Those auto-magic algorithms are getting pretty slick

Today I got to work, powered up my Nexus tablet and saw a notification in the notification area I have never seen before that said “4 auto-awesome videos”

What the heck is that?

So I check it out and see that it is, actually, something that is pretty awesome.

I’m not a huge Google photo user. I don’t store much in the Google photo cloud. But when I got my first Nexus phone a few years ago, I did experiment with auto-uploading photos and videos I took to Google Photos. So, I’ve got some stuff from 3 or 4 years ago just sitting in the Google Photo cloud.

When I clicked on the “Auto-Awesome” notification, a video menu screen appeared with stills from 4 albums I had created in 2009 & 2010 during my auto-upload days. I clicked on one and saw that the Auto Awesome feature had automatically taken the photos and videos from each of those albums and made a movie out of it.

Here’s what the auto awesome feature did to a photo album I had on Google Photos from 2009 when my kids were a tad younger. It’s pretty impressive.

Well, played, Google marketing machine. Well played. You got me with your auto-notification and auto awesomeness. I have to admit that when I saw this video, I got a bit nostalgic. I had forgot that these photos and videos existed (I am sure that I have them tucked safely away in my own storage somewhere), but for a moment, the Google machine caught me and made me go “wow, that is pretty slick”

And then I come back to real life.

I am in the middle of reading Dave Eggers The Goog…er, The Circle, which is a dystopian novel set in a world where the fictional “Circle” corporation has taken transparency, openeness, sharing, privacy, ecommerce and social networking enabled by technology and wrapped in technological utopian ideals to an extreme, creating a dysfunctional 1984-ish nightmare scenario. In the past 2 days, with this auto awesomeness feature and yesterday’s personalized endorsement opt-out decision that means my face should not appear as “endorsing” a product that is returned in a Google search, Eggers vision (which, when I started the book last week seemed farcical with its extreme point of view) has suddenly become highly plausible (although, it should be noted that in the world of The Circle, I probably wouldn’t be able to opt-out of the service). Timing, as they say, is everything.

Like many, I think I am torn between two extremes. One, I find surprises like auto-awesome pretty, uh, awesome. And I can see a great utility in it. It has me reconsidering whether or not I should start using G+ and the photo service more as the final result did something that I want my photos and videos to do – evoke feelings of love and nostalgia of a time when my kids were younger.

But in the back I know that this is exactly what Google wants me to do. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy – using my own memories to play on my sentimentality to market their products and services to me, to get me to contribute more to their machine so that the data on me can be fine tuned. You can sense the algorithms at work, analyzing the video. Oh look, Clint has kids (serve ads about kid safety products). They are 9 and 7 (83% of 7 year old boys like Pokemon. Suggest Pokemon as possible Christmas present for son). He takes them skating (send 2 for 1 skating coupon to Gmail). They have a yard (target Home Depot garden ads), and the yard has trees. The trees look like apple trees. He probably harvests apples from those trees (ad’s for Better Homes and gardens website apple pie section).

When you start to go down the data mining hole, it is easy to scream, “stop the ride, I want to get off!” And in the final analysis, you begin to see even more clearly than before that the product Google sells is you.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out