From the Editor's Desk: Community and camaraderie in the digital age

Google Meet is ready for you
Google Meet is ready for you (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I've always been something of a drifter, flitting from one group to another, from one place to another without very much attachment, in both my digital life and my IRL connections. It's hard to put in the effort when you lack a connection, and I can count on one hand the places I've ever truly felt a sense of belonging: the bar I sang karaoke at in Waco, the lounge at the college TV station when I was in college, Walt Disney World, and Google+.


Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central Google+ and the 2013 Moto X, two things I miss dearly (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Make all the jokes you want about Google's "failed" social network, but Google+ will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only was Google+ the first social platform I actively reached out to others on, the first digital space where I actually built friendships outside school or work, but Google+ was where I was noticed and hired for Android Central. It was where I honed my voice and where I gained technological perspectives I never could IRL.

Even beyond the tech circles and communities, Google+ was where I met so many incredible people from around the world. I met folks from the Philippines and India, from across Europe and North America, and each one had their own passions. The gardening communities were full of bounty (and bug control solutions); the crafting circles made me want to break out the crochet needles, and don't get me started on the food!


Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Google+ has been dead for over a year, but you wouldn't know it on Friday night. Derek Ross put out the call to G+ alums and much like G+ itself, it was an intimate Hangouts Meet that went long into the night with folks and made me laugh harder than I have in months.

While I'd only met maybe half the participants beforehand, that didn't stop any of us from getting into deep conversations about philosophy, human nature, and liquor. It was a night of nostalgia and nerdiness that felt utterly comfortable, and in a year where chaos slaps us in the face every day, it was more cathartic than an afternoon in the Magic Kingdom. (It also made me miss BABBQ more than ever, since that's where I'd get to hug all the nerds I met on G+.)

Even though we've all moved on to different networks, different jobs, different places, we could still come together just as easily as we could years ago. Getting into these Hangouts and happy hours feels like walking to the bar on karaoke night, and I need to do them more often. Especially since I have absolutely no idea the next time I'll be able to safely walk into a bar and sing on karaoke night.

Google Pixel 4a

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Around the Android world:

  • I've been on the Android 11 Beta for Pixel 4a since it came out on the 25th and I was one of the unlucky few to get the Wi-Fi bug. This is why even if Betas are usually fine, you should only do them if you don't mind either factory resetting the phone should something go wrong.
  • Other than the beta bug, I am still very much loving the Pixel 4a, and while I get that people will always lust after the newer, fancier phone, the only things I find myself missing are wireless charging and a waterproof rating (because I live in Florida and rain storms can pop up very, very fast).
  • The OnePlus Clover is an interesting budget phone, but I think it's going to get lost in the $200 price bracket amid a sea of Motorolas and Samsungs.
  • The Chromebook shortage has gotten ridiculously bad in the last three weeks and it's going to take months for supply to start catching up to the overwhelming demand we've seen this year. Which is a shame because there were some really great Chromebooks that debuted this summer at excellent price points, but they sell out the instant
  • My 2015 NVIDIA Shield once again reaffirmed its status as the longest-supported Android device this week, and I still love mine and use it every single day.
  • The Surface Duo looks very interesting but I'm still more interested in foldables like the Galaxy Z Flip 2 that will fit in my small pockets better.

Big Android BBQ mug

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Now it's back to Disney music, decade-old anime — I've rewatched most of my recent favorites so I'm digging back through FUNimation's catalog now — and trying not to think about what else 2020 can take from us in the next four months.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • To start 4 things. 1. One of the reasons why Chromebooks are so in demand is because so many of them are cheap.
    2. One of the reasons why Chromebooks are so cheap is because lots of them are manufacturered in China or have critical components of the supply chain there.
    3. There is currently a trade war with China. Ergo ...
    4. The trade war is a major reason for the Chromebook shortage. It stinks, but facts are facts. Granted, COVID-19 has played a major role BUT 3 more points: A) if you are a left winger, you are going to blame Trump's trade war for endangering vital educational supplies at a critical time as millions of kids are going to be without Chromebooks for months. (I want to point out that about $200-$250 will get you a decent Samsung Android tablet with a keyboard that kids can still use to access Google Classroom, Khan Academy and the rest but still, it is a fair point, a direct and to a degree inevitable result of policy, especially since Betsy DeVos and the federal education department didn't lift a finger on this long developing crisis, and Trump supporters should acknowledge and own the results of this policy. Even if only to say "we feel REALLY BAD about this ... but making omelettes require breaking eggs".) B) If you are right winger, your position is going to be that we never should have allowed so much PC manufacturing to shift from the likes of Texas, California and Arizona to China in the first place. (Well if you are a CURRENT right winger. As recently as 2016, nearly all Republicans had the "free trade that benefits corporations is good so who cares about displaced workers ... let them them use their unemployment benefits to buy stock in the companies that moved their manufacturing and distribution jobs overseas" philosophy and were proud of it. Some Republicans joined up with far left "fair trade" types to block a TANF treaty that would have outsourced even more supply chain and manufacturing to China, but that was more because of a personal vendetta against Obama than changing their views on trade.) If we still had our electronics assembly factories like we did in the 80s and 90s, sure Chromebooks would cost a bit more, but ramping up production at AMERICAN factories to meet the needs of AMERICAN students would have been a lot easier and as a result worth the extra cost, which could have been defrayed by subsidies from the COVID-19 relief bills anyway. C) Finally, the school districts themselves have to take SOME of the blame. (And by some I mean A LOT and possibly NEARLY ALL OF IT.) We have known about this potential problem for months, literally since the 2019-2020 school year. Analysts were predicting a likely Chromebook crunch as far back as April. Yet lots of major school districts didn't even put their Chromebook orders in until a few weeks before the school year. What was worse, they put their orders in with the usual corporate channels instead of checking into channels that offer refurbished devices as well as outfits like CloudReady that sell repurposed Windows machines as Chromebooks. They also didn't investigate alternative technologies like Linux netbooks and the aforementioned Android tablets. I know that these are public school districts and not tech companies ... but they had plenty of time to HIRE consultants that could have given them ideas on alternatives. Including simply buying up all the cheap Windows refurbished laptops they could get their hands on and asking Google how to go about putting ChromeOS on them. (Google normally only releases ChromeOS to OEMs but they would have made an exception in this case.) Hire a dozen IT majors from the local trade school or community college and put them to work doing this 8 hours a day 5 days a week during the summer and they could have had like 100,000 devices repurposed and ready (plus they would have had some nice candidates to consider for job opportunities with the district down the line). Blaming the feds is fine - especially if the federal government is being run by someone from "the other side" whose policies you don't support - but at the end of the day politics is mostly local, and it is the decisions of local officials that have the most impact on things like schools and education.
  • Google+ turned out to be a s_show which made it easy for freaks to harass, hijack your identity, and dox you and any of your followers, including children. Google did nothing about it.
    The great things it taught me: "the social" is all cow manure. Nobody matters; people you meet are not your friends, and you are not theirs. Consequently, fake profiles are a must (and you can create an infinite number with, ironically, Google's help), as is a VPN. Having those, you can settle back into your little echo chamber.