Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “YahooGroups”

Is life without Facebook even possible?

There have been lots of “social media” sites on the web, but Facebook has undoubtedly been the most successful. Some years ago Yahoo made my account inaccessible for 6 months. They hosted my web pages (because they had taken over Geocities), they stopped me managing my mailing lists because they had taken over a mailing list host, and so  to be contactable on the web I registered for MySpace, but MySpace was clunky, its pages were cluttered and it was difficult to navigate. Then I found Facebook, which was clean, simple and easy — but it was only for current students at tertiary institutions. So when Facebook opened for everyone I joined.

Soon afterwards Yahoo! let me back in, but I still found Facebook useful, because Yahoo closed down most of the services I found most useful, including Geocities, MyBlogLog and WebRing. The only useful service they still provide is their mailing-list host, YahooGroups, and they’ve tried pretty hard to make even that less attractive and more user hostile.

Facebook, however, has succeeded in making itself almost indispensable, as this article shows I tried leaving Facebook. I couldn’t – The Verge:

Facebook had replaced much of the emotional labor of social networking that consumed previous generations. We have forgotten (or perhaps never noticed) how many hours our parents spent keeping their address books up to date, knocking on doors to make sure everyone in the neighborhood was invited to the weekend BBQ, doing the rounds of phone calls with relatives, clipping out interesting newspaper articles and mailing them to a friend, putting together the cards for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and more. We don’t think about what it’s like to carefully file business cards alphabetically in a Rolodex. People spent a lot of time on these sorts of things, once, because the less of that work you did, the less of a social network you had.

And, as the article also points out, everyone is on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook.

Facebook took over from MySpace because they did what MySpace was doing, but they did it better, making it less clunky and cluttered (they’ve cluttered it up now, but after eliminating rivals they don’t need to make it better).

Someone recently invited me to an alternative called MeWe, but they kept sending me e-mail  saying “Please read this message in an HTML capable reader”. I replied to the first couple saying “Please send me this message in plain text format”, but they didn’t, and I got tired of those identical messages, so just filtered them off to the spam bin. If they deliberately choose to make their messages unreadable, then the rest of what they are doing isn’t worth bothering about.

For a while Google had a better alternative to Facebook. It was called Orkut. It retained the simplicity of the early Facebook when Facebook began to get clunky, but it somehow only caught on in South America and South-East Asia, and Google dropped it.

So even though I sometimes find Facebook frustrating, especially when they come up with stupid ideas that make it more difficult to use, I haven’t tried to leave it, because in what it does, even when it tries to place obstacles in the way of doing what it does, it’s the only game in town.

One of the problems with Facebook is that it tries to make itself the only game in town even for the things that it doesn’t do, or doesn’t do well. One of the most egregious examples of that was when they changed everyone’s e-mail addresses in their profile to a Facebook one, and didn’t tell users that they had done so, and also didn’t tell them how to find mail that was sent to the address that they provided. So they tried to force all their users into using an e-mail service without telling them how it worked or even that it was there.

Many people are wary of Facebook because they are concerned about “privacy”. The people at Facebook are aware of these concerns, and they keep nagging me about them. My concern is the opposite — there’s too much privacy. If I want to keep something private, I don’t put it on Facebook. But Facebook doesn’t want that. Facebook wants me to use Facebook for everything. They want Facebook to be the whole Web, and even the whole Internet (as the linked article above shows).

Facebook keeps asking me “Who can read this?” and when I click on it, it tells me that anybody can read this. I’m more interested in knowing who can’t read this. I post links on Facebook thinking that some friends may be interested, but very often Facebook doesn’t show it to those people, but rather shows it to other people who find it boring or irrelevant, who then sometimes make silly or incomprehensible comments on them.

So I sometimes think of leaving Facebook, but I don’t. Why? Because, again as the linked article points out, I would lose contact with friends and relatives that I’ve found through Facebook. The contact is intermittent, scratchy and broken, like an old shortwave radio in a thunderstorm. But at least is there, and if I left Facebook I would lose it.

A couple of days ago we had lunch with Jim Corrigall, an old friend I had last seen more than 40 years ago. He told me by e-mail that he was going to be on Joburg last weekend, and we arranged to meet by phone, but it was through Facebook that we found each other, and without Facebook I would have have had no idea how to get in touch with him.

Jim Corrigall with Steve & Val Hayes, 28 April 2018

Most of my “friends” on Facebook are people like that — old friends who live far away, and in the past, if I stayed in touch with them at all, I might have sent a Christmas card, or a duplicated newsletter once or twice a year. In the days before duplicating, people would send “round robin” letters — write to one member of the family, and ask them to pass the letter on to another member of the family, and so on. Facebook has replaced those functions with something more immediate.

