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Posts Tagged ‘google now’

Casual Friday: Making the Facts Fit the Narrative

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As of this writing, Apple’s current stock price (NASDAQ: AAPL) is $464. Ever since Apple’s stock peaked at $702 in September of last year, Apple has indeed been beleaguered — by a media narrative, not reality. It’s as if the entire investment and media communities decided, in one fell swoop, “Okay. Apple’s had a good run. Their time in the light is over.” These sources claim all sorts of doom-and-gloom scenarios: Apple hasn’t released a new product in over nine months, it’s showing desperation in its litigation strategy with Samsung, the leadership has disappeared under Tim Cook.

All of them are bunk, some embarrassingly so. John Gruber details this phenomenon using one recent example — the bogus claims from Strategy Analytics that Samsung has passed Apple in handset profits:

So again, not to single out Murphy, but to me, his “finally” explains why so many publications jumped on this story — the belief that it was inevitable, that Apple’s market domination has been an aberration, that the company is in the midst of an inevitable decline. It’s a pre-conceived narrative driving the facts, rather than the facts driving the narrative.

I came across an example of this that drives me crazy. Yes, it’s from Gizmodo, a blog so deep in a vacuum of credibility that one could reasonably ask why I even bother to read it, but nonetheless I’m going to use it. I suppose this is what happens when, for the first time in human history, everyone with an internet connection has a voice and publishing platform, and, well…they shouldn’t.

Adam Clark Estes, in a piece called iOS7 Tracks Your Every Move and Displays Your Favorite Places, writes a hyperbolic warning about how this new iOS7 feature spies on you and uploads your daily location data to Apple servers somewhere. This is Apple being evil, see, and ohmygosh, did you see that a Hacker News commenter discovered this? See ‘hacker’ in the title there? IS THAT NOT SCARY?

Here’s what bothers me about this piece, which is clearly designed to fit neatly into the current anti-Apple narrative:

  • Android does the exact same thing, as has for a while now. Google Now, an excellent ‘assistant’ technology on Android that’s like Siri, only better, ‘learns’ your behavior by parsing your email, web searches and location patterns. From this data — which no doubt resides on Google’s servers, but we’ll get to that in a minute — Google Now offers you notifications about package tracking, your favorite sports team’s scores, traffic information, and a host of other things. And bear in mind that when Gizmodo reviewed Google Now for iOS (once it shipped for iOS devices), they called it great.
  • Location services on modern smartphones are used continually and voluntarily — see Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon, OpenTable, and Waze among dozens of others. People use these apps every day to share their locations, check into their favorite establishments, and even vie for mayorships and social media deals offered by these services. You don’t hear much outrage about these, because they’re opt-in services, right? Right.
  • So speaking of opt-in, Estes devotes a single sentence to a fact that derails his entire post: this iOS 7 feature, called ‘Favorite Locations,’ can be turned off with a single switch. Boom. Problem solved. (Yes, you can argue the point that the default setting should be off and the user could enable it, but I suspect by the time iOS 7 ships to the public, this service will be off by default. My hunch is that it’s on by default during beta for testing purposes.)
  • Estes states that he’s concerned about where the data iOS 7 collect is going, and the implication is that it’s going somewhere nefarious (he even reiterates this concern in the comments of his post). Where do his Google searches go? Where does his Yelp data go? What about his search history in Spotify? What about his phone call metadata? What about his IP data as gathered by his ISP? If you want absolutely privacy and your data to literally go nowhere, fall of the grid, ditch your computer and smartphone, use only cash, and live off the land. The ‘where does my data go?’ argument is so specious that I can’t believe Estes isn’t throwing it out there as a ridiculous strawman and nothing more.

I’m not asking for blogs to present perfect point-and-counterpoint arguments to everything they publish, because the nature of op/ed is to proffer an opinion to your readers. I’m simply asking for them not to publish hyperbolic headlines backed by flimsy 213 word posts that seem designed for one thing only: pageviews and complete congruency into an established narrative, in this case the anti-Apple one that’s everywhere you look.

What’s that you say? That’s the game in a nutshell?

Whoops. My bad.

The Power of Google Now

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Here’s Jamie of 37signals telling a story about Google Now, Google’s digital assistant found on Android phones running Android 4.1.x or higher:

I hate being late for appointments. I got that from my father. He’s been drilling that punctuality sermon into me since I was young.

My wife, on the other hand, seems to have no problem leaving for a 10am appointment at 9:59am. I love her, but it drives me nuts.

My wife hates being early. I hate being late.

Last night we had a reservation at a restaurant—Geja’s Cafe. Geja’s is located in a congested part of the city. Traffic can be unpredictable. Throw “rush hour” into the mix—I’m thinking of leaving 1 hour before our reserved time.

Read the whole thing for the kicker.

Google Now is truly astonishing. When you first use it, it seems almost pedestrian, but the more you use your phone, the more it learns about you and starts offering predictive ‘cards’. In my experience, Google Now beats Siri and just about every task you throw at it. Here’s Google Now’s main product page. Check it out.