Hugh Pickens writes writes: "James Fallows writes that Google has a problem — a problem that it has created itself. Here's the problem. "Google now has a clear enough track record of trying out, and then canceling, "interesting" new software that I have no idea how long Keep will be around. When Google launched its Google Health service five years ago, it had an allure like Keep's: here is the one place you could store your prescription info, test readings, immunizations, and so on and know that you could get at them. That's how I used it — until Google cancelled this "experiment" last year. Same with Google Reader, and all the other products in the Google Graveyard that Slate produced last week." Fallow adds that he trusts Google for search, the core of how it stays in business. Similarly for Maps and Earth, which have tremendous public-good side effects but also are integral to Google's business. Plus Gmail and Drive, which keep you in the Google ecosystem. "But do I trust Google with Keep? No. The idea looks promising, and you could see how it could end up as an integral part of the Google Drive strategy," concludes Fallows. "Until I know a reason that it's in Google's long-term interest to keep Keep going, I'm not going to invest time in it or lodge info there.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Kevin Bostic writes that Google may pull in lots of money from the sale of Android martphones, but Google co-founder Sergei Brin recently aired some unflattering opinions on the devices, calling them "emasculating" and offering Google Glass as a solution to the societal problems they pose. Brin took the stage at TED2013, sporting his now ever-present Google Glass unit, and said the rise of the smartphone has led to people essentially getting addicted to antisocial behavior, according to the TED Blog. "The cell phone is a nervous habit," Brin explained. "If I smoked, I'd probably smoke instead, it'd look cooler. But I whip this out and look as if I have something important to do. It really opened my eyes to how much of my life I spent secluding myself away in email." Brin added that the way people access smartphone data requires them to disconnect from the world around them and that the reliance on smartphones is somewhat degrading. "Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people?" Brin continued. "It's kind of emasculating. You're just rubbing this featureless piece of glass. Is this what you're meant to do with your body?" Brin hopes that the head-mounted computing unit will allow people to leave their smartphones in their pockets, instead calling up information when they need it and going about their lives when they don't. "When we started Google 15 years ago, my vision was that information would come to you as you need it. You wouldn't have to query at all.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The WSJ reports that widespread disruptions to Google in China over the weekend halting use of everything from Google's search engine to its Gmail email service to its Google Play mobile-applications store underscore the uncertainty surrounding Beijing's effort to control the flow of information into the country, as well as the risks that effort poses to the government's efforts to draw global businesses.The source of the disruptions couldn't be determined but Internet experts pointed to China's Internet censorship efforts, which have been ratcheted up ahead of the 18th Party Congress. "There appears to be a throttling under way of Web access," says David Wolf, citing recent articles in foreign media about corruption and wealth in China spurred by the party congress and the fall of former party star Bo Xilai, "that's their primary concern, people getting news either through Google or through its services." Beijing risks a backlash if it were to block Google outright on a long-term basis, says Wolf and such a move could put Beijing in violation of its free-trade commitment under the World Trade Organization and make China a less-attractive place to do business. "If China insists in the medium and long term of creating another Great Firewall between the China cloud and the rest of the world, China will be an increasingly untenable place to do business.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Henry Alford writes that in an ideal world, we would all use Google to be better friends by having better recall and to research our new friends and acquaintances to get to know them better. “It’s perfectly natural and almost always appropriate” says social anthropologist Kate Fox. “Obviously, one is always going to have to be discreet when talking about what you’ve found. But our brains haven’t changed since the Stone Age, and humans are designed to live in small groups in which everyone knows one another. Googling is an attempt to recreate a primeval, preindustrial pattern of interaction.” But the devil is in the details. If we tell a new friend that we’ve read her LinkedIn entry or her wedding announcement, it probably won’t be perceived as trespassing, as long we bear no ulterior motives. If we happen to reveal that we’ve also read her long-ago abandoned blog about her cat, we’re more likely to be seen as chronically bored than menacing. "I’m so baffled by this idea that we’re not supposed to Google people," says Dean Olsher. "Why would there be a line? Like everyone else is allowed to know something but I’m not?” But doesn’t taking the google shortcut to a primeval, preindustrial pattern of recognition sometimes rob encounters of their inherent mystery or even get us in trouble? Tina Jordan, an executive in book publishing who has the same name as a former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, says, “I typically tell any blind dates before I meet them that they probably shouldn’t Google my name, otherwise they’ll be sorely disappointed when they meet me.”"