Facebook makes it possible, but Facebook also tries very hard to make it extremely difficult because of the obsession with “privacy”. You might write something in a round robin letter that you think will interest Aunt Joan, but Cousin Pete has fallen out with Aunt Joan and sends it to Uncle Bob instead. And Facebook often behaves like that.

Thirty years ago people use to talk about the “information superhighway”. Facebook built one, but then puts concrete blocks across all but one lane, so you have to negotiate an obstacle course.

Facebook’s “privacy” precautions are just that: obstacles to communication. If you are concerned about privacy and information leaks, then you won’t solve them by leaving Facebook. Disconnect your phone line. Get rid of all your mobile phones. Disconnect from the Internet, and build a high wall so that nosy neighbours can’t see what you are doing. Don’t go out of doors, lest a passing satellite spot you.

You used to be able to go to websites like Zoominfo, where you could find an amazing amount of information about you trawled from the Web.  At one time they used to let you edit it, and identify which applied to you and which didn’t. Now they don’t, so there’s no way of checking for accuracy, but they still sell it. You don’t need to subscribe to it or have ever logged into the site. So worrying about privacy leaks from Facebook is a bit like children playing at damming a stream when a flash flood is on its way.

And everyone is on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook.

Advertisements

Are Yahoo! planning to pull the plug on Yahoogroups?

If you go to Yahoogroups web pages they tell you:

Welcome to the new Yahoo Groups
We’ve improved your Yahoo Groups experience. Check out what’s new:

Well that’s a lie.

What they’ve done is reduce the functionality of the whole site. Much of the reduced functionality only affects group owners and moderators, but the biggest problem is for users who want to read messages at the web site.

If you go to a particular message, you see it momentarily, and then it disappears. Then there is a button that says “View source”, and if you click that, you can read the message, but with distracting things like the full message headers, which are of little interest to most people.

Then you are shown a button that says “Show message” — and if you click it, it hides the message again.

Real intuitive, huh?

A really improved “Yahoogroups experience”?

Yahoo have never heard of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Their motto is, “If it ain’t broke, break it. ”

You can still read messages OK if you subscribe by e-mail, but it also seems that Yahoo have made it difficult for new subscribers to join. A friend of mine has been trying to subscribe to one of the groups I moderate for months, and hasn’t managed to do so.

I think they’ve decided to get rid of Yahoogroups, as they have with so many other things (Geocities, Webrings, MyBlogLog), but because it has been one of their more popular services, they want to make it unpopular before they pull the plug, so that no one will miss it when they finally do so.

 

 

 

Frustration is an improvement on satisfaction?

We’ve improved your Yahoo Groups experience.

So say Yahoo!

But since they changed the user interface, my experience as a user has been frustration. Things that used to work no longer do so. Things that were easy to do are now much harder and more timeconsuming to do. You can spend hours looking for where they have hidden a function that used to be easy to find, only to find that it has been removed. And wasting time and frustration do not constitute an improvement in my understanding of the word “improve”.

When will people learn the simple adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Yahoo! Mail, which I had used since 1996, has now become completely unusable, because they’ve removed everything that worked and replaced it with a lot of useless stuff. And now they’re busy wrecking their mailing list service too.

Yahoogroups just got harder to use

Yahoo! have just informed me that  they have made changes to my YahooGroups “experience”.

They just made YahooGroups a lot harder to use.

So the YahooGroups “experience” is frustration.

Yahoo! seem to like shooting themselves in the foot.

They started as a search engine, and Google produced a better one.

They introduced webmail, which was quite cool to start with, but then they made it harder to use and reduced its functionality so that it is now unusable.

They took over other successful services, like Geocities, Webrings and MyBlogLog, and destroyed the very things that had made them successful, and then closed them because people stopped using them and they were losing money on them.

They took over the eGroups public mailing list server, and there, for a change, they made some improvements. It worked well, and they added some useful services.

But it seems that they still haven’t learnt the important lesson: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

So now they’ve made the one decent thing they still had harder to use, and people will start moving away from it, and they will start losing money on it and close it down.

I recently invited some people to join some of the YahooGroups I moderate, and they couldn’t do so. And when I looked at what Yahoo! had done to it, I wasn’t surprised. There seems to be no way to join. But they have made it easier to create a new group. But it’s impossible for people to join an existing group.

And now there doesn’t seem to be a way to invite them either.

Does anyone know of a good, free public listserver that works?

Will someone take back eGroups, as they took back Webring?

