Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review: Hangouts (yes, still Hangouts)

Hangouts got some decent updates in 2016, despite being upstaged by Google's sexy new 1:1 chat and video messaging apps Allo and Duo.

When Allo and Duo were announced at Google I/O in May, there was much speculation that Hangouts was on the chopping block. But Google quickly clarified that "We're continuing to invest in Hangouts and it will remain a standalone product,", but with a different user base in mind.  Allo and Duo are for personal one-to-one interaction on mobile devices, while Hangouts is focusing on business and collaborative uses. 

Nick Fox, Google's VP of communication products, told Nathan Ingraham at Engadget:
"Because Hangouts is built on a Google account, because it's deeply integrated with Google apps, the Apps suite [things like Drive, Docs, etc.], Gmail, Calendar and so on, it's seen much more success in the enterprise," Fox told me. "It will increasingly focus on that kind of group collaboration enterprise productivity space."
Amit Fulay, Group Product Manager at Google and one of the leads on Duo similarly explained to Forbes:
Unlike Duo, Hangouts is full-featured video calling solution that allows for various integrations and works on PC’s as well as mobile devices. “Hangouts will still be the place for productivity,” Fulay informs me. “Duo is meant to be about the individual, Hangouts is more for collaboration.”
And Hangouts is part of the "secret sauce" behind Project Fi's mobile calling technology, as Nick Fox explained:
With a Hangout, you can connect to several people simultaneously over the ‘net, chatting via video and, of course, audio. When you place a call over Wi-Fi via Project Fi, Google sets it up as a Hangout—only without the video. If you leave Wi-Fi, the Hangout keeps running, and then, because Hangout can juggle multiple connections, your phone can establish a new link over a cellular network.
Hangouts phone call technology also allows Google to offer users free calls around the world when tragedy strikes, as it did far too many times in 2016 (in Belgium, Turkey, France, Japan and Ecuador).

Chat updates
Goodbye to Google+

One of the other big changes for Hangouts was the separation from Google+. When Hangouts launched in 2013, it was deeply integrated with Google+. But since then it's been gradually moving out onto its own. Now, at the end of 2016, the divorce is nearly complete. The new Google+ web interface - now the default (and only experience for G Suite users) - does not include Hangouts. Hangouts are still available at, Gmail, or using the Chrome extension.

What's coming in 2017? 

The G Suite Early Adoptor program describes a new Hangouts experience for business meetings:
A new meeting experience for Google Hangouts makes this exceedingly easy: no downloads, no browser plugins, invite anyone, join from any device, even without an account or a data connection. Every meeting generates a short link and dial-in phone number so you can invite anyone without friction. An updated user interface accommodates up to 50 video participants, and with seamless integration into Calendar and instant screen sharing, your team will be better connected than it ever was before.
There's no way to know when (or even if) that will make its way to consumers, but it sounds pretty interesting.

And I'm hoping for updates to the Hangouts mobile app as well.

Read on for the detailed list of Hangouts updates and some great Hangouts tips.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in Review 2016: Google+ - Creators, Collections and Communities

In June 2016, Google+ turned 5 years old. It was a relatively quiet birthday celebration, with special wallpapers and shared memories. But after all that time, 2016 seems to me to be the year Google+ is finally starting to come into its own.

Rewind back to July 2015, when Google+ announced a shift in focus from being the social layer across all Google products to a simpler and more focused interest-based social network. To that end, a brand new Google+ was launched in November 2015. And this year, the focus was on building up that new Google+, both transferring features from classic Google+ and adding entirely new features.

When the new Google+ web experience became the default in September, it looked like Google+ had indeed been reincarnated.

Collections - which turned one year old in May - are the centerpiece, and new search and discovery features promote Collections before people or individual posts. As Eli Fennel opined "Complaining that your G+ engagement has gone down because you're refusing to use Collections, is like being on Twitter 8+ years ago and complaining that your engagement has gone down because you refused to use hashtags."

