Causes & Community

Two years of Google.org grants for racial justice

For many years, bold leaders across the U.S. have been using technology to foster a national dialogue on systemic inequity. Through painful moments like the Charleston church shooting, Googlers, like many others, asked what we could do to advance a more inclusive society. Two years ago, alongside our Black Googler Network and its allies, Google.org started a formal grant portfolio to advance racial and social justice in the United States.

In the spirit of understanding and getting closer to these complex issues, we began funding nonprofits fighting for racial justice in the California Bay Area—home to Google and many deep-rooted justice movements. In 2016, we doubled down on our commitment by supporting national organizations using data science and research to measure disparities in our system of mass incarceration. And today, we’re building on this commitment with another $7.5 million in grants to organizations advancing reform in our justice system, bringing our support to $32 million total.

Through these latest grants, we continue to support data and research demonstrating the impact of mass incarceration. Last month, we supported LatinoJustice with a $1 million grant to improve the quality of Latinx criminal justice data and shape the narrative and storytelling on the impact of mass incarceration in Latinx communities. And today we’re providing a $4 million grant to the Vera Institute of Justice to help them build an authoritative data set that will allow researchers to measure the true economic impact of incarceration rates in rural areas.

Vera Institute: In Our Backyards

Vera Institute: In Our Backyards

Many of our initial grantees are focused on data gathering, research and analysis. We’re now also investing in organizations working on systemic solutions. For example, we’re supporting the Leadership Conference Education Fund with a $2 million grant to bolster their effort to help more law enforcement jurisdictions work with community groups, who are a critical partner in policing. The Leadership Conference has a well-known track record in this area, and they will help establish best practices that lead to more constitutional policing, less crime, and more trust and accountability. Our $500,000 grant to the R Street Institute’s Justice for Work Coalition will support their efforts aimed to bring bipartisan support for criminal justice reform and to reduce barriers to employment following incarceration.

We’ll also continue to multiply the impact of our grants with skills-based volunteer support from Googlers. Just last month, 10 Google software engineers and data scientists volunteered with Google.org grantee the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) on a full-time basis for six weeks in New York. These 10 Googlers helped build and improve CPE’s National Justice Database, the nation’s first-ever database tracking national statistics on policing. They also built software, audited tools, and improved automation efforts to help CPE better process and analyze the reports they send to partner police departments.

A Googler working with the Center for Policing Equity rides along with an officer to understand community-informed policing
Googler Austin Swift, a lead on the CPE Impact Immersion, rides along with an officer to understand his efforts to implement community-informed policing.

This isn’t the only time we’ve teamed up Googler volunteers with grantees. Earlier this year, we helped the Equal Justice Initiative launch Lynching in America, an interactive site that explores this difficult time in U.S. history. More than 200 Googlers have volunteered in grantee Defy Ventures‘ prison and post-release programs for aspiring business owners, known as Entrepreneurs-in-Training. Working with Defy, Googlers have hosted small business training courses on digital marketing, digital skills and public speaking.

In the year ahead, Google will continue to stand in solidarity with the fight for racial justice. We believe in a justice system based on equity for all, informed by data and supported by community-based solutions. We’re proud to support organizations tackling this complex and worthy challenge.

Small Business

Turn customers into advocates with #SmallThanks

The holiday season is a time to be grateful for friends, family and community. For me, that gratitude includes the small businesses who are a part of my everyday life in California. From my friends at Zombie Runner whose post-run coffee is the best part of my workout, to the folks at Tin-Pot Creamery who make it impossible to give up ice cream; these small businesses make my day-to-day life better and add heart to our community, and for that, I am thankful. I firmly believe when we support the businesses we love, we make the places we live better.

I also spend much of my time at work thinking about how to help small businesses grow using the web. Our products play a pivotal role in helping people and small businesses connect with each other.  As this year’s holiday shopping season and Small Business Saturday approach us, we’re doing something extra to help small businesses stand out and succeed, both online and in their neighborhoods.

We’ve created the #SmallThanks Hub to help you get free, customized marketing materials to promote your business. Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more—based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google. And now, it is available nationally in U.S. to any verified Google listing with an address. (Don’t yet have a verified listing? Signing up is free and only takes a few minutes. Start here.)  

Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results. A few positive small thanks can mean the difference between a potential customer choosing your business or going elsewhere. 71 percent of consumers say that positive reviews in search results make them more likely to use that the business, and listings with positive reviews see 360 percent higher clicks to their site.

Keyword BlogPost-Social+Storefront.png
Show why your customers love you with posters in your store, and posts on social media.

Here are a few tips on how to use the materials from the #SmallThanks Hub to gain new customers and turn existing ones into advocates.

  1. Personalize your assets: Choose the reviews you want to feature, and select from several layouts, colors and styles to match your business’s aesthetics. You can create as many versions as you want.
  2. Show why your customers love you: Print and hang your customized posters in a visible area in your store, and share the social media versions with #SmallThanks to join in the conversation and show what makes you unique. Post the flyers around your neighborhood where potential customers might see them. 
  3. Ask customers to support you with reviews: Some customers may not remember to leave you a review, or realize the impact that it can have, so why not give them a little nudge? Place stickers in your window, receipt booklets, point-of-sale machine or anywhere else it can be prominently displayed to remind them to support you with a review. 
  4. Remind people to search for you: Post the “Find us on Google” stickers in your store and on your social media channels with #SmallThanks hashtag to tell potential customers how to connect with you.
  5. Keep your Google listing up to date: The holiday season usually means different hours and special offerings. Let customers know when you’ll be open using the special hours feature, and promote holiday specials with Local Posts
Sticker+Tent for KW.png

Encourage customers to support you on Google by placing these in visible spots.

Happy holidays and best wishes from all of us at Google.

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#CiscoChat Podcast | Ask the IoT Whiz: The Digital Age of Retail

In this 3rd installment of Ask the IoT Whiz, we’re talking about retail in the digital age — a particularly pertinent topic as we roll into the holiday season and through mega shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Ads

A merry mobile holiday with Google Shopping

In those spare moments between basting the turkey, assembling gingerbread houses, and planning your ugly-sweater party, you might find yourself reaching for your phone to research holiday gifts you still need to buy. You’re not alone: With information readily available at the swipe of a finger, holiday shoppers are doing more research before buying than ever before. Indeed, Black Friday searches containing “best” have more than doubled over the past two years on mobile. People are also scrutinizing products from every angle, including the packaging—mobile watchtime of unboxing videos is equivalent to watching “Love Actually” over 20 million times!

Before you head “over the river and through the woods” to deliver your presents this season, we’re introducing improvements to mobile shopping experiences on Google that’ll help you browse, research, compare, and get the items crossed off your holiday gift list.

What’s hot on the list this year  

As always, there’s a new crop of gifts climbing the trends chart. Here’s a look at popular searches going into Black Friday:

Get the shopping scoop in a snap

To help you search for gifts on the go, we recently redesigned mobile shopping on Google, bringing more product information to the forefront. Click the “Quick View” button in the Google Shopping ad to preview details like a bigger image, product description, reviews and seller rating—and to see if you can score a good deal by checking if it’s on sale. If you see an item that’s almost perfect but not quite what you want, scroll down to view visually similar or related products underneath, or to discover more products from the same brands or retailers.

1.0 - 5th ave.gif

More quickly and easily research, compare and narrow down your gift options

We know you’ve got limited time and lots of gifts to buy. Knowing that researching items and comparing prices are two of the most common mobile shopping activities, we recently introduced enhancements to the knowledge panel on Google.com to help you quickly find product photos, videos, reviews, descriptions and more.

To help you further narrow down your options and give you deeper insight into potential purchases, we’re now showing buying guides on Google for broad categories (like sewing machines or coffee grinders).

2.0 - Research.png

Also, when you search for a specific product, Google.com now shows you other helpful information, like related items, and allows you to compare reviews, prices and other specs, side by side. And if you’re searching for tech gadgets, we’ll help ensure that you’re looking at the latest and greatest. You’ll now see a label alerting you there’s a “newer model available” if you’re browsing last year’s product.

3.0 - ALL.png

Shop by voice with the Google Assistant

As much as we try to plan ahead, procrastination happens. If you find yourself looking for something at the last minute, try using your Google Assistant to see where you can purchase needed items nearby by saying “Ok Google, where can I buy…”, or to get it sent right to your doorstep by saying “Ok Google, buy…”. Heading into the holidays, we see people with a Google Home device—which enables voice shopping with the Google Assistant—are using their voice to most frequently buy or add everyday essentials like paper towels or pet food to their shopping lists. We’re also seeing people using voice to find other types of products to prep for the holidays —including kitchen tools like basting brushes to perfectly glaze those Thanksgiving dishes, toys to slip under the tree, or fuzzy blankets to keep warm by the fireplace.

