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Weekly Update - January 21, 2023: Blogger Analytics, YouTube Community Guidelines Issues, Big Tech Layoffs


This week you can get more information about Community Guidelines strikes in your YouTube account, set up the new Google Analytics 4 for your Blogger blog, layoffs at big tech companies, news from Twitter and Amazon and more.

I also have a brief overview of what I learned this week about disaster prep, both online and offline. Skip that if you aren’t interested.

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Prepare for Disaster

This is only slightly related to the topics I usually cover, but I wanted to share the information. Skip down for the weekly tech news.

This week I went to disaster preparedness training, which I found really helpful. Not only did I learn about local resources, but there was also a focus on preparing a ready kit just from items that are already around the house or easy to buy. I have been researching this, and most websites seem to either be prepping for the zombie apocalypse (collect 50 gallon drums of beans and rice, plus weapons for everyone!) or promoting lists of Amazon links, neither of which is useful.

A few tips I learned, along with the motto “be prepared, not scared”.
  • Make a plan where to meet family or other allies if you have to evacuate. 
  • Be sure you can access important information, even if the electricity is off, you lose your phone, or don’t have access to your computer.
    • Have a written, offline list of contacts, including name, phone number and address.
    • Have a written, offline list of your medications and health details.
    • Have copies of important documents and a paper map.
    • Store images of your important documents on your secured phone. You can hide “sensitive” photos in Google Photos on your Android device for added obscurity.
    • Keep your passwords in a password manager (I use Google’s Password Manager).
  • Stay informed
    • Sign up for alerts from your city, county, region or state. Nixle lets you sign up for alerts from public agencies across the US. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alert The Bay connects you to alerts in your county.
    • Sign up for alerts (or bookmark the site) for your local electricity, gas and water companies, air quality reports (like Spare the Air) and the National Weather Service or local weather.
    • If you are in an area that uses Zonehaven to manage evacuations (maybe only California?), be sure to “know your zone”.
    • Rx Open shows the open status of pharmacies in disaster areas of the US.
    • If you are in the United States you can dial 2-1-1 for information and referrals to local resources during a disaster (and other times too). This is the nonprofit that manages my local 2-1-1 service.
    • Learn about local risks before there is a disaster. In California, the CalOES MyHazards site lets you find natural hazards in your location. I’ve got wildfires and earthquakes.
    • Make checklists, following the “Checklist Manifesto”.
  • Create a “ready kit” that you can easily access in an emergency (example). You can also create a small “SKIP” (safety kept in place) starter kit in a plastic bag or other small container.
And now back to usually scheduled programming.

Update Your Blogger Blog (or other site) to Google Analytics 4

On July 1 Google’s old “Universal Analytics” will be shut off. Website and blog owners are strongly encouraged to switch to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) so that it can start collecting data before the switch.

If you have a Blogger blog you can now set up GA4 tracking in your blog’s settings.

You need to first set up a GA4 “G-” ID in Google Analytics. If you have an existing Universal Analytics property in Google Analytics, sign in to that and you should see a banner that opens a setup wizard. Instructions here.

Once you have the G- ID, you can enter into your Blogger Settings > Basic > Google Analytics Measurement ID

It only takes a few minutes to set up.

Many other platforms can use a “G-” ID to set up Google Analytics 4 including Drupal, GoDaddy, Google Sites, HubSpot, Magento, WordPress (Site Kit plugin or WordPress.com), Squarespace, Wix, WooCommerce, and a number of others. See the full list here.

If you want to learn more about how Google Analytics 4 works, Google has launched a video tutorial series, starting here. It’s on my watch list.

More user-friendly handling of Community Guidelines issues

Community Guidelines issues on YouTube can be confusing to manage. YouTube has taken a step to make it easier to understand and handle violations.

Start in YouTube Studio (studio.youtube.com) where you will see a notice of a Community Guidelines issue. When you open that, you will see information about the specific policy that was violated, and a timestamp of the violation in your video (currently only for creators in the YouTube Partner Program).

There will also be educational resources and the option to appeal, if you think that YouTube got it wrong.

Watch the video from Creator Insider to learn more.

Big Tech Layoffs

This seems like a bad sign.

