wearing Google GlassHere are my initial thoughts using Google Glass. I will likely form more opinions about the device as I continue to use it. To make this review as well rounded as possible, I decided to break it up into Pros/Cons.

BUT if you don’t have the time to read all this, then here’s the TLDR version: Google Glass has a lot of potential. But the lack of apps, problems with phone calls, and the limited UI makes it extremely hard to justify the current price tag. Lower the price, fix the phone calls, and build more apps, and Google Glass will be a very hot consumer device in 2014 and beyond.


Display (Experience)

It’s hard to explain what I mean by “experience”. Mostly, because this is unlike any device that I have ever used. Imagine having the ability to project images and videos with in your line of vision whenever you want. The display fits so intuitively with your natural experience that it almost feels like the device is a part of your body, and the display is just a natural feature of your eye. It is like looking at a desktop monitor inside your eye ball. It is nothing like looking at your typical mobile display. Plus the transparency of the screen allows for overlays of your surrounding environment, which allows the device to become as ubiquitous as the other visual elements you engage. For me the most obvious potential for the device lies in the use of this display to engage data in the same visual context that you would engage a cup of coffee.

Search For Knowledge Graph Data

I am starting to feel that maybe Google’s Knowledge Graph was designed entirely to support Glass. The data that Knowledge graph provides fits really well inside the Glass “card” interface. Which means I can get information about pretty much anything right inside the device. I still think Knowledge Graph is killing the rest of the web, but its amazing on Glass. So, Google, if you are listening, how about remove Knowledge Graph from the web and keep it just for Glass? ;)


I love the camera. For a long time I wanted to get a GoPro for my wheelchair. With Google Glass I don’t need too. The camera functions are extremely easy to use, and I think are a good quality. For me it is easy to take pictures and video without using my hands (that I need to operate my chair). You can see in the video below that with the camera I can share my view with the world. The camera’s audio is actually really good. So good in fact that I decided to overlay some music to the below video so you all can’t hear a private conversation I had at the beginning! LOL Like any digital camera the image quality would be better if the lighting was better, unfortunately when I shot this video it was a dreary day out and not very sunny.


This was a feature that I was largely concerned about. Being partially deaf I was worried that the device would either not be loud enough, or would interfere with my hearing aid. However, Google is implementing what they call “Bone Conduction Transducer”. Which is a fancy way of saying the audio functions do not rely on the workings of your inner ear to operate. Instead the sound is conducted through the bone structure of your head, and then into your vestibulocochlear nerve (audio nerve). This is great for anyone that has conductive hearing loss because of low bone density in the inner ear. Also one new app looks to revolutionize the way that people with hearing impairments communicate.


Lack of Apps

Hopefully this will change over time, but the sad truth is that there are very little apps available for Glass at the moment. The ones listed on the official site are great, but honestly I only installed a few that were relevant to my interest. There are a handful of Glass apps that are unsupported by Google. But because they aren’t apart of the official app collection, you have to use the Android Developer SDK to install them, which is to complicated for most users.

Software Requires a Learning Curve

Google provides very little documentation on how to operate the device. Leaving the user with having to actually figure things out on their own. Because of the limited size of the screen there isn’t enough room for a traditional “windows” like environment. Instead there are a multiple feeds that contain “cards”. You can flip through each card in each feed with your finger on the arm of the device. Sometimes it is extremely hard to tell what feed you are on, and what application you have active. For many users that don’t naturally feel comfortable navigating new UIs, this one will likely get them lost every time they use it. It almost requires a certain level of abstract thought to remember what feed you are on, and what card is active. Otherwise you will get confused and frustrated very quickly.

Phone Audio Sucks

earAs mentioned above I really like the audio on Glass as a whole. However, when you make a phone call with the device it creates a horrible echo for the person on the other end of the line. and when I say horrible, I mean so bad that my own mother hung up on me. As a fix to this problem Glass ships with a small ear piece (seen right). This fixes the issue, but, quite honestly it is cumbersome to add the earpiece just to make a call, and the experience takes away from the rest of the devices ease of use.

Web Browser Sucks

Browsing the web on Glass is pretty much impossible. You are able to access web sites through Google search. But once you land on a web page you are unable to click anything, this includes links or any element of the page. You can however scroll up and down and that’s about it. It seems as if they could build in some controls that would let you navigate a web page the same way users of screen readers tab through the links in a web pages navigation or other elements.

In Person Social Engagement

Unless you are going to a tech conference or a bar full of nerds (do those exist?), most people that you engage with while wearing Glass will think you are really weird and give you a strange look. Some apparently will get drunk and try to fight you, and others will most likely just give you weird glances. Because of this, I don’t really like going out in public with Glass, or at least not to social settings. Maybe one day they will be so mainstream no one will care, but as for now everyone has a lot of growing to do.


UPDATED: Help Us Bring Eli Home

As most of you know I don’t talk very much about my disability online. But, I want to tell you all about a very special project that I have decided to help with. In previous posts I have mentioned that I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), which is a rare bone disorder that makes my bones fracture easily.

So how rare is OI? It depends who you ask, but I can say that I am not the only one. In fact there is a vibrant community of us on and off the internet. Two of my old friends with OI are Adam and Kara Ayers. Kara, earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2011, and represented the US in the 2004 Paralympics in Greece. Adam is active in the adaptive sports community as a recreation therapist. Both have been strong advocates of healthy active lifestyles for people with disabilities.

ayersYou would think that such an amazing couple couldn’t get any cooler! But then in 2010 they had a beautiful little girl named Hannah. By sharing their experience online they then began to redefine what it means to be parents, by demonstrating that through an adaptive spirit and a parents love, anyone can start a family.

Now, they have decided to take their family one step further with the adoption of a new little boy named Eli. Eli is 6 years old and has Achondroplasia, which is the most common form of dwarfism. Currently, Eli, lives in an orphanage for children with disabilities in China. Children with dwarfism face adversity no matter where they are. However, in China, Eli will likely not be allowed to attend school, live outside of an institution or in some cases become homeless as he gets older.

The Ayers are the perfect parents to not only bring Eli to the US, but to nurture a positive sense of self that so many children with disabilities never realize.

Adam and Kara have already proven to the world that they are capable of pretty much anything. However, adopting Eli will be a rather large finical undertaking. They are estimating that they will need at least $25,000 to bring Eli to his new home. Therefore they are fundraising online to make this task a little easier. They have already sold some of their personal belongings to get closer to their goal, but they still need our help.

My pledge: I will match any donation up to $2,500 in total donations.

With your help we can raise $5,000 to help bring Eli to his new home. Here’s how you can help with this goal:

  1. Visit the Ayer’s donation web site.
  2. Make a tax deductible donation.
  3. Contact me with the amount you donated so I can match it! :)

UPDATED 11/12/2013 10:50am EST: We are currently at a total of $4,437!! Thank you all for your donations! We are only $563 away from our goal!

UPDATED 11/4/2013 12:00pm EST: We are currently at a total of $4,092!! Thank you all for your donations! We are only $908 away from our goal! 

Personal Note: I am currently very happy with my life. I have an awesome job, amazing friends, and a loving family. While it has been hard work, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today with out the support of my family, friends, and the amazing communities I am a part of. If you can relate to that experience at all, help us transfer that goodwill on to Eli, lets give him the same type of support that we have received.

Identifying Patterns for Fun, Profit, and Rankings – Search Exchange 2013

Today I had the pleasure of speaking at Search Exchange 2013! I promised all in attendance that I would share my presentation, so here it is!

Here are some great resources from the presentation:

30 Day Challenge: Exercise Every Day

In this post, I am announcing two things: A new category to my blog, and a new 30 day challenge for August.

During the month of August, I am going to exercise everyday. I used to swim three days a week, but for various reasons, I quit doing that. Now I want to get back in the routine of working out and keeping my body active. For a person in an electric wheelchair, exercise is very important. When I used to have a manual chair, I would burn a lot of calories from pushing the chair around. Now that I have a power chair, I move a lot faster, and don’t get tired as often, but burn a lot less calories. Therefore, I want to get back into exercising, and potentially develop some routines I can share with my fellow rollers. Speaking of which I know many of my rolling friends exercise quite a bit, so if any of you have any tips, or routines you want to share please leave them in the comments. :)

Also, after my last 30 day challenge, I decided that I wanted to do another one. In fact I decided that maybe I would start doing them on a regular basis. As I started to think of all of the different challenges that I want to try, I asked myself, what was some of the driving motivations to finish the last one? While each challenge will come with different motivations, I think the biggest one for me was telling all of you I was going to do it. By stating publicly that I was challenging myself to do something, I was forcing myself to stick to it, or face the public humiliation of defeat. So that is why I have decided to blog about every 30 day challenge. By talking about each challenge publicly I will be leveraging the fear of disappointment and humiliation to drive me further. So with out further ado I present the 30 day challenge category!

Coffee, Clarity, and Art.

There’s a small table in the corner of the coffee shop that I like to sit at. My back faces the large floor to ceiling windows, but it allows me to face the rest of the shop. I can see everyone from that vantage point. I enjoy watching what seems like every walk of life come in and out, sit and talk, drink and read, laugh and whisper.

I started visiting several different coffee shops on a regular basis about a week after my social media hiatus. At first I thought that I was just bored, but soon realized that something else was stirring inside me. Was I lonely? It seems silly to think that Facebook or Twitter had such a big impact on my life. But it wasn’t until I quit using them that I realized what I thought was just a silly past time, was actually a social dependence.

I think each of us want to feel connected in some way. And, those of us that live alone and work remotely feel that need everyday. Which is why I think social media is so attractive to people like me. However, many things that are attractive can never be completely fulfilling. Cookies are awesome, but if they are all you eat you will eventually become malnourished. In the same regard, all of the amazing folks I have met online are so much fun to connect with, but it is the relationships that have developed into real world experiences that I treasure the most.

I came to this realization about half way through my 30 days, when I realized that the people I miss most on social media are the ones that I also have offline connections with. I think in a world where one can connect with almost anyone, it is extremely important to stay focused on the relationships that really matter. The ones that don’t need social media to survive, and are only enriched further because of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that social media is bad or detrimental, and I am definitely not going to quit using it. BUT I am coming away from this experience with a renewed sense of clarity. I can now see that my time, energy, and emotions need to be invested into things that are the most fulfilling. Things that enrich my life beyond tweets and status messages.

Which is why I started making more art and poetry over the last 30 days. I am excited to start sharing some of that with you all soon, but for now I will see you back on the interwebs, and yes that includes social media as well! :)

30 Day Challenge: No Social Media

Several years ago I watched this video by famed Googler, Matt Cutts. Since then I have always wanted to take a 30 day challenge. Quitting social media for 30 days has always been something I have had an interest in. However, I have never been able to, due to the demands of my career in online marketing. Well, now that I am nestled into a great job at Internet Marketing Ninjas, I finally have the freedom to ignore social media for 30 days!

Starting June 1st 2013, I will not use social media for 30 days. This includes using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, and several dating sites (yes I use those too).

I hope to keep a personal journal about these 30 days and at the end share any insights that I have learned.

If you are a client, or business associate, fear not! Things on my end should be business as usual. I will still be available via email and phone. Also, feel free to use my contact page at this blog. All correspondence will be sent to my email account.

Wish me luck, and I will see you in July!

How To Build Your Own “Google Reader”

rssSo there has been a lot of talk today about Google shutting down Google Reader. I haven’t really been concerned because years ago, I created my own. I have been calling it “Joe Reader” for years. So now that Google is killing their Reader, I have decided to release mine as Open Source code under the BSD2 License.

The heart of my reader relies on SimplePie to read and parse RSS.


Hope you all enjoy! :)

Is Marissa Mayer Restarting Yahoo Search?

In July, Yahoo announced that they had hired Google famed Marissa Mayer as their new CEO. Unlike everyone else in the tech sector, I was disappointed. My disappointment stemmed from the fact that for the last several years Yahoo has been the surefire place where things go to die. This made me sad because Mayer has always been at the center of innovation as Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience during the company’s most radical growth period. Yahoo seemed like a step down. But at the same time I have been hopeful that she could turn Yahoo around and build something amazing. Then this weekend something weird happened…

Over the weekend I was checking the traffic stats for one of my less serious projects with Statcounter and saw something odd in the visitor report:

When I saw “Yahoo! Slurp 3.0″ I was shocked and confused. Slurp is the name of Yahoo’s web crawler. Version 3.0 launched in April of 2008. However, almost a year later Yahoo quit crawling the web and replaced their results with Bing.  Because of this I was almost certain that someone was spoofing their user agent to hide their identity. In fact many of the commercial scrappers on the market allow you the ability to change your user agent to what ever you want. There is even a handy little browser plugin that does this as well.

I posted a status on Facebook and soon learned that my buddy Meg Geddes has been seeing the same thing in Statcounter.

A buttload?? This got me thinking….so I went back to my Statcounter login and drilled down a bit further and this is what I found:

From the above we can see that the request is absolutely coming from Yahoo, that the client has Javascript enabled, and that a screen resolution is recorded. At first glance this looks like a typical request from a browser such as Chrome or Firefox. But why wouldn’t they just disclose that in the user agent? Because maybe this is a browser/crawler hybrid?

So this morning I wake up and can’t stop thinking about Meg’s buttload…Its one thing to see this type of behavior in random intervals, its another to have a buttload. (Also, I like repeating the term “buttload”, I am so sorry.) So, to get further to the bottum of this, I sent Meg an email with some questions:

JH: When did you first start seeing Slurp in your reports this year?

MEG: I don’t know when they started, but I probably first noticed around late spring.

JH: Is there ever any Referring URLs?

MEG: No there are never any referring URLs.

JH: How many pages per domain does it typically visit?

MEG: Probably around 50-100 per day across many sites. Interestingly, I don’t think they’re showing up in Google Analytics, so it may well just be a Statcounter thing.

JH: Do your server logs show the same type of data that Statcounter does?

MEG: Yep.

JH: Peanut butter: crunchy or creamy?

MEG: Dude. Extra Crunchy Jif. Sometimes I add MORE peanuts. I’m hardcore like that.

Meg also shared with us this forum posting where Statcounter moderators point out that these might be image crawling bots which are indexing the 1 pixel image Statcounter uses to send visitor data back to their servers. However, last time I checked (just now), Yahoo’s image search still says, “Powered by Bing™” at the bottom.

Yahoo’s alliance with Bing is supposed to continue til 2019, but that doesn’t impede on Yahoo to continue developing their own internal search products. In fact, they could be developing something that integrates with a future product set that is not search related at all.

Either way its fun to think that maybe somewhere on the horizon there is the possibility of a more competitive search landscape with Mayer commanding a serious competitor. If that is ever the case, then shes already got a new fanboy!

Plugin Contest (aka how I will beat @Norcross like a drum)

So it has been awhile since I last developed a WordPress Plugin for free. Sure I have done dozens for clients, but it has been awhile since I have given one away. But soon all of that will change. Starting April 1st I am entering myself into a two man competition with my buddy Andrew Norcross. Basically I am looking for a fun way to start programming for the public again with a competitive edge for motivation. The original inspiration for this came from Andrew watching one of my favorite movies and tweeting about it.

Here are the rules:

  • Contest begins April 1st.
  • No rules on functionality, purpose, etc. Just has to be a working plugin.
  • The plugin has to be completed and in the WordPress repository by midnight on April 30th.
  • Once completed, we will allow a week for voting.
  • Loser pays winner $1.
  • That’s pretty much it.

Wish me luck! On April 30th Andrew and I will be tweeting and emailing a link where you the public can vote so make sure to pay attention to this blog, Andrew’s blog and both our Twitter accounts. @joehall & @norcross

How To Build A Kindle

Something odd happened about 6 months ago. I started buying books on the Kindle. This was odd to me because 1) I am usually against technology with strict DRMs and, 2) I don’t own a Kindle! I have been reading my books on my phone and on my PC. However this morning I wanted to read in bed, but was tired of squinting into my phone. So…. I got to work. I have an old Dell Mini 9 that I got about 4 years ago.

The Dell Mini 9 shipped with an optional Ubuntu OS. Which was one of the main reasons I got it. Overall its been a great netbook. However the model I got only has a 3.8GB hard drive. Which means everytime I update Ubuntu the amount of free space gets smaller and smaller. So to read my Kindle books I opened up FireFox and went to the Kindle cloud reader, which allows you to read your Kindle books inside a web browser. This worked really well for awhile. But I hated having to read on such a small screen, it felt as if the size of text I selected and the orientation of the screen made it so I could only read about 10 lines on each page. But then I remember, YOU CAN FLIP THE SCREEN ORIENTATION in Ubuntu! 90 degrees is all I needed to flip the screen to show more text.

Now the netbook holds like a regular book and is roughly the same size! Looks like I won’t be buying a Kindle anytime soon!

SEO “Outing” Is Immoral

nullWhen I first started working in the SEO industry I couldn’t understand why “outing” was such a big deal. In fact (like others in the industry) I felt the inability to talk openly prohibited our industry from growing and handling our reputation. However, back then I was naive and inexperienced. I have now seen the damage that “outing” can leave. And because of that I can’t keep my opinion on this issue quiet while having a clear conscious at the same time.

Before we get dirty with the details, I want to add a disclaimer: I have absolutely no relationship to any of the entities mentioned in this post. I do not have any relationship to any blog/link network or organized spammer.

By now I am sure that most of you have read about the demise of Build My Rank. When I first read that article, I felt sick (that is not a hyperbole). As an entrepreneur I can’t imagine what it must feel like to realize that in a matter of days your company is finished. I don’t want to get into the specifics over this incident, but it appears that Google’s moves against them were a result of a blog post and ensuing public debate that outed them as a link spammer.

Link spamming is not a viable strategy for SEO. Yes, you can see short term results, but by and large, these services aren’t for long term growth. Even though I think these services are a waste of money, I could care less if others use them, as long as they know the full risk involved. Many rave about lobster, but I like crab more, and that won’t stop me from having dinner with them.

