Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “Google”

Google+ sowing confusion?

Someone posted this statement on Google+, which sounded to me rather like a justification for apartheid:

Children will be confused as long as they live in multiple cultures incoherent internally and disharmonious in such proximity with each other. Study after study says that the kind of diversity so many people believe strengthens group and makes them more tolerant has the opposite effect. More than that it dangerously undermines our sense of self.

I made a comment to that effect and referred to a post on my blog which gave a fuller explanation, Apartheid wasn’t so bad – historian | Khanya, in this passage in particular:

According to apartheid educationists (or pedagogicians, as they liked to call themselves) it was the “greatest possible injustice” for a child to be taught by someone of a different ethnic or cultural group. Think about that for a moment: “greatest possible”. You could starve a child, whip him, push burning cigarettes into her, lock him in a lightless cellar, make him slave in a mine or factory or farm at starvation wages, keep her as a sex slave, but none of those would be as great an injustice as being taught by a teacher of a different ethnic or cultural group.

But it seems that Google+ separated my comment from the text I was actually commenting on, and attached to to some other text I had not seen before, and which meant nothing to me, dropping the names of a lot of people I had never heard of.

I’m posting this on my blog, where I hope it won’t be messed up by Google*.

But now at the top of my blog I read this:

Tip: Connect to Google+: Increase your readers’ engagement with your content by connecting your Google+ profile and enable publicize for Google+ to share your posts to Google+.

So it looks like they want Google+ to mess up our blogs too, to cause even more miscommunication and misunderstanding!

Thanks but no thanks — when this is the kind of “engagement with my content” it produces:

Do you think it’s fair just to rattle off a brusque and exceptional comment like that, post a link to an article you wrote about an article someone else wrote about apartheid and … well, anyway, if you’d care to answer David or say something more, you’re welcome to. As it stands right now, and pardon my own boldness, your comment more resembles the tactic of some teenage boy trying to stir things up with a bit of pithy trolling.

— I’d rather keep Google+ as far away from my blog as possible!

Postscript – 23 Dec 2013

For more on the substantive issue, see my post on Apartheid and multicultural education.

This post is mainly about the role of Google+ in promoting misunderstanding.

I’ve now left Google+, and no one seems to have noticved except Google itself, which now nags me to join Google+ every time I log in to Gmail.


Google+ and Blogger profiles

Google are asking people who use Blogger to merge their Blogger profile with their Google+ one. I think this is a bad idea, and am resisting it as long as possible.

The Google+ profile is inferior to the Blogger one. In the blogger profile, you can click on “Interests” to find other people interested in the same things. So I clicked on “missiology” as an interest, and found a lot of interesting blogs. That doesn’t work with Google+ profiles.

Also, when I go to blogs that have switched to the Google+ profile, the commenting system is linked to Google+ and I find that I cannot type any comments in the comment box. Perhaps it’s just me, in which case I’ll have to develop a conspiracy theory that Google have developed a bug to target me personally.

Last time they seriously messed up Blogger (by crippling the editor) I moved this blog from Blogspot to WordPress. I still have one remaining Blogger blog, my genealogy one, but if they mess with it any more I’ll probably abandon that one too.

Are Google out to destroy blogging?

Google seem to be determined to drive their users away to other platforms. I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress when they forced their new dysfunctional editor on me.

Now Goggle have been inviting Blogger users to switch their Blogger profile to a Google+ one. But the Google+ one is inferior, from a blogging point of view. On the old Blogger profile you can click on your own, or someone else’s “Interests” and find other bloggers who are interested in those things, and thus find interesting blogs to read. The Google+ profile lacks this feature, so I resisted Google’s blandishments and didn’t switch.

But they punished me for it, because when I wanted to comment on blogs that have switched, I found that I could not do so — you could type anything you liked in the comment box, but nothing would appear on the screen.

One of the blogs on which this happened has now moved to WordPress, and another has gone back to using Disqus for commenting.

And now Google have decided to call their online chat thingy “Hangouts”. Well, I don’t care what they call it, I never do online “chatting” anyway. Watching someone remotely typing on my screen and correcting spelling as they go (or not) is as bad, if not worse, than watching paint dry. But for those who do like such chatting, beware. Now there is this: nourishing obscurity — Hangouts is an analogy for Big Brother.

Actually, all this is probably part of the war between Facebook and Google for market share. They are trying to lock users into believing and acting as if their site is the Internet. They want to force everyone to communicate with other people only on their site. That’s why Facebook changed everyone’s e-mail address to a Facebook one, without telling them, and without telling them how to use it either.

Never forget that you are not the customer. You are the product that they are selling to advertisers.





More dysfunctional e-mail – Gmail

Is anyone else having problems with this annoying pop-up in Gmail?

It covers several menu items, and half of it seems to be hidden behind the browser tool bar, so there is no way of knowing what it is about and apparently no way of getting rid of it except by saying “OK” to something that one does not understand.

