This Week In Web - 11.21.14

  •   Miki Pacifico

By Miki Pacifico

This week, all the least useful more up-to-date advancements that technology never needed.

I’ve been disappointed in tech and marketing related news lately. I just haven’t seen anything come out in the last couple weeks to make me sit up and take notice. It’s been such a long lag in interesting news that I felt like I had to put something together for this week’s edition. Anything, really. 

So I am dubbing this week’s news the Week of Useless Technological Advancements. In order to qualify for this title, the advancement must meet one of the following criteria:

  • It exists somewhere else in another, more useful form.
  • It is something that would be better if done by a real human being
  • or is completely pointless.

In the words of a great man (Jeff Goldblum), your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.

Google Reads Your Emails to Make Plans

Qualifies as: exists elsewhere, better done by a human, completely pointless.

This is a three-fold winner. Google announced that users of its Android app will now get automatic prompts asking them if they would like to add casual invitations to their Google Calendar. 

Google does this by reading through emails and picking up on language associated with invitations and plan making. So, as long as you are okay with Google reading every word of every email you receive, then you’re golden. Otherwise, just write yourself a sticky note like the rest of the world.


Facebook at Work

Qualifies as: exists elsewhere (lots of elsewheres)

Rumor has it that Facebook is testing a feature to allow people to use Facebook at work separate from the social platform. It would function as a combination of chat, networking with professionals, and work collaboration. 

In essence, Facebook would be rolling Yammer, Skype, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Dropbox, and an unending number of other platforms into one. From 30,000 feet above, this sounds like a great idea… until you remember Facebook’s track record with both user interface and data collection. Whether or not they can effectively roll out a platform that does everything a professional would need it to do, all without stealing and manipulating all of their proprietary business information is highly doubtful.


Stanford Automates Photo Captions

Qualifies as: better done by a human being

Stanford University is presenting a model that generates “free-form natural language descriptions” of images. When you review the sheer volume of data and what can be pulled from a set of stock images, you have to admit its quite impressive. It’s not 100% accurate, which is where this advancement falls short. You are relying on an algorithm to discern gender, distance, color, action, and objects. It’s certainly no easy task for non-sentient objects, which is why this is a task probably best left to the human uploading the image in the first place. 

Here are a couple examples of Stanford's captioning:


First of all, that's a girl. Secondly, she is on land on a trampoline.


Pretty sure that is a young boy. Just throwing that out there.


Google Wants More of Your Money

Qualifies as: completely pointless

Google is happy to let you skip the hassle of ignoring their display ads on many popular websites across the web - for a cost. The introduction of the Contributor service allows you to subscribe to a host of websites for between $1-3 per month per website, and in exchange you will stop seeing those annoying (but totally static) banner ads. In their place will be a grayscale pattern or a flashing “thank you” message. So instead of simply ignoring banner ads for free, you get to pay monthly to notice that they aren't there anymore. Sounds like a sweet deal.