While I sympathise with the general anti-social-media stance, it's clear from this phrase that OP does not understand the most basic elements of how internet services function at scale.
Of course Google serves different results to different users, that's why they're the market leader in search. The entire job of a search engine is to return relevant results. If I search for "takeaway pizza", I'm going to be pretty annoyed if the results are generated using PageRank alone, with no weighting for local relevance. If an American searches for "cricket", they almost certainly mean the cellular provider or the insect rather than the sport; if a British person makes the same search, the odds are reversed.
Google's "broken" email service came to dominate the market because it offered a vastly better user experience than the realistic alternatives at the time - Hotmail, AOL or some crappy POP3 server with no real spam filtering. The things that people hate about Gmail are all rational, defensible design decisions that serve the majority of users well.
The internet is a big place. Most statistics suggest that there are about 3.5bn people regularly using the internet. If you're optimising your service for the median user, there will be millions of outliers who hate your service with every fibre of their being. If you hate something, it might be irredeemably awful, or it might just not be for you. It's all too rare that people entertain the latter possibility.
This is not personalization. This is a child's imitation of it. An unpersonalized search engine is much better than this thing that simply hides any interesting content from you in favor of showing you something related to your previous search or to whatever nonsense your neighbors look up. Once upon a time, the internet allowed you to escape your geography. No longer.
I'd much rather type "takeaway pizza chicago" than have google mind-read where I want the pizza delivered. Search is not always about looking up something already connected to you. It used to be about unfettered exploration.
I'm also happy it doesn't include information about swifts the animal when I search for Swift the programming language.
Even when it's about political stuff - I'm rather happy I don't get anti-vax information when I'm searching for health information. I'm also happy Google doesn't show me clickbait because it knows I'm not interested.
The idea of a filter bubble is definitely worth addressing, but I see no reason why getting more information music notes when I'm trying to search for information about C# is remotely beneficial. I can use Startpage or Incognito if I want to avoid filter bubbling, but for the vast majority of searches I do, relevance to me is useful.
But it's not best addressed through fear-mongering. Don't call it a child's imitation just because you don't understand how it could be useful.
You all are taking this one argument out of context. He wasn't talking about restaurants. But everyone here is.
Obviously restaurants should be personalized. But no one was saying they shouldn't.
You have to take the argument in the essay and try to think of the most persuasive possible interpretation. Is that "If I search for something in Seattle, it would be stupid to return results in Chicago"? Probably not.
My webdev friend was excited that her personal site was being returned in her search results whenever someone searched a project she had worked on. I suggested that google was serving her personalized results. She searched in incognito. Her site was still being returned. Pretty good, right? She was getting exposure.
When we used a VPN, she was not in the results. Google knew that our searches came from our IP address, and that searches from our IP should include her site, since she mostly visited her site from our IP. Or something along those lines. Either way, it was a misleading worldview.
I'm going to be harsh for a second, but I mean this lovingly: Stop being naive. It's important for us to be skeptical of Google. They're the thousand-pound gorilla, and the moment they do more than wink and nod at their "Don't be evil" philosophy then we should start getting scared.
How do you distinguish between "good" and "bad" personalisation at scale? How do their algorithms know what should and shouldn't be personalised? Do humans even agree on where to draw the line?
Google process literally trillions of searches per year, with each search taking a few milliseconds. You're asking them to make a complex tradeoff between providing completely irrelevant results for some queries and excessively personalised results for others. I don't disagree that they could probably do a better job of making that tradeoff, but I don't think that they're being malicious or negligent either. I think that they're making perfectly reasonable engineering decisions given the constraints of scale.
I don't think I am being naive. I don't blindly trust Google. I think that there are many important questions to be asked about how major internet companies collect, store and process our personal data. I think that America urgently needs to pass legislation equivalent to our General Data Protection Regulation. I think that there are significant concerns about the quality of information that people see online, but I think that publishers play a far greater role than Google in this respect.
What about applying it to non-transactional stuff like news? Should it personalise results based on what it thinks I like?
Again with subjective/objective distinction — I know my friend will tailor movie recommendations to me based on mutual interests / past discussions.
I expect though that a library catalogue would point me to the same info on global warming no matter who I am.
The trouble at the moment is that Google is conflating these two types of interaction & the user doesn't know which of their queries are personalised (and to what extent / based on what criteria).
> How do their algorithms know what should and shouldn't be personalised? Do humans even agree on where to draw the line?
In my opinion, this is the crux of it — are we happy with algorithms filling this blank unfettered, based on their own learning. If not, it's something that we have to discuss and agree on, and then enforce / bring visibility to.
At present, Google aren't negligent (legally anyway, as we haven't set any bar) and may not be acting maliciously. But if we think change is necessary (at least for visibility of what's happening under the hood), we need to ask the questions around these services to drive that change
My takeaway is that the whole thread of the first comment should be collapsed, which is usual for HN. Important topics get ignored or derailed.
In our case, I just think it's interesting that my webdev friend was trying to ascertain truth about the world -- "is she associated with the project she worked on?" -- and the answer came up "yes!" for her even though it was "Nope" for the rest of the world.
Sure, it's an interesting question of which tradeoffs they should make. But as users, it's not really our responsibility to be concerned about that. All we know is that Google is acting a bit strangely.
To be clear, if Google stayed how it currently is, I'd have no problem at all. I'm just worried that google can go from strange to malicious at the flip of a switch. It's unsettling that they're the only realistic option. DDG has been picking up steam, but hopefully they'll do more than nip at Google's heels.
