Identifying Bias in Yourself and Others

We all have our our biases. If you read that sentance and thought “not I!” then you’re just fooling yourself. We all have things we believe to be true or to be better than other things, it’s just a fact of life. At best we can resist those biases when we talk to each other and attempt to see things objectively, but that’s quite a challenge.

I’m not going to get into how to view things objectively, but I did want to share a quick way to tell if you, or someone else, is biased one way or another.

Scenario: You are a Twitter user, and there are 2 negative news stories that come out on the same day. These companies are rivals in your favorite industry. You see both headlines appear one after the other in your timeline. You retweet the story about Company A right away. “Typical Company A,” you include in your tweet. You retweet the story about Company B as well, but your comment on that is “Does anyone have more info on this? Is this legit?”

In that scenario, you likely have a bias in favor of Company B. You shared both negative stories, but you accepted the story about Company A without any consideration; it confirmed your opinion of them, so it required no research on your part. The story about Company B was negative and could be true, but you really want to get some additional information before actually acknowledging it’s true.

I see this all the time from people when it comes to technology, to politics, and to anything else you can think of. It’s why some people link to a negative story about Google because it confirms their world view and then spend a week “trying to get to the bottom” of a negative news story about Apple. Apple gets “Yes, X is bad, but let’s look into why that’s the case,” while the Google story gets “Of course Google did this.” It’s why some people spend all their time calling out every single typo or mistake in one news outlet only to shrug off bullshit coming from their news source of choice.

I’m not saying I’m perfect at being objective myself. I tend to like Apple stuff and am a little more suspect of Google and I tend to believe liberal political positions are more reasonable than conservative positions, but hopefully you know that about me by now. I do my damndest to make sure my preferences are based on reality and not junk, but I’m imperfect here. All I can do is try to be better.

All you can do is figure out your own bias and then identify the bias in other people. The answer to neither of these is “I/they don’t have bias.” If that’s you’re answer to either question then you’re doing it wrong. Use that info to judge information as fairly as possible. You’re not going to be perfect, but knowing that you are looking at all information through an at least partially biased lens is the first step towards looking at the world in a more levelheaded way.

The End of the Headphone Jack is Not the Start of Proprietary Headphones

There's been a general shit storm that's blown up this week over the supposed removal of the headphone jack off the upcoming iPhone 7. Nilay Patel's piece for The Verge really got people fired up:

Look, I know you’re going to tell me that the traditional TRS headphone jack is a billion years old and prone to failure and that life is about progress and whatever else you need to repeat deliriously into your bed of old HTC extUSB dongles and insane magnetic Palm adapters to sleep at night. But just face facts: ditching the headphone jack on phones makes them worse, in extremely obvious ways. Let’s count them!

Now while I think that The Verge's opinion pieces are typically "things are perfect the way they are, let's not change anything," this piece still struck me as silly. In it, Nilay lays out 6 points that he believes proves that removing the headphone jack is an objectively bad idea.

Here's the thing though, his arguments only hold water if you think that the future is wired headphones. It's 2016 and you can get a pair of decent Bluetooth headphones on Amazon for about $20, and there are more available all the time. I think it's ridiculous to assume that Apple's intention is to have us just buy a different type of wired earbuds. This is the company that shipped a Mac with 1 port on it and rationalized it by saying "why are you plugging stuff into your Mac when everything can be wireless?" They're the company who only makes wireless mice and keyboards1 because who would want to clutter their work space with all those cables. Apple really believes in a wireless future, so I can't help but shake my head when I see people adamant that Apple is demanding people start using proprietary, Apple-only Lightning based headphones.

No, Apple's expectation is that users will start using Bluetooth headphones, which I should be clear is an industry standard, and will work with basically every digital device you're bought in the last 5-10 years.

Will it be painful? Sure, any transition is, and moving away from a port that as been around for this long means it will be even harder than usual. Is now the exact right time to do it? Who knows. What I do know is that every single time Apple has ever removed something from their products, the same chorus of people rise up and say "it's too soon!" But a year or so later everyone is doing the same thing and it turns out it was for the best.