Communities got a major spam-fighting update with the ability to hold posts for review. Community post are also now sorted by "relevance" by default, which annoys me (I like to see them in chronological order), but probably makes good posts more discoverable to community browsers or new members.

And finally, after all these years, Google+ became a core G Suite Google Apps for Work service. "This means that Google+ will have the same technical support and service level commitments as any other core service, like Gmail or Google Drive" for G Suite customers. The catch? G Suite users can only use the new Google+ interface. Classic Google+ is no longer supported.

But most of those classic features can be found elsewhere:
The only major feature that's missing is Events. We know those won't be moved in their current form to to the new Google+, but I'm hoping that 2017 brings some kind of Events replacement. 

There are other settings and features that haven't yet made it to the new Google+ (such as setting a custom URL), and others that could use some work (such as posting photos and videos). 

Overall, I think the new Google+ is mostly ready for prime time.  For  users who have been clinging on to the old classic Google+ user interface, I think it's time to say goodbye to the old, and in with the new. 

My top Google+ 2016 Updates

Read on for all this year's Google+ updates and tips!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 in review: AdSense - Updated Account Interface, Better Communication, New Ad Types

AdSense had some solid updates in 2016. The AdSense account interface got a makeover and there were new ad formats. And there was much better communication, with the goal of "becoming more transparent and accessible to the online marketing community."

My top AdSense updates for 2016:

Fake News supported by AdSense

One of the big stories of 2016 was the proliferation of fake news sites. These are sites that exist only for the ad revenue - the "news" they publish is made up and optimized for clicks. They got a boost when credulous people  - including politicians - shared the articles as if they were real.  It was great for the enterprising Macedonian teenagers (and others) who created the sites, not so great for political discourse.

In response, AdSense policy was updated to prohibit fake news sites (and Facebook banned fake news sites from using its advertising network too).

Ad Blockers

2016 was also the year that advertising platforms fought back against ad blockers. AdSense has pretty much stayed out of the fray, but in August there was an amusing few weeks where Facebook made changes to prevent ads from being blocked, which made AdBlock Plus call out Facebook for being "anti-user".  Two days later,  Adblock Plus had found a way to beat Facebook's adblocker-blocker. Facebook then rolled out code to nullify the adblocker-blocker blocker. And back and forth it went - I'm not sure if either side turned out to be the winner.

Adblock Plus reportedly was going to begin selling its own ads, and implied Google was part of their network - a claim Google quickly refuted. And then Adblock clarified they were never selling ads, they just want publishers to use ads from one of their "Acceptable Ads" providers (which doesn't include AdSense). This doesn't seem like a win for publishers to me.

AdSense's take is that ad blockers are indeed a concern, and they want to work within the industry to develop standards "that allow sites and publishers to not have their ads blocked" while "investing in better ads experiences"

The war will likely rage on through 2017 and beyond.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping for some sort of resolution that allows Publishers like me to display ads without annoying my site's visitors to the point where they feel like all ads need block.


Read on for more details about AdSense updates in 2016 and my favorite AdSense tips. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 in Review: Blogger updated dashboard, with more good things to come

Blogger got some nice updates in 2016, and there is a promise of more changes to come in 2017.
And some things were taken away: Google Friend Connect now requires a Google account login, the Slide Show widget stopped working, and there no longer is the option to edit or otherwise manage images now that Picasa Web Albums has been retired. 
Why do I expect more good things to come? November's dashboard redesign was introduced as follows: 
". . . we’ve heard that there’s more we can do to make the platform a better place to have your unique voice be heard. So we’ll be making some adjustments over time to bring you a faster, easier to use and more beautiful Blogger.
To kick things off, we’ve taken a crack at simplifying Blogger’s dashboard so that it’s easier for you to get right to the tools you need."
I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.

In addition to the Blogger updates, Google Sites - which lets you easily make your own websites - got a major makover.  The updated Google Sites became available to everyone in November.