On Friday Google announced they are laying off 12,000 employees. This is roughly 6% of its total workforce. What will this mean for Google products and services? It isn’t clear, but Sundar Pichai’s (public) email to employees notes that they will be using more AI:
 
“And we’re getting ready to share some entirely new experiences for users, developers and businesses, too. We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”

But they are taking time to “get AI right”, so it's not clear whether there will be changes in the short term.

Google isn’t alone in reducing its staff. Microsoft is laying off 10,000 (less than 5%); Amazon is eliminating 18,000 (including almost all of the Comixology team); Meta “let go” 11,000 (about 13%) last November.

Of course, percentage-wise, none of those come close to Twitter’s 80% staff reduction over the past few months. But Twitter only had about 7,500 total employees when Elon Musk took over.

This may be a boon for smaller companies looking for talented engineers and other staff. And some of the laid off may take this opportunity to launch their own business. But it is still a *lot* of tech workers suddenly unemployed.

And I wonder if big tech is expecting tough times ahead.

Social Media: Twitter

As I mentioned last week, starting around January 12th, several popular Twitter apps stopped working. It looked like they may have been intentionally cut off from the Twitter API, but there was no communication from Twitter about that. It wasn’t until January 17th that the Twitter Dev account posted that “Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules”, without actually pointing to which rules it had started enforcing.

It wasn’t until January 19th that the Twitter API policy was updated to include the rule the 3rd party apps were shut down for violating a week ago.. Long-standing apps Twitterific and Tweetbot are now officially gone. It’s not clear if the problem is that Twitter no longer has a communications team, or if Twitter just doesn’t care, but it was a lousy way to treat developers. Twitterific’s Craig Hockenberry wrote a personal and passionate post noting:

What bothers me about Twitterrific’s final day is that it was not dignified. There was no advance notice for its creators, customers just got a weird error, and no one is explaining what’s going on. We had no chance to thank customers who have been with us for over a decade. Instead, it’s just another scene in their ongoing shit show.

Twitter is making easier to Bookmark Tweets.

For more in-depth reporting on the Twitter situation, check out “Extremely Hardcore”, a collaboration between The Verge’s Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton, and New York Magazine’s Alex Heath. As you read it, keep your eye on the left side for the dropping Elon net worth-o-meter as the article progresses.

Social Media: Meta

There is a new Meta Accounts Center, where you can manage settings for Facebook, Instagram and Messenger all in one place. It is optional to set up your accounts that way, and you can continue to keep your settings for those three services separate.

The new Instagram Quiet Mode turns off notifications and sends an auto-reply to DMs. Teens will be prompted to turn it on when they spend a lot of time on Instagram at night. Currently this is available in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Instagram is also implementing changes to make it less likely you will have content recommended to you that you don’t want to see. You can hide multiple content in Explore at once, you can add words to your avoid list and that will apply to recommended content, as well as in comments and DMs.

More social media

Tumblr is rolling out polls on all platforms. Fun!?

TikTok employees use a process they call “heating” to manually boost some videos so they go viral. It’s suggested that it is used when trying to “court” influencers or brands by artificially increasing their views. It’s also claimed that some employees “improperly” used heating to help family, friends or even their own videos.

Productivity

Google Workspace admins can now allow users to set personal pronouns at aboutme.google.com. Your pronouns can appear in Google contact information and on the hovercard that appears over your avatar in Gmail, Chat, Calendar and other Google products. It’s opt-in and you can choose who can see your pronouns. While the instructions don’t say this is limited to Workspace accounts, I am not seeing the setting in my personal account. Learn more.

If your office uses video meeting hardware, it just got easier to use different meeting platforms. Zoom and Google Meet meetings now work on either type hardware. You can join a Zoom meeting from Google Meet hardware, and you can join a Meet meeting from Zoom Room hardware. Some advanced features may not be available when you do this.

More

Josh Riedel in Slate explains why it’s hard to be @Josh on Instagram.

Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Smile program. If you shopped at smile.amazon.com instead of www.amazon.com a portion of your purchases would go towards the charities of your choice. On Reddit, someone claiming to have been an Amazon employee explained the reason for the program was to encourage people to shop through the Smile site, rather than doing a Google search and clicking an Amazon ad (which cost more than the amount donated to charity). But apparently that is no longer worth their while.
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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.

Header image background: Snowy landscape by NadineDoerle on Pixabay. Free for commercial use.
https://pixabay.com/photos/snow-alps-haute-savoie-1178280/

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