I don't know if 2016 is the exact right time to remove this port, but Apple has a pretty good track record at getting their timing on the nose for these things.

  1. Although they do still sell an old wired keyboard that hasn't been updated in years. 

Can You Get a Genie Back in the Bottle?

Well I sure picked a bad day to spend offline!

Apple caused quite a stir in the past 24 hours by posting an open letter in which Tim Cook states plainly that Apple will not comply with the FBI's request to create a backdoor into the iPhone 5C. For a nice breakdown of the entire situation, read Christina Warren's piece on Mashable and come back when you're done.

Now I'm not a lawyer or law expert by any means, so I don't feel qualified to make any legal statements on the matter. What I do know is that civil liberties are not something that we can give away temporarily to the government and expect them to give them back without a fight. You see this throughout history where a government asks for a little bit of freedom right now to save you from some certain danger. We all want to be safe and we really want the bad guys to get caught, so we tend to give in. Besides, it's just one little thing.

But those "little things" add up and we find those rights we used to enjoy have suddenly vanished. A prime example of this is The Patriot Act, which passed in October 2001, just one month after the 9/11 terror attacks. That bill which would never have gone through in normal times was passed because it seemed like maybe that would stop this sort of thing from happening again. We're just over 14 years beyond this bill passing, and most of its tenants are still in place. It took the leaks of Edward Snowden in 2013 and the outrage that caused for these rules to be addressed in the USA Freedom Act, although many of the same overreaching allowances are still there.

The point is that once you give someone power, it's very difficult to take it away from them. The FBI says they only want the custom build of iOS for the San Bernardino iPhone and not for other ones, but what are the odds that will be the case? What are the odds the FBI has access1 to a custom build of iOS that lets them break into any iPhone they like? What if the political winds push Apple to bake this into all versions of iOS so the FBI can cut out the middleman every time they need to access someone's information? Who knows the specifics, but I can be pretty confident that this "one time" allowance will be anything but.

My initial reaction is that I stand with Apple on this issue. I understand the desire of the FBI to be able to access the information they want, but I also think it's critical to not just say yes every time ask for just a little more freedom. Apple has drawn a pretty decisive line in the sand and I can't wait to see how this story develops over the next couple weeks.

  1. Either by having the version in hand or even just knowing that Apple can, and is willing to make a version for you. 

The Future of iOS is not OS X

OS X + iOS = AppleOS, one app to rule them all — Apple World Today

I do think the two operating systems will merge somewhere down the road into, simply,"AppleOS." The trick for Apple will be to make AppleOS as easy for consumers and newbies as iOS currently is, while still offering features needed by power users and creative professionals. 

I have to respectfully disagree with this sentiment. The idea that iOS and OS X are converging is a rumor we have been discussing since 2010 and it seems no closer to happening today than it did 5 years ago. In fact, based on Tim Cook's recent comments it sounds like we're farther away than ever. It seems pretty clear that iOS is the future of Apple and OS X will only continue to fade away (with yearly updates to make it better, of course).

I think at the suggestion that OS X needs to be rolled into iOS for it to be a serious computing platform is to completely miss the point. It is to suggest that the ultimate goal of iOS is to become OS X, and that is completely off base. The goal of iOS is to be its own thing. It wants to be better, not just more of the same.

Compare how people interact with their smartphones vs their computers. The average person seems to be more confident using their phone and enjoy using it more. I know tons of people who are a hot mess when it comes to organizing their files on their computer and are afraid they're going to break something every time they use it. These same people are wizards on their iPhones and Android phones, posting to Facebook, sharing pictures on Snapchat, and finding places to eat. These the the moments when you see that iOS (and Android) is not just a simple operating system, but a better operating system.

Tempering the Free App Outrage

Well, another podcast app has gone free, and with it, the gnashing of teeth has already begun.

Here's how developer Supertop worded the decision it in their announcement:

Yesterday, Supertop needed an endless stream of thousands of new customers to sustain our business. From today, we can be successful with a far smaller number of much happier customers. We can offer better support. We can add new features more often, instead of holding them back for splashy major releases. In other words, we can do the things that indies do best.

