My Thoughts on Google+

First, I just have to say, I’ve never liked Facebook. I learned to use it for business purposes (social networking is a huge buzz item in the world of marketing), and am grateful for some of the connections it allows/helps me to keep. But it’s interface is crappy at best, its useability is among the worst of any large site on the ‘net, and well, I’m not sure I trust Mark Zuckerberg. So most people who are friends of mine, know that I don’t post detailed info on where I’m at, pictures of my family, etc. on there very often. I just don’t feel like I’m in control of who sees it.

So I gotta say, I love Google+ (aka Google Plus)! It’s got a clean, simple interface, with several “modules” or modes you can go into. Between these you have essentially all the features of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, & Skype. It’s easy to use, is similar enough to Facebook and others that anyone can start using it quickly, and it doesn’t have all the stupid games, apps, etc. that plague Facebook. Plus, the Android App is awesome, and backs up my photos and videos to the cloud, for FREE, permanently, and automatically. Apple’s new iCloud (or MobleMe 2.0) service doesn’t do that. It will back stuff up to the cloud, but only temporarily, etc. Google has essentially made photo and video backup to the cloud, FREE and automatic.

Another great feature is “circles” which allows you to select which “circles” your friends, co-workers, family, acquaintances, etc. fall into. Then when you share status updates, links, and even photos or photo albums, it’s easy to share with only the circles you want to be able to see that info. It’s much easier, and more safe than Facebook. Plus there’s a “following” circle where you can follow famous people and such that you don’t know (and are unlikely to “Friend” you on Facebook), just like on Twitter.

The “hangout” feature allows you to chat, audio call, video conference, and watch YouTube videos together in a dedicated space. It’s great for remotely talking to friends, business meetings and more.

If you’re not on Google+, you need to try it out, and follow/friend me!

Fix YouTube Videos After Upload

I just found this page in the YouTube help section that details how to fix problems with your aspect ratio (if it looks stretched or squashed or there’s black area all around the video), just by adding some secret YouTube tags to your video:

  • yt:crop=16:9 (zooms in on the 16:9 area, removes windowboxing)
  • yt:stretch=16:9 (fixes anamorphic content by scaling to 16:9)
  • yt:stretch=4:3 (fixes 720×480 content that is the wrong aspect ratio by scaling to 4:3)
  • yt:quality=high (default to a high quality stream, depending on availability)

I rendered a video, and it seemed to have the wrong meta data encoded in it. It was 854×480 (480p widescreen), but for some reason Windows Media Player as well as YouTube both thought it was 864×480 (too wide). So I just added the “yt:stretch=16:9” tag to the video’s list of tags, and it displays perfectly.