Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#GamerGate and Big Data

You Just Gotta Believe?
When talking about the 'essential nature' of a group, there is always a question of 'mission statement' vs. 'aggregate behavior' (for example; is Islam "The religion of peace?" It sure doesn't seem like it from the news today). There's also the question of intentional spin vs. actual agenda (does the Tea Party want small government--or are they upset at Barack Obama's skin color?).

The answer is always some of both. There was probably a Klansman in there somewhere who felt they were paternalistically protecting the 'decent' black people and the honorable Southern Way of Life (TM?). There just weren't very many.

A way to look at the question is with big-data and science. Presently people have done just that. There have been several "big data" deep-dives into #GamerGate trying to determine "what it is" vs. "what it 'says' it is."

What #GamerGate Says It Is About
GamerGate says it's about ethics in games journalism. Here are two lengthy discussions of what that might mean:
While it's hard impossible to get a concise, universally agreed upon mission statement, the claim is that (a) Gaming Journalism is corrupt and (b) #GamerGate is a reader-revolt aimed at punishing bad behavior in games journalism. As an addendum (c) progressive social justice is hurting games a lot of gamers ('gamers') like--but that's NOT necessarily part of the movement.

What Does The Big-Data Say?
Here's a round up:
  • Newsweek concluded: the vast majority of tweets they surveyed were targeted at two of the female critics and developers (Quinn, Wu and Sarkeesian) than at all the games journalists combined. The tweets were also more negative.
  • Andy Baio's analysis concluded that pro-GamerGate and anti-GamerGate users are two very separate groups--that the pro-GG Tweeters tended to be comparatively new to Twitter--and that the most re-tweeted users are pro-GG--but the most re-tweeted tweets are anti-GG.
So What Is #GamerGate About?
So here's what we know:
  1. The majority of the activity, under the Hashtag, is aimed at people who are not journalists or doing games journalism.
  2. There seems to have been a lot of people who signed up for the pro-GG / anti-Quinn-Wu-Sarkeesian side.
The picture painted is that of a core of GG-Supporters who, in the conversation space, are by a significant margin, dedicated to flinging textual-missiles (forget, for a moment about death-threats) at female game critics and developers who have almost no currency in terms of video-game journalism and are, all three of them, women.

Even if there were no death-threats and no serious harassment, the image of a substantial group (25% of GG tweets are from accounts created in the last two months) of people signing on to a movement which had high-profile targets of two indie game developers and one YouTube critic would make the idea that this is about journalism seem questionable.

Big Data suggests that the activity is far more culture-war related and that the culture war is one of the primary draws. This lines up with what Jesse Sengal observed in Gamergate Should Stop Lying To Journalists and Itself:
Then there was the Google Hangout. I was invited by Troy Rubert, a.k.a. @GhostLev. Just about everyone in there who spoke openly expressed how mad and frustrated they were that progressive politics and feminism were impinging on gaming, which they saw as an area they had enjoyed, free of politics, forever. They were extremely open about this. A day or so later, another gamergater, @Smilomaniac, asked me to read a blog post he’d written about his involvement in the movement in which he explicitly IDs as anti-feminist, and notes that while some people claim otherwise, he thinks GG is an anti-feminist movement. (He later added, via Twitter, “You're not distinguishing between feminism and 3rd wave radscum which is what ‘we’ dislike ;/ " — the clarification is appreciated.)