There is a lot of frustration out there about "the race to the bottom" in app pricing. Not only is it making the App Store less profitable, they say, but also developers that give their apps away for free are destroying the market for others who want to make an honest buck. The argument being, who would buy a paid app when there are free options available?

I get this argument, and I don't disagree with it in theory. Yes, I understand that developers need to eat and they only get paid if they charge for their work. I fully support Tapbots when they charge for a new version of Tweetbot and I gladly pay for apps that I find interesting. Hell, David Smith gives away most of his apps and I pay the $1-2 IAP even though I don't have to, the apps work just as well without paying a dime.

All that said, there are two things that really bug me about the criticisms we've seen since Overcast 2 went free.

A lot of hate has been directed at Marco Arment, as if he was the first developer to release a free app in a market with paid alternatives. He's not the first to do this, and he's not even the first in the podcasting space. I wrote about this last month when the Marco-hate was at a fever pitch, and argued that the podcast app market was already full of free apps and that the majority of podcast listeners actually use those free apps. Let's not forget that iOS ships with a perfectly good podcast app that's not only free, but already on the hundreds of millions of iPhones out there. What about Stitcher, Podcast Republic, and Podcast Addict, each of which has been downloaded 1-5 million times on Android alone? Google is even getting in on the game by adding podcasts to the built in Google Play Music app.

Meanwhile, other app catagories deal with this too. Reeder has to compete with Feedly, Flipbook, and Newsify. There's even a newsreader called Free RSS App that has almost 20,000 reviews and surely an order of magnitude more downloads. Dark Sky is up against a litany of free weather apps too. I'm not arguing that free apps are an inevitability, I'm just saying that completely free apps exist in every app category you can imagine and I don't fully understand why seemingly nice guy Marco has gotten so much of blame.

Second, I think a lot of people who hate the idea of free apps with non-traditional revenue are a bit idealistic. We can all look back fondly on the days when applications cost $40 and were updated for years, paid updates all along the way. We can look back on the early days of the App Store when it was not unusual for paid apps to be $9.99 and sell incredibly well. The market has been moving down in price over the years, in no small part due to the sheer number of people making and consuming apps. It's a lot easier to charge $9.99 for your app when you're the only game in town, but it gets a lot harder when 20 other developers are making something very similar.

I also wonder how many people actually spend money on paid up front apps. I was talking with a co-worker recently and they said they wished they could have an app that alerted them whenever it was about to rain. "Do I have good news for you!" I said. I showed them Dark Sky on my iPhone and showed them how it solved the exact problem they wanted solved. Once they saw it was $3, they balked and decided to stick with the Yahoo app they already had. To be clear, this was by no means someone who couldn't afford to blow $3 if they didn't like the app, they just had no interest in paying for apps. I think these people are more common than we would like to think. We're the weird ones who spend not-insignificant sums on apps for our phones (searching through my inbox, I see I have spent a little over $100 on apps this year). Yes, great apps can make your phone and life better in a multitude of ways, but many people don't care enough to fork down the dough.

Again, consider when you bought Overcast, Castro, Pocket Casts, or Downcast in the past. There were numerous free podcast apps you could choose, but you went with a paid one because you thought it would be better for your needs. The odds are that every paid app you have on your phone right now has a completely free alternative that you ignored and bought the paid version because you liked it better.

The bottom line is that Marco Arment didn't destroy the podcast app market when he made Overcast free. Nor did Castro going free prove that paid apps are dead at the evil hand of Overcast. These are both developers who are making decisions based on the realities of the market right now. The hard truth is that paid apps just aren't what they used to be. We can wax poetic about the state of the App Store all we want, but it's all an abstract thing to us. It's developers who make their living on the App Store that need to play by the current market rules. If Marco and Supertop saw that it was in their best interest to stay paid, then they would have done that. Both developers surely saw diminishing revenue with their previous models and considered it unsustainable moving forward, which is why they switched strategies.

