This Week in Google 278 (Transcript)
Jason: Coming up on This Week in Google, I'm here in place of a sick Leo who's at home binge-watching Netflix. We've got Gina, we've got Jeff, we've got Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land. We're going to be talking all about Google's efforts to tailor its services to the younger generation. We're going to be talking about Google+ a little bit. We're going to be talking about CAPTCHAs and how Google's trying to make CAPTCHAs a little bit more friendly for humans. It's all coming up next on This Week in Google.
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Jason: This is TWiG, This Week in Google, episode 278 for Wednesday, December 3, 2014.
Google calls back
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It's time for TwiG, This Week in Google, where we get together and talk about Google, the Cloud, social, pretty much anything that the gang wants to talk about. I am obviously not Leo Laporte, my name is Jason Howell. I host a few other shows on the network, All About Android is one of them and if you like Google, maybe you like Android so maybe you've seen me over there. But this is my first TwiG. I'm a little intimidated, ain't gonna lie, but it's made a little easier because I have a lot of awesome people joining me on the show today.
First up, my cohort from All About Android, Gina Trapani. How you doing, Gina?
Gina: Good, good. Good to be here. It's so weird in a cool, awesome way to have you hosting TwiG. I love it. I saw you a mere 20 hours ago, Jason, doing All About Android. I love it.
Jason: It's like a reunion right now. We're one Ron shy of a reunion.
Gina: Yes, we are.
Jason: That's all right. Well, it's awesome to be doing a show with you less than 24 hours later.
Gina: Yes! Double it up.
Jason: And, of course, Jeff Jarvis joins us as well. How's it going, sir?
Jeff: All right, all right. We were doing pronunciation guide before the show on Leistungsschutzrecht. Jason, all ready?
Jason: Yes. So you sprung, literally ten seconds before we started, “Hey, you should learn this word.” And, Leistungsschutzrecht?
Jeff: Yes, you're getting there. You're getting there. That's all you need to know. That's it.
Jason: Okay. I'm going to forget it in like five seconds.
Jason: Leistungsschutzrecht. Yes, okay. I'm going to give up on that for now. And also joining us to fill out the panel today, Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land. How's it going, sir?
Daniel: Hey. Good, how are you? It's great to be here.
Jason: Excellent, super thrilled to have you join us today.
Jeff: Can I say something about you, Danny?
Jeff: So Danny and I were at the Newsgeist un-conference run by Google and the Knight Foundation at Phoenix University. I've always had immense respect for Danny, but after we had the session about what Google could do for news and Danny's insightful, incisive comments, I just left saying, “Damn, that guy is effing smart.”
Daniel: Aw, thank you.
Jeff: I've always been a fan, Danny. But boy, when you sit down to analyze one of the issues at hand, you really just are amazing at having the right perspective and the right way to say it. So I'm always happy when you're on the show.
Daniel: Well, thank you very much. It was good to be here. And it was fun being in Professor Jarvis' classroom.
Jason: Professor Jarvis.
Gina: I want video, I want video. Come on!
Daniel: Yes, for one of the sessions we all sat down in this classroom setting. I was like, “Wow, do I get to call you Professor?”
Jeff: That makes me feel very old, Danny. Very old.
Jason: So let's see here. So I was kind of poring through stories to fill out the dock. Of course, I'd say I'm closest to Android content, but wow, there's been no Android news. So let's not start there. How about we start with the thing that literally, I think I saw come through less than an hour ago but it kind of caught my attention. That is that Google is going to kind of put their efforts behind creating products and tailor products, their most popular products, for 12 and under. For children, essentially. Pavni Diwanji, who is the VP of Engineering at Google, told USA Today the company is looking to create these tailored versions of their services. She says the big motivator inside the company is everyone is having kids.
So there's a push to change the products to be fun and safe for children. It kind of goes without saying that kids under 13 and internet services have long kind of been considered off limits when it comes to these services. She said, “We aren't looking to play gotcha, it's just about kids being protected and promoting business compliance.” Kind of an interesting effort. I suppose it makes perfect sense that Google would want to do this. Google's always looking to kind of broaden their reach, broaden their scope and everything. Does it sound like this might be something that Google's going to have to kind of fight for in order to pull off successfully? What do you guys think?
Gina: It's so interesting that they said that they're doing this because lots of people at the company are having kids. That really struck me, right? Because, you know, Google is so grounded in geek culture and certainly there's this like, “Build the thing that you need, scratch your own itch.” We know that Google has this 20% time where you can build the products that matter to you. So of course, if Googlers are having more kids, they're going to focus more on kids. But that sort of thing makes me really nervous because what they're really saying is, “We build the things that we need ourselves.” If you look at Google's diversity numbers, we all know that people who work at Google are very well paid and of a certain class and often of a certain gender and color. So it makes me a little bit nervous. That said, you know, designing products for kids online gets a little tricky because of COPA, the Child Online Privacy Act.
Gina: There's a lot of pretty strict rules about what information you can collect, which is like none, and that kind of thing. So I wonder how Google's going to navigate that. I mean, when I worked on a social network, a very early social network back in the day called Bolt, which is no longer around. It was sort of like Facebook for high school students back in the day. That was a big deal, you know, the not signing up kids under 13 and kids lying about their age, which is what every kid does, especially now like on Xbox. It was always kind of a big deal and COPA, this looming thing that we were going to get caught for doing something wrong, was always kind of a big deal. So I wonder how they're going to handle that.
Jeff: Yes, I remember COPA was changed about a year ago. They made it basically more stringent in some ways that I thought was a bit silly. One example was, that if you try to do an educational game for students with geography tied to where they live, that would be PII, even knowing anything about what town they're in and you couldn't use that. So it's hard to imagine how Google can target services, personalized services, to a young person without getting in COPA trouble. I mean, I'm glad. I think making young people more literate about research and how to find things and all that is wonderful. But, boy, I do see. Danny, have you heard any rumblings about this is going to cause trouble for Google, too?
Daniel: In terms of having COPA stuff come in?
Jeff: Yes, privacy stuff and, “Oh my God, Google's trying to exploit children.”
Daniel: I was skimming through the article just now and you could see the Epic was already coming and saying, “We don't want to sell them products and stuff,” and whatever. So, yes, I'm sure that will come in as an issue for them. But, I guess I'm kind of -
Jeff: I wish journalists would find one other person than that made up organization. Just one.
Daniel: Yes. Well, someone's going to do it and if not, you know, in about a weeks someone in Congress will send a letter asking seven questions for Google to explain what their plans are. But, I think that – I think we're long overdue to recognize kids are getting online and using products and services from all sort of companies. The idea that you want to have them protected but, you know, my kids have had Facebook accounts and my youngest only just recently turned to the age where he could actually have one, right? You want to get them going with Google Play stuff, you even want to get them going on the Xbox, whatever. You're just making up stuff. So we've got protections that sometimes don't actually base themselves in the reality and it doesn't allow the companies to offer better things that they could do.
So, yes. I think it makes sense. It's kind of amusing though, because as I was skimming through it, one of the things that was motivating them was her daughter was searching for trains and didn't get Thomas the Tank Engine to come up, right? And I'm thinking, “Okay, it's not like Google hasn't thought for years they should have a kids' search engine.” It's not like we didn't have things like Yahooligans, which died. If anybody remembers it was Yahoo's thing. I suspect that what they're going to discover is, what might be a great idea it sounds like – it just makes me laugh, like, “And now we're having kids!” The company is 15 years old. The company has been having kids all along, okay? It's not like they just discovered this sort of thing but, you know.
Jeff: You know, I just looked up that Facebook said last year that they were going to develop services for under-13s and I don't think we've heard anything about that since, have we?
Daniel: No, but I suspect part of the problem is you – it sounds like a great idea, and then you develop it and it's like, “Well, how are you making money off of it?” Right? Because if you have ads that are targeting the kids, they come under especial scrutiny even if you're not personalizing the stuff to the kids. All you need is a kid going to a kids' search engine and doing a search, getting an inappropriate ad and it's even worse than if they used a regular search engine and they got the inappropriate ad.
Jeff: Danny, do they have to have ads? If you argue that this is a way to indoctrinate, brainwash and enslave little children as they get older to use the real thing.
Daniel: No, you don't have to and in fact, that's what Bing was doing with their Bing for Schools program, which is still running. I think they had some games with it where they were saying, “Look, we're going to give you a search engine that's doing no targeting, that's doing nothing whatsoever than to be out there so you can use it.” In fact, they poked back at Google because Google, if you recall, I think it was about a year ago – Google's program that they ran for kids in schools. They'll do the same sort of thing, give you a kid-friendly filtered search engine. But they had these terms that sort of suggested that they might still build up profiles. So you're all like, “Oh, so you're still building up profiles of the kids,” or whatever. And that didn't go well in some quarters, if I remember at all correctly. So you don't have to have it. But if you want to have a child-specific – you don't have to have it, but then the question is, what's your motivation in doing it?
So for Facebook, what's their motivation in building out a child service for kids? To capture them early, I suppose. But then they may just feel like, “Yeah, it sounds like a good idea but the kids are getting online already so we just sort of ignore all this.” It's solving a problem that maybe they don't necessarily have because the parents and everyone else are just solving it anyway, until someone sues them.
