Tag Archives: Google

How things work out

It’s funny the way things work out. After participating in a fun Twitter Meme started by a former co-worker celebrating 13 years at Boston.com, it got me thinking about my favorite events working at the company.

One thing that came up whilst on my trip down memory lane was the summer afternoon where a few folks from the Washington Post came to visit and meet with us and share best practices and discuss our CMS. It must’ve been sometime around 2002 or 2003. The meeting took place between our marketing and design departments and I was asked to come along to talk to this guy Mark about potential CMS projects. I was a marketing web developer at the time and our CMS was non-existent. I wasn’t even involved with the project, either, so it was a bit strange that I was the one that was invited to the meetings.

Mark and I ended up running into each other a year or two later at an online advertising conference known as AdMonsters. We kept in touch and would often reach out to ask about advertising implementation strategies or discuss some new ad product that launched on one of our two sites, to share some insight into how it was done behind the scenes.

Mark ends up leaving the Post to go out to California, eventually finding himself at Google and I end up leaving Boston.com shortly thereafter to move to New York. A year or so goes by, and Mark reaches out to me asking me if I’m interested in applying for a job at Google. I thought it was a totally ridiculous idea, but figured it was worth a shot.

After 6 months of stress and interviews, I end up getting the job and we move out to California. Five and a half years later, Mark and I are still with Google; we even worked on the same team at one point. So, thanks Mark! Who knew what a last-minute meeting with some folks Washington Post would end up having such a profound impact on my life.

One day, I hope that I’ll look back and smile when I think of how a yellow button with black lettering that read “Obscene Things!” also changed my life.

Facebook and Google

I’ve bitched a lot about Facebook the past year, primarily because I disagree with the way that Facebook assumes that everything you do wants to be public information.

You’re opted by default into Facebook Places, allowing people to broadcast to anyone where you are.
Photos, people can tag you doing stupid things, all without your permission unless your carefull modify your settings.
Facebook started using your name and photo in ads, unless you opted out.
Facebook has been found to be publicly sharing user data with advertisers and other developers.

You post everything on Facebook. You tell it what you like. What you’re doing. Where you’re doing it and who with. This is your life. It is your timeline (I love the design, for the record).  Now, don’t you think you should be able to choose which information you share and with whom (including developers, partners, advertisers,etc.)

Let me explain why this gets me so worked up…

I work at Google. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the advertisers running on our AdSense partner sites (the Google Display Network) are respecting your right to Internet privacy. The team I manage ensures that  our advertisers are not storing any data about you and that they fully declare how they use it by way of the advertiser’s privacy policy. We ensure that advertisers are not stealing your online identity, allowing them to thus target you without your express knowledge and agreement.

We review every ad that is served on our network to ensure that it is not dropping any tracking cookies from shady advertisers, ad networks or other online entities. For the select vendor tracking cookies we allow, we carefully screen them for data collection practices, malware protection and require that they each include a method in their privacy policy to allow you to opt out from being tracked.

Google collects behavioral data about which sites you visit, to put them into categories for advertisers to target. We tell you this information up front and allow you to delete or change what we know about you. Hmmm.. Google thinks I’m 35-44 years old. I’m kind of offended.

We tell you exactly what we know about you and how we use it.

Now let’s talk about Facebook. You tell Facebook everything. Facebook is your online identity. If an someone could take a snapshot of your life (your books, conversations, interests) and put it in one massive database, it’d be Facebook. All this information is then shared with advertisers, research companies its partners.  For example, the marketing research company Nielsen has a new product known as OCR, which will report back to advertisers which ads you’ve seen, on which pages of the internet, how you responded to the ad and compare that with your Facebook profile. You can’t choose what information is shared with Nielsen and what’s not. But that’s ok, right?

They’ve now allowing applications and partners to post directly to your stream and share everything you do, with or without your permission. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I’d rather not tell everyone what movies I’m watching, reading, or listening to without me saying so. Do I want people to know that I a closet Real Housewives fan (I’m not)? Or that I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Vitamin String Orchestra? I’d rather choose tell that to people, not assume that what I do in my private life is up for public consumption.

Spotify! I love it. Greatest app ever. I am a paying user for $9.99 a month. I get an email from them last week, with the subject line “Ron Bailer is listening to ____.” I open it up and it’s a promotional email from Spotify, who has a list of all my friends and is allowing the use of their names in promotional emails. I don’t want my name showing up in anyone else’s promotional email. Even if I love a product, I don’t want them to assume they can use my name in their advertisements. What is Ron hates Spotify?  I asked Spotify about this, and they told me:

The email you are referring too comes from Spotify Social and occurs when you link your Spotify account to Facebook. It will send out these emails occasionally to other users within your social network, so it is possible that from time to time your Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts to Spotify will receive similar emails with your information in.