I'm sure this conversation will continue for quite a while, but my advice in the meantime is to think about what developers you want to support and support them however you can. If you love Overcast, use the patronage feature and throw a few bucks Marco's way. If you love Castro, do the same. Developers do hard work and create amazing tools we all rely on. They deserve to get paid for their work. The specifics on how they get paid is changing, but clinging to market realities that no longer exist isn't going to stop that change,. And pinning this trend on one person is more than a little silly.

The Days of Physical Keyboards are Numbered

As we continue to dive deeper and deeper into this post-PC world, I find myself thinking more about what things we used to find essential about computers that are being tossed aside as we hurdle towards the future. With this week’s news that Apple is working on a keyboard with literally no moving parts, it hit me like a ton of bricks: of course physical keyboards are on the way out. Just stay with me though and let me explain.

Every new tech device, no matter how brilliant, will inevitably look dated 10+ years down the road. For example, here’s a laptop from 21 years ago as bragged about by Chandler on Friends:

We look at that computer today and think, “wow, that looks old!” In my eyes it’s the device thickness, the terrible screen, and the woefully outdated specs leave no doubt that this is a computer from loooong ago. So when I look at computers around me today, what do I think is going to seem the most dated in 20 more years? I think physical keyboards are going to be one o the big things.

But why? Can’t was all agree that a good click keyboard is better than a touchscreen keyboard? Well no, actually. I’m 29, which means that I’m young enough to adapt change, but old enough that I grew up in the PC revolution before touch screen computers and smartphones were a thing. Heck, I didn’t own a cell phone at all until I was 15 years old! I do more and more work on my iPad, but I still prefer to sit down at my desktop computer and use my Das Keyboard. But if you look at younger people, they generally prefer software keyboards to physical ones.

Physical keyboards have already been completely eradicated from smartphones, as people have spoken with their wallets. I remember early iPhone reviews where the reviewer would lament the fact that the iPhone didn’t have a physical keyboard and was much harder to type on than a Blackberry. But those days are long gone and the number of people who wish their smartphones had a physical keyboard has diminished to nearly zero. Software won. Why do we look at desktop keyboards and think that they are any different?

I suspect the young people of 2040 will look at the computers we use today, and specifically the keyboards we use today and scoff.

“It’s so loud!”

“It’s so ugly!”

“It’s huge!”

“They add a ton of moving parts to the computer and can break!”

“Dirt and food just get under the keys and you can never get it out!”

Don’t worry if you love a “real keyboard” though, I’m sure they will be around for a long, long time. I just think that the option of buying a laptop with traditional keys will be quite rare, and finding a teenager who prefers them over a full touch screen will be even more so. The future is a little scary, but don’t worry, it’s better on the other end.

Let's Stop Calling Them "Smartphone Cameras"

Let’s not beat around the bush anymore and start calling the cameras in our phones what they really are, cameras. Yup, they’re just plain old cameras. There’s no longer a need to specify that they’re not a “real camera” anymore. I know it’s semantics, but I think it’s important to realize what these things have become over the past 8 years.

2005-2009: A nice perk you rarely use

Image via Matt Haughey Image via Matt Haughey

The cameras in phones were next to useless for years. Around 2005 or so, they finally got good enough that people would use them in a pinch to get a shot they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. These pictures look terrible, but they were better than nothing. Here’s a line from Engadget’s review of the Sony Ericsson S710a from 2005:

Although its sensor, lens and the resulting pictures blow away pretty much every other cameraphone available in the States, the S710 still cannot replace your high end digicam. Still, it's perfect for snapshot from a day, or (thanks to the flash and CCD) even a night out on the town.

I got married in 2009 and we received a point and shoot camera that was not great, but was certainly far better than the cameras in either of our phones at the time. On our honeymoon we took all of our photos on that camera and almost never used out phones.

2010-2012: The camera you have with you

Image via Engadget Image via Engadget

2010 saw the release of the iPhone 4 and the original Samsung Galaxy S, each of which had really nice camera for the time. They were certainly a step up from what we had before, and we started to hear more and more people saying they were leaving their real cameras at home more often and just taking pictures with their phones.