And Google have really shot themselves in the foot with this one, because of the things that is behind that stupid pop-up is the menu item for their much-hyped Google+. I normally go to it through Gmail, after reading my mail. But now that they’ve blocked it off, I don’t go there any more. 

Google revamps Blogger — is it worth it?

The last time Google revamped Blogger, it was dysfunctional for 6 months or more, and thousands of Blogger users packed it in and moved to WordPress.I myself started a WordPress blog, and got ready to move completely if Blogger got any worse, but I kept this one open, and eventually Blogger was more or less fixed, and most of the stuff that was broken started working again. But my WordPress blog quickly passed this one in the number of readers, and still gets about twice as many readers a day as this one. 

Now they’re at it again. According to their hype, “Introducing the completely new, streamlined blogging experience that makes it easier for you to find what you need and focus on writing great blog posts.”

Does it live up to the hype?

Not really.

It actually makes it harder to find what you need. Perhaps some of that is unfamiliarity, and we’ll get used to it, but the main change is that they’ve put everything into a smaller type in order to make it harder to read, and they’ve hidden a lot of functions behind cryptic symbols so you have to hover your cursor all over the screen to find what you’re looking for. There used to be a clear and unambiguous label “Edit Posts” and you would get a list of recent posts and drafts that you could edit. Now they’ve hidden it away behind a cryptic symbol, but I can’t remember what it is. In the past (and still on blog posts) they’ve used a pencil icon for “Edit Post”, but now they sometimes use it for creating a new post, so it gets very confusing.

On improvement has been the linking. You can now, when you add a link, choose if you want it to open in a new tab or page by ticking a box, instead of editing it afterwards and typing in ‘target=”_blank”‘. That’s a definite improvement.

Another improvement has been in simplifyingt their HTML code. Now if you click on the i for italics it uses the code , which is better than the nonsense that the older editor produced, but is still not as good as WordPress’s use of the standard HTML .

It seems to put pictures where you want them in posts, rather than putting them at the top and leaving it up to you to move them down if you didn’t want it at the top. But its picture placement is still not as easy to use as the one in WordPress. Where it scores over WordPress is in the same ways as it did before — the use of Javascript widgets, for example.

And then there’s some weird stuff:.

On the new Blogger dashboard they say:

Connect Blogger to Google+ and get a suite of new features that will help you build and engage your audience. Learn more.

Well, I clicked on the “learn more”, and learnt nothing, zilch, nada.

All it does is that it gives you some hype about Google+. It tells you nothing about what happens when you connect your blog to Google+, which is what I wanted to “learn more” about. It also doesn’t tell you if you can disconnect it if you don’t like what happens.

And this seems to lead into and link up to this: Can We Still Trust Google? – Danny Brown

Google bewitched?

A few weeks ago a book I contributed to was published. It is on African Initiatives in Healing Ministry, and it was published by Unisa Press.

The marketing department of the publishers are supposed to place a web page for the book on their site, to say what the book is about, explain how to order it and so on. I wanted to see if they had done so, so that I could refer to that page when I wrote to people who might be interested in buying it.

The quickest way to see if the page was up, I thought, was to Google for the title of the book. So I did that. And what did Google come up with?


Powerful witchcraft Spell
Extremely Powerful Spells, Love Money, Revenge, 082 257 2395

Extreme Spiritual Healing
+27 73 476 3119 Love, Good Luck spells and more
Voted #1 Spell Caster
Call the most powerful spell caster today ..Dr Kubo +2776 53 74611

I suspect that someone must have cast a very powerful spell on Google to get it to return that as the top three results on a search for “African initiatives in healing ministry”.

People who are looking for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) need look no further. Don’t call an “SEO consultant”, call a witch.


The other day my daughter invited me to Google+.

I went to have a look and it looked to me like Google’s attempt to woo people away from Facebook by creating something similar. Here’s an interesting comment on it:

Half an Hour: The Google Ecosystem:

This is an illustration of the Google Plus Ecosystem I created to try to explain the flow of information through Google Plus from its (currently undocumented) sources through to its (currently broken) output.

One of the problems I have found with this “me too” approach to designing social networking sites is that it is counterproductive. Initially there were improvements.

First there was Geocities, which tried to group web sites according to themes and common interests, and promote interaction among the webmasters. Then it was taken over by Yahoo!, which didn’t understand the principle, and killed it.

Then there was SixDegrees, which was real social networking, but before its time. The graphics loaded too slowly on the dial-up connections that most people used back then.

Then there was MySpace, whose main drawback was that it was designed for (and possibly by) celeb-following 11-year-olds with its garish graphics.

Then came Facebook, which was originally for undergraduates, and appealed to many with its clean, minimalist approach. When it was opened to the hoi polloi it became a useful place to keep in touch with friends, family, acquaintances, work colleagues and the like, though it also had the problem of people collecting “friends” like some people collect postage stamps, but indisciminately. It also became less useful when it branched out into third-party “apps”, which often competed with each other, and dispersed the effort.

