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This blog has moved (allendowney.blogspot.com)
431 points by mayankkaizen on Sept 27, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 108 comments

This appears to be a common experience. Google has been terrible at communicating reasons for account suspension. Here's a more detailed account on a similar suspension: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/0...

They also aren't granular. So you could lose access to all Google products for violating terms on one of them.

Of all the reasons to avoid Google, this seems to me like the biggest one that ironically is rarely addressed. If a malicious user flags your account as being in violation of Google's ToS, then all of your Google accounts are at risk of being terminated with no appeal process, no information, and no substantiated hope of recovery. And as far as I understand it, that includes the serious possibility of total data loss from all Google services.

Right. It's worse than it used to be too, because of the breadth of their services. Theoretically, one person on YouTube that flags you could cause you to have a useless (or almost useless...minus your data/config) phone, thermostat, Google Home device, etc. Or, you could lose access to, say, your Google Analytics or Adwords account.

or Gmail. From there, control on any online account you have.

Gmail used to be the argument to log in to their services. Now, if you use Gmail, it’s probably better to dodge the other services, by fear of losing Gmail.

To clarify, are you saying that a youtube flag risks the gmail account with the same username OR that a youtube flag risks all gmail accounts that I control?

Here's a guy, who admittedly was doing something really dumb, but managed to get his entire company's email accounts suspended:


So someone does something stupid using a work GSuite email account, gets not just the entire company email suspended, but also any staff member's personal gmail accounts that were linked for password recovery for their work email accounts.

A follow-up post (https://www.reddit.com/r/google/comments/8l231x/google_banne...) seems to indicate that the post you've linked to is most likely a fake TIFU story.

Yeah well, reddit, huh?

On the other hand, that fact that it's not a story that is obviously dismissed as fake says volumes about many many people's shared experience with Google...

"Well, sure, it's fake, but the fact that I believed it sure says something anyway..." is the worst argument.

It is. But if you replace "I" with "a lot of unbiased people" it picks up relevance. Google shutdown/support has been awful in many confirmed ways. And that's even if you're paying them...

It is, but it still has some meaning.

There are some people who if you hear stories of them doing bad things you'll immediately say "Nope. Clearly not true. That's just not how that person behaves." Google _used_ to be one of those. At least in my head (and from the front page of HN this week, it seems for a lot of other people as well).

I lost access to ALL my Google products for half a day for a youtube flag. I regained access to photos / drive / gmail in a matter of hours (that I spent in panic). But it took me over a year and a half to regain access to my youtube account.

AFAIK all accounts that are connected via backup email addresses or similar.

It's potentially worse than this. I've heard rumor that accounts that they suspect to be linked can get included in the dragnet. So even if you are super careful and use a separate google account for youtube with no reference to your personal email account, can get both accounts suspended for unwarrented "copyright violation".

I don't know how much of this is FUD spread by people who don't know any better. But given how much data google collects, I wouldn't bet against it being possible.

>I've heard rumor that accounts that they suspect to be linked can get included in the dragnet.

Some people violated Big G's TOS by buying pixels to resell. All their related accounts were closed.


They keep trying to get me to shop from Google Express, but the nagging uncertainty about what happens to my Gmail account if I have to do a credit card chargeback against a Google service has me avoiding it.

There you go - reason #1 for not using any other Google service ever: "I do not want my Gmail fukced"

And here this is the reason I don't use Gmail.

I've been using Gmail since high school, but I'm definitely thinking that it's time for me to abandon ship and actually get my own damn email.

Use your own email address with Gmail, make regular backups and switch the provider if Gmail locks you out.

I'd like to find a way to backup mails preferably via pop or imap - great if dedup and incremental backup are available. Backing up ~/Library/Mail/V5 doesn't really work as expected. Regular snapshot/dumps are also not very effective.

I've moved to Fastmail in 2015 and I had a long term Gmail account since high school, I've never missed Gmail one bit, I encourage you to do it.

