Posts tagged ‘Blogger’


The pre-blocked Google Plus Circle

19.07.2011

I might be Google-sceptic, but I’m not so daft as to risk clients and the Medinge Group, both groups having various things in my Google account, opened either in the days when Google was not being evil (many, many years ago now) or before Google acquired that company. So, I made a public profile, to prevent Google deleting it as threatened by July 31, and, possibly, affecting various things that fall under my account. My own stuff I don’t care about. Other people’s—well, they shouldn’t be dragged in to this nearly two-year battle I have had with holding Google accountable over the most basic things, things which, by its own evasion, make the company look highly suspect. (I’ve actually had more success getting Facebook to do things. Really.)
   But many people still love Google. Then again, in 1997, many people loved Tony Blair. Not so long ago, the Tories loved the Murdoch Press. Some of us just get suspicious a little earlier because we’re not too bad at understanding corporate culture and can spot the warning signs.
   All this, unfortunately, meant having a Plus account. It’s one of life’s ironies that as one of the few people who did not want a Plus account, I’ve been able to go to plus.google.com since day one and get one. No pleading with friends for an invitation. In fact, I was able to send invitations to a few friends, which was my original reason for going in—far be it for me to deny them the chance to make up their own minds. The only period I couldn’t sign in to Plus was immediately after my initial deletion or ‘downgrade’. If it were not for the profile threat made several days after that deletion, I would have let it stay shut.
   Now that I have it (again), I still have minimal use for it. I don’t post to it, I don’t plus-one anything, nor can I see Circles as being unique. I have my lists on Facebook and have sent customized messages for years. Last time I looked, we are in charge of technology, not vice versa, so why would I duplicate work just for the sake of Google Plus hype?
   One utility—and another reason for signing up—was to use the data liberation feature, to download what the company claimed to have on me. (Interestingly, the downloaded file was 4 kbyte long, mostly composed on empty directories—not really reflective of what Google actually has on me.) Its only other utility, as far as I can see, is to arm me with more facts for a speech I’m doing this November on social media for business.
   As stated in earlier posts, until Google answers just why it has held on to my Blogger data in contravention of its own terms and conditions (it has ceased responding to the email thread), and my personal details under Adsense when that account has been closed for a long time, as well as several other ongoing privacy gaffes, then I have no confidence in the Californian company to do right by Plus. They are extremely simple questions. But, Google has no desire to answer them.
   I keep finding further grounds to question Plus. For example, I have a Circle with 18 people pre-blocked. This is quite a feat for someone who has never used Plus other than sign on to it and send out some invitations. It is also quite a feat for someone who has been de-Googling for over a year. Where have these 18 come from? On what criteria has Google decided these 18 are unsuitable for me?
   None of the logical explanations fit.
   Hypothesis 1: for a year or so, despite not having a Buzz account, I get Buzz followers. Google just adds them to my account without my permission. Often they are anonymous. I still get them today, even after the release of Plus. So these 18 must be from my regular blocking of these errant accounts.
   Response 1: actually, no. If this were the case, the number would be higher than 18. Since February 2011, I have been getting three to five per week, despite having a private profile which, by Google’s own admission, would prevent me from being found in Buzz. Despite blocking another person today, the Plus Blocked Circle has not increased in number. It stays happily at 18.

Errant Buzz followers

   Hypothesis 2: when I was first given a Buzz account—and remember, I never had a Gmail account though Google went and changed my defaults—I had some followers. These 18 are the ones I blocked then before I changed my profile settings back and got rid of Buzz. Buzz and Plus are, basically, the same thing.
   Response 2: no. Among these 18 are real friends, people I met since Buzz was added to my account. They did not know me then, nor would I have been in their Gmail address books then. While there are a few that are the same, most are not. And I have read nothing from Google to suggest that Buzz and Plus are the same thing, though I’d love to hear if Harriet J. has had a similar experience.
   Hypothesis 3: aliens from the planet Vulcan, the Obama administration, and military personnel at Area 51 have pre-blocked these 18 to warn me that I should have no interaction with them.
   Response 3: of the three, this is the most likely scenario. I’ll get you for this, Spock. Bones McCoy is a personal friend of mine.
   But whether you are blocked (by Google) or not, please don’t be offended if you see nothing from me, or if I don’t add you to a Circle. Google is a privacy black hole, and I have no desire to let it have more data about me than what it already holds on to without my consent.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, USA | 6 Comments »


