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You Will Not Understand This (stanleylieber.com)
382 points by 1337p337 on Nov 8, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 256 comments

>Search quality is no longer a core competency of Google, the Internet’s premiere search engine. For example: Two people type the same search string, each receives different results.

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.

Pretty sure OP gets the idea of personalization. Google's personalization is like piling up chairs in order to reach the moon. It's nowhere near its promise of reading the user's mind and helping him. Instead its present implementation simply stops your world view from expanding in any direction, by serving you the same stuff that you knew over and over again.

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 quite happy that Google stops my world view from expanding to include Chicago restaurants when I'm looking for food in Seattle.

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.

It's interesting how this entire thread was spawned and derailed by the original essay being a bit too imprecise.

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.

As far as I can tell, your essential complaint is that Google is sometimes providing results that are too relevant. You're OK with Google doing some amount of personalisation, but there's a line that they shouldn't cross.

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.


There's definitely a scale I think — showing me local pizza places is great. What about guessing my budget & ruling out places it thinks I won't book? That's getting into a grey area & personally I'd find that uncomfortable/undesirable.

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

What bothers me is the attempt at omniscience. Give me an option! Let me have a checkbox for "tailor results to my location". Heck, turn it on by default. Just give me the damn choice.

Sometimes you just want the top results by PageRank, like in 1998 when Google was miraculous. I don't know how to get that anymore. I want information from out in the world - I generally don't want the contents of my own head reflected back at me.

Search, then click on the "tools" button and toggle to "Verbatim." It's a little more than just unpersonalized -- it also gets rid of things like synonym expansion, stemming, and allowing the search results to elide particular parts of your query. But it definitely gives you that 1998 feeling. :)


> As far as I can tell, your essential complaint is that Google is sometimes providing results that are too relevant.

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.

pg once joked that Google's philosophy on search is the same as Scientology: What's true is true for you.

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.

> 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.

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?

>Obviously restaurants should be personalized. But no one was saying they shouldn't.

>>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.

This was actually a problem for me recently. I just wanted to know the options for restaurants in an area of London. I didn't want results specific to me, I wanted all of the restaurants. I ended up not using Google since it just wouldn't give me the simple information I was looking for. Googles becoming less and less useful as time goes on, which is a real shame as they were excellent 10 years ago.

> 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.

The tradeoff being that it won't give the anti-vaxxers information that refutes their claims. Is that _really_ what you want?

Ironically, this sort of pigeon-holing is mostly a problem with treating query text literally (or syntactically.) Language is full of shibboleths, and people indicate their worldview by the words they choose to use. The more naively a search engine treats the query, the more likely they are to find pages that only agree with them.

I honestly doubt the use of certain words are going to limit your search results more than the way google is 'personalizing' search results by looking at your history/interests and basing it's results around that, do you have any sources for your claim?

If you know the language to use, you can get into that world yourself. For instance [did dinosaurs exist]. Only creationists talk about dinosaurs that way, and so you only get creationist content returned. People with a conventional view of natural history never put "dinosaur" and "exist" together.

Contrast that with [did dinosaurs live] which has a mix of creationist and normal results, despite meaning the same thing.

Maybe. The naive approach definitely has a strong filtering effect, but there's more than one non-naive approach, though. Some of those are narrowing, and others are widening. Google seems to prefer the narrowing ones.

> 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.

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.

The vast majority of Google results I see are very poor quality articles optimized for Google. Wikipedia is almost always the best option. Either the algorithm they are using seems to be optimizing for the wrong thing, or marketers have gotten really good at playing the game.

I spent a few years in the marketing world, doing copywriting optimized for search engines among other things. Good marketers are like professional gamers in that every time Google "changes the meta" they're uncannily quick to find new ways to game the system.

But personalization can also work against you. If for instance Google wants to favour one political candidate over another they could "personalize" your search results by boosting positive sentiment articles and filter out those with negative sentiment towards that candidate. And since Google search is still viewed as fairly objective it could have massive impact, and since it's personalized it's very hard to detect.



off-topic ... or is it?

> 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.

The personalization seems to help if only because you need to disambiguate the english language.

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.

That's at least partially the fault of that particular language getting cute with their naming and not considering the impact that has a on trying to disambiguate things without having to introduce further context. Ruby isn't the only one who commits that particular sin (looking at you Chef). Java arguably commits the same sin with regard to the core language, but considering how rarely "java" is used on its own in reference to the coffee based beverage that's fairly harmless. Moral of the story, stop getting cute with the names of your stuff and naming a bunch of different tools/concepts/frameworks with ambiguous names. If you must do so at least use some clever portmanteaus and don't just straight up steal other words that already have specific completely unrelated meanings.

grumble grumble chef knife, chef cookbook, chef recipe, chef cucumber incoherent mumbling

you imply that when someone that is not a programmer, and say works in the rare stones industry, goes to google to search for ruby gems, that they are not shown a bunch of programmer garbage?

