Category Archives: google

Google’s Live Albums Keeps Families In Touch

Google’s Pixel 3 event today didn’t bring too many surprises on the hardware front: most had been leaked well in advance of the presentation. What caught my eye was not a device but a new a new software feature called “Live Albums”.

Dave Loxton, Google Photo Product Manager, explains, “Many of us share the same photos with the same people over and over, whether it’s photos of your children to their grandparents, or cute pics of your pup to your best friend. Every time, we have to find the photos, select the ones we want to share and send them to the right people. And that’s if we even remember to share them at all.

Live albums start out as ordinary albums – you select the special photos of friends, family and pets. Here’s the clever bit…once tagged as a live album, freshly taken photos will be scanned by Google’s AI smarts and if they include people in the live album, they’ll be added into the album automatically.

This is fantastic for those families wanting to share photos with far-flung relatives. Instead of constantly having to remember to send photos to granny in Edinburgh, create a live album of the grandchildren and share it with her. New photos of the children will be added in as they’re taken, and granny gets to see the photos straightaway.

Google touts its Home Hub as being the ideal picture frame to display live album, though it’s only 7″, which I think is a little small for a photo frame. Priced at US$149 or UK£139, the Home Hub is competitively priced against wireless photo frames from the likes of Nixplay. I can see the Home Hub taking market share this Christmas.

The updated version of Photos with live album support will be rolling out shortly, so wait for it to appear on your smartphone.

Google+ for Consumers is Shutting Down

Alphabet announced that they will be shutting down Google+ for consumers. They are going to continue Google+ for enterprise customers (meaning businesses).

This decision comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network. The Wall Street Journal says Google became aware of this last spring, and opted not to disclose the issue at that time.

I’m not really surprised by the decision to shut down Google+. Recently, Google announced that when someone using Chrome logs into a Google service or site, they would automatically be logged into the Chrome browser with that user account. Matthew Green described this as a “forced log-in policy”.

The first thing I did when I heard about that was delete Chrome off my computer, and remove the Gmail app from my phone. A bit later, I deleted everything that I’d put on my Google+ account.

I suspect I’m not the only one who reacted this way, because Google posted updates based on feedback in a blog post that I did not find to be persuasive. This was followed by the announcement that Google+ for consumers would be shutting down.

The shutdown of Google+ for consumers will take place over a ten-month period. This allows whoever is still using Google+ to have the opportunity to download and migrate their data.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Usplash

Google Control of Website Traffic

google controlGoogle control of website search traffic is a given. This control should not be a surprise to anyone. Sadly there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Let me give you some background. Over the past 15 plus years, this site has done really well in their index and Google has delivered a significant amount of traffic to the site with 15k plus articles we have always done well in daily inbound traffic.

Google Control

But as I have said many times Google giveth and Google taketh away. It’s just the nature of the beast.

But let me tell you straight up content alone which this site is not going to just carry you these days. Even though this site has a responsive design minimal advertising and a ton of original content one simple aspect of the site got my site ranking and traffic put in the penalty box.

Google Punishment

Page load speed! Granted and I have self-confessed on the podcast that I was not paying attention to it and fixing it has proved interesting. We made mistakes with large image sizes, old embedded javascript, twitter code and a  few other things that were dragging the sites page speed loads down.

In all intense and purposes, we have fixed the obvious issues and the site is back to what it should be in page loads speed. Except in the eyes of Google, it’s not. Case in point look at the outstanding score the site gets from the folks at Web Page Test. Then look at the score we get from Google’s PageSpeed Test.

You can start to see the disconnect and where my frustration is mounting.

Google Demands

We score well in optimization test but we are getting hammered in the FCP / DCL score which Google uses as part of their Algorithm to rank websites. I have spent more time the past week reading about this then I care to.The folks I have working on this are going to get it figured out. But in the end, to get it all fixed will not be cheap. Considering the hardware this site is running on we should not be struggling to lower the FCP / DCL score.

Update: Changes you make to your website today, will not show up in the Google PageSpeed FCP / DCL for up to 30 days. The reporting data is a 30-day average. So like anything else with Google you it will take some time to crawl out of the penalty box. As you can see from the PageSpeed test report statistics show that the median page on the internet requires 4 render-blocking round trips and ~89 resources (1.3MB) to load. But this page appears to use fewer resources. PSI estimates this page requires 2 render-blocking round trips and 42 resources (0.6MB) to load. Fewer round trips and bytes results in faster pages. Thus we should see a significant drop in FCP /DCL over the next 30 days.

Google Way or the Highway

Fixing this will likely allow us to crawl out of the penalty box slowly nothing is overnight with Google, fortunately, I have the resources to get this resolved. But now it’s just whack a mole and re-design work to get it done. When your dependent on Google traffic to build and maintain the shows podcast audience it’s something I have to do.

What Google wants, Google gets there is no fighting it. When they drive 90% of your search traffic to your site and all the others combined drive the other 10% you have to play the Google tax they are the gatekeeper of web traffic and in all honesty, it pisses me off.


Chrome 69 has a Forced Login Policy

There is something disturbing you should know about Chrome 69 before you update it. S. Bálint pointed out that starting with Chrome 69, logging into a Google Site is tied to logging into Chrome. Matthew Green describes the change as a “forced login policy”, which sounds pretty accurate to me.

