Google+'s Volume Slider & How Circles Were Meant To Work

"There is a reason for this madness and that is the waterfall." - Roger Steen

The New Volume Slider
Google+ is rolling out a volume slider to better control your main stream. I discovered it by accident, when checking out page management features. I'm not positive, but I think it's a roll out because the circles of the page had the volume slider and my personal circles don't have it yet. Of course, I still don't have that fancy new navigation bar either....

I later found a complete explanation on gplustuts which turns out to be a very informative site with a rather unfortunate name (as if there isn't I'm sure there will soon be a site called gplusluts or gplussluts). For a thorough understanding of the volume slider thing, check out the linked article.

Basically, the volume slider works like this:
You select a percentage of posts from each of your circles that make it to your main stream.

How, exactly, it picks and chooses which posts from that circle make the percentage cut isn't particularly clear to me (though I didn't watch the video). If you give a circle 5%, it may show you 5% of the posts from each poster in that circle in your mainstream - or it may just put every 20th post from that circle in your stream.

Main Stream Waterfalls
This, undoubtedly, is to help people like me. My main stream is like a waterfall. You may have shared a fabulous post I would have loved to have seen - but if I wasn't watching my stream within the hour or so you posted it, by the time I look at my stream again your post will probably be long gone.

I recently conducted an Experiment to get a rough idea of whether a single post was reaching enough of the people who have circled me, or if I'd have to share multiple times to get the word out about something I thought was important.


Google unveils "Find My Content" tool to fight Copyright Infringement

Just a few short weeks ago, Google (courtesy of a Google+ post by Matt Steiner) announced the 'Find My Face" tool utilizing facial recognition software to aid in tagging pictures of people on the fledgling social network, Google+.

Today*, Google announced the addition of it's "Find My Content" tool.

The tool's first incarnation is aimed at stopping the seemingly rampant theft of original photography taking place on Google+. Using modified facial recognition technology, Google+ will now compare uploaded images with those previously uploaded to Google+. If it finds a match, the uploader is notified prior to posting that the image has already been uploaded to Google+ and the original upload will be linked to if the uploader continues the post.

Here is an artists rendition of the new feature in action:

Some fictional Google spokesperson who doesn't really exist is hereby quoted as saying:
"Google+ is quickly establishing itself as THE social network for photographers and other artists to share their original work and build a following. Google highly approves of their social network being adopted in this manner and is taking the necessary steps to help these artists protect their copyrights"

The fictional spokesperson went on to say that they plan on expanding this feature to original artwork of all kinds, including the first person to share a link to a blog post or article.

When questioned about situations where a non-copyright owner is the first to share an image on Google+, the fictional spokesperson pointed out that this feature will aid the artist in finding the original violator of the copyright - a potentially impossible task when original art can be cut, pasted, and reposted at will.

He mentioned plans to allow the artist to file a claim over their copyrighted work, and should the claim be validated the name of the original poster will be replaced by the copyright holder.

100% of the people who have read this suggestion prior to publishing have fully endorsed this addition to the social network, saying that part of the reason they support Google+ is because of Google's reputation of  doing the right thing.

*DISCLAIMER:  By today, I mean some day in the future when the people at Google in charge of these sort of things sees this article, recognizes the value of the suggestion, and initial implementation is completed.

This article is an homage to the genius advertisers who like to make advertisement that look indistinguishable from actual articles other than the word 'advertisement' in tiny font at the top and bottom.

Suggestion to Improve Google+


5 Things to Make Google+ 50 Times Better

First the pleasantries - Google+ is great. Everyone working on it should get a round of applause. Now stop patting yourselves on the back, you've got a lot more work to do.

1. Quit being like facebook.
Not too long ago, you changed the notification pane without warning. New features are great, but changing the way things work without any kinds of heads up makes for a bad impression. 
- First, it says you don't care what we think. You undoubtedly got feedback on how to improve the notification pane, but also consider all of the feedback you didn't get about the notification pane. Changes like this paint you like a dictator imposing his will on the people. The people hate it when facebook does it, they're going to hate it when you do it too.
- Second, people don't like being confused. Send us a notification (preferably in advance), with a link to written and picture/video description of the changes. Show us how things used to be, how they are now, and tell us why you decided to make the change. It'll seem like you care what we think and prevent confusion.

