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Paolo Amoroso
Non-viral space & Google gems
Non-viral space & Google gems

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Making a Google+ collection trailer
Book trailers are a common promotion tool in the publishing industry, especially among indie writers.

To learn about video making I thought it’d be fun to create a trailer for my collection Space Apps for Android and experiment with YouTube, outreach outside of Google+, and maybe play with that internet of experiences buzz. Here’s the collection:

This is the result, my very first edited video.

The story
Well, I’m no storyteller. But I tried to give some logic to the sequence of visuals and information.

The trailer opens with a series of space images that progressively reveal the user interface elements of Android apps. Then a screencast demonstrates searching for the collection on Google+ and browsing it, thus featuring the content itself.

The video ends with a call to action information panel listing the collection’s name and tagline, a capsule description of what content it features, and links.

As in the collection I added to the trailer a touch of branding and content cues by referencing a couple of Android elements, such as the collection’s Android green color and the Roboto font.

Call to action
The information panel has two links to the collection, a full link and one shortened with the URL shortener, which also provides useful analytics.

Remembering and typing a URL is not always practical, so for redundancy the trailer includes a video clip demonstrating how to search the collection’s name through the Google+ search box. Assuming this is more intuitive or memorable, of course.

I took the screenshots on my Android phones, recorded the screencast with and edited the video with Using cloud tools is a requirement for me -- and a choice -- as all my desktop devices run Chrome OS.

The video features static images animated through the Ken Burns effect, crossfades, a video clip, and a few text elements. Here are some notes on how I made the video:

Making a video with WeVideo: my experience

I linked the trailer from a post pinned to the collection:

About Space Apps for Android

I don’t own any communities but I guess trailers may be useful there too.

Lessons learned
Planning and production were easier and faster than I thought, possibly because I kept the story simple for both production and fruition reasons.

The legibility of the screencast videoclip is terrible on mobile, so it’s not clear it’s initially supposed to demonstrate how to search for the collection’s name on Google+.

But it’s a start.

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Samantha Cristoforetti’s astronaut diploma
Ever wondered what an astronaut diploma looks like?

This is the one +Samantha Cristoforetti was awarded in November, 2010 after completing her basic training and becoming an astronaut. She had joined ESA in May, 2009 as an AsCan, an Astronaut Candidate.

Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2010. original image:

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Using Google+ in the enterprise
The doomsayers in the tech press have long spotted Google not mentioning Google+ in the keynotes of some event or the statements of some executives, which led to foresee impending doom for the platform.

However, the kremlinologists who divine the fate of Google+ from tea leaves seem to have missed this talk +Danielle Buckley gave at Google Cloud Next 2017 about using Google+ in the enterprise.

The platform was prominently featured in a talk at a major event. We also learn Google itself is an active Google+ user.

The doom of Google+ will have to be canceled.
My manager +Danielle Buckley rocking it at Google Cloud Next!

Last year, Google+ became part of GSuite, putting it right next to Gmail, Calendar, and Drive. Internally here at Google, we've been using Google+ in a way that we thought other companies could too. For those who don't know, us Googlers have an internal version of Google+ that we use to talk to just each other. That content is private, but we still poke our heads out into public content every once in a while (or all the time) too! If you're wondering why you can sometimes find two profiles for Googlers, this is why.

In 2017, Google+ will increase its focus on the enterprise. While that may sound a little scary if you're a consumer, don't fret. GSuite is well known for its products that are both enterprise and consumer focused. The good news is that both enterprise and consumer users really like to find the stuff they're interact and interact with / collaborate around it.

If you're curious about where Google+ is headed this year and what value it holds for companies, please watch Danielle's talk. As an added incentive, Danielle talks about Google+'s roadmap for 2017 - something that doesn't happen very often at all for Google's products. Enjoy :)

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Plan your observations of Mars with Physical Mars for Android
Physical Mars is a physical ephemeris Android app for planning telescopic observations of the Red Planet:

Although developed for an old version of Android, lacking some modern user interface features such as pinch to zoom, and sometimes with a confusing interface, the app is useful to amateur astronomers.


Physical Mars provides a physical globe and a Mercator projection map of Mars as well as ephemeris and other data. You can change the date and time, display surface feature labels, view a topographic map, and more.