Looking at some of the grievances and noteworthy evidence:
  • A grievance list has (a) a personal feud between a game dev-group and a game developer (Fine Young Capitalists vs. Zoe Quinn) (b) allegations of corruption in the small-ball indie game-award scene, (c) articles in that were upsetting to gamers ("Gamers are over") and (d) allegations that #GamerGaters were all straight-white-men. Of these (a), (c), and (d) have relevance to anti-feminist. Exactly zero are about ethics in game journalism.
  • There is a list where journalists congregate to talk about games. Brietbart releases some emails showing that the various video-game outlets were supportive of Zoe Quinn (who was being harassed). Further discussion of support (which meant taking the focus off GamerGate) was further evidence of corruption.
  • A 'blockbuster' find was that game developer Zoe Quinn thanked Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson for help with her game (Depression Quest) in the HTML (hidden!) of her site. According to Kotaku, Grayson never actually reviewed her game, let alone gave it a favorable review--and did not write about her at all after their relationship began.
  • Because of GamerGate activity Disrespectful Nod (a tactically sophisticated public-relations attack on gaming-site advertisers) Intel pulled advertising from Gamasutra after they published an controversial "Gamers are Over" article. Mercedes Benz pulled ads from Gawker after some pro-bulling / anti-GamerGate tweets were sent from a Gawker writer. The first one is about gamer identity. The second is about bullying. Neither are about unethical game-review practices.
On the other hand:
Let's Be Real
If, indeed, people are flocking to Twitter in order to join the fray over something it isn't ethics in game journalism. That doesn't even begin to pass the sniff-test. As noted in the link above, automotive journalism is both (a) a bigger industry and (b) more lavishly corrupt than games journalism possibly could be. It's worth noting that in the early days of the automobile women drivers were ridiculed and discouraged. The music and film industry also has lavish release parties, junkets, and even celebrities to meet with. While we see complaints (and, uh, even a history of payola lawsuits) we don't see massive consumer back-lash. Either we must conclude that a huge swath of very diverse gamers are more concerned with ethical behavior than serious car and music guys--or that something else is going on.

What else? Well, the answer is that #GamerGate is a response to an attack on the identity of "gamers." The articles that drew fire were about women-in-video-games and Gamers-Are-Over ... not good reviews of Depression Quest. The actual events (early embargoes, firing reviewers for bad reviews, and restricting technical data) almost never come up in the general discussion (and did not spark outrage when reported on without the added gender / identity issues).

This shouldn't be a surprise. Policy and intellectual issues almost never drive emotionally intense behavior (outside of situations like it being your job to respond). Fire comes from "the belly" and getting upset is what ignites it. Sure, having game-media praise games that suck or feeling cheated can spark serious rage--but it doesn't tend to generate mass movements. That comes from feeling personally disrespected.

This is what the Big Data analysis suggests: the battle is joined mostly by newcomers (that is, people who felt insulted by a rise in identity politics rather than the on-going steady-state of journalistic practices), the targets are women, the carrier signal is about something universally defensible like ethics while the payload is a lot of 'angry' (negative posting).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Illuminoimia Ch 29:The Prestiege

In 1975 Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson published The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It remains a seminal work of conspiracy fiction. Today, The Omnivore continues a serial-fiction experiment: Illuminoimia. 

Everything You're Afraid Of Is True.

As the Illuminati conducts their final ritual, special forces secure The Bomb.
Previously On Illuminoimia
Ch 12: The Heart Vault  
Ch 13: Last Flight Out 
Ch 14: The World Trade Organization 
Ch 15: Postmortem Interrogation 
Ch 28: A Widening Gyre

Washington D.C.
Safe-Distance from the White House
They are waiting for the truck. It has been tracked from the air, from the ground, and by the Special Operations Group--the SOG--along its route. Twin MQ-9 Reaper drones, painted black and doubled up for redundancy purposes, flank it, unseen, in the night sky. Security is heavy because the truck is laden with the essence of betrayal--a necessary ingredient for the rite--and a betrayal that will be neutralized at the outer-ring safe-distance check-point long before it can reach its target.

When the truck's driver, unaware of his lethal cargo, is flagged and pulled over, he is surprised to see a force of black-clad men with assault rifles natively equipped with suppressors and (although he does not know it) sub-sonic but still fully lethal rounds. He is taken from the vehicle and summarily executed. Tonight the SOG is taking no prisoners and tonight the SOG is taking no chances.

The burst transmission is a single tone--an indication that ‘We have possession. The vehicle is secure.’

When they open the back, their extractor removes the cylinder. A two-man team of specialists move to the container and violate the outer seals. Then they wait for word, literally, from on-high--from Looking Glass. Video capture shows the truck, its W.A.S.T.E. Management logo illuminated under the spot-lights, and its lethal cargo held by the fork-lift.

After a repeat analysis, the message returns: the distance is safe: Extract the container. Secure the bomb. Disable the timer.