Facebook hates The Scotsman, and other xenophobic bugs

08.06.2011

Some very interesting errors on the internet today.
   Facebook blocked an innocent link about the price of electricity in Scotland, from The Scotsman, because it was deemed ‘abusive or spammy’. Maybe Scottish accents don’t go down well in California. Hang on, didn’t they import Craig Ferguson?
   I am told by Colvin Inglis on my wall that it isn’t the first time Facebook has blocked The Scotsman. He blames the English. Maybe they’re still sore about the genealogical accounting error that James VI a.k.a. James I caused.
   A little later today, I wasn’t allowed to Tweet to my friend Kai in German but all my other Tweets in English went through. I had to conclude that German does not go down well in California. Hang on, didn’t their former governor speak the language?
   You can’t expect me to let Google off the hook, of course, even when being humorous.
   Here’s what clicking on a Google advertiser on the Lucire website netted me:

Google 404

‘That’s all we know,’ proclaims Google.
   Well, you’d better know more, because that’s one of your customers you’re not servicing correctly.
   The Google Dashboard continues to be faulty and despite not being on Buzz or Gmail, I continue getting followers.
   As explained numerous times before, Google says that if you don’t fill out your profile, you won’t be on Buzz. When the big privacy breaches occurred, I deleted all my personal info from Google, leaving only my name (the bare minimum).

Google Dashboard

It’s not the first time (that was in February 2010), and, as with the last few times, the follower is totally unknown to me.
   You’ll notice I underlined the entry under Blogger. I haven’t had a Blogger blog since I deleted everything off the service in early 2010. It claims I have one, but, checking into Blogger (and yes, this is what it looks like on my computer), I am told I have none.

Google Blogger

   I know, bugs happen all the time. Even on Lucire, which strangely became inaccessible for some moments last night (thank goodness for Cloudflare, which served cached versions). I’m going to bite my tongue on Google today since I’ve already discussed the above errors (and far worse privacy breaches) in previous posts.
   I’ll simply reflect on the humorous, non-scientific observation that if you are Scottish or German, Facebook and Twitter have it in for you today.
   Bit like how being Geordie gets you fired from the Murdoch Press.

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Posted in business, humour, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Rupert Murdoch has it in for Google more than I ever could

24.01.2011

Rupert Murdoch
Monika Flückiger/Creative Commons

And people thought I was de-Googling my life or being mean to Google. What about Mr Murdoch and his entire firm?
   We all know his comments about how he wanted to block Google News’s bot and had spoken out against that. While little happened on that front with the exception of The Times going behind a paywall, it does appear that MySpace now blocks Blogger and Blogspot.
   This thread from a MySpace user on the Google forums was fascinating to read.
   If you attempt to link to Blogger via MySpace, this is the message you’ll get:

Sorry, you have reached a link that is no longer accessible due to one or more of the following:
—A reported spammer site
—A reported Phishing Site: A site designed to trick the user into giving up user name and passwords.
—A site which contains malware
—A site that currently contains a lot of spam
—The user entered HTML syntax was inaccurate.

   MySpace responded to the user:

We’ve recently discovered that BlogSpot pages are being used by spammers to send spam, so all links to that site have been disabled. Although you or your blog may not be associated with or linked to spam or spammers, to protect all MySpace Profiles from spam, phishing, and online scams, all links to BlogSpot are blocked.