Gina: Well, and I mean, Chromebooks have a lot of young users, right? Because they're so popular in education. And, you know, Apple and part of the Mac's comeback had to do with it being so popular in elementary schools. I wonder if this is kind of a gateway or if this could be a gateway for Google creating a no-ad paid for product. I think there are parents that would pay $5 a month or whatever to have a kid-friendly Google that doesn't track their kids and doesn't advertise towards their kids but gives them kid-friendly search results and Thomas when they search for trains. But I don't know, maybe that's a whole different thing.
Jason: I could see that.
Jeff: Boy, isn't that a can of worms, Gina, when you define kid friendly across this country?
Gina: Yes, that's true.
Jeff: No... evolution? No evolution.
Gina: Absolutely. No, no, it is a can of worms. I'm wondering more about the pay for – I know, I think there was, we covered an article a few episodes back where I think Larry Page was talking about different initiatives they considered inside Google. One of those things was the option to pay for, a customer pay for a Google account without being advertised to. Was that an option? And I wonder. I wonder if Google ever really considers that as a different business model because they're just so heavily, you know. Their main revenue is about advertising. That's got to worry them that their primary source of income is advertising when a kid's product like that just isn't suited toward that business model.
Jason: Yes, maybe then it is just less about making money directly off the kids by serving ads and more just giving them the tool that they're already going to use anyway but in the long term, you know, like you were saying, Jeff. Kind of embolden – kind of attaching them to Google's services. Almost like, you know, advertisements for Coca Cola. You see the billboard for Coca Cola. That's not necessarily going to push you out to go buy a Coca Cola because we all know Coca Cola at this point. But it kind of confirms your belief in Coca Cola. It's like, “Yeah. That's up there and I see it and identify with it.” It's like confirmation that you're making the right decision. Same could apply here. It's not necessarily a direct money grab at kids, throwing ads at them or whatever, but kids are doing this anyways, right? Like we were talking about, parents are creating accounts for their kids so that they can get on and send email. Nowadays, in school, now more than ever the internet is intrinsically a part of how children learn. I have to imagine a lot of that starts before the age of 13. So how do you approach that with kids that are younger than 13?
Jeff: How old are your kids, Danny?
Daniel: Mine are 13 and 15. So they're just in that transition age right now.
Jeff: Right, exactly. I went to Henry Blodgett's business insider conference and he pulled a great trick that Web 2.0 conference used to do of having a panel of teenagers talk about their uses. So standard questions are, are they using Facebook? Is Instagram their social network? Where are they on what services they use?
Daniel: They're big on Instagram, you know, more than Facebook. A little bit more on Twitter. So their Facebook is actually relatively minimal, which is just interesting. They don't use Snapchat, which surprised me, because apparently everybody uses Snapchat. But they don't do much Snapchatting or whatever. So, they don't use Google+.
Daniel: They do use Google and they do a lot on the Xbox, actually. You know, they connect with a lot of their friends on the Xbox. I think Xbox sometimes gets under-credited for the amount of social activity it has on there. I think that's all down to Microsoft doing a really poor job of bringing it off the Xbox platform. But, you know, my son the other day, we were playing and I had sent him a message and said, “Why didn't you answer me?” And he said, “Why didn't you send me an Xbox chat thing?” And I was like, “Because I'm really old?”
Jason: Because I don't have an Xbox right in front of me here at work.
Daniel: I thought just yelling really loudly from downstairs was going to be effective but, you know.
Gina: I find those panels or those – a friend of mine published an interview with his 14-year-old niece about – I feel it's really weird. You're never going to find a panel of teenagers that represent all teens. It's just strange. I feel like adults, you could get 100 opinions about what social networks they use and I feel like it's the same thing with teenagers. I mean, my 14-year-old niece says she doesn't use Facebook because the old people took over, you know? Her mom's really big, uses Facebook a lot and I have nephews who are on Facebook and also Xbox is a big one. I just think it really depends on the kid and the region and the age and what their friends are doing. What sort of caught fire in their particular class? I don't know. I just feel like when we're like, “Oh, what are the kids doing?” There's just no straight answer for that, you know?
Jeff: That's a good point. So what about you, mother of young one? Does a kiddie version of Google sound appealing?
Gina: Yes, I mean, it does. It does. I mean, I don't know. I really wrestle with what it's going to be like when Etta starts experimenting and looking at things. She's already wanting to play with all my devices.
Jason: It only gets worse, Gina.
Gina: Yes, I'm sure.
Jason: And fast, yes.
Jeff: How old are yours, Jason?
Gina: Yes, Jason is closer. He's definitely closer than I am. I mean, your kids are downloading games and...
Jason: Yes, so I have a 1- and a 4-year-old, almost 5-year-old. You know, she has – I have the Nexus 6 with Lollipop. It has a profile on it for her that I specifically use so that my Youtube and whatever doesn't get filled with Frozen, Barbie doll movies and everything. But, yes. I agree with you, though, Gina. It's a really tough question to answer when it comes to your kids. Because I feel like we're kind of in this weird zone where we're learning, along with everybody else, what's appropriate for really young children when it comes to the internet. On one hand, you want to protect them from the dangers of the internet and the bad things they can find and everything. But on the other hand, the future lies and the present – very much the present, but also the future lies in internet technologies. I don't want to hold my kid back and deny the fact that these things exist and you know what? Chances are, a lot of, most of your future, at least in the near term is going to revolve around this technology. So embrace it versus fear it. It's a different, very fine line though. You know, I don't know. That's kind of how I feel about it.
Gina: It's true. I mean, my plan is really to have no plan. I'm going to just let her show me what she's interested in. But I realize if I show her – you know, I showed her one Elmo video on Youtube a few months ago. Now, all she wants is Youtube and more playlists on Youtube and Elmo on Youtube. So anything I kind of just give her a taste of, she wants more because it's compelling and the tablet is just laying around the house. As soon as she sees the tablet – also, you know, we video chat with family members. So in my mind, I'm like, “I'm going to let her guide me,” but I also realize that what I show her, she wants more of. So it's really, I'm kind of taking it as it comes.
Jason: Fair enough. And, Jeff, what you were talking about, the Business Insider's IGNITION Conference, a few interesting things just to kind of summarize that real quick here. A group of New York teens that were kind of interviewed on what we're talking about right now about productivity, how they work at school, do their work at school and beyond. A couple of interesting things that they pointed out – of course, this could be regional, kind of like what you were talking about, Gina. Different around different areas of the country, but they say collaboration and mobility all revolve around the internet for their work. That makes perfect sense.
See, Google Drive dependency is huge. Google Drive is it.
Jeff: This is informative of a story we just discussed.
Jason: Yes, exactly.
Jeff: Because this is strategic.
Jason: Yes, exactly. From an early state, they are relying – most of their work is dependent on Google Drive.
Jeff: Microsoft? What's Microsoft?
Jason: Exactly, no Microsoft, no Word, no Office.
Daniel: Sadly, I still have plenty of demands that I've got to install Word, because our school still wants things written in Word.
Jeff: Yes, I wouldn't think of the school as - (crosstalk)
Jason: I wouldn't count Microsoft out as completely. I wish it would, because I don't ever want to install software again so they can write a 3-page essay. Oh my God.
Gina: Dumb question, can't they use Google Docs and then export it as a Word doc?
Jeff: No, my daughter screams at me and says the professor – the professors. The teachers don't want this and they want Word, and this reason and that reason. Yes, I've tried to convert it over.
Gina: That sounds like writing a book. Ugh.
Jason: Then, finally, because I think this totally relates as well. Some new data from IDC are actually pointing to Google's Chromebooks overtaking the presence of Apple iPads in US schools. They noted 715 thousand Chromebooks shipped in the third quarter compared to 702 thousand iPads shipped to schools in the third quarter. Citing all the things I've heard about on This Week in Google, anyways, and I completely agree, I'm using a Chromebook Pixel right now and I love it. Lower cost, although the Pixel is not lower cost, but most of the time they're lower cost. So, bad comparison.
Jeff: Well, there were great Black Friday sales. There was $149, I think it was – I forget which brand. But one of the other ones, and I actually bought the Toshiba. The only thing that bothers me about it is, it doesn't have LTE but it's HD screen, nine hours – the reason I bought it was because when I go to Europe and stuff, I can get more airplane time on it without plugging in. So nine hours battery, faster processor than the Pixel. I'll see how it works, but it's just amazing. I got that for $267 with HD. It's amazing, the prices now.
Jason: I mean, Chromebooks are regularly -
Daniel: What are you going to do on it, though, for nine hours without an internet connection?
Jeff: I write stuff.
Daniel: Oh, okay.
Jason: Oh, yes, exactly. And there are ways to work offline as well. Let's see here, better security measures is another one, which I think is a pretty big deal when you're talking about schools, you know, all the different users. Which this kind of harkens back to our discussion earlier. You almost need – well, you need a Google account to use a Chromebook, right?
Daniel: Yes. But, I mean, you can have Google accounts if you're under 13, I'm pretty sure. I can't remember if I faked the numbers or not, but you can have them.
Gina: Google Apps for education have to allow for that, yes. There has to be some way. I mean, you can browse as Guest. You can use a Chromebook as a guest, but you definitely would want a Google Account so I wonder what's – (crosstalk)
Jason: Particularly if the Drive integration is a such a big deal.
Jeff: Whoa, whoa, wait a second. Nope, “Below are the minimum age requirements to own a Google account. US 13, Spain 14, South Korea 14, Netherlands 16, all other countries,” I'll put it in the chat. “All other countries 13.”
Gina: Netherlands, 16? I wouldn't have called that. I would've thought they would be nine.
Jeff: I wouldn't either. I just put that in the Doc chat. Or the chat chat, sorry.
Jason: Also, another reason, full keyboard. So, you know, once the iPad came along, the tablet era began or re-began, depending on how you look at it. People are kind of wondering, hey, are keyboards going to be useless in ten years when our kids who are growing up using devices that have touchscreens and everything, learn on that at first and continue on.
Jeff: Yes, but you can't – you still need a keyboard.
Jason: Yes, more and more it's proving to be the case.
Jeff: I saw, some country, I forget where it was. But some country was going to basically stop teaching penmanship and just teach typing.
Jason: Not surprised at all.
Jeff: Well, they might as well have not taught me because mine is the worst. Here's my penmanship.
Jason: I can read a word.
Gina: I sort of see, you can sort of print too. It's funny, I think cursive is a complete waste of time. I print, but I do it quickly so it's a little bit scripty. I mean, the lines and words kind of move together. But I feel like, yes, if you can print and it's legible, just skip the cursive and go straight to typing.
Jeff: I wish I was a British journalist, because you're forced to learn shorthand.
Gina: Shorthand? Oh.
Jeff: That would have been a good skill.
Gina: That's a superpower, for sure.
Jason: I guess you could take a shortcut and get a cursive font that you use.
Gina: Or you just tap the “Record” button on your phone. That's another idea.
Jason: That's true, that's very true. Hey, let's take a break and thank our first sponsor of today. This is actually a sponsor that I only got to play with this morning for the first time but I think it's awesome, and it's brilliant. It kind of harkens back to what we were talking about with children.
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This is supposed to be a noisemaker. So let's see here. We've got these different modular pieces. So they connect by magnet, right? So I can take this, which is the pulse module, and this which is the buzzer module, snap it together. Then I can take this, which – oh, here it is. The power module, snap that on the side. Plug it into a battery, ah! Hold on. Oh no, oh no, game over!
No, okay. I've recovered. See, that's how easy it is to recover when you totally mess up. Then – (machine beeping). Hey, what do you know? I just built an alarm out of components, just snapping them together. They way that they snap together basically prevents you from connecting it wrong, because they're magnets. They're polarized magnets, so it doesn't allow you to snap it together incorrectly. That's just one of the kits that you find in the manual. It's just filled with tons of these kits. Honestly, this is the perfect time for something like littleBits. Obviously, it's the holiday season. It's a perfect holiday gift. You can actually fit this whole box into a stocking, a large stocking, but it would fit.
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Jeff: So cool.
Jason: Yes, it really is.
Gina: Really, really cool. I want that.
Jason: It's a lot of fun. Let's see here. So is there anything that you guys are particularly charged up about, talking about? Like Google+? Do you want to go down the Google+ rabbit hole right now? What do you think?
Gina: Yes, let's do it.
Jason: All right. I'm curious to see where this heads. I personally love Google+, use it all the time.
Gina: Before we start, is Mike in the studio? Is he listening right now? I need to know before we start.
Daniel: You are in your underground bunker so I think you'd be all right.
Jason: That's true, Mike can't reach you. Also, it's his birthday today. So he's probably in a particularly good mood and I don't think he's here anymore. I think he's actually celebrating his birthday, which is what he should be doing, really.
Gina: Okay, so I can say whatever I want about Mike.
Jason: It's cool.
Daniel: He'll never hear any of this.
Jason: Totally, it's not recorded in any way.
Daniel: Is this a safe zone?
Gina: It's just us. It's just us girls, let's do it.
Jeff: Gina, Mike's off having 450 thousand people wish him a happy birthday on Google+.
Gina: That's right.
Jason: No big deal.
Gina: No big deal.
Jason: So let's see here. What are we talking about? Chris Messina, who is the former developer, advocate and US designer for Google+ took to Medium and kind of came out swinging against his old project. He wrote about how Google+ has messed up, I'll say, although he didn't use those words. He used, you know, words that I can't say and dropped the ball. He complains about how David Besbris, who's Google's head of social media, has pretty much said nothing publicly about his vision for Google+ since he took his role a few months back. Chris also points out the iOS updates to the Google+ app have literally trickled over the last year while competing services have iterated quickly and shown that they're much more, in his mind, dedicated to the platform. Chris also argues that not one social network like Facebook should have such a demanding lead in the space and a company like Google is one of the very few that has the resources to successfully take it on. Yet that doesn't seem to be happening.
So, you know, he's basically asking why Google+ exists for Google. The company isn't going to use it as universal repository for our identities within Google, citing that Google took a conventional approach rather than a forward-looking approach to his challenging in the social network space. That's kind of where this all starts. Did you guys get a chance to read Chris' post on Medium?
Jeff: I did to hear what my colleagues think, yes.
Jason: What do we think, starting there?
Gina: So I'm always a little, I don't know. I'm always surprised when an engineer, anyone really, publicly calls out a former employee or a former team that they used to work with. That always makes me stop and question it. I did it once with Lifehacker. I regretted it later. Because it's one of those things where, you know, you can talk to people internally but look. It's funny, Chris wrote this because he had tweeted and kind of snarked about how Google+ had this bug which it actually turned out it was not a bug at all. It was a Chrome extension that he'd had installed that was buggy. So I feel like this was him just explaining why he was kind of a jerk on Twitter about it. Even when it wasn't true.
I think that it's totally reasonable to question what's going on with Google+, because Google isn't telling us what's going on with Google+. So I think it makes sense to question it. But I found Chris' reasons why he thinks it's not going anywhere kind of vague and not really well backed up. So, I thought Mike Elgin, not to jump to the next thing, but Mike responded point by point. We all know that Mike has a huge followership on Google+, has been a very passionate, ardent user of Google+ since the very beginning. I actually found Mike's response to be a little more religious. He's just super zealous about it and I get it. He's had a really good experience with Google+. So I'm kind of somewhere in between the two. I've just stopped -
Jeff: Do you read any Rosenblatz, Gina?
Gina: I didn't, let's see here.
Jeff: Because Chris linked to it, I put it up right before the show. It's interesting, because what it really goes into is the idea that what Google+ could, perhaps should have been was not Facebook Lite but was Google Me, and was the opportunity for a personal data marketplace. A data repository, a data storage, I'm not exactly sure what. So it's interesting to think what Google+ could have been. I have to ask, well, the other guys see two things going on. One is that Chris is seeing Google+, no matter what they say, kind of orphaned in terms of what development is happening and what's going on. But on the other hand, it's not too late to make Google+ into something. My last point on this one, before we move to Danny, is that I put up a post last week on the Germans. Don't worry, we won't do Leistungsschutzrecht this week. But the discussion on Google+ beat the discussion anywhere else. I still find that the case and I still find better discussion there. I don't want Google+ to die, which is what I feared that Chris was kind of warning.
Gina: Yes, it seems like everybody wants us to talk about how much Google+ has failed, but these are all folks that don't use it. Google+ did nail – I mean, there's a couple of really good points of Google+ and if you interact on it, it's a great – I mean, what? We have a community for All About Android, it's fantastic. We run our polls there now, it's fantastic. I just find it really – it feels like everyone is kind of like, “Oh, gotcha! Google put something out there and it failed. They did it again! They failed with Buzz and they failed with Wave and now they're failing with Google+!” It's just a weird thing, especially since if you look at Google+ holistically, which is as a platform and not a social network newsfeed, it's wildly successful and I use it every single day. I use Google+ Photos, I use Hangouts, I sign into my Google+ profile. It's comments on Youtube, it's comments in the Play Store.
Jeff: You feel a lot closer to Mike than you do to Chris.
Gina: Well, you know, I just don't interact on Google+ a whole lot, just because I don't know why. I don't know. I reach for Twitter more quickly.
Jeff: Right this moment, there are some city – just a discussion. There are some Google City experts who have a picture of them watching TWiG live, so let's give them a shoutout. Where did they put it? On Twitter.
Gina: On Twitter.
Jason: That's Mateo Doni, he's a repeat guest on All About Android. There he is. Hey, how's it going, Mateo?
Jason: The link's in the Doc, it's below it.
Gina: I like Twitter because it's low effort, right? I'm just lazy. It's easier for me to tweet things than to put – one time, like entering -
Jeff: Yes, but it's high troll.
Gina: It's high troll. That is true, it is high troll, for sure. Hey, hey Mateo!
Jason: So I love Google+, use it all the time, I would say more than anything, it gets used for the stuff I do here at TWiT and because, you know, part of what Chris is saying here is that Google+ has ended up being less of an identity thing and more of an interest service. He's saying, “Is that enough? It could have been so much more and now it's basically glorified forums of some sort,” or whatever. But it's true. The conversation you get on Google+ is unlike the conversation I get anywhere else. Maybe you could liken it to something as active as Reddit, perhaps. You post a Reddit post, you put it up there and it happens to be in this particular buckets, you know, the Android sub-Reddit or the Apple or whatever it happens to be. So you're surrounded by all these other people that feel just the same way that you do. Because they're following it and then they all pile in and create this great conversation around this particular thought. Google+ definitely feels like that and I don't know. Could it have been more? Did they mess up the opportunity? I guess there's still time. There's still hope that Google could do something more with it. But every time they try and do something more with it, tie it to your social identity or your online Google identity to Google+, people backlash because they say, “Don't force me to use Google+. Don't force me into your social plan because that's not why I use your stuff.”