When the team goes in, unscrewing the bolts and opening the end, the interior of the CASTOR container reveals a cascade of heavy spherical objects. The CASTOR cylinder is full of bowling balls.

He is a Magician after all.

A small law office with an obscure name sits less than a quarter mile from the White House. It opened its doors for the first time on July 4th 1876--a Tuesday. In its basement is an 1852 era Slias C. Herring & Co safe lined with lead and marked with the alchemical symbol for the planet Saturn. Behind that door is the bomb. It is a good deal more than the 1 Megaton yield CIA operative Charles Brin had estimated it at. It is perfectly timed.

The shock wave erupts with such violence that the building itself is lifted off its foundations even as it is vaporized from the bottom up. The blast roars across and through the ground folding up roads and grass and buildings into a slate-gray shockwave lit from within as if by a sunrise. The expanding sphere first finds the Capitol building which breaks inwards. The members in session are caught by surprise as the lights fail instants before the wall sags inwards and then gives way completely. They are raised, as one, as though by a great hand and dashed at the speed of sound against the far wall even as it too comes apart into individual bricks which are then shattered into dust.

Beneath the Capitol, in the underground chambers, the sound comes as a tremendous roar so sudden that even at the speed the Things in Their Black Robes move, They are unable to do much more than stand as The Pyramid deforms and then collapses completely. However dead their souls may or may not be, they experience in succession alarm, terror, and then briefly pain as tons of debris cascade downwards, filling the spaces with black, deadly kinetic force and inexorable weight.

Only the Magician, looking faintly, mysteriously satisfied, doesn’t waver.

Across the mall the Washington monument is flash-seared in the nuclear light and then shattered. Its upper fifty feet becoming missile-like, projected towards the White House before tumbling over and over in the chaotic super-heated air. For its part, the American flag atop the President’s home boils away before the shock wave can reach it.

Within the White House, under the glow of Klieg lights, flash-bulbs, and the unconsidered love of the press corps, POTUS had spread his arms to his acolytes, waiting for their applause to lower so he can announce his intentions--to step up--to the control of the United Nations--to lead the world.

What he hears, as the clapping trails off, is a dull roar like the sound of a train. In the bare fractions of a second as the windows, facing the explosion snap into sharp relief of black and white shadows stretched long across the nation’s capital by the brilliant light, his broad smile doesn’t fail. He can’t conceive of anything going badly tonight. It is his--and he is entitled to it.

In the penthouse of the nameless building across the avenue, Evergreen’s screaming stops as she sees the her attackers turned into two dimensional silhouettes by the light pouring through the window. She even feels Their surprise--Their shock--an experience as generally alien to Them as love--as They stand and turn as one. For milliseconds They are defiant--infuriated--and then as the shatter-proof window shatters and the hardened cement walls lift and implode, in the rarefied depths of Their minds, They are terrified. Evergreen closes her eyes as the darkness rushes over them all.

The incandescent cloud, filled with ash and debris rises into the air over the Washington, casting its searing light across the burning city.

Aftermath Part 1: New York City
Christmas Eve
The sound of the shot hurt like a slap in the face. I pulled the trigger and I could see the bloody man’s eyes flicker open as the gun kicked. I think he moved--he was so fast he seemed to almost jump in place--but it was after I had fired and his face was suddenly marked by a new red-black hole.

I lowered the weapon slightly--and continued to fire. BANG! BANG! BANG! The reports were thunderously loud even in the large conference room. I saw his bespoke suit erupt with holes. BANG! The gun kicked satisfyingly in my hand. BANG! I put one into his throat in case he had some kind of armor and saw a second bloody hole open in his flesh.

From the bleeding that came next, it was pretty clear he wasn’t wearing armor. BANG!

My breathing was ragged.

“I think you got him.” It was Rex.

I jumped and turned, re-targeting. My hand--steady for a moment--then suddenly shook. He coughed--it sounded bad--but he pushed himself up. “Don’t shoot me yet,” he said. “We still need--” he coughed again--blood in his lungs. “--to do it.”

I lowered the gun.

He nodded--painfully.

“Don’t let him leave.” Rex wasn’t looking at Hal--but I turned and could see him ashen-faced, fading backwards. I raised the weapon. It hadn’t locked open--there was at least one round left. “Don’t go anywhere,” I said.

