Why I’m no longer a Google fanboy

I used to be a Google fanboy (my wife is still a Google fangirl). I used to sing their praises and recommend their software and services to anyone who asked for the slightest computer advice. But lately I’ve been rethinking my stance on Google and have started moving in other directions.

So what did Google do that has put me off? They started sucking at what they used to do best. We’ve known all along that Google’s products are NOT it’s services, but it’s users. Their massive user base and associated user data is where they make the big bucks. They amassed this data by tricking us users into giving it to them and the profit margins are astonishing because we give them all of that information without being compensated one red cent. It is not this fact that put me off. Quite the contrary, it is one hell of a business model. The thing that has put me off is that they aren’t able to trick me into giving them my information for free anymore.

What do I mean by this? The way they tricked me in the past was to give me some pretty great software and services. The problem now is that I can’t remember the last time they tricked me into using a new product. They have tons a new stuff coming out, but I’m not using it. Google+ is a flop and if the rumors are true they may finally be axing it. They killed the much loved Google Reader without even a reach around and that in turn has greatly reduced my blog readership (and writership for that matter). And the changes they are making in Android, Chrome, Apps, YouTube, and other services are more often than not making those services worse rather than better.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Google has become much more invasive and forceful in their efforts. In the past they were nice enough to allow us to customize their services and software and keep things the way we wanted them to be and allowed you to share content across multiple platforms. Now they are moving more towards the Apple approach where they are locking you into a certain ecosystem and locking you into the feature set they want you to have. They are changing things for the sake of their ecosystem and not for the reasons of customer feedback or improved feature sets.

My main issue lately is a growing distrust in their reliability. It really started with the aforementioned killing off of Reader. They had killed other services before Reader, but Reader was the first one that really affected me. I used to have a set of about 25 blogs that I read on a regular basis, but when Reader went, I couldn’t find a good replacement that worked like I wanted it to work. So now I no longer read blogs. The outcry was great from the community of Reader users, but those cries were left unheard. Now I hear that cry in the back of my mind every time I use a Google service. I think, “When will Google become tired of this service and remove it?”

So I’ve decided to try to become much less reliant on Google services. I’ve already given up on Chrome and replaced it with Firefox. At some point I would like to replace my Android phone with a Windows phone, but that’s probably a few years down the road (if Windows phone is still there). I now use Bing for most of my searching. The main services I use beyond that are Google Play for my music collection, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Gmail. I’m not sure where I could put my music collection that is accessible as it is on Google Play, but there are multiple alternatives to Docs, Calendar, and Gmail and I am already exploring those. If you have any suggestions on replacements, feel free to contact me.

I don’t want this blog to become Google bashing central and my intent is not to bash Google. As a company Google is no better or worse than any other large corporation. I’m simply stating what my issues with Google are and why I am personally trying to move in another direction. The simple fact is they just aren’t capturing my enthusiasm anymore.

Web’s Dead, Baby: Part 2

Well, now that I’ve made you wait a couple of weeks to tell you why the Web is dead, I guess it’s time to disappoint (nothing can live up to that amount of hype). As my one piece of evidence I present this link. Go ahead, look at it. I’ll wait.

So, what did you think? If you were thinking, “What the hell is Emacs?” you missed the point. I wanted you to look at the design of the page. In fact, you can check out this link to see the time and effort that went into that design. I’ll wait.. again.

Okay, you done? Good. What did you think? Don’t answer, that was rhetorical (and people sitting near you will think you’re crazy for talking at the computer). I’ll tell you what I think. It’s glorious. It’s a fine piece of web design. That hand drawn look is very cool and the overall design is simple and easy to read. The fonts are great and I really admire the thought, time, and artistry that went into creating it. Now look at this image (click or touch for a larger version):


This is how that website looks on a mobile browser. Specifically, that’s how it looks on Chrome for Android on my Galaxy S3. So that great design, gone. The artistry, gone. Everything that made that sight design unique and interesting, gone.