This was the era of people generally understanding that smartphone cameras were not as good as a standalone camera, but the difference was so little that most people did’t care. And if they did care, the mere reduction in friction in taking a photo with your phone was enough to get many to just use their phone.

Besides, selfies had become the biggest innovation in photography in decades and nothing did that better than a smartphone.

2013-2015: The only camera that matters

Image via Me :) Image via Me :)

I realized when I was talking pictures with my iPhone today that this is the best camera I own. I have a low to mid-range mirrorless camera that I love, but my iPhone gets almost as good images in most situations. And the specs in these things are amazing! High end phones have 12MP+ sensors, fancy true-tone flashes, 8MP wide angle front facing cameras, optical image stabilization, laser auto focus, 4K video, and 240FPS slow mo these days. These are not just get specs to have in a smartphone, they’re great for any camera!

It really hit me when I was shooting some sample footage when I first got my iPhone 6S Plus. The video I was getting out of the iPhone was far, far better than what I was getting out of my Nikon. “How can this be?!” I asked myself. How could this phone camera not only get close to the quality of my $800 camera, but actually demolish it? It was a startling realization, and if I look around at the world, it’s the way it’s been for a few years.

How many young people bring a point-and-shoot with them when they go out with friends? I went to a book signing last week and we all got pictures with the author: it was assumed that we would all have out own smartphone with us to take the picture. Even I, a staunch supporter of “real cameras” find myself taking far more pictures with my phone than anything else.

And I haven't even touched on the fact that images and videos I take from my phone can be immediately shared to Twitter, Facebook, iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram, and infinite more places. I can also use Pixelmator and Snapseed to edit my images on the phone without even waiting to get to a computer to make them just how I want them. And services like iCloud Photo Library and Google Photos let me take every photo I have ever taken with me wherever I am. Software is eating the world, and it's made cameras completely badass.

I will still continue to bring my Nikon with me for special occasions because I do want that more professional quality and enhanced control that I get with RAW images, but I bet even those days are numbered as Apple and others get even better at a rapid pace.

Like it or not, our smartphone cameras are cameras nowadays. All dedicated cameras are bulky, offline, and don’t even take noticeably better photos than our phones in many cases. It’s amazing and just another example of smartphones being the ultimate “omni-device” that sucks up countless products into one that is so much better in every way.

Ad Blocking is the New Pop Up Blocking

Andy Ihnatko on the impact of ad blockers:

[T]hank God that the ad industry is finally seeing large-scale pushback. That’s often what’s necessary. An industry (or a business, or even just a person) assumes that you’re OK with certain behavior and policies unless you somehow communicate that you aren’t. Let’s see if all of this leads to some new self-restraint.

There was a time when pop up advertising was the norm. You had to either deal with it or download a pop up blocker. Over time, pop ups became unacceptable to most people and it eventually became a standard feature of all mainstream web browsers. Nowadays, you have to go out of your way to let your browser accept pop ups.

Because of this change in user behavior and browser features, pop ups are a thing of the past. You may randomly get one these days, but this article is likely the first time you have even though about pop ups in months, even years.

And yet the web survived.

Web advertising had to scale back and become quite a bit more restrained than before. But that couldn’t last forever, as advertisers got more and more aggressive, and ads have gotten worse and worse. They’re getting bad enough that people like me who have been strongly against using an ad blocker for years have started using them.

This all came to a head when Apple released iOS 9, which supported ad content blockers at the system level. People can now block ads on the most popular mobile device in the world and based on the last couple months of sales numbers, people are buying them in mass.

The future may be challenging for some publishers and advertisers, but these are the growing pains we need to go through every once in a while to make the web a better place.

Why Retail May be Moving Away from Truly Insane Black Friday Hours

Image via Business Insider Image via Business Insider

There are many reasons that stores encroaching in on the holidays is bad for employees, and they have been, and will continue to be discussed over the next 2 months. But sadly this discussion in't going to get anything changed. We've been having this same conversation every year for decades and the situation for retail employees has only gotten worse. The only way this will get better is if it makes good business sense to reverse direction.

