Friday, January 06, 2017

How I surrendered my digital life to Google…

We all take pictures. We used to take them with cameras; I even used an SLR (yes I’m that old) and then a DSLR, in my more artistic years. But now, like almost everyone else I take them with my phone. The question is what I do with these thousands upon thousands of pictures. Well, I periodically empty my phone, and the pictures go onto a hard disk, on my pc. I have been promising myself, and my wife to delve into that stash of pictures, memories, and bright moments of our lives and try to organize it, so we could enjoy them.

I have failed. With each year, the task becomes more arduous, more complicated. Plenty of duplicates, low resolution, blurry, and missing pictures, makes that task impossible. The pictures lay forgotten and unseen; except for a few I posted on social media, or immediately sent to our close family on Whastapp. I tried to use automated programs to make sense of that mess. Picasa seemed promising. Yet, it fell by the roadside, Google stopped updating it, and it failed at the most important aspect: ease of usage!

Organizing pictures by date, place, and removing duplicates is one side of the coin. The other more important aspect is using these pictures. What good a program like Picasa is, if it does not help me rediscover these memories, in a meaningful way, without spending hours trying to find one specific picture or memory? This where Google Photos brilliance is. Here allow me to thank my friend Mustapha Hamoui for re-reminding me of Google Photos in a post a few days ago!

Google Photos has the basic features of any photo-organizing program. You upload your files, and it sorts them by date, place, and then apply its facial recognition algorithm. Yet, that is not all, its brilliance is in the videos, collage, and GIFs it starts producing. All automated, all on its own, and constantly updated. Every day, It became a pleasure to open the app and see what old memories it has dragged up, packaged and offered me. Yesterday I had “the smiles of 2016 video”. A short video of around 20-30 pictures of me and my family, smiling! Today it brought tears to my eyes with a “They grow up so fast” video of my little girl, speeding up from zero to three years old! Two days ago, it was the highlights of our latest trip.

Google Photos does not stop there. It also apply its amazing AI to help you sort out your life, making a sort of a “search engine for your life”. Here I will quote Mustapha on this “Often times, we ask ourselves questions relating to our lives and frequently, embarrassingly, we can’t quite remember the answer. You know that the answer to almost any other question exists online. But what you may not know is that you can as easily search your life as Google crawls and indexes the web.”

My advice? Surrender your digital soul to Google and let it organize all pictures in one glorious, accessible cloud. Now could they come over and organize my physical life: books, papers, odds and ends for me?