Daniel: Yes. I mean, I... am not sure quite where to begin on it. You know, I think that Google+ is a failure in the sense of, from my perspective, is it top of the line for a lot of digital and social marketers? And no, it is not. It is not after, what, are we three years into it? When Dave Besbris had that long interview, I posted it and I said, “0:38:59.3?” and other people are like, “Here's a long interview that basically tells us nothing. In fact, not only tells us nothing about what's going on, but doesn't even give us figures on their user growth,” which is the first time they've done that in as long as I can imagine. Which was not a positive thing, because you can argue about the user numbers all you want but if you don't even give them out anymore, that's just not a positive thing. Because, if you post something about Google+ on Google+ and it is even remotely negative about Google+, everyone comes out of the woodworks and just starts yelling.
Interestingly, by the way, and that's part of the difference. You know, one of the things that Google+ is very successful for, and I think counts as a big win, as I've written before is, it is a great place for the fan people. Okay? And it is a great place for the Android fanatics. Anything to have to do with Google, that is a home for those people that Google's not happy for. It is the Apple Store of Google, right? So kudos to them, they've done that, but I quite often can share things across all three major social networks to me: Twitter, Facebook and Google. It is only on Google+ where the Google+ stuff has to come into the big discussion about, is Google+ great? Is Google+ being attacked? Is this a whatever? People on Facebook don't have those kinds of debates because people on Facebook are not trying to figure out whether Facebook should exist or not. It does exist. They see the value in it. They've moved along from that sort of thing. So to come back when I did this post after three years and I was saying, “Look, it was fine in year one to say that when I would encounter different social marketers or whatever, they'd be like, 'I don't know if I should be doing this,' or whatever. You'd be like, 'Yes, you really should be doing it, if only because you had a search optimization benefit that came with it.'” You get into like year two and they're still not kind of doing it. But they are doing things like Pinterest, right? People won't even question that they should be doing Pinterest but they can't even take the times to major brands to take five minutes to make their page or simply share the same thing they put on Facebook, on Google+. It is not that hard to do and they don't even see the value in doing that. So when you get into year three and Google has taken away some of the value of Google+ in the form of, say, authorship or whatever.
We're still having this discussion about, “Well, people don't get it,” or, “These people don't use Google+.” It's like, you know what? We're at the tipping point. It's not a question of, “Well, they don't use Google+ and they don't get it.” It's a question of, why after three years do so many people clearly not feel compelled that they need to use Google+? So that's where I would say it's been a failure in terms of it being a standalone social network. If the goal was to have it come up and be Google's Facebook, which they never said was their plan but obviously was their plan, their hope and their dream.
Jeff: I have a question for all three of you.
Jeff: What are the odds, give me a timetable, let's say within two years, is Google+ still alive?
Gina: Google+ the social network.
Daniel: Yes, it's still there.
Jason: I would say so.
Gina: Yes, I actually really – Danny, you made a really good point in that they made a social network for super users. Maybe it's just that, you know. Maybe that's good enough.
Daniel: That's a success, and that's what I mean. You can say it's a failure on one hand but a great thing in other things. There's a photo community that is there and in fact, perhaps there's an argument that Google+ has become the new Flickr in some ways, for a certain group of people. So they have different audiences and maybe there are things that they can do with it. It's been interesting to also watch them do stuff like, you know, Google Photos. What I think, to your question, Jeff, is what happens is Google+ the social network is still there but parts of it start getting broken up and become more substantial on their own. Google Photos is a good example of that. Google Photos is an awesome, awesome product that if it were released from people still feeling like it's tied to Google+, as they're doing, I think even more people would do it. Why you wouldn't be using Google auto backup for all your devices, because not everybody has an iPhone, yet you can use it on everything? Well, you can't use it on Windows phone, but interesting Windows Phone Backup you can use or OneDrive you can use on all three of the smartphones.
But, you know, Microsoft still has some challenges there. But the Google Photo option is wonderful. I think they were smart when they brought it out as a Photo app. I think as they get people using that, even if there's not the social aspect necessarily, there's an opportunity for them to maybe do more with Google Photos. Maybe Google Photos can be kind of an Instagram type of thing. There's this whole argument that, are we going into this era of social networks that are no longer the all-in-ones like Facebook. The real future is, as Facebook seems to think, we just keep building all these little specialty types of things. So, you know, anyways I'm sure it will be there. I just think you're not going to see a lot of further development into that particular platform. If you do see new social efforts, they will probably be more standalone social efforts that may tie into Google+ in some ways and other parts of Google. But I don't think you're going to see them as big things within Google+ itself.
Gina: Yes, I mean, it does feel like all the features in the social app like +1s and comments and those are things – and authorship, but authorship got taken away. But those are things you see elsewhere on the web. It seems like Google's building these features out and, yes, they're all a part of social network but it doesn't feel like that's code that's, you know, specific. Chris Messina did say, Google only invests in the projects that are doing really well. They killed Wave because they had less than one million users, right? But in so many ways, Wave lived on in Google Docs. You see so many of the features and now Google+ with Polls. So I don't know. I do think it's going to be around in some form, but maybe it'll be broken out into a separate app and maybe not as central. I think that they launched it with the idea that this was going to be the central hub and it didn't get the reaction to get the users they thought it would. So now they're breaking it out.
Jason: Yes, and they certainly had the ambition in the beginning. Whether they said they did or they didn't now, they had the ambition for this to be a big, all-encompassing social network. Now, over the last three years, it's kind of settled into a comfortable niche, tailored-to-niche zone that it is right now. It's not a bad thing, it's just different.
Jeff: You're right. I think Danny's point is great but there's another analysis. The other analysis is that Google needed more social signals. Facebook had the monopoly of the social signals. Google has social signals, has contextual signals out of Android for a lot of users. But it didn't have social signals and connections and social graph and all that to make for a better Google as a service and a better Google as an advertising company.
Daniel: Absolutely, and -
Jeff: But Danny, I think what I'm saying is, if that ambition was there, that's dead.
Daniel: I think that's a real problem that they have too, is if you go back before we got Google+, they wrote out Google+1 and they said Google+1 was going to be really important for them to have new signal to use in search. They only got Google+, you know, that we're putting all this together. But then the +1s were dropped out of search. Google+, your connections on Google+ still can trump every other factor on search. If you are logged into Google and you are connected with a brand or person and do a Google search, all that stuff about you got to get links or have to have H1 tags, got to have 0:46:46.3? All that gets tossed out the windows. I just did a search for Mike Elgin, right? I just searched for his name. The second thing that came up after his name on Google+ was his response to Chris Messina, which is ranking high because I'm connected to him. So it's figuring out I want to do this. But I do think they have this issue where they wanted those social signals and they couldn't get them from Twitter because their deal was crawling through. They didn't want to get it from Facebook because they just didn't want to agree to Facebook's terms and that all never happened. But it may be that, yes, they still have enough of the signals that are coming in to give them some reassurance, but they still may need to do more. But they are kind of stalled because I still tend to feel like they need something other than the link reliance that they still really depend on.
Jeff: Yes. Gina, you were going to say something?
Gina: But Google has Gmail, I mean, they have our email. So when you say social signals, I mean they have your contact list in Gmail and your messages, the people you send, I feel as though those are even stronger signals than anything that you post publicly. But of course, you don't have things like links shared or thumbs up or +1s or comments on links. But I don't know, it seems like they have our email.
Daniel: They can get some of that and we can share links of it but if you think of it in terms of a ranking signal, Google's predominant measure is we analyze links across the web and try to figure out those that sort of have the reputable links in context, right? So that's why when you – Amazon has a lot of links but when you search for “cars” they don't come up because nobody links to them with the word cars, right? But people do link to Amazon and say “books” a lot and they're reputable sites. You can do that sort of thing with Social, where you say, “Well, this brand has a lot of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google, therefore we think it is a very good authority.” So you could then apply, and if you could see the linkage between the brand's social accounts and their own website then you could apply some of that authority to the website and give them a boost that way. You can also then do the leveraging of, “Well, we've seen a lot of shares of this particular article. Wow, everybody's into Kim Kardashian's photo, so you know, we're going to give that some extra credit,” or whatever. That kind of goes into it as well. It is true that you have an issue that not everything gets liked that we like. But that's even more an issue when it comes to links.
Think of all the things that you like in your life, all the businesses that you're really pleased about that you have a good experience with or whatever, and how often do you actually go back and write a blog post about them, make sure to link to them, make sure the link didn't have a no follow that got put on to it or these other things that go on there? In contrast, I think arguable many more people who like things are actually using social to give those signals. So it was like two years ago and I talked about this thing, like social is when everybody gets to vote. What I was saying was, when you use links as a method of trying to figure out who should get votes for search rankings, it is like you are saying democracy in the United States when it started was, “Everybody gets to vote as long as they're 35 years old and older, owned land and are white.” You know? Most people are kind of disenfranchised if your idea on how you count votes comes down to links. So I think social is really important for them, but it's still kind of early days on how they're figuring all that out. Google+, if that was going to be the solution, has gotten them a bit closer to it but still has a ways to go.
Gina: They definitely didn't succeed in that way. But I see your point that those are the social signals they were looking for.
