This Week in Google 269 (Transcript)
Mike Elgan: It’s time for Twig, this time in Google. Leo’s off today, I’m Mike Elgan filling in, Twit’s news director. Jeff and Gina are here and so is Matthew Ingram, and we’ll tackle Google’s never ending Euro troubles. Facebook apologizes to the drag queen community, and we talk about how Googles’s competitors are slamming Google for not focusing on the user. It’s all coming up on Twig.
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This is Twig. This Week in Google. Episode 269, recorded October 1st, 2014.
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It’s time for Twig. This time in Google, the show where we talk about Google and all things cloudy. Leo’s on vacation in the still United Kingdom. I’m Twit’s news director Mike Elgan filling in for Leo today. Joining us as usual is Gina Trapani the creator of thinkup.com the host of Twit’s All About Android, founding editor of Life Hacker and all-around great person. Welcome to you, Gina Trapani!
Gina Trapani: Thank you, good to be here.
Mike: What’s new with you?
Gina: I don’t know, not too much. Just hanging out reading the Google new, excited to discuss a few items.
Mike: Me too and we also have speaking of people who discuss things: Jeff Jarvis, professor of journalism at the city University of New York.
Jeff Jarvis: I am trying to hypnotize you with my moray pattern.
Mike: Yes, I will do anything you say. What would Google do in Gutenberg? I have to go through your listing. You also recently published something else. You said what started out as a white paper of some kind.
Jeff: In November I will be coming out with Geek Sparing Gifts, Imagining new futures for noobs.
Mike: I can’t wait to read that. And of course…
Jeff: No, you can wait, believe me. It’s very welcome.
Gina: You are quite the promoter of that.
Mike: And Jeff of course blogs it buzzmachine.com.
Jeff: After 3 glasses of wine it’s bugggzzzmachine.com
Mike: And joining us as out guest Matthew Ingram, senior writer at Gigaoam.com, obsessive Tweeter on all things journalism. Welcome to you Matthew Ingram.
Matthew Ingram: Thanks for having me!
Mike: How are you doing? What have you been up to these days?
Matthew: I’m good you know, just hanging out, doing some kayaking, waiting for winter to come.
Mike: Yeah, awesome.
Gina: It’s coming.
Mike: Of course it’s pretty harsh where you are right?
Matthew: It can be. Certainly last year yeah, we were snowed under for a good long time. So luckily I get to San Francisco now and them so I get a break.
Mike: See in these parts San Francisco is the coldest spot in the area. So anyway, come to Petaluma if you want warmth and sunshine. Let’s jump into the news. Google bows to pressure, removes news snippets from German search results. I betcha Jeff you have a few things to say about this. Basically what’s happened is that people said “hey, we want a cut of the profits from that gravy train that Google’s got going on where they basically put snippets of news articles with the link. And Google said well just in case, were going to just remove some of that information, and it’s probably going to affect them. So Jeff, what do you think?
Jeff: Be careful what you wish for mein freund.
Jeff: V G actual Springer which is the big conservative news corp. like German publisher which has been waging war on Google and brought together other publishers to sue Google. They got this law passed which we have talked about before and we have done a reggae beat on the leistungschutzrecht and it’s an ancillary copyright law and then the law went through all kinds of changes and then snippets themselves were not verboten. But then the publishers, it’s too complicated for morals, but the publishers then sued Google saying that Google was still steeling from them, and wanted I think 11% of Google’s revenue or some such thing. And so Google you know does what Google needs to do they said ok fine, we’ll take down the snippets, they will still put up headlines but no snippets and no photos. And I’ll bet you anything the publishers will lose traffic but of course the publishers will now turn around and say (I just Tweeted this) they are already starting to say it and I predicted they would and they already are saying “well you’re using your oversized influence here to take down the content that we sued you to take down.” So it’s a cluster “F” in Germany. Uh I was inMountain View brought out their paid only expenses nothing, no fees to speak to the support engineers the tails engineers for what they now call “work”, a joke people under 50 won’t get.
And so I did my spiel about Germany and they said afterwards you wowed the Germans up here but it’s a huge, huge issue. While I was there also another story happened where a privacy commissioner in Hamburg has told Google they may not us create any user profiles without explicit permission from every user which is absurd, ridiculous. Of course every publisher has user profiles, everybody has user profiles. Indeed I argue that publishers do a better job of it but Germany has really become, I spent the entire plane ride coming back from California just now writing a piece about the German problem that I want to place somewhere in the German press.
Mike: Now they would have a case I think if a significant number of people used Google News or Google Search as their newspaper just reading the snippets and the summaries and never clicking on the links. Is this entering into the case at any point the degree to which Google Search is being used as an alternative to clicking on the links and looking at the actual sites?
Jeff: Um that’s part of the argument that’s been made for some time I actually haven’t heard it lately that people just read the snippets and they don’t need to read us then. But of course we know that snippets cause links to happen and I have always wanted to do a study at QNE and never managed to get it going because I need cooperation of publishers to do this. To find out what is the optimum size of a link. If it’s too short if it is just a headline, I will bet you it will not work. If it’s too long, yes if it is the whole story one could argue it takes over the whole uh experience. However I’ve seen with repost.us that 5-7% still click through to the source to read more. If it’s you know, a description that tempts you or wants to go to the story then I think that will probably increase click through. And so we don’t know yet what’s optimal for linkage.
Matthew: You know Mike the thing I keep saying since this argument about Google and Google News first came up which feels like 10 years ago maybe it wasn’t. But it feels that long and my point is that if you’re if a headline and 2 sentences from your story is enough to give people the value that they need from that story you have a problem with that story. It’s not Google’s problem that 2 sentences or a snippet from your story is enough and people don’t want to click through or don’t see the value of clicking through. It’s if you don’t make your content compelling enough so that’s enough, than that’s, your problem not Google’s problem.
Mike: But isn’t the generic newspaper format to be reverse pyramid style where the first paragraph tells you the basic information. The second paragraph tells you so it starts out very large and ends up getting more specific. And if that’s actually the style the newspapers are using and if Google’s taking the top part of it aren’t they giving you the main part of the story, the nut of the story or whatever you want to call it? I mean the proof is in the pudding if people are actually using it as an alternative which I don’t believe, than that’s one thing. But a lot of times people skim people are skimmers now that’s another problem that we have in our democracy that people aren’t reading more deeply.
Jeff: I’m going to disagree. I am going to disagree in a couple of ways Mike. I think first the fact that we skim we hit more stories and more facts and more things than we do. Talking about skimming, if you got your facts from the evening news all you got was the skimmage right? And now you get more, number 1. Number 2, I wouldn’t presume that people don’t read in depth. This is part of the logical fallacy of the links are theft argument as the links are a gift argument. Oh people just read the links, they don’t read our story. Well who ever said they were going to read your story anyway? You’re trying to prove a negative, you’re trying to say that they would have come to your story had they not read the link to your story. That doesn’t quite work out either.
Matthew: But people used to walk by newsstands all the time and look at the headlines. No one complained about them stealing the news by reading off the paper.
Jeff: And now we see a movement born in here. And see the getting away from the mass media metrics of reach and frequency, unique users and page views, raw eyeballs into higher value metrics of attention. And so Chartbeat a company in New York that does pixel by pixel activity on pages metrics for those, was certified as of Monday as the first place to measure attention. And so you have the Financial Times working with Chartbeat to sell 10,000 attention minutes of CEO’s in Europe. You have a medium of selling advertising by time rather than by eyeballs and attention and mere impressions. So you have a movement going now to say that we are going to sell attention. That doesn’t mean by the way that you have to spend 2 hours reading the story. Tony Haile the CEO of Chartbeat argues that for Circa for example, going back 20 times a day could be just as valuable as spending 20 minutes there to the advertiser.
Matthew: Their measurement is over time too it’s an aggregate it’s not just you know exposure time to a specific story. They look at exposure time over a month or whatever. So if you come back enough and read enough…
Mike: There is also a branding element here and also some assumptions made and you know I did my best to play devil’s advocacy but in fact I’m completely on Google’s side and against the German lawsuit and so on. Because what I found as a blogger is that I often promote my own stories on Google + and elsewhere and what I’ve found over the years is that if I give enough of the story, sometimes more than my editors and the publishing companies they work for are comfortable with. I then and actually promote the idea that people can get all they want, dip into it and really understand the story just from my little summary. Then the link which is a promotion, an ad basically for the story itself, is more likely to go viral. People will share it; they will comment on it more, they will +1 it more if they understand the whole thing. And there’s gotta be some kind of equivalent metric for search results because you know if you give a really good juicy summary that’s enough to really get; that’s going to spread like a story and that’s all promotion. So personally I found that being super cryptic or giving just a tiny bit and being stingy with giving people a real sense of what’s on the other side of the link works against you for promoting traffic to the sites itself.
So I think they are making an assumption there that I think needs a little more examination.
Matthew: You know it’s interesting to me is if Google is actually stealing eyeballs or whatever by having previews or snippets, Twitter does a lot of that too. Their Twitter cards, the expanded view of articles they got effectively photo headline in some cases the first paragraph of articles. I wonder why no one…
Jeff: Do you have any insight into how those work versus a simple headline in terms of click throughs and Tweets?
