Then we all turned around and went back into our offices to check HN to see if it was just us.
Very funny that everyone reading this did something similar. 84 points in 4 minutes.
Understanding that is useful when comparing products using reviews.
For a time, Target used Amazon's website code. Here is what they found. People leave reviews of books that they like. People only bother reviewing microwave machines when they didn't work.
This meant that Amazon's code didn't work out as well for Target as it did for Amazon...
On the other hand, you can't trust expert reviews either. The experts spend too little time with each product to form an actual opinion. They often form their opinions based on some very shallow factors. A canonical example of this is mobile phone reviews by sites like Engadget or Gizmodo. They review so many phones that they can spend only a few days with each.
Edit: one of the worst things for this is reviews of hard drives. While there certainly are hard numbers to go off, there are also lots of opinions: "Well I've owned 6 Seagate drives over the past 4 years, and they all ended up dead. Seagate products are crap!" That does not mean that all Seagate drives are crap, maybe just laptop ones. Or maybe your controller is bad and you keep attaching good drives to it. Or maybe you keep sticking these drives into a case with poor ventilation. On top of that your sample size is too small.
Start with the premise that the person you most want to give you advice is someone who is passionate about a topic or at least has done a lot research on it. If you ask them for advice, first they'll give you an overview, which hopefully includes what attributes you should be thinking about. Then they'll recommend a small number of models to consider, based on what you seem to be interested in. If you're doing this with other people around, perhaps a few other people will pipe in with suggestions.
So - for example - if you're looking for 3-4 player board games more interesting than Sorry and Monopoly - so interesting that they have a decent chance of getting your friends and/or family members more into gaming - I prepared a guide on our site that does just that:
(Note: site styling is incomplete - we're not quite ready to launch)
The essential idea is that if you narrow a topic down enough (i.e. 7200 RPM HDDs that are very quiet and can easily survive a several foot drop onto a hard floor), there's probably somebody out there who's taken a great interest in that narrow niche and can write about it very well.
On the other hand, it's hard to write about the too-broad hard drive category as a whole, and it's also difficult to talk about one hard drive with little context.
The original post is sometimes just kindling for other discussions. What can you really say about gmail being down that is that interesting? (That is a question....)
Then there's also the issue of reviews with an "agenda" - self-explanatory, no need for me to say more.
One thing that seems to work is to see someone I know using a gadget, to actually see that gadget being used, and talk to that individual briefly about the gadget. The info I get this way seems quite a bit more trustworthy than online reviews. Of course, this could also be an artifact of the way we form opinions.
Another empirical observation: on Amazon, a significant amount of negative reviews is typically an indication of a real issue. But the absence of negative reviews doesn't say much. Positive reviews do not appear to be quite as relevant-information-rich, unless there's an extremely large amount of them.
A lot of people got angry at the time, and publicly declared they wouldn't review any more. But that's not really a big loss. Their reviews might be the most qualified out there, but as long as they were anonymous I would be unable to put them in context, and they would be of very limited value to me.
I know there are lots of other reasons, but I believe what I stated above to be main reasons that outline Google's long term strategic plan. Keep driving ad click through rates up by showing more and more custom ads to everyone.
I don't trust good restaurant reviews, and only trust bad ones if they cite specific issues, like using wrong ingredients, etc. I trust my friends and family when they say a place is good or bad much more because I know their tastes and I can ask followup questions.
For electronics, I pretty much don't trust anyone with anything unless something is backed by the manufacturer. I only trust Apple products because of Apple Care. Everyone has had a bad experience with a laptop, a phone, a tablet, a mouse, a USB cable, etc. It's not worth listening to most times since it's usually a horror story from 10 years ago about a company that who's had their entire manufacturing line re-tooled since.
On Amazon for a generic product, the biggest indication to me is if there are lots of reviews. That means lots of people own the product. If most of the reviews are one star, it's a crappy product. If not, it could be good or bad and I personally find very little correlation between the way I perceive a product and its Amazon reviews.
This can provide its own bias. For instance, your average film critic has seen so many versions of stupid action movie that they find those movies pretty tiresome.
My favorite reviews are currently from America's Test Kitchen. Their equipment reviews are especially insightful and well written to provide a thorough expert opinion on products. Wonderfully, they've found a business model that allows for their independence.
"Star ratings are completely screwed"
"Long written reviews "...are also extremely subjective."
Totally agree. Here is my analysis and resolution: http://bit.ly/LRSdkJ or
If you want to fix this with me drop me a note. I have an idea, a design and a viable business model. :)
> For a time, Target used Amazon's website code.
It strikes me as awfully pessimistic to immediately assume someone's clicking their mouse thinking "Haha, Gmail is down! Take THAT Google! >upvote<" when the result is very real service disruption for a lot of people.
"This is your pilot speaking. The engines are currently not on fire and are still attached to the plane. That is all."
Also known as the 3/11 rule. On average people tell 3 others when they have had positive experience. And on average they tell 11 others when they have a negative experience. [proper citation appreciated]
Add the effect of internet, and multiply by Google effect. More recent posts are given higher relevance, and of course more frequent occurrences are given higher relevance.
News agencies and publishers have known this for ages - after all, there's no news like bad news.
Every productguy/developer should know this. :)
Everyone burst into laughter. They had been talking about it for minutes.
I also highly recommend Leechblock  for Firefox. On my work machine, I have it set to give me an N second delay when visiting a long list of fun sites. As I watch the N seconds tick down, that's enough time for me to ask myself, "Do I really need to look at Facebook now?" Interestingly, N appears to be somewhat variable depending on circumstance. 10 seconds is enough normally, but when I'm not getting enough exercise or am dealing with work I don't want to do, N goes higher.
I also am currently loving Kanban Flow . It's a Kanban board that has a built-in Pomodoro timer. (Briefly, the Pomodoro method involves working in 30-minute blocks with a mandatory 5-minute break. At the end it asks you if you've been focused; if you are, you get credit for the time.
 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/leechblock/  http://kanbanflow.com/
Note: When I was writing this comment and probably unintentionally DDOSing the Gmail servers together with who knows how many people by pressing F5, it came back to life.
Then I realized I probably broke Google by dragging their folder from clients to clients/retired.
Sorry about that.
Usually you would expect "not reachable" or something similar. It is like server is returning error msg to client that service is down.
Temporary Error (500)
We’re sorry, but your Gmail account is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest trying again in a few minutes. You can view the Apps Status Dashboard for the current status of the service.
Hide Detailed Technical Info
Numeric Code: 93
I suppose that the logic is "hey, I wonder if it's just us... surely someone on HN will complain the instant that things go south, better check there first."
Checking twitter never occurs to me...
Someone asked on IRC, I checked - it was down - then I was, It got to be on HN
For example, when there were coinbase issues, people wouldn't get responses for weeks. However, once a post about the delays hit the front page, the founders finally responded.
So no, I'm not surprised this happened and I wouldn't be surprised to see a swift response
My summary: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6932224
The most I could see is some people from Google commenting here to give some slightly more technical than average canned response in order to flatter potential recruits. (And even that is so unlikely that I wouldn't assume any Google employees commenting here are doing that unless they gave the game away somehow.)
Would have to have some statistics to back up that "about us" though, right?
Although I have some gmail accounts for various purposes main mail is actually non gmail. I just happened to browse by and see the link. The question is why did I care to click through? I guess because I was curious what others would say about this or what they knew about it. Not that it mattered to me since as I said it's not my main email source. So what we have is really the same curiosity of when there is a car crash and you end up with a "gaper" delay.
How much would someone have to pay you to never again recover your gMail account? I would demand just an absurd payout to willingly walk away right now, with all those contacts, messages, unread e-mails, organization, etc...
Scary how much faith we put in this free service.
Most of humanity has constantly been forgetting most of the conversation they've had with their loved ones. Maybe it is not reasonable to try to hold on to the literal incarnation of daily banalities.
It's like an extension of everyone photographing every single moment of their life just because they can. Are you really going to look back over the chat log for naming your dog?
Chat history is useful for me if I was talking to a friend about a technical problem and want to review the conclusion or possible link. I've never personally delved into chat history for any other reason (perhaps a funny photo link). I've had some hilariously fun conversations on chat, but never felt the desire to relive them. I guess I'm saying if you don't actually revisit your chat history, there's really no need to feel so attached.