Jason: Yes, Google+ is one more reason for someone to log into their browser the minute they turn on their computer as well. So all that extra information that it gets by just you being logged into your Google account on your browser -
Jeff: Don't get me started on logging in, Stella. Don't get me started. This is your four minutes of Jarvis rant. I'm still having fits about double accounts. When I got the Nexus 6, it was driving me bananas. Google doesn't have the opportunity to know the full me. Google thinks I'm schizo. It thinks there's two of me, and they're doubly separate. It makes me schizo to try to deal with it.
Jason: That wasn't four minutes. Come on, I was expecting something a little longer than that, but that's okay.
Jeff: I'll go easy on you because you're the new kid.
Jason: All right, I appreciate that. Let's take a break. Let's let Jeff calm down a little bit. Just a little bit, because we got to keep him amped up a little bit for the rest of the show. We're going to take a break, but we want to thank another sponsor of today's episode. That would be SmartThings, creating things for your home, essentially.
SmartThings lets you control and monitor your home from anywhere in the world using your Smartphone. They have all of these modules, these components, to building a smart home. So this is the hub. This is basically what all these components tie into. There's the Ethernet port down there. You connect this to your home network and the, by way of all of these different components, that's the multi-Smart sensor that can do things like make sure or at least alert you if you've left the garage door open. There's the moisture sensor if you want to monitor whether you might have a leakage in a room or something along those lines. All of these different modules talk to this hub to let you know, basically, whatever you want to know. You can actually get in there and kind of design your smart home from the ground up. Depending on if you have developer abilities as well, you can really get into the nitty-gritty and program something really unique. There's a motion sensor right here. Tons of components here with SmartThings that allow you to do just all sorts of cool, crazy things.
With the SmartThings app, you can easily see what's happening in every room from your device. All of your connected devices report into this app, it's like having your home in the palm of your hand. The app is free, of course, the SmartThings app. It's available for iOS, Android and Windows phone. The really great thing about SmartThings is the possibilities are truly endless. SmartThings Family has Smart sensors and outlets, work with hundreds of connected devices including offerings from Logitech, Dropcam, Nest, Sonos, even Phillips Hue. If you're a developer, like I said, you can create new ways to use SmartThings. Then, not only that, so you've created this awesome, cool thing that helps you out. You can publish it for everyone else to use. So SmartThings recently announced that in 2015, you'll also be able to control and automate a variety of Samsung appliances, including refrigerators, washer and dryers, air conditioners, even a robotic vacuum. Super cool stuff that you can do. It's literally one of those things where the imagination can run wild and you can just, you know. What is your dream Smart home look like? SmartThings helps you facilitate that and take that into your own hands. To get started creating your own Smart home, visit SmartThings.com/twit. You're going to save 10% off any home security or solution kit by just entering the code TWIT10 at checkout. For fans of TWiT, solution kits start at only $170 and home security kits start at $350. Each kit includes a SmartThings hub with everything you'll need to turn your home into a Smart home in as little as 15 minutes. You'll also get free shipping within the US.
So take a minute, go to SmartThings.com/twit and check it out for yourself. Remember to enter the code TWIT10 at checkout. We thank SmartThings for their continued support of This Week in Google and the rest of the TWiT network. Good to have you guys on board.
All right. So, Brian, I didn't warn you about this part. But do you know a little something about the Google change log, perhaps?
Jason: Let's do it.
Voiceover: The Google change log.
Jason: Gina Trapani with this week's Google change log.
Gina: Thank you. Thank you, Jason and Brian. So look, I've got to warn you. It's the week after Thanksgiving. There's not a lot here but we have a couple of things.
Just today, Google released a new Android app called Device Assist. It offers live tech support, troubleshooting, tips and more. The catch is, it's only for Nexus, Google Play edition and Android 1 devices.
Jason: I have it installed. I can show it while you talk about it. I don't know if you have the overhead.
Gina: That's great. So in addition to offering quick access to Google support, the app detects issues in the device's setup, makes suggestions on things like GPS, connectivity and battery settings to improve overall performance. It gives you kind of like proactive troubleshooting to help you sort of get the most out of your device.
Jason: It's like tips.
Gina: How is it looking to you, Jason? Do you get like a live Googler on the line? Is it like the Amazon?
Jason: Okay, well, looking for help, send device information to Google for improved technical support, see Google's... okay, sure. I don't know what I'm about to do here.
Gina: Are you about to launch a help out here?
Jeff: Oh, you can request a call back. Wow.
Jason: Request a call back, provide a backup number if you can. “Phone issues will be easier to solve if we can call you on a different phone.”
Jeff: Wait, is it illegal to like, call them right now and see what they do?
Daniel: Yes, of course it is.
Jason: So you're telling me to do it, then.
Daniel: Yes! Tell them to call you back. See how long it takes.
Jason: Oh, that's a – oh, see. Oh.
Jason: Oh, really, I have to enter information?
Gina: (crosstalk) – your phone number?
Jason: Google, don't you know this about me already?
Gina: It's an app on your phone. It didn't ask for access to your number?
Daniel: Cover it.
Jason: That's really weird. (making noises)
Gina: Yes, now I feel like we're putting you on the spot here, Jason.
Jason: “Describe your issue.” It's only optional so I don't have to actually describe me issue, so I won't.
Gina: “I'm live in a Google-related podcast and I'd like for you to comment on Device Assist. That's my issue.”
Jeff: Right now, someone's calling someone at Google and saying, “Get ready, here comes Jason!”
Jason: Yes, exactly. “We want to call really, really fast, right? We want everyone to know that this works right away.” So I guess I would just wait and see, then. I'm sure at some point I'll get a phone call and it will buzz on my wrist, by the way. So I'll really know when it comes through. Detected issues, I don't have an issues on the Nexus 6. So apparently I'm good. But it also has this tips column for – and I think, actually, this is a really good idea. Because so many times, things inside Android are just kind of buried. You kind of have to discover them, or know that they're there, or long press something randomly and, “Oh, hey, I didn't know it did that!” So this is good. This is really good.
Jeff: Like having a little Gina Trapani there to tell us what.
Jason: Exactly. It should be called the Trapani Tip.
Jeff: Yes. You know, one of the things we do in the academe is we observe our colleagues and write memos about it -
Jason: Oops, I'm getting a call, by the way.
Jeff: Oh, oh, go!
Jason: This is Jason. Oh, hold on. Oh, it's -
Speakerphone: Thank you for contacting Google. My name is Tom. Am I speaking with Jason?
Jason: Wow. Yes, you are. How's it going, Tom?
Speakerphone: Hey, Jason. I'm doing well, thanks. It looks like you set up a call with our new Device Assist app. That's pretty awesome. What can I help you out with today, Jason?
Jason: I have to be completely honest. I called, A, to see how fast you would call because I'm very curious. I think this is a great feature. B, I'm doing a show called This Week in Google, where we talk all about Google things and you're on the air right now. So you're famous.
Gina: Hi, Tom.
Speakerphone: Thanks, Jason. I really appreciate that, man.
Jason: You know, that call back only took, man, what? 30 or 45 seconds? That was super impressive. This is very cool and a great service you guys have. I just wanted to call and see how it goes. I appreciate your time and sorry to bother you.
Jeff: What are some of the first questions he's getting? Has he gotten any questions yet?
Speakerphone: You're not a bother at all.
Jason: So before I let you go, what are some of kind of the first questions you're getting? Are you getting a lot of these kinds of questions or are you also getting actual service support questions?
Speakerphone: Well, my shift just started about ten minutes ago, so I haven't really gotten many calls yet. You're actually my first call of the day. So, you know what? I guess it's yet to be determined what kind of questions we're going to be super fielding.
Jason: So your first call ever doing this is live before thousands of people.
Jeff: How much training did he have?
Jason: How much training did you have?
Gina: This poor guy.
Speakerphone: A few weeks.
Jeff: Are you in a nice warm place or a cold place?
Jason: Are you in a warm place or cold place? That's Jeff Jarvis, one of the hosts on the show.
Speakerphone: I'm in a cold place right now. It's real windy and rainy today.
Jeff: Well, that's not fair. They should be moving you to California.
Jason: You are in California, correct?
Speakerphone: Yes, northern California.
Jason: We're experiencing the same weather. We're up in Petaluma so we have it right out the window as well. Hey, don't want to bother you. But I really appreciate your time and you know, check out This Week in Google, you're on it.
Speakerphone: Well, Jason, I'm real glad I was able to help you out with those questions today. I just want to let you know, at the end of the call here there is going to be a real brief customer support survey asking for any feedback you might have on the support you received. I understand if you've got the time that you need to take for the show, so I'll go ahead and get you transferred over there. I want to thank you again for contacting Google and enjoy the rest of your day.
Jason: Right on. Thank you so much. Take care.
Jeff: We've got to give him good grades now.
Jason: All right, I guess I'll give a good grade while you continue on with the change log?
Gina: Sure, let's do that. Okay, this poor guy. That was kind of fun. We took up his time, so it only makes sense that they ask you for feedback. So, Device Assist is available for free in the Play store right now and it's only available to users in the US with Nexus, Google Play edition and Android 1 devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop. So only for the new stuff.
Moving on with the Google change log, Google Drive apps got a few little useful, but little, tweaks. Let's see, we've got Gmail on the desktop, now lets you edit Microsoft Office attachments with a single click. So you open up a Gmail message, mouse over an attachment, and click on “Edit with Google Docs,” for Word documents, “Edit with Google Slides,” for PowerPoint presentations or, “Edit with Google Sheets,” for Excel spreadsheets. Then you can start editing and using them in Google Drive right away. They now support 15 Office formats including Presentation Show files, that's .pps, .ppsx, macro-enabled files and template files with better charts, images and table support. So really good Office support there in Gmail and Google Docs, Google Drive.