I also moved to Fastmail years ago. I used to think it would be hell to migrate a service as essential as email, but it basically took a repointing of DNS and running Fastmail's importer. It took half an hour and I've been a super happy user ever since, and I couldn't believe how bloated Gmail felt after trying Fastmail.

I use Google for ~15 years now (own domain) and I appreciate the let me use what is today GSuite for free.

Moving to fastmail would be a possibility but they do not have a calendaring system.

They do have one, I can't comment on the quality of it since I never used it (I also never used Google Calendar) but it's there.

Huh? FastMail has had a fully-featured calendar for years.

The thing keeping me from switching away from Gmail is the lack of IMAP IDLE on iOS. I can’t believe Apple still refuses to implement it in 2018...

I see a FastMail app on the App Store but from the screenshots it looks pretty bad (is it just a web view?)

There are other general-purpose mail apps on the app store. I'm partial to outlook.

FastMail supports native iOS mail push notifications for mail.app. That caters my usecase.

Another good reason to drop iOS from your workflow.

I wonder if the new "auto login to Chrome" thing will ever one day lock people out of their web browser with no notice or recourse?

I think these days it's flat our irresponsible to use the free version of Gmail for anything important. Either use paid Google Apps or use Fastmail/similar.

Email is way too important in life to let it be controlled by a company that has proven they couldn't give a shit about their users.

You could leave it at "Google has been terrible at communicating"

This is a lot of the underlying motivation behind the indieweb community, which is growing (and holding an event in NYC this weekend): https://indieweb.org

If it's important to your reputation, professional or otherwise, you should own it. Starting a self-hosted blog is easier than ever to do, and immediately frees you from these kinds of arbitrary actions.

"The IndieWeb is a community of individual personal websites, connected by simple standards, based on the principles of owning your domain, using it as your primary identity, to publish on your own site (optionally syndicate elsewhere), and own your data."

Nice. I really like the idea of a return to more simple, light, people oriented websites. Take a look at this, it was posted some months ago, https://brutalist-web.design/

I host my blog on github pages but I always have that niggling doubt about it.

My main issue with hosting the blog myself is the HN/Reddit hug of death. Does anyone have any experience around this? Do they use a CDN to take some of the weight off?

If you statically host your blog it will not be a problem. One of my blog posts hit ~1000 points on Reddit and 500 on hacker news. This barely moved the needle on CPU and network utilization. I guess even a 5€ droplet will do

I host http://compellingsciencefiction.com statically from an S3 bucket. The thing scales remarkably well, never had a problem during spikes, and costs only a few cents per month.

This is quite cool. I've just (yesterday) started making my own website in a similar vein, I didn't realize there were actual standards. I will try to implement them :)

If you want to take a look (still super early stage):


Thanks for your comment. I’m in NYC and I didn’t realize there was gonna be an event tomorrow. I’ve RSVPed yes and looking forward to checking it out!

Ironically, the event is sponsored by Google (amongst others).

Posting something on Google+ can be a reason for account suspension? Glad I never used that.

By the way what an interesting atmosphere for Google on their 20th birthday.

Google has been uhm celebrated for about a week on the first HN page for one reason or another.

The paranoiac in me is pondering that Google would probably have wanted to do something fun and goodwill-promoting toward their brand on their 20th birthday... and, if I was a rival to Google, I would do everything I could (e.g. astroturfing) to generate as much temporary resentment toward Google as I could, to make running that PR campaign look like a bad idea.

Google's competition didn't force them to implement cross-service banning.

Ok but the present article is by Allen Downey, a well-known figure here and an academic. I don't think we could suggest he is part of astro-turfing.

I was actually wondering if the ease of regaining access to his account was because he was Allen Downey.

I wonder if Google maintains a do not f* with list.

I think it's more a matter of "if you're famous enough to kick up a stink, they'll hear it and fix things".

I've had to rebuild my entire online presence due to Google banning my initial account for seemingly no reason at all, and I had no way to get in contact with them and not enough followers to kick up a stink.