 

 

 

 

 

Yahoo hacked – warning

Yesterday I uploaded a family history file to one of our groups on Yahoogroups, and today my wife wanted to have a look at it and her antivirus software chirped a warning.

I investigated and found it that the Yahoogroups site had been hacked, and all the filenames pointed to a malware site. A quick look at some other forums showed the same thing – the filenames had been hacked.

I’ve tried to report this to Yahoo! They don’t make it easy. They tell you they only accept reports of technical vulnerabilities (which this is) from “the online security community” (whatever that may be). It’s a bit like being mugged and wanting to report it to the police station and being told that you can only report it at the police station where you live, and then being told that you can only report it at the police station where you were mugged, and then being told, no, you must go to the police station where the mugger lives, and generally being given the run-around. Well my Yahoogroups files have been mugged, and so, I think, have a lot of other people’s.

To check, hover your cursor over the link to the file you want to download from Yahoohroups. Look at the bottom left of your screen (in Firefox, I don’t know about other browsers) and see the URL it shows you. If it says “yahoofs”, back off. Wait for Yahoo! to fix it.

Yahoo May Shut Down Some Services – NYTimes.com

Yahoo! has a history of taking over services from others, then mismanaging them, destroying the features and functionality that made them popular in the first place, and finally closing them down. Two examples are Webrings and Geocities.

Ironically much of what was left of Geocities was rescued by the revived Webring, and some was also rescued by Reocities.

Now there is the threat of more to come.

Yahoo May Shut Down Some Services – NYTimes.com:

As part of its effort to streamline its beleaguered Web business, Yahoo may close down several well-known Web products, including Delicious, a social bookmarking tool, and Upcoming, a social calendar.

The news surfaced online Thursday through what appears to be a leaked snapshot of a Yahoo presentation that shows several Yahoo services the company is apparently thinking about shuttering or merging with other services. The picture was first posted online by Eric Marcoullier, co-founder of MyBlogLog, a social network for bloggers that was acquired by Yahoo in 2007. Mr. Marcoullier no longer works at Yahoo and said on Twitter that he had found the slide on the Web.

MyBlogLog, the social blogrolling site, doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to, while its main rival, BlogCatalog, has gone completely down the tubes, after a “revamp” that destroyed most of its functionality.

I just hope that Yahoo! doesn’t ditch Yahoogroups, which is one of its best services. Yahoogroups is an exception to the rule: it is a service that Yahoo! took over (from e-groups) and actually improved.

Ordinary Internet users were unable to run mailing lists unless they had their own server, or knew of a friendly operator who would give them space on a server. E-groups provided a public list server that anyone could join. Yahoo! took it over, and they have added features like the possibility of posting links, exchanging files and photographs, setting up databases that anyone can contribute to, and a calendar of events. These features made the service useful to academic societies, which could discuss various topics, exchange papers, and collect information at a central point accessible to members. It is also useful to groups like genealogists dealing with a particular family or locality, and any group with a common interest.

Google tried to set up a rival in Googlegroups, which had the dubious advantage of also interfacing with Usenet newsgroups — those who participated from Googlegroups often had no sense of netiquette, and their inane contributions to many established groups caused many to “killfile” those who participated through Googlegroups. Google have now reduced the functionality of Googlegroups, and diffused it, leaving Yahoogroups, as far as I am aware, unrivalled in the field.

So I really, really hope that Yahoo! don’t decide to shut down Yahoogroups.

Goodbye Geocities

If you go to Geocities web site, this is what you will see: Yahoo! GeoCities: Get a free web site with easy-to-use site building tools:

After careful consideration, we have decided to close GeoCities later this year. We’ll share more details this summer. For now, please sign in or visit the help center for more information.

The implications of this are quite serious, because Geocities web sites have hosted a great deal of material and information that has accumulated over the last 14-15 years or so, and which is not available elsewhere. If it is just deleted, some of it may never be available elsewhere.

It also raises more indirect concerns, because some of the other Yahoo services may come under threat as well.

One of the things that is of immediate concern to me is that I maintain several web sites on Geocities. I started my own personal web site there in 1996, nearly 13 years ago.

A couple of years later I started one for the Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS). In August 2007 SAMS opened its own web site under its own host, and so the Geocities site became less important. I nevertheless kept it open because many other sites linked to it, and if it were closed, those links would no longer work. There were also articles from previous issues of Missionalia that have not yet been transferred to the new site, though I suppose it might be possible to find a way to transfer them. I also continued to maintain the section on African Independent Churches at the Geocities site, which continues to be used frequently by people looking for information about AICs, many of whom have contacted me by e-mail.