Gina: Yeah, I mean I do. I just set them up for Think Up actually. The publisher is actually setting those up so there’s a few different styles of Twitter cards. You can do the big image; you can do the small icon. You can do you know, the summary and the headline. Um there are some special Twitter cards. You can show photo galleries and that kind of thing. So if you ever see a news article that has the Twitter card enabled, then that publisher has set that up and enabled that and you have to get white listed and you have to get these particular tags in your markup and stuff. So then that’s a different thing than what Google does which is Google figures it out and shows it on their own. With Twitter you are actually setting it up.
Matthew: You do it, right. I just find it interesting that lots of publishers seem to see the value in doing that to the point where they actually set it up themselves. But then you have other publishers who obviously don’t and in fact see that as a negative thing. See…
Gina: It is a little different because people are commenting. So someone is saying something about the article in their status update on Facebook or in the Tweet and there is the attachment.
Matthew: So it’s social.
Gina: Yeah, and of course those look, those sites they send a lot of traffic right, as does Google. Just to your earlier point about writing headlines and snippets and having; something’s wrong with your story if the reader is satisfied by just previewing a snippet. I wonder about though how that has created the sort of rise of the upworthy style curiosity gap; you won’t believe what happens when this kitten jumps into a bucket of ice kind of style headlines. That we have talked about here they get shared so much and go viral on Facebook sometimes people don’t even read it right? They are like “this is great”. So I wonder about that a little bit. I don’t know if that is necessarily bad, but the click-bait style.
Matthew: Yeah, no I was actually thinking in terms of it’s similar in terms to what Mike was saying. I think you’re, if you have delivered value to readers in the past that is you the individual use a writer or use a media outlet. And if you’ve given them something before that they feel is valuable then they’re not going to just.. Do you see what I mean, they’re not gonna; they’re probably going to click through because they expect that you will have things that are worth reading. Whereas if you do go for the sort of click-bait stuff you actually wind up doing the opposite of what you think you’re doing, because the reader does click through and doesn’t have a good experience or feels tricked or whatever. And so then they actually, you’re further in the hole than you would be if you hadn’t done that.
Jeff: This all goes to the outmoded mass media metrics that we operate under of an advertising means to operate under just of impressions and volume rather than value. If journalism is a service as I like to say these days um then the service is accomplished if you are informed and know what you need to know, however that happens. We only have a model that says you have to read our whole story and spend time looking at as many ads as we can plop in front of your eye balls so we can rip off the advertisers charging them for the supposed impressions of you. That model doesn’t work for either of us. It doesn’t work for the consumer it doesn’t work for the advertiser. Then Google came along and offered a better deal which was performance, and that was a step in the right direction. The Magazine Publishers Association just for the first time this week started revealing their audience across all platforms for 147 brands and 30 companies.
Chartbeat, as I said earlier, is now going to do with attention. I don’t think either goes far enough. I think we have to go to that you have a valued relationship with a news provider and we find new ways because of that relationship because of the value we can bring you to give you something back in return. And we haven’t begun to do that.
Matthew: Felix Salmon wrote something he called promiscuous media which is media that content effectively that lives wherever it needs to, whether it’s YouTube or medium or Twitter or Facebook content that’s effectively designed or intended to live there in that environment on that platform. Not to just be a call out to please click and go to our site. But in order as you pointed out, in order for that to be seen as valuable, you have to be monetizing your content in different ways as just driving as many people as possible to your specific corner of the web.
Mike: Now parts of this… go ahead Gina
Gina: I’m sorry Mike. I was gonna, I was gonna… I was wondering what you guys thought of. This was a few weeks ago, maybe a few months ago but the Saved You a Click controversy about the Vox piece. The headline was did Tony Sopranno die at the end of the Sopranno’s? And they had the answer but it was 6 paragraphs into the piece, and there’s that Twitter handle saved you a click, at which no spoilers put the answer. And then someone wrote I forget who it was maybe was it Verge Writer or another Vox writer but someone wrote the very angry, you know long piece explaining why this person had done….
Matthew: Stolen experience…
Gina: Yeah, stolen experience and this person had done all this work to write this amazing long story that like builds you up to the big reveal, and that took it away. And yet you know as a very causal not even really a big fan of the Soprannos, but still sort of wondered, I was like oh great, thanks. I would say it was a service to me.
Matthew: I actually went and read it, I mean even though I got the answer from Saved You a Click, I still went and read it. So I guess I don’t know maybe I…
Gina: You cared. You cared enough.
Matthew: Yeah, it interested me enough I wanted to find out all the you know extraneous color and detail around how they found that our or what the explanation was or whatever. So they certainly didn’t stop me from clicking.
Mike: Yeah the juicy nugget that they, that was revealed was a good nugget. It was something that suggested that the story would be interesting to you. Half the time those kinds of headlines say you are not going to believe blah blah blah. And when you find out you’re like that’s not even interesting. It is just dull. It can be a tease, but I’d go to Jeff’s point on this as well which is that you know without those sorts of Twitter feeds you might not even see that article anyway. There’s so many articles out there that you never get anywhere near them and somebody who’s subscribing to those types Twitter feeds, there is several of them out there, and I really like them. You are not going to see those things anywhere else, they’re teasing stories you’re probably not going to see elsewhere, uh if they are specific to Buzzfeed or whatever. So, you know.
Matthew: And you know bringing it back to Google News, those publishers just like the ones in Belgium where the same thing happened, not only will they see traffic decline, but they’re missing the point. If the point is to reach more people with your content and convince them that you’re smart and you have things that are worth reading, then whether they read that specific article or not isn’t really the point. And so you know their view point is it’s our content and we should control it. And they feel like they already have all the audience they need, so Google’s stealing it. It’s a completely different way of thinking about kind of what your job is a news paper.
Mike: Absolutely. Well we’re going to hear about Facebook’s apology to “affected drag queens”. We’ll find out which drag queens were affected and which were not. But first I want to tell you about our first sponsor today which is Citrix GoToMeeting of course. Good communication is crucial for business. You don’t want to leave Jeff Jarvis out of your meeting and so you want to make sure you use a great tool like Citrix GoToMeeting, enabling you to connect with remote clients, coworkers, and everyone else you want to meet with. Let’s face it there’s so much wasted money and time on business travel for meetings that could be done over Citrix GoToMeeting. So you definitely want to use the proven solution for meeting and collaborating online. If you sign up for GoToMeeting before October 10th (this is an awesome deal) you will get another Citrix product of your choice free for 6 months. And of course here on the Twit network we advertise many of these products and you can take your pick which one you want to get for free for 6 months. That is a fantastic deal.
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Well the sisters of perpetual indulgence got a big victory today. Facebook actually apologized to the effective community of drag queens. I’m going to read the whole apology by Facebook here. They apology part of their message which is “ I want to apologize to the effective community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship we have put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.” They said they would revisit their real names policy to make it possible for drag queens that have stage names to use those stage names as their name on Facebook. And this sounds to me, I don’t know how you all feel about this but this sounds to me like a complete um phony bologna response to this because basically they are saying that if you are a performer and you have a stage name, and you use that stage name as your actual name in real life. Generally speaking if you really go by Little Miss Hot Mess, that’s the name you go by in real life, then you can go ahead and use that on Facebook and we are going to let you do that. That doesn’t sound like it’s going to effect… how many people are professional drag queens? I mean they haven’t solved any problem here but what do you guys think?
Matthew: Yeah, I have to agree Mike. I wrote about this when it first happened. I have been a big proponent of anonymity online for a long time even though I know lot’s of people blame it for all the world’s problems. But I fundamentally believe that allowing people to comment and behave anonymously has value. And so Facebook has always been to some extent trying to suck and blow at the same time. They’ve been trying to say well you can use a quote, unquote fake name but only if that’s what you go by in real life. So as you pointed out if you’re a drag performer and you can say this is what people know me by, if you’re effectively a celebrity in some sense then you can do that. But regular people can’t. Although that community was what sparked that issue that’s not the sum total of the issue, I mean or the problem. There are lots and lots of users who are trans and gay fall in to all sorts of categories who cannot use the name that they want. And what they get is Facebook asking them for their birth certificate or their drivers’ license. That from what I can tell, that is not going to change.
Mike: Now there is a solution that seems kind of obvious to me, and Gina maybe you can help me with this because I don’t understand why all the social networks don’t do this. The solution to me seems to be that you if they want to demand real names, of course Twitter and Google + don’t demand real names. Google + doesn’t any more, they did for a long time. But why don’t they just demand your real name to be privately given to the social network, and then allow the public to see your pseudonym. That way they get both, the best of both worlds. They know exactly who you are. You can use your account as your identity. You can use it for buying things all that stuff. But then you never have to reveal it to the public. What’s wrong with that solution?
Gina: I think for some communities particularly imagine you know a kindergarten teacher in a very conservative part of the country who you know is a drag queen performer at night who literally has who is living a double life, and doesn’t necessarily want to out him or herself. I mean there are situations. My legal name by the way is Regina McTrapezoid. I just go by Gina Trapani because it is a lot easier here. I mean this isn’t just about drag queens right? It’s about broadcasters and musicians and artists and people who write and use pen names, like it’s about people. You know I mean the real name, I don’t even like when people say real name, it’s a legal name your given name. It’s the name that your parents gave you and it’s on a sheet of paper that says you were born right? But that isn’t necessarily who you are. As far as I am concerned people should just be able to say this is how I want you to refer to me and period. That’s real enough for me. So I just, I don’t know this whole identification thing and your real legal name is this, and what if, I don’t like it.