The easiest to understand explanation I found about this change comes from S. Bálint’ blog post:

So what changed with Chrome 69? From that version, any time someone using Chrome logs into a Google service or site, they are also logged into Chrome-as-a-broswer with that user account. Any time someone logs out of a Google service, they are also logged out of the browser. Before Chrome 69, Chrome users could decline to be logged into Chrome entirely, skipping the Sync and other features that require a login and they could use Chrome in a logged-out state while still making use of Gmail for example.

I use a Mac, but was using Chrome for a few websites that didn’t work very well on Safari. I noticed that the photo I use on my Gmail account was appearing in the corner of the Chrome browser. I have since deleted Chrome from my computer and the Gmail app from my phone.

Personally, I’m not entirely clear on what, exactly, Chrome 69 wants to Sync from my Gmail account and the Chrome browser. It feels kind of grabby. The impression I got from the blogs I read (and linked above) is that even if Google says that it’s not automatically activating the Sync feature, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t do that in the future.

Google started out with a code of conduct that started with the sentence: “Don’t be evil.” The changes coming to Chrome 69 might not technically be “evil”… but they certainly aren’t nice.

Are Google’s American Values In Question?

Are Google’s American Values in Question? Likely most will never care. I do and so do a growing number of employees at Google. Call me old-fashioned I bleed Red, White & Blue and I get very irritated anytime I hear that companies that want or do business in Communist China are willing to let China walk over them when it comes to human rights.

Americans already put up with a great deal of privacy invasion but in China people live in fear of the government. Yet the US Government does not have open license to just spy on American citizens unless they are under investigation and a court has allowed specific surveillance. Granted in recent years the government has more power than they used to.

But in China, the government thrives on spying on their people. So now Google is now under greater criticism over the search engine they are building. The intercept is reporting that a Google engineer has disclosed that search engine being built codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

Well, that partner is obviously the government. The disclosure by the engineer in the form of a memo has leaked all over the place and Google is pissed. They are sending C&D emails with tracking codes to their own employees demanding that the delete the memo. But here we now have Google spying on their own people through tracking pixels.

Google got caught red-handed doing something here that brings Google’s American values in question. They have egg on their face and it’s a PR hot potato considering the current political environment. Google needs to understand here that they are on notice that most of the world does not condone actions that will result in Chinese citizens being arrested, locked up and sent off for re-education at some labor camp.

Google should come clean and say exactly what they are doing, how Chinese citizens will be spied upon, and provide full disclosure so that those that will be affected the most will decide on their own if they will use it. But my guess based on their reaction that it will be a cold day before they do that.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Open Governance for AMP

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages a protocol with some controversy and largely orchestrated by Google is now being essentially given back to the developer community in part by a new open governance that from initial reaction looks like the developer community is going to get behind.

For those of you that do not run websites what AMP does is essential in making ordinary website load much faster through mobile devices. While AMP has always been an Open standard up to this point Google largely dictated what got executed and when.

Google highlighted that 710 contributors, and 10,000 commits of which 78% came from other companies than Google. So these changes announced today look to be significant.  From their blog post:

Instead we want to move to a model that explicitly gives a voice to all constituents of the community, including those who cannot contribute code themselves, such as end-users. The change we are proposing is based on months of research, through which we’ve decided to follow the lead of the Node.js project and move to a consensus-seeking governance model.

The team that worked on the AMP Open governance model had a short list of goals.

  • Encourage a wider variety of voices at all levels of contribution, including code contributions, setting the future direction of AMP and deciding which features and bug fixes should be worked on.  This also means ensuring that the voices of those who do not contribute with code, but are nonetheless impacted by AMP, get heard.
  • Make it more clear how an individual and a company can have a voice in AMP, from approving code changes to setting AMP’s technical and product roadmap.
  • Avoid slowing down day-to-day work on AMP due to the governance model.  The net effect of changes to the way people work on AMP should be neutral to positive in terms of productivity.
  • Learn from what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for other open source projects.  To this end, the AMP team talked to people from projects such as Node.js and Kubernetes, looked at governance philosophies from places like the JS Foundation and reviewed a wide variety of other open source and web standards governance documents.

Overall this is a great move by Google and should hasten the implementation of AMP. See the full details of their announcement.

How to turn off your Kids Cell Phone

Ever asked the question how do I turn off my kid’s cell phone? Well, there is hope as Google has introduced Google Family Link which gives you parents a lot of power in controlling what your kids are doing on their mobile phones. Family link lets you set screen time limits, approve or block apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play store. Or best yet lock and or locate your kids through the device. Nothing better than the ability to exert control over the cell phone usage.

Family link is available starting next week additionally Family link is designed to work with anyone automatic for 13 and below and for those above 13, they have to mutually consent to allow parents monitoring and control of the phone. Teens that think they are slick and decide to opt out after Family Link has been enabled causes the phone to lock for 24 hours.

Parents can use Google Assitant to lock the phone. Have you every yelled you’ve got five minutes to go to bed? Well, Google Assistant will lock the phone five minutes after your initiate the phone lock. Now the kids can be mad at Google as well as you.

Having a third teenager in the home at this time with a cell-phone this added parental control is nice especially when it comes to an unruly kid. I am pretty strict on screen time as it is now and have some basic rules in place on apps and usage. Teenagers will be teenagers though and they will push the boundaries as far as they can like we all did. My dad hung the car keys over my head as an incentive. The modern equivalent is the lock phone command.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash