Tag Archives: Google+

Expediting changes to Google+ [David Thacker/Google Blog]

Google is shutting down Google+ for consumers in April, rather than August as earlier planned, as it discovers another security hole.

“Expediting changes” means “shutting down faster.” “Sunsetting” means “shutting down.” Corporatespeak is a means of evading accountability.

I like Google+ but I’m glad to see it shutting down sooner. Dragging it out just makes it more irritating.

I Quit Google Over Its Censored Chinese Search Engine [Jack Poulson/The Intercept]

John Hennessy, the chair of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., was recently asked whether Google providing a search engine in China that censored results would provide a net benefit for Chinese users. “I don’t know the answer to that. I think it’s — I think it’s a legitimate question,” he responded. “Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values. Every single company, because the laws in China are quite a bit different than they are in our own country.”

Hennessy’s remarks were in relation to Project Dragonfly, a once-secret project within Google to build a version of its search engine that meets the demands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party — namely, that Google proactively censor “sensitive” speech and comply with China’s data provenance and surveillance laws.

I worked as a research scientist at Google when Dragonfly was revealed — including to most Google employees — and resigned in protest after a month of internally fighting for clarification. That’s part of why I object to this constant drift of conversations about Dragonfly from concrete, indefensible details toward the vague language of difficult compromise.

More

Digitizing history

The New York Times is using Google AI to digitize 5-7 million historical photos.

The newspaper’s “morgue” has 5 million to 7 million photos dating back to the 1870s, including prints and contact sheets showing all the shots on photographers’ rolls of film. The Times is using Google’s technology to convert it into something more useful than its current analog state occupying banks of filing cabinets.

Specifically, it’s using Google AI tools to recognize printed or handwritten text describing the photos and Google’s storage and data analysis services, the newspaper said. It plans to investigate whether object recognition is worthwhile, too.

[Stephen Shankland/CNET]

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Dave Winer: Less Facebook is OK

Dave is my blogging spirit animal. I like blogging, and I like sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and Medium. Of those platforms, I get the most return from Facebook. But blogging AND sharing to Facebook and Google+ are just too much work. So I’m going to start focusing mainly on the blog, and just automatically share links to Google+ and Facebook, until those platforms become easier to deal with in conjunction with a blog.

I’m working on figuring out a way I can share short updates directly to those services and to the blog simultaneously. This will involve automated email and plenty of duck tape.

You’re welcome to leave comments here, or on Facebook or Google+. Or just stop reading, even if you’re a close friend or member of my immediate family. I do not require other people to participate in my peculiar hobby.

I will revisit this decision when it doesn’t seem to be working for me, or when the tools for sharing blog content to social media get easier to work with.

I’ll keep mirroring my posts to Tumblr and Medium because that’s easy.

And I’m still trying to figure out what to do about Twitter.

Get Facebook (and Google+) to support the open Web

Dave Winer wants Facebook to support the open Web.

He wants Facebook updates to support embedded links, titles, enclosures, and styling such as italics and boldface.

I 100% agree. And it applies to Google+ too.

I create and publish my blog with WordPress, and syndicate it as far and wide as I can using the NextScripts Social Networks Auto Poster plugin. On Tumblr, the posts show up in very close to native format. The three social networks that are the worst for preserving original content are the three I care about most: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

I’d settle for less than Dave. I’d be happy if Facebook and Google+ supported embedded links and blockquotes. And let me post using that formatting with a third-party app, like WordPress.

Twitter is a lost cause. It’s always going to have that 140-character limit. Twitter flirted with changing that, but changed its mind.

All I want to do is share my posts in ways so that people who want to see them can easily and conveniently do so. Why does it have to be so goddamn hard?

More from Dave:

Why Notes are not the answer. Very few people read Facebook notes, and there isn’t a standard API for writing to notes using an external program like WordPress or Dave’s own 1999.io.

“All silos are not equally silo-y”: Twitter is a silo, but you can link to a tweet from elsewhere and someone else can read it even if they aren’t logged in. On Facebook, that’s confusing and often not true.

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Google says Annette Hurst, who represents Oracle, was out of line disclosing that Google pays $1 billion to Apple to get Google search on the iPhone.