What evidence do you even have that they didn't go malicious? And how could you gather such evidence if you don't have any?
>>I'd much rather type "takeaway pizza chicago" than have google mind-read where I want the pizza delivered.
Some people are saying that restaurants shouldn't be personalized.
The tradeoff being that it won't give the anti-vaxxers information that refutes their claims. Is that _really_ what you want?
Contrast that with [did dinosaurs live] which has a mix of creationist and normal results, despite meaning the same thing.
But this is part of the problem, isn't it? You might not get the anti-vax information, but others will see that instead of REAL information.
And, be honest with yourself. Some of what you do want to see would be considered clickbait by others, it's just that Google already knows you well enough to show you things that fit your own world view.
> Even when it's about political stuff - I'm rather happy I don't get anti-vax information when I'm searching for health information.
Health information should not be considered political stuff. Unfortunately, it is ... at least in some countries.
I'm often searching for "ruby" (the programming language not the gemstone) and need to find "gems" (modules for the "ruby" language) and often these have names that have other meanings like "devise", "pundit", "ransack", "bootstrap", "carrierwave", "paperclip", "fog", "cucumber", "refinery", etc etc.
Similarly, having some basics about your geographic location, spoken language, etc. would seem to be quite helpful. If only to help separate out things like that there are 8000+ "Park Street" in the US when I type in an address and Google gives me the one closest to my location.
grumble grumble chef knife, chef cookbook, chef recipe, chef cucumber incoherent mumbling
So without thinking I type record plane 1939-1945 into Google. And guess what? I get information about hand planes, pictures of hand planes in the images section, links to ebay auctions for vintage planes etc, and in between these there were only a few results related to aircraft combat during WWII.
The same query in incognito mode doesn't return even a single link related to hand tools.
For expats, this is one of the worst, constant reminders. One has to adjust every search/url to accommodate for the server's location-based interpretation of intent. Some sites won't even let visitors use the .com version. Surely regulation plays a part, but it's incredibly frustrating.
Same with marrying the language to the country, if I want to buy a flight from Germany, don't change the page to German!
In other words this header is the most reliable piece of information to know what language the user wants. Somehow big tech decided IP geolocation is more reliable.
Do use the header, but always be open for the user changing the language too.
Unfettered exploration is for dicking around when you have nothing better to do. If you actually know what you're looking for, then you want the answer you wanted to be on the top, and any exploration is a flaw that only gets in your way.
It's also very useful for learning new things.
Yes, Google probably does a better job than ever before in finding me the most relevant StackOverflow result, but for exploration usage it's become very useless.
I've had the theory that the growing popularity of "awesome"-lists and its likes is mainly due to Google's reduced explorability.
I think about that every time I go off to incognito to make Google stop hobbling my results and give me the thing I was actually trying to find.
Yes I do believe it's up for grabs.
Personalized sales strategies can also lead to the reverse: 
My problem nowadays is with the idea that Google, et al, all believe they're own myth of being the best at XYZ user experience and if you disagree then you're a curmudgeon or an idiot who "doesn't get it".
Why wouldn't they put a button like that? At what point did optionality and customization of your user experience become undesirable to the point that you need to obfuscate or prevent it?
My guess is that too many people read Don't Make Me Think as dogma and now we're in a world where the tech industry assumes they need to do all the thinking for anyone that touches their product and the users brought up in this world have no idea what it's like to not have their UX dictated to them.
They already have a button that would cause far more confusion if accidentally pressed (Feeling Lucky) since it results in a page that isn't a set of google search results.
Sorry, gotta say that those are pretty weak counterpoints... I expected something about how Google's business interest has everything to do with personalized search and each non-personalized search would result in less revenue, or something like that.
I can't guarantee it still works, either.
And so would most HN readers. However, the rest of the world outside of the tech industry cares more about convenience and simplicity than exploration. Most people are willfully ignorant, driven from dawn to dusk by their own habits, rather than some intrinsic desire for self-actualization and the acquisition of knowledge.
Give them more convenience, even at the cost of flexibility, and non-technologists love it.
That doesn't make us better than them, or vice versa. We've chosen to be a little different is all.
yea, yea yea... I moved to DDG when Google stopped returning me relevant results. Not because I'm afraid of Google knowing too much, I mostly search for code/configuration problems. DDG proved to me that it has more relevant and more helpful information than Google for problems I search for.
Plenty of times Google returns me THE SAME results for different, but similar query, I change 3 from 6 words (to synonyms), and I get the same very results, that are irrelevant to my problem and query. I see them because they have best SEO and meta keywords and 5 stars under the title, or because they are similar to what I searched for 15minutes ago.
I found a bug in Android UI. I spent almost a day looking for a solution or tips how to do that thing. Google was literally useless, it could just show me links from SO that people had the same problem, google-based mailing lists, but no fix. I searched for the same thing in DDG - BANG - first result was from some crappy blog that author couldn't spell words properly, it was looking like websites from early 00's. I had a source code solution for my problem. Google shows me what Google wants me to see, well optimized websites, nice looking, fast loading on mobile, sites that cooperate with google big data plan, sites that use GA, Google Ads and AMP.
I don't want magic personalized results based on suggestion of a vibrator I was searching for 2 days ago, I want most relevant results to what I search for now.
Some of this may be the “what I’m used to” factor though. Maybe I’ve just habituated to expect the results I’ve gotten from DDG. Either way, I don’t miss Google. I used to DDG out of principle; now I DDG because it works better.
