February, 2015

...now browsing by month

 

Driving around with your pickup truck's huge towing mirrors deployed all the…

Saturday, February 28th, 2015
Driving around with your pickup truck's huge towing mirrors deployed all the way out, with no trailer attached: it's automotive manspreading, essentially. 

"Remember."

Friday, February 27th, 2015
"Remember."

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very,…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
As a Google employee I won't really say anything other than that I'm very, very sad.

As he often does, +Lauren Weinstein says it best.

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001088.html

I'm not a big fan of porn. I'd be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I'm a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalog.

It's undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely variable definition, restrictions on "explicit" imagery in particular have long been at the forefront of freedom of speech issues and concerns, even among individual free speech advocates who may personally detest such content.

The reason is pretty obvious — how governments and corporations handle these "edge" materials (that may often be viewed as "low hanging fruit") can be harbingers of how they will deal with other sensitive and controversial matters that fall into free speech realms, including access to historical information already published (the target of the EU's nightmarish "Right To Be Forgotten"), political information and criticisms, and … well, it's a long list.

Abrupt changes in such policies — particularly when announced without explanations — tend to be particularly eyebrow-raising and of special concern.

So it is with considerable puzzlement and consternation that I yesterday saw Google's quite surprising announcement that they were banning most explicit imagery from their very popular and long-standing Blogger platform, and indeed with only 30 days notice and without any explanation whatsoever for this dramatic reversal in policy. 

There are some limited and rather nebulous exceptions ("educational value" and the like — sure to be the subject of heated disagreement), and users can download their existing sites to try move elsewhere, but the overall sense of the change is clear enough. Google is trying to kick such sites — many of them essentially personal, alternative lifestyle, non-commercial public "diaries" of long-standing and with vast numbers of incoming links built up over many years — out the Google door as rapidly as possible.

And let there be no mistake about it — this is a sudden, dramatic, and virtually 180 degree change. Blogger has long explicitly celebrated freedom of expression, with "adult content" sites including an access warning splash page so nobody would be exposed to such materials accidentally.

That Google is within its rights to change this policy in the manner they have announced is totally true and utterly unassailable. 

But the manner of their doing this drags back into focus longstanding concerns about how Google treats its users in particular contexts, particularly those users who might be considered to fall outside of "mainstream" society in any number of ways.

Google has indeed made some very significant positive strides in this area. Account recovery systems have been improved so that innocent (but sometimes forgetful) users are less likely to be locked out of their accounts and associated Google services. Google Takeout permits users to download their data from a wide variety of Google services to save locally or store elsewhere — if they do this before the associated Google account is closed. (However, the "who's data is this anyway?" question still looms large in cases of forcible account closures due to various kinds of Terms of Service violations, when users may not be able to further access their data, even to download it — this is a very complex topic.) 

Though this seems not to be widely realized, Google+ no longer enforces "real name" requirements on users (only some completely rational Terms of Service restrictions to avoid serious abuses), and is now profile-friendly to users' own sexual orientations in a manner that really should be emulated by firms across the Web.

But the old trust fears, some of them trumped up propaganda from Google adversaries, others having at least some basis in fact — about Google making sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in terms and policies, altering or even rapidly deprecating services on which significant non-majority user communities depend — are being reenergized seemingly as a sort of unforced error on Google's part.

And such errors can do real damage, both to users and Google. For most of the public does not view Google as a set of disparate and compartmentalized services, but rather as more of a unified whole, and perceived negative experiences with one aspect of the firm can easily drag down views of the firm overall, much to the delight of hardcore Google haters, by the way. This is why even if you don't care one iota about porn or other materials considered to be explicit, you should still be concerned about this Google policy change.

I care about Google's users and Google itself — a firm that has accomplished amazing feats toward the betterment of the Internet and larger world over the course of a handful of years. I don't want to see those Google haters handed a gift package that can't help but assist their cause and attacks.

We could get into a lengthy discussion comparing the Blogger policies of long standing with those of YouTube, Google Ads, and the like, but while interesting, such analysis here and now would not be particularly relevant to the immediate situation at hand.

The bottom line is that a dramatic change of policy that negatively affects users who have been following the rules to date, is deserving of significant warning notice (not merely a month — many of these sites have been operating for many years, some perhaps even since before Google's acquisition of Blogger in 2003). I would have recommended (absent some difficult to postulate legal urgency forcing a faster timeline) at least 90 days as an absolute minimum, ideally far longer. 

That would be putting your users first, especially when deploying a policy change that will disrupt them greatly. And please, no excuses that "only a small percentage" of users would be affected. At Google scale even tiny percentages can represent a whole bunch of live human beings, and how you treat users who are easily marginalized can be representative of broader attitudes in very significant ways.

And notably, I would have offered a simultaneous clear and honest public explanation of why this total about-face on such a matter of direct free expression concerns had been deemed necessary or otherwise desirable. That's just common courtesy.

The world won't come to an end with this Blogger policy change by Google. There will still be virtually limitless sources for porn and other explicit imagery elsewhere, and most affected personal bloggers will find other platforms and over time perhaps rebuild their communities. 