Personalized disambiguation can be really handy. I'm a hobby woodworker, I've recently bought a vintage Record #4 hand plane and wanted to learn more about it. I found out this model was manufactured in 1939-1945.

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.

I'm implying that Google "learns" over time that I'm more interested in ruby the programming language and that a jeweler would over time get more gemstone related resources.

> Once upon a time, the internet allowed you to escape your geography. No longer.

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.

Lenovo has a policy of cancelling orders if the billing and shipping address country does not match. Fine. So they know I am Canadian because otherwise I couldn't make an order. Right? You can't get to the chat when travelling because it's geofenced based on your IP instead of order number / serial number of the laptop.

Same with languages. It's incredibly annoying when pages try to guess what language I want by my location, I rather be asked.

Same with marrying the language to the country, if I want to buy a flight from Germany, don't change the page to German!

No need to be asked. The browser sends the Accept-Language header depending on the language set in the browser's settings, which defaults to the OS language for the browser installed by default (other browsers will ask at installation).

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.

Asking is more reliable. There is no reason for a site to believe it should translate stuff for me just because my browser's interface is in another language.

Do use the header, but always be open for the user changing the language too.

Amazon is particularly irritating for this. If you use, for instance, amazon.fr, the UI is only available in French, even though it's mostly a translation of the English UI on amazon.com.

For practical usage e.g. finding information on technical topics (where reliably getting relevant results quickly is important, and randomly finding/exploring new "interesting" content is not), the google's personalization is immensely valuable to me; it gives me a source telling what I want on the first try, but the more-privacy-less-personalization alternatives can find the same thing only if I fine-tune the query multiple times.

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.

> Unfettered exploration is for dicking around when you have nothing better to do.

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 find curated lists better for exploration than search, but perhaps I just lost my ability to search whimsically. To each their own I guess.

Robin Sloan did a great bit of fiction about what truly superb Google personalization would look like. No search bar, no results list, just the "I'm feeling lucky" button. You click it, and then the relevant thing happens.

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.

How does this sophistry get a pass? Google's search is dominant because it provides the most meaningful, useful results to most people. If you think this is chairs to the moon or a child's imitation, surely there is a market for you to exploit. Otherwise your argument sounds ridiculous, with sentences that together become ridiculously meaningless beyond smearing Google.

> surely there is a market for you to exploit

Yes I do believe it's up for grabs.

I'm pretty sure you're part of the millions the parent poster was talking about, Google doesn't really "care" that much about your use case.

> It's nowhere near its promise of reading the user's mind and helping him.

Personalized sales strategies can also lead to the reverse: [1]

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/personalized-pricing-smart-st...

hopefully typing

at the end of the query still turns off the personalization.

This is what I was hoping to find... of course knowing how to do that is completely esoteric. I don't know why they couldn't just put another button next to I'm Feeling Lucky that says "Pretend you don't know me".

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.

Because it is another premier feature to maintain. Because more buttons mean more people accidentally hit the wrong button and then complain about shitty search results.

A button that appends that querystring parameter to your search query is a "premier feature" that a multi-billion dollar company is hesitant to maintain?

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'm with you. I think they don't want that feature used, and having to explain it to the common user is frightening. This is one of the few things on my whiteboard that never gets erased.

I can't guarantee it still works, either.

> 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.

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.

I wish Google would have a clippy-style avatar so that when I put in takeaway pizza, it will tap my screen and ask, "did you mean 'takeaway pizza chicago'?"

This makes so much more sense. People are so lazy to type in their location that Google had to spend millions/billions of dollars on technology to stalk you and figure it out for you? I don't buy it.

Using Baidu and Yandex for searches is instructive.

>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

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.

It used to be that when I don't find something with DDG, I would go into Google and find it. But currently my impression is that any remotely useful page that Google would show is also there in DDG results, the "!g" switch just adds a bunch of spam and unrelated stuff.

Same exact experience. It’s been fairly recently that I stopped routinely checking up on DuckDuckGo’s search results. On the rare occasion that I do, I’m mostly surprised at how Google’s results are inferior to DDG’s.

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.

Do you happen to remember the query so I can debug? (Check your search history if you have it turned on.)

No, sorry I was something with icon styling on TabActivity, I was adding some shadows and animations. It was over 1.5year ago.

I had a similar experience recently. I searched for something, and the results were mostly intro pages or starting "how to do this with xyz" type of pages when I was trying to debug a problem I was having with xyz. So I modified the search to add a couple words to make sure it was obvious that I was looking for help debugging a problem, and the result set on the first page was identical.