Mike: There’s no technical reason right?
Matthew: There’s no technical reason. And in fact this came up during the Google + you know memoirs or whatever you want to call them too. There is no technical reason why Facebook couldn’t do that. There is a reason why some users might not want to present that name even privately to Facebook because they don’t trust the company to keep that data separate and they don’t trust, you know they can’t trust where that information’s gonna wind up. But you know it, to me feels and I could be wrong, but it feels to me like Facebook mainly wants you to use your quote, unquote real name or given name because that’s what advertisers want. I don’t think…
Mike: I’m sorry to interrupt you Matthew, but here’s the thing that really bugs me is that certain types of names can be used. I could go to Facebook right now and start an account. I could make up a name and I have an account and they would never know right? But if that name happens to be Little Miss Hot Mess they are going to say that doesn’t sound right, or if I have some other outrageous name. So the vast majority of fake names, there are huge numbers of people on Facebook using fake names without consequence.
Gina: Right. Right. When you have been reported or someone has marked you as abusive, what’s the first thing police ask you when they pull you over? Show me your ID right? Like but that is a way that authorities assert power and show me who you are, show me your credentials. You know working on a college campus the first thing you ask a student who’s doing something wrong, show me your ID. It is this, it is a power move. It is kind of a power relationship and I just don’t like, I get that Facebook has this problem where they need to make decisions about whether or not people are actually behaving badly or abusing someone, and getting their actual legal name is some indicator of whether or not this person is for real. I don’t know. But I feel that for the majority of Facebook’s users, they should be known how they want to be known, and that should be it.
Matthew: And to be honest, it feels to me like Facebook you know apart from the advertising element or whether that’s what advertisers want they you know reading Chris Cox’s description of how it happened. They all got lumped in with a bunch of other reports and someone flagged their accounts maliciously or whatever and they didn’t.. it feels to me and obviously they have a billion users so this stuff is not simple but they could do the things we are describing if they wanted to. They could make it easier for people to use pseudonyms. They could structure things so that you could do that. And they could still achieve their objectives. They just clearly don’t want to or they don’t want to devote the time and resources to making that happen. So that says something about their priorities I think.
Mike: Was there really a departure, a mass departure to Ello, or was that just phony bologna trumped up sort of rumor that people grabbed onto and reported as fact?
Matthew: Well they did come at the same time.
Jeff: I’m using um... Now I can’t remember the joke. What’s the name of it? What was the name of the other Facebook departure?
Jeff: And what else?
Gina: I’m on Diaspora. I’m before that.
Jeff: I has a reporter call me today about this and I said I’m dubious of the killers. If you think you are making a killer then you are not being creative enough. You’re not inventing something new and of value, and you are not going to kill whatever you think you are killing. It is not going to work.
Matthew: It is true that Ello did seem to attract a whole lot of artistic users. I think partly because it was designed and created by designers. And so they reached out to friends in the creative community. I don’t feel like there was a huge influx of people running away from Facebook.
Matthew: Well you know what Gina said I think brings up a good point. And the sort of free speech implications of Facebook and Twitter and other platforms are I find fascinating. Because effectively our sort of public square, our digital public square has been privatized so we have a bunch of shopping malls where you can go and wave signs around and say whatever you want and behave the way you want until the mall cops come and say you have to get out of here, because they own that building. And so you know all of these decisions that places like Facebook make as sort of minor as the might seem are effectively laws for this sort of social space that we as you pointed out pretty much have to belong to. And so all of those decisions have real world implications; social and political sort of behavioral implications.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely.
Gina: Yeah, yeah. With Ello, I mean what was interesting about Ello is that I think there was a huge spike in Ello registrations and hype and media and then it was getting talked up a lot. I don’t think people were leaving Facebook, but Ello’s whole value proposition was we’re not Facebook. We’re not going to sell you ads. We are going to treat you like a human being and not a set of eyeballs. Um so it is interesting to me that people responded to that. But this has happened so many times. People responded to that with Diaspora and they raised a ton of what was back then on Kickstarter a ton of money. People responded to this with app.net and paid a $50 you know, subscription fees. Like this is something that resonates with users, particularly savvy users. Uh it means something. I think there’s a whole group of you know I think there’s an ardent group of people hoping that one of these um wither federated or anti Facebook not Facebook networks will prevail in the end. I don’t know if they actually will but there’s an interest here so that interests me as a sort of app maker.
Matthew: Yeah I agree. There’s a continual sort of need or hunger or desire for something else, for something that sort of treats you like a human being. And it just keeps emerging from time to time under a different name. The thing I notice is certainly my daughters who are in their early 20’s, teens have no interest in Facebook and never go there. So what they are using are completely other networks for other reasons; in many cases because they offer forms of privacy or anonymity. You know Facebook is non-existent for them!
Mike: Well, speaking of young people using social media, Google + today, Google announced today that Google + has a new setting, a new feature that enables you to designate your profile as for adults only. You can basically, it’s an audience editing tool on Google +. It lets you set filters based on age and location so you can actually zero in and say this is for only certain people in certain locations. And this helps companies comply with local laws around this sort of thing. But it seems to me that they are paving the way for enabling a little bit more freedom about what sort of content you can put on Google +. Because if you can age restrict it then you can go ahead and have more adult like content that may be in the future less likely to be censored. Right now there’s any sort of anything that’s more than PG-13 I think they pretty much, not language based. You can pretty much say anything but for pictures and that sort of thing, uh anything above PG-13 they will block you or they will take you out of the system or whatever.
Is this a good idea, I mean and also one of the criticisms being leveled against this is you can’t designate individual posts as being adults only or not. You can only say everything I do is for adults only or nothing I do is for adults only. What do you guys think about this?
Gina; This is similar to, doesn’t Twitter have a setting where you can say mark my media as private or sensitive, and I think it applies to all you Tweets? So then if you attach an image it’s collapsed by default. Um this is interesting. I hadn’t seen this so ok age I get. Why would you restrict your Google + post to a particular geographic area?
Mike: No idea. Possibly, I mean maybe if um you know if you have local laws you’re concerned with, if you’re in a certain community and you have business in that community and there’s a law for that area or that country or that county or whatever it is. You can comply I guess and it doesn’t apply outside. I’m not really sure; I haven’t played with this yet.
Matthew: Let’s say you’re a German publisher for example.
Mike: Yeah, for example yeah.
Gina: Or a marijuana dispensary or ok, alright, alright, I’m with you.
So to check this out you go to your Google + profile settings. I haven’t done this myself but these are the instructions posted online. And you select the audience tab. Again this is Google + profile settings, audience tab. It will open a variety of preset and customizable post filters and you can choose these new filters that are in there now. So that’s a kind of a interesting new turn of events.
Matthew: What if they were getting criticism for you know age inappropriate content showing up in people’s streams or something? I don’t, this doesn’t feel like a feature like that lots of people would be crying out for.
Mike: Well, their algorithmic filtering is so horrible. If you go to your notifications, I mean my notifications is 50% fine and 50% what are you giving me? Why are you giving me this? It’s like somebody in some other country is just saying hey, and it’s a picture of themselves standing in a parking lot, and you know out of all the users on Google + this is what you determine, your algorithms have determined that I really want? It’s crazy, but sometimes you are going through that filter and all of the sudden it’s like whoa, all the sudden it’s quite inappropriate.
Matthew: So it’s to make up for the fact that their filters can’t do that already.
Mike: I guess.
Gina: Right, right. Mike are you still, is Google + still your sort of primary writing platform? I know that you’ve been very bullish and very active on Google + for a long time.
Matthew: You have like 2 million followers or something, or 2 million circles or something.
Mike: I do and it’s still growing at about 2,000 per day which is pretty crazy.
Mike: It’s my primary, for a long time was my exclusive social network but since I have been at Twit I am using Twitter and some other things because I gotta go where the whole audience is now. It’s fun.
Matthew: Did you write full things on Google +, was that a strategy that you used in the beginning, or?
Mike: I tested that. I wrote a few columns. What I did was had some circles of editors and other people who had volunteered and I basically did my drafts there and they had people commenting and stuff. It was pretty cool. Um but I don’t do that anymore for the most part. I do use it for crowd sourcing. I use it for all kinds of stuff. I do really like it a lot. I just find the conversations so good there I have zero trolls, zero. Um that’s not exactly true. I never encounter trolls more than once. When I encounter them I block them and I never hear from them again. It’s just fantastic for that purpose and I love it for that purpose. And I like the fact that it’s got a clean user interface. I still like all that stuff and I still like all the people there. I eventually made real friends on Google + which is one of the rare things you can with a social network. I met them in person and all that stuff.
Matthew: I mean I have had an account for a long time I post content there; lots of not just my own posts but photos and what not. I have lots of circles, 300,000 or something. And I post things there and I get nothing. I might get 1 comment. So I am obviously doing something wrong. Am I on?
Gina: Yeah you are.
Jeff: I was off for a while so sorry. That’s weird because I’ve actually been abusing Google + lately. I haven’t used it as much as I should but I tend to get comments, I tend to get stuff.
Matthew: I am just not that interesting.