   When he pushed more, asking, how on earth a blog could send out spam, MySpace replied:

BlogSpot pages are being used by spammers to send spam, so all links to that site have been disabled. Although you or your blog may not be associated with or linked to spam or spammers, to protect all MySpace Profiles from spam, phishing, and online scams, all links to BlogSpot are blocked.

   You might think: who cares about MySpace? But it is a very interesting, though perhaps not the best thought-out move, from this News Corp. subsidiary, that will likely wind up annoying legitimate users. As much as I dislike Blogger, I have to agree with the MySpace user’s queries: how on earth could linking to Blogger allow Blogger to send spam back to MySpace?
   Still, everything I’ve said over 2010 about Google is nothing like an instruction from Rupert Murdoch—and this perhaps shows just how much the firm is prepared to get into Google’s way.

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Posted in business, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


McAfee did good: a software company that didn’t jerk me around in ’10

19.01.2011

A new computer arrived at the office, Firefox 3·6·13 was installed on it. Boom goes the dynamite (thanks, Jen—since I watch very little television I had no idea of this reference). It wasn’t the ‘unmark purple’ bug, either (sample size so far: 1).
   It’s a different set-up to the rest. For starters, it has both Chinese and English OSs. The fonts are installed differently—it’s using no font management software. I intentionally kept it different because, stupid me, I keep wanting to give Firefox the benefit of the doubt!
   I’ve been trying to give it a go since v. 1. With the new computer in, I’ve been going back through our archives to see if there were some programs I had to install. I found Firefox 1 and 2—neither of which, you might recall, passed my typography test (neither does Opera 10·63 or the new 11 that my Dad uses, but that’s another story).
   Firefox 3 was just such a godsend that it’s a shame that it became a crash-prone program after 3·5. It just seems a shame to abandon it after they did some really good work on kerning pairs, alternative glyphs and multilingual support.
   Where there’s a gripe against Mozilla, there’s one against Google. At left, Google Dashboard continues to insist I have one blog. Not to my knowledge: I haven’t had a blog on Blogger for nearly a year. So, just what private information of mine have you held on to, Google? I wrote to you, snail mail, to say I disagreed with your terms and conditions for this service.
   Its brand, in my mind, is in the toilet: I read the official version of why we had to merge our YouTube and Google accounts, and my entire reaction was one of scepticism.
   But, refreshingly, I am very happy with one program. As I installed McAfee on to the new machine, I had to note that it’s only had one major fault over 2010. It’s run largely faultless, or with only very minor niggles, for a considerable amount of time. Given that McAfee is a huge security suite, which I have had my fair share of problems with—including sarcastic tech support idiots earlier this century—it really looks like they listened to a lot of our gripes. It is not perfect, but at least it doesn’t crash four times a day, or slows down to such a crawl that I have to have a second computer on just in case. The one time I had to go to tech support, I had a volunteer (Pete) who was courteous and professional—quite the contrast to the deliberate obtuseness of Google.
   McAfee, in my book, you did good. From someone who has used VirusScan since 1989: keep it up.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, marketing, typography, USA | No Comments »


Hints of Google’s privacy misbehaviours in 2007

08.03.2010

I did my last edits to this blog’s pages that had resided on the old Blogger service today, before decommissioning them from the service. After today (in theory, since the updating stalled twice as I wrote this), you will not be able to make any more comments on posts written before January 1, 2010.
   In doing so, I discovered a very interesting post: my moan about Google Web History on October 1, 2007. It turns out that was the day I switched it off, until Google decided, in its wisdom, to turn it back on again. In the same post, I mentioned how I was unhappy that I was signed up to Orkut and Google Groups without my consent.
   Anyone who thinks Google’s recent misbehaviour is new is (as I was) mistaken.
   Back in 2007, I threatened to shift this blog away from Blogger, which I did not carry out for two years due to busy-ness.
   The silver lining then, as now, is that at least Google has the guts to tell us under what means they were collecting our private data and allow us to opt out (in theory). But the point, surely, is that we should not need to opt out, if we have never opted in, to these services.
   The more things change …