Noticed this as well. When I started using DDG it was like stepping 10 years back in time. Lots of interesting niche websites that look straight out of the 00's.

I mostly miss google when searching for physical locations, but the !g comes in handy there.

There is an option for "verbatim" searches.

Anyway, google ignores synonyms if you use double quotes around each word or phrase.

You indeed did not understand this. (Error lies partly in author's lack of specifics)

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.

All more the reason, to reimplement these things, this time with strict copyleft licenses applied and rebuild the datasets.

Not to mention all the captchas we solved to train their OCR and self driving cars. https://xkcd.com/1897/

Yep. The way I remember it is Google saved email. Email was great until there was money in gaming it, and it went to hell shortly thereafter. Gmail was the first consumer facing service I ever found that just magically made SPAM go away while retaining all the emails you wanted to see. Everything before that was just a blackholing with a list maintained by a hodgepodge of RBL maintainers hanging out on news.admin.net-abuse.email and shaking your impotent fists at that 20 or so daily SPAMS that snuck through anyway. You literally threw away email addresses because they were on too many SPAM lists and became impossible to use any more.

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.

>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.

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.

Your queries would work, but Google wants to be like the secretary in the office. If you ask your secretary "I want some pizza", he would not say "Well this pizza place is the most popular in the world, it's located in Rome.", he would tell you options close to your area.

They could have two services - Google Search and Google Secretary.

They could. Or they could just do Google Secretary (because they think it's better) and let competitors try Google Search under a different brand.

Pretty much what's happened really. Turns out not that many people want Google Search when they have the choice of Google Secretary instead.

> 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?

:) Google Secretary = Google. Google Search = Duck Duck Go / StartPage / etc.

>Google "takeaway pizza [place of residence]".

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.

>Google "takeaway pizza [place of residence]".

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.

So, you call the pizza place and say "Do you deliver to X? No? Oh, but your other location does! Thanks!" Or, go to the company's website and figure it out.

People seem to expect Google to hold your hand at every single step along the way.

Say you are on the west end of Springfield near the east end of Shelbyville. You don't know that area or what the surrounding towns are.

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.

Are you kidding? Of course I'd rather have the service tell me directly what pizza places deliver to me. I'd need to call each one and ask individually? How on Earth is that a better service?

It's useful, therefore people use it. You're asking for people to accept a clear decrease in the utility of a service. Because ????

If you're interested in cartographic information that can't be readily put into words, maybe a text-based search engine isn't the best way to find it. A map makes more sense. Query a map (like Google Maps or OpenStreetMap) for "pizza [exact location]".

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.

"takeaway pizza near me" Google knows where I am right now after all, I used waze on the drive here, and have an android phone. but even using the employers PC in front of me it knows where it is.

Note: I have hast a few instances where "near me" didn't work as expected.

Where else would I be trying to find takeaway pizza? Are you suggesting that if I just search for takeaway pizza Google should point me to the best takeaway pizza place in the world and only if I specify "near me" should it provide me with information that might actually be useful?

Was addressing the suggestion that "takeaway pizza <city name>" would provide less than optimal results under certain circumstances described in other comments in this part of the thread. For example If I lived in Omaha Nebraska on the north side of Harrison street which also is the dividing line between Omaha and Papillion a search on "takeaway pizza Omaha" might fail to include the pizza place I can see across the street in Papillion.

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.

Web search is literally the wrong place to try to find something that geographic databases were designed for. When you don't know where you are or what's around, you go to a map.

And, of course, Google Maps will be quite happy to serve you a litany of personalized advertisements for the restaurants in your area, but is devoid of any real route-planning tools, or information about places not worth advertising to you.

As someone doing a lot of language switching in my Google searches: should I preface every search with the language as well?

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.

I'm Dutch, so I have to switch languages often as well. I don't think I get what you're trying to explain. Could you provide some examples?

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.

You're learning Django, and the error messages are in English.

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.

>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.

Add "lang:nl".

>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.

>As someone doing a lot of language switching in my Google searches: should I preface every search with the language as well?

What part of the parent's argument is invalidated by the need of some outlier doing "lots of language switching" to add the language?

My first language is Portuguese. Google failing to give me English results for software related queries was the one main reason I switched my browser search to DDG.

Yeah I have this issue too, DDG's explicitness on this is nice.

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.

No. If I search for "takeaway pizza" then it's probably because I'm going to be somewhere else later. Why would I ever want to search for takeaway pizza when I'm at home. I already know where to get pizza there.

Searching for my current location is probably the worst possible default

Or more likely I am already somewhere other than home and am trying to get pizza there. Who plans out where they are going to get takeaway pizza in preparation for going on a trip?