But the real story here isn't about sex or images or blogging at all. It's about how to treat people with respect, even when a particular group represents a small minority of total users, and even when they express controversial views via explicit materials. It could be argued that it's in these more contentious areas that treating users right is especially important.

Given the information I have at hand right now regarding this abrupt Blogger policy change and the circumstances surrounding it, I am very disappointed in the way Google has handled the overall situation.

I say this because I feel that Google is a great company — and I not only believe that Google can do better with such matters — I know that they can.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: With Sudden Blogger Change, Google Drags Their Trust Problem Back into the Spotlight
I’m not a big fan of porn. I’d be lying if I claimed to never glance at it — hell, I’m a human male, no excuses about that — but explicit materials tend not to be anywhere near the top of my personal Web browsing catalogue. It’s undeniable though that due to its highly controversial and widely …

Nailed it

Friday, February 20th, 2015
One of my points of pride about working at Google is that even though my own job isn't always (or usually, really) especially interesting or innovative, in some small way it enables others to work on projects that are way "out there".

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

Google Glass vs. The USA's R&D Toilet

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001086.html

If you're a regular consumer of the computer industry trade press — a strong stomach strongly recommended — you've probably seen a bit of gloating lately about Google pulling their Google Glass device from most consumer marketing.

Mainstream media has picked up the drumbeat too, with even major publications like The New York Times very recently running stories purporting to explain why Google Glass has "failed" or how this is emblematic of Google's supposedly imminent fall.

Those stories sound pretty scary. They're also utterly wrong. And they're wrong in a way that exemplifies why so much of U.S. industry is in a terrible research and development (R&D) slump, and why Google should be congratulated for their "moonshots" — not ridiculed.

Once upon a time — not so long ago relatively — there was a reasonable understanding in this country that long-term R&D was crucial to our technological, financial, and personal futures. That's long-term as in spending money on projects that might take a long time to pay off — or might never pay off for the firms making the investments — but that still might play crucial roles in our future going forward.

When we think about the foundation of modern R&D, it's typical for AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs) to spring immediately to mind. Not the Bell Labs of today — an emaciated skeleton of its former greatness — but of the years before AT&T's 1984 Bell system beak-up divestiture and shortly thereafter. 

The list of developments that sprang forth from the Labs is mind-boggling. If Lucent Technologies did nothing else when they took over Bell Labs and hastened its decline, at least they produced in 2000 this great music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzHp7Ahkjes) celebrating the Labs' innovations over the many decades. Mentally start subtracting out items from the list shown in that video and watch how our entire modern world would crumble away around us.

Yet — and this is crucial — most of those Bell Labs technologies that are so much a part of our lives today were anything but sure bets at the time they were being developed. Hell, who needs something better than trusty old vacuum tubes? What possible use is superconductivity? Why would anyone need flexible, easy to use computer operating systems?

It's only with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that we can really appreciate the genius — and critically the willingness to put sufficient R&D dollars behind such genius — that allowed these technologies to flourish in the face of contemporaneous skepticism at the time.

Much of that kind of skepticism is driven by the twin prongs of people who basically don't understand technology deeply, and/or by investors who see any effort to be a waste if it isn't virtually guaranteed to bring in significant short-term profits.

But we see again and again what happens when technology companies fall prey to such short-term thinking. Magnificent firms like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) vanish with relative rapidity into the sunset to be largely forgotten. Household names like Kodak flicker and fade away into shadows. And as noted, even the great Bell Labs has become the "reality show" version of its former self.

Nor is it encouraging when we see other firms who have had robust R&D efforts now culling them in various ways, such as Microsoft's very recent closing of their Silicon Valley research arm.

It probably shouldn't be surprising that various researchers from Microsoft, Bell Labs, and DEC have ended up at … you guessed it … Google.

So it also shouldn't be surprising why it's difficult not look askance at claims that Google is on the wrong path investing in autonomous cars, or artificial intelligence, or balloon-based Internet access — or Google Glass.

Because even if one chooses inappropriately and inaccurately — but for the sake of the argument — to expound pessimistic consumer futures for those techs as currently defined, they will still change the world in amazingly positive ways. 

Internet access in the future inevitably will include high altitude distribution systems. AI will be solving problems the nature of which we can't even imagine today. Many thousands of lives will be saved by improved driver assist systems even if you sullenly choose to assume that autonomous cars don't become a mass consumer item in the near future. And medical, safety, and a range of industrial applications for Google Glass and similar devices are already rapidly deploying.

This is what serious R&D is really all about. Our collective and personal futures depend upon the willingness of firms to take these risks toward building tomorrow. 

We need far more firms willing to follow Google's R&D model in these regards, rather than being utterly focused on projects that might suck some coins quickly into the hopper, but do little or nothing to help their countries, their peoples, and the world in the long run. 

Here in the U.S. we've willingly and self-destructively permitted short-term Wall Street thinking to flush much of our best R&D talent down the proverbial toilet.