Geocities was one of the very early attempts at social networking on the web. It was also one of the first attempts at free webhosting, supported by advertising. It was divided into “cities”, each associated with a particular theme. Most of my pages were hosted at “Athens”, where the themes were philosophy, metaphysics, and I thought theology could be fitted in there too, in spite of Tertullian’s protest, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” There were other cities too, with themes for literature, music, entertainment, travel and so on.

It was as much about community as about free web hosting. You could go surfing in a city and find similarly themed blogs just by looking at those adjacent to yours. There were city coordinators who encouraged interaction between the webmasters of the various sites.

Geocities flourished, and all kinds of web pages were posted there. Quality varied. You could look at a list of the sites — my personal one was http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734 and you could look at the eddresses 7700-7799. Some had icons showing cobwebs, indicating that they hadn’t been updated for some time. Others, if you went to them, had icons saying “Under Construction” — someone had discovered Geocities, thought it would be cool to start a web page, posted the equivalent of a “Hello World” message, and an “Under construction image” and that was it.

But others were amazing sources of information. There were interesting literary essays, histories of towns, schools and other institutions, stories of churches, missions and missionaries, articles and papers on mathematics, history, geology, you name it. There were family trees, often in considerable detail.

Perhaps some of that material will be preserved. The webmasters will find another host, and move it elsewhere, and within a year or two search engines will direct you to the new site. But some of it has been abandoned. The webmasters and the authors of the articles may have died, and it will be tossed on to the scrap heap, never to be seen again.

When Geocities was taken over by Yahoo! it began to deteriorate. The “city” themes were de-emphasised, and eventually dropped altogether. Geocities-Yahoo just became another free webhosting site. Yahoo! (like Google) started as a web search site, and gradually bought up other things that had been started by other people and had worked well. Many of them, when taken over by Yahoo, began to work badly.

One of those was Webrings — a way of linking web sites with similar themes, as Geocities did, only they did not have to be on the same server. It was working well when Yahoo took it over, and they proceeded to wreck it. Eventually they sold it, or gave it away, to someone who promised to work it properly, but it never really recovered.

They took over eGroups, a public mailing list server, which became YahooGroups. They didn’t manage that too badly, and actually made a few improvements. But the closing of Geocities makes one wonder how long YahooGroups will last, because Yahoo has proved increasingly unreliable. They lose things. Sometimes they intend to lose things, like Geocities. But sometimes they just lose them, with no rhyme or reason.

Three years ago yesterday they lost all my personal web pages on Geocities. No warning — one day they were there, the next they were gone. I blogged about that at the time. When they hadn’t reappeared after a couple of days, I moved my personal pages to Bravenet. Moving them was easy — they’re all on my hard disk and I just had to upload them. But getting people to find them was something else. Search engines still showed the Geocities ones, even through they were no longer accessible, and people who had links to the old pages could no longer find them. Two months later, they were back, inexplicably. But I did not update them except to provide links to the new site.

Then my Yahoo login stopped working. I couldn’t update the web pages even if I wanted to, and I could not moderate the YagooGroups mailing lists I was moderator of, so spammers started posting spam there, and I was unable to block them. Some of them were academic research forums, like the African Independent Churches and the New Religious mMovements ones, and the spam was a nuisance, but there was nothing I could do about it. Eventually after six months I was able to log into my Yahoo mail again, and kick the spammers off the mailing lists, but all my archived mail on Yahoo! had disappeared, several years’ worth.

So I don’t trust Yahoo, not at all.

No doubt they are closing down Geocities because it takes up resources and isn’t making much money, and times are hard, and Yahoo has probably taken a cut in profits. But in part that is their own fault. They have mismanaged a lot of things, particularly things like Webrings, but others as well, some of which I have described above.

But another problem is the users. I block pop-up ads, but I’ve never blocked banner ads, and have been quite happy to have them and occasionally look at them, because that is how free webhosting sites like Geocities are able to continue. But for advertising to pay, people must be able to see the ads, so it is in Yahoo’s interest to encourage people to visit those sites, and people who use sites on free web hosts also attract the people who will look at the ads.

Google, however, does it better. They target the advertising based on the content of the site. Some have complained, and said it raises privacy issues, but I don’t mind. I’ve had more problems with inappropriate ads. I’ve had very rude letters from secretaries of the CEOs of Christian organisations, berating me for allowing certain advertisements. It’s always been the secretaries, never the CEOs themselves. They demand that I move to another site, even if it means paying extra. I tell them, Hey, I’m a pensioner, and I’m not making money out of this, I’m providing this information out of the goodness of my heart, and they go off in a huff. One got so nasty that I had to contact the CEO in person to ask him to call his rottweiler off.