Hal looked furious and lost--and then … we saw it. The screens in the main room were filled with images of a nightmare burning mushroom cloud. The shell-shocked news reporters, even with the sound turned down, looked pale with horror. The unthinkable was happening--was continuing to happen. The world was ending.

Rex stood, raggedly, his breathing and pain controlled, apparently. He looked, red-eyed and shocked at the images we were seeing.

“Were any of Them in there?” I asked.

“To oversee the … uh … transformation?” He gaped. “A whole bunch of Them. Us.” He looked at me. “Not all though.” He looked back at Hal. “We’re going to the sub-basement. And I already know about the death-safe down there so don’t try anything.” He winked at me. His breath caught--but then returned.

With Hal leading us--looking like a dead man walking--we went to the elevator and then down.

What felt like hours ago I had sat in the back of the cavernous SUV with deep red leather seats talking to one of Them--the Hierophant, Rex had said. Or as he had referred to himself: The Psychopomp.

“There are times,” he had told me in his deep, rumbling voice, “where small variations in the environment can have a magnified effect. There are cases where a single individual becomes a persistent, recurrent agent of change.”

I’d looked at him--unsure as to how to continue--but he had, quickly, laid out the shape of his hypothesis--of his vision.

“You collided with him--” he gestured at Rex, who was waiting patiently outside the vehicle, “by virtue of standing out just slightly so as to raise your profile--by virtue of his specific but unidentified weaknesses--by chance. You and he forged a bond--for him, in his damaged heart, a kindness--or what passes for it in someone harrowed. That bond is why he needs you.”

Rex had explained that: When he tried to divulge further secrets after our meeting he’d almost died. He couldn’t do it anymore--the Heart Vault, his Harrowing, had seen to that. But he’d discovered he could tell me. Maybe because he’d tried it the first time in private, writing his diary to others--but in his head writing it to me. He could do his work but to truly Unwind the Pyramid he needed an interpreter.

To tell people forbidden things, he needed help. That’s why he’d gone across the country to collect me. That’s why I was here in the middle of all of this.

The Hierophant paused.

“You are here by chance--by the culmination of many, many random events--but also,” he said, “I think, by design.”

I looked out at Rex too, looking relaxed and cool as ever. “Whose design?”

“Whoever set the universe in motion,” shrugged the Psychopomp. “To a degree we are all just billiards balls reflecting off each other and the unseen walls of the table. I--” he cleared his throat, “Am a billiard ball who can look slightly up, see the barest tip of the cue, and provide a minute, almost unnoticeable spin of my own.”

I swallowed. “Is that what you’re doing now?”

He smiled and his teeth gleamed in the darkness. “Perhaps. Perhaps it is just an illusion I am succombing to. Yes: As we come close, we intersect. I cannot exactly impart much to you--really only that you already have--but I can nudge. If you are so inclined, you can accept that nudge--and perhaps we will both profit.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to be ‘nudged’ by this man--but I nodded. “I’ll listen to anything,” I told him.

“Listening can be more dangerous than you think,” he said. “But here it is--you have already seen one of Them nearly fall. You know where a subliminal--” he said it Sub-Liminal--”weakness in their defenses lies. You know what the last thing is that truly hurt any of them. It won’t stop a whole one--but it may delay him a moment. Cause a very temporary lapse in judgment. It may create a window for advantage.”

I admit I was pretty lost. It was months since I had seen Rex collapse on the steps of the Puppet Theater--and then it came back to me.

“The girl--”

“The girl. They are all trained classically in Latin from a young age and while they sometimes bear girl children there is a name they never use. Do you remember what he called her?”

I remembered it. I opened my mouth and he shook his head. “Do not speak it here--save it for when you’ll want it. When you are in danger. Speak from the gut--” he poked his own largish stomach. “Project it--you may do it once and you won’t get another chance. Get their attention.” He spoke words with syllables I wouldn’t know how to write.

“That is a preparatory phrase. It is in mankind’s first tongue generated on the Western coast of Africa when humans began to speak beyond the word ‘huh.’” He smiled. “It will capture his fascination. When you speak her name, he will falter.”