Mike: Yeah, the hoard on Google + is an odd creature. They respond to certain things and don’t respond to others and it’s just amazing. One of the things they respond to is heavy use and primary use. So if you were to use Google + as your primary place where you are posting things, all the stuff, all the stuff that you post on Twitter which is all great stuff. If you were to do that every day, after a few weeks they would start gathering and you would get this build up of momentum.
Matthew: Yeah, I guess it’s just not a, you know I do it from time to time but it’s not regular activity. And you know what; I would probably do it more if Google had an open API where I could use 3rd party tools to post to it.
Mike: Yep. And that’s really the solution most people don’t; I think we need a big movement of people calling for interoperability between the social networks because right now it’s considered first socially unacceptable to sort of auto post using different various tools. People hate cross posting uh for some reason. I actually think it’s better than everybody living in their own individual silos. And also it’s better than, then having to spend all your time chasing down conversations on all these multiple things.
Matthew: People see it as SPAM I guess.
Mike: Yeah, but…
Matthew: Cabin Marks yelled at me for cross posting once.
Mike: But it’s actually a good solution if you do it right. The way I do it is I use Friends+Me. And so on Twitter it works great. On Facebook it doesn’t work so great. But on Twitter..
Matthew: It’s called what?
Mike: It’s called Friends+Me; plus sign and then me dot com. And it’s just a tool you just enact it and everything you post on Google + goes to Twitter with a link so essentially the first line of what you post which I tend to use as a headline; it’s a perfect Tweet and it gives you a perfect link, and that link goes back to Google +. And so I am actually inviting Twitter users to come to Google + and have a conversation with the Google + people. It’s one conversation and I have to manage one place, and it’s a great solution. And when people complain to me that I’m cross posting it is like why is cross posting better than…
Jeff: That’s home delivery Mike. That’s going where people are. That’s ok.
Mike: Yeah, I agree.
Jeff: When I was at, speaking to the work people I held up my Chromebook and that alone got applause. And I said I you know take about as much crap for this as I do for liking Google +, and that also got a laugh.
Mike: That’s funny.
Gina: That is a good one. That must have done well in a room full of Googlers.
Jeff: Yeah, it did, it did. And by the way there were 250 Googlers in the room so I was talking about somehow Twig came up of course. I said how many people watch Twig? And a good I’d say third raise their hands. And then I said uh-oh, what if it’s only Googlers watching?
Mike: Right, how many employees do they have, and how many is 1 third of those employees?
Gina: Just as long as they’re patronizing our sponsors.
Jeff: That’s fine, yes.
Matthew: Get them to open up the Google + API.
Mike: Alright so we got another story coming out of Europe and Jeff I’m going to defer to your pronunciation is it Gunther Oettinger?
Mike: Yeah, thank you. So he’s the new commissioner, EU commissioner who admitted Monday that he’s the one who derailed the settling of an antitrust investigation against Google.
Jeff: Well, there’s a lot of people trying to take credit for that now.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. Well he is a politician. And he said that if I’d been opposed to it the Google case would have been settled back in March. And then now they’re saying that there’s fresh evidence and solid arguments from 20 formal complaints persuading them that Google needs to present a better settlement offer. This is of course the whole issue of Google providing information that competes against their competitors. I don’t know, this is related of course to the focus on the user campaign.
Jeff: It is the same; it’s not a user campaign at all. It’s the publishers. It’s actually Springer and company; same exact people. They have run this campaign. They have run big ads in papers. They’ve brought in News Corp which we talked about the Robert Thompson letter 2 weeks ago. And uh, they’re running, they’re making Google into the big enemy. And so they derail, they succeeded in derailing the screaming. Now what’s troubling about that is I watched on Twitter, um and translated as best I could Tweets from the newspaper conference in Germany 2 days ago. And you had Angela Merkel the chancellor going and paying homage and regretting how they have lost their newsrooms and what a shame this is. You have the head of the SPD, the left party in the Bundestag coming forward and saying that we have to contain Google’s market power. You have the justice administer of the country previously as we have talked about on the show calling for Google to be broken up. And Google’s frankly been sitting there wither being silent or according to a friend of mine a bit rude and haughty. And they haven’t found the right way at all to have this discussion. And it’s not going to just damage Google. Our big fear is that it’s going to damage the net.
This is spreading from Germany. We have the tax on links being proposed in Spain. We have a right to be forgotten. Techno euro panic is spreading and it’s going to have a huge impact on the net. So now you have at the EC the person in charge of this replaces somebody who is actually pretty forward thinking in most ways; Neely Kroes Oettinger is now the head and now he’s bragging about how he’s all for the right to be forgotten. He’s bragging about how he’s sided with the publishers to kill the settlement that had already been made in the EU. You have German politicians in the pocket of these media companies. The politicians they’re supposed to be covering. Instead they’re running to these politicians to get help with their failed businesses. It’s a really sucky situation there.
Mike: Yeah, it absolutely is and you know sometimes I, in my moments of darkness I wonder whether the Europeans just want to shake down American tech companies for the money. In this case they’re…
Jeff: Of the publishers, I have heard them chortle and giggle about this. They’re smart people. They know better. They know that Google’s not going to pay them 11% of their revenue for linking to them. I mean how stupid can you be? They’re not that stupid. When Mathias Dopfner the head of Springer argues that he’s scared of Google I don’t believe that for a second. There laughing think we have got Google over the barrel, but there is unintended consequences galore here. And when I talked to IFA in Germany I agued this is going to hurt Germany badly. Would you invest in Germany right now? I sure as hell would not. I would not. If I were a tech company I’d get as far away from there as I possibly could. And it’s just at the time that Berlin startup scene is taking off. What I heard when I was in Berlin is that you can only get Angel money because Germany, Germans don’t want to risk anything more of their capital for these startups. So what happens is the VC’s in America come after the good ones and make them move to the US. Or they buy them and make them go to the US. So this atmosphere is going to cause a brain drain in Germany just when it most needs the ability to grow its technology role.
Now what Google should do I think is actually counter intuitive here. It should invest like crazy in German technology so it’s not alone trying to argue against the Leadites. Right now Google’s alone as the Boogeyman enemy against failing institutions that have not figured out how to adapt the new world. And government and publishers are in an unholy alliance together, and it’s ugly. Sorry for the rant, but hey that’s me.
Mike: Matthew Ingram, what do you think?
Matthew: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with Jeff. It feels to me like just a plain old revenue grab, and it feels a lot like countries, I’m not as informed about this sort of internal politics as Jeff in Germany. But I do know that in lots of European countries they are afraid because their economies are weak. They’re, they have no startup sort of, you know, eco-system going. They’re afraid to be honest to large American web companies like Google and Facebook and so I think they see them as; they see these types of laws as a way of asserting some control over them and potentially generating some revenue. That’s what it feels like to me.
Mike: Is this a German cultural thing? It reminds me of the beer purity laws Jeff where they have these very stringent requirements for what can be put into beer, and Germany has fantastic beer. But the variety they have in Germany is sort of the, they are behind the times in terms of the crazy experimentation that is going on in the rest of the world. Is this a German cultural thing? I mean they have a lot of public support for these sort of sentiments.
Jeff: No, actually they don’t. Keep in mind this is very important. Google has it’s second highest market share in Germany as anywhere in the world. And so it’s…
Mike: 93% right?
Jeff: 63% in the US. So, so, a full let me get my math right here.; a half higher than the US. That’s gigantic, which is to say that the German user likes Google and has no problem and uses them. It’s this campaign by publishers and government, but perception can become reality. And it’s going to become reality if Google doesn’t find out the right way to fight back yet, and they haven’t figured it out. They are either silent or haughty, and that’s not the right thing to do.
Matthew: Yeah, to be honest I think that the whole NSA thing hurt a lot of big American web companies. They, I mean Google said you have nothing to do with this meanwhile there’s all these reports about you know the FBI or whoever NSA tapping cables and putting boxes in their co-los and so everybody just got nervous about what was happening to their data when they were using these companies.
Mike: Yeah, that reminds me of the, you mention the NSA. There was a story that we don’t have on the dock here this morning. I’ll just mention it briefly which is that Eric Holder who is of course the attorney general of the United States, gave a speech yesterday where he was essentially throwing Apple and Google under the bus because of their strong encryption, and he was speaking in front of a group of people who were gathered together to protect children from predators, online predators, sexual predators, kidnappers, and other threats that some children face. And he you know was kind of think of the children kind of speech, and these dirty rotten Silicon Valley companies are adding this encryption that prevents police and the FBI from successfully prosecuting criminals and predators. And you know it really bugged me because this new encryption movement is a reaction to the NSA, and unconstitutional mass surveillance by…
Matthew: But that fits their whole argument though. Their whole argument is you need to let us spy on you at all times because you or someone you know may be doing something bad. And so we need to install cameras in your house and you know, suck in all your data because you might be doing something bad. You could be trading child porn. Or you could be thinking about joining ISIS. So we need…
Jeff: This is the real Right To Be Forgotten. This is the right for you to crumple up your own piece of paper; to erase your own file. That’s still right and that’s still the essence of privacy, is what I control, and when you lose control of the government. No, every time I go to Europe I apologize for being an American with the NSA. It’s abhorrent what the NSA has done, and it needs control. And I think that encrypting everybody, was it Google? I said screw the government in this case. Who’s your daddy here? It’s your users and you’ve got to enable encryption with everything or people aren’t going to trust you.
