Now that the old Google+ user interface has been permanently switched off, everything revolving about photography has changed on Google’s social network – but not from one moment to the other. Ever since Google Photos was introduced, it was evident that the photography and image organizing features of Google+ were going to be moved to the new service – which is not a bad thing at all. It may be a very subjective view, but I’ve always found the image organizing features in the old Google+ clunky, slow and sometimes borderline unuseable, so after some initial misgivings I’ve been using Google Photos ever since it was introduced back in Summer 2015. So, in the danger of this blog becoming too much Google infested, here are some observations and tips about the new relationship between G+ and Google Photos.
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Back in November 2015, Google had announced a new user interface for its social network Google+ and there was a lot of justified criticism about this new version that had been introduced in parallel to the familiar look that had been in place since Spring 2013. Yesterday, about fourteen months later, Google announced that the transition period is going to end and the ‘Classic’ interface will be permanently switched off on January 24, next Tuesday. While I expect there will be a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Google has actually done everything right this time. Almost four years ago, the first user interface change was thrown at the users practically without warning, but this time, Google has made sure that the over a year long transition was also accompanied by listening to feedback and actually making the improvements the users really want. At first, the new user interface was a bit of a mess, but now, especially after yesterday’s announcements, it has finally become fully useable, although some things have indeed changed.
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Google had already rolled out the first test version of the new Google+ design last November, but at the end of August they finally made the makeover the default view. While the old “classic” interface has not been completely switched off yet, its days are now definitively numbered and it’s now time to get acquainted with the new Google+. I’ve actually been using it since last winter and after a couple of weeks, I never switched back to the old version because missing or faulty features had been quickly re-instated or fixed and Google has made a lot of improvements to the new Google+ ever since. There have been a lot of unwarranted complaints recently because of the change, but most can be boiled down to a simple fear of change, which is understandable – but the new Google+ is much easier to use and the restructuring has overall been very beneficial to the social network.
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I really like Google Chrome and I’ve switched years ago from Opera when my former favourite browser had become a sad shadow of itself, but sometimes Chrome can get on my nerves too. Yesterday, I had upgraded from Version 47 to the current 49 and suddenly tabs I had open in the background began to reload when I clicked on them again after I hadn’t used them for some time. This is extremely annoying for users who like to have a lot of tabs open and can even destroy data you’ve entered into online forms or editors. But wait, we’ve had this before, it’s not a bug, but a feature and is called Automatic Tab Discarding.
You can go to chrome://flags/#automatic-tab-discarding (copy & paste this into the browser’s address bar because Chrome doesn’t allow hotlinking this for security reasons) and disable this feature – and believe me, even on a system with only one or two Gigabytes of RAM there will be no low memory problems. At least not if you have a reasonable amount of tabs open, like ten or fifteen, depending on the contents. Overall Chrome 49 seems to be much better in the memory management department, it runs much smoother than before.
I’ve also noticed that the downloads page now looks completely different with a material-like makeover – you can also switch that off on the Flags page at chrome://flags/#enable-md-downloads if you like to have the old version back. Unfortunately, the switch to disable the new bookmarks system I’ve described in a previous blog post seems to have been removed, but if you switched it off before upgrading to Chrome 47, the old bookmarks system should still be active.
There’s also a lot of talk about the Vivaldi Browser whose development is being led by former Opera co-founder Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner – I have actually tried it, but it didn’t run as smoothly as Chrome and the big hurdle for me is that I would need a way to sync my Chrome Bookmarks, which is still impossible at this stage. The bookmark migration from Opera to Chrome was difficult enough and I don’t want to go through that again.
It’s been over two years since Google had last given its social network Google+ an overhaul and yesterday it happened again with a big announcement… this time, it’s thankfully not a forced switchover, but only an option to try it out and come back to the old layout – so far. This is very good, because there are still a lot of things missing and broken in the new layout, some of which actually may render everything completely unuseable for some people. Like me, unfortunately… although I actually like the new visual style because it is basically an expanded version of what the mobile site has been looking like for some time. The new site centers heavily around Collections and Communities, which is fine… but most everything else has been either removed or put into external services, which is in some parts very problematic. Here are some observations.
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At the end of May, Google had unveiled its new Google Photos service at the I/O conference. This came as no great surprise, since there had long been rumours and hints that the photo section of Google+ would be spun off into a separate product as a competitor to Flickr, Facebook & Co – and the results are okay, but the spiffy new web interface and mobile app are still a long way from being perfect. I’ve been using Google Photos in the last couple of weeks a lot because I post my photos not only on my own website, but also over on Google+ as well and while I’m overall somewhat impressed, there are still some minor problems and limitations. Here are some observations, complaints and tips how to make the best out of it.
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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 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.
Well, that was fast. It feels like Christmas was just last week and now suddenly it’s Easter again – how did that happen? It doesn’t help much that Easter is very early this year and the weather has been less like early spring and more like late winter, so it really doesn’t feel like the season with the eggs and the bunnies! But at least it’s not as bad as 2013 when we actually had snow on Good Friday. I hope everyone’s having a nice Easter holiday weekend – this year, I don’t have much of a program except some recycled content and some pretty pictures, but I’d still I’d like to wish everyone a nice Easter holiday! This post is just a little roundup of what I’ve been doing lately on the web – so what has everybody else been up to?
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Google Chrome has really become my favourite browser after Opera completely abandoned its former self and just became a Chrome clone, but not everything’s great and sometimes Google does some incredibly annoying things, like recently… In the last few days, there have been a smatter of complaints about the overhauled and simplyfied bookmarks, ironically called the Enhanced Bookmarks Experiment, which seem to have been switched on after some users upgraded to version 40.
But don’t panic if you are suddenly confronted with a square-y, colourful mess where your good, old bookmarks manager used to be – there is an easy way to go back to the old system. Just go to chrome://flags and search for “bookmarks” – or copy & paste or click the link below:
Here you can set the switch to disabled and bring the experiment to a swift end – if it doesn’t work right away, close all Chrome instances and restart the browser. The “Enhanced Bookmarks” were also previously available as an extension but now seem to have been merged directly into Chrome – if you had the extension installed sometime previously, this flag also switches back to the old bookmarks manager. Your bookmarks will not be deleted or compromised, even if you chose not to sync them with the cloud.
There’s no guarantee that this will work forever, but there has been a pretty strong backlash against the new bookmarks manager and hopefully Google will listen to the users and throw this sorry attempt at modernization away or at least make it usable.