2014 may have been the epitome of shitty holiday hours with many major chain opening at 6PM on Thanksgiving, and some even earlier. Yes, we have crossed the line from retailers asking their employees to wake up stupid-early on Black Friday to work and were now straight up asking them to skip Thanksgiving dinner so they can come to work. And remember that Black Friday is not technically a holiday, so workers don't get paid time and a half.

For some perspective of how quickly this has accelerated, here's what times Target opened for Black Friday over the past 5 years:

  • 2009: 6AM Friday
  • 2010: 4AM Friday
  • 2011: 12AM Friday
  • 2013: 9PM Thanksgiving
  • 2014: 6PM Thanksgiving
  • 2015: ???

I think that this ever-earlier trend in retail openings is about to break and we're going to get back to more sane Black Friday practices. We have companies like REI who have announced they will be closed all day on Black Friday. We also have Staples and GameStop saying they will not be open on Thanksgiving and will open up at 5-6AM on Friday morning. Last year, Staples opened at 6PM on Thanksgiving and GameStop opened at midnight.

This is good news, but these companies aren't changing their tunes out of the kindness of their hearts, they're doing what they always do, maximize revenue. Here's why they're backing down:

Diminishing returns

The times stated getting earlier and earlier and the amount of money retailers were making on Black Friday went up and up. However, that correlation between opening earlier and making more money has slowed in the last couple years. The National Retail Federation reported an 11% decrease in spending over the Thanksgiving weekend, despite most retailers being open for more hours.

That's not great, especially when many retailers were open 10-15% more hours than the previous year and had to pay workers that much more.

A better economy

The mad dash to compete even harder on Black Friday began around 2008 with the financial collapse in the united States. With less money going into people's pockets, the prospect of saving some money on Christmas gifts was a massive draw. Many people flocked to stores on Thanksgiving because they felt they needed to get the deals that were on offer.

However, the economy is now on the rise and people in general aren't feeling as desperate as they once did. More people are willing to have a nice Thanksgiving with their family and go shopping later.

A growing frustration from customers

Black Friday has always been a little controversial, but the combination of these ever-extended hours and social media have given many customers the platform to vent their disgust in retailers' general "lack of shits given" to their workers' work/life balance. The feeling is swelling to a fever pitch, and it's actually causing people to not go out shopping in protest.

In addition to being upset on behalf of retail employees, they're also frustrated in how Black Friday is encroaching on their own lives. If Target opens at 6PM and you want to get one of the "doorbuster" deals, you probably have to be lined up in front of the store at 5PM, so you can say goodbye to your Thanksgiving dinner as well.

These complaints have been swirling for years, but people continued to go out. However, that 11% decrease in sales and 5% decrease in foot traffic may indicate that people are finally actually boycotting stores that open at insane hours.

Fewer people looking for retail jobs = Harder to staff Black Friday

Have you ever had to write a schedule for Black Friday when your store is open for 30 hours straight? I have, and it's brutal. Even with holiday workers, scheduling this many hours is insane and makes you feel terrible as you have to overextend your employees just to fill the needs of the business.

This is hard enough when you are properly staffed, but retailers are now having trouble getting new recruits in the door since the economy has picked up. Indeed reports a 9% drop in interest in retail job listings and a 26% increase in positions needed. I'm not writing a Black Friday schedule this year (woo hoo!), but looking at those numbers, I still get a pit in my stomach thinking about how hard this is going to be for those who have to.

Digital is changing the game

Digital shopping is rising all the time, and fewer people feel the need to go out on Friday/Thursday to get a great deal. They know they can wait and get something just as good online. Even if the specific deals on offer at physical retailers aren't available later, the mere knowledge that you don't have to go out at a specific time to get ALL THE DEALS makes people comfortable waiting to get their gifts.

And when you look at the free shipping on offer from more big box stores and Amazon, there really is no rush to get something within a 24 hour time frame like there used to.