The main screen shows a map of Mars at the current time, with an indication of the area of the planet where there’s daylight and night. The screen also has ephemeris and data.

The buttons let you switch to other views of the planet such as Globes (a 3D globe), an orbital view with the positions of the Earth and Mars (Orbit View), and a topographic map (Topographic). Tap the Real-Time button to adjust the date, the Gale Crater button to get a topographic map of the NASA Curiosity rover landing site.

The overflow menu has options for displaying and clearing feature labels.

The globe view shows a 3D globe with readouts of the coordinates and altitude of the point at the center. Tap and drag to spin the globe, tap + and - to zoom in or out. Tap the Mars icon at the bottom to get a view the planet uniformly illuminated. A row of buttons let you center the globe at the subsolar point (Sun), the sub Earth point (Earth), the origin of coordinates (Zero), and lock the view (Free).

Tap the camera icon at the top to get a list of surface features to explore. Tap the name to center the globe on the feature, then the camera icon at the bottom to view an image taken from space. Tapping the Earth icon at the top switches to a globe of the Earth with similar options.

The globe view’s overflow menu has options for toggling the telescopic view with South up.

In the topographic map screen tap the MAP/GLOBE button to toggle between a 3D globe and a map. The < and > buttons let you switch to a different data set such as thermal or albedo data.

In the Gale crater view tap an area of the map to get a readout of altitude data.

Be sure to scroll down the ephemeris as the data table is scrollable even if it may not be apparent.

Navigating through screens and views is confusing at times. When you get stuck tap the Back button as many times as required to get back to the main screen.

The main screen of Physical Mars on my Nexus 6P phone.

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Zencastr and the limited Chrome OS local storage
A Chrome API feature limits the way cloud apps can be used on Chrome OS. is a great audio recording cloud app for podcasters and creators. The audio track of each guest is saved to their local storage while the recording is under way, then uploaded to the host’s cloud drive at the end. The only cloud drive currently supported is Dropbox, with Google Drive to come:

Recording podcasts in the cloud with Zencastr

Zencastr to go freemium

The problem is the Chrome API reports to Zencastr only about 10% of the free space actually available on the local storage. On my ASUS Chromebox with a 16GB SSD I usually get no more than about 5GB of free space even clearing the browser’s cache, offline files, and deleting all the files in the Downloads folder. Therefore Zencastr can see only 10% of this, up to a few hundred MB of usable space.

A hour long MP3 audio recording generates an audio file of a hundred MB or so, which frequently triggers the Chrome API limitation that results in Zencastr not saving my track when I’m a guest.

Considering this example and the upcoming support for Android apps, these days a 16GB SSD is just too small for any Chrome OS device. If only vendors understood this and provided choice instead of forcing users to fiddle with a replacement SDD unit...

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Immune cells and space: the results of the TRIPLE LUX A experiment
Among the many experiments +Samantha Cristoforetti performed in her mission to the International Space Station was TRIPLE LUX A, which studied how immune cells adapt to the weightlessness of space.

The researchers now published the results of the experiment, hinting such cells can adapt to space better than previously thought. This has positive implications for future long-duration human space flights.

Samantha is a co-author of the report published to Nature:

Rapid adaptation to microgravity in mammalian macrophage cells

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Google Play Newsstand 4.2 for Android adds support for App Shortcuts
Version 4.2 of the Google Play Newsstand app for Android added support for App Launcher Shortcuts, which requires Android 7.1 or later.

Long-press the app’s launcher icon to get options for opening the major sections of Newsstand: For You, Library Digest, Magazine, and Read Later (i.e. your bookmarked articles).


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The Google+ community team
+Carter Gibson introduced the awesome members of the Google+ Content and Community Management Team, with whom I get to interact as part of some Google+ programs. This attention to content and creators, and the resources put into it, show once again Google is serious about promoting and growing the platform.
I #CantLiveWithout my exceptional team

Here on Google+, I manage the Content and Community Management Team. You're probably most familiar with our efforts on the Create program, but our ambitions don't stop there and there's a lot we do behind the scenes. You probably know +Sophie Bonnet​​​​​​ (Google+ Create), +Madeleine DeRome​​​​​​ (Community Vanguards), +Faith Tan​​​​​​ (Public Collections Community), and +Leanne Osborne​​​​​​ (Early Access), but there are many more Community Managers, two Outreach Coordinators, one Social Media Manager, and one exceptional Project Manager who help us achieve our vision. What is that vision you ask? Well...