I mostly miss google when searching for physical locations, but the !g comes in handy there.
Anyway, google ignores synonyms if you use double quotes around each word or phrase.
The problem is; we taught Google how to look for whatever information we seek by seeking it. We taught it that we are too stupid to include location information in our searches. We taught it what is spam and what is not. That's our "not spam" choices accumulating as a service over time. That's our own translation suggestions. We gave them away freely.
And now that we would like to back off and reclaim our knowledge and our mutual effort to make Google the giant it is, we can't. We are already anonymized and productized. We can't reclaim the spam filter we helped create and run it on a private server. We can't take back the combined translation efforts. Our own places and exploration data is Google's forever, with no way for us to learn from it.
Google has made some missteps, but they've arguably done more to change the world and society than almost any other company in the last 50 years. They made the internet accessible to the masses.
Google "takeaway pizza [place of residence]".
>If an American searches for "cricket", they almost certainly mean the cellular provider or the insect rather than the sport
Google "cricket provider" or "cricket insect".
>if a British person makes the same search, the odds are reversed.
Google "cricket sport".
"We will track your every query, movement, voice command, and whatever other behavioural data we can get our hands on, put it in a gargantuan centralized database, store it for as long as we can (practically forever) and have trillion-dollar artificial intelligence munch on it so you can avoid using accurate search queries" is a ridiculous value proposition.
Pretty much what's happened really. Turns out not that many people want Google Search when they have the choice of Google Secretary instead.
How do you know? Popularity of Google Search is an indication, but its not like people decide which search engine they use when they install Google Chrome. Do you think ordinary people are even aware there's an alternative to Google Search such as Duck Duck Go?
If I search "takeaway pizza [place of residence]" on a non-localised search engine, I get nothing. If I search "takeaway pizza [nearest large town]" I get a bunch of places that don't deliver to me. Google gives me what I want, which is a list of the dozen or so pizza places in the patchwork of villages and towns in the surrounding area.
Google could give me that sort of result without any personalisation, but it would need to do another contentious thing - fuzzy matching. It needs to understand that when I search for [place of residence], I actually mean [place of residence plus everywhere within a certain radius], but only in some contexts. It needs to search the index not for the exact words in my search term, but for what it predicts will give me the most useful results.
Again, this stuff is literally Google's job. I don't want to do the mental work of figuring out all the towns and villages within a five mile radius, I don't want to perform a bunch of different searches, I just want to see where I can get a decent pizza. Google shows me all the local places on a map, complete with reviews and opening hours. If I search on mobile, I can choose a place and call them or get directions with one tap. If I ask for directions, it'll warn me if there's traffic and offer me an alternative route.
If you can't see how 2017 Google gives far better results for this query than 2007 Google, then I can only assume that you're being wilfully ignorant.
This isn't nearly as straightforward as it sounds. It may be the pizza places in all the bordering towns deliver to your location but the pizza places that are located in your town are all on the other side and don't deliver to your location. And you don't even know the names of the border towns. There are places where the pizza place address doesn't match up with the town name because that town doesn't have a post office.
It's usually just not straightforward.
People seem to expect Google to hold your hand at every single step along the way.
You Google "pizza Springfield." For a very literal ("stupid computer") search your results are all the pizza places on the east end of Springfield. There's no pizza in the west end of Springfield.
You waste your time calling all the pizza places on Springfield just to find out none deliver to your location.
Your results do not include all the pizza places on the east end of Shelbyville that do deliver to the west end of Springfield.
You go hungry.
This isn't an uncommon situation if you're outside of the downtown. In your example you're going to assume that every pizza restaurant near your location is a national chain that has locations in every town. Completely and totally unrealistic unless you are in a very densely packed suburbia - there is only one chain pizza restaurant within ~20 miles of my house but there's independent ones everywhere.
>People seem to expect Google to hold your hand at every single step along the way.
Google provides a useful service. So I shouldn't use it because...? Because why? it's more "manly" not to? Because search should be hard because that's the way nature intended? or... ?
What kind of logic is that? Following that logic nobody should use the web at all because it makes things easier. Or you shouldn't get delivery at all because it's convenient, you should just drive around aimlessly until you find pizza.
We've been so conditioned to use Google Search as our one stop oracle that we fail to stop and think whether a text-based query is actually appropriate.
Note: I have hast a few instances where "near me" didn't work as expected.
Personally, I would do the search on maps and not include either the city name or "near me", but the discussion was about the regular text search and I was suggesting an alternate phrasing.
I search for some error message. Now I get answers in English. What if the person is actually German? Is everyone now going to be stuck with English websites?
What's the point of a search engine if you have to be super precise? Part of Google's magic is that it can figure you out even in imprecision.
If I search for an English error message, I.. search for that message. If I search for a Dutch person, I look him up on the Dutch Wikipedia if he's well-known enough.
There might be a Dutch programming blog talking about this error message, but they'll never be able to be discovered because any English source will end up on top.
Another example: you are traveling in a foreign country, and don't really know the local language. You Google for information about a restaurant, hoping to land on something Trip Advisor-y. You end up on the local website, that you're completely unfamiliar with.
You want to offer a blog for English-speaking expats in Paris. Your exposure in Google is really low because of the niche audience, and the fact that French sources about places you're talking about will be much more viewed.