You must be misinterpreting me. I mean "takeaway pizza [location in or near which you want to get your pizza]".

"Educating" users is not as profitable as serving users.

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.

> "Educating" users is not as profitable as serving users.

Manipulating "uneducated" users is much more profitable.

This is a true statement, but how is this relevant?

What do localized search results have to do with manipulating uneducated users?

> 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.

For one, they depend on schmucks willing to give Google their personal data and allow for it to keep their location, preferences etc, in order to give them those "precious" localized/personalized info that would be perfectly possible with no personal info kept and just an additional search word or two.

Syms: "An educated consumer is our best customer."

Google: "An uneducated consumer is our best product."

For you. Maybe not for the median user though.

Maybe we, as technologists that are well positioned to think about the effects our technologies have on their users, should consider whether those effects are of net benefit to them or not.

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?

exactly. un-teaching mankind how to fish.

This. My mother used to teach classes in primary school how to use the computer and the internet, but appears to have forgotten most of this when browser user interfaces started prioritizing Google search. Now it's hard to get her to navigate to a URL and (even using Google) she struggles to find the information she needs because she's not used to accurate queries anymore.

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.

>> Now it's hard to get her to navigate to a URL and (even using Google) she struggles to find the information she needs because she's not used to accurate queries anymore.

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...

Edit: 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.

Google started out with "objective" results, but now shows "subjective" results and I think the argument here is how much that is highlighted to the user.

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)

> Of course Google serves different results to different users (…)

And still, you can peek at the "not personalized" and "not local" results with `Tools > Verbatim` (as opposed to default `All results`) option:


While I sympathise with your vote-for-mediocrity, it's clear you don't understand Google et al. with their army of A* engineers and $uit$.

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.

I'm shaking my head as to say yes.

The problem is I don't want to find relevant results. If results I looking for are relevant, than I need not a great search engine to find them. If I know what I want to find it would be pretty simple to find them with grep over internet.

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.

What I would prefer is context sensitive filtering options to let you refine your search after you have performed it. For example, if I search for "ruby", there will be results related to the programming language, the gemstone and for people named Ruby, and Google is guessing which one I want based on what it knows about me, so why not give me visibility into which one it is picking and let me switch to the others?

> and Google is guessing which one I want based on what it knows about me

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.

I can't find any sources for why Gmail has supposedly "broken" e-mail for "everyone in the world". Do you know what he's referring to?

If Google's spam filters block an IP or subnet that happens to be where you host your self-hosted mail server, it will be almost impossible for your mail server reputation to ever recover. Your emails to gmail users (a vast percentage of all email users in many places) will never be delivered and maintaining your own mail server will become a nightmare.

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.

I've been hosting my own mail server since 1997, at its current colo since 2007 or so. I've never had any issues with delivering email to gmail users.

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?

Me too, for almost as long. Never a problem with gmail, although I do suppose that's partly luck. If my IP block ever got blacklisted, I would move the mail server to another IP - I'm sure that would be easier than trying to reason with Google. I do get a bounce from Hotmail every couple of years, but my attitude has become "your fault for using Hotmail".

I dunno buddy, I still seem to search "workshop 3d printer" in and get top results from countries I dont live in. Not to mention, I often search for full phrases that have two keywords way separated from another, but because google is used to seeing them together, it will still display pretty irrelevant results.

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.

> takeaway pizza

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


> cricket

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.

>Search quality is no longer a core competency of Google

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?

>The entire job of a search engine is to return relevant results.

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.

Exactly - this is a feature that is a sign of better search quality. Perhaps Google could allow a keyword like +Standard or +LowQuality to take out any personalization based on identity, location, language, etc.

> Yes, I am aware that this is likewise no accident.

This speaks to me on a visceral level. I was lucky enough to have started with computers, BBS and the early days of the web very early in my childhood. Hobbies and later a job supporting 70s-90s era tel co systems gave me a deep understanding of fundamental technologies and protocols no one thinks or cares about.

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.

Sure, but money talks louder.

I'm relived that at least some people are leaving social media. "Gamification of personal interaction" certainly degraded my health. Quitting Facebook "cold turkey" is the best decision I've made this year.

I found that no longer posting or interacting, accomplished enough to not need to quit. I enjoy being able to get updates, entirely at my leisure, regarding friends & family. Basically turns Facebook into an RSS feed of life updates. I've also never allowed Facebook on any phone, keeping it isolated in a specific use box.

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.

> I found that no longer posting or interacting, accomplished enough to not need to quit. [...] Basically turns Facebook into an RSS feed of life updates.


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

I've quit, but not entirely. I just unfollowed everyone. My newsfeed is blank, it doesn't even have ads amazingly. Without the feed, I still get the upsides of Facebook (I can communicate with people on a platform they almost all use, I can organise events easily), but (along with a suite of tracker-blockers) remove almost all the downsides.