“But Joey, the content is still there and surely that is what’s most important.” Yes, I know. Bear with me. It’s not just the mobile browsers, it’s the news aggregators that have been chipping away as well. Google Reader (now defunct), Feedly, whatever you want to use, they all strip the style of a site and just serve up the content. I’m old school and even though I’ve used Reader, even I have to admit that that it stripped away the context, the feel that the author intended to convey when they designed their site. Also, it makes it much easier to just go to your news aggregator and have things served up to you that you’ve previously subscribed to. Pretty soon, that’s all you’re looking at and the wider web is not within your walls.

Speaking of walls, here comes the real web killer. The thing that is making the web the long lost child that everyone has forgotten. Apps. APPS!!!! Apps are creating walled gardens of content. Instagram instantly comes to mind as an example. It’s pretty much a mobile only experience (at first an iPhone only experience). Sure they’ve added some web content in the past few months, but it’s just an afterthought, the only real way to see and interact fully is through an app.

Apps are putting up walls where the web had previously broke them down. Before the web, AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, etc. all served up their own private content, and if you didn’t subscribe, you didn’t even have access to it. Apps are doing the same thing. To view and create content through certain services, you have to have their app. And some apps are iPhone only, or Android only, or only available on certain phone carriers. This isn’t progression, it’s regression. We are literally traveling back in time to the land of AOL and the private BBS.

Sure, the web is still around, and it will be for years and years to come, but it’s dead. Like magma that has cooled and solidified, the web sits and awaits its fate. And the freedom and the openness of the web? They’re slipping away too. The time when all you needed was a browser window to look into the vastness of all human intellect is fading into history. So when your grandkids ask you what the web was, you’ll just tell them, “The Web’s dead, baby. The Web’s dead.

Web’s Dead, Baby: Part 1

Twenty two years is a good run for most technology these days. In fact it’s a phenomenal run. That’s how long the World Wide Web has been in existence. But I’m here today to tell you that the web as we know it is DEAD! (The irony of making this statement in a weblog post does not escape me.) What killed the web? How did it die? Is this the end of all things? Come close and I’ll tell you the story of the end of the web, but first, a little history.

The web has become synonymous with the Internet. When people today talk about the Internet, they are talking about the World Wide Web (henceforth, I’ll just call it the web). But the Internet is actually more than just the web. It is a large network of computers that use a number of protocols and services to exchange information. Email is the prime example often given of a non-web Internet service, although it can now be accessed through the web. The Internet is more the connections between the computers than it is the content. Here are a list of some Internet services, both living and dead, that you might know.

  • Usenet – This is the original Internet discussion forum. Thousands of Usenet groups were created for topics ranging from computing to German fetish porn. In fact the web was first announced on a group called alt.hypertext.
  • Gopher – This is a (mostly) dead Internet service that was very similar to the early web. It was text based like the early web, but instead of hyperlinks, it used numbered menus for navigation. (I am old enough to remember and have used Gopher. I actually preferred it to the web in my early Internet dealings.)
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) – Before Facetime, Hangouts, Skype, or even AIM and Yahoo Messenger, IRC was where people came to chat with other netizens (remember when that was a word?).
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP) – This was an early, and still in use Internet protocol for file sharing. In the days before BitTorrent and the Pirate Bay, anonymous FTP servers were where the pirates went to trade their warez.

Before the web these were the main services that were used on the Internet. They were all text based and text information was the main thing being shared on most of them. If you wanted a richer multimedia experience, early Internet consumers turned to services like America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy. They offered walled gardens of multimedia content.

But then came the web. At first it was text based too, but multimedia was quickly added. With the advent of the graphical Mosaic web browser, then Netscape Navigator, and finally Internet Explorer, the web took off like a rocket. Standards bodies were set up and mostly agreed upon and the golden age of the web began.

From the mid-90s to about the year 2000 the web grew at a tremendous rate, but after that the newness started to wear off. People began to wonder what was next for the web. In 1999 a new term was coined, Web 2.0. This term referred to the use of dynamic content on web sites (until that point most web content was just static content on a page). Web 2.0 allowed the web consumer to interact with content. We were on the verge of a new golden age, but there was a threat. After crushing Netscape Navigator in the great browser wars, Microsoft allowed it’s browser Internet Explorer to languish. Innovation ground to a halt and web developers spent most of their time writing around rendering errors in IE’s browsing engine. Finally, in 2003 a new web browser called Firefox rose from the ashes to challenge IE and allowed Web 2.0 to reach its full potential.