Photograph by http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlesc/; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Beyond Branding Blog removed from Blogger today

23.02.2010

As of tonight, the Beyond Branding Blog, where I first cut my teeth blogging, is no more.
   The posts are still there, but no further comments can be entered on to the site. The nearly four years of posts remain as an archive of some of our branding thought of that period.
   The blog had a huge number of fans in its day, but as each one of us went to our own blogs, there seemed little need to keep it going. Chris Macrae and I were the last two holding the fort in late 2005. Since January 2006, no new posts have been entered on to the site. No new comments have come in a year.
   Google’s announcement that it would end FTP support for blogs in May spurred me into action, and I advised the Medinge Group’s membership this morning that I would take it off the Blogger service.
   I altered the opening message to reflect the latest change.
   I was very proud of the blog, because it was the first one I was involved in. It was also the first I customized to match the look and feel of the rest of the Beyond Branding site, which I designed in 2003. While the design is one from the early 2000s, it has not dated as much as I had expected.
   Beyond Branding’s core message of transparency and integrity remains valid, so while the blog is no longer updated, I think the book remains relevant to the 2010s.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing | No Comments »


What might happen to the pre-2010 posts on this blog

19.02.2010

Google will cease to support FTP publishing on Blogger on May 1, extending the previous deadline of March 26 by a few weeks. As this blog’s posts between 2006 and 2009 were done on Blogger, it means that you will not be able to comment on them after a certain date.
   It probably doesn’t matter, anyway: I have noticed that very few comments come to posts older than three months. Readers will confront dead ‘Post a comment’ links.
   The reason? With the end of FTP publishing, Google says it will migrate the 0·5 per cent who took the trouble of hosting our own material on to its servers. Given that I don’t trust Google with my private information, and with the support on its forums about as delightful as Darth Vader’s breath, I am choosing not to allow the company to migrate this blog’s 2006–9 data on to its machines. Rackspace over Google any day.
   So before the May 1 deadline—possibly even this month—I will take this blog off the Blogger Dashboard, whereupon commenting on pre-2010 posts will become impossible. That way you won’t need to put up with me moaning about how Google took this blog’s data wrongly.
   I am enquiring now (since the FAQ does not address this issue) on how best to remove the blogs from the transition, while ensuring the old data remain where they are. Ironically, I have put this question on the Google support forums (let’s hope for better service this time—they were never able to answer my Beyond Branding query about our missing home page, and the Social Media Consortium matter you all know about), and on the Blogger Buzz blog, which Rick Klau writes on.

PS.: As expected, no joy from the forums (anything that’s out of the ordinary seems to be ignored), while Rick Klau responded within a day (this man is a saint). He wrote: ‘You don’t need to delete anything, but if you do your remote files will not be affected in any way. The archival blog(s) will continue to be viewable by the world.’ Thank you, Rick.—JY

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More Google privacy breaches in Reader?

14.02.2010

Tonight, I removed every single blog I followed—including my own—from Blogger. My de-Googling continues. I’ve also taken myself off as an author on some Blogger blogs as of tonight, as an intermediate step of ending my association with Blogger altogether.
   I had hoped that deleting my Blogger reading list would get me off the Google Reader service, which I never (knowingly) signed up for. As mentioned recently, Google decided that my following blogs on Blogger would mean (a) it would open a Google Reader account (it was in its help pages, which I did not read—I argue this should have been on a terms and conditions page); (b) allow others to begin following that account; (c) prevent any removal of my Google Reader account, even when I did not want one.
   You would think that deleting everything associated with Google Reader would allow its removal, but no. In fact, I was rather disturbed to see the following: feed recommendations in Reader.

Google Reader recommendations

   Among the recommendations is my friend Sharon Haver’s site, Focus on Style, and another from Condé Nast’s Style.com.
   Normally I would not have a problem with seeing either of these, if I was an avid Reader user, but it begs the question: if I have turned off all the sharing of my data in Google, to the point where the company claims to no longer knows my preferences, then how does it know my preferences? How does it, in this case, know that I have interests in the fashion industry? Or is everyone on the planet interested in fashion, according to Google, and these are its default recommendations?
   After all, Google itself states that it compiles these preferences based on the following:

It takes into account the feeds you’re already subscribed to, as well as information from your Web History, including your location.

Well, Google, not only have I switched Web History off (twice: once on launch and once after you turned it back on without telling me), I have no feeds.
   Which must mean, I assume, that turning stuff off in Google does not mean turning stuff off in Google. Google might say you have Web History turned off, but I am wondering if that’s just more BS from this company.
   It might have decent blokes like Rick Klau working there at Blogger, but the rest of the company seems dodgier by the day to me. We’ve already had tech support guys who know very little about tech or support (those six months probably were what kicked off my de-Googling), we’ve had the whole Buzz débâcle (Harriet Jacobs, a.k.a. Fugitivus, mentioned in that post, has since shut her blog to unregistered users after, presumably, abuse was sent to her), and now, it seems that Google spies on you.
   The 2010s will see the début of some form of portal site, but it definitely won’t be Facebook, and, at this rate, it won’t be Google.
   And that’s a shame. I like some of the things that Google has offered me over the last 11 years, but its behaviour of late, and its ill-thought technologies, remind me of another American giant. That’s the one that people in the 1990s picked on a lot: Microsoft.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Google might have signed you up to stuff you never asked for

13.02.2010

I was getting annoyed at Google for the services it counts as part of my ‘products’, but that was minor compared with what Harriet Jacobs has gone through with Google’s new Buzz service—which appeared to have put her personal safety in jeopardy (hat tip to Simon Green).
   From what I can tell, Buzz shares, by default, your information with your Gmail’s most frequent contacts. In Harriet’s case, this included her abusive ex-husband, who emails her a lot. All of a sudden, she feared that everything that was in her Reader account was being shared with her ex.
   She never made a Google profile, never signed up to Buzz, and never had her Reader settings on public. In fact, in the comments was this response from Harriet (sic):

I opted out of Buzz when it arrived, but it still auto-followed.
   My “Contact” list only lists my boyfriend and mother as people who are approved for anything. Everybody else is on a separate list. This has always been the case. They were still auto-followed.
   I never approved connecting ANY of my sites to Buzz. Reader and Picasa were connected automatically, without my permission or knowledge. My Reader and Picasa were private, by the way, but followers still showed up on my Reader (according to Google now, they couldn’t read anything, but they were still there).
   I never created a Google profile. I checked that again this morning to make sure I wasn’t crazy, and I’m not. I never created a Google profile, specifically because I am so concerned with my privacy.
   So! All future comments about, “Turn Buzz off,” “Make your stuff private,” “Don’t approve contacts,” “Make your profile private,” “You shouldn’t have approved Buzz in the first place” are to be deleted, because I DID ALL THOSE THINGS.

   Google has since replied to Harriet to address some of her concerns. Todd Jackson, product manager for Buzz, wrote, inter alia:

First, just to be clear: if your Reader shared items are “Protected,” no one except the people you’ve explicitly allowed to see your shared items have been able to see them. If your Reader shared items are public on the web, then they are discoverable by anyone. To make sure your Reader shared items are protected, visit this page in Reader.
   You can block any unwanted followers in Google Buzz, regardless of whether or not you (or they) have a profile. This is one of the changes we made last night in response to feedback we’d received from others. Click the Buzz link in Gmail, click on “XX followers,” and then block them.

   But, while Harriet is grateful that Todd responded to her concerns, she rightly points out (with my emphasis):

So! There are still a lot of issues with Buzz, and beyond all the bugs, there’s still the fact that they opted me into it without my permission—in fact, explicitly against my permission. That’s not something I’m going to forgive or forget, and there’s still a broken trust that makes me hairy eyeball even the nicest thing Todd can say to me.

