Holiday Memories and Other Thoughts on Google+ Photo Sharing

By now anyone who uses Google+ and regularly uploads photos – in particular auto-backups from your smartphone – has seen their Auto Awesome Year-in-Review video. Not withstanding your personal feelings about this you’ve got to admit this is a pretty incredible feat of technology to parse millions (billions?) of photos and videos and assemble them into personal time lines. It’s the democratization of technology, bringing the power to the little people!

I had two reactions to this, probably the same reactions that everyone has had, they were:

  1. That is frakin’ AWESOME! Google is so COOL!!! and
  2. I bet General Alexander is thinking WTF?! When Google does that stuff people say it’s frakin’ awesome! But when the NSA does it they go all George Orwell on us!
The Year-in-Review inspired me to try and use Google+ even more this holiday season to capture the memories of family and friends, of our gatherings, and all the activities we did together.
Although Year-in-Review (and all the Auto Awesome stuff) clearly demonstrates that the engineers at Google still have the freedom to do stupid useless stuff that blows the mind, the way Google+ works (or rather doesn’t) clearly demonstrates that the marketing department has way too much power.

For example, when you check-in to an Event you can turn on Party mode so that photos are uploaded immediately to the event. The problem is the Auto Awesome photos are not added to the event! So you have to go back and find them and push them into the event’s album yourself! So by default the Auto Awesome photos don’t get shared to the Event, what good is that?!

Sunset over the lake, stitched by auto-awesome panorama

Sunset over the lake, stitched by auto-awesome panorama

Adding photos manually afterwards means returning to the Event and clicking the Add Photos button, which takes you to all your Photos so you can select the ones you want to add. And then, if you’re doing this from your phone, they are uploaded again to the Event’s album! There’s no way to go directly from the photos to the Event’s album, which is frustrating since Photos are easier to access but you need to dig down through the Google+ to get to the Event.

If you’ve turned on uploads over Wi-Fi only then Party mode is moot if you’re not on Wi-Fi. The photos will be uploaded to your auto-backup at a later date and you’ll have to manually add them to the Event. And if you have a mulit-day event then Party mode will expire before the end of the event. Frustrating!!!

And finally, for a non-member to view the Event’s Photo Album they have to through a scary, convoluted process! A non-member who wants to view it is slapped with a join-up, sign-in or else page but in reality they just need to hit the back button and they’ll see the whole event’s album. I’m not sure if that’s a feature or a bug. But it is frustrating. And the experience is a lot worse than sharing an album from Google+’s predecessor, Picasa Web, or other services like Flickr  (both offer an anonymous or guest access method).

Fondue Dinner for New Years Eve

Fondue Dinner for New Years Eve

So far this has all been about Events and Photo Albums. I find myself creating Albums once all the photos are uploaded, but there’s no way to add dates, times, or locations to an album – that requires an Event. But Events require me to invite attendees, which isn’t always appropriate.Tagging people in Google+ Photos has become very error prone. If their name is the same or partially the same as someone on Google+ you’ll find yourself tagging the wrong person in your photos quite frequently because the interface prompts you with member’s names and it’s very tricky to avoid choosing the first suggestion (in fact I have not yet succeeded and will probably give up).

Events and Albums all seem very convoluted and the least well thought-out part of Google+. But the thing I would like to use the most and am forced to use the most since Picasa Web is most definitely being assimilated.

I can live with using Communities instead of Groups; and Hangouts instead of Talk; and Locations instead of Latitude/Places/etc. They feel like evolutions and not Facebook.

I wish I could really get into Google+ but I can’t! I really like the cool stuff Google does, but I hate the way they’re trying to make Google+ the new Google. Why couldn’t they just keep doing what they were doing with Google Calendar, Picasa Web, Google Talk/Voice, Google Groups, and Blogger. Perhaps integrate them more tightly so that a Calendar event links to a Picasa Web album and conversations in Talk/Voice were integrated with discussions in Google Docs/Drive and stored in GMail, and Blogger evolved a bit to handle micro-blogging, media-blogging, and link-sharing as well as full-fledged blogging.

It’s not like people are dropping Facebook for Google+ by the millions. So why piss-off and drive away the loyal Google-nauts by forcing Google+ on them!? We already love the products Google has, just keep improving them, adding features, and don’t screw with them!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads