Sep 19, 2015

Images in the Cloud

Alphabet Inc.
I occasionally blog about Google, mainly because this blog is hosted by Google under the "" brand. I like to put plenty of images into my blog posts, so I've always been intrigued by the question of where the images end up being kept.

Back at the start of this millennium, there was an image sharing website called Picasa. Like the original Blogger service, Picasa was taken over by Google and then it was integrated with Blogger. After that point, images that were inserted in Blogger blog posts ended up being added to Picasa Web Albums.

My Picasa albums

I have three different Picasa albums for images from this blog with a total of over 4,000 images that I have uploaded for use in my blog posts (current album). How much of my available storage space am I using?

The heroic struggle of a lone blogger.
In 2013, Google tried to integrate Picasa images with the image archiving system that is associated with their Google+ service. I've never really understood Google+, but its photo albums had some advantages over those of Picasa, so I started archiving some of my images from this blog in a few special purpose Google+ photo albums, particularly my Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.

Google Photos interface
Now in 2015 we have Google Photos. The online "user" interface for Google Photos is a wonder of modern "web app" design, complete with minimalistic and unrecognizable icons (see the image to the left). I put "user" in quotes, because it is not at all clear that Google made Google Photos for human users. It might better be described as their system for collecting data from the photos that people take with their smart phones (and the stray images of a few people who use Google services like Blogger).

If Google Photo had a real user interface then there would be a help button.

Upon my first visit to the Google Photos website, I found that they already had some of "my" images in Google Photos. I guess when dealing with Google Photos, I should re-conceptualize "my photos".

According to Google, "Any photos and videos you uploaded to Google+ are in your Google Photos library." However, I can't access my Google+ photo albums from within Google Photo unless I first navigate to Google Photo by way of my Google+ user account (see the menu to the right). Although my Google+ account is "linked" to my main Google account, it seems to lead a life of its own.
Google+ photo albums  (posters).

One of the interesting settings for Google Photos is shown below:
With luck, you can opt out of sharing the location of your photos.

I don't upload photos from a camera to Google's cloud, so I don't personally care if Google is scraping user data such as where photos were taken, but still, it seems like their default could have been set to not capture such user data unless a user opts in.  Instead, users have to shut off such features.

Search "results" in my Google Photos library
It was about the time when Google Photos went into use that I lost the ability to easily search through my Picasa albums for old images that I want to insert into new blog posts. Google claims that it is easy to use Google Photo to search for images, so I'm wondering if maybe the day is coming when Picasa will be replaced by Google Photo as the image management system for Blogger. However, I suspect that there might not be anyone remaining on Google's staff who has responsibility for maintaining and updating Blogger.

Google Photo does seem to have access to all of my Picasa and Google+ photo albums. If I click in the Google Photo search line, I see some of my old images. My favorite such "search results" is an imaginary pulp science fiction magazine cover that has been labeled by the Google bot as being located in Dubai (see the image to the right).

However, if I click on this "search result" then I get the helpful search page shown below (No Results):

My Google search result!

Example of Google Photo's
image recognition software
I suppose I need "Google Photo for Dummies" in order to make sense of these "search results".

Here is one more example of output from Google's algorithm for locating and classifying images (see the "car" in the image to the right).
Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.
Google Sucks
Just sayin'...
Google revolutionizes artificial intelligence: anyone looking for the pilot episode of The X-Files really wants airline ads!
2016 update. For years google sent email notification for every blog post, then that feature stopped working. After months of email notificationn not working, it finally (April  2016) seems like they fixed that problem. During about the same time period, there was a bug in the blogging software that messed up the positioning of images in a blog post. I guess the intern who is responsible for blogger does eventually get around to fixing the bugs that he/she creates.

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