Thirteen years ago today I blogged about Google launching Open Social, an API that would allow developers to tap into multiple social networks at once. It was supposed to be an answer to Facebook (who then had opened up their platform silo for developers to build small applications (since removed as an option). The NYT called it Google ‘ganging up’ on Facebook, the ‘new kid on the block’ (FB became globally available to all in the fall of 2006).

Seeing that 2007 posting in my ‘on this blog today in…’ widget I was curious to see whatever happened to Open Social. After the launch in 2007, I don’t remember hearing much about it anymore.

Following the link to Google’s own page on Open Social now gets a 404 error message (which isn’t different from 2007 when I blogged it, because news leaked before the launch, so that page wasn’t active yet. In between today and today in 2007 it has been a working link for some years though as the Internet Archive can attest) Wikipedia has the story of the years in between in more detail. The Open Social standard saw it latest release in August 2013, and then development stopped.

By the end of 2014 it was all transferred to the W3C’s Social Activity, the Social Web Working Group, and the Social Interest Group. All those three are defunct now too (the interest group closed in 2016, the working group and activity early 2018).

Yet, the still remaining W3C Working Group page has a photo with a number of familiar faces: core members of the IndieWeb community. And the Working Group delivered in their 2014-2018 period of activity the W3C standard recommendations for all the major building blocks of the IndieWeb (Webmentions, Micropub, Microsub, Activitypub, IndieAuth). The W3C activity wound down and reduced to a single W3C IRC channel #social that sees little activity. The log files of #social are hosted on indieweb.org.

So here we are, thirteen years down the road. It’s not Google but IndieWeb-enabled websites like mine ‘ganging up on Facebook’ instead. 😉

Google has released the statistics for the mobility and location data they gather a.o. from all the mobile devices that share their location with them. Below are the results for our region.

It shows nicely the beginning of the soft lock-down, starting with the announcement on March 12th, that from the 13th working from home was the default, and from the evening of March 15th the closure of all restaurants, schools etc. You see the enormous decline in use of transit, the drop in general retail and recreation, the drop in workplace presence due to skiing holidays and then the work from home measure, and the peak in grocery and pharmacy visits right after when the lock-down measures came into force, resulting in empty shelves in the super markets. This type of data is probably not extremely useful on a day to day basis, but it is useful to get a general feeling for how well people are complying with measures, as well as to detect the moment when things get back to their regular patterns. I know e.g. debet and credit card transactions similarly can be and are being used to determine e.g. if a community has returned to normal after for instance a hurricane or another emergency.

Last week I changed this site to provide better language mark-up. However, even though it changed mark-up correctly, it didn’t solve the issue that made me look into it in the first place: that if you click a link to a posting in my rss-feed, your browser would not detect the right language and translate the posting for you.

As it turns out, Google Translate doesn’t make any real effort to detect the language or languages of a page. It only ever checks if there is a default language indicated in the very first <html> tag of a page (which my WordPress sets to English for the entire website), and only if there is no such default set it uses a machine learning model (CLD2) to detect what language likely was used, and then only picks the most likely one. It never checks for language mark-up. It also never contemplates if multiple languages were used in a page, even though the machine learning model returns probabilities for more than one language if present in a page.

This is surprising on two levels. One, it disregards usable information even when provided (either the language mark-up, or probabilities from the ML model). Two, it makes an entire family of wrong assumptions, of which that something or someone will always be monolingual is only the first. While discussing this in a conversation with Kevin Marks, he pointed to Stephanie Booth‘s presentation at Google that he helped set up 12 years ago, listing all that is wrong with the simplistic monolingual world-view of platforms and tech silos. A dozen years on it is still all true and relevant, nothing’s changed. No wonder Stephanie and I have been talking about multi-lingual blogging off and on for as long as we’ve been blogging.

Which all goes to say that my previous changes weren’t very useful. I realised that to make auto-translation of clicked links from my feed work, I needed to set the language attribute for an entire page in the <html> tag, and not try to mark-up only the sections that aren’t in English. (Even if it is the wrong thing to do because it also means I am saying that everything that isn’t content, menu’s, tags etc, are in the declared language. And that isn’t the case. When I write postings in Dutch or German, the entire framework of my site is still in English.). After some web searching, I found a reference to writing a small function to change the default language setting, and calling that when writing the header of a page, which I adapted. The disadvantage is this gets called for every page, regardless if needed (it’s only ever needed for a single post page, or the overview pages of Dutch and German postings). The advantage is, almost all language adaptations are now in a single spot in my theme. I’ve rolled back all previous changes to the single and category templates. Only the changes to the front page template I’ve kept, so that there is still the correct language mark-up around front page postings that are not in English.


The function I added to functions.php in my child theme.


An example of changed page language setting (to German), for a posting in German. (if you follow that link and do view source, you’ll see it)

Read Chrome to limit full ad blocking extensions to enterprise users - 9to5Google
Google shared that Chrome's current ad blocking capabilities for extensions will soon be restricted to enterprise users. SEC filing: "New and existing technologies could affect our ability to customize ads and/or could block ads online, which would harm our business."

Google’s Chrome is not a browser, it’s advertisement delivery software. Adtech after all is where their profit is. This is incompatible with Doc SearlsCastle doctrine of browsers, so Chrome isn’t fit for purpose.

Removing Chrome
image by Matthew Oliphant, license CC BY ND