Whether you’re researching on your phone or shopping with your voice, we wish you happy deal-hunting this holiday season!

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Google Play Referrer API: Track and measure your app installs easily and securely

Posted by Neto Marin, Developer Advocate

Understanding how people find your app and what they do once they’ve installed
it is crucial to helping you make the right product and marketing decisions.
This is especially important when you’re deciding your advertising strategy and
budget. Today many app measurement companies and ad networks offer ad
attribution solutions based on referral data. As such accurate install referral
data is vital for correctly attributing app installs, as well as discounting
fraudulent attempts for install credit.

To help you obtain more accurate and reliable data about your installs, we’re
introducing the Google Play Install Referrer API, a reliable
way to securely retrieve install referral content. Using this API, your app will
get precise information straight from the Play Store, including:

  • The referrer URL of the installed package.
  • The timestamp, in seconds, of when the referrer click happened.
  • The timestamp, in seconds, of when the installation began.

We’ve tested the API with our App Attribution
Program
partners including Adjust,
AppsFlyer, Singular and TUNE.

“The new Play API provides us with the data we need to effectively detect
and prevent click injection; it’s a monumental step in securing a crucial
information exchange on Android.”

– Paul Müller, CTO & Co-Founder, Adjust

“The new Google Play API introduces fresh insights into both mobile ad fraud
and the mobile user journey, two key domains with impact across the ecosystem.”

– Elad Mashiach, VP, AppsFlyer

“This additional data directly from the Play Store provides increased precision for the Kochava fraud suite to further minimize fraud for our customers.”

– Charles Manning, CEO, Kochava

“Google’s new API is a game changer that will help marketing analytics
platforms like Singular identify and prevent a significant portion of Ad Fraud,
and provide security and accuracy to mobile advertisers”

– Gadi Eliashiv, CEO &
Co-Founder, Singular

“This new data from Google Play is essential for marketers who demand
accountability out of their mobile app install advertising spend. At TUNE, this
data is allowing us to outright eliminate entire forms of mobile app install
fraud while providing new insight into how mobile app installs are driven.”

– Dan Koch, Chief Technical Officer, TUNE

Starting today, the API works with the Play Store app from version
8.3.73 and later for all developers.

Play Install Referrer Library 1.0 now available

To make it easy to integrate the Install Referrer API, we’ve released the
Install Referrer Library 1.0 for Android. The library is available in our Maven
repository. To start using it, add the following dependency to your app module
build.gradle file:

dependencies {
          ...
          compile 'com.android.installreferrer:installreferrer:1.0'
      }

All communication with the Play Store app happens through a Service, so the
first step is to establish the connection between your app and the Play Store.
Also, to receive the connection result and updates it’s necessary to implement a
listener, InstallReferrerStateListener. This listener could be your
current Activity or any other class you want to use:

public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity 
    implements InstallReferrerStateListener {
    …
}

Now that you have an InstallReferrerStateListener, you can start
binding your app to the Play Store app service. To establish the connection, you
must build an InstallReferrerClient instance and call the
startConnection() method:

InstallReferrerClient mReferrerClient
...
mReferrerClient = newBuilder(this).build();
mReferrerClient.startConnection(this);

Then, handle the connection result in the
onInstallReferrerSetupFinished() method. If the connection is OK,
the app can retrieve install referrer information, by calling the
getInstallReferrer() method:

@Override
public void onInstallReferrerSetupFinished(int responseCode) {
   switch (responseCode) {
       case InstallReferrerResponse.OK:
           try {
               Log.v(TAG, "InstallReferrer conneceted");
               ReferrerDetails response = mReferrerClient.getInstallReferrer();
               handleReferrer(response);
               mReferrerClient.endConnection();
           } catch (RemoteException e) {
               e.printStackTrace();
           }
           break;
       case InstallReferrerResponse.FEATURE_NOT_SUPPORTED:
           Log.w(TAG, "InstallReferrer not supported");
           break;
       case InstallReferrerResponse.SERVICE_UNAVAILABLE:
           Log.w(TAG, "Unable to connect to the service");
           break;
       default:
           Log.w(TAG, "responseCode not found.");
   }
}

For more details about the new API and the client library, visit the Install
Referrer Client Library page
and the reference
documentation
.

Other Implementations

If you are not able to use our client library, you can use the AIDL interface
and establish the connection with Google Play Store on your own. Check out the
IGetInstallReferrerService
AIDL reference
for details of the methods and the service
specification.

What’s next?

Check out the Play
Install Referrer API documentation
for details about the new API, the library’s
reference docs
, and our Quick
Start guide
.

Google AR and VR

Experimenting with VR at the South China Morning Post

Having spent my pre-Google career as a reporter and editor at legacy media organizations, I can tell you that digital transformation in the news industry is challenging. Even when news organizations have the will, resources and technical expertise, the obstacles to transformation can be daunting.

In Asia, few news organization have plunged headlong into digital transformation like South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s top English-language daily newspaper. With a daily weekday circulation of roughly 105K, SCMP is a midsize paper, but its language and geography give it outsized influence.

For more than a century, SCMP has been documenting Greater China for the English-speaking diaspora across Asia-Pacific. Before the internet, expatriates and visitors would pick up the paper, sometimes days old, on airplanes and in hotels across the region. For those living in mainland China (like I did in the 1990s), the paper offered a window into the place where they lived, from a familiar yet discrete vantage point.

Now, SCMP uses the web to reach the growing global community of readers interested in news about China, and experiment with new methods of storytelling along the way. After its purchase by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma in 2016, the newspaper suddenly had a mandate to evolve, and was given the runway and resources to experiment.

“Culture and identity are massively important when you are trying to turn around a 114-year-old company … until you have a company that is ready to experiment, willing to fail, and able to move with agility … you can talk all day long about transformation and where you’re heading but you’ll never get there,” said SCMP CEO Gary Liu in an interview with Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy.

That entrepreneurial spirit led SCMP to take on an immersive virtual reality project that would trace the history of Hong Kong from British rule to the present day, mining a century’s worth of archival photos and illustrations and presenting them alongside modern-day 360-degree video and drone footage. The project was Google News Lab’s first immersive storytelling partnership in the Asia-Pacific region, part of the team’s broader effort to accelerate immersive storytelling across the news industry.

Title-screen.gif

“It had to be big, bold, and beautiful—and leverage new formats, technologies and platforms to tell the story,” according to SCMP online editor Brett McKeehan, who helmed the project and talked about the process at a recent Google News Lab event.

In order to make the project accessible to as many readers as possible, especially in the smartphone-dominant Asian market, the SCMP team built a responsive website that was optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop. Animations of 3D Google Earth imagery helped to tell the story and orient the reader across time and space throughout the piece.

rain_new_2.JPG
One of Hong Kong’s wettest Junes in history.

They set a deadline to complete the project within two months—an eternity for a newspaper used to daily deadlines. “What can’t you do in two months? What could possibly go wrong? Two months—I thought, we could do anything in two months,” McKeehan said. Shooting and production schedules were set, everyone was ready to go…

And then it rained. And rained and rained—for six straight weeks—one of Hong Kong’s wettest Junes in history.

While it rained, the Hong Kong government changed its drone restrictions, rendering certain planned shots illegal. Meanwhile, SCMP’s developer team of three learned how to build, for the first time, a responsive HTML webframe that would work for both iOS and Android.

SCMP_Back 2017-07-10 at 3.19.46 pm.png
A drone is being readied to capture footage across Hong Kong.

In the end, Brett and his team had to change their project scope and push back their release date to overcome the many unforeseen logistical and development challenges that sprang up throughout the process.

“It’s not a tale of of pixies and rainbows…It is a tale of toil and frustration, and the headaches that come with doing something new.”

Despite the pain, Brett said the experience was worthwhile, because it brought new skills that were now embedded in the newsroom. But for anyone embarking on the journey, he offered the following tips:

  • Embrace the medium: 360, VR, AR offer incredible storytelling possibilities. The sooner you take the plunge, the better. 
  • Experiment with new technologies, but start small before taking on more ambitious projects.
  • Don’t outsource: Bite the bullet, buy your own equipment (get cheap stuff and play). Own your ideas and develop your own talent.

“We’re an aspirational publisher. We’re doing something for the first time. So we made it; we’re happy with that,” McKeehan said.

And that is success, Gary Liu, SCMP’s CEO,  told me after it was published. “The point was to do it and learn in the process.”

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