Skip to main content

Weekly Update - February 5, 2022: Gmail Interface, free Google Workspace Essentials, Black History month

This week the Winter Olympics opened in Beijing. I love the Olympics opening ceremonies, with athletes from all over the world joining the games (although I worry about shirtless American Samoa athlete Nathan Crumpton catching cold in the freezing stadium). And this is the once-every-four-years that I get to dive into watching skiing and skating and sledding. 

But I have mixed feelings. China is clearly using the games for propaganda, as the US and a number of other countries refused to send diplomats in the face of China’s human rights violations. And we are still in the midst of a pandemic, with missing athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 and missing fans. It leaves a bitter taste in what should be a celebration of sport.

In any case you can watch highlights of the Olympics on the official Olympics YouTube channel and (in the US) NBC Sports.

This week there aren’t many creator updates, so consider this a week to catch up. And maybe watch the figure skating.

If you want the Weekly Update in your email inbox, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.


Do you have opinions about content moderation? I’m sure you do. I do! On Sunday, January 6 I’m hosting #OnEBoardChat about content moderation. Join us on Twitter at 11AM Pacific, 6PM UTC. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

What I’m watching

Ashley Fell: Why storytelling is so powerful in the digital era.  
I’m thinking about how sharing information and data is enhanced with the “four I’s”: interest, instruct, involve, inspire.

Thanks for the suggestion Bob Danley!

Top Stories

Coming soon: A new design for Gmail on the web, that makes it easier to switch between Gmail, Chat and Spaces, and Meet. This will initially be opt-in, but will become the standard interface by the end of June.

Google has launched Google Workspace Essentials Starter Edition. This is a free account that you can sign up for with your business email, even if (especially if) your workplace isn’t using Google’s tools. Or, as Google puts it, your organization “still relies on legacy productivity tools that weren’t built for the hybrid era of work”. Best I can tell, this gives you the same features as a free personal account (excluding Gmail, of course), with an added dashboard for managing team members.

Celebrate Black History Month by checking out highlighted Black creators on YouTube, Twitch, #BlackTikTok, Pinterest, and Meta VR.


A quick video tip from Creator Insider on how to use the YouTube Analytics audience retention report.

Web Creators is rolling out new tools for easy website editing, including a Full Site Editor and improved Styles tool. If you self-host WordPress, these are included in WordPress 5.9 Josephine. also has a new YouTube channel for tutorials and community highlights.

Social Media

Twitter has been testing warning prompts that appear when a Tweet reply might contain offensive content. In 30% of cases the warning caused people to edit or delete their replies. The test is now being expanded to more countries. Will it make Twitter a more civil space? That isn’t clear.

Twitter also has a new “Tool Box” site, with links to 3rd party tools to use with your Twitter account. It includes tools for moderation, analytics, and posting.

This week 3D avatars are rolling out to Stories and DMs on Instagram and Facebook in the US, Canada and Mexico. According to Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, they are a “key building block for the future of personal identity in the metaverse” (or at least Meta’s metaverse).

Meta’s “Horizon Worlds” (a proto-metaverse) now has a Personal Boundary setting that prevents people from coming too close within your personal space. It is supposed to feel like a 4-foot gap in the real world, and is designed as an anti-harassment feature (to prevent things like the reported virtual groping). There are always going to be jerks who push the boundaries of what they can do to make others uncomfortable or upset. Will this make it a bit less likely? Hopefully so.


With businesses having a mix of employees working from the office and working from home, “hybrid meetings” are the best way to make sure meetings are effective and inclusive for everyone. Google has tips on how to use Google products - Calendar, Meet, Spaces, Jamboard - to run effective hybrid meetings. The latest feature to try? Companion mode in Google Meet. Some of the tips sound useful for non-hybrid meetings as well, whether virtual or in person.

What else I’m reading

Three of the US speed skating Olympians are from the smallish town of Ocala, Florida, which doesn’t even have an ice rink. Their coach, Renee Hildebrand, trains kids using inline roller skates at the local track and roller rink. It’s an amazing story (the article is from 2018, but applies this year as well).

Kyle Chayka in the New Yorker explains “How Tumblr became popular for being obsolete”. A chronological feed, “thriving enclaves of various fandoms”, with a low number of posts (at least relative to Twitter), encourages people to come back. And Kaitlyn Tiffany looks back on how the “snowflakes” of Tumblr “won the internet”. Why the articles now? Tumblr’s CEO Jeff D’Onofrio quietly stepped down last week, putting Tumblr’s direction into question (parent company Automattic says they are launching a search for a new Tumblr CEO).

Google explains how they enforce policy for reviews on Google Maps with the help of machine learning and human reviewers.

That’s all the updates for this week. Subscribe to get the Weekly Update in your email inbox or favorite feed reader every week. Miss last week’s update? Get it here.

Image: Flatlay of Skiing Equipment by Pixabay. CC0, Free to use, no attribution required.