   Makes my issue with Google really, really minor. About this time last night, before I knew of Harriet’s case, I was prepared to complain about what was in my Google account settings:

As you have figured out, these are, according to Google, the stuff I use from the company. You can find this page by going to the Google home page and, provided you are logged in, via the ‘Settings’ link in the top right-hand corner. The down arrow has a link for ‘Google Account settings’.
   The products are divided into two sections: those I am supposedly currently using, and those that I am not but might like to try.
   This is where it gets annoying.
   The big one that jumped out at me a month ago (this screen shot is from today) was Web History. When Google announced there would be a Web History service, I specifically opted out of it. I was very surprised last month to find it was turned on. I had to opt out again. As a result, this dropped down to the ‘Try something new’ category.
   I opted out of iGoogle some years ago, and it’s also in ‘Try something new’. That was back when opting out of stuff on Google worked.
   But that leaves some oddities up above. In alphabetical order:

AdSense. I cancelled this last month after getting very fed up with Google’s behaviour elsewhere—and the six months’ damage to its brand from Blogger’s poor and, later, obstructive, support. Oh, and it was crap. No monies are outstanding. As far as I can tell, I am not on AdSense, yet it remains in the products I am “currently using”;
Notebook. Never signed up for it; have no idea what it’s doing there. I cannot opt out of it;
Picasa Web Albums. I was shocked to find half a dozen images in there that I never uploaded into it. They were mine, and they had come from my Blogger profile. As far as I knew, when I uploaded those photographs in the early 2000s, they were not being put on to Picasa. In fact, these photographs predate the opening of my Picasa account by many years. Nevertheless, I have deleted everything from it now. Picasa only exists in this category as friends have shared their albums with me;
Reader. Never signed up for it, and was surprised to find a dozen blogs in there that I supposedly follow (which, again, came via Blogger—I was never told that following blogs would open a Reader account and have everything stuck into it), and even a follower. I have deleted everything from it now. There is no way to opt out of it. One friend has told me that I have Reader as a default for a Google user. But I don’t want it and am unlikely to ever want it, so why can’t I opt out of it?;
SketchUp. I did sign up for it via Google Earth, but it was called something else. Whatever the case, I can’t leave;
Subscribed Links. Never signed up for it, and cannot leave;
Talk. Never signed up for it, and cannot leave it. The same friend informed me that I would have got this via Gmail. But, as you can see above, I don’t have a Gmail account. Given the way Google treats people and our privacy, I am unlikely to ever want a Gmail account;
Wave. I was sent an invitation to it, and added one friend. However, as I am deleting unwanted services on Google, I am trying to rid myself of Wave, too. No such luck: despite deleting my two friends, you can’t leave this, either.

There are a few other things I don’t use personally, but signed up to them to help clients and colleagues (e.g. Google Docs—given the way Google has behaved, I am never going to create any Docs myself. Why bother, when WordPerfect is perfectly adequate?).
   I’ve been taking things out of the Google Dashboard, too. Sooner or later, I expect my Blogger profile to disappear as I shut down everything relating to that service. It was in the Dashboard that I found I had a Reader follower, whom I never approved (he’s not a bad person, it’s just that I see no point of having a follower for a service I never signed up for, and never added anything to with my knowledge).
   If you care about your privacy, I recommend you go in to your Google account settings and check what you might have been signed up to without your knowledge. As for asking for support on this stuff, forget it. I’m pretty sick of the Google support forums after months on them on a single issue—and it’s going to be quicker for us to sort these things out ourselves.

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Posted in internet, USA | 10 Comments »


And it’s back again

10.01.2010

When the Social Media Consortium disappeared again, we panicked and alerted Rick Klau at Google. Once again, Rick was as good as his word and found out there had been an accidental deletion.
   What impresses me about him—as if I wasn’t already impressed—is his quick action. He must have other matters to deal with, yet he responds within minutes and actions things soon after.
   Initially, the newly restored blog was not appearing in the Dashboard, but that has now been remedied.
   Once again: thank you, Rick.

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