Google Docs got a few other little, minor features. You can now merge cells of a table in Google Docs. That's exciting. You can now edit images inside of a Google Doc. If you've got a Google Doc with an image embedded in there, you can right-click on the image, choose “Format” and you can change the color, transparency, brightness, this is similar to what was available in Slides. It's now in Docs.
Google Slides, on the web, got a minor update. You can show slide numbers throughout your show. So you can go to the “Insert” menu and you can include slide numbers.
Finally, in the change log, MadeWithCode.com is a project that Google launched, I think a few months back. It's there to encourage girls to start learning how to code. They're doing a holiday promotion where, starting today, on MadeWithCode.com, girls can use the introductory programming language Blockly to animate the lights of the state and territory trees that will decorate the President's Park, one of America's 401 national parks and home to the White House, through the holiday season. So this is pretty cool. You go to MadeWithCode.com, you press the “Get Coding” button and there's kind of this web-based whizzy wig Blockly language that shows you a Christmas Tree or holiday tree and let's you pick out which lights should show, how often they should blink, where they should be and you can adjust variables and kind of drag and drop these pieces. Then, I believe that the park is going to choose a few of the programs submitted through this site and they're actually going to program the lights to blink in that way. So a really neat little holiday thing, if you've got kids in your life. It's a neat way to start programming.
Yes, there you go. Nice, Brian.
Jason: I love that. That's awesome. Hey Brian, you did it! You did it, Brian!
Gina: You did it, you set a variable.
Brian: I'm coding!
Gina: Increment it, increment it!
Jason: I don't know how Brian does it. He codes and he switches the show. It's kind of unbelievable.
Gina: That's amazing. It is amazing.
Brian: It's the future.
Gina: Yes, he changed the color of the lights. Hey! It's cute. So, you know, when your kid is really bored, just be like, “Hey, go to this website. Make the lights do pretty things.”
Jeff: Take over the world, be a technologist for Christmas.
Gina: Step two. That's all I got in the change log.
Jason: All you got for the Google change log! That's how Leo does it, right?
Jeff: Did either of you guys download Wire?
Jason: Wait a minute, what is Wire?
Jeff: Wire.com, it's a new chat app that was funded by the founder of Skype and it doesn't work on the Nexus 6. I'm pissed and I want to know.
Jason: I saw it earlier and, man, I meant to install it but I -
Jeff: You can't get it.
Jason: Okay, fine, I won't even try.
Jeff: Nexus 6 can't get it.
Jason: Well, that's a bummer. Are you finding a lot of incompatibility with apps on the Nexus 6?
Jeff: No, but you would think that's the one they'd get it to work. But - (crosstalk)
Jason: I suppose so.
Gina: The website has many beautiful people having exciting conversations on it.
Jason: You know, another messaging service.
Gina: Oh, so this is an iOS app.
Jason: No, there's Android.
Jeff: There's Android, iOS...
Gina: Oh, okay.
Jeff: Talk, message, ping, groups, photos, sound, I guess.
Gina: There isn't a web app. That's why you can't use it on the Chromebook.
Jeff: Just mobile. I was just wondering.
Gina: Oh, “Browser coming soon.” Wah-wah.
Jason: Wah-wah. So now it's facing the challenge of hitting critical mass so everybody's using it. Man, there's so many of these messaging apps out there.
Gina: “Back in my day -” (crosstalk)
Jeff: There's ten of them for the Nexus 6, they're losing us.
Jason: Yes, exactly. So let's see here. Let's hit on a few of these here real quick, since I'm realizing we're nearing the end, anyways, of the show. So how about this? Google is redoing the CAPTCHA, did you guys see this? They announced a new approach to CAPTCHAs. CAPTCHAs are normally hated by humans, by the way. They call the new system No-CAPTCHA. It's built on a new API. Essentially, the system prescreens users and identifies humans in advance of the CAPTCHA. So, ultimately, the user will see a checkbox and nothing more if they're identified as human by the time they get there. A more advanced test can be run if the system can't tell for sure and then it's something like text recognition, image recognition, that type of stuff. Cool, because I hate CAPTCHAs. I know I'm not alone.
Gina: Yes, you know, reCAPTCHA's always, and CAPTCHAs in general, always felt like this weird, old-fashioned thing. Like programmers just forced it upon users like, “Hey, this is too hard for us to figure out so now you have to squint at some blurry image and type this thing in,” right? The thing about No-CAPTCHA is I kind of want to know how it works. It's got that problem, right, the SEO problem where if they tell you the algorithm, then the bots would be able to beat it. So now it's this black box, I guess, of I'm not sure how it works. But I guess you just embed some code in Google, it calls back to Google and Google figures out, based on your IP address and how you behave on the page whether or not you're a bot. I sort of -
Jeff: It's the true Turing test.
Gina: Yes. Yes, it's sort of like -
Jeff: Are you human?
Gina: Right. I am not a robot. That's the checkbox. If it can figure out, if it decides that you are not a bot, it will just show a checkbox, whether you can check it. If it can't decide, though, it will default – not default, but fall back on a CAPTCHA or it'll show you the image and you have to whatever, pick the kitten or whatever it is. So I think it's a good thing for users but it also makes me a little bit worried, like, what if my IP address gets marked as a bot? Are there going to be forms I can't submit? I always get a little worried about these black box things when I don't know how it works.
Jason: You're stuck in CAPTCHA purgatory. Nobody wants to be stuck in CAPTCHA purgatory. Maybe some people in the chatroom that I saw proclaiming their love for CAPTCHAs. I don't believe them.
Daniel: I always love the story, though, about how, was it Louis von Ahn who did the CAPTCHAs where it was taking text from scanned books that they couldn't quite recognize? It was a great story, like five years ago. They would take text from books that couldn't get recognized and it turned out the biggest use of CAPTCHA was on porn sites. So he was causing all these people who wanted to get online porn to first help digitize all these classic works of literature by filling out CAPTCHA forms. Then, the CAPTCHA form would help them, like, “Okay, that's what that word is.” It was so clever.
Gina: It's pretty great.
Jason: Might as well put the frustration to use. Also, so how about this? You finally thought that Gangnam Style was a thing of the past. You were wrong. Youtube says that the video has been seen upwards of 2.15 billion times, so many, in fact, that it grew beyond it's 32-bit integer of 2,147,483,647. As a result, it's throwing off the view count. So Youtube took to Google+ to announce that they are now forced to upgrade the system to account for videos as popular as Gangnam Style. How did we get here? How did we let this happen?
Gina: It's like the Y2K bug all over again.
Jason: Yes, the Gangnam bug.
Gina: The Gangnam bug.
Jason: It's really unfortunate. It's unfortunate. Yes, there's not a whole lot to say about that, to be honest. What am I missing here? What things – you know, Jeff, I believe it was you, put in this material redesign of the Google search page.
Jeff: Yes, I want to hear what the crew thought about that.
Jason: What's it all about?
Jeff: They took material design and redesigned Google to it. For those of you listening, it looks very flat and blue.
Jason: It looks kind of like what you would expect a Google Search page that's been material redesigned.
Jeff: Take a look, what do you guys think?
Jason: Let's see here.
Jeff: My first reaction was, “No, don't change my Google.” But I'm not sure.
Jason: That's old. That's normal.
Jeff: That's the comforting Google we all know and love. There it is.
Jason: Yes, very familiar. Very stark. Okay.
Jeff: Shocking, isn't it?
Jason: A lot of spacing.
Daniel: That's not real, right?
Gina: No, it's just a proof of concept.
Jeff: Danny's thinking he missed the scoop. Don't worry, Danny.
Jason: No, does that hurt your brain a little bit?
Jason: A little too much, kind of white spacing between – ugh.
Jeff: Here's the question. Is Google due for a redesign?
Jason: That's a good question.
Gina: It is a good question. I mean it – (crosstalk)
Daniel: Google has had a redesign, it couldn't constant redesign – (crosstalk)
Jeff: I know that, but is it made for a big reason?
Daniel: If you want to see what Google looks like, you don't look at it on the desktop. You look at it on your iPad. In fact, it's on my calendar, I never get to it. But I wanted to spend a week of dealing with Google just on the iPad or just on mobile. Because it is a radically different experience, both in the results you're getting to the presentation. But if you look on your thing, you'll see it's not a material design so much as it is almost card-based design. That all flows in through, you know, and you see it first on mobile then you see it come into the desktop.
Jason: It looks like a lot of wasted space. Though I really appreciate and like material design on my device. But I don't know if it necessarily, the browser version, needs to be updated. It's just, eh. Kind of a little too pretty for Google on the web when Google for years, and years and years has sort of symbolized simplicity. Just kind of getting right to the information you're there to look for. That just feels pretty for no real good reason, I guess.
Gina: It's the Craigslist thing, right? If Craigslist got redesigned, it would feel inauthentic. I'd be like, “Oh, Bing. I must have gone to Bing.” It's a little too good looking. It doesn't feel like authentic Google. I feel like Google's search results on the desktop just get this weird pass around design. They're just like, “We're going to keep doing the blue links because this is what it is.” It's just the brand. I think – (crosstalk)
Jason: People don't feel, necessarily, like it has to change. Because it's worked so well up until now, I guess it would be change for the sake of changing it and I don't know if that's necessary.