2. Don't be an open beta.
You're a large respected company, don't put out things that function poorly. Especially don't put out things that function poorly in the Chrome browser.  I'm sure you'll have no problem finding volunteers to test out these sort of changes for you before you roll them out to the public. In fact, I'd volunteer. I'd actually be surprised if you didn't do this already, but based on the notification pane it would seem that if you have these volunteers either you aren't listening to them or they aren't very good at finding problems.

Broken Notification Pane
Not to harp on the new notification pane, but it's broken - in more than one way.
- When you open it, you see something like this:
The first part isn't bad. Nice line at the top to identify the post by author and title. Shows the new comment and apparently the total +1s.

Clearly though, the html showing in the second part looks like ass. It's embarrassing to release that sort of thing to the public. Shame! Shame! The whole world is watching!

Then, when you select one of the notifications, you get more detailed information about that particular notification - good thinking!
Oh, look at that awesome summary of things that have happened to that post. That's really nice. Who commented, who shared, who +1'd.

Oh sweet, I can reply from right here. That's great. You know what though... I have a lengthy and insightful comment I'd like to add, and I would feel more comfortable doing it in a larger area than the notification pane.

I remember on the old notifications, it would say: This fella has commented on one of your posts. That word posts would be a link to take you to the full page version. Where did that link go...

Let's see, I can go back to the previous page, check newer or older notifications, view the profile page of those named in the summary, view my own profile page, view my photo albums, get a link to the profile of the guy who shared by clicking on 1 share..expand the comments...view a list of all my posts. 
But I can't just click somewhere and go to the full page version of THIS post?
How about...
Broken 'Send feedback' button
It's awesome that you have the 'Send feedback' button at all. Makes us feel like you care, you really care. Until we try to you use it and it doesn't work. 

You see, when I click the 'Send feedback' button, the thing 'analyzes the page'. Maybe it's because the analyzer uses the same innovative 'pane' technology, but as soon as I click the button all the other panes close. So, if I'm trying to send you feedback on say..the notification pane.. I can't, because the notification pane closes as soon as I click 'Send feedback'...

3. Make being shared with less frustrating
I'm not sure what your intended usage of the 'Share' link is, but here's how I use it and why it's frustrating:
I share - when someone posts something I want the world to see. Maybe someone else posts a picture or writes something worth reading
I share - when someone posts a link to an outside blog or article that I think people should check out.

The thing is, I don't really want to talk to the people I'm sharing with about other people's content. I just want them to see the content. They can thank me with a +1 on my share. If they want to discuss the content, they should discuss it with the original poster. 

When one wants to discuss something that's been shared - the best place to do that is on the original post. Unfortunately, the Google+ team has decided to make it a giant pain to do that. It's another those - lack of a convenient link situations. Here's the fix:

4. Let us bookmark posts
There's a lot of stuff you can do on Google+ that takes just a minute or two. Watch YouTube videos your circleds have put in your stream, look at neat photos or funny cartoons, fire off a quick reply to a conversation you're following, check your notifications...

One thing you can't do that's sorely missing, however, is mark things for later followup. If one of my circled share a link to an 8-page article about quantum mechanics as we know it - I might very well want to read it but not have the time. While there are work arounds, wouldn't this be better:

5. Best of: Us - on our profiles
It'd be damn cool if you could go to someone's profile and there'd be a Best Of link that shows the 5 posts that received the most +1s from other Google+ users.

World of Grim: QR codes on receipts

I would very much like it if when you make a purchase at a major retailer, the information on the receipt could be contained in a QR code. Though, to be honest I'm not sure that amount of information can be contained in a QR code.

If a QR code can contain that amount of information, one would be able to scan the QR code on the receipt for import into personal financial software, such as is available at mint.com. Rather than defining transactions by store (i.e. Safeway = Groceries), doing so would allow the financial software to know that of the $40 you spent on "Groceries", $8.99 was actually dog food (pet supplies), $7.99 was laundry detergent (household items), and the rest was food (Groceries).


How I Found Religion Through Science

A long time ago, when I first heard the statistic that human beings only use x% of their brain (4, 10, whatever), I had a bit of a daydream. I thought it would be remarkably awesome if while we were here living our lives using that tiny percentage of our brain, the rest of our brain was off in the universe somewhere building our afterlife. Shortly thereafter I dismissed the daydream as just a daydream - but I've since grown spiritually quite a bit.... and I think I was onto something. What's more, I think our current understanding of science backs me up on this.

Growing up in the United States, I was exposed to quite a few different religions. Most of them were one flavor or another of Christianity; Catholicism, Baptist, Pentecostal, Mormonism, etc. Of course, I was also exposed to Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism, and if you want to count it, even Agnosticism.