“When … will I know?” I remembered the name She-Who-Must-Be-Loved: Amanda.

“I don’t know exactly.” He looked hard at Rex. So did I. “Eventually--well, soon--one of Them will be close and murderous. You’ll have to use your judgment.”

I sat back into the seat and exhaled slowly.

“Can you see the future?” I asked him.

“No,” he said. “Not in the way you think you mean it. Yes, though, in the way it really works.”

“Do I survive this?”

He smiled broader: “Nothing I could say would reassure you. But nothing I could say would leave you hopeless. Be as strong and true as you can Theodore. We will likely never meet again.”

Without any obvious signal, the woman opened the SUV door.

“He will assume you have been hypnotized and interrogated,” said the man. “For all you know you have been--but reveal nothing of this to him. Let him guess you do not remember the specifics of our meeting. He knows we watch. He will not imagine we would insert ourselves into events.”

I nodded. I caught a glint of light from his ring and I felt slightly dizzy then. Slightly dazed--like waking up. Blinking rapidly, I had returned to our vehicle.

Next Up: A Whole Lot Of Closure ...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reverse Engineering Google Inbox

The Omnivore has been playing with Google Inbox for a few days. It's Google's new front-end / organizing principles for GMail. Let's see if we can reverse-engineer what insights Team Google got from its Big-Data deep-dive into GMail-usage in order to create it.

GMail is the most popular mail client after the iOS mail system:
Of the free web-mails, it is consistently top-rated, it has north of 400 million users. When GMail launched (in 2004) it made email history by grouping conversations together and focusing on the use of "tags" and search rather than user-curated folders to organize mail types. In 2013 it made history again by using "tabs" (folders?) that auto-sorted communication so that your primary inbox was more or less just what you wanted to see and promotional emails and Linked In updates were relegated to places you didn't have to look if you didn't want to (you got a visual notification of what was there and could see the headline by clicking over).

The launch of GMail sent shockwaves through the spam community (it used a spam-flag and crowd-sourced anti-spam logic--not clear on how well that worked--but GMail's spam filter is one of the best). The tabbed-browsing overhaul sent shockwaves through the email-marketing community with retailers naively / desperately sending users detailed instructions on how to get their emails out of the tab-ghettos!

Most recently GMail looks something like this:
NOT The Omnivore's Inbox
Today Google Inbox looks like this:
ALSO Not The Omnivore's Inbox

What Did Google Learn?
Hold on there: What did The Omnivore learn. The Omnivore doesn't have access to Big Data--but The Omnivore has Gmail Meter which provides analytics on your own email list. Call it Small Data. What do we know? For the month of November ...
  • The Omnivore responds to very little (2.32%) of the mail received. 
  • The Omnivore is the direct recipient of 81%
  • In the top-5 senders of email, only one is a real person. One is "Womanwithin" which is women's clothes (insert joke)--but is certainly not meant for The Omnivore (it also isn't spam in the strict sense). One is bedbathandbyond--which The Omnivore did sign up for to get a coupon.
  • Received email per-day is pretty standard. Sent email per day varies a lot (almost nothing on Sat and Wed--big spikes on Friday and Tuesday)
  • About 60% of incoming email lands in The Omnivore's Inbox. An even 20% split goes directly into labels or trash.
  • The VAST majority of conversation lengths are 1 message. A very few are more than 5.
  • The Omnivore answers most of his emails between 5 and 15 min from receipt. Other people answer in between 1 and 4 hrs (for those that are not "more than a day or never").
  • Most responses are more than 200 letters--but there are a lot that are 100-200 characters in length. The Omnivore's responses cluster less than 10-50 characters.
So okay: what this boils down to is--
  1. The vast majority of email is unread and The Omnivore's to senders are robots who are sending messages The Omnivore will never read. This is not spam--these are emails the companies think are going to willing recipients--but in reality are going to The Omnivore because some other real person put in The Omnivore's email address.
  2. For relevant emails The Omnivore is responsive (email is "always open") but terse (usually a short, quick replay).
  3. For relevant messages, most of the messages are on-target.
Ok, So: What Did GOOGLE Learn?
The first thing that Google learned from you, if you are using Inbox, is how you distributed your three invites. This is probably more interesting to them than you would think. What The Omnivore is referring to is the invite-only method of Google Inbox distribution. The idea is this: you get to be part of the beta and you get 3 (?) invites.

