Paolo Amoroso's Journal

Google, the blogging platform I use, lets me embed a YouTube video in a post by just inserting the URL in a blank line of the Makrdown source.

It's a valuable feature with a major drawback: YouTube embeds contain user tracking code by Google. I don't mind such trackers but my many privacy minded readers do.

As a workaround I could insert the trackerless code YouTube provides, but the design of the video player is not responsive and gets cropped on mobile screens. relies on for YouTube and other embeds and doesn't support trackerless embeds. I and others tried to bring the issue to the attention of the developer but not much happened.

Managing tracking and cookie consent is a hassle, so what to do? I just went ahead and replaced the half a dozen embeds of my blog with links to the corresponding videos on YouTube.

A nice side effect is the Blacklight privacy inspector now reports 0 trackers and cookies on my blog.

#blogging #Google

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I've begun migrating my personal website from Squarespace to Blot.

It's a small site of a dozen pages intended as a brochure with basic information on me, my activities and projects, as well as links to my blog and online profiles. Think of it as a glorified link in bio.


I couldn't stand looking at my site anymore, I wanted out of it.

The polished details of a professionally designed template gave the site a marketing feel that doesn't represent me. Instead, I want a more lightweight, clean, and lean online home hinting it belongs to a genuine individual. It's okay if the site delivers the amateurish but authentic vibes of a hobby project.

Another motivation to migrate was cost.

At about €240 per year, Squarespace isn't cheap and its inflexibility adds to the cost. Once assigned to a site, a theme can't be swapped for another one without paying for an additional site to associate it to.

Why Blot

Prior to Squarespace I maintained the site with Weebly. Drag and drop site builders like them make it easy to arrange content or tweak the design but their rich-text editors introduce friction when working on what matters, text.

Using to publish this blog spoiled me in how productive and frictionless Markdown is. As a Squarespace alternative I wanted a Markdown-centric publishing platform that could be operated entirely online on chromeOS, integrating seamlessly with my cloud lifestyle.

Traditional static site generators support Markdown but are too complex to set up and maintain. And they may not be a good fit with the cloud.

I procrastinated researching an alternate site builder as googling for it involves highly targeted keywords that yeld lots of ads and SEO-optimized crap. Luckily, by chance I stumbled upon Kev Quirk's praise of Blot which I had heard about.

Checking out Blot and reading the documentation confirmed it could be the right tool, almost.

Blot is designed around blogs and, by default, the home page of the sites it makes displays a list of dated entries in reverse chronological order, as well as matching navigation elements. This isn't the right layout for an infrequently updated personal site.

An email exchange with Blot's developer David Merfield turned out a simple metadata tweak to remove any references to blog entries and customize the home page to my liking. All I needed was to mark the home page as a landing page. David's support is excellent and with a personal touch.

The toolchain

The tools I use to build and maintain the site are a byproduct of the way Blot works.

Blot is a static site generator that synchronizes the source files stored in an online folder on Google Drive, Dropbox, or a Git repository and publshes them to a site served from Blot's own infrastructure. My familiarity with Google Drive and its cloud-centric nature made obvious the choice of where to store the site folder.

I could edit the sources with Google Docs but its Markdown support is limited. Instead I use the beaufitul web-based Markdown editor StackEdit, which can save the files to and synchronize them with Google Drive.

Some tweaks to the site, such as configuring the navigation menu and URL redirects, go through the online dashboard on Blot's website.

Next steps

So far I set up the new site on a Blot subdomain, selected a layout based on a template I like, and began fleshing out the content. When it looks good, I'll disconnect my domain from Squarespace and connect it to the new site.

I hope to ditch Squarespace soon.


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To fight the threat of ChatGPT and other competing machine learning technologies based on GPT-3, Google is doubling down on AI. The first announcements under the new stategy are expected at Google I/O 2023.

I may be old school, but I'm not looking forward to these upcoming Google products and technologies.

As a user, my experience with the Google Assistant has been unimpressive. The features I tried work half of the times and waste my time in failed attempts at getting understood. When such localized features are rolled out at all to my country years later, that is.

So I'm not excited at the prospect of, say, an AI-enhanced Google Search experience.