Internet pioneers discuss ways to make it open again

The Fathers of the Internet Revolution Urge Today’s Software Engineers to Reinvent the Web

Organized by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, sponsors included the Ford Foundation, Google, Mozilla, and others, speakers included Tim Berners-Lee, who literally invented the Web, and Vint Cerf, co-author of the TCP/IP protocol that underlies the Internet.

Berners-Lee noted problems with the siloed web of today: It’s tough to do something simple like sharing between Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and other siloed services. “All they want to do is share the photos with the colleagues and the friends—and they can’t,” Berners-Lee said. “Which is really stupid. You either have to tell Flickr about your Facebook friends, or move your photos to Facebook and LinkedIn separately, or build and run a third application to build a bridge between the two.” He also criticized the need to trade privacy for access.

The Internet pioneers suggested some solutions.

[Tekla S. Perry/IEEEE Spectrum]

 

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Google, Amazon, and Facebook are betting big on AI and virtual assistants. If those are the wave of the future – and it seems likely they are – then Apple is screwed, says Marco Arment. Apple is lagging badly in those areas, and it’s not the kind of thing you can develop in secret and spring in a keynote.

Arment is not only a smart industry observer, but he’s also an Apple enthusiast and iPhone app developer. He’s the opposite of an Apple hater.

In 2007, BlackBerry was the pinnacle of mobile email and voice devices, which was what mobile phones were for. But the market moved on and BlackBerry didn’t. Apple is at risk of the same here in 2016, Arment says.

Avoiding BlackBerry’s fate – Marco Arment

Related: I recently had my first experience with Apple CarPlay and was delighted. Pairing your iPhone to the car is accomplished with a single tap, and after that you can get your Maps, messaging, phone calls, and listen to podcasts on the screen on the car’s dashboard and using the car’s speakers. Like the Apple slogan used to go: “It just works.” And, quoting another old Apple slogan, “you already know how to use it” – even if, like me, you’ve never used it before, have never read about it, and have had no training.

And that reminds me of how so many Apple tools don’t “just work” anymore. My MacBook Air freezes up sometimes. It seems to not do that if I don’t use Safari and I reboot every day. Not sure though. Haven’t found a cause. And recently I was getting quite exasperated figuring out how to share an album in Apple Photos. I’m still not sure I did it right.

Hence the title of this post.

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Official Google Blog: Introducing Spaces, a tool for small group sharing

Says here that Spaces is designed for “small group sharing.” Aren’t there already a million tools for small group sharing? Wasn’t Google+ supposed to be all about private sharing? Isn’t email great for small group sharing?

Looks like Google is flailing with this one.

Also, I’m increasingly getting disenchanted with Google+. Google seems to be focusing on Collections and Communities for Google+, neither of which are particularly interesting to me. And Google’s continued refusal to open up a write API for Google+ runs counter to how I use social media.

I’ll continue to use Google+ as long as interesting conversation happens there, but I’m seeing a significant reduction in that recently. And it’s getting inconvenient for me to post to Google+. So if I disappear from Google+, you’ll know why.

For the long term, you can find me on mitchwagner.com. Or on Facebook – Facebook seems to be eating the Internet. I’m also on Tumblr, Medium, and Twitter, but all of those platforms seem precarious.

With regard to Spaces: It seems like this is another in a long line of Google social products that are doomed to either disappoint (Google+) or fail (Reader, Orkut, Buzz, Wave).

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The rise and fall of FriendFeed, that social network that brought you the 'Like' button – Corinne Litchfield, The Kernel

Launched in beta in 2007, founded by four ex-Googlers – Bret Taylor, Paul Buchheit, Jim Norris, and Sanjeev Singh – FriendFeed's mission was to glue together other social networks, consolidating activity from 23 social networks into a single feed.

In addition to pioneering the Like button, it also pioneered the realtime feed, the ability to share or embed items from the feed in the wider web, and more. It had a thriving community too.

Facebook bought FriendFeed, incorporated many of its ideas in the News Feed, and killed FriendFeed in 2015.

I liked FriendFeed a lot.