On a more serious note, I also think chat logs and email are important, but I can't understand why people trust all that stuff to a third party? (I do understand why people give up any idea of privacy by giving a third party access to it, I just don't understand why the let that party have what amounts to all the copies and/or use as system that while it can be backed up, can't be replicated (If you copy your gmail via imap, you still loose something wrt. organization -- you won't be (easily) able to resume your workflow without gmail -- in contrast if you use free software you will at least have the option of hosting everything yourself in an equivalent manner).
We should be downloading our mailbox with our contacts on a regular basis. I'm guilty for not doing this, but seems like an area that can use a SaaS.
But I'm pretty sure that in the vast majority of outages you'll suffer with gmail you won't have the time to recover you're backup before the service is back up.
That said, you should definitely do backups. It's just that it wouldn't have helped in this case.
One day I'll have the time to write that script manually
But I learned to own my data where it matters and not sweat the rest ages ago. (Stopped compulsively "hoarding")
I use google apps for email, and it's almost impossible to backup all the mails..
is adequate for me. What's so devastatingly wrong about that feature that makes it "almost impossible" to use?
I (almost ) never use my actual Gmail address.
 The only time I use it is for Google services (i.e. Adsense) that require a Gmail account.
While Gmail was down I couldn't view or edit documents in Drive.
And I also lost control of my Google Compute Engine instances, apparently since the gcutil application couldn't authenticate with my Google account.
That only applies if loss of data/access to data is a greater problem for you than exposure of the data. Spreading it into multiple locations/services gives more choices for an attacker to breach to expose it and they only need to get into one of them.
If you have six and one gets hacked, the other five are still secure. If you use the same site for everything, that probably increases the risk of being hacked (because a single site gives your activity more exposure), and when you are hacked, you lose all your data, not just 1/6th.
Most comparative reviews find Gmail slightly better, but there's very little in it.
I've tried for days to login to Outlook.com, and verification text messages aren't coming through.
I finally had to start the email recovery procedure, which requires a mandatory 30 day waiting period. Sigh.
Install a desktop client and download all your Gmail using IMAP. You now have an on-site backup, and you can use your client to send emails via Outlook.com.
It's not hard. Anybody could do this.
I also like that I have the option to easily switch to another front end if gmail gets too annoying or NSA-snoopy.
And please note that Gmail is not free for everyone, there are many Google Apps users.
All in I'd probably let it go for a couple hundred bucks.
Joking aside: what happens when companies that are sitting on huge chunks of extremely private data change owners and the new owners are unburdened by conscience?
They called customer service and were informed that Google has no obligation to be dependable since it's a free service.
I don't think anyone's noticed yet.
I can imagine a few reasons why there currently isn't an alternative, like network effects stemming from your contact list, or the fact that you'd have to change your email address everywhere and forward from your gmail account. But what are the real reasons?
- The search is very good, even searches within attachments.
- You can have large attachments.
- Doesn't run out of space and is free.
- Spam detection is flawless. I've rarely had anything important fall into spam. Alternatives like spambayes are not nearly as good.
- The threading is excellent. Most competing products suck at this.
- The keyboard shortcuts are comprehensive and save me tons of time. Most competing products suck at this.
- Labels and filters are super powerful and save me tons of time. Most competing products suck at this.
I don't like any of the non-webmail alternatives, simply because they are not webmail, and you can't get to them from everywhere.
Alternatives seem to be:
- http://openwebmail.org/ (pretty bad)
- http://squirrelmail.org/ (also pretty terrible)
Looks like mailpile is closest to what I want, with a open source and modern python stack, super clean and simple UI, focus on the right features. But it's fairly alpha. On the other hand, they seem to have gotten some 160k of crowdfunding, so the main developers seem dedicated.
Fastmail also seems to be the best non-open alternative around, imho.
Somewhat disappointed that mailpile seems to have reinvented the wheel multiple times by not using an existing web framework / search server.
The problem is that you mention you run your own mail server and even plenty of tech-savvy folks will look at you like you're the Unibomber.
It's not the interface that's hard to replicate, in other words; it's the backend, the service component. This is pretty consistent with the type of "moats" Google has generally built around its properties, they're almost always more about magic on the backend than magic on the front.