As a consumer, the most important thing to realize is that there may be more deals on Black Friday, but they are by no means the only deals you'll be able to get during the season. It's just one day in the holiday season and while it is a big day, it ultimately makes a small portion of many retailers' total income for the month leading up to Christmas. They have an interest in getting you in the store for the 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so keep you eye out for deals on the things you really want. If they're not on sale today, they very well may be next week.

And if you really are serious about standing up for the average retail employee, stay home this Thanksgiving and don't buy anything until at least the next day. The odds of you missing out on a great deal is pretty low, so enjoy your time with family and friends. And remember that your calls for better hours for retail employees on Facebook and Twitter don't matter if you still go out shopping on Thanksgiving. Trust me, their social media profiles can take the hit but their wallets can't.

Why I’m Okay with Putting My Podcast on Google Play Music

Google made some headlines this week when they announced that they will be providing podcasts as a part of their Google Play Music service. Podcasters can submit their shows today and the feature will actually go live in the coming weeks.

The big thing I have seen some people bring up is the fact that Google has some suspect wording when it comes to advertising in their terms of service. Here’s bit from their TOS that is getting everyone riled up:

Google has the right to block any Podcast Content or advertisements that contain any Podcast Creator Advertisements and/or any other advertisements that do not comply with Google Ad Policies. In addition, Google may require Podcast Creator to remove any Podcast Creator-Sold Ads from playback or display that violates Google Ad Policies as determined by Google in its reasonable discretion.

Basically what this is saying is that Google may remove “on the air“ ads that it finds to not comply with their guidelines. Some have speculated that this could mean that Google is going to listen to every podcast you put up and yank any ads for companies they compete with. You’ll never hear an ad for Bing, Hover, Mailroute, or Dropbox because they all compete with Google (but don’t worry, those Squarespace ads aren’t going anywhere). Clearly this is a worst case scenario, but they’re right that Google could do this if they wanted.

But here’s the thing, I don’t think Google has any intention to do something like this. This is an impossible task, if only for logistical reasons. Two years ago Apple reported they had 250,00 podcasts on iTunes with over 1 billion subscriptions. I know Google has a lot of resources, but are we really suggesting that they are going to drive into each one of these episodes every week to find ad reads they don’t like? Really?! I can only imagine this is a clause in there to let them remove an ad if they get reports from listeners that there is something objectionable and they would have the ability to remove it. This also doesn’t seem like a likely scenario, and ultimately I think the line is something a lawyer just said had to be in there “just in case.” Based on what I have read in the TOS, it seems like most podcasters’ only concern is with the ads Google will play before and after their shows. And that is something that really does;t bother me at all.

There is one part that does bother me a little:

Podcast Creator grants to Google all rights necessary to use the Podcast Content in connection with Google Play, in search results and in Google Now in accordance with these Podcast Terms, including, without limitation, a worldwide, non-exclusive right and license to (a) make copies, transcode, download and store on Google’s servers or servers controlled by Google all such copies of the Podcast Content, including any files that are linked to or referenced by the RSS Feed that is provided by the Podcast Creator

It starts out great, having my new episodes show up in Google Now is fantastic! But the clause gets a little distressing as it moves into the copying and storing all episodes on Google servers. On the one hand, this is good for users because it should ensure that they will be able to get new episodes quickly as they’re downloading straight from Google. However, I worry that this means I’m going to lose all analytics on people listing from Google Play. Does this mean that Google will download one copy of my show to their servers and then distribute their copy to all listeners on Play Music? Analytics aren’t everything, but they’re important in knowing if your work is being consumed and what content connects most with your audience.

The good news about all of this is that I can pull my show at any time if I don’t like how this all works in practice. I can delete my feed and I’m done, it’s out of there. But right now, I am interested in growing my audience and allowing people to listen how they want. I’ve put Bite Size Tech up on Play Music and it will be available whenever they launch the service to the public. I know where the EJECT button is on the site if things go bad, but I suspect I’ll be completely content with this small corner of the podcast listening world.