Gina: Right, it's years, and years and years of data collection and AB testing that went into every single pixel of the way it looks. I guess you could say that across every device, but I don't know. It's interesting, my cofounder uses – Anil Dash, he uses Gmail for the iPad view everywhere. On his desktop, everywhere, he just likes the way Gmail works in the iPad view. So that's interesting, Danny, I think that would be a fun piece, you know, Google just on mobile.
Jeff: That's a touch thing, too.
Daniel: It's funny, Gmail, you know, my morning starts off dealing with my Gmail on the iPad and it's so much more efficient than dealing with it on desktop when I'm trying to get through all my stuff, all my tabs or whatever. Yes.
Jeff: What about Inbox? Have you used Inbox?
Daniel: No. In fact, I was just thinking today, “Is Inbox going to turn into the Google Wave of Gmail,” but that could just be me. It was so weird when I went to it in the first place, and then also because I can't use it on a regular Google. Of course, you can't use it on Google Apps accounts. Heaven forbid we do anything with our Google App account out of the box.
Jeff: Don't get me started, Danny! Don't get me started.
Daniel: So I've been sending all my mail to my Google account, but then I don't check that often so it's hard to use on a regular basis. It was just weird. I didn't know that weird was better, I kind of think the Gmail app is a pretty good app.
Jeff: You know, the other thing is, the offline Gmail app, which I of course use on my Chromebook, is really good. By the way, it very easily and smoothly goes back and forth between the two accounts with no hiccups, no headaches, no problems whatsoever. The only problem is, it's missing a little bit of functionality that your regular Gmail app has. Otherwise, I would switch to the offline app. It's pretty darn good and it's prettier.
Daniel: Gmail offline? You know, what I – I'm on the Mac and I really loved Airmail because it interacts with Gmail really well. It doesn't have the tabs, which I miss a little bit and I've gotten used to those tabs, but I wish Google would just make us apps for desktop. But, you know, I found Airmail and that takes care of my day to day stuff.
Jeff: Does it do the Priority Inbox all right?
Daniel: No, I haven't tried to use it. On a typical day, I'll end the day with my Inbox having only 10 or 12 items in it.
Jeff: Oh, I hate you.
Daniel: I know.
Jeff: We hate you. (crosstalk)
Daniel: A few months ago, I had this great stretch of two weeks where I would always hit Inbox 0, and in fact I was tweeting pictures of like, if you're at Inbox 0 in the Gmail app, you get a little sun?
Gina: Yes, you get the sunshine.
Daniel: I was seeing that every day and it made me feel so good. I tweeted it out and people were going, “What is that?”
Gina: “What is that? I've never seen that screen?”
Jeff: That's really obnoxious, Danny. That's really obnoxious.
Gina: It's a little sunshine telling you to go out and enjoy the day. You're done. It's awesome messaging. You're done, go out and enjoy the day and it's like, “Yes!”
Daniel: If I were ever to make an email app, I would probably make an email app that at the end of every week or two weeks, would literally take whatever's in your inbox and just throw it into an archive folder. Because you're never going to get back to that stuff but you sit there like almost a slave to it, like, “I know I'm going to get to it,” or whatever. I'd just throw it all away because, you know, I did this talk once on my things on email. Anything that's really important that you don't get to is going to come back to you. Leaving it in your inbox isn't going to help you in any way. So, archive all this stuff and all the weight is lifted off your shoulders and you just focus on the other things. Then, I don't know. There's other things like it, but yes. Sorry. So I don't need Priority Inbox so much.
Jason: That sounds like a beautiful place. It sounds like a beautiful place, to have Inbox 0. As much as I try, as often as I try, I can never get there, and even if I get there – you know, Gina, you were saying, “Just get outside, enjoy your day, that's what the sun signifies.” That's only for like the next two minutes and then suddenly it starts piling up again.
Gina: That's true. It's Tetris.
Daniel: That's true. It does and then you hate the person who messes it up.
Gina: It's just Tetris. The emails keep falling in, it's just Tetris. That's how I think about it.
Jeff: I think about it as Sisyphus in reverse. The mountain keeps falling on you.
Jason: Exactly. I actually like Inbox, but I agree it needs to be on my apps account so I can use it here at work where it's desperately needed. On my personal account, it's neat and I've removed my – when I open my Chrome browser, it automatically opens Inbox instead of Gmail. So that's nice, it forces me to kind of use it in mobile and on my phone and everything. But I'm still not entirely, 100% sold.
Daniel: I never get why we have to be such a second-class citizen when we have Apps accounts. I just don't get it. I want to like, throttle somebody over at Google. The only reason I have a Google Apps account is because I want my domain name. I want my own email and own domain name, and back in the day that was the only way you could do it so that when you emailed people, you didn't get back – it used to be if you sent it out, you could send it out from any email address but if it wasn't actually through Google Apps, you'd get this little warning like, “This person is pretending to be something.” I think they fixed that, but there's this middle ground, I feel like, where they could take regular Gmail accounts, let you use your own domain name and have a few more advantages where I could have the things I want without having to be this Apps administrative person and all these – oh. It just makes me want to cry.
Jeff: Here's my guess. They've fixed it for two years. They're dog fooding it along since all through Google and they keep it from us just so they can watch the show and laugh at us every week.
Jason: Occasionally, tweet pictures of it.
Jeff: Come on.
Gina: In the secret evil building on campus.
Daniel: They just dedicate it to you, Jeff.
Jason: The Jarvis Room. Let's give them a break. If you are watching, over there at Google, you can go get yourself a drink but leave the audio up, because you're going to want to hear this. We're going to take a break and thank our final sponsor of today's episode. That would be Prosper.
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All right. I believe this is the time where we dive into tips and stuff.
Gina: I have one quick story I wanted to do real quick if you don't mind me interrupting.
Jason: Yes, not at all.
Gina: Just because we talked about this on an earlier episode. We've done a couple episodes talking about online harassment, specifically on Twitter and one of the points that Jeff always made, which I always thought was such a good one. On Twitter, to report harassment, only the person being harassed could make the report, not people observing it. Which doesn't make any sense, because in the real world, if you're at the playground and see someone bullying someone else, you can step in and help out. Twitter made a bunch of changes to their abuse reporting this week, or they announced them and I believe they are rolling out now. But one of the changes that they made is that if you observe someone harassing someone else, you can report that tweet as a bystander/observer. So I'm slightly optimistic, feeling slightly optimistic about that. But my conclusion is, clearly Twitter is watching This Week in Google, so hi, Twitter. Good job and keep working on it.
Jeff: I talked to CBC about this today and quoted you, quoted you often, trying to talk about the difficulties they have. But it's almost as if, I don't want to do a conspiracy theory. Twitter made it incredibly easy to report spam, one click, boom, done. I do it all the time because it helps me and helps them. But it's incredibly difficult to report harassment, impostors, trolls and other things. You had to go through so much effort you just didn't bother. It's like they didn't want to know. And then, it got to the point and I think the thing you've emphasized so much on the show, is that you're right. It's also about us all helping each other by being able to report these people and get somewhere with that. Yes, I hope that they were listening to you and they should get smarter about this. I think after the beheading videos and the naked celebrity photos, Twitter is no longer a 100% open network. Now it's got to decide where the line is, but it's got to decide that with our help. They were not getting our help before. They were not being helpful before. It was far too difficult.
There was one horrible – I'm going to get in trouble right now. But there was one horrible TWiT troll who just keeps on resurfacing and resurfacing and I tried to do all of Twitter the favor of -
Gina: Reporting them.
Gina: Oh, we just lost Jeff.
Jason: That favor that blanked out the video, what unfortunate timing for the video to go away. Maybe when we get him back, he can finish that thought. But just to give you a sense of the rest of the stuff that Twitter is doing here, fewer steps to report abuse. So they're going to make it easier, with fewer steps. Like you said, letting bystanders flag posts they see as abuse. A blocked users page, and blocking users from viewing a person's profile when they've been blocked by that user. So I say, “I don't want that person to look at my profile any more or my tweets,” you can do that and it's not just a matter of me not seeing them any more. They can't see my stuff, so powerful controls.
Gina: Better. Yes, getting better, for sure.
Jason: Definitely better and that's going to be available over the course of the next few weeks. Man, I really want to hear what Jeff had to say.
Gina: I think it was the troll who shall not be named, maybe got him cut off.
Jason: The timing was just impeccable.
Gina: That was amazing. I was like, “Wow, no good deed.”
Jason: We'll see what happens there. But all right, thank you for bringing that up because I did definitely want to mention that and I skimmed over it. Apologies on that.
Gina: Thanks for letting me interrupt. Let's carry on.
Jason: Okay, so Gina, we might as well start off with you. What's your tip?
Gina: Tip this week coming from Lifehacker, a pretty good site there. You can search for your email receipts right from Google, this can help you out with expense reports or holiday shopping. You go to the Google search box and type in “my purchases.” You will see receipts in your results from your Gmail. It's pretty good and you can also narrow the results, so you can say, “Hey, just show me all my iTunes purchases,” or do “My purchases, iTunes or Amazon,” for example. It will only show you receipts from that and now, of course, you can search for receipts inside Gmail, as usual. But it's pretty neat to see, I think it's pretty neat. Some people might think it's creepy. But I think we're all getting used to the idea, now, that Google has our Gmail and shows us some content from our Gmail in our regular search results. I think this is kind of neat and kind of helpful. So, it's “my purchases” when you're signed into Google and you'll see your receipts in the search results.