Okay, now the history lesson’s over. We get to the heart of it in Part 2!

SC-01, Have you no shame?

For those of you living in South Carolina’s first congressional district, I have one question. Have you no shame?

Mark Sanford’s re-election to his former post as your U.S. Representative would be laughable if it didn’t show the utter ignorance, hypocracy, and blind loyalty of 54% of the voters of that district. These results, combined with the 2012 re-election of TN-04 Rep. Scott DesJarlais, show that most people voting Republican are doing so strictly because there is an (R) behind the name on the ballot.

Let me break it down for you. Mark Sanford is a dirty liar. He took off on a trip to Argentina to see his mistress and told everyone he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. While he was governor… of a state. So if there had been an emergency like a tornado outbreak, terrorist attack, or tsunami, ol’ Mark would have had to span a quarter of the globe to get back home. This alone should have gotten him impeached (and it nearly did).

He’s a corrupt hypocrite too. On an earlier trip, he used state funds for his jaunt to Argentina. In his defense he did pay all that money back, but not until the scandal broke and a reporter dug it up. Additionally, he used state aircraft for other personal and political trips, including one to get a haircut… in violation of SC state law. So much for integrity and so much for fiscal responsibility (which is what he ran on in his most recent campaign).

This guy is a low down, despicable person who really needed to fade into obscurity and never be heard from again. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how in the world this guy even won his primary, let alone won his election.

Primary Challengers Wanted

I’m from Tennessee and if we know one thing, it’s how to create terrible, awful politicians. I’d love to see many of our local politicians voted out. Unfortunately, our populace is fairly uneducated and apathetic when it comes to politics. They are used to going into the voting booth and voting for a (D) or (R). The only real hope we have that awful people will get voted out is a primary challenge (or retirement, but nobody’s going to be doing us any favors there). Here are my top 3 douche bags problematic candidates that deserve a boot.

Problematic Candidate #1: Stacey Campfield. This guy is notorious not only in Tennessee, but in the nation as a whole. He’s probably most famous as the “Don’t Say Gay” guy, but more recently he attempted to pass some welfare “reform” that would reduce the benefits of parents whose children are not doing well in school. Umm, there are about a billion things we can do to help those kids do better in school, but taking away what little money their family has coming in is not one of those things. In fact many children in such situations already have terrible home lives, and making them responsible for the income of the family is NOT something that is going to make school work any easier for them. He represents Knoxville in the Tennessee State Senate and he needs to GO! This is my official call to any Republican willing to take this guy on. As long as you aren’t an even bigger douche bag problematic candidate, I’ll do what I can to help you win your primary.

Problematic Candidate #2: Scott Dejarlais. Dr. Dejarlais (how he still has a medical license is beyond me) is just a hypocrite. This pro-life, family values candidate encouraged two ex-mistresses and his ex-wife to get abortions and also had multiple ethically questionable things going on in his medical career. Fortunately, the Tennessee Republicans were on top of this one as soon as the election (which he somehow won, proving that people indeed just vote for the party and not the candidate) was over. There are already several candidates lined up to give him a good primary challenge. I’ll be surprised if we see this guy back in Washington after the next election.

Problematic Candidate #3: Jim Cooper. Cooper is the TN-05 Representative in Washington. He runs as a Democrat, but his actions are more old Southern Democrat rather than the newer, more progressive Democrats we are used to. If a bill involves any kind of spending increase, Jim will vote against it, including Hurricane Sandy relief. While Jim Cooper has been a target since at least 2009, no one has been able to mount a successful challenge to this Nashville Democrat’s name recognition juggernaut. Hell, even I held my nose and voted for him in the last general election despite a decent Green Party alternative. I’m not sure I will do that again. Since he basically votes Republican anyway, it wouldn’t really be any different having an actual Republican in the seat and might allow a real Democrat to step up in a following election.

Correlation ≠ Causation


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