Why Google+ Cannot Predict My Continental Burger and Contav Fries

I will not hold it against you if the title of this posting absolutely doesn’t make any sense to you. I understand. But this posting is about something that I noticed that especially Google is very interested in… predicting the future.

And this is no reference to my earlier posting of why so many IT journalists write that the pc-era is coming to an end, it is actually about predicting the future. And Google is doing it, right now. Or, at least, they are guessing your future and what you want to do.

And it got me in trouble yesterday… twice.

But, let me go to the second part of the title first; because one thing I know is in the immediate future for me tonight; my Continental Burger and Contav Fries. Pretty close to our studios is a local tavern called the Continental Tavern, and although they probably do not deliver the best burger available, it is pretty damn good, and I love their so-called Contav Fries. And that combined with a nice atmosphere, I absolutely love going there.

Google doesn’t know that. Because they think that my immediate future exists out of interpreting numbers of leads of one of my clients’ projects, and showing photos that show way too much skin (or way too little clothes).

???

Alright, let me explain. I mentioned my plans of taking my wife and daughter on a simple after-work diner. I look forward to it, simply because we all have been working a lot, that I really enjoy the thought of being with my two girls tonight just spending some nice time.

My work during this day before that will happen, will mostly be programming some new functionality managing contacts in a website, and setting up interviews for our photo studio, and painting a second studio. This will be a very accurate prediction, which I know, because I know my planning for today.

I use a couple of services from Google, that I have learned to appreciate over time. Google Voice for my phone system, Google analytics for clients’ websites, Google+(which I am not yet very active on, but contact me if you have an account) and Chrome.

And Google loves it if you are logged in into your Google account. I don’t like that, but hey, it comes with the territory. I like to use their free tools – which most of the time are pretty darn good in functionality – so it comes with a slight price. That price is giving up some privacy, which again is hooked up to your Google account. I am perfectly aware of this.

Now, recently my Chrome has issues. It cannot really control the start-up page anymore. And for some reason or the other, it always thinks that I want to see a web page that shows the number of leads of a clients’ project. The reason why I say that it thinks that I want to do that, is because the error is actually not in the start-up pages of the browser. But a little research online got me to the information that Chrome actually can and will overwrite the pages you see with pages that it thinks you want to see. This is weird, because what they do mention is that they only use their predicting service to complete search URLs, but also to load sites faster.

The thought behind this is sound. If 9 out of 10 visitors of this blog visit the link to the Continental Tavern Chrome might already load up the web page when you visit this blog, so you can easily move on without long loading times in-between. I do have an issue with it. I personally don’t want a browser to do things automatically for me if I don’t explicitly ask it to do so. Not only has it irreversibly messed up my start-up pages (uninstalling and re-installing doesn’t help), which I can live with, but I don’t like the thought that a browser would do this automatically. Especially on mobile 3G or 4G devices, this might take away valuable bandwidth. It might be a little at a time, but still, it downloads pages you have not asked for.

This might sound like a small thing, which it is. But it links in into something more crucial. And this is the iPad/Android app for Google+. I discovered this app yesterday and installed it on my tablet. Immediately when running it for the first time, it clearly, undeniably obvious, asks you how you would like the updating of your data to take place; over Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and Mobile Networks.

Now, I do this like most people do this, I read it, see the obvious answers… and continue. My Google+ account was set up. Nice. The app is not amazing, I cannot edit my information in any way, but, knowing that these days apps are improved very slowly anyway, this is a good start.

So I continued my normal work, and did not really pay attention. Until, suddenly, there is this nice little pop-up mentioning my photos had been uploaded to my account.

Excuse me?

Photos?

I did not tell it to upload photos!

And…

Ehm…

…What photos?

Clicking on my profile it answered my question.

People who own an iPad know this. Apple allows you to save photos while surfing to just one location… everything goes into your camera-roll. You cannot modify this. You need extra apps to manage your photos. Now, let me say, I am no saint here. I do sometimes see, ehm, less decent photos online of people in certain, ehm, physical exercises (nice description, heh?). And I might, or might not, have stored some very nice ones.

My iPad is locked, it is my personal iPad, and no-one uses it but me. So, it is nicely and secure.

I thought.

Google+ had nicely used its ‘instant-upload’ feature, that by default is turned on, to reach into the camera-roll folder and upload each and every photo into my account. AAAAARGH! Looking into my profile, I saw heaps of photos showing stuff that I do not want to show up in my profile.

‘Hi, I am Peter, I work on your website…. oh… and check THESE NICE PHOTOS OUT!’

What the heck is Google thinking! I was lucky. I have photos that I found on the web on there. I do not even doubt there are tons of people having the tablet stuffed with private photos of themselves and their spouses.

Gladly, I found out that it simply uploads the photos, but not immediately shares them in your profile with others. I was able to remove the photos. But believe me, at that moment, you hope that clicking the photos will give you the opportunity to delete them, and not immediately share them! It did not, but I was sweating to find that out. Phew! But still!!!

Yes, sure, you could turn off that feature, but by default it is turned on. The reasoning from Google, as it shows in the help pages of the app, is to have you conveniently capable to share all photos immediately after you take them. Microsoft already slapped me around with even storing perfectly standard photos on their SkyDrive and I don’t need Google reaching their paws into my tablet on their own.

And that too, with the description that it will help me, that they think , or predict, that I want to have all my photos on Google+. Google should stop predicting stuff. They are bad at it. They have no track record in successfully predicting the future. Chrome predicts I want to visit a page that I don’t have a need for since the last three months, and they predict I want to share photos that I absolutely do not want to share. Geez, is it that difficult?

Google is good at analytics. To report or do things with information that already has occurred. The most visited web pages, who visited your site, what your browsing history is, who has called you… all things, all services, based on the past.

Now, they say, that if you understand the past, you can predict the future…

Well, reviewing the past, I predict that Google will be bad at predicting the future for a very long time to come.

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