You can use News Feed Eradicator Chrome plugin and Facebook becomes a chat app without having to unfollow everyone.


You can visit https://messenger.com for just the chat, without any extensions.

Doesn't work on mobile. The unfollow method works everywhere.

Same here, and added the FB Purity extension on top of it. It's glorious to visit FB today and see the same 3 posts I saw yesterday (I follow a few media co's). It's slowly gotten me out of the habit of randomly checking in to see what's going on; when nothing is going on, you start forgetting to check in.

Thank you for offering this middle way. I am doing this now.

I'm constantly amazed by all this "I quit facebook" bragging on HN. I'm avoiding FB as much as I can, but it doesn't feel to me at all like a problem that doesn't affect me if I'm not using it. That's pretty much the point for me. It's harder and harder for me to avoid FB. Local businesses don't bother making their own websites anymore, gym will post updates in some FB group (or whatever it's called), pretty much everyone expects me to be on FB. Fuck, many web-based services will not allow me creating a new account with them, I must use google or fb accounts to log in. Ordinary people I meet everyday don't ask me for a phone number, telegram/whatsapp account (as if it is not evil enough), surely not an email. They ask me how to find me on FB, and find it somewhat creepy that I'm not using it. My friends will text me and send me links to something hosted on FB that I cannot see if not logged in.

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.

That's the only reason i don't quit.

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.

Is depersonalized social media, such as this site, any different? I think media aggregation is of course a hugely valuable resource. But what ratio of our time do we spend discussing things versus learning new things. And how much of the discussion is at all productive?

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. [1]

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.

[1] - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-sh...

But there is another side to the story. I quit Facebook many years ago in 2008 because I disagree with their ToS. However, since then I lost contact to many friends far-away. Sure, FB feeds are not really "contact" in any meaningful sense, but they still allow you to get a glimpse at what's going on in their lives. Another things is that I've lost the opportunity to use FB to market my German sci-fi novels to friends and acquaintances.

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.

Link to novels, pls. :-P

Only one out of ten published so far: http://goo.gl/RNPP9d

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

Same here. I quit Facebook, and it was a great decision. I posted one recipe for leaving Facebook here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15628060

Can someone explain to me the facebook problem? I'm not talking about privacy problems, just all the people saying everything is so much better for them without it. Is it just me using it too weirdly?

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?

In my experience, some of the nicest people I know also happen to have extremely overwhelming political opinions & behaviors. They're extreme partisans basically. Facebook has shown me a side of them that is very ugly. Plus, we're now culturally living in a time of belligerent identity politics combined with a sort of 'if you are not aggressively with us, you are against us and evil'. It's an incredibly toxic environment.

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.

Interesting, that sounds to me that you are seeing sides of your friends you didn't want to know about? I don't have that problem, but if I would, I'd either unfollow their posts or outright delete them (depending on if I need/want to keep in contact with them on messenger).

Well for example with the rage party regarding Trump. I knew all the political opinions of my friends that have lost their minds over that (so to speak). I'm socially liberal, so their political ideas mostly never bothered me (even when I disagree with them). Their behavior on the other hand, is grotesque. They've become what they proclaimed to dislike.

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.

I mean finding out too much not by their opinions, but how they, at least sometimes, behave.

> 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.

As much as I despise M.Z. and Fb is full of bad ideas (and bad users) I guess people have not realized how to use some magical buttons in Fb called 'unfriend', 'block this page' and 'stop following'

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

Exactly what I'm doing, yes.

I haven't deactivated my account, but I have unfollowed absolutely everything so that I have an entirely blank news feed, and uninstalled the app from my phone to avoid notifications. I still use messenger for communication with friends. For me, it was the realisation that 99% of the content in my news feed was posts by corporate pages. I signed up to connect with friends, and initially I did only see status updates from friends. But over time it became exclusively friends liking or commenting on posts by pages, and I was no longer connecting with people.

> But over time it became exclusively friends liking or commenting on posts by pages

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?

Hmm, maybe it has improved. I did this around a year ago. I spent weeks trying to train it, hiding every single "X liked this post" "Y commented on this post" and worse "Z liked a comment on this post" hoping to only see actual posts by my actual friends but it never worked. The reason I unfollowed everything was to stop my self from coming back to Facebook and scrolling through pages of garbage, wasting my time. Now if I ever accidentally visit Facebook (I do use messenger.com) it's empty so I close the tab straight away.

I was recently surprised to find out they if you deactivate your account, FB gives you the option to keep Messenger. Might be an option for you or OP.

Most of the posts from friends on facebook are personal posts and even the ones that are my friends commenting on posts or sharing stories are at least somewhat interesting to me because I want to see what my friends think are interesting or important.

