Thursday, June 10, 2010

How Do I Hate Thee, Google? Let Me Count the Ways

I'm getting a bit tired of being thwarted by Google this past week every time I sit down to work on my regular posts. I've been a (relatively) lifelong supporter of Google and I consider their search engine to be by far the best one around. I was one of the first adopters of the Google search engine and was using it when no one else had even heard of it.

So why has Google been trying to torture me over the last year? Have I done something to offend them? That stupid mandatory background image that comes up on their search page was the last straw that made me type up this post. Here's a Google Help Forum thread showing what a lot of other unhappy campers are saying in their complaints. (You'll need to check out the latest posts.)

It all started about a year ago when I started noticing nagging problems in the Google Blogger platform that just wouldn't go away. I've used Blogger for this blog and other blogs for the last four years or so, and for the most part I've had few complaints. It's free and I understand I get what I pay for. Little bugs would crop up from time to time, but they would always go away within a few days even if I didn't bother to leave a message in their Help forum. But now, problems either don't go away or they just keep coming back.

Here's a list of complaints that I can recall in my current sleep-deprived state.

Search Feature within Blogger/Blogspot. That silly search engine feature at the top of my Blogspot page is almost completely worthless. I can't remember the last time I could find anything in my blog from the search result. I'm better off going into the Google main search engine, and even then it's iffy because I'm finding that some of my older blog posts don't show up in the search results even when I cut and paste key portions of my text. I have to totally rely on my post tags, which doesn't always work since the key word(s) I'm looking for aren't necessarily associated with the post tags. In my prior blogs, the search feature worked just fine.

Updated Editor. Last November I started using the "Updated Editor" feature, which was a new feature at the time. To be honest, I can't even remember what made the "Updated Editor" better than the standard editor. I used if for a few days, then, BLAMMO, I started having all sorts of problems, not the least of which included the fact that it seemed like I lost all control over the appearance of my blog posts. Text started showing up in different fonts and sizes, the spacing went all wacko bizarro, I suffered the complete loss of the Copy and Paste functions, etc. I switched back to Standard editor and eventually my problems started to drift away. However, one problem that never resolved itself was the Copy and Paste functions as described below.

Copy and Paste. Blogger has two ways for us to type our posts: the "Edit Html" mode and the "Compose" mode. The "Compose" mode is the de facto "HTML for Dummies" mode. I fully admit I'm one of those dummies and I use the "Compose" mode almost exclusively.

I follow the kaizen approach to editing, meaning, I'm never happy with my writing and I'm continuously trying to improve my posts. As such, I only stop editing one of my posts when I stop looking at it. A key part of my editing process is that I always find mistakes when I move my draft from one platform to the next. For example, if I email a post to Blogger or move it in from an HTML editor (which I rarely do), or when I look at the Preview mode before publishing, and even after publishing and I'm looking at it as a completed blog post, I always notice errors or see the need to make improvements within every step of the process. The ability to copy and paste text is a crucial part of the editing process for me.

I can no longer copy and paste in the "Compose" mode, which all started when I foolishly (and briefly) switched to the Updated Editor back in November of last year. (Actually, copying is no problem - pasting is the big pain in the butt). I honestly don't know if my temporary switch to the Updated Editor is the cause of my current problems, but it's as good as any other cause and effect idea I can come up with. When I have to paste text, I have to switch to the "Edit Html" mode and scroll through all of the code and other weird spacings in order to find the exact spot I want to paste the text into. Bloggers know that the text looks completely different in the "Edit Html" mode than it does in the more finalized "Compose" mode, so it's an excruciatingly slow process to find the correct part of the draft to insert the pasted text.

What's even worse is the attitude of Google aficionados that the answer to everything is to compose everything from an HTML editor and export it into Blogger. That ranks right up with the guy in Spinal Tap who comes up with the brilliant idea to change the choreography so the dancing dwarfs won't trod upon the undersized Stonehenge monument.

Google and AT&T Midwest USA DSL Customers. In both March and May of this year, there were server problems associated with AT&T DSL customers in the Midwest. We could only sporadically access Google pages, YouTube, Blogger pages or other pages that had Google pawprints on them. Seeing as how Google ads appear everywhere, you can imagine the scope of the problem. Who knows if it was a Google problem or an AT&T problem, but these were added headaches.

Comments. I've noticed reader comments sporadically appearing and disappearing from my blog over the last two months. Sometimes the comments will only appear if they are accessed a certain way. For example, the comments will appear if you're looking at my homepage, but they won't appear if you look directly at the archived page. As far as I know, the comments will always correctly appear after a day or so, but it's tough when a reader leaves a comment, then checks back the next day for a possible reply and doesn't even see the comment that he or she left.

Blogger Outage. The Blogger platform was completely unavailable earlier this week for large numbers of users. That meant we couldn't compose, edit, review comments or do anything remotely pertaining to administering our blogs. Google tried to introduce new features without announcing them ahead of time, and everything backfired tremendously when Blogger crashed and burned. Blogger came back only after Google deleted the new features.

Google Background Image - Search Engine Homepage. I hated it several months ago when, for whatever reason, the top menu bar started taking forever to load. Now I have to wait forever for the new Google background image to load. It's like the awful anticipation of sitting there waiting for your nemesis to slap you in the face. As far as I know, there's no way to switch back to the oldie-but-goody clean white background.

Why Don't I Stop Complaining and Switch to Something Else? I would if I could! The problem is that I've never found any alternatives that came remotely close to equalling the quality, ease of use and other great features associated with Google and Blogger/Blogspot. Any suggestions will be helpful.

For the life of me I can't imagine why Google is taking the best features of their products and distorting them into unrecognizable monsters.

Update: Disappearing Edits. AHA! I just thought of one more thing. About a week ago, my edits weren't being saved. If I made some changes to my draft, saved them, then went back to my draft a few hours later or the next day, I found that the edits had disappeared and my draft had reverted back to an earlier version. I then had to make my changes all over again. I know I can copy my draft to another platform, but again, that's another unnecessary added step. Thankfully, the problem went away after a few days.

Another Update: Apparently we'll only be force-fed the Google background images for 24 hours. Here's information on how we can supposedly make our day more bearable.

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