The thing that I came to believe over time was that if God exists, man had undoubtedly gotten it wrong somewhere along the line. If the Christ people were right, Judaism was wrong. If the Pentecostals were right, the baptists were wrong. If the Buddhists were right, Catholics were wrong.

So, hating to be wrong, I adopted the belief that the only right answer was 'I don't know' - and I've considered myself agnostic ever since..at least until recently. I spent the better part of my youth and the early part of my adulthood in a little town in Oklahoma - Altus, Oklahoma. We didn't have too much religious diversity there, but we did have several different flavors of Christianity. So, having adopted agnosticism, it was worthwhile for me to have an answer when questioned by Christians with: What if you're wrong?

Fancying myself clever, and knowing enough about what the bible had to say to back it up, the answer I had for myself and them became: If I'm wrong, and there is definitely a God above who will judge me for the way I lived my life and the beliefs that I held on Judgment Day, I trust his judgment. After all, if the all-knowing creator who knew the number of hairs on my head while I was in the womb was doing the judging, he would very well know why I believed what I believed - he made me this way. He would also know what I would have had to experience for my beliefs to fall in line with whatever the correct faith was - and if he chose not to send those experiences my way...well, that was his call to make. While certain Christian's beliefs led them to believe that I would surely be sent straight to hell for not believing as they did, that was their judgment - and I had decided that if God exists, his judgment would be much more loving, fair, and wise. So I carried on like that for many a year, without fear of eternal damnation and just a tiny measure of faith.

Recently however, that view has changed in a very fundamental way....


The Covenant of the Willfully Ignorant

This originally began as a response to a comment arising from this article by Chris George on this g+ share. I felt the response was getting a little long winded for a comment on g+, so I brought it here to finish.

Chris said:
If you are not prepared to stand up to those who would take away our liberty, as who you are, then they have already won. As soon as you are AFRAID of them, they have won. This is what they are counting on.

What they are not counting on is an informed and enraged populace who aren't going to take it anymore.

I don't think the protesters protecting their anonymity are afraid of the tear gas, batons, and possible detainment and torture as much as they are afraid of populace not waking up and becoming enraged. And while the Occupy Movement is the best hope for social change I've seen in my lifetime, the level of public awareness and anger still makes that a legitimate fear. 

The Willfully Ignorant
The American people are willfully ignorant because things aren't bad enough for THEM yet. They haven't felt the downward slide we're all on enough to shatter their false belief that everything will eventually be okay. They honestly believe if they keep doing what they've always done everything will eventually be okay.

The general populace is afraid to face the truth of the situation, that there is a THEM. They don't want to believe in a plutocracy that feeds off the rest of society to live like gods, and they certainly don't want to believe in a plutocracy that would carelessly destroy the planet in pursuit of that lifestyle. 

What makes it such a tragedy when you ask yourself, "Why aren't they willing to fight for the betterment of everyone? Everyone includes them!" and think it through to the most logical answer. The tragedy is that when you really 'boil it down to the bone,' the reason we're in this mess isn't corporate greed - it's selfishness of the general populace.

When you show them evidence that the "Successful people, the super rich" are heartless evil bastards, they don't want to believe it. They look away or believe the first excuse someone feeds them. 

Oh, it's okay those Americans got peppersprayed in the face - they were trespassing on private property! Everything's normal, they were breaking the law. I'm not a law breaker so I won't get peppersprayed in the face. I think I'll go watch Obama yell at foreign governments for denying it's citizens free speech, doop-de-doo.

Oh, it's okay that all those other Americans had to pay 3 times what I did to buy their house, they didn't have to. It was their mistake. Surely the banks didn't conspire to inflate the prices of homes to make more money off the interest on the loans people take to pursue their happiness. The government wouldn't allow that sort of conspiracy. If it did, there would be a problem.

If there was a problem I wouldn't just sit here watching football and let it happen. I'm a good person. I'm a patriot. I vote. No, if there was a problem I'd definitely do something about it....so there must not be a problem. If I tried to do something about it, I might lose my job. If I lose my job I might lose my house. I'm sure glad there isn't a problem.

Things will get better, we just have to get some of those damn Republicans out of congress. We need more democrats in there, like our representative ole what's his face. I don't remember his name, but I saw him on a commercial during that reality show back in '08. Yeah, he's up there fighting for the little guy and those damn Republicans are blocking his every move.