For me it was information overload. Not that I care what my neighbour ate for lunch yesterday, but don't throw it in my face. I thought that such stupid information would be innocuous, and in a sense it is, but as they say, ignorance is bliss. I simply don't know what the current trend is on social media (are people still dropping water from buckets over themselves?) and I'm happier. In other words, I was once ignorant and I guess I'm happy because I now know how to be ignorant again! :)

I guess because I barely check the FB wall, I miss such things anyway ;) Thanks.

It's not because everybody is using it, that the tools is ok. It's like everybody is playing LoL, are LoL great? Doubt so, but it's like playing it because everybody play it.

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.

It's a combination of people being there AND having a bunch of related tools (mainly of importance to me, groups, events and comments for events). E-Mail is inconvenient for most things I use messenger for.

Beautiful! I agree 100% with it.

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.

Revolution won't use JavaScript.

Thanks for the javascript part.

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.

See also brutalistwebsites.com for combining the old and the new.

Thank you for the links to the tildeverse!

you are welcome!

I'm slowly curating things like it, 'slow web', and other general anti-whatever-it-is-we're-calling-this websites.

> Search quality is no longer a core competency of Google, the Internet’s premiere search engine. For example: Two people type the same search string, each receives different results. Yes, I am aware that this is likewise no accident.

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?

The core issue with Google today is that they've backed away from their mission of "organizing the world's information". They killed Google books, Google scholar is an afterthought, and most results either point to wikipedia or spam. They are definitely falling behind.

They killed Google books

What does this mean?

Google books is done. Yes, the website is up, but they aren't scanning new books and gave up on the backlog. Try it yourself, go look for any book published since 2016.

Wasn't there a large lawsuit that stopped that one?

Nope, Google won.

That's the most unsettling part. They got a monopoly on online book previews, and abandoned it.

> If I search for ruby gems, I probably want code. If someone else does, they may want actual gems.

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.

But if they search "ruby gems" their results for gemstones will include programming results. So instead they need to search for "ruby gems gemstone", but then some clever person names their ruby library gemstone and they need to add more qualifiers and so on.

No, I search for "ruby gems".

What about that means I don't "know or remember anything"?

The second line of your post is answered by the first.

I'm really not following. What is it that Google wants me to not know or remember?

I decided to quit Facebook for a month. That was September. October came round, and I didn't go back.

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.

It's possible to cull all of your 'Facebook friends' and only keep those faraway friends, and use Facebook as a sort of IRC server with pictures. I have a few friends who've done that.

Well, i installed an IRC (well, mattermost actually,a glorified IRC) where my friends and i can discuss and keep everyone updated on latest news on tech and games. Honestly it's better than facebook (we can send each other snippet of code) and no one have to change the default setting to receive mails only when something interesting happen.

"Fuck you forever for breaking e-mail for everyone in the world."

Did, uh, anyone else understand that bit?

Gmail doesn't play well with plain text emails.

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.

Heh, yes - they are basically the heir to Outlook, which ironically does play well with plaintext email nowadays...

Tangentially, think of all of the wasted bits sent in the multipart section of the email (often 2-5x longer than the text itself) just because HTML is the default...

I get furious that it threads conversations automatically instead of with the "reply-to" built into the email protocol.

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.

Another option is to use a non-broken email client, like mutt.

I'm the one sending the emails, but lots of people receive them. Can't have them all switch.

It seemed as if your complaint about incorrect threading was about the client, hence my suggestion to use a better client. Are you saying that if people reply using the gmail client the reply-to header is wrong? Then yes, using mutt will not fix this.

No, the issue is that I care about how my automated emails appear in other people's clients. I'm like a web developer complaining about having to support internet explorer.

My take would be:

- 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.

> 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.

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.

> 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.

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.

> A.K.A."It works on my machine". Lucky you.

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.

That sounds a lot like the people saying "wow, you knew you were going on that part of town with that sexy dress and you got harass. Blames on you.". Errr... no.

The terms and conditions were clearly laid out for you when you signed up. Google was already well-known for being primarily an advertising company. It was well-known that Google implemented scanning of all mails, both for spam filtering and for advertising purposes.

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.

Besides, that is in reply to a comment that is just trying to make people aware that is a bad part of town.

The replies you got are borderline insane.

No, a fair number of the statements in his post were and are demonstrably false.

> The gmail account is a google acount.

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.

Some of the services I make have "private urls" and/or a cookie containing a token to auto-login you so you can use it without an account. But it works only if:

- 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 don't get why no service use the email link to login method. It already exists, but is marketed as 'forgot password'.

What would be the point? You'd still have to create an account and give out your email address.