For webmasters, Google Analytics got a big update in September on both desktop and mobile.

Also this year: Google search results became officially "AMP'd". Unfortunately Blogger doesn't currently support creating Accelerated Mobile Pages. Maybe in 2017? I can hope!

Read on for the full list of Blogger updates in 2016 and my favorite tips!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Weekly update - December 24, 2016: YouTube, Spaces, Motions Stills

Happy holidays everyone! It’s pretty quiet this this week, but there are a few nice updates:
  • There is now a YouTube Comment history feed where you can find all your own comments
  • Google Spaces has new invite controls and allows text with (almost) no limits
  • The iOS Motion Stills app now has Motion Text for very cool titling, and better details and loops
Plus there are tips, updates and news for YouTube, Google+, Webmasters, Google Photos, Google Sheets and more!

Image: by me, all rights reserved.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weekly Update - December 17, 2016: Google+, YouTube, Project Fi Fun

As the end of the year draws near, the last updates of 2016 are being released. My top updates:

Holiday cheer:
More of 2016: the best and most popular
(see last week’s roundup for more)

Image: Gumpid mangjæ (After the wolfs) by John Savio (1902-1938) (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Weekly Update - December 10, 2016: YouTube, Google+, Best of 2016

This week there are some great updates and tips for YouTubers around the world, webmasters, Google+ers, Project Fi subscribers and much more.
  • YouTube Red is now available in Korea, YouTube is showing morelocal language content in India, and they are working with Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to curb the spread of terrorist content online
  • The Google+ Android app loads web pages faster, plus there are learning resources for the new Google+ and Collections
  • Android 7.1.1 is rolling out to more devices
  • 2016 isn’t quite over, this year’s “Best” lists are out

Image: Bloemen en vogels door Seitei, Watanabe Seitei, 1916 (Rijksmuseum via Wikimedia Commons)

Holiday cheer:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Free Webinar: Getting Started with the New Google+

On December 7th, I joined +Michael Daniels in his Top Contributor Hangouts series to talk about how to get started with the new Google+.  I talked about how to set up your profile, find interesting content, and  post your own content.

Whether you are new to Google+ or a long time Plusser getting used to the new interface, you should learn something new.  And if you are still using the Classic Google+ interface, now is the time to give the new web experience a try!

Here's the general outline of what we discussed.

1. Setting up your Google+ Profile
2. Populating your Home stream
       * Finding and following Collections
       * Following People and Pages
       * Organizing people into Circles
       * Communities

3. Engaging with posts: Plus, Comment, Share

4. Posting
         * Create your own Collections
         * New posts, Text and Plus Mentions
         * Share photos and images
         * Share links
         * Create a poll
         * Post settings

5. Notifications

You can watch the recording and join the chat by signing in here (it's free, with registration). I've also embedded the video below.

We covered a lot of topics in an hour, so I've shared my slides below (with a few edits for clarity). You can peruse them at your own pace. To get the full description of each slide, view the speaker notes.

    • To view full screen, click the full screen button.
    • To see the slide description and notes, click the gear, then select "Open speaker notes"
If you have questions, need help, or are looking to take Google+ to the next level, here are some resources:

Get help with Google+
Create Collections
Follow my "Get the most out of Google+" Collection for updates and tips:

Peggy K's Get the most out of Google+ Collection

Watch the webinar Learn Google+ from a TC:

Posted by Peggy K

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Weekly Update - December 3, 2016: Google+ Photos, YouTube Live, Search Console

My top news this week:
There’s news about new leadership, updates and troubles at Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, reports about Android malware and hackers, and advances using AI to fight disease, flag inappropriate content, and improve search..

Plus there are updates and tips for video creators, live streamers, bloggers, webmasters, business owners and much much more.

Plus it’s beginning to look a lot like … Santa's Village is now open! (Google Blog)

Image: Detail from The Sawmill, December sun by Ester Almqvisit (1914) (public domain)