I now basically don't use any Google services other than a Gmail account for signing up to spammy sites, and won't trust them again no matter how convincing they are.

This week doesn't really stand out to me. It seems like Google has been getting nothing but negative news on HN for months.

>seems like Google has been getting nothing but NEGATIVE news on HN for months.

Go, flutter, their new speech api have had very positive vibes on HN.

The less positive comments have been worries about Google's long term commitment.

These worries are legitimate concerns.

This is probably due to a difference in what we click on and find memorable. My view of Google from HN the past few months is all about privacy concerns, arbitrary punishments against innocent users, and poor customer service.

> ... do something fun and goodwill-promoting toward their brand on their 20th birthday...

And I know what they decided on: free hidden advertising for every competitor!

Look how mant people went to Firefox and Vivaldi this week and how many went to Bing, Duckduckgo or Qwant.

Any numbers on this?

Fewer people than switched off of those services to Chrome and Google, leading to a net loss but a slower-than-usual one?

I'll throw in my recommendation for Ghost if others also want to move their blog to "a site they control and a company they pay":


They provide paid hosted services, or you can self-host it as it's free and open source (https://github.com/TryGhost/Ghost). Far better than wordpress. You write posts in Markdown. Editor is really nice.

Example blogs:




will throw mine in if people want another example. HTTPS://kolemcrae.com for personal site, HTTPS://kolemcrae.com/thoughts for the blog like experience, though I don't call it a blog.

I moved my clients off of Blogger about eight years ago when some of their blogs randomly disappeared.

Searching the internet turned up dozens and dozens of similar stories of Blogger-hosted blogs vanishing with no trace, no warning, no notification, and no recourse.

>Blogger-hosted blogs vanishing with no trace, no warning, no notification, and no recourse.

Happened to me more than ten years ago. Had a blog on blogger. Wrote completely original stuff - thoughts, rants, one or two tutorials and had a small but growing following.

Then I went to back to college and stayed completely offline for a semester. On getting home, my blog was closed.

Google gave zero explanations why. Just an error message that said the blog was closed and would be unavailable for further use.

Not only that, my Gmail account was blocked too.

Do not feed other companies with your work. Capitalize on your work yourself: keep it independent, host it yourself, use your own domain. It's not expensive and it isn't difficult.

And above all, do not feed Facebook. I sometimes want to cry when I see how much effort people put into Facebook posts that live for a week or two and then disappear in a black hole forever.

It’s not difficult to someone who has already done the work to understand all the technologies involved. But it’s easy to forget how obscure are all these things to beginers, and how little regular users understand the technologies that underpin the internet they use every day.

You have to understand DNS entries, setting up a server (most linux boxes are CLI only), installing apache, setting up a website in apache, setting up TLS, setting up a way to upload your website, creating your website (minimum html/css, probably some javascript, or learning how to install and configure worldpress). Even if you go the route of a managed hosting you still need to worry about half of those steps.

And between DNS and hosting, it’s not that cheap either.

I just have a script that takes a backup of my whole Google account every week.

I've never been suspended, but if I were, I would be able to recreate most of my digital life from that backup, and either create a new Google account or move my business elsewhere.

Nobody I've met has ever had their main Google account permanently suspended. There are stories of it online, but I suspect it might be a vocal tiny minority (I'd be pretty vocal if I lost my online life too!). I suspect most of that tiny minority are either doing really evil things, or have malware on their machines doing really evil things with their login.

I suspect you are victim of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

"They need to do something evil to be suspended". They need not.

Do you do this incrementally? Or just grab everything every time? If the former, I'd be interested to hear how you go about it :-)

edit: actually, scratch the 'if', I'd be interested to hear the rough shape of your script anyway!

It just uses selenium to automate clicking on https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout

And then when the promised email arrives I have a google docs script (pretty much googles copy of VBScript macros, but they can be run as a cronjob and easily search and access your email) which copies the data to my VPS and deletes the old copy of the data and the email.

