OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast?

Is the news that Blogger Robert Scoble has started to go cold on Google Glass cause for concern for Google?

In his latest Google+ post, he writes an open letter to the Google Glass team who seem to have now lost one of their biggest advocates.

How could Robert go in just 12 months from someone who said “I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It’s that significant.” and was even photographed wearing them in the shower, to saying “It’s gotten to the point where even I don’t want to wear them around.

Summarising Robert’s post, here are the issues he has with Glass as it stands:

  • People have too high of expectations for Glass
  • Glass in its current iteration is “too hard to buy and acquire”
  • There aren’t enough apps. For instance, it’s still missing Uber and Foursquare, and it’s still lacking support for Facebook
  • The UI itself simply can’t handle a lot of apps
  • The battery doesn’t work well for shooting video. He says it only lasts 45 minutes for video
  • It’s too hard to push images from Glass to your smartphone in real time
  • There’s no “contextual filtering. When I’m standing on stage, why does Glass give me Tweets? Why can’t it recognize that I’m at a conference at least and show me only tweets about that conference?”
  • There’s no easy way for developers to let Glass users test out their apps

This is not a technology issue – it is an influencer management issue

Reading Robert’s post, and stepping back from the numerous technical issues that Robert raises, my view is that this is more of an issue with how the Google Glass team has managed their influencers, than the tech itself.

Now I know a bit about influencers and influencer management, having launched Kred, and been the CEO from 2011 – 2013, as well as written extensively about it on this blog.

In addition, I also have experience in what it is like to become an influencer in my own right.

Robert’s post (ironically on Google Plus) provides a detailed view of what is wrong with the product and the approach the team has taken (or not) to keep Robert on-side.

If the Google Glass product team had kept closer to Robert over the last 8 months, then he would never had published the post, and instead he would have been providing this feedback direct to the team, and in confidence.  In turn, the Glass product team would have been able to feed this feedback into the design and launch a better product.

Is Scoble a good bellwether for a product’s success?

Robert has become very influential in the tech scene (and he knows this), and his opinion does matter.

He has loved, and then left Friendfeed.

He was red hot on Quora, then admitted just a month later he was wrong.

He is still an advocate for Google Plus, but it is quite interesting that he has openly and publicly questioned where Google Glass is heading.

One of Google’s issues here is that most of their products are permanently in beta. I am sure that Google’s view on Robert’s post is that all of these issues will be fixed over time. However Google has missed a huge opportunity here, and Google may not be able to recover from this.

If Google wants to have a real consumer facing product that they sell themselves, then they need people like Robert that are connected to the tech and consumer press to be regularly signing their praises.

The news today is filled with headlines that “Google Glass is doomed” – something that I am sure is not in the Google Glass marketing plan!


Lessons for Google

When launching a new product, even one where the participants pay $1,500 for the privilege, you need to stay close to your influencers as they can literally make or break your new product.

kred-launch-ukWhen we launched Kred back in 2011, we looked to influence the influencers.  In London the week before the official launch, we gathered 50 key influencers at the Hospital Club’s screening room and gave them a sneak preview.

The feedback after the event and for the subsequent launch was incredibly positive, as a result of the relationships we developed during this event.

The following year, in May 2012, we flew 30 key influencers to a Kred Leader’s summit, and developed some really key relationships as a result – many that continue even into 2014.

shankman-unitedOne of the attendees at the Kred summit, Peter Shankman had a great experience with United Airlines in May 2013. The team at United allowed Peter to become an airplane geek for a day, and stack baggage and guide planes in at Newark Airport. This is publicity money can’t buy, and United didn’t have to.

Google have I fear missed out on millions of dollars of influencer promotion via Robert Scoble, and have no real way of clawing this back.

What is your view – is Robert’s criticism just, and how should the Google Glass team have handled his (and others) involvement in the program?

Leave a comment below or tweet me @AndrewGrill

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Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is Global Managing Partner, Social Consulting at IBM.

  • OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast?: Is the news that Blogger Robert Scoble has started to g… http://t.co/pfeIcMkhRC

  • OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast? – http://t.co/LEELXDuh7x < good assessment @andrewgrill

  • RT @jangles: OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast? – http://t.co/KPmFlY9ta8 < good assessment @AndrewGrill

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  • OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast? http://t.co/AmXcERHHet

  • London Calling: OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast?: Is the news that Blogger Robert Scoble … http://t.co/tsGFKQiDYK

  • Sean Fleming

    Really interesting piece, Andrew. I agree Google has a problem on its hands here. But I also wonder how much blowing-really-hot then blowing-really-cold any single ‘influencer’ can get away with, before tech brands start to get anxious about engaging with them at all.