>Another example: you are traveling in a foreign country, and don't really know the local language. You Google for information about a restaurant, hoping to land on something Trip Advisor-y. You end up on the local website, that you're completely unfamiliar with.
Look up the restaurant on https://www.tripadvisor.com/. Why would you use a general purpose search engine if you already know where to find the right information? Or you could add "lang:en" to your query.
>You want to offer a blog for English-speaking expats in Paris. Your exposure in Google is really low because of the niche audience, and the fact that French sources about places you're talking about will be much more viewed.
Those expats could add "lang:en" to their queries about the places you have blogged about.
I am not denying that there is some value in Google filling in these blanks for you, but 99% of examples about the indispensability of personalized search are rendered moot with very simple additions to the search query.
What part of the parent's argument is invalidated by the need of some outlier doing "lots of language switching" to add the language?
the trick with Google, when its "language detection" isn't play well, is to add `hl=en` as a query param to the URL. This works on basically all Google properties as ewll.
Searching for my current location is probably the worst possible default
Also, a system that adapts to its users is generally more successful than a system that requires users to adapt to it.
Moreover, proper education across the whole population requires, well, a country with proper education across the whole population. So you might have luck in some Scandinavian countries, but not at global scale.
Manipulating "uneducated" users is much more profitable.
What do localized search results have to do with manipulating uneducated users?
Technology shouldn't be magic. People should understand, at least at a basic level, how the internet and search engines work, among many other things. Knowing to search for "cricket sport" shouldn't be arcane knowledge. People willing to allow companies to collect personal data and feed them data without understanding how it works end up living in bubbles such as the ones that got Donald Trump elected for instance.
If everything comes cheap and easy to access (like fake news) and people are sufficiently uneducated to accept them as truths, manipulation becomes much easier. Personally tailored search results are just a small part of the issue. It makes people trustful and dependent on services that might end up betraying them in the end.
Google: "An uneducated consumer is our best product."
The short-term consequence of using cocaine is euphoria, but we do not encourage cocaine use because for most users the long-term negative consequences vastly outweigh the short term benefits.
Likewise, we may want to consider what the long-term consequences of relieving our users of certain cognitive labors are. If we will guess for them what information they want, if we tell them what to read, if we tell them what news is fake, if we decide for them what they might like, are we empowering them to make their own choices, or are we increasingly (whether intentionally or unintentionally) directing their lives?
I get the value proposition of Google Search, just like I get the value proposition of Velcro shoes and microwave dinners. The problem is not with the face value of these technologies, but with their assumptions and implications. In spite of Silicon Valley rhetoric, these technologies do not empower and liberate their users but make them dependent on them. The more you outsource your thinking to algorithms, the more vulnerable you are to being controlled by them.
Haha, if my mother needs to navigate to a URL, she opens Google, types the URL there, then clicks the topmost result (not kidding ;-)
I completely agree that we are on a slippery slope when it comes to technology that tries to be so smart that we don't have to think for ourselves anymore. I sincerely fear for the future of society if I see how easily people are already influenced and cognitively limited by their dependence on technology. We are turning into a society where expending effort to learn and understand things has to come from purely intrinsic motivation, which means a very significant cross-section of society will never acquire basic skills and intelligence we've taken for granted for ages. Imagine the day there will be no Google to help them out, for whatever reason...
One analogy that comes to mind, which is sort of a pet peeve of mine and is (IMO) side-ways related to the perils of making things 'too convenient' for people, is giving people 'too many options' to choose. I see a parallel between giving people 'choice and options', and 'making things convenient' by removing the need to think for yourself. Everybody agrees that choice is good, and everybody likes convenience. But if you treat these almost as religion, you get 1001 kinds of toilet paper which are probably all shitty (pun intended), instead of three choices that are actually different. The same goes for convenience. Too much convenience will have unintended side-effects.
People parse, trust and communicate with supposedly objective sources differently from supposedly subjective ones (e.g. the BBC v Breitbart) and dislike when the latter is presented like the former.
(You can change location on the bottom of the desktop page, and you may be able to unset some other targetting settings, but these are buried somewhere and not clear to the average user. Changes in T&C's also seems like a constantly moving target)
And still, you can peek at the "not personalized" and "not local" results with `Tools > Verbatim` (as opposed to default `All results`) option:
You sir are the product. By constantly telling you are the median, you shall become the median.
More Median People === More Profit$
Great article. "You Will Not Understand This." how appropiate.
If I want to find local takeaway pizza, than all I need is to find where am I, and then to add my location to a request. Probably I wish to use not the text prompt search engine, but maps.google.com or some other tool dedicated to searching for local things.
But if I'm trying to find basic information on topic not common for me, than I would have troubles with personalized search. And the worst case happens when I don't realize than I'm looking for information that is not common for me: when I know this fact I can do something with search query to make it uncommon and to hope that it will break personalization, but if I don't know I would do nothing special, and I will risk to miss a whole segment of Internet which contains heaps of information relevant to my needs. It is the same story as with FB and political views of users but at wider scale.
It is really hard to find something new for me. I use DDG for several years for this single reason. I have no strong emotions to ads, because I use NoScript and uBlock: ads are not a problem. But narrow results space is a problem.
That's a bit of an empty statement. I assume it also looks at the other terms, or your previous searches (from your IP or Google Account). Because there might be a time where you are searching for a person Ruby (the capital letter gives it away) or a gem called ruby.
Google has very good spam filtering, but their lack of human controls or support make it impossible for the little guy to get resolution in many cases where a spam score may be undeserved.
