Google+ ‘Stories’ Automatically Curating User Photos

Ask the Decoder: How are algorithms telling our stories for us? (Al Jazeera, 8 Oct 2014) – Jean Yang went on a big trip through Europe this summer, from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Dubrovnik, Croatia, to Oslo, Norway, and back. Like a good tourist, she took pictures on her phone, an Android, throughout her trip. When she returned home, she found a surprise package in her Google+ notifications: a neatly collated, summarized, annotated digital scrapbook titled “Trip.” Jean shared the album with me with this message: “ This is equally cool and creepy: Google made this scrapbook of my June travels based on a random selection of photos I took – and also its knowledge of where I was. It’s kind of nice to have this information organized automatically, but this is really trusting them with a lot of information. It would be funny if they took quotes from emails I sent during this time and put in quotes relevant to the places. “Oslo is so expensive! My second dinner of wonton soup cost 68 kroner.” I’m curious how they decide what to include.” When I spoke with Jean later, she was surprised in part because she didn’t know this feature existed. She was also a little taken aback by all the location information included, given that she hadn’t been using her roaming phone plan or data while abroad. So how did Google pull this together? And why did it leave Jean with mixed feelings? We looked into the program. Google introduced this scrapbooking feature in May, just before Jean’s trip. The company calls it Stories : “Your best photos are automatically chosen and arranged in a fun timeline to show the highlights of your trip or event.” There’s an example scrapbook here . * * *