So if Google tries to coordinate ads with content, more power to their elbow, I say, though sometimes it gives rather amusing results. There are lots of priests’ web sites with ads for things for dads, and child rearing and father’s day, because they have “Father” in the site title.

A few months ago AOL did something similar to what is about to happen to Geocities. They stopped their free web hosting, and a relation of ours who had put up a lot of interesting family history lost it all. She wasn’t all that computer savvy, and didn’t know how to retrieve or move it.

Beware, all you publishers of scholarly journals who think e-journals is the way to go. You can think that that is cheaper, is more accessible and saves trees, but if you entrust it to someone like Yahoo it isn’t safe, not at all. Put not your trust in Googledocs either, because they can easily vanish the moment someone decides they aren’t making enough money and pulls the plug.

UPDATES

Check these as well:

Adactio: Journal—The Death and Life of Geocities: “They’re trying to keep it quiet but Yahoo are planning to destroy their Geocities property. All those URLs, all that content, all those memories will be lost …like tears in the rain.”

And here’s someone who wants to do something about it

ASCII by Jason Scott / Geocities: “Many pages are amateurish. A lot have broken links, even internally. The content is tiny on a given page. And there are many sites which have been dead for over a decade. But please recall, if you will, that for hundreds of thousands of people, this was their first website. This was where you went to get the chance to publish your ideas to the largest audience you might ever have dreamed of having. Your pet subject or conspiracy theory or collection of writings left the safe confines of your Windows 3.1 box and became something you could walk up to any internet-connected user, hand them the URL, and know they would be able to see your stuff. In full color. Right now. In a world where we get pissed because the little GIF throbber stays for 4 seconds instead of the usual 1, this is all quaint. But it’s history. It’s culture. It’s something I want to save for future generations.”

MS Outlook and YahooGroups

Yesterday I got a message in a YahooGroups mailing list from a friend — let’s call him Pete.

Pete’s message began

ON BEHALF OF DAVE

I immediately wondered why Pete was writing on behalf of Dave.

Had Dave’s computer crashed?

Or, worse, had he been taken ill, had an accident, been kidnapped or arrested?

So I asked Pete why he was writing on Dave’s behalf, and was Dave OK, and he said he wasn’t writing on Dave’s behalf at all — the computer had put that phrase in automatically. He assumed that it was something done by YahooGroups.

I’m a member of several YahooGroups mailing lists, and I’ve belonged to some for years, and I’ve never seen it put in anything that before.

I asked Pete what mail reader he was using, and he said he was using MS Outlook.

I was aware that many Outlook users have problems in participating in mailing lists because of Outlooks deficient quoting system. I know that many of them have solved these problems by using Quotefix

http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/outlook-quotefix/

and I recommended Quotefix to Pete.

But none of those who have had quoting problems with Outlook have mentioned this particular problem — of some software, somewhere along the line, inserting text to the effect that the poster of a message was writing on behalf of someone else.

Perhaps some prankster has hacked the YahooGroups list server,

But whatever the cause may be, has anyone else had similar problems when using Outlook as a mailing list reader, whether with the YahooGroups or any other listserv?

Is it a problem with Outlook, or with the server, or with both?

And if you have found a solution, please let me know, so I can tell Pete.

MS Outlook and YahooGroups

Yesterday I got a message in a YahooGroups mailing list from a friend — let’s call him Pete.

Pete’s message began

ON BEHALF OF DAVE

I immediately wondered why Pete was writing on behalf of Dave.

Had Dave’s computer crashed?

Or, worse, had he been taken ill, had an accident, been kidnapped or arrested?

So I asked Pete why he was writing on Dave’s behalf, and was Dave OK, and he said he wasn’t writing on Dave’s behalf at all — the computer had put that phrase in automatically. He assumed that it was something done by YahooGroups.

I’m a member of several YahooGroups mailing lists, and I’ve belonged to some for years, and I’ve never seen it put in anything that before.

I asked Pete what mail reader he was using, and he said he was using MS Outlook.

I was aware that many Outlook users have problems in participating in mailing lists because of Outlooks deficient quoting system. I know that many of them have solved these problems by using Quotefix

http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/outlook-quotefix/

and I recommended Quotefix to Pete.

But none of those who have had quoting problems with Outlook have mentioned this particular problem — of some software, somewhere along the line, inserting text to the effect that the poster of a message was writing on behalf of someone else.

Perhaps some prankster has hacked the YahooGroups list server,

But whatever the cause may be, has anyone else had similar problems when using Outlook as a mailing list reader, whether with the YahooGroups or any other listserv?

Is it a problem with Outlook, or with the server, or with both?

And if you have found a solution, please let me know, so I can tell Pete.

Post Navigation