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Seattle PI reports that California has become the third state to explicitly legalize driverless vehicles, setting the stage for computers to take the wheel along the state’s highways and roads as Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1298, which affirms that autonomous vehicles are legal in California, while requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish and enforce safety regulations for manufacturers. “Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” said Gov. Brown. “This self-driving car is another step forward in this long, march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world.” The law immediately allows for testing of the vehicles on public roadways, so long as properly licensed drivers are seated at the wheel and able to take over. It also lays out a roadmap for manufacturers to seek permits from the DMV to build and sell driverless cars to consumers. Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research points to a statistical basis for safety that the DMV might consider as it begins to develop standards. “Google’s cars would need to drive themselves (by themselves) more than 725,000 representative miles without incident for us to say with 99 percent confidence that they crash less frequently than conventional cars. If we look only at fatal crashes, this minimum skyrockets to 300 million miles. To my knowledge, Google has yet to reach these milestones.”"
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Michael DeGusta writes that Apple’s new Maps app is the very first item on their list of major new features in iOS 6, but for many iPhone and iPad users around the world Apple's new maps are going to be a major disappointment as the Transit function will be lost in 51 countries with 4.4 billion people, the Traffic function will be lost in 24 countries with 2.3 billion people, and the Street View function will be lost in 41 countries with 2.5 billion people. "In total, 63 countries with a combined population of 4.5 billion people will be without one or more of these features they previously had in iOS," writes DeGusta. "Apple is risking upsetting 65% of the world’s population, seemingly without much greater purpose than speeding the removal of their rival Google from iOS. Few consumers care about such battles though, nor should they have to." The biggest losers will be Brazil, India, Taiwan, and Thailand (population: 1.5 billion) which overnight will go from being countries with every maps feature (transit, traffic, and street view) to countries with none of those features, nor any of the new features, flyover and turn-by-turn directions. Apple’s maps are clearly behind in some key areas, but they will presumably continue to improve over time. Google has committed to making their maps available everywhere, so it seems likely Google will release their own iOS maps app soon, as they did with YouTube, which has similarly been removed from iOS 6."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that Google officials have rejected the notion of removing a video that depicts the prophet as a fraud and philanderer and has been blamed for sparking violence at US embassies in Cairo and Benghazi on grounds it does not violate YouTube's policies, but restricted viewers in Egypt and Libya from loading it due to the special circumstances in the country. Google's response to the crisis highlighted the struggle faced by the company, and others like it, to balance free speech with legal and ethical concerns in an age when social media can impact world events. "This video – which is widely available on the Web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube," Google said in a statement. "However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries." Underscoring Google's quandary, some digital free expression groups have criticised YouTube for censoring the video. Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says given Google' s strong track record of protecting free speech, she was surprised the company gave in to pressure to selectively block ithe video "It is extremely unusual for YouTube to block a video in any country without it being a violation of their terms of service or in response to a valid legal complaint," says Galperin. "I'm not sure they did the right thing.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Frédéric Filloux writes that eighteen months ago — under non disclosure — Google showed publishers a new transaction system for inexpensive products such as newspaper articles. It works like this: to gain access to a web site, the user is asked to participate to a short consumer research session: a single question or a set of images leading to a quick choice. It can be anything: pure market research for a packaging or product feature, surveying a specific behavior, evaluating a service, intention, expectation, you name it. Google’s size puts it in a unique position to probe millions of people in a short period of time and the more Google gains in reliability, accuracy, and granularity (i.e. ability to probe a segment of blue collar-pet owners in Michigan or urbanite coffee-drinkers in London), the bigger it gets and the better it performs cutting market research costs 90% compared to traditional surveys. Companies will pay $150 for 1500 responses drawn from the general US internet population. But what's in it for users? A young audience will be more inclined to accept such a surveywall because they always resist any form of payment for digital information, regardless of quality, usefulness, or relevance. Free is the norm. Or its illusion. This way users make micropayments, but with attention and data instead of cash. "Young people have already demonstrated their willingness to give up their privacy in exchange for free services such as Facebook — they have yet to realize they paid the hard price," writes Filloux. "Economically, having one survey popping up from time to time — for instance when the user reconnects to a site — makes sense. Viewed from a spreadsheet, it could yield more money than the cheap ads currently in use.