Google Glass Diary, Part 5: Why Brands Must Give Users Control

Google Glass means checking tweets every freaking minute. I turned the Twitter app off very quickly. — Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) May 25, 2013   I’ve heard a few similar comments from other Glass owners like the tweet above from Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang. And, as Glass spreads to more people, there’ll surely be more […]

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I’ve heard a few similar comments from other Glass owners like the tweet above from Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang. And, as Glass spreads to more people, there’ll surely be more similar reactions.

Glass is a very personal experience. Information is literally reaching you within an inch of your eye and, if there’s audio, within an inch of your ear. Brands have to be very careful about how they enter the user’s personal space on Glass.

But, my experience is different from Owyang’s. I absolutely love the Twitter Glass app and don’t find it annoying in the least. I can’t imagine turning it off. It’s probably my favorite thing about Glass right now — being able to get tweets from the people I care about the most.

Why am I enjoying the Twitter Glass app while others aren’t? Because of how Twitter has decided to interact with Glass, and how we interact with Twitter.

What Twitter Content Shows Up In Google Glass?

If you’ve installed the Twitter app for Google Glass, you’ll start to receive tweets in your timeline. But not every tweet. The app only shows you tweets in two cases:

  • when an account that you follow mentions you in a tweet (you also get direct messages from these accounts)
  • when an account that you follow and you’ve chosen to get mobile notifications from publishes any tweet

Twitter basically treats Glass like it treats other mobile devices. I see any tweet from accounts that I follow if the tweet mentions my @mattmcgee handle. And, I can also choose to get any tweet from an account that I follow by turning mobile notifications on for that user. That option is available from the account profile page as shown below. I follow Jeremiah already so Glass will show me any tweet he sends that mentions @mattmcgee. If I click “Turn on mobile notifications,” Glass will show me all of his tweets.


I also drew an arrow toward the 14,000+ accounts that he’s following, because that’s likely why Jeremiah was getting bombarded with too many tweets in Glass. With more than 130,000 followers, he’s a popular Twitter user — so he probably gets a lot of people tweeting at him every day. And, since he’s following so many accounts, a lot of those @jowyang mentions will show up on Glass.

The problem isn’t the same for me because I have about 1/7th as many followers and am following only about 500 accounts. So I get far fewer tweets showing up in Glass.

This underscores the need for brands to be aware of how their content will show up in the Google Glass timeline. I’m happy with how Twitter has done it; but, it’s obvious that others won’t be as happy. So, Twitter should consider offering even more granular control that each user can customize to avoid the frustrations that Owyang expressed a few days ago.

There’s a great example of a brand giving users control of how they receive content in Glass. Let’s look at how CNN does it.

How CNN Gives Glass Users Control

When you activate the CNN app for Google Glass, it immediately offers a control panel that gives the Glass wearer the choice of what types of news updates s/he wants to see. This control panel is also available for changes at any time via Google’s Glass-owners-only “My Glass” website. (Non-Glass owners may be able to see the control panel at


I can turn CNN alerts on/off. I can choose what times of day to get them. And, I can choose which news topics I want to get in Glass; and, CNN very helpfully tells me how many alerts (i.e., cards) to expect in my timeline.

That’s the kind of thing that more brands should do in the future with their Glass apps.

The New York Times — one of the initial official Glass apps — doesn’t offer control like this. It sends updates once an hour, often on material that didn’t interest me. I turned that app off pretty quickly.

Final Thoughts

Google has published four primary guidelines for developers that speak to the point I’m trying to make. I first read those guidelines before I started wearing Glass. Now that I’ve had the device for 3+ weeks, this guideline really sticks out to me:

Provide appropriate controls for your users, so they can interact with your Glassware when desired and ignore it when they don’t.

That’s advice brands should keep front-of-mind if they’re building an experience for Google Glass.

(For previous articles in this Google Glass Diary series, please see the related stories below.)

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Matt McGee
Matt McGee joined Third Door Media as a writer/reporter/editor in September 2008. He served as Editor-In-Chief from January 2013 until his departure in July 2017. He can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee.

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