Mike: That was the most perfect segue for our next conversations which is the focus on the user campaign. If you haven’t seen this, it is an organization that’s going after Google; an organization comprised of Google’s competitors, Yelp, TripAdvisor, HolidayCheck, and others. They created this amazing video; it’s actually a really great video. Let’s go ahead and roll that.
Video: When the internet was first getting off the ground, it’s information was overwhelming. No one knew how to access the data so it wasn’t very helpful. Then Google came along. Organizing the world’s information, they made it universally accessible and useful through an algorithm. This formula looked through all the information and helped sort it out and present it to users in the way that we’ve all come to appreciate. This changed everything; how we did business and relationships, how we accessed information, even how information was provided.
And once the most relevant sources were being rewarded and delivered to the user, people came to depend on these results and lean upon Google’s stated goal of focusing on users, which led to one of the biggest evolutions of Google Search when Google started to deliver more specific results in the form of answers. Instead of just links to sites, Google started looking at other types of information.
Mike: Knowledge Base, Google Now, etcetera… Knowledge Graph
Video: The algorithm sorted through the information of the world to try to deliver the actual answer you were looking for. Sometimes it came in the form of a location on a map, a weather forecast, or even an answer to a math question. And because Google was consistently delivering information...
Mike: They actually make a compelling argument in about a minute or so.
Video: Lately, there have been some concerns. Google has started to further change the way its displaying search, and people are starting to take note. Instead of running info through their standard organic search algorithm, Google has started giving preferential treatment to its own content to boost its own popularity. Now when users see results some of them are still what’s helpful, but some are what Google wants you to see. And here’s the thing; they look the same; even though the results that come through the backdoor have not had to go through the trusted algorithm. These selective and biased results omit some of the best information that is available on the web making it more difficult for users to find what they are looking for, and discouraging the innovation of those providing good information. So what was once a trusted platform to find relevant answers is now being questioned because if it’s not being done in the best interest of the user, who is it valuable for?
Right now Google is being investigated because the interest of users, institutions, and businesses that have come to depend on Google are being threatened. The solution; for regulators, Google, innovators, and most importantly users, is for Google to start acting more like Google. That’s what it means to focus on the user. Allow the best unbiased results on the first page without giving preference to Google + or anyone else. The trust of users, the health and innovation of business ecosystems, and the rights of everyone to have access to information depend on it. You can protect the integrity of search. Download focus on the user local to see examples of the unbiased results that are possible. Share this message and contact members of the European commission. We can keep the internet honest by helping Google continue to focus on the user.
Mike: What do you think Jeff? That sounds reasonable.
Jeff: No, no it doesn’t.
Matthew: Keep the internet honest, really?
Jeff: For a couple of reasons…
Gina: Back to the trusted algorithm. Sorry Jeff.
Jeff: Who said… Ok fine, fair is fair. If Google is required to link to Yelp in some formula, then is Yelp required to link to Google? I have the same problem with the German publishers. They read a video very similar to the “this is cute, we are going to make it seem all so cute and make you understand you idiots” video, in which they said “search for shoes on Google, and my God they show you their advertisers.” Well now go to Built, the largest publication in Europe owned by Actual Springer. See that there is a little link on top for Schuhe, it means shoes. What do you see there? You see Built advertisers and nothing else. What do you see on Google? You see their advertisers of course. You see the rest of everything you could possible want about shoes. I just searched on hotels in Madrid because I’m going there soon on Google. At the top I see their ads. I see ads and sponsored things clearly labeled. A lot of ads; Google’s selling a lot of ads because a lot of demand for it, it’s true. But I don’t see; what they are accused of doing in the video was presenting algorithmic listings and paid listings looking exactly the same. Show me how. That’s says ad, that says ad, that says sponsor. On the right it says ads. So show me how that’s true and then maybe you can convince me, but I don’t see it. Right below there is TripAdvisor; first listing TripAdvisor.
Mike: Does is also disable their point to a certain extent and validate their point to a certain extent that these are just competitors that are trying to compete by essentially changing public opinion which is I guess the definition of propaganda.
Jeff: Well no they are not changing public opinion they’re trying to change policy opinion. They are trying to hide behind government. This is the great irony of Newscorp and Actual Springer fighting this because they are both conservative bastions of conservative thinking; don’t like the government, have been awfully critical of the EU. When they can’t make their business work what do they do? They run behind the skirt of the EU government. Gina you were starting to say something a minute ago; I interrupted as is my bad habit.
Gina: No, no, that’s ok. It was just interesting to me that the video had this concept of like there was a trusted Google and now there’s not a trusted Google, and can we just get back to the trusted algorithm?
Matthew: Whoever trusted the algorithm?
Gina: Right. This is the algorithm and also weird that Google +; I never see Google + results in search. Very rarely do I see Google… I found it interesting that Google + was the thing that got plugged into the machine and was stuffing results. I mean I gotta tell you I just ran this search for hotels in Madrid. This is on my 15 inch MacBook, and partially because this big image bar across the top; like the actual results that aren’t ads are below the fold. Like I actually have to scroll in order to get to that first TripAdvosor.
Matthew: The images do take up a lot.
Gina: The images do take up a lot and those are not sponsored as far as I can tell. That’s just an image.
Jeff: I think that they are ecommerce links, aren’t they?
Matthew: The images?
Jeff: Are they or not?
Gina: It’s just encrypted.google.com…
Jeff: Who’s rating I wonder… That’s a good question.
Mike: That could be Google + that could be Google Local which is remember a Zagat guide. Yep.
Gina: Yeah, yeah. So I mean ok…
Mike: And it’s also in Maps so it’s the same data base.
Gina: Right and Maps is taking up a chunk on the right there which is just a useful search result. Most of my searches don’t look anything like this. This happens to be a very highly sold search results but; anyway yeah, the video is just interesting. Are users complaining? It sounds like the publishers are the ones who are complaining. You know like this idea that this is about the users right? I don’t know.
Jeff: Those other tech companies; be careful because they are going to come after you next.
Jeff: You’re American tech companies and you’re being demonized. And so you play in with their hand and they are going to turn right back around and say “oh you have to link to our stuff or we are gong to come after you and ask for money for links, watch out.”
Matthew: The only possible solution is that Google is somehow regulated and forced to rank links in a specific way. That is the only other option to allowing Google to doing whatever its algorithm or you know its desire to place ads tells it to do.
Mike: Unless you accept the argument that there’s no visual difference between; and I’m not sure that’s exactly true, but if there is in fact no visual difference between their Google + result and what would be the natural result then that’s one option. But I agree with you. That’s not what they want.
Matthew: They say there has to be a flag, but they said some good results are not being included and then you see the result drop out of the list. So then Google would have to be required to have a certain number of links to a certain number of external sites within a certain… and you’ve got a Google regulator.
Mike: And that implies that there is a tiny number of other companies that are gonna be privileged. They can’t add results from every single company that provides hotel information for example.
Matthew: It’s a recipe for disaster.
Mike: Right, exactly.
Jeff: Oh absolutely, absolutely.
Mike: By the way, the best source of recommendations is person to person so Jeff I’m going to give you a recommendation. The very best pizza place in the world is in Madrid. You gotta go to this place.
Mike: The guy’s Italian and he’s a recent immigrant to Spain but its called Pizza Teca.
Jeff: What a perfect name for you to like.
Mike: Exactly, but Teca is spelled t-e-c-a, and the URL is lapizzateca. It is just the most fantastic pizza I have ever tasted in my life.
Jeff: You would know man with an oven in your back yard.
Mike: Exactly, right. The guy ferments his dough for 3 days and then he adds yeast at the end. He told me it was something that he learned from his grandmother. Anyway, it's a great restaurant. Back to the tech news; in just a sec we are going to take a break and then we are going to come back and talk about, I don't know, maybe Julian Assange and some of his comments about Google, and Eric Schmidt's response, and so on. But first, I want to tell you about Personal Capital. Personal Capital is a good service, it is one of our sponsors today. It's good because money is good, and it's good for you to hang on to the money that you have earned, and they help you do that. One of the ways that they help you do that is right now we have all got our financial stuff scattered all over the world in different sites, in different financial companies, in banks, in 401ks, and all over the place. Personal Capital is really cool because it brings together all of that data and puts it together. It shows your money, what is coming in, what is going out, and it lumps it together in a way that is very intuitive and easy to understand. I really appreciate that and I also like the fact that they have an Android Wear application, or an application that supports Android Wear I guess is more accurate. They were one of the first companies to support Android Wear and I've been using this app for about 3 hours and I got a message saying that I had some kind of fee that was going to be charged against my bank account if I didn't take action. I took action and I avoided a $35 fee in the first few hours. That's essentially what this free app does. It saves you money and it shows you your money so that you can make better investment decisions. It's really a great thing. There is no reason not to use Personal Capital. To set up your free account go to personalcapital.com/twig. Personal Capital is free and it's a smart way to grow your money. We thank Personal Capital for their support of This Week in Google.
Well, Vanity Fair has an article, I don't know if you guys saw this, but it was on Julian Assange doing a kind of Obi Wan Kenobi type of hologram interview where he was basically going after Google and saying that Google was the NSA or working with the NSA. It was quite an interesting thing. I don't know, we didn't queue up a video of that Chad, but if you can find that it's actually in one of the story links there. Very bizarre, let's take a look at this.
