Google & Yahoo new services…

Two new services hit my radar screen this morning: Google Transit and Yahoo Answers. The innovation with these new services is quite nice though I had puzzled reactions to both.

Google Transit is, as they say in their FAQ, “Do you live in or near a city? Want to go someplace to the airport, to dinner, to work every day and not worry about the hassles and expense of driving and parking? Google Transit Trip Planner enables you to enter the specifics of your trip where you’re starting, where you’re ending up, what time of day you’d like to leave and/or arrive then uses all available public transportation schedules and information to plot out the most efficient possible step-by-step itinerary. You can even compare the cost of your trip with the cost of driving the same route!

At the moment we’re only offering this service for the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we plan to expand to cities throughout the United States and around the world.”

My take? Scheduling is a fine service but I’d rather sign up for a route to work and have Google email me (I have a Blackberry) or SMS me if there was a traffic delay…and suggest another route. THAT would be useful ’cause I can figure out the public transportation easily by myself. Yes, they’ve got some useful features (and Transit could be helpful if a person was traveling to another city and wanted to use public transportation) but seems like a nebulous value proposition to me.

Yahoo! Answers is a place where people ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences.” Yahoo! Answers bugged me for two reasons:

1) I had to sign in using my Yahoo account before posting a question. This makes sense since it minimizes goofballs from asking inane questions…but the purpose of Answers is to get answers…not spend a bunch of time asking questions (or answering them for others) and hope that someone, at some point responds to the question you asked.

2) Yahoo! Answers kind of reminds me of the issues with adoption of open source software in the enterprise before support organizations began cropping up a couple of years ago. CIO asks the VP of I.T. what he/she is doing about the mission-critical system that crashed and how they’re fixing it. “I’ve sent an email to the community,” responds the VP. “You’re fired,” says the CIO.  Waiting around isn’t an option and I don’t think Yahoo! Answers will get traction. What are profound or valuable questions? Will the “community” even care to provide answers?

Yeah I know…both of these services are “in beta” and I do enjoy companies tossing stuff like this out in to the world for us to critique, hammer on and make better through feature recommendation. So maybe my $.02 will help since these both feel like alpha releases (not a technology alpha…but a feature alpha that’s barely baked).

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.