Outlook.com's spam filtering is at least as good as Gmail's now, probably better. The only significant difference is that it's much less aggressive. Outlook.com will let two or three spams through where Gmail will put four or five legitimate emails in the spam box.
Since most people probably don't check their Gmail spam boxes regularly, Gmail's spam blocking is actually more dangerous.
To be fair, I get a lot of press releases, newsletters and bulk mailings. But there's really no excuse for Gmail to keep putting emails from, say, EE Press Office in spam when I take them out every time. (My account was an early beta.)
Also they seem to engage in very spammer-friendly activities such as notifying spammers if and when you read their spam email (if images are turned on by default). Soooo, I can't imagine that competing against their spam filtering is as impossible as people tend to believe.
GMail jumped the shark when they forced the new interface on everyone, killing usability in the process. It doesn't deserve my eyeball time any more.
Why is there no alternative webmail of the
caliber of gmail? Is it a difficult problem?
The point of gmail is that they take the configuration and headache of maintaining a mail server away from you. If you're okay with running your own qmail/sendmail, then there are vastly better open source UI options than gmail. Google didn't invent email. They just run some of the world's largest mail servers as a (mostly) free service.
Really? Because I haven't found a web front-end as good. Otherwise I am happy running my own mail server.
Surely the community would expect something closer to 2014's Gmail (which is the product of tens of millions of dollars of engineer-hours, even if you skip all of the advertising-enabling gunk that an open-source clone would surely skip) before a theoretical Gmail clone got any kind of traction.
A clone that approaches "modern" Gmail is absolutely possible, of course. My original "Are you serious?" was just a bit of incredulity aimed at the person who asked "Hey, why isn't anybody on this yet? Is it hard?"
Possible? Yes. Hard? Yes.
> The idea for Gmail was pitched by Rajen Sheth during an interview with Google, and went on to be developed by Paul Buchheit several years before it was announced to the public. Initially the email client was available for use only by Google employees internally. Google announced Gmail to the public on April 1, 2004.
Obviously, MS is no less evil than Google. But they exist.
If you don't want to use a tacky old Hotmail.com domain name, you can also register for an MS account at Live.com or Outlook.com - this gets you a web Outlook account which gives you email, contacts, SkyDrive (photos and docs/spreadsheets/powerpoint/etc) and calendar. And they don't have their own analogue to Plus and they've abandoned their old messaging systems, so the only "social layer" tedium is an optional integrated sidebar for Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter.
It's actually pretty nice. I still use my gmail as my primary because there's not enough reason to switch and I like open-source Android, but MS has built a solid thing there.
There are a handful of alternatives each with their own pros and cons but the key problem is lock in, psychological or technological.
Even if Gmail were down for an hour every day, I'd have to think and work hard to migrate away due to (over)-relying on their service and some of the unique features it has.
Edit: plus, no Google-snooping of course.
I just want to be able to run an email server that has conversation features, contacts, XMPP chat, etc, but isn't Microsoft Exchange
Turns out there are plenty of good open source webmail frameworks: Roundcube, Mailpile, Zimbra and RainLoop are all freely available and ridiculously easy to set up.
The issue is that they're all just front-ends for the horribly complex and difficult to configure backend of a modern email server (SMTP/POP3/IMAP). You can configure them to hook into Google/Yahoo/Other smtp servers, but then why bother — you're back where you started.
I had no understanding of how broken email was until I tried to set up a simple SMTP + IMAP server using postfix + courier.
Imagine that you could still use your email when Gmail goes down, but you would lose a lot of features like autocomplete, search, recommended recipients, etc.
Disclosure: I work for Microsoft (not outlook.com team though).
I use Outlook.com as a backup to Gmail and I use Gmail with my own domain name. I haven't switched, but it wouldn't be a problem if I had to.
Spam filtering works well too.
If the issue persists, please visit the Gmail Help Center »
Numeric Code: 93
Google gets access to the restricted Twitter firehose
For OS X users, CloudPull (payware) is a good solution for a continuous Gmail backup. It's developed by Golden Hill Software:
Edit: back for me in California, too.
It is a firm reminder that Google is not bullet-proof.
West Coast, US.