"We cultivate the content - and empower the creators - that make Google+ the best place for shared interests."

That's done through three core functions:
1) Identify high quality content. This is done a variety of ways, including machine learning, outreach, algorithms, and human quality evals. When we're talking about something as subjective as quality, we believe firmly that a mix of each at scale is vital to our success. We look at a lot of stuff and +Jared Kamel​​​​​​ makes sure it all stays organized behind the scenes. We are all lost without him.

2) Promote it. Once we've found all that stuff, we want to make sure it gets in front of the right people - no matter how niche or popular a subject may be. We work extremely closely with our Ranking and Recommendations team to evaluate the quality of our recommendations and improve them. The content we identify feeds directly into their recommendation prowess and the more they have, the better stuff you see.

3) Retain the people who made it. And this is the part of the process where you're most familiar with the CCM Team. Google+ Create ( ) exists to bring incredible content creators and sharers together so that they - with Google's help - can maximize their impact across Google+. There's a slew of perks that come along with it, including profile verification and a ticket to our beta Community, Early Access which has direct contact to our product / dev teams to help make G+ even greater.

What you may not know is that we also have Create India run by the delightful +Sooraj Wadhwa​​​​​​ and Create em Portuguese run by the ambitious +Carolina Liu​​​​​​. Community Vanguards is a private Community for owners / moderators of some of the best Communities on G+ - and is expanding quickly. Our Social Media Manager +Dell F​​​​​​ makes sure that anything awesome we see is promoted through our official Google+ Page and Twitter. To make sure we keep things fresh, +Pamela Abi Najem​​​​​​ and McKenna Taylor scour the planet for more incredible people to come share their content with all of us.

Phew! If that sounds like a lot, it is - and it wouldn't be possible without our Project Manager +Tracy Hua​​​​​​. She makes sure that everything is running smoothly and speaks up for the team when they need something to be successful in their roles.

Helping you find the stuff you're into.
When I think about an exciting future, I think about one where everyone feels like they belong. All of the programs I've run in my life - whether as a Community Manager, Program Manager, or in my free time - revolve around the idea that people should be able to find the stuff they're into and connect around it. Managing projects at scale that do that gets me out of bed in the morning with a smile my face. I want to create a future where machine learning and humans, together, make sure that no matter how popular or niche or weird your interest, you can come together to create incredible things.

While my job is absolutely fulfilling, it wouldn't be anywhere near as enjoyable without seeing these hardworking, intelligent and absolutely hilarious people every day. I love this team and I love waking up in the morning to see them. This is the best team I've ever been a part of and I'm so lucky to be here. So, yeah.... #CantLiveWithout you guys. <3

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Google+ Create turns 1
One year ago today Google announced Google+ Create, a program for recognizing creative, passionate and active Google+ users I had the privilege of being an early member and watching the program grow.

What makes Create special to me is realizing how many talented and passionate people there are here and how much they value Google+. I learn their stories, see the ever new things they create, and watch them experiment with the platform.

My best Create moment was learning about the program and realizing Google is as much passionate about Google+ as we are.


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She inspires me: Samantha Cristoforetti
In 2014 European astronaut +Samantha Cristoforetti became the first Italian female to fly into space. For the International Women’s Day 2017 I thought I’d share why she inspires me, and it’s not only for this gender-related milestone.

I have known Samantha for several years and she inspires me for the breadth and depth with which she shares with the public her professional life, adventures, and enthusiasm for space and science. Her Logbook #SamLogbook, a daily diary of her training and mission, is the most extensive such account by any astronaut.

I nominate +Scott Maxwell to share their own story about an inspirational woman in his life. More context:

Update: many thanks to +Scott Maxwell for sharing not one but half a dozen stories of women who inspire him:

Photo Credit: ESA/NASA. Original image:

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