And unless we get our heads on straight about this immediately, we'll be sending our futures and our children's futures down the same dark sewer.

We are far better than that.

Take care, all.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: Google Glass vs. The USA’s R&D Toilet
If you’re a regular consumer of the computer industry trade press — a strong stomach strongly recommended — you’ve probably seen a bit of gloating lately about Google pulling their Google Glass device from most consumer marketing. Mainstream media has picked up the drumbeat too, …

Nailed it

Friday, February 20th, 2015
One of my points of pride about working at Google is that even though my own job isn't always (or usually, really) especially interesting or innovative, in some small way it enables others to work on projects that are way "out there".

Reshared post from +Lauren Weinstein

Google Glass vs. The USA's R&D Toilet

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001086.html

If you're a regular consumer of the computer industry trade press — a strong stomach strongly recommended — you've probably seen a bit of gloating lately about Google pulling their Google Glass device from most consumer marketing.

Mainstream media has picked up the drumbeat too, with even major publications like The New York Times very recently running stories purporting to explain why Google Glass has "failed" or how this is emblematic of Google's supposedly imminent fall.

Those stories sound pretty scary. They're also utterly wrong. And they're wrong in a way that exemplifies why so much of U.S. industry is in a terrible research and development (R&D) slump, and why Google should be congratulated for their "moonshots" — not ridiculed.

Once upon a time — not so long ago relatively — there was a reasonable understanding in this country that long-term R&D was crucial to our technological, financial, and personal futures. That's long-term as in spending money on projects that might take a long time to pay off — or might never pay off for the firms making the investments — but that still might play crucial roles in our future going forward.

When we think about the foundation of modern R&D, it's typical for AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs) to spring immediately to mind. Not the Bell Labs of today — an emaciated skeleton of its former greatness — but of the years before AT&T's 1984 Bell system beak-up divestiture and shortly thereafter. 

The list of developments that sprang forth from the Labs is mind-boggling. If Lucent Technologies did nothing else when they took over Bell Labs and hastened its decline, at least they produced in 2000 this great music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzHp7Ahkjes) celebrating the Labs' innovations over the many decades. Mentally start subtracting out items from the list shown in that video and watch how our entire modern world would crumble away around us.

Yet — and this is crucial — most of those Bell Labs technologies that are so much a part of our lives today were anything but sure bets at the time they were being developed. Hell, who needs something better than trusty old vacuum tubes? What possible use is superconductivity? Why would anyone need flexible, easy to use computer operating systems?

It's only with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that we can really appreciate the genius — and critically the willingness to put sufficient R&D dollars behind such genius — that allowed these technologies to flourish in the face of contemporaneous skepticism at the time.

Much of that kind of skepticism is driven by the twin prongs of people who basically don't understand technology deeply, and/or by investors who see any effort to be a waste if it isn't virtually guaranteed to bring in significant short-term profits.

But we see again and again what happens when technology companies fall prey to such short-term thinking. Magnificent firms like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) vanish with relative rapidity into the sunset to be largely forgotten. Household names like Kodak flicker and fade away into shadows. And as noted, even the great Bell Labs has become the "reality show" version of its former self.

Nor is it encouraging when we see other firms who have had robust R&D efforts now culling them in various ways, such as Microsoft's very recent closing of their Silicon Valley research arm.

It probably shouldn't be surprising that various researchers from Microsoft, Bell Labs, and DEC have ended up at … you guessed it … Google.

So it also shouldn't be surprising why it's difficult not look askance at claims that Google is on the wrong path investing in autonomous cars, or artificial intelligence, or balloon-based Internet access — or Google Glass.

Because even if one chooses inappropriately and inaccurately — but for the sake of the argument — to expound pessimistic consumer futures for those techs as currently defined, they will still change the world in amazingly positive ways. 

Internet access in the future inevitably will include high altitude distribution systems. AI will be solving problems the nature of which we can't even imagine today. Many thousands of lives will be saved by improved driver assist systems even if you sullenly choose to assume that autonomous cars don't become a mass consumer item in the near future. And medical, safety, and a range of industrial applications for Google Glass and similar devices are already rapidly deploying.

This is what serious R&D is really all about. Our collective and personal futures depend upon the willingness of firms to take these risks toward building tomorrow. 

We need far more firms willing to follow Google's R&D model in these regards, rather than being utterly focused on projects that might suck some coins quickly into the hopper, but do little or nothing to help their countries, their peoples, and the world in the long run. 

Here in the U.S. we've willingly and self-destructively permitted short-term Wall Street thinking to flush much of our best R&D talent down the proverbial toilet.

And unless we get our heads on straight about this immediately, we'll be sending our futures and our children's futures down the same dark sewer.

We are far better than that.

Take care, all.

— Lauren –

Lauren Weinstein’s Blog: Google Glass vs. The USA’s R&D Toilet
If you’re a regular consumer of the computer industry trade press — a strong stomach strongly recommended — you’ve probably seen a bit of gloating lately about Google pulling their Google Glass device from most consumer marketing. Mainstream media has picked up the drumbeat too, …