What? Of course I know ole what's his face took a bunch of campaign donations. I even sent him $3 myself. I'm paying him with my taxes AND I sent him $3, surely he's fighting for what I believe in. Shh, shh, the games going into overtime.

Oh sure he took campaign donations from that company, the owners of that company have a right to support a candidate. It doesn't make a difference they gave him $3,000,000 and I gave him $3 - he's looking out for both of us. He values the little guy, he's a liberal! He'll do what's right - if only we can get those damn Republicans out of there. Everything's fine - or it will get better after the election. If things get bad I'll do something about it, but everything's fine. I'm still in my house aren't I?

Let's be realistic
We're probably going to have to hit 30-40% unemployment before those Americans wake up, so I'm not going to hold it against anyone (who not only sees the truth but puts themselves in danger to rage against the truth) for wanting to remain anonymous at this point. It could take another 2-3 years before things get that bad - and that's a long time to be breathing tear gas, risking nerve damage to your hands from over zealous police zip tying. 

Especially considering the passage of the NDAA. How long do you REALLY think it's going to be before Fox News uncovers ties between the protesters and Al Qaeda? The protesters are on the front lines. They are the pawns in the class war. They're taking the batons to the head trying to wake up enough people to make a difference, and the people they're trying to wake up are more likely to know the names of yellow cartoon characters with four fingers than they are to know the name of their congressional representatives.

They have every right to be afraid - and if that means that THEY have already won, then THEY have already won. They've been winning for decades. Should we the people that see the truth just roll over and try to go back to sleep? 

THEY are the ones that broke 
The Covenant
Everyone born in America after WWII was raised under an unspoken covenant: I'll work for you, I'll pay my taxes, I'll tow the line. In return, you can get as rich as you want and as powerful as you want. You'll have to screw me a little bit at every turn to do it, but that's okay. Just keep me entertained and just the tip.
But no. THEY weren't satisfied with just the tip. They slowly and steadily worked it in and started screwing us a little bit harder. Finally, we're so screwed that some of us are starting to wake up. But they've already won, they're already screwing us. If we keep behaving maybe they'll add some lube. Maybe.
(By the way, if I was part of the plutocracy or the 1% or whatever you want to call them - I would add some lube. I'd legalize marijuana)
To close: How DARE you call protesters wanting to remain anonymous cowards when most of America is too afraid to get off of the couch?

The wisest among us have been trying to tell us this for quite some time.

But don't worry kids, it's just a ride.


Don't Write Yourself Off

If wisdom can truly be shared through written word, then I pray that what little wisdom I have come to own can be shared with you now. If not embraced outright, my hope is that at least the seed of this truth can be planted in your mind so that you, too, can come to this beautiful understanding.

Don't Write Yourself Off
What has taken me 34 years of rather unfulfilling existence to finally understand is that it's VERY IMPORTANT for you to stop writing yourself off. If you have been, stop. If you haven't been, why haven't you people done a better job of getting this message out there?

If you had gotten through to me with this 16 years ago, 12 years ago, hell - even 3 years ago, my life would have been so much different. And, since I'm not writing myself off anymore - not only would my life have been so much different, I think the world would have been better off. That's right - the WORLD would have been a better place if I had figured this out even just 3 years ago. It makes THAT much difference.

At this point, you might be writing me off. You might be saying to yourself, "what kind of egomaniac thinks the whole world would have been a better place if he had figured this out 3 years ago?" You know what, that's fine. In fact, if I were reading this rather than writing it, I might be doing the same thing. I am completely okay with you writing me off and dismissing these words as rubbish. Just don't do it to yourself.

I won't be doing it to myself, not anymore, and you shouldn't either. You probably have been for years, and it's time to stop.

- What took so long?
I don't know why it is or how it came to pass that this fundamental thing was not apparent to me sooner. It doesn't make sense to me that people who understand this haven't spread the message to every one they know. Their friends, their children - how have they not spread this message to them? - and by six degrees of Kevin Bacon, shouldn't it therefore have spread to me sooner? Shouldn't someone have pounded this into my head by now?

Once you realize that you've been writing yourself off for your whole life and then stop, you can't help but see the people around you writing themselves off every day. The waitress that wants to be painter, the office drone who wants to start his own business, the secretary that wants to open a no-kill animal rescue, that transcriptionist who wants to be a writer.... they're all writing themselves off.

The only reason they wish they had a different life is because they've been writing themselves off. The only reason you wish you had a different life is because you've been writing yourself off. It's bullshit. Stop it.

- Soccer Trophies
Maybe they came close. Maybe they all most got the message out. You know those trophy-kids? The ones that played in the soccer matches where everyone got a trophy, even the losing team? I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think maybe this is the message they were trying to get out. They just didn't understand it well enough, or they got the message slightly confused. They thought this meant "Everyone is a Winner," but the actual message is "Everyone can do a hell of a lot better if they get out of their own way."

If a kid loses, he's not a winner. That's giving him a terribly false impression of how the world works and he's going to be torn apart by the way the world really works. This is a world where you can be a gazelle just getting a morning drink when some lion can come along and rip your throat out. Human society is NO DIFFERENT. The only reason anyone thinks human society isn't rip-your-throat-out deadly is because the lions prefer calm gazelles, sedated with a false sense of security.

If a kid loses, he's a loser. Don't give him a trophy. However, if you ever hear your child say "I'll never win a trophy. I'm not good enough." I want you to immediately slap him in the face hard enough that he'll remember it for the rest of his life. I don't care if you're in church, slap that little ...

If he's talking like that, he's learning to write himself off - sell himself short - mentally sabotage himself and maim his entire life. Don't let him learn how to do that. Don't allow him to talk himself out of trying.


Technorati Claim

Apparently if you want to do whatever Technorati does for your blog, you have to post a claim token like this:

as a blog post to prove that it's yours. So - sorry about the not particularly riveting post, here's a picture of my kitten by way of apology.

Google+: Why Circles Fail and a Possible Solution

“I fell through a crack for years. Historically, I am nothing because I fit in no category.” – Howard Hodgkin

I must admit, I've been using Google+ for a few months, and I'm a huge fan. However, as with anything, it could be better. The biggest issue I have with Google+ at the moment is circles, and how they have failed me.

With g+ circles have a few different purposes, or at least seem to have been created with that intention.
1. Circles allow you to control who sees what you share
When you make a post you select your audience by selecting specific people, specific circles, all of your circles, the enigmatic "extended circles", or Public. If you add your mom to your "family" circle and then select your family circle when you post - she and everyone else in the circle can see it.
2. Circles allow you to control what you see
If I add you to a circle (maybe the "people who've visited my blog" circle), everything you post to Public should show up in my main stream. I can filter what I see by selecting circles on the left - so I could select the "people who've visited my blog" circle and see only shares from people in that circle.
3. Circles allow you to share themselves with other g+ users
If you're new to g+ a good thing to do is find a post where someone has shared a circle. Some people have/make the time to categorize g+ users into circles based on what they tend to post - or by shared interests. For example, one of the groups that seems to share circles often is the g+ photography subculture. People like to share their artistic endeavors and photographers seem to be finding g+ ideal for that purpose. Someone adds photographers to a circle and then shares that circle. You can add it to one of your existing circles or make a new circle for it.

How Circles Fail
G+ circles fail me in purpose #2, controlling what I see. The reason:
I have no idea what you're going to share.

Human beings are a multifaceted species with each individual having a variety of interests. A photographer might also like to cook. When he decides to share original content it could very well be a new picture or a favorite recipe. Maybe he just watched the Republican debate and wants to share his opinion about that.

Despite my having added him to my photographer circle so I can see the pictures he shares, when I filter my stream by my photography circle there might very well be recipes in there. Now, there are work arounds. You can let the photographer know you're interested in photography, and he can put you in a circle for "people that like my pictures". Then he can share his pictures with that circle and his recipes with his recipe circle, etc.

However, that's a giant pain in the rear. I have around 1300 people circled at present and contacting them all to let them know what kind of content I want to see (what circle they should put me in), is pretty unrealistic. My current situation is that I can't predict what categories of content these 1300 will be sharing, so I can't correctly put them in a certain circle. Similarly, even if I tell you that I like your photos when I first circle you, you might decide later to share a recipe. You'll have no idea if I'd like to see that too.

As a result of all this, I have a very rapidly scrolling stream that I can't filter by type of content. Therefore, I propose the following solution:


Dear Mark Kirk (R - IL), re: the National Defense Authorization Act

Dear Mr. Kirk:

 One of your constituents shared your response to an inquiry about you and the National Defense Authorization Act publicly, here. As your opinion has been made public, and as in a democracy one voice is no louder than another, I hereby voice my response to your justifications for your part in the rape of the Constitution of the United States of America.

President Obama said that he would veto this legislation if it contains overly broad powers for the U.S. military to arrest U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. He is right on this issue and I will support his veto on this question.