My blogging experiment: The history (which some of you already know about) and a status report

In late February I decided I wanted to control the posts I make to social media. For several years before then, I posted to Google+, and used a service called Friends+Me to copy, or syndicate, those posts to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

This Google+-first strategy worked out well in a few ways. It was fun for me – and that’s the primary reason I do this, for fun, although I do get some professional benefits. I accreted a modest but decent-sized community. I got in some great conversations. I got in touch with old friends and stayed in touch with them, and made a few new friends.

But I was unsatisfied in that I didn’t control my posts. If Google+, Facebook, or those other guys disappeared or changed their business model to exclude me, I’d be screwed. Also, I couldn’t control the layout of posts. I couldn’t insert a simple link, or image, or video. And it was hard to find old posts when I wanted to refer back to something I’d written about in the past. Annoying.

I decided to go back to blogging, something I’d done sporadically before the social media era. I’d made a return to blogging once before in 2014, but went back to the Google+/Friends+Me method after a couple of months because I noticed all the conversations were happening on Google+, Facebook, and so on, so I figured there was no point in doing it on a blog.

This time, I had a reason to do it on the blog: Because it gave me control over my work. I hoped people would come to the blog to read and comment, but I’d be fine if the conversations continued on social media. Indeed, I’d be fine if the number of conversations reduced, because I was starting to get Internet-famous enough to attract rude strangers to my posts.

It’s been more than two months of the experiment. How’s it going so far?

Quite well, actually.

I still get in a lot of good conversations on social media and I have the blog, mitchwagner.com, as a hub. In addition to the pleasure of posting and conversations, I can fiddle around with WordPress, and its plugins and themes and stuff, which I like.

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At least that’s what Silvia Killingsworth says on The Awl: O Reader! My Reader

I disagree. Inoreader is way better than Google Reader ever was. Lately, I’m finding myself using Inoreader more and social media less.

Inoreader is a pay service. If you want something free, Feedly is very nice.

RSS was never hugely popular, and with the alternatives popping up in the aftermath of Reader’s demise, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s more popular now than it was when Google Reader was around.

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Previous championship game-playing computers, like IBM’s Deep Blue, were brilliantly taught by human beings. AlphaGo taught itself.

In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue system defeated the world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. At the time, the victory was widely described as a milestone in artificial intelligence. But Deep Blue’s technology turned out to be useful for chess and not much else. Computer science did not undergo a revolution.

Will AlphaGo, the Go-playing system that recently defeated one of the strongest Go players in history, be any different?

I believe the answer is yes, but not for the reasons you may have heard. Many articles proffer expert testimony that Go is harder than chess, making this victory more impressive. Or they say that we didn’t expect computers to win at Go for another 10 years, so this is a bigger breakthrough. Some articles offer the (correct!) observation that there are more potential positions in Go than in chess, but they don’t explain why this should cause more difficulty for computers than for humans.

In other words, these arguments don’t address the core question: Will the technical advances that led to AlphaGo’s success have broader implications? To answer this question, we must first understand the ways in which the advances that led to AlphaGo are qualitatively different and more important than those that led to Deep Blue.

Is AlphaGo Really Such a Big Deal [Michael Nielsen – Quanta Magazine]

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Billing by Millionths of Pennies, Cloud Computing’s Giants Take In Billions

Quentin Hardy at The New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Imagine building an enormous beach resort, maybe the best in the world. Instead of renting the rooms, you charge guests based on the grains of sand they touch. You charge very little per grain, but if they lie on enough of them, it adds up.

That is one way to think about what is going on at the world’s biggest cloud-computing companies.

Good article. Good metaphor.

I’m blogging again. Blogging is cool.

I’ve been blogging on social media for years. Recently I’ve been using Google+ first, and then automatically distributing those links to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

But I’ve increasingly become dissatisfied with that arrangement. Those platforms are owned by other people – Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Those companies control the format of my posts, and who gets to comment on them. Those companies can make changes to their service, or even shut down entirely, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

All of that was something I was willing to live with for the trade-off of connecting with other people. But in recent months, the kinds of connections I get through those services have been unsatisfying. I’m getting more comments from jerks and other unpleasant randos, and getting tired of blocking them.

So now I’m posting my links and kibitzing here. Because I own this site, I have greater control over the platform than I do over what happens on social media.