Jason: Excellent and right around this time of year, that's super handy. I feel like my inbox is overcome by receipts, purchases and everything right now. Another good app along those lines is Slice, actually, which I'm reviewing this week for Android App Arena. Actually, later on today, 4:30 p.m. Pacific but yes. It's very good. Anything you can do to kind of manage this influx of receipts, particularly this time of year is super helpful. Danny, I'm trying to remember if I even gave you the heads up on a tip. If I didn't, I completely apologize. Is there anything you want to kind of talk about, a tool or tip, anything along those lines?
Daniel: Sure, I can give something. It's the – I've got my little Android snowman here. Isn't he cute?
Gina: Aw, nice.
Jason: Excellent, yes, Santa Tracker is great. Apparently, Santa has his location sharing turned to on, because we can follow his every move.
Jason: Good on Santa. Thank you for sharing, Santa. We don't have Jeff yet. We'll see if we can get him back for his number of the week but I can give you a cool tool. So I don't know if you knew this, but with Lollipop, one of the features that not a lot of people have heard about and maybe it has limited use case, but I think it's pretty neat. Lollipop enables you to record your video from your device natively, without root. Before Lollipop, you had to do this with root access on your device and it was kind of a roundabout sort of thing. Either that, or use terminal and go to ADB and do a command and real geeky stuff, now it's accessible to everybody. There's an app, a number of apps that are doing this. Coach has his mirror app that does this. There's also one I was playing around with earlier called AZ Screen Recorder, no root. You can just install it, it's a free app. It has kind of overlay controls to allow you to record your screen. It also picks up audio from your onboard microphone. So it's not recording the audio internally, inside your device, because I think that's maybe a way to get around the face that people could record video and audio from a movie or whatever, rent it and do that. So maybe it's copyright protection in that regard. But it does record audio from your mic, which could be actually pretty handy if you're doing some sort of demo or whatever, a walkthrough on an app you've created if you're a developer of an app. If you want to do a walkthrough and go step by step through your app, this is one easy way to do it. It was super easy. There's actually a video link, and Brian, I know you're hard at work but below this link in the Doc, there's a link to a video I recorded of me playing the new – what is it? Run, Sackboy, Run for the PlayStation character. I recorded this just in the device for about a minute. You can activate it to show the touch controls so that it overlays on the top and it's just a neat feature that you didn't have access to before Lollipop. So, at least not without root.
Gina: That's very cool.
Jason: Yes, it's pretty awesome. The app that recorded this is called AZ Screen Recorder, though there are a ton of apps that do this sort of thing.
Jeff: Is there a mobile Twitch a-coming?
Jason: A mobile Twitch? I suppose so, though this is less livestreaming and more recording, then posting later. Who knows, maybe that'll happen eventually.
Jeff: I just made somebody a fortune, big business.
Jason: Yes, exactly.
Jeff: I'll never understand it, but it's a big business.
Jason: Believe me, I hear you. It's good to have you back, sir. Sorry, the video dropped at exactly the wrong time.
Jeff: No, the video was smart and shut me up. I was going on too long, the Google algorithm said, “Shut up, Jarvis. You've abused us about these accounts, we get it, you've gone over your limit of kvetch.”
Jason: The timing though, man. Okay, well you are welcome to finish the story or you can do your number. It's up to you, Jeff.
Jeff: I'll do a number. So one of the big things in the advertising world right now is called viewability. That's to say, is your ad actually seen? The thing you paid for? Google put out a spreadsheet that's on the rundown, the shocking stat in it, full disclosure is that 56% of ads served by Google and Doubleclick are not seen.
Jeff: So that's a huge issue in the media world now because it's an instant deflator to all the money they used to make. The truth is, the advertisers before kind of discounted on that basis, the same way they did with print, where not everybody sees every ad. Yes, we know, you tell us they do but they don't. But now, of course, you can count. Places like Chartbeat can tell you what's seen and analytics on what's seen and 56% -
Gina: Oh no.
Daniel: Google is shutting him down again.
Jason: This just never happens with Jeff's video. Of course. Well, 56-something smart, I'm assuming is what he was going to continue with because Jeff is a smart guy. Okay, and Brian is working overtime right now, scrambling to reconnect him.
Gina: We're really putting Brian to work here today. Look, Brian's flailing. Oh, man.
Jason: Believe me, Brian, I've been there.
Brian: I know.
Jason: I've been there. All right, well let's – I suppose we kind of have to wrap things up because we have hit the end of the show. Hopefully Jeff gets on before we say goodbye, so we'll drag it out here a little bit. So, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land, all around awesome guy, just great having you on today. I really appreciate having you join us and just being a part of TWiG today. Really had a lot of fun.
Daniel: Thanks. You did a great job as a host.
Jason: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Daniel: Thanks for everything.
Jason: No problem. So tell people where they can follow your work, what you've got working on, anything you'd like people to know.
Daniel: You can follow the work that we do at Search Engine Land, where we cover everything about search engines and search marketing, and Marketing Land where we cover digital marketing in general. If you want to follow me, I'm Danny Sullivan on Twitter. That's usually where I'm socially active.
Jason: Right on. Thanks once again, Danny. Always a pleasure and we'll talk to you soon. And Gina. I know what you've been up to. A little bit of a ThinkUp thing, right?
Gina: Yes, it's December so we get to do our best of 2014 insights and ThinkUp, which is a great social media insights -
Jeff: Great insights, Gina. They've been great year-round insights. I've loved them.
Jason: Me too.
Gina: Oh, I'm so glad to hear that. Yes, you can see. We do one on Thanksgiving too, you can see Jeff's ThinkUp. JeffJarvis.ThinkUp.com and Danny's at DannySullivan.ThinkUp.com and Jason is raygun01.ThinkUp.com. We're doing kind of like an advent calendar of year-end insights. So there's going to be one new year-end best of 2014 insight for every day in December. If you sign up, even right now, it will back fill the ones you didn't get the last few days. So I think we're only three in at this point and yes. So, Jeff tweeted 175 times on August 15th, you guys. He's professorial even on Twitter, which I love.
Jeff: I must have been on some tear, I don't want to remember.
Jason: I think you might have been. Rereading that tweet, I think you might have been on a tear of some sort. We'll blur that out.
Gina: Whoops, sorry. So that's at ThinkUp.com, when I'm not doing TWiG and not working on ThinkUp, I cohost All About Android with Jason Howl and Brian on Tuesday nights. We have a lot of fun, 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific. So if you like the show, you'll like that one. So you should come by and watch that one, too.
Jason: Agreed. Gina, such a pleasure doing TWiG with you, finally. This was a lot of fun.
Gina: Totally a lot of fun, you rocked it.
Jeff: You did a great job, Jason. Really great.
Jason: Thank you. I appreciate that. Jeff, it's been my pleasure to do a show with you as well, even though it dropped a couple of times. That's okay. So Geeks Bearing Gifts. Tell us about it.
Jeff: I want to plug my kind of non-book book and I just want to mention that as of today, I'm putting it up chapter by chapter on Medium for free. So the introduction is up on Medium today, you can get it on my blog BuzzMachine and link to there. You can still buy it and make my bosses happy but I wanted to spread and brainwash the world, so the whole thing will end up on Medium for free.
Jason: That's awesome.
Jeff: Medium did a great job. They have a creative services department there. I had no idea. So they formatted everything, they designed the structure. They're wonderful.
Jason: Medium is pretty darn cool, I got to say. It's a great place for that kind of stuff too. Cool, so check it out and yes, of course, Jeff is on Twitter @jeffjarvis, on Google+, all over the map. So thank you, sir.
Jeff: Occasionally on TWiG when things don't go wrong with Chromebook.
Jason: It's okay, it rarely happens.
Jeff: Good think Leo wasn't there for that. Leo, hope you feel better. Hope you're happy, everything works out, but I'm glad you weren't here for that.
Jason: Fair enough, and he'll never see it because this show isn't recorded or anything.
Brian: Safe zone, safe zone.
Jason: Right, exactly. You can find me at about.me/JasonHowl if you want to find my social doings and of course, All About Android. I do that with Gina Trapani and Ron Richards on Tuesdays. Also do a show that's all about Android apps called Android App Arena. Apparently, I really like the letter A. So all my shows start with A, that's just how it goes. That is on Wednesday nights, I review four Android apps each week and it's a lot of work but a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy it. That's TWiT.tv/arena. But that is it for This Week in Google, man, what a great show. Had a fun time being host of This Week in Google. I really hope that Leo continues to get better. He's not feeling so hot right now, but we hope we see him later in the week and I'm sure that we will. So get better and enjoy your binge watching of Netflix.
If you want to find everything about This Week in Google, all you got to do is go to our show page. We publish everything up there, our feeds for the podcast, our show notes links and of course, all of our past episodes can be found at TwiT.tv/TWiG. That will take you right there, and you can find all the notes there. Of course, we record This Week in Google live every Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. Pacific, all you've got to do is head over to live.TWiT.tv to watch the madness and be a part of the chat room and get in on the show. But I think that's about it, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for This Week in Google and we'll see you next week with Leo sitting in the chair again! Take care, you guys.