For example, you could have an app that linked to your favourite books and what you were reading. The problem was that there are about six other apps that do the same thing, and when you are using App A and your friend is using App B, then to compare books you have to enter all your books all over again in App B, very often with a clunky user interface. So I have a general rule of “No more apps”. If anyone invites me to anything on Facebook, and it has a rigmariole about asking my permission to access information about my friends, I click “Cancel” and go no further. And if I want a site to compare books and what I’m reading with my friends, I use one that does it well, like Good Reads. From there I copy my reviews of the more interesting books to one or other of my blogs, and from there an announcement filters through to Tumblr or Twitter to Facebook, so my Facebook friends can see what I’ve been reading, without using clumsy “apps”.

But with Google+ the problem is likely to be exacerbated. Soon one will have one set of friends on one social networking site, and another set on another social networking site, and one will need a metasocialnetworking site to bring them all together in one place.

Yahoo! recently dropped yet another of its useful services (MyBlogLog), and urged people to join Pulse instead, which is their attempt, like Google+, to compete with Facebook. Instead of doing what they do well, they prefer to do what other people do, badly.

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!

At last, a good reason not to try Chrome.

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!:

It is an understatement to call Chrome as a browser. It is a mini operating system for running Web applications. So far, most of the Web applications have been running on the server side and used the browser only for display. Recently, there has been a push towards Rich Internet Applications (RIA) that use your browser’s advanced functionalities such as Flash, Javascript etc to deliver desktop application-like complex feature set. Zoho and Google docs are examples of popular Office applications that run in your browser. This trend has just started and is growing.

Hat-tip to Fencing bear at prayer.

Like many other people I’ve read about the Chrome web browser for Google, and have wondered if I should try it. Is it any faster than other browsers, any simpler, any more efficient?

And this article explains it better than anything else — the push towards Rich Internet Applications.

But it misses out the most important thing: the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications because of bandwidth caps. There is already far too much Flash and Javascript stuff around.

I’ve installed the Noscript add-on to Firefox to block Javascript applications like streaming video, podcasts and the like, because they are such bandwidth hogs, and all this “rich content” costs money to download.

It’s a sort of electronic verbosity, like HTML in e-mail. People who never use one word where four will do love to clothe the most trivial statements with fancy fonts in different colours, animated smiley faces and the like, so that one gets the original message, and then the HTML version that is 10 times as long (and I have my mail reader set to only show the plain text anyway, so I never see the fancy stuff).

If the content was really enhanced by all these bells and whistles it might be OK, but most of it is trivial.

So if the main feature of Chrome is that it does more of what I’m already trying to stop Firefox doing, thanks but no thanks.

Until bandwidth caps are removed, the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications, and therefore not ready for Chrome.

Search engines for genealogy and family history research

Over the last ten years or so Google has become the most popular web search engine — to much so that “to google” has become synonymous with searching the web. It’s become a generic term.

When Jackie Seaman announced her Growden reunion, I thought I’d do a web search for Growden, and started with Google because Firefox puts it so conveniently in the toolbar. Growden (or Growdon) is one of the less common surnames I’m researching, and we have a web page just for Growdon family researchers. But Google didn’t find it — at least not in the first 17 mages of results.

I tried another search engine, Altavista, and our Growdon page came up on the first page of results.

I tried another search engine, Dogpile, which is an aggregator of results from several different search engines, and our Growdon page was also on the first page of results, but further down.

It seems that Google is definitely not the best search engine for genealogical and family history research. Altavista ( was better by a long way, and its first page of results was far more relevant to genealogy researchers.

The first page of results on Google produced a bunch of generic surname search sites, many of them commercial. This means that they show up on search results for anyone looking for any surname at all. If you try some of them you might find they have no information at all on Growdon (or whatever surname you are looking for), but then invite you to look for other surnames. And quite often, if they do have information, they ask you to pay upfront before you can see it.

Dogpile also came up with quite few of those generic surname sites, but did have more relevant sites on the first page of search results as well.

But Altavista came up with “real” Growdon/Growden sites first — people who were actually interested in Growden family history, and had information or were looking for information, rather than generic surname search sites.

So if you are looking for family history information on the web, don’t just “google” for it — try other search engines as well. You may be pleasantly surprised.

(Originally posted in my family history blog, but copied here as it may be of wider interest).

Blogger working again

Blogger started working again on Sunday afternoon, after having stopped working on Saturday afternoon. I assume that Google fixed the bug, because I didn’t make any changes at this end that could either have caused it or fixed it.

By the time it was working again I had already moved my family history blog over to WordPress, where a lot of people migrated about a year ago. That migration was caused when Google introduced a Beta version of Blogger, where lots of things that had previously worked stopped working, and it took 6-12 months before some of them started working again, and it appeared that Google was in no hurry to fix them. So when it stopped working yesterday, I wasn’t sure when it would start working again, if ever.

I’ll leave this blog where it is for now, and see what happens. But if I start getting any more “403 forbidden” errors, I’ll think about moving it again.

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