Look who’s been sniffing out the streets of Soho in London. Hopefully their own maps will do a better job than the pitiful data they bought from TomTom when they first launched in 2012. I’m usually an Apple supporter but even I couldn’t trust it after it gave me one too many destinations in the middle of a lake (yes, this happened twice).
I still find Apple maps unbearable over-simplified. One way streets, traffic data, building locations and of course Street View are all examples that Google gets right. Apple does have the bizarrely hidden yet mind-bendingly impressive Flyover feature though. It’s not in every city yet but if you haven’t checked it out yet. but find one that does have it and prepare to be impressed.
The real play here is the data that people using your mapping app gives you. Google know when you’re in a shop, when you’re stuck on a slow moving road, when you’re at home and most importantly, when you’re doing any of that while clicking ads, reading emails or using any of their home-grown services.
Apple clearly tried to muscle in on the action in 2012 and bought their way in, with obviously (calamitous) results. Seems they are doing it the right way this time. It’s still a rather murky and devious world of data mining but at least I’ll not be standing in too many lakes.
There are a bunch of really interesting Google Map mashups but this one really caught my attention. Google have teamed up with the Ordnance Survey to allow you to explore old London maps directly within Google Maps. While the infrastructure is pretty much unchanged in central London, the suburbs a really interesting. My house doesn’t even exist (as it was built in the 1930’s) and the local park was a watercress filter bed back then to clean the poo out of Muswell Hills sewage. Its name changed from Dirthouse Woods (nice) to a far more middle-class Cherry Tree Woods.
Similarly, the area around Old Street, now a hive of digital startups, was clearly a very seedy place back then (and arguably still can be if you know where to look). It’s hard to spot a corner without a pub (P.H) or a block without a brewery. Similarly, public urinals are encouragingly numerous too. We could learn a thing or two from that. It’s interesting to think that Old Street was once dominated by a large Vinegar Works. Must have gone well with the cockles on a Friday night.
Can’t help thinking this rather undermines the Ordinance Survey’s side-line in supplying printed maps to adorn people’s toilet walls at home. I’ve bought a few over the years as I’m mildly curious in my local area’s history. Would have expected a ‘Buy this’ button on the Google interface at least. Who isn’t going to take a few screenshots and save a few quid. I guess the ‘partnership’ deal takes this into account to some extent.
I try to keep my random posts useful and avoid having a rant. But Google’s recent behaviour deserves a little post all of its own.
In June 2008, I posted a video on YouTube of myself, in my garage, revving a motorbike to see what the different exhausts sounded like. Relatively pointless sure, but blokes like that sort of thing. In fact, here it is…
It’s had about 280k views but at about 50k views, I received the automated email from Google asking if I wouldn’t mind them running ads on the video. I set up an Adsense account, put in a pre-order for a Lamborghini Gallardo and sat back, waiting for the big bucks to roll in. In June 2011, I finally got a cheque for £60.62. Ok, I cancelled the Gallardo. But then I figured that I’d do the right thing and I gave the cheque to Riders for Health, a charity that provides much needed transport for Africa by supplying and maintaining motorcycles.
I wrote a short blog post about it to give Riders for Health a bit of publicity and also added a thank you note to the YouTube description to say I hadn’t been greedy.
Mid 2011, Google send me a bunch of emails saying there is a policy update, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t have to do anything so I just let them breeze by. Then last month I decided to check my Adsense account thinking another charity was probably due a small contribution. Here’s what I got…
So checked my emails and sure enough, I had one dated Feb 2012 that read…
Google AdSense Account Disabled
After reviewing our records, we’ve determined that your AdSense account
poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a
responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due
to invalid activity, we’ve found it necessary to disable your AdSense
account. Your outstanding balance and Google’s share of the revenue will
both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers.
Please understand that we need to take such steps to maintain the
effectiveness of Google’s advertising system, particularly the
advertiser-publisher relationship. We understand the inconvenience that
this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and
Cutting to the chase (after a lot of research), I assume I’ve been punished for telling people in my YouTube description that the money had gone to the Riders for Health charity. This, again, I assume, was classed as generating ‘invalid click activity’ by incentivising visitors to click more ads. Rather subtle maybe, but some Google computer had clearly made up its mind.
There was a link to appeal, so I wrote an appeal note stating that I clearly made a single, innocent mistake, I had removed the comment from the YouTube description immediately and was very sorry for the misunderstanding. All my fault. Fair cop.
My appeal was rejected. So I figured I’d appeal again and state that nothing had changed, there was still no offending description and that someone maybe hadn’t read the original appeal fully.
My appeal was rejected again, but this time with the friendly note…
Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate the additional information you’ve provided, as well as your continued interest in the AdSense program. However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we’re unable to reinstate your AdSense account.
Please know that, once we’ve reached a decision on your appeal, further appeals may not be considered. Note that AdSense publishers whose accounts are disabled for violations of our Terms and Conditions are not eligible for further participation in AdSense. For this reason, you may not open new accounts.
Now read that last sentence again. “You may not open new accounts“. What? Ever? So for one simple, well-meaning charitable act, Google have banned me for life from ever signing up for an Adsense account again. Seems a bit harsh. No?
So unfortunately, that’s where this sorry tale ends. Everyone has a bad Google story eventually it seems. I consider myself lucky to have lasted so long. For a company who’s unofficial corporate slogan is “Don’t be Evil”, they seem to be going out of their way to disprove it. Come on Google, do the right thing!
A few years back, I posted a video onto YouTube showing the difference between the various exhausts I owned for my Ducati. Fairly basic stuff and only of interest to a few. Surprisingly, it has just passed 211k views and doesn’t really show too many signs of stopping any time soon. It attracted enough interest for Google to start running ads on the YouTube page. I didn’t get much, a few pence a day maybe, but it all ads up.
And now I’m the proud owner of a genuine Google Adsense cheque for £60.62. Well, I was. It’s been paid into the bank and I’ve made a donation of £60.62 to Riders for Health. I figured I didn’t actually earn the money and Riders for Health do such a good job providing motorcycle transport to Africa, they deserve it more than I do.
** UPDATE, I updated the description on the YouTube page to say that the AdSense money had cone to charity… so Google shut down my account. Weird. Turns out that telling people that the ad money went to charity is a breach of policy. I kinda get it, as it may make some people click the ads for the wrong reason. But still, bit harsh maybe. I’ve appealed against it and removed the description, but Google refuse to reinstate the account. Come on Google…
On a biking note, the SEO is pretty good. Just Googling “Ducati 748” shows my video as the top result for videos. On YouTube, just typing “Ducati” puts me in the top 6 results, just below Valentino Rossi! And if that wasn’t funky enough, I was sat having a cup of tea and a pie at the Ace Cafe, the famous biker cafe in north London, when a guy recognised me from the video. Not exactly Justin Beiber level fame but it’s nice to be noticed once in a while.
Gouldn’t help notice this little gem. For those not in the know, Google Ads are ‘smart’ enough to read the pages content and then serve up a relevant ad that has the same sorts of categories. In this case, a tech blog full of gaming hardware… cool, hit me with an Xbox ad. Shat’s not to like. Only the post was about epic fails and the ad, in prime spot at the top, was the first thing you read. Oops.
And it’s a gaff that keeps on giving, what with the call to action having a typo an all. Unless one really has to “Sing up” to Xbox Live with is mildly plausible I guess.
Of course, it was a complete fluke and not something that you could really guard against so I’m only mentioning it for a giggle or two at Google’s algorithm’s expense, or more specifically, the ad buyer. Again, for those not in the know, adding relevant “Negative Keywords” is part of the media buy setup for AdWords. One would argue, and I love the irony, that ‘fail’ should be added to the next batch.
For what it’s worth, the original Mashable article is here. Wonder what poor sod will be there now?
Had a brain fart the other week about Googling words like ‘internet’ and seeing who gets the top link and what’s the first image on Google Images. Ignoring the ubiquitous “Wikipedia” entries and paid ads, the results are relatively interesting (if you’re me)…
(Almost as fun as Googling your first name and seeing what comes up in the first image search. Anyone called Dave isn’t going to do well!
I had a fiddle with the Apple iPhone developer kit last week and it was a relatively painless experience. I had an app, albeit a useless one, up and running within an hour, like so. Apple applied the same philosophy to their development tools as they did to their consumer-facing products. It was fun, simple and even a Visual C newbie like me could figure the basic out.
Just done the same to Google’s Android developer platform. Wow, what a difference. Where Apple installs lots of applications, tools and nic-nacs to fiddle with, Android can barely bring itself to unzip the scattering of .jar files and nasty looking anonymous files into a snappily named folder “android-sdk-mac-x86-1.0_r1”.
Hmmm ok. Discarding my own “if you need to look at the manual, it’s not very good” philosophy, I followed the ugly-as-hell installation instructions. What a can of worms I’ve just opened. I need to download a third-party development environment such as Eclipse 3.4. I Google it, visit their website but can’t figure out what to download. Eclipse IDE for Java Developers? Eclipse Classic 3.4.1? Don’t know. Didn’t bother… boredom setting in…
Once you’ve installed Eclipse, you also have to install the Eclipse Plugin (ADT) with it’s own set of tecno-babble installation instructions.
So now I’m ready for my “Hello Android” starter experience. I believe the expression in OMFG! How nasty and difficult can they make it?
The beauty happens when people cross the lines. The epiphany where code and creativity combine to create something greater than the sum of the parts. Content exploded. Games, videos, animations, crazy (and often pointless) websites popped up at an astonishing rate to feed the new demand of the first dot-com boom. I’d been using the web for 6 years before flash came out and in one year, it was astonishing what was happening.
Spool forward a few years and Flash updated its coding engine to Actionscript, then Actionscript 2… and now Actionscript 3. Coders can come to flash from C++, Java etc. and get developing straight away. Unfortunately, flash has started to get too complex for those pioneers of creativity, the bedroom creatives out there. Coders now have a bigger cave to sit in and designers are too busy playing with their iPhones to notice the gap that’s opening up again. Most are too young to know how it ‘used to be’. Those of us that remember know it was a sterile, fractured, dysfunctional and ugly place to be. If someone has an idea, it’s imperative they have the tools to express themselves without barriers. Creativity isn’t just for designers, it’s for everyone. I can’t express how important it is to offer tools to allow those with ideas to create them, to innovate, to inspire and drive the internet forward.
As an example, look at the winners of Android’s $10 million Developer Challenge. I’m sure they’re very clever, but please, these were judged the best in the world!
What Google have offered in this case is embarrassing and depressing. I’m a big fan of a bunch of their stuff but this smacks of slapping their name on someone else’s technology and turning a blind eye to their values. I cannot use their ‘open platform’ as it’s closed to anyone other than hardcore coders. Ok, you can argue that the Apple Xcode Visual C experience is pretty nasty, but the doors are wide open and welcoming. Google has locked theirs, dug a couple of moats and put a huge, angry robot on guard to quickly beat the enthusiasm out of any passer by.
Not sure who to say ‘wow!’ about but somewhere between WordPress and Google, I’m very impressed. 15 minutes after publishing the previous post, there it was, top of the Google rankings. Ok, the search criteria was a bit specific, but what an amazing thing.
The reason I’m interested in this specifically is that it reminded me of an instance earlier this year. The UK had a relatively decent earthquake at about 1am. I was on the computer at the time and my first reaction was to Google something like ‘earthquake London’. I remember being a little confused as to why nothing came up. I tried the BBC news site, nothing. In a world of instant everything, I expected it to be on the web instantly. Moreover, I got the nagging feeling that if it wasn’t on the web, did it really happen? I needed the web to back up my real-life experience.
It’s a scenario that plays out in many areas of our modern lives, reducing the responsibility or validity of our own actions. We can leave for a meeting with just a phone, safe in the knowledge that when we can “call you when I get there”. No organisation or forethought needed. Sat nav allows us to travel without the faintest idea where we actually are. Even in shopping, we can’t feel happy with a purchase unless we know we got it at a good price… because we’ve done a price comparison. If we’re not sure about a real-life transaction, we walk away comforted by the fact we can probably buy it cheaper online anyway. I did it recently, dithering over £5 difference on a £30 printer. I’d argue the wasted time was worth more than £5, especially as I’d spent £3 in petrol getting to the store. Even the vast resource of the web means we don’t really have to remember anything… it’ll always be there, right?
Relying on technology, especially information technology can be a worryingly addictive thing (ask any Blackberry user). The slightly uneasy feeling I get when I forget my phone reminds me of that first lone journey after passing my driving test. Like a slightly risky adventure… will I even survive past the shops on the corner?
Nothing quite demonstrates our dependence as well as the dreaded power cut, especially during a working day. Utter paralysis is the usual reaction until the old, dusty synapses start to fire. I can’t help thinking to myself, what would we all do if there was no technology? No electricity even? Oh hang on, I how will I set the alarm on the way out… See!
On thing’s for sure, we’d have to use our own skills a hell of a lot more and I’m not sure we’d all survive. Next time you’re with your friends or at work… look around you, who would be the first to perish? I know who’s on my list… do you? Makes your tea round a lot easier to prioritise, that’s for sure.