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Forbes Magazine reports that employee benefits of Google are among the best in the land—free haircuts, gourmet food, on-site doctors and high-tech “cleansing” toilets are among the most talked-about but the latest perk for Googlers extends into the afterlife. “This might sound ridiculous,” says Google's Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock, “But we’ve announced death benefits at Google.” Should a US Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34 thousand Google employees qualify. "One of the things we realized recently was that one of the harshest but most reliable facts of life is that at some point most of us will be confronted with the death of our partners,” says Bock. “And it’s a horrible, difficult time no matter what, and every time we went through this as a company we tried to find ways to help the surviving spouse of the Googler who’d passed away.” Google gets a lot of press for its perks but Bock says it’s not about the money. "It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”"
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "For everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose, under heaven as Megan Garber reports that according to a paper just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, internet pornography — like planting, reaping and harvesting — is seasonal. Porn's peak seasons? Winter and late summer. Researchers at Villanova examined the Google trends for such commonly-searched-for terms as "porn," "xxx," "xxvideos"... and other, more descriptive phrases and uncovered a defined cycle featuring clear peaks and valleys — recurring at discernible six-month intervals. The researchers also ran a control group consisting of Google searches for non-sexual terms and those terms demonstrated no such cyclical pattern. The researchers then looked at search terms associated with a relatively purpose-driven category of sexytime — prostitution and dating websites — and found that, for those terms... the six-month cycle showed up again. "The findings are striking. And they suggest, above all, the power of the Internet to reveal the patterns of human emotion in a new scope, from a new angle," writes Garber. The authors note that a six-month sexual cycle has been reported before. It crops up in everything from abortion rates, to condom sales, and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. But why? One possibility is that it's purely a social construction driven by the fact that in Western cultures, Christmas and summer are the main holiday seasons; but it could reflect a more primitive biological cycle. "The Internet knows what we want," concludes Garber. "It knows what we do when we are alone, or think we are. And it knows all of us with the same totality of intimacy.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Rebecca Greenfield writes that during their recent earnings call, Google reported a 16 percent decline in Cost-per-Click (CPC), meaning the value of each advertisement clicked has gone down. This follows a 12 percent drop last quarter and 8 percent the quarter before that showing an unfortunate reality of online advertising — unlike the print world, internet ads lose value over time. The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency writes Michael Wolff. "The nature of people's behavior on the Web and of how they interact with advertising, as well as the character of those ads themselves and their inability to command attention, has meant a marked decline in advertising's impact." This isn't just Google's problem. Overall Internet advertising has decreased in value over the years as online advertising continues its race to a bottom. "I don't know anyone in the ad-supported Web business who isn't engaged in a relentless, demoralizing, no-exit operation to realign costs with falling per-user revenues," adds Wolff, "or who isn't manically inflating traffic to compensate for ever-lower per-user value." For Google's overall business, this loss doesn't mean as much since it has since expanded its business beyond AdWords including its recent acquisition of Motorola. For companies that didn't just buy big hardware companies however, it's a scarier proposition. Like Facebook, for example."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Garance Franke-Ruta writes about a new study of racially charged search terms on Google that aims to predict the effects of the Bradley effect, a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some US elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other. "How much we are under-representing people who are intolerant and therefore unlikely to vote for Obama is an open question," says Andrew Kohut, the president of Pew Research Center. "I suspect not a great deal, but maybe some. And 'maybe some' could be crucial in a tight election." The study found that the percentage of an area's total Google searches from 2004-2007 that included the racially charged search for the word "n****r" is a is a large and robust negative predictor of Obama's vote share. "A one standard deviation increase in an area's racially charged search is associated with a 1.5 percentage point decrease in Obama's vote share, controlling for John Kerry's vote share," writes Stephens-Davidowitz in the study. "The statistical significance and large magnitude are robust to controls for changes in unemployment rates; home-state candidate preference; Census division fixed effects; prior trends in presidential voting; changes in Democratic House vote shares; swing state status; and demographic controls." The results imply that, relative to the most racially tolerant areas in the United States, prejudice cost Obama between 3.1 percentage points and 5.0 percentage points (PDF) of the national popular vote in the 2008 election. This implies racial animus gave Obama's opponent roughly the equivalent of a home-state advantage country-wide. "It cannot come as a shock to anyone that Obama is not seen as the cat's meow in places like West Virginia, southern Mississippi or southern Oklahoma," writes Franke-Ruta. "Where racial animus might intersect with the Electoral College to matter — eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, parts of Florida — on Election Day is something to contemplate.""