So, I'm curious, am I just extremely lucky to have competent sysadmins as neighbours on the colo subnet, or is my IP address' reputation so good that it never gets affected by collateral damage?
Last week I had a copyright discussion, so I looked up "Do I own the copyrights to my art?. First link was "creator or buyer: who owns the art?", second link was "does deviantart own my art?", the third link was a website called "desiring god" about copyright and the scripture...Sure, you can say the first link is relevant, but I never mentioned "buying" in my query, and the fifth link is the one that truly answers my question. It says that artists in the US have automatic copyrights to their work as soon as it is completed. Same things have happened where I search up a more complex query, and google throws me buzzfeed links and other stuff that have nothing to do with it, in its attempt of simplifying what I'm looking for.
I searched for "takeaway pizza" but didn't get a local match for pizza delivery, so I changed my search query by adding more keyword qualifiers
> takeaway pizza in san jose
I actually _wanted_ to search for the sport so I added additional keyword qualifiers to bypass all the Cricket brand results
> cricket sport
It's like how I know I must use "Golang" or even "Golang Stackoverflow" to find relevant results to my query -- I didn't need all the "personalization help" that Google likes to offer -- I'm actually capable of crafting decent search terms.
There should be some "wiki/stackoverflow" type search engine, where would be no other algorithm but users voting the goodness or badness of a link for a given search term. (and of course, some housekeeping) Maybe also a way to indicate that hey, you are using an ambiguous search term. Do you maybe mean washington the state, dc or president?
Their job is to make money. When the user is searching with an intent to buy it doesn't pay to return the most relevant results, it pays to return the most profitable results.
It only pays to return relevant results (because it builds the brand), when it is clear that there is no intent to buy.
My hope is that me and others like me who are young enough to have long careers (I'm in my early 30s) and have this knowledge can keep our feet on the brakes when needed, for as long as possible. At least as far as systems that people depend on.
Education is key here. Call it preaching, even. I'm constantly showing my peers how to solve their problems more easily with old, standard tools that fit into existing ecosystems.
The internet of old was also preselected, towards the people most likely to have early access. It did not transcend borders, it was a new country. That country has vanished, and we should mourn it, and figure out how to bring it back. But that doesn't change the fact that real life is highly compartmentalized, and people want and need it to be in order to function. As real life bled into the virtual, this was inevitable.
One of the most instructional things is to move to a completely different place and culture. People's experience of the last couple years will be entirely different, because everything that's been reported has been implicitly filtered by the question of "how does this affect our tribe/region/nation". Famous personalities won't be known, landmark events will be vague footnotes, and instead there's a whole parallel universe of facts and people. Everything you thought you knew is wrong.
The internet is a poor fit for humanity. Good luck in getting away from that fact without feeling alienated from everyone around you. They don't like Cassandras and they don't like reality.
I joined Facebook when it initially became open to the public. For a few years it was nice, relatively calm, mostly fun. Then enough people joined that the quality of everything plunged, the public arguing and political fights escalated among friends, people increasingly brought the crap from real life to the platform. Frequent oversharing, having it be persistent (carried everywhere with you), and an always-present town square aspect (and how that warps behavior), then amplifies the negativity among the whole network. A few years ago I gave up posting & discussing anything, stopped sharing any media, deleted all my public posts and comments.
The swamp that is Facebook nearly brought me to disliking a couple dozen people I've known my entire adult life. Facebook creates a pressurized social atmosphere, almost like cohabitation with the people you're connected to on there. It becomes like the saying about guests and fish both smelling after three days.
However, I think there's a big cultural divide there. I have many Brazilian friends and many European ones and I feel that Facebook as an impact in this order:
Brazilian >> French > German
For many Brazilian friends it's to see and to be seen, for the European ones much less so. I'd also venture to guess that the post frequency is much higher (like an order of magnitude) for Brazilians than for others.
If I include other nationalities with n <30, I'd say it's mostly a problem in the Americas where I see much higher usage and feel "high pressure to be seen as having a fulfilling life".
Source: My account
And I'm not even some Stallman-grade eremite that declines anything but email. I have a phone, whatsapp, telegram, I'm ready to make a new account on your website. Facebook still affects me, in a harmful way.
Other than that, i make clear to people that i rarely check my FB messenger, and just don't use websites whose only login option is through FB.
I haven't posted on there for years.
I wonder about the time and physiological consequences. In particular the behavior of rapidly clicking back to these sites checking to see if anything interesting has popped up or if you have any discussions ongoing - I can't really see that as something that's particularly great for our longterm healthfulness. It's likely not just a correlation that the average human attention span has fallen by 33% just since 2000. We now have a lower attention span than goldfish. 
My justification is I've certainly changed my views on numerous things thanks to these interactions, and I've also even managed to convince a few people to change their views on various things. And that, on a high enough level, is how society evolves. But on the other hand the literally exact same justification can be used to argue that water cooler gossip is a socially productive behavior.
 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-sh...
Anyway, these disadvantages are not high enough for me to return to social media, that's for sure. Social media have essentially just become a data mining business, and there is too much that can be read off social graphs. They are a real long-term danger to society, IMHO.
There's much better to come, this is a kind of weird side product, so you probably won't like it. Also, people tell me that I'm bad at self-marketing. :p
But what I read over and over about the amount of data being collected, combined with the very strong feeling that my worldview was being solidified (I don't want news/articles tuned to my worldview, I want to be challenged) and the desperation at which it tried to drag me back in, made it impossible for me to use FB any longer. Twitter at the same time. Instagram took longer but I'm off (again).