A blog is a home. Social media is couch-surfing.

Does this mean I’m leaving social media?

Not at all. I’ll continue sharing my posts from here to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and watching discussions there as before. Indeed, I’m looking for better ways to share on those platforms without taking up a lot of my time. Because this thing I do here is just a hobby.

I did this experiment once before, for five months in 2014, and ended up going back to social media. But now it’s different. At that time I was still concerned with increasing the numbers of people following me on social media – the size of my communities there. I’m less concerned now. My community numbers have been flat recently on all the services I use, and I don’t mind it. The noise from jerks and unpleasant randos is loud enough to make my social media experience less pleasant. More followers = more noise.

Also, social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are starting to become public squares. We’ve always talked about them that way, but I’m seeing that myself now and it’s a mixed blessing. We’re not individuals there, we’re just part of the group. I’ve had people commenting on my posts and refer to me in the third person – not even by name, just as “OP” (for “original poster” – a shorthand I first saw on Reddit). They start calling each other names. When I ask them to be civil with each other, they want to know who the hell I am to tell them what to do. I don’t bother to ask anymore. I just block them when they get too annoying. It’s tedious. It makes social media too much like work.

By moving off of social media to a blog platform, I make it harder for people to find and read my posts. Not a lot, just a tiny bit. And I like it that way. I’m hoping that tiny little speed bump will improve the quality of conversation. Anybody willing to make that tiny bit of effort to get here is welcome. But they have to make that tiny little bit of effort.

If my follower numbers grow by a little or a lot, I’ll be happy about that. But if they don’t, I’m fine with that too. I don’t plan to take any special steps to grow my follower numbers – no ads or search engine optimization or suchlike shenanigans. I want people to be able to find me easily if that’s what they want, and if they’re not interested, that’s fine too. 1 

Also: I recently read a blog post by a friend who’s taking a Facebook break. She values her privacy so I won’t link to it. But she, like me, is an introvert. And like me she finds social media connections to be a substitute for real life connections. She was finding going on Facebook often made her feel bad. I can relate.

I hope that by taking this baby step back from social media, I can understand better the extent to which I value personal connections, and how much I need of them, and to what extent I’m happy to be my introverted self. 2

If you’re interested in continuing to read my links and posts, thank you! Just keep on following me on social media, as you were, and click over here to read anything you find interesting. Or don’t – that’s OK too. Or you bookmark this site and come back regularly. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Also, you can get a daily email newsletter of my posts. I think the newsletter option is nifty and I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of it. Perhaps I haven’t spread the word enough?

By the way, my blogging here might be temporary. I get infatuated with one technology or another and then lose interest rapidly and move on, much to the annoyance of a few friends who look to me as a technology bellwether.

On the other hand, I do stay with some things. I’ve been an online enthusiast for 27 years, longer than the Internet has been popular with the general public. I’ve been in the Appleverse for nine years now and am still satisfied. And I’ve been blogging like I do here for about nine years as well. So don’t be surprised if this blog is still up and running in some form 10 years from now, and don’t be surprised if I give it up in a few months either.

I do expect that if I stick with this for years I won’t always be on WordPress. But I do think whatever platform I’m using, I’ll continue blogging, continue doing it here at this URL, and hopefully all the archives will be in the same place too.

  1. Even friends and family should feel no obligation to connect with me online. This is my peculiar hobby that I’m happy to share with anyone, but have no interest in inflicting on people unwillingly. ↩︎
  2. “Introvert” has become such an overused word on the Internet. It makes me feel like an annoying hipster to proclaim myself to be one. On the other hand, maybe I’m missing out on an opportunity to ride the hype. I could start introvert clubs! Host an introvert conference! Just send me money and stay home and do whatever you want without interacting with other people. ↩︎

The right tool for the right job

The right tool for the right job

I was doing an experiment for a couple of months sharing links and off-the-cuff posts on this blog. It’s the kind of thing people usually post nowadays to social media. But I liked the idea of having my own little corner of the internet for “tumble blogging.”

Turns out people aren’t interested in that kind of thing here. They want to see it on social media. So I’m going back to that.

Find me…

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