And perhaps no one you know has been handicaped for life in a terrible accident. That’s no reason for not buying insurance. I backup all my local data offsite against a risk of my flat burning down. It’s a very remote possibility, it barely happens to anyone,... well it happened to me a few years ago!

I would love to see that script if you don't mind. Thank you. :)

Where are you going to recreate your google docs?

I have a similar script. It downloads my google docs in Word and Excel formats.

Not sure what you're using, but for anyone else looking, I've been using this - https://github.com/odeke-em/drive - to do the same

I'm using something I hand-wrote, but thanks for the pointer.

Wow, someone saying nice things about Dreamhost. A rare thing to see.

I've had several things hosted on Dreamhost for almost 20 years now, and they have been pretty great.

They're alright for a static site, however they fall into the trap most shared hosts fall into 'Unlimited' this and that which really means 'Please don't use a bunch or we'll suspend your account'.

Hopefully he has a better experience than I've had with them however if he gets traffic in big ways (say like front page of Reddit or HN) he might be in for a shock when they terminate service and try to push him to a higher plan.

Their wordpress plan is super expensive. They have you pay per visitor, I recall looking into it some time ago for my personal blog and it was beyond $100 per month to support enough visitors for the HN front page.

Yeah, that's mostly because wordpress is a dog. It really uses a lot of resources to serve the smallest of content. We use a CDN, a caching layer, and object caching in both wordpress and php, to make our site perform even half-way decently.

It's mostly static and cached content. Wordpress.com can serve orders of magnitude more traffic for free. Dreampress price is definitely not justified by the costs of resources.

Eh, I've had a dreamhost account for like 10 years and never really had any complaints.

And he didn’t even provide an affiliate link! I’m impressed.

Dreamhost has been the most reliable hosting provider I've ever worked with.

Are there Dreamhost horror stories? I've been using them for a while and while they are a little on the pricey side, the product has been as advertised, with very good support on the rare times I had problems.

There was a notable incident years ago when they messed up a billing script and precharged a year's service to all their customers, to the tune of $7.5 million. I'm not sure I've heard any horror stories since then behind the usual shared hosting things.


To be fair I contacted them after this incident because exchange rate shifts plus fees meant I lost money even after they unwound their transaction, and they immediately credited me the difference rounded up. No "please send us proof" no blaming someone else. Just money in the bank immediately.

So whatever else somebody at Dreamhost understands that "sorry" is not just a magic word that makes things OK by itself.

Been their customer since about 2007-8 or so, had 1 problem I reported once and they fixed it immediately.

Only scummy thing I have seen them involved with is cloudatcost which I heard they bankrolled.

I've heard only good things. Certainly never noticed an atmosphere of complaints about them. And I'm not even a customer.

I've been hosting on Dreamhost since 2004 and love them.

The article posted on G+ is this one I believe: https://allendowney.blogspot.com/2018/09/two-hour-marathon-i...

The only thing I could see violating TOS would be a misinterpretation of this proposition:

> Note that this model is based on data from races.

Where "races" would be taken for "Human races" rather than "Sport races" (as intended).

To be honest the fear of losing my whole blog or content (which happened couple of times) was one of the reasons I made https://www.gonevis.com, so I could write and share my stuff and be a place for other people as well.

I do host my own email server as well, but still have some dependency on GMail.

I use google docs, but stuff that I don't care if they get vanished.

They suspended my google adwords and even though I sent emails and try to talk to them, follow every step of their guidelines, none of them helped, talking with Google support is like talking to robots, I tell them my account is suspended and ect they would respond "yes your account is suspend", such a waste of time.

Well, I try to not put important stuff online or at hands of some people who don't communicate and reason the suspension of my account.

It boggles my mind why people would link their accounts.

Use more baskets for your eggs, not larger ones.