"I choose to focus on the positive and refuse to harbor such negative feeling" - I do too, can't speak to the author. Getting off social media because of the negatives has brought a lot of positive to my life:
- More in-person interactions
- More checking in over phone/text/email directly (still electronic but one to one)
- More to talk about when I see people (I don't already know every little thing and people are excited to actually tell you about what happened)
- More time reading books and long form articles
- More time working on things I care about
- Less news and "news"
If social media brings positivity into your life, great, enjoy. But YMMV. This is a bit like telling someone not to leave an abusive relationship because they're only focusing on the negative and, hey, your relationship is great!
Does this mean Facebook gets a free pass? Of course not. These are valid concerns. But if I'm not going to act on something, I'm not gonna give it attention. Again, I'm not saying these issues should just go away and people should shut up. I'm saying pick your battles and win them, don't battle everything and win nothing.
I use messenger to chat with people (I'd love to use my jabber account more, but everyone is either on FB, GTalk or WhatsApp), I read a few groups and use events to keep things organized and I post sometimes, either forgetting about it soon or if it strikes a point reading interesting discussions.
The vast majority of my friendlist are people I know IRL, some exceptions are online friends I know via other channels. I also regularly delete people (usually on their birthday, thanks for the reminder facebook) I'm not in contact with anymore (well, and anyone who invites me to play a game more than once, first time I tell them never to spam me again, 2nd time they are gone).
I'm just wondering how anything would improve for me without it?
For example (more recently), several of my most liberal friends (all extremely nice people in person) have become venom spewing monsters, they rage non-stop, pretty much every day, about Trump this and Trump that and so on and so forth. They spew vindictive statements, they cheer about terrible things, they wish for horrible things to happen for political reasons, they casually toss insults, they threaten their other friends if they support Trump or if they don't support the anti-Trump side enough.
That kind of stuff makes me really dislike Facebook. Everybody I know on the network has had a similar experience over the last few years (and it really got bad with the election). And that's before you get to the other political stuff like intentional misinformation, lying, propaganda, fake news, etc. etc. And... that's before you get to the personal drama that occasionally spills over to FB. It's like six layers of hell frosted with brain-numbing spam from 22words and Bored Panda. So you start hiding posts by certain people, trying to restrain the flow of sewage. Block this page, block that game, ignore that notice, roll over a wall of 27 auto-playing spam videos, hide this post by that friend, stop seeing posts by that person. Facebook has gotten so large that it has become humanity, in my opinion, in all the good and bad ways that implies.
Almost all people behave differently under different social circumstances and pressures. Facebook seems to bring out - unleash - the worst in some very nice people. My observation is, as one would expect, they justify the bad behavior by proclaiming that the venom spewing is justified by the nature of the opponents they're attempting to counter. Means justified by the end goal.
It's said that online anonymity + forum = asshole behavior. I've come to wonder if enough time being acclimated to a public social network like Facebook, doesn't degrade the social niceties and manners that used to exist among friends in the early days of MySpace and Facebook.
> Means justified by the end goal.
Had a person like that once, they posted a picture with text (my personal wisdom for those is to assume it's all wrong), I called them out on some bullshit on it, they said "And? The company is still evil.". Unfollow instantly solved that for me.
I use it as well to keep contact with people (and don't give me that "just call them" BS) but that doesn't mean I have to accept all the clickbaits or fake news or just low effort crap
I just scrolled through several pages of my newsfeed (actually found a bunch of pages I never saw content from but which were also not relevant to me anymore which I unliked) and didn't find anything like that. Everything was personal posts, a few relevant page posts and posts from groups I'm in.
But why did you unfollow everything just for messenger? Wouldn't it be far easier to just use the messenger site directly and ignore facebook.com?
You have mail, if people can't contact you without facebook, then the problem is not you, but the users. Like for example a friends won't join discord because it own is own chat server, yes like I want a tool by friends. I just ignore him he always wanted that I adopt his solution.
Commercial web sucks, and what it's worse: it's boring and predictable. The resistance has started. So many people share the same feelings, that's why things like the tildeverse (tilde.club, tilde.town, neocities) do exist.
By the way, here on HN there's been plenty of post about "websites" been cool lately.
Please let's not confuse healthy individual control over the web with purely subjective old technology nostalgia.
Tbh, 90s pure html was UGLY lol.
This is not an example of low search quality and can easily be the opposite.
If I search for ruby gems, I probably want code. If someone else does, they may want actual gems.
> The quality of ads displayed alongside various Google services has steadily devolved from semi-relevant to absolutely irrelevant at all times. Yes, I am aware that this is no accident.
What possible incentive would they have to serve up less relevant adverts?
> telepathic contact
Reading and writing != telepathic.
> Not a replacement for anything.
That's a bad thing?
What does this mean?
So they search for "ruby gems" and you search for "ruby gems code." This nails in OP's point:
> Insight: Google does not want you to know or remember. Anything, if at all possible.
What about that means I don't "know or remember anything"?
I feel better. Facebook lets you communicate about the things you feel passionate about. In a world gone crazy, this often means things that are deeply disturbing, extremely wrong. Writing about these just re-tears the wounds over and over.
Another thing: there are so many new dogmas and taboos that rational discussion is hardly possible about fundamental things.
I do miss the distant contact with faraway friends, but think I am more sane now.
