Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Google Started to Become a Problem

I guess I have assumed that almost everybody loves Google, and those who don't are the bad guys.  Microsoft, for example.  Maybe it takes a huge corporation to stand up to another huge corporation.  If so, Google is a champion for those who have disliked various things about how Microsoft got its start, what it did to increase its power, and what it has done with that power.

There comes a point, however, when the good guy turns bad.  Maybe it doesn't have to happen.  But power tends to corrupt.  And even when it doesn't actually corrupt, it tends to create an impression of corruption.  That impression may be able, by itself, to make people more or less as miserable as they would be in case of actual corruption and abuse.

Case in point.  I have been blogging for years, here in Blogger.  I wasn't necessarily eager to see Google acquire Blogger.  But they were welcome to do so, for my purposes, as long as they left me alone.  The deal was that I got to use their free blogging platform to put out various things that I wanted to write, and they got to use my work, my viewers, etc. to make money from advertising and whatnot.

Gifts can make people resentful when they stop.  I would be unhappy with Google if they pulled the plug on my blogging enterprise, even though they're not charging me for it.  I have spent years putting stuff here, linking one post to another and so forth.  It would take a lot of work -- work that I might never do -- if they were suddenly to just shut it down or screw it up.  I would feel that, after all, Google does have competitors, notably WordPress.  If nothing else, I'd sooner be paying for a hosted website than to do all this work and then watch it get messed up.

What's sad is that I have been warned that they are quite capable of doing exactly that.  It has already happened.  Circa 2000, many people were using DejaNews as a convenient gateway to Usenet.  Usenet newsgroups contained tons of free, helpful information on a vast array of subjects -- especially but not only computer-related, like this blog.  Google acquired DejaNews.  Evidently they felt that all that information would interfere with their desire to sell advertising related to webpages.  For whatever reason, they basically destroyed Deja.  That was a shame, for all those people who could have continued to use it to obtain useful information.  And it was irritating to me, because all the things I had put out there, thinking I would always be able to access them, were removed from access as a practical matter, by me and most everyone else.

I was pretty unhappy with Google about that.  That was the first big chink in their claim that they would "do no evil," as their corporate motto ("Don't be evil") has been widely reported.  They had obviously ruined something useful, for purposes of increasing profits.

That stuff would not be coming back to mind now if I weren't having an off day with Google today.  Here I am, working away on my blog, and suddenly it is no longer very functional in Internet Explorer.  I have a nice little desktop arrangement, with various browsers, but now Blogger has suddenly ceased to work properly when I try to post or edit.  Google lets me know that, instead, I should be using its own browser, Chrome, for this purpose.

That part happened several days ago.  So, OK, I have been trying to post in Chrome instead.  But I am finding that Chrome is not yet up to speed for this purpose.  Google was eager enough to move me over to its browser -- the statements and signals have been out there for some time -- but, lo, it develops that Chrome is inserting white backgrounds.  Whole chunks of my post are whited out.  Why?  I don't know.  Probably they don't know either.  I am having to go in and manually remove whiteing that I didn't put there.  Why not just leave me alone, free to work on my blog in Internet Explorer, until Chrome gets its act together?

That seemed like a fair question, so I tried to present it to Google.  Problem is, their "Contact Us" webpage is a lie.  You cannot contact them through their webpage.  Or at least I cannot.  I tried today.  I tried once before, with a problem so obvious and banal that it pained me to have to bring it to their attention.  In that case, I gave up and wrote them a letter.  It seemed ironic, and yet telling, that I had to use the U.S. Post Office to communicate a simple thought to one of the world's largest software corporations.

Like most people, I don't like being lied to.  If you're not going to let me contact you, don't give me a "Contact Us" webpage.  Call it "FAQs" or whatever.  It's great that you can hire the best and the brightest, but that can backfire:  you can create the impression that you think you're too good for the rest of us.  It wouldn't be terribly smart to generate unnecessary resentment, would it?

It had never occurred to me, until today, to search for something that I have now searched for and found.  Yes, as it turns out, there does exist something called  I'm not really sure what it's about.  I'm not resentful enough to dig into it.  But, Google, keep it up:  maybe someday I will be.  You seem to be making a good start at it:  today you tell me that as many as 1.4 million webpages convey that sort of feeling toward you and your actions.

Obviously, I am not the only person who has attempted to communicate with Google along these lines.  People rarely get resentful when they feel they are being respected.  If Google cannot make its own programs work together -- Chrome and Blogger, in this case -- it is welcome to keep them in beta.  But forcing me to use them when I don't want to:  at this point, that is a problem.  Not just a software problem.  As presented in this post, it is an indication of larger and more worrisome things.



It gets worse. Now the Chrome-Blogger combination are deleting drafts. I have just discovered that a large draft post has been completely wiped out with, apparently, no way to get it back.


As note in a later post, I expect to be posting my new material in a different blog henceforth.