Google Dragonfly

Last week I went back to using an IMAP client. Google had decided to eliminate Inbox after coaxing me into completely reworking how I handle mail. Gmail’s web UI isn’t a reasonable alternative, so I went back to IMAP. Lesson learned, no more new Google products for me. But as I was adjusting to that, it emerged that Google had done something far worse. I’m a pretty cynical person, and when it leaked out earlier this summer that Google was going to launch a censored search engine for China, it didn’t surprise me.

Donald Norman gets it wrong

Donald Norman is an expert in human computer interaction, user interface design, cybernetics—call it what you will. His book The Design of Everyday Things is a classic, and taught me how to shop for a refrigerator. (Seriously.) However, his recent rant about Google is just plain wrong. His basic point—that it’s easy to make a simple interface to a system that only does one thing—seems sensible enough. But is it true?

Google: Don’t be evil unless it’s profitable

Google has officially sold out to the forces of government censorship. They have decided that they will tailor the output of their Chinese-language search interface to suit the whims of the Chinese government Care to see the result? Search for Tiananmen Square on google.com. Then compare the results with the same search on google.cn. It seems to me that the most effective way to protest this shameless caving in would be to spread the forbidden information far and wide.

Bringing clarity

As part of my mission to bring clarity to the world, let me explain the so-called “302 exploit” you may have heard scare stories about. Background HTTP, the protocol used to serve web pages, has two numeric codes that can be returned by the web server to direct the client (browser) to a new URL: 301 and 302. A 301 redirection means “The page you requested has moved permanently. Please go to the new address I am providing you with, and update your bookmarks.

Tinfoil hat alert

According to Google Watch, our favorite search engine is dying. Supposedly Google is not indexing anywhere from ten percent to seventy percent of the pages it knows about. Well, those are some pretty huge error bars, which right away scream out “wild speculation”. But if we read on, the guy offers as evidence the fact that his web site, namebase.org, appears as a bare URL in the Google index, rather than having the conventional snippet of content and careful indexing.

Fear my pagerank

My web site has been around since the days of HTML 1.0. It’s been at the same URL for nearly a decade, and is linked to by thousands of copies of FAQ documents. Because of this journal and the photos page, it’s also updated regularly. As a result, and thanks to Google’s pageranking algorithm, I’m the first thing you get if you Google search for “mathew”. I’ve noticed that this means that anything moderately obscure I mention in my journal will soon end up near the top of the Google search results for the appropriate keywords.