You give them out (presumably "judiciously") to your friends and then they get three invites for their friends. Google Inbox spreads like a zombie virus. Invites have gone for some decent money on Ebay and this is widely thought to be a marketing ploy to drive interest--and it has. Google has the most scalable technology in existence so their limited spread method is unlikely to be primarily driven by a need for a controlled roll-out (although The Omnivore is sure that's a nice-to-have).

It analyzes your GMail and builds a connection grid where the colors are based on how often you communicate. There's some serious network-data buried in there (including who introduced you to who). Google certainly has this plus attendant deep demographic data. They know a lot more than the first names associated with each dot.

The Big Data on who you gave your three invites to is interesting (especially if you gave them out via Facebook, bulletin board posts, or other vectors not on this list).

But what about Inbox itself?

Here's what The Omnivore thinks Google learned:

Emails Correlate With Various Strengths to TODOs
There are several kinds of TODO emails. The first is the meeting-invite. This correlates perfectly: you receive it and it can be automatically ingested by Google Calendar. It creates a meeting with notifications. Other forms are less computer friendly.

One step down is the PRIORITY email. Think of this as something from your boss that you can't forget. For this Google gives you the Pin functionality that lets you place it at the top of your list (pinning it) until it's taken care of.

The Omnivore would send himself REMINDER emails that would wait, unread, in his Inbox as a reminder to "Call for Dog's Grooming" or "Make Disney Reservations." The presence of an unread email and the little numerical icon on his iPhone would be a constant saw-wave of discomfort for The Omnivore, driving action. Pinning can serve a similar function: It's up there every time you open your Inbox.

The next up is the "I've Gotta Get To That" email. In this case Inbox has a Snooze icon that lets you set up a timed reminder specifically for that email. In this case it's an email of something you need to do--but you don't need or want a constant reminder. An email from your spouse to "pick up the kid from school today" probably falls into that category: you don't need to worry about it until 1:30 PM (or whatever).

Google has certainly noticed these trends and integrated them directly into the UI.

A Note: Google Now is AI-smart and will see things like emails from airlines and give you the full flight information, and so on. On the other hand, The Omnivore got a hand-written email of flight times (with airport codes, flight numbers, and so on). Inbox was not smart enough to parse that into a "Do you want a reminder to pick up X at the airport" event.

Most Emails Are Bogus
The Omnivore's stats and GMail's Tabs speak to this. While 60% of the mail was sent directly (and mostly--but not completely--accurately) to The Omnivore's GMail primary folder a good 40% was stuff that The Omnivore almost never cared about. These are all kinds of "Special Offers" and other nonsense that retailers desperately hope The Omnivore will act on and, mostly, The Omnivore doesn't even want to waste time filtering or risk a fake un-subscribe to.

Inbox knows this. It bundles various emails in these categories so you can "archive" them with a single swipe / click. It moves you towards the zen-nirvana of an empty Inbox. Sure, there's probably a time we care about some of these--maybe--but mostly? It's noise and Inbox is a noise reducer.

You Are Most Likely To Email The People Over and Over
At the bottom of Inbox is an icon that expands for one-click compose-to-person (Your most common emails)--but also allows reminder creation (and invitation, if you have any). This is a nod to Amazon one-click shopping where it saves you a few key-strokes. This might not take Big Data to figure out--but The Omnivore isn't aware of it anywhere else (GMail is also good about recommendations: if you email the same 4 people every week, it'll suggest them when you start an email with one or two of them in it).

It also gives you one-letter lists so if I type "E" it shows me contacts starting with "E"--but only the most recent / common.

You Care About Who More Than What
The best-practice of email, today, is MAKE THE SUBJECT LINE COUNT. This is because in both corporate and web-mail environments, the aggregate screen generally shows the Subject Line and time data. Bundling just shows you who so you don't see the Political Email BEGGING headline unless you expand it.

