Hooray, it’s the end of May and that means another round of the Google I/O software developer’s conference is happening right now. Or, as I like to call it nowadays, Don’t Panic Time, because there are always a lot of new and exciting things being announced which almost inevitably will get lots of people annoyed, angry or both So, let’s see what’s going on this year from my humble perspective – which means that this is part observation and part rant. Of course you can also watch the recording of the whole keynote address on Youtube, including the very astronomy-themed intro animation.
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It’s Towel Day again today, the annual celebration of all things Douglas Adams and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This year, I’ll do a repost of last year’s articles with some additions – head over to DVDLog to read the painstakingly translated review of the 1981 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy televisison series, which was actually a lot of fun to revisit and update, because it’s not only a disc review, but partly the history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself. And this year I even have the translated article about the 2005 movie incarnation ready, which was still missing last time because I wasn’t able to get it readyyet.
Last Spring, I missed something great – the cast of the Hitchhiker’s Guide Radio Series had been on tour with a live show, but there was a 75-minute live radio broadcast on BBC4 from the whole gang. I was really disappointed that I missed it, but recently it surfaced on Youtube in somewhat suboptimal quality, but it’s still immensly enjoyable.
Last year I’ve been poking around Youtube and foundsome great Douglas Adams treasures out there, which I have put together in a little playlist (which only suffered one minor deletion casualty in the last year). There are several great documentaries and even the rare South Bank show which I originally saw in dubbed version somewhen in the early 1990s on German television. You can actually find the television and radio series somewhere if you search for them, but I’m not linking to it because the Youtube uploads have a really bad image quality compared to the DVD and, of course, because of copyright reasons. Buy the DVD! It’s not like it still costs 30 bucks like it did twelve years ago.
And last year there was something which Douglas Adams would have really liked: ISS Expedition 42 was wishing everybody a Happy Towel Day – and “thanks” to a failed Progress freighter launch, Samantha Cristoforetti, Terry Wirts and Anton Shklaperov are actually still on the ISS right now because their stay has been extended a couple of weeks. Will they remember Towel Day? Yes, the did! Samantha Cristoforetti has taken the time read a couple of pages from the first book on the ISS! Also, you can always check Samantha Cristoforetti’s Google+ Stream or my Twitter List of Astronauts currently on the space station for more.
So, Happy Towel Day everyone – it’s a very special one with Expedition 42 still in space!
It came out of nowhere and some people, including me, only noticed it after a while. Sometime in the last few days, Google had disabled one of the key features of its social network Google+: the ability to share circles. Circles are just collections of users like Twitter lists, but you are able to post to a selected group of users by sharing with a circle and until recently it was possible to share a circle. It was the one feature that set Google+ apart from other social networks and an incredibly useful tool that created a whole culture, but for some inexplicable reason Google has now decided that circle sharing is not needed anymore.
If you started out on Google+ long before communities were introduced, the way to connect with other people was to look for shared circles and get shared yourself in a circle. This is what built Google+ in the beginning and still continued to build the network until circle sharing was disabled – but existing shared circles can still be added. This means that, for example, my own collection of shared circles, which I last posted at the end of 2014, is still available, although I’m not able to update them any more. This is a really sad development that could affect the whole of Google+ negatively on a big scale – there are actually rumours that Google+ traffic has gone down by more than 50% since circle sharing has been disabled and I noticed myself too that it seems to have become more quiet recently.
Why Google has disabled circle sharing still remains a mystery, because there has not been a proper official statement – it only has been confirmed by some Google employees that it is not a technical glitch and was done deliberately. The common opinion is that Google has pulled the feature because it was too much abused by spammers and marketing people – which is a fair point. But killing the most useful feature of the social network instead of implementing some spam-reducing measures like an option for users not to get shared in circles is very disappointing to say the least and an extremely user-unfriendly solution. Another quite likely theory is that Google wanted to get around implementing circle sharing on mobile devices, which was never built into either the mobile apps or websites.
What happens now with Google+ is anyone’s guess, but while circle sharing is now dead, a new tool called Collections has been introduced, a Pinterest-like feature to gather posts, but not users, together. This may be the best way to work against Google’s later counter-productive move, because instead of sharing a collection of Google+ users, it is now possible to share a collection of user’s posts, which should work almost as well as circles did. This is what I am going to do in the long run especially with the photographer circles – reshare one post of each user into a collection to rebuild the exceptional community that has grown over the years.
Although I consider the disabling of circle sharing one of Google’s worst moves since the closing of Google Reader two years ago, this will not be the end of Google+ by far – the network has always been incredibly dynamic and interactive and all the really sensible users will find a way to survive and thrive even without being able to share circles.