A couple people have replied about problems setting up private email servers and getting flaggad as spam.

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.

Are you running your own on physical hardware on-premises or in the cloud?

Oh shoot. Good point. It's running on a Google VM instance, so I push outgoing SMTP through Mailgun. That's a factor I hadn't considered.

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).

Also not the person you were replying to, but in most blocklists are ranges of what are known as dynamic IPs. i.e. those handed out to residential customers. Because most email spam comes from botnets running on peoples personal machines, these ranges are quite sensibly blocked.

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.

I also run a personal mail server and haven't had any issues with delivery (that I know of). I'm using Mail-in-a-Box, which deserves all of the credit for keeping the box low friction to setup and maintain. I'm running it on a low-end VPS from a cloud provider I'm too embarrassed of to name, but it works (usually).

Edited: cleaned up some of the mistakes made when editing and moving text around, prior to posting.

Now I'm really curious about your cloud provider. I'm running mine on a Google instance, which seems silly if avoiding GMail is the goal. :P

Not the guy you were replying to, but I run my own email off of a DigitalOcean vps, and I have yet to have problems with spam filters. I didn't even have problems with spam filters before I set up DKIM, DMARC, SPF, etc.

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.

I run eigenstate.org (and the associated emails) using physical hardware in a colo. OpenBSD's OpenSMTPD makes it relatively easy to set up, although simpler spam filtering would be appreciated.

Nice to know, thank you. As an OpenBSD user, I've thought about going the OpenSMTPD route for a while now, but I've been debating whether to do that or Mail In A Box.

Have you used MIAB at all?

Never even heard of it.

Yes. Despite the technical problems (e.g. pulling out dmarc on the last second to make others look bad), it taught everyone to reply on top.

> Did, uh, anyone else understand that bit?

Outlook already did that, since basically forever.

> it taught everyone to reply on top.

I _guess_ he means that siloing email provision to a few large providers means that its harder to run your own email server without being flagged as spam.

Does he not remember how much spam we received before those sorts of upgrades? Email spam in the late 90s and early 2000s was insane. And every grandmother who plugged in their PC at the time got hit by it. "I ordered v1gr4 cheap from this business, why hasn't it shown up 4 months later?!"

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...

>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.

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.

Today it’s google that decides what spam(aka marketing emails) gets delivered to my mailbox. No matter how many times I mark some emails as spam, they always seem to find the way to my inbox.

But I guess that’s what you get when you use an email service from an advertising company.

Phishing emails seem to always sail right through their filters. I'm lucky that I'm extra paranoid.

I honestly can't remember the last time I received any spam that didn't get caught by the filter. Right now, I have 12 mails in the spam folder, and that's my normal running 30 day average.

While I agree, but I'm sure there is a balance. And clearly they don't try to find it. It's better business to lock everything in for yourself and say "we protect you".

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.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Anectodally the internet was reliable, fast as hell, and there was a vast world to explore for me in the 90's. And I'm not talking just text downloads. And certainly not referring to 28.8k modems. 56k was ok, shotgun 56k was better. I went pro in CS once I got ADSl and I dearly miss client side registration because it was so damn reliable and snappy with rarely any desync problems. Back then it was very easy to just aim further ahead of your moving target with the distance being proportional to your ping. I distincly remember playing kingpin and quake in a hotel room once and I had a 250 ping. All I did was prefire way early or in the case of the long range shots.. Oh god it was so satisfying to lead them by a few extra "feet", click, sit back and then after what seemed like forever I'd hear that thump thump thump of the rifle and they'd drop. You simply can't do that these days with reliability. You play against jerks on VPNs from AU who warp 20 feet before shooting you.

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.

I want all the solutions Google provides and none of the drawbacks. If Google can't do that, they are obviously incompetent and worthless.

Here's a great article on social media and continuous distraction, looking at these issues from a number of angles. I can't recommend this piece enough.

"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."


I just exited. I didn't bleat about it. Maybe I should have ranted, but somehow I did not judge that as necessary or appropriate. Either you "get it" and don't need to be harangued, or you are embedded and a harangue is just hater gotta hate.

So I just stopped. Three months ago. Not missing it.

Someone needs to write a post about quitting reading posts about quitting social networks

My hope is that over time a large enough percentage of people will become annoyed to the point of giving a fighting chance to alternative approaches and platforms.

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.

Is there anyone who's moved overseas and quit Facebook, and benefited from it?

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.

Yep. Not sure how old you are, maybe it's an age thing? I'm in my early thirties, live abroad and don't have an FB account.

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.

You should be aware that WhatsApp _is_ Facebook, or at least is owned by them.

It'll become crap over time. Watch this space.

Very aware MZ needs to find a way to get some ROI on his investment. If/when it becomes shit, I'll drop it.