(Video Playing): It has presented over the last 10 years of being some floppy, graduate student, colorful like it's logo, playroom of ideas and a different sort of company. Not even a company at all, someone that gives free services. It's not that at all. It's a normal company just like other normal companies in the US that are very big. It should be seen as a normal company. Unlike other companies, however, it is engaged in a very ambition project that is not normal in terms of its business. That is to collect as much information about the world as possible, store it, index it, make predictive models about peoples' interests, and use that to sell advertising. Of course the National Security Agency comes along given that Google is doing basically doing what the National Security Agency is doing in terms of collecting information, storing it, indexing it, and attaching it to people, and sticks its fangs in and sucks the information that Google sucks. That's going to be the case no matter what Google does unless it leaves the US jurisdiction.
Mike: Now I'm probably in the minority but I actually love advertising. I think that it the most moral form of monetization for most online services, and I will tell you why; basically those people who use the advertisements and buy the products and services advertised subsidize the services for everybody, including people who can't afford it. This is especially true for social networks and so on. That's why I don't like any social network that charges admission like app.net. I was kind of against that service. Of course, contextual advertising in principle is a great thing because I don't want to see ads for wrinkle cream. Maybe I need it, but I don't want to see those ads. I don't want to see irrelevant advertising. I want to see relevant advertisement. I want it to be so relevant that it feels like I'm getting search results for things that I would have searched for if I had a thought of it. To me that's the big problem with Google, and Facebook, and everybody else who claims to harvest our personal data for the sake of serving up contextual advertising in that they don't know how to do it well in my experience. I think that they are terrible at it. I don't really understand why, but anyway what do we think of Julian? He is in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London still and that is why he had to be beamed in. What do you think of his comments there?
Jeff: I can't stop focusing on that. I'm just thinking that I am going to cancel all of my airplane tickets and I'm hauling that around.
Matthew: Yeah, I've got to admit that is awesome. That looks amazing. I would do that.
Gina: Scoop on that for TWiT.
Matthew: Sit in your living room and get beamed in by hologram. It's fantastic.
Mike: It's a high res 3D version of what we are doing here basically. That is fantastic. He has been trading barbs with Eric Schmidt because they both have books essentially. I don't know, I haven't read...
Matthew: Did you read the vignette that Julian Assange mentions his book about Eric Schmidt? Eric Schmidt's girlfriend came to see him. His allegations as I recall them were that he was talking with someone about the government, about the NSA, that type of stuff with WikiLeaks, and he got a visit from Eric Schmidt's girlfriend and someone from the State Department, it might have been Jared Cohen, or had been associated with the State Department. His allegation is that effectively Eric Schmidt is a couple of steps away from being a government operative, which is the type of thing that Julian Assange likes to say. I don't know if I believe that, but certainly his claims in the video that Google is a business; clearly it is a business, clearly it is trying to gain as much information about its users as possible. I have no problem agreeing with that.
Mike: It's all very weird, and that vignette, I have not heard that, but that is very strange. It's quite a leap, I mean, some people have worked for the State Department, I don't think that necessarily means that Eric Schmidt is. Besides, why would he work for the government? He's got a much better job than anybody in the government including the president if you ask me.
Gina: It's true.
Mike: So yeah, kind of a weird type of deal. Google is getting into the streaming music and video service. They have upped the ante on their music business. These are based on essentially rumors that Google is going to be unveiling another streaming service. We had a conversation on this on Tech News Today, and the big question was why does Google torture itself and torture us with all of these different sources of music? They have got YouTube, they have got Google Play Music, they have got all of these different things. Why don't they just have one iTunes thing, or one Spotify oriented service and just let everybody buy into that?
Gina: That's not how they operate.
Matthew: I don't think they know actually what people want so they are trying a bunch of different things. Those projects probably don't even talk to each other.
Mike: What people want is Spotify essentially. Spotify has 20 times the audience that Google's music service does. I happen to think that the secret is in YouTube somehow. They need to turn YouTube into not just a place where people have videos. People use it for the music heavily but they don't have a good, they don't have a way to use the music on YouTube legally as a music service that just downloads as an audio file only that streams, and has thumbs up, and all of that kind of stuff like Pandora or something like that. I think that they could do that, they should do that, but they are just lost in the woods. They have got so much complexity and I think that if we went out on the street and asked about Google's various music offerings people would be super confused about it.
Matthew: I will say that since I like in Kanakastan and we get things 3 or 4 years later, we just got Google play music relatively recently, and so I signed up and I uploaded everything that I have basically to Google's Cloud. I've been using it on various devices and I have to say that I really like it. Obviously I don't have access to a bunch of things that other people do, like Pandora for instance. But I think that it's actually really good, in particular their music recommendations since we were just talking about their ability to recommend things. I actually think that they are pretty good. They have clearly gone through my stuff, and they suggest things that are more often than not pretty good to listen to. So I don't know.
Mike: It's a really good service, it really is. The quality of the audio seems to be really good. It could be my imagination. Maybe it's just because I like the price and it makes it sound better. I think that the audio quality sounds really good. Well, we've got a story here for Jeff. Basically what people have been saying about the Chromebook, and slamming it, and saying you can't do real work on it. Now Photoshop is coming to the Chromebook. So now if you can do Photoshop on the Chromebook what can't you do? Anything?
Jeff: Video editing. But we've talked about that before where you can't do video editing in the Cloud.
Jeff: Yeah, that's true. That's true. Na na na na na na. I just wish...
Mike: This is more of a symbolic victory I think for Chromebook fans that anything else because of course you can do 100% of what the majority of people do with a laptop on a Chromebook. Jeff, you and I know that, but people will say thinks like it can't do real work with Photoshop. Now Photoshop is coming to the Chromebook.
Jeff: A caveat here, I think that it just goes to those who have a subscription to Adobe's Suite.
Mike: It's still hideously overpriced. I mean we are talking about Photoshop, but that is part of the Photoshop experience is that they are going to empty your wallet.
Gina: Feature Zero.
Matthew: It empties the wallet.
Jeff: I did say when I was with the work group, you know, I held my Chromebook and you still have to find the middle. I think that we are a bust hardware matters, and that if people start to get involved in Chromebook, and start to live on the Cloud, and your friends and neighbors are doing it and can do it then that's going to drive more people to your services. So the hardware strategy, as odd as it seems, is still very important.
Matthew: I think that they need a little bit of sexy, too. I don't know if you agree, but if there was a sort of MacBook Air looking device and it was a Chromebook I would be on that like a fat kid on an M&M. I love the Chromebook Cloud. Everything that I use is in the Cloud. If I am not connected to the internet then I am not really doing anything except playing solitaire. But if the design was a little bit better, just a little bit, I think that would make a big difference for a lot of people.
Mike: You are so right. In fact, I was on the fence, after testing Chromebook Pixel for a while, I was on the fence between a MacBook Pro with Retina and a Chromebook Pixel as my sole laptop. That's exactly what brought me over to the MacBook Pro with Retina; it's just the design is better.
Matthew: It's just so good.
Mike: Yeah, it's so good. I decided that I was going to use it like a Chromebook. I was going to be as Cloudy as possible with the MacBook Pro, but I ended up getting sucked in to all of these other things because it's there and it's how you do it. But yeah, give me a Chromebook that is even in the ballpark of having the elegance, and the lightness, and the usability, and I'm there. Although admittedly, the Chromebook Pixel is close, it's so close, it's a high quality device. The screen is beautiful.
Gina: The Pixel is a nice machine. I realize that I'm too married to my routines and the way that I do things. I've invested some time and money into software, particular if it is a software that has certain shortcuts. Two things about the Chromebook; I probably could get it all set up so that I could do my development, and push to get, and run my tests, and do all of the things that I normally do during the day while I am coding. I probably could, it's just the thought of letting go of my favorite text editor, and my favorite commands, and having to learn a whole other thing. I'm just like so much time, it would take so much time. In addition, the other point that I have brought up in the past in our discussion of the Chromebook is like, you know if someone hacks my Google account or my Google account gets shut down for whatever reason and I can't get in touch with anybody at Google and I can't use my computer than that is not acceptable.
Jeff: I did push for a discussion about that.
Gina: When they shut down my Google account I couldn't use my Android phone, right? You can't use your Android phone basically unless you are logged in. I was setting up two factor auths, I turned it off and turned it back on and my phone was like boop, boop, boop. I got all of these notifications that I had gotten logged out of play services and the whole thing was sort of surrendered. I was like, oh, everything is connected to my Google account which is a free account on Google, a company that you know it's not like you can call up and be like, hi, can you unlock me, you know?
Matthew: You could do that Gina. You could get ahold of someone.
Gina: I could because I have this amazing platform. It would be a TWiT special, me sort of begging Google...
Matthew: It is funny, your first comment about how you get so comfortable in your work flow. Not in your case, but probably in mine, if it's screwed up and you hacked together some kind of cludgy way of doing things you are just so used to it so moving to something new, even if it's arguably more efficient or better, it's like moving houses or something or being uprooted and having to move to a different city. You don't know where the coffee shop is and you don't know how to use the bus. It may actually turn out to be better, but getting used to it is hard.
