What Google should do


This Neil Cicierega design-fiction from 2013 proposes a brilliant idea for a Google autocomplete easter-egg, where typing "Google autocomplete is not working correctly" would autocomplete to a long, wonderful list of Borges-ian non-sequiturs, each more wondrous than the last. (via JWZ)

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Google's drone delivery program, unveiled

For two years, Google has been running secret drone delivery tests with their own UAV prototypes. Over at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal has the first look at Google's Project Wing. From The Atlantic:

140828164838-google-project-wing-story-top

Taken with the company’s other robotics investments, Google’s corporate posture has become even more ambitious. Google doesn’t just want to organize all the world’s information. Google wants to organize all the world.

During this initial phase of development, Google landed on an unusual design called a tail sitter, a hybrid of a plane and a helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around. For delivery, it hovers and winches packages down to the ground. At the end of the tether, there’s a little bundle of electronics they call the “egg,” which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle.

"Inside Google's Secret Drone-Delivery Program"

Google Images hacked


Google's Image Search has apparently been hacked. All queries return a line or two of normal images, followed by thousands of differently-sized versions of the image above, depicting a grisly car-crash ganked from a Ukrainian news site's coverage of the wreck.

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The fascination of Rubik's cube

Dan Nosowitz on the obsession with a mechanical toy invented 40 years ago--"simple in theory, it can be tremendously complex to conquer" -- and Google's obsession with it in particular.

Eric Schmidt, war crimes apologist and colossal hypocrite

Just a reminder that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is a colossal hypocrite and an apologist for war crimes:

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Google, like the rest of the world, finally backing away from Google+

The Google+ profile of Vic Gundotra, who is head of the Google+ division at Google.


The Google+ profile of Vic Gundotra, who is head of the Google+ division at Google.

Google+ chief Vic Gundotra abruptly announced his pending departure from Google this week. Why? No reason given, but TechCrunch and Ars Technica report that "the likely reason is a major shakeup for Google's social network," and that Google will soon end the forced integration of G+ for publishers. About time.

Google Street View now lets you 'go back in time' to view previous captures of a place


"If you see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image," explain the Googles, "click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons."

This is kind of neat. From the Official Google Blog: "Starting today, you can travel to the past to see how a place has changed over the years by exploring Street View imagery in Google Maps for desktop. We've gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world."

Big Data Hubris: Google Flu versus reality

In The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis [PDF], published in Science, researchers try to understand why Google Flu (which uses search history to predict flu outbreaks) performed so well at first but has not done well since. One culprit: people don't know what the flu is, so their search for "flu" doesn't necessarily mean they have flu. More telling, though, is that Google can't let outsiders see their data or replicate their findings, meaning that they can't get the critical review that might help them spot problems before years of failure. (via Hacker News) Cory 2

British spies lied about getting super-censorship powers over Youtube

Turns out that the claims made by British spies about Youtube granting them the power to censor Youtube videos that they didn't like (but weren't illegal) were bullshit.

The "super-flagger" status they got from Google just means that their complaints get quicker scrutiny, but are (theoretically, anyway) judged by the same criteria as all other complaints about videos that violate Youtube's community standards.

But as Techdirt's Mike Masnick points out, the fact that senior UK government ministers believe that Youtube should remove anything "that may not be illegal, but certainly is unsavoury" is a pretty disturbing insight into the mindset of our censorious masters.

Bring Survival Research Laboratories to the Googleplex

Our friends at pioneering machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories respectfully request the opportunity to bring their delightful robotic presentations to the Google campus. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

On the Road converted to ebook of Google Maps directions

Here's On the Road for 17,527 Miles, a 45 page ebook of driving directions for recreating the journey of Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic On the Road. Its author, German college student Gregor Weichbrodt, is selling it as a print-on-demand title via Lulu, in case you want a hardcopy to take with on your trip.

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Google admits that Youtube/Google Plus integration increased ASCII porn, spam and trolling - UPDATED

Earlier this month, mathematics vlogger Vi Hart posted a ringing denunciation of the new integration of Youtube comments with Google Plus, arguing that the ham-fisted change had brought Youtube comments to an even lower low. Hart said that the new system gave precedence to people who were able to provoke lots of replies with trollish and insulting behavior, crowding out good commenters.

Now, Youtube has officially recognized that the new system has led to an increase in spam, flaming, and the posting of ASCII art pornography.

It's part of a wider program through which Google is attempting to drive all its users into Google Plus (largely because advertisers are willing to pay higher rates for "social" ads, this being the latest industry mania). Googlers' annual bonuses are being paid out based on Google Plus's success, meaning that across the business, Google Plus is being crammed into every possible corner . The latest Android system, KitKat, tries to force users into Google Plus accounts for sending and receiving SMSes, and makes you opt out of Google Plus about six times during setup.

When Google Plus came in, its company proponents insisted that forcing people to use their real names would improve civility. As is often the case when doctrine fails to line up with reality, they have now doubled down on their folly. If Google Plus hasn't made the Internet "civil," the problem can't be that Real Names don't work -- the problem must be that Google Plus hasn't been wedged into enough corners of the Internet.

It's hard to believe that Google managed to make Youtube comments worse, but there you have it. It turns out that if you provide Google engineers and product designers with sufficient motivation, there's no limit to how bad things can get.


Update: Thanks to David Otaguro for clarifying that the Google bonuses for Google Plus success was a one-year only affair to coincide with the service's launch, and that the bonus was only partially based on Google Plus's success.

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Google Maps image of boy's dead body to be removed

Google Maps is replacing a satellite image that shows the body of Kevin Barrera, a 14-year-old who was killed in 2009 in Richmond, California. The body is lying prone by train tracks. A police car and several people are nearby. The boy's father, Jose Barrera, apparently found out about the picture just a few days ago, commenting "When I see this image, that’s still like that happened yesterday." The police investigation remains open. Google says it will take eight days to swap out the satellite picture.

"Google has never accelerated the replacement of updated satellite imagery from our maps before, but given the circumstances we wanted to make an exception in this case," Google Maps VP Brian McClendon told the San Francisco Chronicle.

I don't care to reproduce the sad image here, but the San Francisco Chronicle did.

"Google to fix map image showing slain boy" (SF Chronicle)

If Google were a 1980s BBS

It's completely functional; better than the real thing, even.

Mystery barge in SF Bay belongs to Google?

NewImage

There's a mysterious barge docked at Treasure Island, the former Navy base in the San Francisco Bay. The barge contains a structure built from shipping containers. According to CNET, whatever is inside those containers is related to a secret project underway inside Hangar 3 on the island, a former military base. CNET managed to trace the project back to Google. It seems likely that Google is either reverse-engineering a crashed alien spacecraft or prototyping a floating data center. CNET suggests the latter but my bets (and hopes) are on the former.