SketchUp 8: Full Building Maker Integration

We have just fallen in love with Google SketchUp all over again, we are slightly late to the table on this one but Google Building Maker is now fully integrated into SketchUp 8. It has the genius ofCanoma with the addition of all the editing functions that come with SketchUp and its free:

Combine this with the free version of Unity and you have a very powerful toolset. Talking of which, we have just downloaded Unity 3.0 to further develop our agent based modelling exhibition space, its good to be back….

The Review Economy – What is a Positive Review Worth?

I manage the online marketing for a small insurance company in Bradford Pa, Sundahl Insurance. While looking at the local search results the other day, I noticed that a local competitor was suddenly showing up with a number of reviews. It surprised me as the insurance market segment and this area of the country don’t really lend themselves to “organic” reviews. I have two insurance agencies that I have done work for, both market leaders, and between them they had garnered 2 natural reviews over the past 3 years.

Upon examination it became immediately clear that the reviews for this agent were purchased, faked or to otherwise procured without a real customer. In the past few weeks I have had several other experiences indicating the rapid commodification of reviews….

* I saw that my Honda dealer, with a mediocre service department at best, had started “buying” reviews.
* Stever, a local seo in Canada, Someone (I can’t remember who) was kind enough to send me a link to a “3 positive reviews for $5″ offer at and “a short review on your Google places account for $5″
* Brian Combs of sent me a copy of a email spam that arrived via his contact form touting the benefits of positive reviews from a company called Their whole business model predicated on trading in reviews and back links.

When you look at their prices (assuming 1/2 for links and 1/2 for reviews), a review is essentially selling for $3 each. At, some were cheaper, going for as little as $1.66 per review and some costing as much as $5.00. (Do they get better if you spend more?) The average: $3.22.

Capitalism is a funny thing. There is a tendency to commodify everything. You can see this in the ongoing efforts to privatize water sales. If air could be bottled and constrained, it too would have a price placed on it.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that positive reviews now have a market value. But still one has to ask why should a business pay for something that can essentially be had for free?

Fear? Lack of knowledge? Terrible service? Laziness? Maybe all of those things as it seems as all too many businesses seem to do it.

With a little thought (or just a little more money) most businesses could successfully execute and benefit from a review management process that garners real reviews. Even the worst business in the world has happy customers, no? My Honda dealer must have them as they have managed to stay in business for a very long time.

How hard is it to set up a review management program that is above board and approaches the process with integrity rather than greed and why don’t more businesses realize that?

Android Browser User-Agent Issues

This posting describes some issues when browsing websites with mobile variants using large-form-factor Android devices. This posting will be of interest both to OEMs (with recommendations on how to set the User Agent string for the device) and to web site designers/administrators (with recommendations on how to decide to provide either a mobile version, a desktop version, or a large-form-factor touch device version of the site).


With the advent of Android devices with larger form factors, we’ve been evaluating the best way for web sites to provide a UI appropriate for the various Android devices that are now available to consumers. We have received feedback that consumers using larger-form-factor devices often prefer the “full” or “desktop” version of the site over the “mobile” version. Most websites providing “mobile” versions key off of the HTTP User-Agent header field to determine whether to provide the full site or a mobile version.

While large-form-factor Android devices could use “User Agent Spoofing” to provide a desktop User Agent in the HTTP header, we recommend against this. There may be site customizations needed for Android devices (for example changes in the way that mouseover is used) and the site would be unable to provide these customizations if it receives a spoofed User Agent that did not indicate that this was an Android device.

Currently, Android devices provide the following (in addition to standard info) in the User-Agent: “Android”, a version number, a device name, a specific build, Webkit version info, and “Mobile”. For example, Froyo on a Nexus One has the following User Agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.2.1; en-us; Nexus One Build/FRG83) AppleWebKit/533.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/533.1

The “Mobile” string in the User Agent indicates that this device would prefer a version of the website optimized for Mobile (small form factor devices), if available.

We recommend that manufactures of large-form-factor devices (where the user may prefer the standard web site over a mobile optimized version) remove “Mobile” from the User Agent (and keep the rest of the User Agent as currently implemented). Web sites can then key off “Mobile” in the User Agent to decide on which UI version to present to the device. So a large screen device running Froyo would have a User Agent similar to:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.2.1; en-us; device Build/FRG83) AppleWebKit/533.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Safari/533.1

Where “device” would be replaced with the actual name of the new device. Sites can continue to use “Android” in the User Agent to optimize for Android specific features and can also key off of “Mobile” to determine which UI to present.