31 July 2014

re/code: “Stories: Google’s Way of Organizing Your Digital Life”

Google+ Photos new stories ready to view

I think of Google Stories like a complex cocktail that someone else is mixing for me: With high-quality ingredients and the right proportions, it’s refreshing and delightful. But when the bartender thinks she knows what I want without asking, there’s a big risk of getting it wrong, which may discourage me from regularly patronizing the same bar.

Katherine Boehret

Earlier this week I got a Google+ notification that I had ‘stories ready to view’. Curious, I clicked through and my first impression was far from delightful. It was quite the opposite: the cover photos for stories were cropped in a horribly ill-suited panorama format that removed most of the subject I had captured, making them next to unrecognizable and stripping them of my original intention. Scrolling down I discovered other cropping failures, for example chopping off people’s heads in group photos. It’s unclear to me how Stories got released in this state; did anyone even check how the algorithm generating stories works in a desktop browser? The least they could do is look for the photo orientation and lay out portrait photos differently that landscape photos – Flickr for example does a very nice job of fitting together different aspect ratios into a beautiful mosaic on their desktop page. While you can customize stories later, the options are extremely limited; why would I waste my time when, no matter what photo I feature on the cover, it will get cropped in a way I can’t control? I guess that’s what you get when you blindingly trust algorithms over human selection…

  • Cover photo cropped by Google Stories
    Google Stories panorama cropped cover photos
  • The original photo as framed by me
    Google Stories original cover photo

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