Mike: Although it has to be said, and I think Jeff you can verify this; there is a psychology that is causing resistance to living the Cloud with the Chromebook. That psychology is something along the lines of I know where it is, it's right here, it's mine, I control it.
Jeff: I was at this meeting where I said that it may sound stupid to you guys, but you have got to provide backup. We discussed this for an hour on TWiG. This will go away, but you need to do it now. You need to revive an API to back up on other virtual services and on to hard drives and such.
Mike: Absolutely, it's exactly the kind of thing that Google is in a position to provide very easily. They just offered unlimited Cloud storage with individual file sizes of no bigger than 5 TB for the education users. They have got all the storage in the world and they should absolutely just throw the switch and make that happen. The point that I was going to make was that when you actually use a Chromebook significantly the psychology reverses and when you go back to a regular laptop you think that this feels really flimsy to have it right here in my possession, I don't know what exactly is happening. On the Chromebook you always have this sort of peace of mind that I'm not going to get a virus, I know exactly where my stuff is, and no matter what device I access my stuff on I know I'm going to get the current version. The piece of mind is actually in favor of the Chromebook when you start using one.
Matthew: I actually felt that way even though I don't use a Chromebook. I'm so connected, everything that I do is on the web. Even when I'm writing it's WordPressed in my own server version; it's not on the device. I thought that I had lost my laptop. I left it somewhere and I thought it's gone, someone has taken it. You know what? I didn't even care because there is nothing on there and there is certainly nothing on there that isn't backed up somewhere. At worst someone sees a few of my photos. I don't even care. I could have literally bought a new laptop and instantly had all of the same stuff that I had before.
Mike: What about your naked selfies?
Matthew: That stuff I have encrypted.
Gina: The thing that bothers me, and maybe this bothers me because I know a little bit too much about how all of this works, is this idea that there is like this single point of failure. It's like back in college where there was this mainframe and then there were all of these dumb terminals, right? The dumb terminals could come and go and get connect, but if something was wrong with the mainframe you couldn't get to it. That's kind of what Google is. I'm a coder, so I work with GET which is a distributed version control system. That means that on every single machine or device where you are interacting with the repository there is a full synchronized copy; it's distributed, and it is federated, and I can push to this server, I can push to that computer, or I can push to that server. So there is no one single point of failure that someone other than me is controlling that I am dependent on. That distributed, federated, completely synchronized peer to peer model just doesn't exist with commercial web apps because they are not financially incentivized to do that. There is literally no reason for companies to do this. This is the combination that we have had with diaspora and Twitter and the interactivity of the social networks. It actually slows down innovation, and means lots of arguments about standards, and it's all really hard. Developers, who I think in a lot of ways are kind of the canary in the coal mine, have figured out that version control systems that involve this singular canonical copy where developers check out, and then push back into it, and then there are all of these conflicts, and if the server goes down you are all out of luck, that that doesn't work.
Matthew: It's incredibly risky.
Gina: It's incredibly risky, it doesn't work, and that's why in modern software development we use distributed version control software systems in which there is a full copy on every machine where the person is working. That's where that single point of failure, the one entity controlled sort of central place where it should be, that makes me uncomfortable.
Matthew: It's interesting because I think of that as the bit torrent model, the peer to peer model. We are seeing that sort of bleed into other areas too, even media, with lots of streaming popcorn time or whatever it is, a lot of that media is effectively peer to peer distributed. It doesn't exist in a specific place, it's being constantly streamed from multiple users.
Gina: Right, exactly. I want to see more of that.
Mike: I want to see that backup feature, it is the perfect idea for the Chromebook. Anyway, Sundar Pichai, if you are watching, and I know you are Sundar; I know that you are watching every minute of this show. Give us the backup that we need. In just a sec we are going to come back and do the Google change log, but first I want to tell you about our third sponsor today which is Prosper. Prosper is a peer to peer lending. We talked about a bit torrent model for content; we also have a bit torrent model, not really, for money. If in 72 hours you could have $35,000 to cover your needs, what would you do with that money? Would you pay off your high rate credit cards? Would you start a business? Would you do home improvement projects like rebuild your kitchen? Find out how easy online application is for Prosper. Provide a few details and see a rate online almost instantly. You can go there immediately and check it out. Personally can see this as an alternative for crowdfunding. Of course crowdfunding sites is a fantastic trend but it's not for everybody. The reason is that Kickstarter projects and others are a huge amount of work before, during, and especially after you reach your Kickstarter goals. If you just want to start a business and you don't want to fritter away all of your time with the fundraising, Prosper is the way to do it without diverting your time and energy on the fundraising itself. Prosper is Silicon Valley's answer to personal loans, and with Prosper's innovative peer to peer lending process there are no outrageous fees, no raising interest rates, and you will never set foot in a bank. Remember the bank, those guys that created the financial meltdown? Prosper has more than 2 million members and more than a billion dollars in funded loans. For a limited time Prosper is offering TWiT fans a $50 pre-paid Visa card when you get a loan. So go to prosper.com/twit and as a special rate just for our audience, up to $35,000 in just 3 days and a $50 Visa prepaid card, go to prosper.com/twit. Well Gina, are you ready to do the Google change log?
Gina: I'm always ready. Let's do it.
Mike: Here are the trumpets.
Gina: Right on, right on. We have some really cool new features coming down the pipe in Chrome. We know because the earliest version of Chrome, Canary, which of course is the most unstable sort of developer version of Chrome often previews these features. There are two new ones that I am kind of excited about. One is kind of goofy, and one is really useful. You've already seen in Chrome that if you opened up a tab and it is playing audio that you will see a little icon on the tab letting you know that the audio is playing. That alone is useful, but in Canary they have introduced a feature that lets you pause that sound by just clicking on the icon on the tab. So it's really nice, smart stuff there if you have got an ad there or some sort of music playing in the background. Just click on the tab and you can pause it. Again, that's in the Canary version of Chrome, but that will most likely come down to the stable version in the coming weeks.
Jeff: Are you pausing the video or audio, or are you just muting it for a while?
Gina: I believe it's muting, I don't believe it's pausing. I believe it's muting so it's like shut up.
Gina: I don't want to hear you right now. Yeah, because that icon shows up even if it is a video or flash element that is playing audio. So it's muting. The other thing that we are seeing in Canary, there is a hidden endless runner game. So you see in Chrome when you are offline it's got that sort of 8 bit dinosaur which I love? Well in the Canary build the little dinosaur still shows up as can't connect to the internet when you are offline, but if you tap the spacebar you can start running that dinosaur through the desert and jumping over cactus. It gives you something to do while you can't get on the internet. I love this kind of thing. This kind of thing is like a classic Easter Egg. Excel had one of these games where you sort of fly around, and there was a Tetris game. Anyway, this is kind of fun, you know, something to do with the dinosaur when you can't get online in the new version of Chrome. That's in Canary right now. We already talked about Photoshop on your Chromebook. That's pretty cool. Just to clarify, I was like how is Photoshop running on your Chromebook? It's actually like streaming Photoshop. So Adobe is going to be running Photoshop on a server somewhere in the Cloud. You install this app on your Chromebook which like tunnels you into the remote server and connects to your Google Drive so you are streaming Photoshop over the web versus running a local Photoshop app. People are beta testing this now. It's not clear how fast it is, particularly with giant images. I would love to try this out. They are testing it now, and I would assume that people who have emptied their wallet will get this eventually.
Matthew: Imagine if that works what else you can do that with.
Gina: Yeah, yeah.
Matthew: It's a cool model.
Gina: It is. It is. You need a big fat pipe, but sure. I guess if the communication between Adobe servers and Google servers is fast enough then the saves to Google Drive should work if you are basically just tunneling or remote controlling a computer.
Jeff: The original uploaded material through the Cloud is the cost, but once it's there you are working on faster processors.
Matthew: It has to save to the NSA server first, but that shouldn't take long.
Mike: They have very fast servers.
Gina: Yeah, they have a shortcut straight to the NSA servers as well. New in Gmail, you can mute images within your message full screen. So this is similar to how regular non image attachments work. Now this work with images. You can click on large images within a message, you see them full screen within Gmail on the web, you click on the Google Drive button to save the image directly to drive or the hour button to download them directly to your computer. So subtle but a nice change for those of us who email images around. And finally, thank you for this I believe it was Jeff, Google is beefing up their mobile ad offerings. Google is introducing new mobile display formats and tools that will roll out in the coming months. Advertisers have these sort of new mobile light box ads, engagement ads; how many more buzzwords c
Mike: Fantastic. an I say? They dynamically resize to fit any size or across devices. This is Google's sort of multi-screen size multi device world that we heard a lot about at Google IO. You have existing ads that kind of fold, and unfold, and collapse, and expand depending on the device you are looking at in these new formats. Google is trying their best to crack the mobile advertising nut. I'm sure that they will do pretty well. Advertisers will pay when users engage with the ads to expand them. The ad type will be available soon in the AdWords Ad Gallery for Google Display Network campaigns. That's all I have got.
(Intro music plays)
Mike: And we have our tool tip and number of the week. Why don't we start with you Gina since you are in the mode of talking right now? What do you got in terms of our tip of the week?
Gina: A little something from reddit, and Chad this might have been something from you. I did not know this, but Google Drive has got this really neat thing. If you need to insert a special character in Google Drive, so say you are in a Google doc and you go to the insert menu of special characters you can actually draw the character you are looking for. I never remember the names of these characters. Yeah, you can draw it and it will search for the character that looks like the character that you just drew. Yeah.