Did, uh, anyone else understand that bit?
Even if you manually select Plain Text to send, it still reflows lines at 78 characters by manually inserting linebreaks and adds its own special characters where it feels like. It also doesn't follow a handful of RFCs specific to email. There is no workaround for the forced hard-wrapping of lines in Plain Text. It will not let you use format=flowed either.
Plain Text mode has been obviously unusable for a long time, and the only folks who ever really bothered to complain about it were kernel developers (the mailing list requires plain text). Nobody else cares, but they should. Go figure.
If you're using a 'modern' mail client, you don't notice this. If you're using old, tried and true technology, the problems are plain as day.
Gmail broke email.
It usually just threads emails with the same subject, but...
It sometimes doesn't thread emails with the same subject, but after someone else has replied to the first one. You have to put "Re:" in the second email, since the reply automatically added "Re:" and I guess that's too different for gmail to accept, yet...
If you try to separate your emails by environment, a completely keyword in the subject often isn't enough to stop the emails from threading.
Even if you filter and label your email by the subject lines, emails that get threaded together get all labels.
You can't even give gmail feedback like "This email does not belong in this thread". The only options are to accept their threading or turn off threading entirely.
- now it's quite impossible to administrate your own email servers. Anti-spam measures are very effective (and enjoyable for us as users), but so paranoid that being part of the few select nodes that don't have their emails marked as spam (or are even propagated at all) is a full time job.
- gmail dicthed IMAP in favor of their own API. Pluging an IMAP client into your email account requires to dig inside your account security settings and change several obscure values with scary names and warnings. Sometime it even doesn't work, and then you do it again later, and it works for no reason. A non tech saavy user will never succeed in doing that, and hence everybody will use the web base version.
- the security of gmail accounts are insane. Not in the good way. I have yet to have a problem with a pirated account. But I had several problems with being locked out by Google deciding that "something was suspicious" because I was traveling or using someone else computer. Of course google has zero help desk to solve this. Loosing access to my emails is NOT ok. And to do it to protect me (against a threat visibly less likely than google freaking out) is adding insult to injury.
- Google scans and collects every emails you send and receive. So much for privacy. It also shares everything, thanks to PRISM. Even when I decided to dicth gmail, most people are using gmail and will never setup encryption. So by just existing, my communication are spied on, even if I don't use the service myself. Oh, and the bot scanning your mails may follow links in them. I had "burn after reading" documents that I could never open because of this.
- The gmail account is a google acount. Which means something that should be "just emails" is now a beacon to track me on all the websites I go to. It's also associated with all my google services activity. And on the android phones I log into. It requires a lot of effort and disciple on my part to mitigate that. Running a phone without an account is extra annoying. Having to juggle between several emails providers, migrate, make sure I have extensions to handle trackers, etc. I just wanted emails when I open my first gmail account. Not that.
While I do appreciate what google did with gmail (it does have tremendous benefits), the cost to get that is quite important.
I went to the settings page, selected "enable IMAP" and used the values in the provided link to set up my Gmail as an IMAP account in Thunderbird. No messing around with account security, no "obscure values" to change.
I didn't even have to generate an app-specific password (I use 2FA), because Thunderbird understands the authentication page request.
> I had "burn after reading" documents that I could never open because of this.
Why were those documents ever on an Internet-connected device?
> I just wanted emails when I open my first gmail account. Not that.
Honestly, if you didn't know back then that Google was primarily an advertising company, and that they would scan your emails to generate targeted ads, you obviously weren't following along, which seems weird considering your obvious focus on security on privacy.
I'm getting ready to migrate away from Gmail myself (I'll keep it running unused as my Google account), mostly so I can have my own domain under my own control.
A.K.A."It works on my machine". Lucky you.
> Why were those documents ever on an Internet-connected device?
Because that's the whole purpose of 0bin.net. The fact it's a good practice or not has nothing to do with the current thread. Google should not follow links in my emails. Browsing links can have a lots of side effects, and given how little my clients knows about IT, their mails provider should not mess with their mails.
> Honestly, if you didn't know back then that Google was primarily an advertising company, and that they would scan your emails to generate targeted ads, you obviously weren't following along, which seems weird considering your obvious focus on security on privacy.
So your argument is that I made bad decisions so I should not criticism Google's behavior ? That's a weird stance.
It has worked flawlessly on multiple PCs, multiple operating systems, multiple email clients. It's my primary way of using Gmail and Gcal, through Evolution on Linux Mint.
It even worked perfectly on my ancient Sony-Ericsson feature phone's terrible built-in email client, back when I still used that hunk of shit.
There are no "obscure values" to change, just a completely ordinary settings page with a toggle, and a link to the URLs and ports you need to use.
> So your argument is that I made bad decisions so I should not criticism Google's behavior ? That's a weird stance.
My argument is that you were blinded by the allure of free email with ~unlimited storage, and forgot to take into account that 1) there is no such thing as a free lunch, and 2) Google is an advertising company, first and foremost.
You knew what you were getting into, being a privacy and security minded person. If you decided to forego your principles to get a fancy @gmail.com address, that's your own mistake.
This is not a "could have, would have, should have" type situation. You deliberately and unequivocally agreed to terms and conditions that very specifically lay out what Google does when it comes to the handling of your mail.
The replies you got are borderline insane.
Yea, this is an irritating trend, not confined to Google. It's getting harder and harder to have separate accounts and separate identities (or, god forbid, no identity) across services anymore. BIG BUTTON: "LOG IN WITH FACEBOOK!!!" Small, gray 6pt text: "Create an account with us."