I don't want a nice, perfectly idiomatic conversation with a chatbot that ends up recommending the usual shallow, keyword-stuffed, SEO-optimized crap of top search results. Maybe created by some ChatGPT-powered bot.

I want products and features created with traditional, boring software and hardware technologies. Something that works all of the times and consistently makes a difference in my productivity and ability to carry out tasks.

Here are a few Google product features that would make me jump with joy:

  • Markdown in Gmail
  • native Android support for full app data syncronization in the cloud, so seamless and compelling developers just can't say no
  • enforcing the requirement that all new Android apps must work also on chromeOS
  • true, substantial (at least 8X) optical zoom in Pixel phones
  • native Docker support in chromeOS
  • full Android app mirroring on chromeOS, not just messaging

Between Google chasing the latest hype, and advanced users always getting a back seat in product decisions, something tells me I'm not going to see any of these features anytime soon.


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As a geek, I’m excited about the cool tech of the Google Assistant. As a user, I’m frustrated and disappointed.

Localizing Assistant products and features is significantly more complex than translating user interface text and documentation. It requires major development work on core functionality relying on language processing and machine learning. This delays the release of new products and features to countries outside of USA or languages other than English.

By the time an Assistant feature rolls out to Italy where I live, years later and often incomplete, I long forgot about it and don't give it a try.

Even when Assistant features do arrive in Italy, using them is frustrating. My Google Home Mini smart speaker may not understand me or can't do what I want, which happens sufficiently often to discourage further use. Also, potentially useful voice commands have little or no discoverability.

I end up rarely using the Assistant, and only for trivial tasks such as setting alarms or getting weather forecasts.


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Google I/O is going to begin in just a couple of days and I haven't seen many rumors or leaks on what to expect, if at all. The 2022 edition of Google's developer conference may actually be the one with the least rumors, which is a good thing as I don't like spoilers and prefer a good suprise.


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Google is rolling out Markdown support for Google Docs to Google Workspace and personal accounts. When the editor detects a Markdown code sequence, it can automatically replace it with the corresponding formatted rich text.

The tech giant is taking note of what developers, bloggers, creators, and power users already knew. Markdown reduces friction and improves productivity, which is helping me blog daily.


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In an interview published on the company blog, Google's Public Liaison for Search Danny Sullivan said:

Over the last seven years, we’ve decreased the number of irrelevant results by over 50%.

As a Google Search user, this contrasts with how helpful search results are to me. In most cases, the top results are ads-filled pages with shallow content heavily optimized by SEO farms.

How can Sullivan's data be reconciled with my subjective experience of unsatisfactory search results?

One way to look at this is Google focuses on relevance. SEO-optimized pages are certainly relevant, in that they match my search queries. But, to me, that content has low quality and is a waste of time.

Google is improving relevance, not quality.


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Every few days, Telegram notifies me one of my contacts joined the platform. Aside from other Google enthusiasts, only 3-4 of my contacts are still on Google Chat.

This is emblematic of the complete failure of Google in the messaging space.


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Google released a Gmail redesign that finally rolled out to me. Here are my first impressions after a few days.

What's new?

The redesign integrates the Gmail email client with Google Chat messaging and Google Meet video calling. The early feedback I read was from unhappy users who made it seem the sky was falling.

But I kind of like the refreshed look and don't mind the new layout.

Now i notice a new color palette, the toolbars framing the window sides have a different background shade, and there are a few more tweaks. The only major addition is a thin left sidebar with tabs for Gmail, Chat conversations and spaces, and Meet meetings.

The left sidebar does reduce horizontal space and leaves less room for the email subject and snippet in the inbox list view, especially on small screens such as those of Chromebooks. But there's still enough context and on the 1080p monitor of my daily desktop driver, an ASUS Chromebox 3, the extra sidebar space is not an issue.

The new layout comes with some handy extra funcionality. For example, the Chat notification badges for incoming messages, and the lists of conversations and spaces that pop up when hovering over the Chat icons. This may make redundant the separate Chat window I usually keep open.

Too bad Google Chat is not even a blip on the radar of the messaging market and I have so few contacts left on Chat.


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