I've heard horror stories of accounts ending up implicitly linked (as in when account X gets banned, accounts Y and Z do as well because Google has determined that they are all controlled by the same person).

To be fair, in all the stories I've heard, Google was correct about the linkage, but it means that one person using 3 accounts gets less benefit from not linking them than one might think.

Centralized hosting is bad for both parties, the service provider because they have some responsibility for the content, and the author risking false positive take-downs. Good news is that you can get 1 TB bandwidth for $1 /month, so hosting it yourself is both fun and cheap.

Anyone have a link to the article the OP posted on G+ to get the account suspension?

Someone has posted the probable link elsewhere in the comment thread.

Losing my Google account would probably destroy my life, I'm in so deep switching would be extremely difficult

Then get out now before you potentially lose it all. It's not actually that difficult. I still use Google services on a daily basis (Android phone, Google Maps, Music, etc), but have migrated off anything that I can't live without (e.g. Gmail, Calendar, Contacts -> Fastmail. Google Drive -> Syncthing.)

Google, to their credit, makes it very easy to download all your data: https://takeout.google.com

I had close to a decade of data on Gmail. I created a new email address on my own domain using Fastmail and set a vacation responder on my Gmail notifying people of my new address. I changed my email address on all my online accounts to my new address, and after probably six months or so took the plunge, downloaded all my Gmail data for archival and deleted my Gmail.

It was remarkably painless, and there are two tidbits that make it even easier: 1) You can delete your Gmail while keeping your Google account, and you can even use your new email address as your username for your existing Google account, so that things like Google Docs sharing still work seamlessly. 2) You don't lose your Gmail address, and you can re-enable it at any time (just in case you discover a critical account or something that you forgot to switch over).

Start identifying components you can move, and start moving them. Start backing up your data. Tackle this a bit at a time.

If Gmail is your main concern, try this:

Forward all emails to your new email address and reply from the new one.

Also use your email signature as an ad for your new email. Like this, "Please send all emails to my new email new@email"

Lastly, you can bcc your entire contacts - 20-40 per day informing them of your new email.

Hope this helps.

Timely for me, as I have been noodling over the last few months about whether to keep my personal site. Fwiw since hosting has been mentioned I'll give a shoutout to rochen.com. They've been hosting my site on a vps for years, good pricing and awesome service.

Your domain may be canceled without even a notice any day. Unless you use a very expensive domain registrar like MarkMonitor.

"Zoho.com CEO says domain with 40M users suspended for abuse complaint" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18059792

I generate static HTML pages with hakyll (Jekyll in Haskell) with DO. Couldn't be happier.

Personally I left GMail & others Google services for similar reasons: I need my data in my hand, I know they are substantially public but at least I can own them locally.

This is why I have a handful of separate Google accounts for different things. And I even seldom use those.

Depending on how well you separate them, they might link them together.

Dreamhost is a gamble. Be careful, there are far better hosts.

huh...I have officially seen enough of these that I am also going to migrate away from Google....like today.

It's understandable to want your own domain and control of your site. Wordpress is a good option but a self-hosted installation is not as reliable as using something like Blogger. With proper caching it should be able to handle a large number of visitors, but there's still security issues and the like that can affect it.

Scaling a blog is not a big of an issue these days. Even with Wordpress, caching and other optimizations should not be a hassle. There are also many other alternatives in the static-site realm.

Blogger is not as good an option as it was before. It was an attractive buy for google at the time of the acquisition. But now they have stopped using it even for their own blogs. I wouldn't be surprised if Google decides to shut down blogger in the near future.

I have no idea who this person is, nor do I have much to add about the Google+ thing (person uses Google services, get completely fucked over for literally no reason, is surprised, this is not a remotely new narrative, just standard Google user problems).

The new site has TLS (partially) configured, but doesn't upgrade users to it, making it effectively non-existent. I'm not sure if moving off of Google services to an insecure site for something like a blog is better or worse.

Probably better, as it provides a path forward for moving to a secure, de-Googled platform

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