How about no? How about neither?
I just want to browse the web. I don't want a relationship with you, company. And I really, REALLY don't want such a close relationship where you to have this unique identifier of me that allows you to correlate my activity on your site with my unrelated or related activity on some other site. It's none of your business. I don't need you aggregating everything I do, and I don't care that you're only doing it to "improve my experience" in some vague way. My web experience was fine and dandy before you tried scanning my rectum daily.
There are a scant few sites with whom I deliberately choose to share my identity, such as HN. This should be the exception.
- the data are not very sensitive. It's very easy to mess with.
- people are tech savvy enough to understand what a URL is or never get in a situation where they don't have the cookie
- your service is too small to attract spammers
- you can setup a decent system to prevent bot from creating accounts
It's hard, plenty of gotchas, and just satisfied a minority of privacy-minded users. Though to sell.
I run my own. With SPF, DKIM and DMARC setup properly, I've not noticed anywhere that's flagged me as spam. GMail users certainly receive my emails no problem.
Incidentally, if you are getting flagged as spam, using a relay like Mailgun could be an option to explore. For postfix, the relevant option is 'relayhost', cf. postconf(5).
If you want to improve your chances of not being blocked when sending email, get a static IP address for your home connection (if your ISP supports that) or host your mailserver on a server instance at a proper hoster.
Edited: cleaned up some of the mistakes made when editing and moving text around, prior to posting.
I imagine if I set up a new IP on DigitalOcean today it might be a different story, but anecdotally I don't think I've actually observed instances where this has become a major issue.
Have you used MIAB at all?
> Did, uh, anyone else understand that bit?
> it taught everyone to reply on top.
Sure, I guess it's harder to run your own email server, but the trade-off was virtually zero spam making its way to my inbox. I think that's a trade worth making, since I vividly remember the dark days of email.
One thing I've noticed about people who are nostalgic for the past, is that they either misremember or forget the negative things while wearing their rose-colored glasses.
I saw someone pining for the good old days of the late 90s internet due to a lack of ads everywhere and I gently reminded them that due to a lack of bandwidth and modems capable of download at speed, a gif file took 5 minutes to download and view, videos were basically non-existent to download as real-player was in its infancy serving up what amounted to flip-book quality clips which still took 15 minutes to download a 15 second clip.
The internet wasn't in some golden age back in the late 90s, it was slow as fuck, quality was shit and there was barely any content. We take so much for granted today...
And then even after video was available, it was incredibly unreliable.
Am I crazy, or does anyone else think YouTube became popular because the videos almost always worked when you hit Play?
People seem to think the community features were responsible for YouTube's success, but I specifically remember finding videos, then looking them up on YouTube instead, because the original source was some garbage video player that you'd click and nothing would happen.
But I guess that’s what you get when you use an email service from an advertising company.
Google is all about control. They decide who is in and who is out.
And that only works when the central power is benevolent.
However we know there has never been in the history of any human structure an entity becoming the central power that stayed benevolent.
I don't mean to say you're wrong, but I thought you might find it interesting. I was just a dumb kid but we downloaded stuff and had small 5-man lan parties where we played online too since we didnt have enough for balanced matches. It wasn't bad at all and we didn't even have a proper hub until much later on.
Nowdays every realtime app suffers it seems. No matter where I'm at. And if you go to a big regional lan party everyone is queueing online. No local servers, or if there are it's kinda dead or it's private hard core competitive games, which I do love, but I miss the goofing off and socializing in lan servers too. The changes for me have been less than ideal, as a pro gamer and just regular gamer.
Also as a UX/UI dev I've noticed things have become.. Annoying as hell to use. Even intentionally thanks to questionable business practices.
Today I can plan my day online in 20minutes or less. Back in the day it wasn't too easy for me I wasn't the best student.
Sorry for the novel. Thanks for sharing.
"There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ."
So I just stopped. Three months ago. Not missing it.
Or a stigma develops around being overly addicted to these platforms and their use balances out some.
Right now it seems like people are pulling the "social reward lever" over and over and the nature of the situation ensures that these platforms will try to maximize that behavior. But I suspect that in the long run some form of moderate usage and an appreciation for privacy and personal space will be obvious.
Because for me it's my primary link between my home country, where I live now, and all my other international friends. Sure, I could use email to keep in touch, but the problem with email is that it's an active communications medium, unless you have a mailing list and email everyone what you're up to, you don't keep up to date with what your friends are doing.
I stay in touch with my friends and family back home with phone, sms, whatsapp, skype, email and birthday/christmas cards in the post. Works fine.
It'll become crap over time. Watch this space.
Sometimes I feel left out, because FB is so overwhelmingly taken role of event organizing etc, but I still hope that one day something breaks, people take back their freedom and more natural independent communes appear.
> I paid them for the app. Then they sold the app to Facebook. Now I see targeted ads and promoted posts.
Was Instagram really a paid app at some point? Couldn't find any references to this.
As a whole, it seems being a consumer is becoming much more ephemeral. I can't access Facebook or Myspace with the design they had 10 years ago and I'm encouraged to repeatedly replace working products and assets on a stream of credit or leasing.
The benefit for the companies is obvious, benefits for the consumer are not.
I always forget how much this bugs me. I get wall posts from friends saying they are going out if anyone wants to join them, 24 hours after they post it.
> I paid them for the app.
What? IG is a paid app?