But the problem with SEO outing isn’t just a difference of opinion on strategy. The problem with SEO outing is that no one assumes the full consequences of their actions. Let’s take the BMR incident as an example. How much money did they lose as a result of being outed? Do their employees have families? How many of their clients are now seeing revenue lost? How many SEO agencies contracted with them? And how many of their clients are affected? How many innocent business owners that don’t know the risk involved with these networks are now suffering? How many people are now on unemployment?

I mentioned in the beginning that I use to not understand why outing was so wrong. What changed my mind, is meeting client after client that has suffered bad SEO advice and has seen a substantial loss. Outing, only exacerbates this process by raising the level of risk.

When people engage in questionable SEO practices they are taking a risk. Many of them know the risk they are taking, but many of them don’t. Either way, it’s no one’s place to make that risk even greater. If your paycheck doesn’t say “Google” on it, it’s not your job to police the web.

So then what is your job? Your job is to keep a high standard for yourself. Your job is to keep a high standard for those you do business with. Your job is to continue educating the public on what good SEO looks like. That is how we build a better industry. That is how we build a better community. That is how we build a better web. Outing does none of that. What outing does do is create dramatic blog post that allows for the author to take a moral high ground while potentially ruining innocent people’s livelihoods. It makes me sick.

[photo credit]

How To Get Shit Done, EVERYDAY

Thanks to Chris Winfield for the inspiration.

Don’t break the chain app:

HTML Code For Mash-up Page: Video Review

FeedBurner FeedSmith 301 Redirects Not 302

Earlier today I was running a small SEO audit on a small WordPress site and I noticed that all Feedburner links were 302ing. This means that the search engines only view them as temporarily moved. So I looked under the hood and saw that the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin was installed. Apparently this plugin uses 302s to redirect the feed. So I went in and edited the plugin to handle 301s. You can download my edited version below.

Download FeedBurner FeedSmith 301 Redux

Hope you enjoy!

Internet Marketers Need To Support The Main Street Fairness Act

On Friday July 29th, Senator Dick Durbin (D IL) introduced the “Main Street Fairness Act” which allows for a standardized method for states to collect sales tax for online retailers. I completely disagree with the majority of rhetoric surrounding this issue, including the dialog coming out of Durbin’s office, but I do support this legislation. Others in the internet marketing industry should to.

Here’s what the bill proposes in short:

  • No new taxes.
  • Applied only to taxes already imposed by the states that are not being collected.
  • Provide states with the clear authority to require retailers to collect sales taxes already owed.*
  • Treat all retailers equally regarding sales tax collection.
  • Release consumers, currently expected to calculate and send in the taxes themselves.
  • Exemption for small online retailers.

We need to look past the rhetoric in the dialog and focus on the bigger picture. For example framing this issue as leveling the playing field for offline retailers is ridiculous. Shipping and handling cost often times outweigh sales tax. So to assume that retailers are choosing e-commerce to avoid a sales tax is not grounded. Consumers are using e-commerce more and more for many different reasons. Some are shopping more online because the internet has mastered the “long tail” approach. Some are shopping online because online retailers can offer a completely customized shopping experience. Many are shopping online because they are just lazy.

But like I said we need to look past the rhetoric and move past this issue so that more business owners have the opportunity to succeed online. The only way we are going to do that is a federal solution that lays a ground work for how online retailers collect taxes across the country.

I also think that this legislation will put to rest the debate in the affiliate marketing space. With this type of legislation we wouldn’t see Amazon or other large affiliate programs pulling out of states to avoid sales tax.

Ebay is coming out against this bill citing that it would harm small online retailers. I am concerned with that as well. I would be interested in an amendment that take’s the concerns of small business into account.

*I am not a big fan of this provision. I mean that could be like a decade of taxes for some companies. I am willing to bet it was thrown in to appease a state supporter, but Durbin is willing to use it as a bargaining chip if he needs to.

How To Post To WordPress, Twitter, And Facebook From Google+

Every time a new social site launches I routinely hear folks in the marketing and PR world groan that they have to sign up for yet another social network. I completely understand this feeling, I mean hell look at all the social media links at the bottom right! However, when Google+ launched I instantly fell in love with the service, but didn’t want to leave my blog and twitter by the waste side.

Luckly I have discovered a cool way to integrate your blog and many popular social networks into Google+ very easily. The trick is to use the under appreciated, “post by email” feature found in many social services. Basically the way this works is a social network assigns you an unique email address. Every time you send an email to that address it is automatically posted to your network. This feature is commonly used to integrate mobile devices that can only send text messages. But we are going to use it to tie in Google+. Read more »