This posts title, and the conversations in here, are a beautiful display of irony :) That said, that "Panther Den" patch is awesome, and led me to a description of it and some other pretty interesting defense/IT patches: http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Mission_Pa...

> Instagram

> 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.

While other posters have pointed out it probably wasn't true for Instagram, it is something I've experienced now with multiple video games: I pay for a game during its infancy which then becomes free-to-play and forces other income streams upon me. Today I'm no longer confident that a game I buy will be playable in the same form 10 or 20 years down the line. Meanwhile, the only thing stopping me from playing old consoles and handhelds is the odd dead-but-replaceable CMOS battery or the odd dry-but-fixable solder joint. It really has reduced my interest in them as a whole - not that the multi billion dollar industry will miss me.

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.

The first post from Wired[1] about Instagram refers to it as a free app. I could see OP "misremembering" buying Instagram.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2010/10/instagram-for-iphone-like-a-lo...

Maybe confused with Whatsapp? A used to be paid (is it now?) app bought by Facebook?

I'm just adding one drop to the ocean of social-network quitters. Last year about the same time in November, I left Facebook for good. Life is so much better without it. Less stress, less stupid media, less time spent mindless scrolling.

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.

Well I for one enjoy being on Tumblr. I curate the content I want to see by choosing who I follow, and (hopefully permanently), its timeline is ordered chronologically. The mobile clients are certainly terrible, and it's full of hiccups, but it's the only social media I enjoy browsing these days.

I haven't used Facebook in well over a decade and I'm not even 25 years old yet. I don't think I missed out on much. (Though Facebook tried to get me back in not too long ago by claiming somebody was hacking my account which I had deleted... they also demanded a passport)

Perhaps you didn't delete the account, but just deactivated.

Either way, it's definitely deleted now. I don't have much use for that website.

I think it all comes down to manipulation and usurping too much power over public and private opinion, it's applicable to every mentioned company. If you're not paying for the product - you're the product. If some people prefer to being played, it's their choice.

> "Mandatory non-linear curation of user contributed content."

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 think there is something to this nonlinear curation business... Maybe there's room for a for-pay social network that treats attention as rivalrous resource.

Although I could semi understand that rant, I didn't understand the rest of the guy's blog posts. At all. What is he going on about in that blog?

We're definitely in a web hangover that will probably affect more people in the coming years

pure vitriol


A+ on critiquing social media, but I have bad news for you: provincialism is a normal facet of culture because humans are shallow.

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 disagree with mostly everything here, which surprises me since I'm usually in line with most highly voted opinion pieces on here. I'd like to say something in particular about Facebook. I maintain a strict rule of only being friends with people I care about. It allows me to keep up with my family and friends, discuss local community events and news, and keep up with the local music scene. My belief is that a lot of people hate Facebook because they don't really like the people in their life. It makes me happy seeing updates from my community and family on a daily basis. Yes, Facebook is a tech company with the intention of making money off its users, but that's the nature of the game, I don't feel this is implicitly evil. It seems like people obsess about the negative of everything these days. I choose to focus on the positive and refuse to harbor such negative feelings as the author of this post does. The world is both a horror and dream, your experience and perspective collapses that duality. Be positive. Focus on the love, not hate. Bias the collapse towards a dream.

N of 1 here but I am in the category of people who hate Facebook (been off for a year) and very much miss the pictures, invites, and updates from people I love. When I used FB, I unfollowed/unfriended folks I didn't care about, really curated the experience as best as I could. I truly miss the interactions with people.

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!

I'm not trying to advocate staying on these platforms if they don't work for you. I'm mainly trying to say if it doesn't work for you, just move on. I'm saying don't linger on past abusive relationships, find something better and don't harbor the negativity from the past. I know what I said is very naive and has plenty of holes in it, but I was taken aback by the negativity of this post and responded with the inverse.

I agree that too much negativity is unhealthy and makes living needlessly less enjoyable, but what you're advocating here is willful ignorance. Ignoring bad aspects of certain services or people does not make them magically disappear; it's a short-term solution at best. By refusing to face the issues right now, you make them harder or downright impossible to solve later, or even cause more serious problems. And Facebook's data collection and gamification of social interactions is one such issue.

I can't fight every battle in the world. And it's not ignorance. I'm aware of some dubious practices, but almost everything has this duality. I'm sure you have some electronics made by low wage Chinese workers. Do you fight that battle? My statement is more about being a happy person than ignorance. And in my view, if you are happy, you are productive and creative, which is good for society and the people in your life. We must ignore many injustices and negativity in the world, because everything in our lives are riddled with it. Thus, I'm aware of my selective attention, and I do so because I wish to be the best person I can be for myself and my community.

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.

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