It Still Thinks IM Chat Is Like Email
I was slightly dismayed to find that I could still open a GChat window on top of my nice, clean Inbox interface--and that it shows, with red numeric icon, un-observed chats. The presence of the G+ gateway icon is also ... not optimal.

Let's be clear: there is nothing wrong with having a bar that manages your Google properties (although it doesn't integrate Google-owned Blogger--which The Omnivore would really like--but in a complex fashion that won't fit here). The problem is that these are unlike methods of communication and layering chat on top of Google Inbox is clumsy.

Also: chats should not persist unless saved. Chats are more like phone conversations and while it might be a legal best-practice to record them. The Omnivore doesn't want his chats hanging around for all time. If Google wants to keep them to mine them, fine--but unless The Omnivore saves one, it should vanish (or that should be a setting--is it?).

They also shouldn't be searchable the same way unless asked for: it's clutter.

Where Are The Ads?
The Omnivore once sat in a very high-level presentation for a major global corporation's redesign of its web-site. The site design pitched didn't happen--but it was fascinating anyway. This was as big a job as they come. One of the key observations was around white space. The company's present site was a cross-fire of overly-feature-rich, advertising (upsell!) stuffed HTML. 

The proposed site has beautiful tracts of whitespace. "Everyone wants to be Google," noted the person pitching the site--"until they get their design done and then realize they have all this space that's not working for them."

The company in question clearly knew what to do: fill it up with poorly designed feature UI ... and ads.

It's not clear where in Inbox, Google is going to put the ads--but they're coming.

The Mysterious "Say Something" Prompt
When you compose an email in Inbox the Subject line has a ghost-gray prompt 'Subject'--just like GMail. But the body of the email, blank for GMail, says 'Say something.' Why? Is there any human with access to Inbox who is unclear that there is supposed to be a body of an email? Probably not. So why put the prompt in?

The Omnivore thinks that is because of Facebook and Twitter: Their type-spaces come with prompts (Facebook: "What's on your mind?" and Twitter's more utilitarian "Compose new Tweet..."). Thus has grayed-out prompt-text become a best-practice and Inbox, a sexy new re-design, wants credit for email being the first electronic social media (well, kinda first, and kinda social media, anyway).

"Always Open" Is Key Real Estate
The advent of tabbed-browsing brought a sea-change to how the web worked. Users now have several sites opened and can open many more. For some of us, open tabs are a machine-gun burst of however many tabs our computers can handle. For the rest of us, however, having more than a couple of tabs open is a management hassle.

For those of us non-power-users, having a website get one of those slots is valuable. This is why, for example, The Omnivore rarely visits Ello. It's not that Ello isn't an interesting design or a decent social-media web-site--it's that The Omnivore has to constantly remember to check it ... so it doesn't happen. Conversely Facebook and Twitter are always open. For Ello to take a slot The Omnivore has to either commit to another open tab ... or drop something. Facebook, for all its problems, ain't getting dropped until The Omnivore's family abandons it.

How long do you think that'll take?


GMail has been The Omnivore's "homepage" since it came out.

Inbox, on the other hand, has replaced the GMail app on the bottom-bar (always available) on The Omnivore's iPhone. It will (soon) replace GMail proper. That's a no-brainer--but keep in mind you're going to see G+ on there aggressively because Google knows GMail is an always-open app for a lot of us. G+ isn't.

Maybe Inbox could aggregate and help me curate my Facebook and Twitter conversations? Eh? Eh?

The far future of email-as-we-know-it will probably have a small notification that YOU HAVE RECEIVED MAIL YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT. The move seems to be to show you less and less of your email to get that golden 2% in front of you and make everything else less intrusive. The AI-integration of Google Now should be able to hand-hold you through various difficult email-events.

Inbox should be able to alert me to my contact's birthdays at some point. Perhaps it'll be able to scan my purchases (a specific category) for Google's Compete-With-Amazon recommendations. That'd be nice.

As it is, Inbox is a slick, clean new re-design that while it perhaps appears evolutionary, may actually have some revolutionary innards. There's an intelligence behind the scenes that can get smarter and smarter as time goes on and the current state of Inbox shows that Google is learning.

Email may well have some kind of sunset date in the future--but it's the far future. Until then, we're going to want something like this.