Mike: What a world.
Gina: This is pretty crazy. You know I tried a couple of things and sometimes it was more accurate than others, but it's really neat if you are like yeah, I'm looking for the little doofy doo and now you can draw it.
Mike: The necklace that Prince used to wear; I want to use that as part of my signature.
Jeff: The photo sign and the pound sign all of the time.
Matthew: The shruggie.
Gina: The shruggie. They should have had those.
Mike: That's fantastic. Alright Jeff, your number of the week.
Jeff: Alright, so speaking of Sundar, he says that Drive now has 240 million active users; up from 190 million since June. This is the one that really interests me. Chromebooks, speaking of Chromebooks, are approaching 50% share of the EDU market; up from 5% only 18 months ago.
Mike: I'm so happy to hear that. It's such a perfect education device. That's fantastic news. My son, by the way, he works for a company called Tinker. They do education. They teach children how to do software programming using a drag and drop. It's like Legos for software. He said that they just take to the Chromebook as the perfect solution. He goes and does actual training with kids. It's perfect because they just log in, they can do their projects, and they love it. It just works fantastic. So that's great to hear. Any other numbers Jeff?
Jeff: No, I have one quick question for Gina. Do you believe the reports about the Shamu Nexus 6 Moto XYZ?
Mike: The Moto Nex.
Gina: I do, I do. I think that it makes sense that they are going to come out with a new device when they release L. It sounds like it is going to be big, 5.9 inches, which is bigger than the OnePlusOne, which is pretty big.
Jeff: How big is the OnePlus?
Gina: It is pretty big to begin with. This is 5.5. This is 5.5. Yeah, so it's going to be a big phone according to rumors. But yeah, rumors are saying that it is a Moto X like device. Motorola is going to go into manufacturing. Front facing speakers, pretty excited about that. It's coming obviously with L. Yeah, I think that sounds credible to me.
Gina: Yeah, you know, I forget now what the rumors were with timing, but it has got to happen before the holiday season, right? That makes sense.
Mike: It's got to be eminent.
Gina: Yeah, it's got to be eminent.
Mike: Yeah, and there are pictures circulating now that look to be pretty credible. We had a big discussion about it after Tech News Today, and it looks pretty real. Matthew, do you have anything that you want to throw into this? A tool, tip, or number, anything like that?
Matthew: Does it have to be Google related?
Matthew: Okay, so this is something interesting that I literally just came across before the show. Clay Shirky, who some of you may have heard of, media guru, happened to be in Hong Kong and wrote about the Occupy Hong Kong protests which is fascinating and I think you should read it. It's just a sort of one man wondering around and taking photos. He published it on GitHub, which is interesting. His blog, if you have ever been there, looks exactly like when WordPress launched 45 years ago. Maybe he's given up and gone to GitHub. I find it interesting because he's clearly experimenting.
Jeff: Is GitHub not blocked? Is GitHub not blocked in China and maybe WordPress is?
Matthew: That I don't know. That's a good question.
Jeff: I'm speculating.
Matthew: I just find the GitHub model for text for writing a fascinating deal so I'm interested to see him experimenting. I went to look at his article, and I think that it had only been up for an hour and there were already 3 poll requests and they were effectively typos that someone had noticed and suggested a correction. I think that is a fascinating sort of exercise in distributed writing for peer to peer.
Jeff: They asked before how GitHub could be used journalistically. I would love to see the speed of this really interesting experiment.
Matthew: Well, I would like to see as it goes on. It's about a controversial topic and there has got to be a lot of people interested. If it could be a comment kind of, you know if people could add to it and effectively take it, and change it, and stretch it, or add new things to it the way you do when it's software. I just find it fascinating.
Mike: That is fascinating.
Gina: Really neat.
Mike: By the way, Tommy Flowers in the chat room corrected me and said that they plural of Lego is not Legos, it's Lego. So if Facebook can apologize to the drag queens then I can apologize to the glassy yellow people and I am very sorry about that.
Matthew: It's like moose; it's singular and plural.
Jeff: I never heard that before.
Mike: Apparently it's true I guess. It has to be true, it's in the chat room. So my toy of the week is Path Talk. Path Talk is a messaging app that nobody uses, and it's a pretty ordinary messaging app. There is no reason to use it except for the reason that they gave us this week. That reason is that they now have a new tab called places. You go to the places tab, and you select a business of any kind, and then you ask them any question or ask to make a reservation or something like that. They say that we will get back to you in a few minutes. Then they come back with an answer or whatever it is. The way that this works is it is a human powered concierge service. They call the business, they get the answer, and then they chat you back as if they are the business. So here is an example. I sent a text on this to the North Coast Brewing Company, the tap room, I said do you have Lagunatis Maximus on tap? A couple of minutes later they got back to me, they said "Hello, we are sorry, we do not have Lagunatis Maximus. In case you would like to try out our drinks we are going to be open until 9:00. Have a great day."
Matthew: So that is a human being?
Mike: That is a human being. So this is especially great if a business is going to have an especially long hold time or they are going to give you the run around. Sometimes you are going to call a big department store to ask if they have something in stock. They have to go check and all of that kind of stuff. They do all of that stuff and then they come back to you with the answer. Obviously this is a money losing proposition for Path, but for those of us who don't want to waste time it is really fantastic.
Mike: It's called Path Talk. It's a human powered concierge. They also actually use a little bit of intelligence. For example, if you call to make a reservation and you say can you make a reservation at so and so restaurant at 7:00 and there is no availability they will make the reservation for 7:30. They will get back to you and say how about 7:30? I've made the reservation for 7:30 if you want it. If you say no I don't want that then they will go and cancel it or whatever. They are actually real people who are making real decisions and it's got a human touch to it.
Matthew: Are those human beings that Path employs? So they are Path employees who call the restaurant?
Mike: My guess is that this is offshored and outsourced. That is my guess because otherwise they would be nuts to just have people you know sitting in New York City paying New York City rent and New York City whatever.
Matthew: They effectively pay them to do this.
Mike: I believe so. This is an acquisition by Path. I don't recall the name of the company offhand, but they acquired a company that does this. Apparently they are using it a reason for you to go use their messaging service. I don't know how long it will last. In addition to using what is actually the FourSquare database of companies they are also augmenting it with their own. An interesting experiment that I had was I asked what the business hours and instantly I got back the posted business hours for that business. It said oh their posted hours are xyz. They still contacted them to verify that today's closing time was xyz and they got back to me with that information as well. So they have some automation, they have a database that is FourSquares, and they have their own database of information. Really fantastic; so far my experimentation has been kind of thrilling to use because usually information like this is cumbersome to get and they do it all. It's a great thing and it's free.
Matthew: But we know that humans don't scale.
Mike: That's right, they don't, but that's not my problem.
Gina: Yeah, use it while it is still around kids.
Matthew: Yeah, use it while it is still around.
Mike: Exactly, that is exactly right. Well, do you guys want to talk about anything else or should we close up the show? What do you think? Any other topics?
Gina: I think we are good. This was a great show.
Jeff: I think we are done with the show.
Mike: It's so great to be able to talk back. I listen to this show every single week, and it's just so great to be able to chime in. It's like I sit there and I talk to myself in the kitchen while I'm doing the dishes and listening to the show.
Jeff: No Jarvis you idiot, no!
Matthew: Oh, and I should point out that Kevin Tofill, one of our mobile writers, has already given me crap for dissing his video, his slow mo video of his dog Norm. I apologize unreservedly for that. Norm is excellent. You should all watch the video.
Mike: We love Kevin. He is a frequent guest on Tech News Today and he is a fantastic interview subject as well.
Matthew: You should have Norm on as well.
Jeff: He's a road guy for Android.
Mike: Absolutely. Well Gina Trapani, creator of thinkup.com, host of TWiT's All About Android, thank you so much for your never ending hosting skills.
Gina: Thank you so much for filling in for Leo. This was a lot of fun. Great show today, I really enjoyed it.
Mike: Thank you so much. Jeff Jarvis, Professor of Journalism at the City University of New York, author of Public Parts, What Will Google Do, and Gutenberg the Geek. Are you going to be impressed, do you think, by Eric Schmidt's book about Google, How Google Works?
Jeff: So I went to speak at Google and they gave me a copy of the book.
Jeff: Actually I enjoyed Larry's, my old bud Larry, Larry Davis' forward was actually very good, very brief, and we will talk about it next week. I'm going through some of the book. It's very business bookie.
Mike: Yeah, and Eric Schmidt's previous book, What About the Future, or something like that was almost unreadable it was so dull. If you want a great book about Google try What Would Google Do because it's thrilling to read. Matthew Ingram, Senior Writer at Gigaom, excellent writer, excellent observer of the journalism world; thank you so much for joining us today as our guest.
Matthew: Thanks for having me Mike.
Mike: We do This Week in Google every Wednesday at 1:00 pm Pacific, 4:00 pm Eastern, that's 2000 UTC. You can watch the show live at live.twit.tv every week or subscribe to the show at twit.tv/twig. Thank you for joining us today, all of you in the chat room and all of our hosts and guests today. Leo and the gang will all be back next time on TWiG. Thank you again! This has been another episode of TWiG.