    As you point out, Robert has banged the drum for several apps, products/services only to turn round a while later and publicly change his mind. You pose the question whether he is a reliable bell weather of Glass’s likely success.

    Probably not, in all honesty.

    While I have a lot of respect for the guy, I’m wary of evangelists – always have been, always will be. He raves about how great the things he likes are. But like all evangelists, by so doing he tells you more about himself and his outlook than the product in question and how you might respond to it.

    Then he gets bored with things and goes off them quickly.

    Maybe he should consider being a little more, well… considered in his responses and reactions in the face of new tech.

    He’s a great and knowledgeable guy, it’d be a shame if the likes of Google sought to sideline his views in favour of more reasoned opinions.

  • One problem, even if Google kept me deeply embedded into the Glass team: I got too far out in front of this in my excitement and now that I’ve had eight months with them on my excitement is definitely a bit more muted.

    Keep in mind, when I say I don’t want to wear them in some situations that is because of the extraordinary interest Google has gotten in this product, some due to its own design (a demo where skydivers jumped out of a blimp live in front of a San Francisco developer audience) and much just due to the inventive form of this product (it’s on your face!) I can’t wait for the day when these are commonplace and we can just use them to get stuff done or play a new kind of game.

    Passion is part of this world and I wear it on my sleeve. It was important for me to note where these things actually are and to set the expectations accordingly. Google might hate that, but based on my interactions with people all over the world people will make their own decisions when it comes time to actually buy these.

  • “Reasoned” opinions? Really? First of all, that’s all horseshit. What good is a post that just states what they are? No. I want people who are passionate, on both sides of the aisle. Makes for a much more interesting discussion about whether or not these are the future (they are, just not in 2014 for most people).

    What I hate are the press who always just talks about first-day experiences and then never goes back and takes a fresh look a month (or eight) later. That’s the kind of tech press we need to weed out. There is so much pressure to get it first that no one cares about someone with an opinion eight months later (which is why I needed to put an outrageous headline on it to get you to read it).

    Also, in the last eight months I’ve talked with thousands of people about it and watched their reactions over the period of months. I’ve also attended hackathons and built relationships with developers who are building for them and with investors who are thinking of investing in companies for Google Glass development. They too have gotten me to change my outlook from a short term one to a long term one.

    Finally, the market changes too! Some of my friends have now seen the Apple iWatch and they say it’s pretty darn nice. So, if a nice watch comes out from Apple, who has the retail distribution that Google doesn’t have, and the tech press makes it about iWatch vs. Google Glass, then Google Glass is setup for failure and I wanted to get that on the table now, so Google can do something about it (and so can we all).

    I wary of people who never change their minds after actually using a product for a few months. THOSE are the people we should be wary of, not evangelists who wear their passion for new things on their sleeves.

  • Interesting discussion on @andrewgrill’s post: http://t.co/6BFaKjRymZ about Glass and my “evangelism.”

  • RT @Scobleizer: Interesting discussion on @andrewgrill’s post: http://t.co/6BFaKjRymZ about Glass and my “evangelism.”

  • Also, keep in mind that they charged us $1,500 (plus tax) just for the PR and R&D functions. So, of course they were gonna have some blowback. This isn’t a finished product yet. It’s a little like if Apple asked us to test the iPhone for a year before release and show it around to all of our friends to see what they might use it for — all while charging us $1,500 for the task.

    You can’t do that and keep early testers (they call us “Explorers”) quiet about the good and bad of their product. Of course we want to tell you what we think about the product — it’s why we paid the price to be first!

  • By the way, I haven’t “left” FriendFeed. We still use it every week on Gillmor Gang.

    I also am still pretty hot on Quora, by the way. It’s gotten better since those early days.

  • Erika Penzer Kerekes

    Agree big time. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a product based on its stated benefits the day it comes out of the box, or even a few days later. Eight months is enough time to really understand how the product fits into your life (or not), as well as its benefits and shortcomings. I got Glass last month and was tremendously excited but hit a few snags that I didn’t know how to overcome. Now it’s sitting on my desk and every time I look at it I feel guilty that I spent so much money on it. My own fault and I just need more time to try to figure it out and/or call the help line and/or peruse the Glass forums but still – day 30 is very different from day 1.

  • Robert, noted on these points – just seems to be the perception, Glad you cleared this up.

  • Erika, appreciate the comment and your perspective on Glass. Seems like any new toys, eventually the shine wears off unless it becomes invaluable each day. My phone is not longer a new toy, but I use it so many times a day I’d be lost without it.

  • Same here @erikapenzerkerekes:disqus. I’ve had Glass for about a month, which is equivalent to @ 5 minutes in the consumer electronics world. I haven’t used them like I thought I would, but I’m looking forward to using them to explore CES next week. I will say that the young kids who came over during the holidays were very excited about glass. A 5 year old figured them out in about a minute. My 76 year old mother, while not quite sure what all they do, was eager to use them to take a photo of the kids. @Scobleizer:disqus’s headline has us at least talking about Glass again and that can’t be bad for Google. Right @Andrew Grill:disqus ?

  • Andrew Dodd

    “Just for the PR and R&D functions?” – Um, you’re getting a bit more than that.
    1) Recipients of the first version received a free upgrade to the second version. I wouldn’t be surprised if the recipients of the second version get a free upgrade or a hefty discount on the next version.
    2) That cost includes unusually high-grade customer service, including an option for a free in-person fitting and training session.
    3) That cost has also included incredibly lenient warranty support policies – the Explorers discussion forums is full of users who broke the arm between the main device and the battery and got free replacements.

  • km2012

    I think we read different posts. He’s not saying what you think he’s saying.

  • Yes, we’re talking about Glass again, but for all the wrong reasons. Where is Google in this dialogue? Brands need to engage – not just sit back. As practitioners we all suggest this to our clients – so why do Apple and Google mainy stay out of social? Disqus!

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  • Wrong reason if you only read the headline. Robert says. I “love headlines that stretch the truth a bit.” Then “But Google Glass is doomed. Why do I say that? Because the tech press tells me so.” More of a jab at the Apple centered tech press and headline only readers than a condemnation of Google Glass.

  • Yes, however this “wrong headline” is what is being reported in the tech press globally today – which probably proves Robert’s original point you mention above.

  • RT @Scobleizer: Interesting discussion on @andrewgrill’s post: http://t.co/6BFaKjRymZ about Glass and my “evangelism.”

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  • OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast? Real issue here is Google’s influencer management strategy no.… http://t.co/vqptf5gKGw

  • I’d like to offer maybe a different perspective. First, Robert’s enthusiasm for the product contributed to my interest in being part of the Explorer community. I’m just over a month into my Glass experience and I find that the device has gotten more valuable for me as time goes on. But this is because I don’t think I want Glass to be a REPLACEMENT for my smartphone, but rather something that accompanies it.

    The utility for me comes (mostly) from the notifications, GPS and texting capabilities – especially useful while driving. As a pebble owner as well, I love having both input and output capability rather than just seeing notifications on my wrist. I always want to have it on when traveling, but I leave it in the car or take it off in many social settings. Why? I agree w/ Robert that people looking at me strangely or always asking questions about it does get old so sometimes it’s better to leave them at home – the social constructs for wearables just aren’t there yet.

    Glass in it’s current form will probably be a very niche product, but I don’t think it’s ‘doomed’ for 2014. If they can get the price down and the distribution figured out I think many early adopters will try it. This is evident to me just by the sheer curiosity I’ve seen.

    We also need to set appropriate expectations for what we want this device to do. The criteria for success for me (right now) is if Glass minimizes the number of times I’m glancing at my smartphone and makes communication via SMS, Email and Twitter easier, then I’m pretty happy (though I do expect more long term for the price point).

    Sorry for the long comment, but enjoyed the post and the discussion.

  • Ryan, great perspective as a Glass explorer, and thanks for taking the time to post the thoughtful comment.

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  • Here is the irony: I used to think that Scoble was an oddball geek riding the fringe of extreme tech. I occasionally would hear him on the TWiT podcasts, and he even sounds geeky. But damn if a lot of his leading into the wilderness hasn’t paid off. His enthusiasm about Bluetooth BLE immediately triggered a response I normally would have been aloof to. But I’ve been a closet supporter of Bluetooth for years. So yeah, if Robert is down on something from Google, then obviously Google shot themselves in the foot BIG time!

  • Agree. It’s classic deft blogging and a (justified) grumble of a prototype but is as much a poke at the tech press in truth. I wrote about this (undoom glass) at more length elsewhere. I don’t buy into the influencer management gap at Google as they only want to iterate on a scalable basis. This is not a disregard for the practice, it’s merits or Andrew’s elegant thoughts. Besides ever tried to herd cats?

  • Paul, I can certainly agree re herding cats/influencers – did this while CEO of Kred and it requires much skill!

    Appreciate your response here and thanks for reading the article.

  • Thanks Paul. yes, but It has also sparked debate and conversation on several posts (like this one) all over the web. Explorers are coming forward now when prior to Robert’s report were exploring in virtual silence.

  • RT @Scobleizer: Interesting discussion on @andrewgrill’s post: http://t.co/6BFaKjRymZ about Glass and my “evangelism.”

  • RT @AndrewGrill: Rewind: OK Glass! What’s next now Scoble thinks you’re toast? http://t.co/wiw9Ta6nrL