And Google AI became self-aware on …

This video just drives home the link between personal device use, and the future awakening of our AI overlords.

This reminds me of how Google used it’s free phone information service to gather voice samples to train its voice recognition algorithms.

The main difference here is that Google wants is users to train its nascent AI in a sort of machine learning feedback loop. This should be interesting.

Family photos are a generational thing

I love this video from Google Photos. It captures the generational differences when it comes to family photos perfectly!

I am definitely more on the “take-a-gazillion-photos-and-put-them-into-albums-that-some-fancy-technology-can-index-for-me-for-later” category when it comes to family photos!

Where my photos go these days

Why Flickr is better than Google Photos

My photos are typically uploaded to Flickr and Google Photos by default. I also sometimes share albums on Facebook but I don’t have complete archives there at all. I also make multiple backups of my primary photo library and RAW files because I am more than a little neurotic about losing my family photos.

At the same time, I love living in a time where we can take so many great photos and share them so easily. Having machine learning systems go through our photos and make them so accessible, despite taking 23 photos of the same sunset, is amazing.

Google Photos definitely has the edge when it comes to identifying what is in our photos. As long as I have my Flickr (and other) backups for full resolution images, I’m happy to keep sending all my photos to Google Photos too.

Smarter photo albums with Google Photos

Not sold on Apple Photos yet

I haven’t used Apple Photos much. The libraries tend to become pretty big. My current edited library is about 128GB. That is stored in Flickr in full resolution (I uploaded most of that when we arrived in Israel – a decent upload capacity and no data caps is a must) and in Amazon S3.

I don’t really see me using Apple Photos for my full library. For one thing, I don’t have the drive capacity for that on my current MacBook Air. For another, iCloud storage pricing is still relatively expensive compared to other storage options. Still, I created a small Apple Photos library to play around with the new Apple Photos app.

One of the changes that I like is that I don’t have to replicate my photos in the Apple Photos library. I can “import” photos that I have stored on different drives without actually moving or copying them. That saves a lot of space.

That said, Apple Photos still seems to take up a lot of extra space on my drive relative to the imported photos. At the same time, the library may seem to be relatively big because I activated the Photos iCloud Library and it is importing photos shared through my iPhone and iPad.

I probably need to play around with Apple Photos and use a bigger subset of my library to get a better sense of how much space it will actually use once I’ve accounted for my iCloud library.

Those old family slides

Old memories with my Dad
Old memories with my Dad

My current mission is to have about 150-200 slides from my childhood scanned and added to my digital library. The big challenge with older generations’ photos is that there either aren’t many or they are in physical formats that will only degrade over time.

The slides are mostly in pretty good shape and there are a lot of amazing memories in there. So much I have forgotten from my childhood.

My Grand Plan is actually to co-ordinate with my brother and sister to have all the slides they have from my mother digitised and shared as a collected family archive.

When I look at photos of my parents’ childhoods, I’m struck by how few I have access to and just how few there are altogether. It isn’t quite as bad as the great grandfather in the Google Photos video with just two photos in his whole life but there really aren’t many photos going back a couple generations.

If anything, our kids will have too many photos of our lives and theirs but, hopefully, machine learning will keep developing and the (likely) terabytes of family photos we leave for them when we eventually leave this life will become a rich and valued archive of memories.

The Evernote Cloud is moving to Google

Evernote published a post last week announcing that the Evernote Cloud is going to migrate to the Google Cloud Platform. It probably isn’t going to make a significant difference to the average user (well, except if it means the service is faster and more stable).

That said, one paragraph caught my interest:

In addition to scale, speed, and stability, Google will also give Evernote access to some of the same deep-learning technologies that power services like translation, photo management, and voice search. We look forward to taking advantage of these technologies to help you more easily connect your ideas, search for information in Evernote, and find the right note at the moment you need it. That’s exciting to us, and we’re already exploring some ideas that we think you’ll love.

Whenever I think about the features I’d like to see in Evernote, a couple often come to mind:

  • translation; and
  • better search and discoverability.

I don’t know how Google’s capabilities would be incorporated into Evernote in future versions but I can already see how some sort of Google Translate integration could be enormously useful to me.

I don’t use Evernote for simple text notes. I use it to capture and store information for reference purposes. I have all sorts of data in Evernote including:

  • Utility bills;
  • Articles on work-related themes that I may want to reference later;
  • School information for our kids (class schedules, consent forms and so on);
  • Briefs for work projects that expand as projects develop; and more.

More and more of the stuff I capture into Evernote is in Hebrew because, well, we live in Israel and virtually all of our interactions with our kids’ school, utility providers and government is in Hebrew. My Hebrew is improving, just really slowly.

Unfortunately it doesn’t always keep up with my day-to-day needs so having the ability to translate stuff in Evernote will be really helpful! My wife doesn’t use Evernote so I also keep copies of most of our stuff in shared Google Drive folders and often use Google Docs to translate letters we get from the school. It works for the most part so I can see how this capability would be really useful in Evernote too.

My Evernote notebooks are a little cluttered and I have over 25 000 notes. The search function is usually fine but a bit of machine intelligence could make it a lot easier to find stuff I’ve buried in my notebooks.

As for photo management and voice search … well, that could be interesting. Major updates tend to come along fairly slowly and I guess we’ll have to see what happens in the future.

Image credit: Evernote, licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

When machine learning helps us find photo memories

I am still amazed at how smart machines are when it comes to understanding what we include in our photos. I just ran two simple searches on Facebook and Google+ Photos of my photos and received these results:

I think Google’s machine learning is better when it comes to semantic searches although I haven’t conducted any scientific tests of any sort. It doesn’t really matter which is better. What does blow my hair back is that you can search for objects in the photos and have these machines show you those photos, even though your titles, tags or other metadata has nothing to do with your search terms.

I’ve been thinking about the best place to share my photos and I am very tempted to stop using Flickr and, to a lesser degree, 500px to showcase my photos and to use Google+ Photos instead. As a social network, Google+ hasn’t exactly made waves but it is an incredibly dynamic and powerful photo sharing service.

One of the aspects of Google+ Photos that I really like is Stories (here is a fascinating article about what goes into making Stories possible). Rick Klau’s post about how he started adding old photos to Google+ Photos with some pleasantly surprising results got me thinking about this again:


I prefer to edit my photos myself but the Stories feature in Google+ Photos can be a really nice way to share, well, a story that I capture in my photos. When you add the machines’ ability to recognise things in the photos and make them so much easier to find (or even discovery forgotten gems), these sorts of services become really compelling photo sharing services.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Facebook introduced something like Google+ Photos’ Stories to its photo experience. The combination of the datasets these services have with that sort of nascent intelligence can be remarkable.

On a related note, Om Malik has published a very interesting essay titled “On visual web, a photo is worth more than a 1000 words” which is worth reading.