Paolo Amoroso's Journal

Google

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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