There is no “opt in” or “opt out” option for this as it is part of the social experience. If you do not wish for information to be shared in this way you will need to disconnect your Facebook account from Spotify.

I like using Spotify and I want to share my playlists with other people. Why must I give up my right to privacy in order to get the convenience of sharing a song or a playlist with someone else. I know what you’re going to say.. this is Spotify’s problem (not Facebook’s). I disagree.

Google would never allow a partner or advertiser to do this to you, without your permission (or at least a way to opt out).

Advertisers on Facebook can target any demographic or profile term they want and hit you with a display ad. These ads can then drop cookies (and flash cookies) on you that can tag you as having specific qualities. You can’t opt out of it. You don’t even know it’s happening or when. The Facebook Privacy policy doesn’t offer any opt-outs for these sorts of things.

The information you share online is information about you. Think about it this way. If you have a secret or a personal story that you want to tell someone in real life. Who would you rather trust? The person that will keep your secret and allow you to say with whom they can and cannot share it? Or someone who thinks that “the age of privacy is over” and is willing to tell it to anyone that’s willing to listen?

Google’s Display Campaign

There’s a great write-up in tomorrow’s New York Times about Google’s display advertising business and it’s new ad campaign “Watch this Space” designed to celebrate and advertiser it’s seriousness in the space.

For me, as someone who has been on this team for the past 3 years, it’s exciting to see that our efforts are paying off. I’m excited to see this covered in The Times and even more excited to see how everything shakes out over the next few years.

New Apps

Like I said in an earlier post, I apologize for my absense, however it’s hard to think of witty and interesting things to go on about — when I’m using up all my creativity from posting on twitter. Regardless, though, I grabbed the latest version of Safari today from Apple — and it’s a pretty sweet web browser.

For those that have been around these parts for a while, you have probably seen my various advertisements for Firefox. Even on my mac, I’ve been a huge supporter of the ‘Fox.. but I think the latest enhancements to Safari are enough to warrant my conversion. The fact that it’s blazing fast and has some great new UI features. As a mac user, Google has yet to release a version of Chrome that I can use — though that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Using a browser based on Webkit (Chrome or Safari) is the fastest experience you’ll have on the web.

On a related note, I logged into The Diatribe admin interface today for the first time in a month or so — and I was pleasantly surprised. At some point, I upgraded to WordPress 2.7 — which has an entire new Admin UI. It’s much more user friendly and easier to navigate. Serves me right for not posting sooner.

I can’t make any promises for more frequent posting — though I’ll do my best

Google Friend Connect

Google just announced that their new Social Networking application known as Friend Connect is now available to the public. What it does, it allows you to “tag” yourself as a member of specific web sites and share your profile information.

I’ve added my Friend Connect box to the right had side of The Diatribe, so if you already have a Google account, you can sign in and show your support for the site. Upload your photo and your Google profile with information and start making friends.

I’m still not sure how this is going to roll out for future applications or tie into other social networks, as it’s still too new. But check it out, sign up and support The Diatribe.

New best of the web

Best of the web hasn’t been around for a while.. so, I came up with a new option courtesy of >a href=”http://reader.google.com”>Google Reader. Any items that are marked as shared will appear in the headlines to the right.

The link in the top nav now points somewhere good now, too — to my Shared Google Reader Page. This should help keep these items new and fresh… How fun!

Disney

As I’m sure you can imagine, Disneyland was amazing… I opted not to fly with the rest of my company, but instead take a limo down with 8 other co-workers and do some wine tasting. We didn’t get there until 11p, but that’s fine.. my designated flight was delayed several hours and I would have arrived at the same time. Bonus points.

During the day, there were 5-10 minute lines for nearly every ride.. and once we took over the park, well, that was utterly amazing. Our own private fireworks display, the speakers on main street blaring music from the DJ Booth in front of the Castle, and oh yeah.. for a lot of the rides (Space Mountain, for example) you could just go again, if you wanted.. nobody was there!

Amazing. It’s one of those experiences that are a once-in-a-lifetime thing.. Being able to frolick and romp around Disney with only a few people here or there.

Here’s a pic of my friends Katie, Pluto, Haley, and I: