There's No Avoiding Google+
January 2, 2013 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Google is challenging Facebook by using a controversial tactic: requiring people to use the Google+ social network. The result is that people who create an account to use Gmail, YouTube and other Google services—including the Zagat restaurant-review website—are also being set up with public Google+ pages that can be viewed by anyone online. ... The impetus comes from the top. Google Chief Executive Larry Page has sought more aggressive measures to get people to use Google+, two people familiar with the matter say. ... Some users of Google's services are startled to learn how far the integration can reach.
There's No Avoiding Google+ from the Wall Street Journal
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear (200 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent, soon I will have more than just my nerdy comp sci degree friends on G+.
posted by Joe Chip at 9:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


In Soviet Russia, Google+ adds you.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 9:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


I mean, Google+ is a surprisingly decent product, but it's just a barren wasteland... so this is one way of solving that problem, I suppose.
posted by disillusioned at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some users of Google's services are startled to learn how far the integration can reach.

...For example, I just did a GIS and was surprised to see a handful of a friend's Picasa pictures show up at the top of my results. That's pretty irritating, actually.
posted by maryr at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


In United Interwebs of America, Google+ adds you.
posted by mazola at 9:35 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, this is some bullshit right here.
posted by tzikeh at 9:36 PM on January 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


I just added myself so I could put the least amount of information up. Birthday was filled in, name was filled in (it's my personal domain, so pretty easy for Google algorithms to puzzle out), but gender wasn't.

I sure do hope that Google+ doesn't start putting my search results up for people to see.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It feels like it's only a matter of time before existing Google users will be required to have Google+ accounts. I’ve used Gmail forever, but I don’t have a Google+ or Facebook account. I’m of two minds. Getting rid of anonymity should get help to get rid of all of the horrible YouTube comments and help put a stop to online bullying. But at the same time, I hate having other people know exactly what YouTube videos I’ve watched or what I've searched for.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:39 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't learn a new social network. I'm just not that social.
posted by mazola at 9:41 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any recommendations for a drop-in GMail replacement?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:41 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, Google+ is a surprisingly decent product, but it's just a barren wasteland

Which is great, in a way. It's like the idealized fantasy of country living, metaphorically speaking, where you know your neighbors and can visit them but they aren't in your face all the time. In contrast, Facebook is like living in a tenement with paper thin walls with your entire family crammed into one small apartment and you can hear everything everyone is doing all the time no matter how trivial or embarrassing and you're being poked all the time, frequently by the most tangential acquaintances who demand to be let into your apartment or they will take it as the most egregious insult of their lives.
posted by Pyry at 9:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [44 favorites]


This explains why the Google Earth car just drove through my living room.
posted by mannequito at 9:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [45 favorites]


"A Gmail account comes with a built-in Google Account."
posted by Yowser at 9:44 PM on January 2, 2013


Using your internet provider's webmail is often an option.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And to think I said quasi-nice things about them in the Ubuntu mobile phone thread. Sheesh Google.
posted by JHarris at 9:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Define "option."
posted by basicchannel at 9:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Excellent, soon I will have more than just my nerdy comp sci degree friends on G+.

You say that like it's a good thing.
posted by Winnemac at 9:47 PM on January 2, 2013


Getting rid of anonymity should get help to get rid of all of the horrible YouTube comments and help put a stop to online bullying. But at the same time, I hate having other people know exactly what YouTube videos I’ve watched or what I've searched for.

God, how fucking great would that be, if that was the only thing anyone had to worry about.

Here's what Eric Schmidt said about the Google+ "real name" policy.
"If you think about it, the Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real person as opposed to a dog, or a fake person, or a spammer or what have you. [...] If we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them... we could, you know, bill them."
... but for a lot of people, the place the rubber meets the road looks a lot different than Schmidt's safe, privileged little bubble:

CNN, "Bodies hanging from bridge in Mexico are warning to social media users."
"A woman was hogtied and disemboweled, her intestines protruding from three deep cuts on her abdomen. Attackers left her topless, dangling by her feet and hands from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. A bloodied man next to her was hanging by his hands, his right shoulder severed so deeply the bone was visible."

"Signs left near the bodies declared the pair, both apparently in their early 20s, were killed for posting denouncements of drug cartel activities on a social network."
"We could, you know, bill them."
posted by mhoye at 9:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [119 favorites]


I've done my damnednest to avoid Google's overreach in my life. I'm probably failing as far as their data collection is concerned, but I haven't noticed much targeted in my search results and whatnot.

But then, I use their services as little as possible, and only log in while I'm using them and then log out.

I'm sure they've figured out the way around people like me, but I'm happy in my delusion.
posted by hippybear at 9:58 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like infinitewindow, I just created an account so that I could turn off everything turn-off-able. It galls me that I had to do that. I've been using Google Mail with no complaints for years, but maybe it's time to switch to an email provider that isn't turning evil...yet...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:01 PM on January 2, 2013


"A Gmail account comes with a built-in Google Account."

That's not the same as a Google+ account, though. The Google account just means you share a username and login across the different services you use -- for me, it's Gmail, Reader, and Google Docs, er, excuse me, "Drive".

I had a Google+ account briefly, but killed it because I never wanted to visit it and didn't want to have a presence on a thing I never used. I just checked, and I still don't have a Google+ account. It wants me to set one up, but I ain't a-gonna.

If I don't have an account on Google+, what information about me is visible to friends or others? I don't have any friends, that Google knows about.
posted by Fnarf at 10:03 PM on January 2, 2013


Getting rid of anonymity should get help to get rid of all of the horrible YouTube comments and help put a stop to online bullying. But at the same time, I hate having other people know exactly what YouTube videos I’ve watched or what I've searched for.

mhoye: God, how fucking great would that be, if that was the only thing anyone had to worry about.

I agree with you. This will result in a lot more bullying (or worse) for social activists. I've slowly been extracting myself from Google services.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:04 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Both Facebook and Google make the vast bulk of their revenue from selling ads. But Facebook has something Google wants: Facebook can tie people's online activities to their real names, and it also knows who those people's friends are. Marketers say Google has told them that closer integration of Google+ across its many properties will allow Google to obtain this kind of information and target people with more relevant (and therefore, more profitable) ads.

I thought the story was that the low success rate of Facebook ads had shown that mapping the social network actually didn't lead to better targeted-ads, and that the information Google already has about its Gmail users was much more effective.
posted by escabeche at 10:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's more, the whole point of G+ is to be a meld of the good parts of Facebook with the good parts of Twitter -- unlike on Facebook, the people who follow my G+ feed are not people I know or have anything to do with, and I doubt you could learn much about my desired products by knowing their names.
posted by escabeche at 10:07 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I could just directly pay Google whatever aggregate amount of money they make from selling advertisements to me and cut out the marketeer middlemen, and thereby turn off all Google advertising everywhere but more importantly get rid of the conflict of interest inherent in Google's current business model.
posted by Pyry at 10:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [41 favorites]


Google is only offering you a choice now while there is one.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:09 PM on January 2, 2013


Yeah, judging from the ads I see on Facebook the targeting is abysmal, worse than in print in fact -- worse than random chance. It's rare that while leafing through The New Yorker I see an ad that makes me swear out loud (unless it's printed on heavier paper stock than the rest of the magazine); it's almost daily on Facebook. Google? Eh. Inobtrusive ads in search bother me not in the slightest.
posted by Fnarf at 10:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have any friends, that Google knows about.

Sure you do, if you use Gmail. Google knows the difference between a real person and a bot, so every time you send or receive an email from the same person (not to mention mark someone's emails important or unimportant for Priority Inbox), they build a social mesh in the background.

It's how they suggest friends to completely new G+ users.
posted by esoterica at 10:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


What is it with this mythical "camp stove" these markedroids always think I want to shop for, and see those precious shared results for? What if it's fetish porn, or genital wart cream, or political stuff that would get me in trouble at work, or the phone number of the domestic violence hotline?
posted by Fnarf at 10:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


so every time you send or receive an email

I rather doubt that. I don't use Gmail -- I have an account simply for logging into Google services that I do use, because I'm too dumb to set up an account with a different email. The only email that ever comes in is wildly-inaccurate transcribed Google Voice messages, and no messages ever go out of it at all. I don't think I've sent five Gmail messages outbound in however many years.
posted by Fnarf at 10:16 PM on January 2, 2013


Google last month said 235 million people used Google+ features—such as clicking on a "+1" button, similar to Facebook's "Like" button—across Google's sites, up from 150 million in late June.

Yeah, whatever. Notice the "used Google+ features" part. Google's still fudging its definition of "active users," like it was last May when this Fast Company article appeared:

The company has been asked repeatedly for monthly active users, and it's repeatedly denied such requests, essentially calling them irrelevant. The closest we've seen of active usership was when the company explained how many Google+ users were engaging with Google Plus-enhanced or -related products. The problem is that Google Plus-enhanced products include YouTube and Google.com, meaning if you are engaging with basically any Google property (there are 120 Google+ integrations thus far) while signed up with Google+, Google is basically counting this as engagement with Google+, which is incredibly misleading, as some have argued.

Google has continuously fudged its numbers and dodged specifics around Google+, as search guru Danny Sullivan has recorded in his brilliant rundown of Google's lack of transparency on the subject...

There's a simple way to solve this problem: Just provide the number of active monthly users on Google+ (proper). Facebook does it. Google even does it with YouTube, which, as Larry Page boasted recently, has 800 million monthly users. But when I made a request for such figures, Google did not provide them.


It doesn't look like that has changed at all: "235 million people used Google+ features" is not the same as "235 million people logged into Google+ at least once last month," which is how Facebook measures "active users." Google has from the start been fudging the difference between "logged into Google+" and "used one of our other services that has a Google+ button somewhere" and it looks from this article that's still the case. Someone please correct me if I'm misunderstanding.
posted by mediareport at 10:16 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I rather doubt that. I don't use Gmail -- I have an account simply for logging into Google services that I do use, because I'm too dumb to set up an account with a different email.

Did you set up a recovery email address? Do your friends use Gmail? Then Google knows who has emailed you at your non-Gmail address. Remember it's not just about the information that you give them, it's about the information that every other Gmail user gives them too.
posted by esoterica at 10:19 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Do your friends use Gmail?

Exactly one. I can bear it.

To be honest I get only a tiny percentage of my private communications through email anymore. Aside from work. The only thing I ever get is a couple of Ebay notifications I'm too lazy to turn off.

And knowing that I got emailed by Person X once upon a time doesn't exactly compromise my personal security. Yes, they know my name. What of it? If I used Gmail or Google+ more, maybe I'd be more concerned.
posted by Fnarf at 10:26 PM on January 2, 2013


"If you think about it, the Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real person as opposed to a dog, or a fake person, or a spammer or what have you. [...] If we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them... we could, you know, bill them."

Interesting that Eric Schmidt has moved away from behavior modification and on to simply billing. I guess that's what happens when you have to be responsible to shareholders:

"We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about... We can look at bad behavior and modify it."

We got Brazil in bits and bytes, and now the bill's come due. Hope our credit rating holds!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, they know my name. What of it? If I used Gmail or Google+ more, maybe I'd be more concerned.

Then I guess I'm not following what you're concerned about, because G+ can be configured to show nothing more than a name, and in fact if you don't explicitly add anything to it or +1 anything that's all it shows by default. I think the greater concern is that Google likely already has a bigger social mesh database than Facebook does.
posted by esoterica at 10:34 PM on January 2, 2013


Rumor has it that Google is investing in creepy babyface masks to use in its "information extraction" division. I only hope that Michael Palin is one of those they've recruited as an agent.
posted by hippybear at 10:34 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The way to solve this is to deactivate your gmail account. A person announcing this and then mass deactivations would end the practice.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Getting rid of anonymity should get help to get rid of all of the horrible YouTube comments and help put a stop to online bullying.

Ah, but you see, your YouTube profile can have a different handle/nick than the "real name" associated with your G+ account.

I like G+ mostly because it is a better way to manage photos than with Facebook. It also has some great features like hangouts and screensharing. Unfortunately, most of the people I interact with online are on Facebook, although I have made some new friends on G+.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 PM on January 2, 2013


This could easily ruin Google+. I can guarantee the vast majority of users are just going to leave their site totally vacant and unused. Getting spammed with empty accounts will do the exact opposite of helping the service.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:47 PM on January 2, 2013


Forced Google+ "integration" has screwed up Picasa Web Albums for me to the extent that I am going to delete my Google+ account. I don't mind the option to use Google+. I do hate being forced to use it over Google products that do a much better job and are far less intrusive.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Benito.strauss: Fastmail.fm is good.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 10:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I must say I avoid the whole hornet's nest by ignoring it.
posted by mattoxic at 11:02 PM on January 2, 2013


I use all the google services, but I do acknowledge (with a bit of sadness) that it would be foolish to continue to depend on them going forward. I'm just not sure where to go next for each of the services.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 PM on January 2, 2013


Any recommendations for a drop-in GMail replacement?

Though it pains me to say it, outlook.com is pretty good now - I'm evaluating it for a replacement for Google Apps for my Domain (now google have dropped the free version) and it's a big improvement on hotmail. Microsoft have gone to real lengths to make it easy to switch from gmail, including detailed redirect instructions.

Biggest weakness is no IMAP support yet, but it does have activesync which is fairly widely supported.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:14 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have come despise Google almost as much as I despise Facebook. Google does one thing for me, search - and they do it only a little better than other search sites. If I didn't have a serious collection of youtube playlists (all private), I would ignore Google entirely.

Just the other day someone asked me to do a business conference via Google Hangouts. The only way I could do that was to defer to being compelled to using my real name, which would then have applied to all my Google services, by default. What a screwed policy.

There is a crying need for disruption *again* - and, disruption in a way that finds a way to bring back benefits of the Internet that have been lost to bloodsucking leeches like Google, Facebook, etc., with their walled gardens and trying to monetize every blink of our eyes.

How about trying to establish a *relationship* with people that is genuine; that is without motive for cash? Google: "Do no harm"? you assholes!
posted by Vibrissae at 11:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


OK, so I long ago drank the Google kool-aid. I use a variety of Google services, and I've had Gmail for ages and everyone has my address. I also have an Android phone with all the integrated Google services that make an Android phone good to have.

So am I trapped if I want to switch away because of this forced G+ integration? Would I have to find a different email provider and migrate to different equivalent services? Would I - gasp - have to become an iOS user to get the same sort of integration among all the services I use?
posted by OHSnap at 11:21 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there's one thing I've learned by working in the internet business it's this: Companies want your business.

If there's one thing that working at yahoo taught me it's this: The more different properties you use, the more likely you are to be a company loyalist. So if you use Yahoo mail, that's good. But if you also use yahoo finance, and yahoo messenger, you are now hooked (or were back in 2002).

Google is fighting facebook hard, and they could probably stand to make these sort of network effects work for them as well. While Google is not well-known for their social-networking smarts (orkut?), they are way more privacy savvy then any other company I know, but especially more than facebook. Your gmail is not about to become social-networking public. I suspect most/all of the google+ features will be privatable or opt-outable.

Now, if you're worried that google knows too much about you, in general, well, that's probably true.
posted by Phredward at 11:23 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't mean this personally, but I wish Fnarf and others like Fnarf would not hold up their extremely atypical usage as anything other than a tiny bit of noise in a sea of data. No correct response to any of these criticisms is "Well, yeah, but, I only use it in this one tiny, narrow way that can't be exploited more than a teeny bit." It comes off as too much of a "if you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to fear?" sort of thing.

And I say this as someone who is pretty happy with the social interactions I've had on G+, unlike Facebook basically ever, while still being troubled by, and critical of, some of the things they've done (in particular the no-pseudonyms BS, even though they've relented on enforcing that so much... Which still leaves bad, hyper-discretionary enforcement, etc.).
posted by sparkletone at 11:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now I know why the other day when I signed into Youtube they wanted me
to change my screen name to my real name. They said something like:
“your screen name is difficult for people to read, why not change it to your real name”.
when I declined they ask for a reason for not doing it, but they don’t let you give your own,
they give you a few of their choices to click. I think it might time to kill my youtube/google account.
posted by quazichimp at 11:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It feels like it's only a matter of time before existing Google users will be required to have Google+ accounts.

Once upon a time I signed up to use Google Talk. It was a simple little chat program with XMPP integration so I could chat with anyone, not just AIM users. I signed up on their web site, put the credentials into iChat, then never went back to the web site.

A couple of years later a bunch of my friends started to have a weird problem where mail they sent never showed up. Strange, because I've always had my own mail server, and I know exactly how the spam filtering works, and their messages weren't getting filtered - they simply weren't arriving.

I eventually noticed that it was only the Gmail users who had this problem.

Turned out Google had silently created a gmail account for me, based on the Google Talk account, and had automatically added this gmail account to the address book for every gmail user who corresponded with me. Every gmail user thus started sending mail to a completely spurious gmail account I didn't even know I had, and the mail was just piling up unread.

Welcome to the future, Google service users: you're going to be a Google Plus user whether you like it or not. The best you can hope for is that you'll know about your Google Plus profile when Google creates it for you.

These days I confine all my google account related activity to a secondary browser, which I never use for anything else, and I never sign in to any google account in my main browser. Just in case.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:08 AM on January 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have so far turned away almost a dozen people from G+ (friends and relatives often ask my advice about "new" things on the Internet). I can't be the only one.

(Willfully breaking Gmail was the reason for me)
posted by patrick54 at 12:09 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article's premise has a huge problem. You can still create a gmail account without creating a g+ account. Google does try to get you to make a g+ account at the same time, but it isn't a requirement.
posted by aspo at 12:24 AM on January 3, 2013


Getting rid of anonymity should get help to get rid of all of the horrible YouTube comments and help put a stop to online bullying.

nnyeahh nope
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:27 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Telling people you don't use Google's services is the new "I don't even have a TV".
posted by markr at 12:27 AM on January 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


I have not read this thread before posting but I want to say that I love Google a lot. I have loved Google since I found it. Before Google I loved Yahoo + Open Directory. I loved Google so much that I signed for a free tshirt and got one. I understand how the db works and I do not care one bit.
posted by maggieb at 12:31 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Telling people you don't use Google's services is the new "I don't even have a TV".

What, it suggests you're concerned with the way your passive media consumption might be affecting your life in ways which are unhealthy and might give a large ad-obsessed conglomerate far too much influence over your life?

Look, I love some television shows, good and trashy ones alike, but television has had a generally shitty effect on our culture, it's rendered some TV junkies incredibly frustrating to talk to – both the trashy junkies AND the ones with good taste who watch fifteen critically acclaimed series at a time – and, yes, it's promoted a corporate/media/advertising culture as obsessed with the lowest common denominator as is humanly possible.

Google is all about user-generated content, so some good things come out of their services, but they're just as determined to make their users into constant consumers, they're absolutely obsessed with making their products cover as wide a blanket of human behavior as possible, and their only means of profit is turning every last service they offer into an ad farm that tracks you, stores your data, and sells it to people who in turn think they have a shot of convincing you to spend money on whatever stupid thing they're trying to offer.

Yes, it is very hard to use the Internet without using Google products, just as it's hard to keep up with contemporary media culture without a TV (this was more true a few years ago). But let's not sneer at the people who are concerned with this media omnipresence and try not to just blindly consume without thinking about the averse effects. These are very real dilemmas that will make millions of people's lives a little bit shittier. Monopolies suck just as much when they're not directly price gouging you – maybe even more because it means they have to get you as dependent on them as they possibly can before they start screwing the shit out of you. Google's behavior has been increasingly problematic, as much as or more so than Facebook. And Facebook's not a post of fucking roses either.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, let me say thank you for this post. This motivated me to delete my Google account, and in the future I'll be making an effort to avoid Google products when I can. The two difficult ones, I suspect, will be search and YouTube – especially since iPads and iPhones don't let you edit the limited default search options, bleh. Anybody who knows a good search workaround that'd let me use, say, DuckDuckGo on my phone without using their specialized app, please do let me know.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:45 AM on January 3, 2013


Are they automatically adding your real name to the G+ account they created for you, even if you've kept your Google accounts anonymous?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:52 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google+ is a surprisingly decent product, but it's just a barren wasteland...

I'm sure this makes sense in a conversation among web developers, but for a dummy user like me the social network—the "company" I find and connect with there—is the product. Whether I use a particular social-networking website is always going to hinge on one question: Are my friends and family there? If yes, then okay, I can learn to operate the site's little buttons and switches, and I can relearn when they're changed in nine months. But if your site is a barren wasteland then I couldn't care less how many awesome features it packs as social-networking product. To me, it's useless.

...Which is obviously why Google has been doing this, but anecdotally it doesn't appear to have worked. I've only ever gotten one Google+ friend request, from a young relative who hadn't yet convinced her parents to let her join Facebook and so was trying to make the best of what she had been allowed with Google+. Eventually her parents caved. Today her still-active Google+ account has four friends, and she has 417 on Facebook.
posted by cribcage at 1:05 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


We always have the option of anonymous surfing. It is easier now than it has ever been for non-geeks.
posted by maggieb at 1:07 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


G+ earns an F-.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:22 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just perform a 6 monthly review of my Google Dashboard which "offers a simple view into the data associated with your Google Account." You can also turn off search history and watch history in YouTube.

However, I have no clue how much Google knows about me and how well targeted their ads are because with Adblock I just don't see any ads at all, and I never search Google logged in.
posted by guy72277 at 1:22 AM on January 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Joe Chip: "Excellent, soon I will have more than just my nerdy comp sci degree friends on G+."

That would be a bug, not a feature. Facebook was so much nicer when being in college (and therefore, to an extent, knowing how to spell) was a prerequisite.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:23 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Google+ arrived too late to succeed by being functional. That's just not enough to get people to shift their attention from other social networks, and forcing the creation of new accounts won't have much effect either.

Two things will eventually threaten Facebook:

1. As someone recently pointed out, your Facebook social graph can become a burden as time passes, dragging you back to the past. More and more people may want to shake off this burden (part of which is the requirement to use your real name).

2. Something will come along that simply seems more fun. Facebook will look boring, it'll be the social network for your parents. Most people will probably initially dismiss the new service as being for sharing stupid cat pictures, until they realise they have their own frivolous interests and would actually like to have fun too.

Google doesn't seem to be positioning itself to capitalise on Facebook's weaknesses, instead they're duplicating them.
posted by malevolent at 1:36 AM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Remember when Microsoft wanted to use their control of the operating system market to leverage into the search market by bundling MSN Search (later Live Search) as the search engine of choice for Internet Explorer, which in turn was bundled with the OS? Didn't that seem like a really good business idea, even though it was outside their core competence? Remember how they totally destroyed Google with that? No? No?

Neither does Google.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:37 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Facebook was so much nicer when being in college

People ruin everything (no, just kidding, you guys are cool). Anyhow, this sort of development seems inevitable, or at least a lot of people view it that way. Google knows a lot of stuff about me, but then so do my bank, my accountant, my ISP. I worry sometimes about the consequences of all this data collection down the road, will it be used against me? What's my responsibility in all this? How far do I go eschewing this or that service to protect my identity, and what reasonable expectations can I have about how my data is searched, cross-referenced and analyzed? Until quite recently, the level of chaos and disorder in development and IT management were such that practically, you could expect records to kind of disappear after a couple of years through sheer bit-rot. I don't see that happening with Facebook or Google anytime soon or ever, really. And wouldn't improved regulation also entail improved surveillance? Stories like mhoye's are chilling, and it makes me wonder what stories go unreported.
posted by deo rei at 1:49 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Facebook will buy Google at the exact moment that Google buys Facebook and we'll all have sign up for Faceboogle accounts.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:07 AM on January 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Now that Google has killed support for ActiveSync, essentially making my next software refresh on my phone the last time I'll be able to sync it with my Google account, I need to find something else. I've been checking out outlook.com - are there other contacts/email/calendar services people can suggest?
posted by 1adam12 at 2:10 AM on January 3, 2013


Argh. This thread got me to sign into Youtube and see if anything is different. It prompted me to change my Youtube ID to my real name. (Which is fine, 'cause the Youtube ID was just the closest approximation to my name that wasn't already taken.) But, it only works if you have a Google+ account. Screw that.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:12 AM on January 3, 2013


I was in Kirkland, Washington, looking for a good place to have lunch. So I googled kirkland wa cafeteria but the top result was a Yelp review for the Google Cafeteria and it didn't even have one G+, so I couldn't trust it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:32 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I pretty much have a horror of having the various parts of my online life mixed up with each other. I stopped using facebook when I found myself signed in to a site I had never visited. When Google started this nonsense, that was it for Google+. Maybe it's some nascent disorder, but the thought of all that unasked-for connectivity stokes my paranoia and anxiety something fierce.

It's kind of like when a fairly decent local coffee shop decided to push the "child- and dog-friendly" angle. Pretty much everyone I knew stopped going there because the attraction (for us) was quiet conversation (and decent coffee), which had become impossible.* This is kind of like that, only the owners of the coffee shop are trying to come by my apartment and force me to come to their coffee shop.

Google! You have many fine products. Please stop ruining them by trying to force me to make them the only products I use.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]



Once again tribalism coerces individuals into joining or being ostracized.
...and then...corporate feudalism takes over.
posted by quazichimp at 2:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


“your screen name is difficult for people to read, why not change it to your real name”.
when I declined they ask for a reason for not doing it, but they don’t let you give your own,


One of the running gags in my household, whenever that prompt comes up: "But where's the 'because fuck you' button?"
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 3:25 AM on January 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


I have a gmail account, but I almost never use it anymore. Except to delete spam. E-mail is swiftly becoming an inefficient way to communicate.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:50 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any recommendations for a drop-in GMail replacement?

IMAP. Or, as I do, ssh + screen + text email reader. The added benefit is that it practically kills HTML email.

I got off Google years ago by replacing GMail and Google Reader with privately-managed replacements. And every time I suggest it, I get blowback from people complaining about how hard it is, despite the fact that a) I spend 0 time managing it and b) stories like these set people's hair on fire.

Corporations are not working in your interest. They are working in their interest. No amount of complaining is going to change that. Manage your own interests.
posted by DU at 3:55 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I started my G-vorce proceedings about a year ago. Took forever to change all the services that I used my gmail for but worth it. Use my own email from my domains for day-to-day site logins, use an @me.com address for family and a fastmail.fm account for services that require an email address but that I may not yet trust. And duckduckgo for searching.
posted by terrapin at 4:37 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


One nice thing about the Google+ mobile app (iOS and android) is instant upload. Every photo I take gets backed up online.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:53 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Myself and my colleagues are huge G+ users. Never see any ads, couldn't care less if a system that allows me to conference with others knows that I conference with those others.
posted by juiceCake at 5:17 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Telling people you don't use Google's services is the new "I don't even have a TV".

What, it suggests you're concerned with the way your passive media consumption might be affecting your life in ways which are unhealthy and might give a large ad-obsessed conglomerate far too much influence over your life?


I think it was more about the smugness.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:29 AM on January 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Telling people you don't use Google's services is the new "I don't even have a TV".

This makes me love those anti-TV people more than it makes me hate the anti-Google ones.
posted by DU at 5:33 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


But seriously, try it. You'll have to give up posting YouTube comments, no big. Email is seriously not. a. problem. Any one of a bazillion hosting companies will gladly take your $20/yr or whatever and give you an IMAP interface. Even crappy email clients support IMAP and you can read it from anywhere. Yes, all your friends will have to change your address. But if you get your own domain, this will never ever ever ever happen again even if your provider craps out on you. Plus you can give out spam@yourdomain.com to sign up for newsletters and save your realname@yourdomain.com for actual friends.

When I got off Google the big problem was Google Reader, but I don't know if people even use RSS readers anymore. And my difficulties were more about my particular needs rather than anything about RSS per se.
posted by DU at 5:42 AM on January 3, 2013


One nice thing about the Google+ mobile app (iOS and android) is instant upload. Every photo I take gets backed up online.

While the instant backup is nice, trying to share any of those photos outside of a g+ environment is a huge PITA.

Here's a situation I run in to, usually when using Metafilter.

1) I have an image on my phone I'd like to share as a link in a comment (ex: here or here)
2) In order to upload it, I have to log into my g+ app and do some level of magic/swearing to get the right picture uploaded.
3) Once it's uploaded, I have no idea if it's spamming my circles with a random picture that means nothing to them as it's not directed at them. G+ claims it's not, but, well... I can't trust that, now can I?
4) I then log into Picasa and track down the photo, make sure it's visible when linked (is it? No idea as I'm logged in so of course I can see my stuff), and get the address.
5) Link the picture in my metafilter comment.
6) Now, because I poked at my dormant g+ account, whenever I search, I'll see that red +1 showing up. Maybe it's the same genetic defect that won't let me let a telephone ring or have an inbox with more than 40 unarchived messages, but I find that super distracting and have to click on it to make it go away.
7) Also, I'm now reminded that my real name is linked to my internet activity. Paranoia increases as again, I don't trust Google to not share my search history with the world.

All I want is an easy way to share a picture from my iPhone. Google claims to be that way, but it's really not. Is there a better way? Instagram? I trust them less than Google. Facebook? Same, plus all the problems of contextless photos befuddling random aunts.

Ideally, what I'd want would be an app that lets me upload a photo with a tag that spits back a web address where it can be found. So if I want to share a picture of my wedding ring to help answer a question about how scuffed titanium can get, I just take the picture, launch the app, upload it tagged 'weddingring', and lo I know I can direct people to 'www.easyphoto.com/myaccount/weddingring.jpg' and be done with it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:54 AM on January 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wish I could just directly pay Google whatever aggregate amount of money they make from selling advertisements to me and cut out the marketeer middlemen, and thereby turn off all Google advertising everywhere but more importantly get rid of the conflict of interest inherent in Google's current business model.
You can. It's about $50 per seat per year. That's what I do, and I'm very happy with the service.
stories like these set people's hair on fire
I'm not sure why they do, though. What gets exposed on your G+ page? Nothing, unless you explicitly put it there, beyond your gender. You have to explicitly choose to use G+ features for there to be any actual effect.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:57 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ideally, what I'd want would be an app that lets me upload a photo with a tag that spits back a web address where it can be found. So if I want to share a picture of my wedding ring to help answer a question about how scuffed titanium can get, I just take the picture, launch the app, upload it tagged 'weddingring', and lo I know I can direct people to 'www.easyphoto.com/myaccount/weddingring.jpg' and be done with it.

My process:

1) FTP photo to my hosting site
2) Direct people to mydomain.com/pictures/weddingring.jpg

I'll never understand why people want MORE technology to solve simple problems. The technology exists! It is easy to use!
posted by DU at 5:57 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Turn step 1 into an app I can use on my phone that doesn't involve me setting up said hosting site to begin with, and we'll talk about easy. I want to do this maybe 4 times a year and it's a PITA every time.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:05 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every mobile device I've ever seen has been fundamentally broken in so many ways I don't own one (that works anymore, anyway). Still, I assume FTP apps must still exist. If not, then yes, you may be forced to make sand out of sandcastles to solve your problem.

Setting up a hosting site is the easiest step of the whole thing. Find hosting site. Send them $20. Done.
posted by DU at 6:07 AM on January 3, 2013


When someone asks for a recommendation for a good Chinese restaurant that delivers, the best answer is not "Find a store that sells woks. Buy one for $20. Done."

If I have a random craving for some pan fried noodles, I just want to press some buttons and have said noodles appear. I don't want to have to stock my kitchen in expectation for noodles.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:13 AM on January 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


//One nice thing about the Google+ mobile app (iOS and android) is instant upload. Every photo I take gets backed up online.//

Ubuntu One does this on both Android and iPhone. Auto instant upload of a photo set to private by default. There are also clients for Windows, Mac, and of course Linux. A 5 GB account is free. No ads, etc. They want you to buy additional storage.

Also, FWIW, the last two albums I bought were cheaper through the Ubuntu One music store than they were at Amazon.
posted by COD at 6:14 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any recommendations for a drop-in GMail replacement?

It's not drop-in, but you can usually host your own domain at many web providers pretty darn cheaply. You can manage your own email and web site, and have A Presence online, with no dependency on Google at all. It's specifically the desire for a 'drop-in replacement' that keeps you hooked. Even if you found that, you would just be making yourself captive to a different company than Google. If you're willing to invest some time, you can largely free yourself of dependency on any specific provider. Domain hosting can be done by almost anyone with some expertise, a few IP addresses, and good bandwidth, so it's very easy to move if someone starts to go evil.

For maximum privacy, but also maximum expense, you can rent a dedicated, managed server, which will reduce your exposure to both criminals and law enforcement; it reduces your attack surface for bad guys, and search warrants for online crime are typically per-IP address, so if you're on a separate, dedicated machine, someone doing something bad in the next rack won't have won't have the FBI rifling through your files. This level of privacy is very expensive, as you have to pay someone for the expertise of managing your specific server. You share the cost of that person with far fewer people, so you have to pay a lot more of his or her salary. If you have a lot of money, and you're really worried about privacy, this is the best option I know, but you will have less money afterward.

The next best option is renting an unmanaged machine. Unmanaged servers are much cheaper, but you have to have systems administration expertise. It is unreasonable to expect most people to develop this skillset; there's a lot to know, and getting just one thing wrong can leave you wide open to bad guys.

Even cheaper is building a server and having it hosted somewhere. This is what I do, as I got a screamingly good deal on bandwidth and rack space. But this takes even more skill than renting a server, as you have to be able to build a machine that you will ship hundreds or thousands of miles away, and will probably never see again. And then you have to manage that machine, keep it up to date on patches, and stay aware of new security threats. I think this is just a ridiculous idea for almost everyone who isn't already doing this professionally.

Cheaper still is renting a virtual private server... you can get these for like $10/mo. But I don't think there's much advantage here over a shared webhost. You do have slightly better security than on a shared webhost, but only a little, and you have the same law enforcement exposure. Basically, if you don't already know you want this solution, you probably don't.

So: cheap, decent solution... host your domain with one of the many, many small providers. You're insulated from Google, moderately vulnerable to crackers, and fully exposed to law enforcment if someone on your machine does something visibly evil. Ridiculously expensive, but safest solution: rent a managed server, which includes the expertise to run it. High protection against both crackers and LEO types. (presumably, nobody should ever look twice at your machine, since you won't be doing anything criminal.) An unmanaged server is much cheaper, but requires that you be highly skilled. Same level of protection against LEOs, potentially much weaker protection against crackers, dependent on how good you are. And a VPS gives you some technical benefits over webhosting if you have those same skills, but for those who don't, regular hosting is better, and cheaper.

Oh, then, in comparison, hosting with Google gives you excellent protection against crackers, and probable protection against LEOs unless they're specifically looking at you (and with the general fishing expeditions we're aware of, that's probably much more common than the government likes to admit.) In exchange, all your personal data is in Google's hands, and they're damn determined to force you to reveal your real name, mix all the data you provide together, and sell it to as many people as possible.

But, hey, it's free!
posted by Malor at 6:17 AM on January 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just want to press some buttons and have said noodles appear. I don't want to have to stock my kitchen in expectation for noodles.

Aha, I've located your problem. Let me go back to my first statement:
Corporations are not working in your interest. They are working in their interest. No amount of complaining is going to change that. Manage your own interests.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has any email client replicated the "conversation" style that Gmail does? My email use skyrocketed when they introduced that, because I (and my friends) no longer had to deal with individual emails and misuses of CC and accidental replies instead of reply-alls. Now that an email conversation between people using Gmail is closer to a forum post than it is email, I can't go back, especially as I use "regular" email at work and can see the blatant differences.
posted by griphus at 6:20 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now that Google has killed support for ActiveSync, essentially making my next software refresh on my phone the last time I'll be able to sync it with my Google account

No, it won't be. If you make a new account you can't sync on that. Your existing account will work fine.
posted by jaduncan at 6:24 AM on January 3, 2013


Corporations are not working in your interest. They are working in their interest. No amount of complaining is going to change that. Manage your own interests.

This is sort of far afield from 'I'll never understand why people want MORE technology to solve simple problems.'
posted by shakespeherian at 6:29 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Has any email client replicated the "conversation" style that Gmail does?

Thunderbird with a plug-in gets pretty close. Thunderbird basic with "store replies in the folder with the original message" is what I use and is good enough for me. I'm IMAP'ing to Zoho mail for now, but I've got Polaris Mail bookmarked as my backup should I decide the free account from Zoho is no longer acceptable.Polaris Mail is located in Canada - I don't know if that provides any advantage from a security standpoint or not.

I've owned my own domain since 98, but even though I have 100 GB of space on my web hosting account, they only allow me to use 50 MB for any one mail account. My web host obviously doesn't really want to be in the email business, and the hassle of moving multiple domains and websites is just more than I want to deal with.
posted by COD at 6:32 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is sort of far afield from 'I'll never understand why people want MORE technology to solve simple problems.'

Not at all. The complaint was about Google's Mega Super Service With Peach-Fuzz Technology. My solution is to spend maybe 10 minutes setting up and learning to use a hosting service and ftp and saving yourself a lifetime of heartache. Less technology, managed by yourself and with fewer problems.
posted by DU at 6:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google+ tries to capitalize on Facebook's "social graph burden" problem with Circles, allowing you to manage how you share with different groups in your life (coworkers, family, fencing buddies etc). They're tackling one if the big problems we're coming up against in social networking. I'm not sure their implementation is the best one (my gut says no), but I'm glad they're trying.

Of course without users on the service it all becomes moot.
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:46 AM on January 3, 2013


My solution is to spend maybe 10 minutes setting up and learning to use a hosting service and ftp and saving yourself a lifetime of heartache. Less technology, managed by yourself and with fewer problems.

Yes I think I will just explain that to my grandmother next time she asks about tagging people on Facebook.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Robot Exclusion Protocol. (I can't believe this is over 10 years old!)
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:50 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Sorry grandma, I'm a little busy and ftp is complicated. Here's a spokesbeing from MegaCorp that will help you instead."
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on January 3, 2013


The problem for me with all the potential Gmail replacements is that the search is always awful. I have 60,000 messages in Gmail and Gmail lets me search them in seconds, I can do phrase search, boolean search, all kinds of things. I use this feature probably a dozen times a day. No self-hosted solution I've seen comes close to that. The Sup console mailreader purports to (never got it working with a large enough dataset to confirm), but it hasn't had a release in two years and in any case viewing images and following links are now too central to my email workflow for me to deal with a console MUA anymore. But I do have a VPS sitting there doing not much and I'd love to throw a webmail system of some kind up on it, if I could find one that did search even 75% as well as Gmail.
posted by enn at 6:54 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why you can't just code your own mailserver search engine. I mean, honestly, it's a trivial task at best.
posted by griphus at 7:01 AM on January 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


My guess is that to match gmail's search, you need something like mutt and regex. Except I don't search email often enough to learn how to do it well. You can rig mutt to open links, though it's annoying for something like the arXiv email, with a zillion similar links.
posted by hoyland at 7:02 AM on January 3, 2013


robocop is bleeding, I can upload photos to dropbox in iPad, and link to them for everyone to see if I put them in a public folder. Take a look at this info page about uploading from iPhone/tablet, and maybe this might be a solution to your problem.
posted by taz at 7:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, then, in comparison, hosting with Google gives you excellent protection against crackers, and probable protection against LEOs unless they're specifically looking at you (and with the general fishing expeditions we're aware of, that's probably much more common than the government likes to admit.) In exchange, all your personal data is in Google's hands, and they're damn determined to force you to reveal your real name, mix all the data you provide together, and sell it to as many people as possible.

But, hey, it's free!
Or, pay $50/user/year for their paid service, which has completely different terms of service and doesn't require real names and lets you use your own domain.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey taz, thanks! I was halfway through mining all the silicon I'd need to fashion a rudimentary computer chip (would have been done sooner, but the degrees in metallurgy and engineering and the acquisition of mining rights to a site in Idaho took longer than I thought), but that looks to be an easy solution to my occasional problem. So thumbs up!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:44 AM on January 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


but the degrees in metallurgy and engineering and the acquisition of mining rights to a site in Idaho took longer than I thought

What you're just gonna trust some corporate suit to make chips for you now?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I understand the need to get rid of foulmouthed, potentially libelous comments, that doesn't mean I want every single site I visit to share that information on a bunch of other sites.

So I comment on a political issue on the latimes; i don't want that comment following me to facebook or anywhere else unless I choose to do so.

Really is there any other reason, other than these companies trying to wring your personal info out of you for ad purposes, to having every single thing you do recorded and connected across the intertubes?

I have a slightly different problem. At work we use a gmail account but the company apparently doesn't want us playing around on blogs so we can't access, for editing or writing purposes, any blogspot sites. But they're Google owned. So we have to create a second Google account, sign off the company gmail and sign back on to the second account. They used to allow us to have two gmail accounts open but for some reason that's disappeared.
posted by etaoin at 7:50 AM on January 3, 2013


Don't be evil.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:53 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, there I was, balls deep in a soggy mine and I realized that I had other things to do.

Besides, how could I trust billions of years of atomic fusion to create the silicon for me? Either it was all a natural process, which means I'm at the mercy of the faceless forces of Big Universe or it was placed there by a higher being who seems more than happy to share all my thoughts, hopes, and sins with my extended deceased family in the afterlife. Better I gain the powers of creation themselves and avoid all that mess.

Simplify, maaaannnn!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:54 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, all your friends will have to change your address

I kept my gmail address but pop'd all my mail and then deleted it from their server. Then I cleaned up my gmail contacts list. Then I used gmail's vacation auto-respond to reply only to people in my contacts list with a message with my new address.
posted by terrapin at 8:02 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


My guess is that to match gmail's search, you need something like mutt and regex.

I have this thing I do for job interviewees who've said that building something like Facebook or Gmail or Stack Overflow would be super-duper-simple to do and anyone who isn't stupid could do it in a week and they could do it in a weekend.

"Then why haven't you done that?"

They're not going to get the job at that point, of course, because it's pretty clear that they don't have any kind of self-awareness, humility or understanding of how challenging large projects can get, and no real interest in finding out. But hopefully at that point the interview will become as much of a learning experience for them as it is entertaining for me.
posted by mhoye at 8:27 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Setting up your own domain and managing your own email is really just not a viable suggestion for the vast majority of people that use email. It's seriously well outside the technical ability of many, and outside the willingness for most. Suggesting that it's a simple alternative that requires a minimum of set up is mind-boggling out of touch. Think about how many people give themselves a virus through simple web browsing. You are suggesting that these people are competent to run their own domain and email. This is not reasonable. At a minimum, there is simply NOT an effective and simple spam filter that most people can deal with such as comes baked in with corporate email (google, outlook, yahoo, etc.)
posted by stoneweaver at 8:43 AM on January 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


enn: The problem for me with all the potential Gmail replacements is that the search is always awful. I have 60,000 messages in Gmail and Gmail lets me search them in seconds, I can do phrase search, boolean search, all kinds of things. I use this feature probably a dozen times a day. No self-hosted solution I've seen comes close to that.

I've had excellent results with the Thunderbird client, talking to the dovecot IMAP server. Dovecot is really fast, and it feels like it's joined at the hip with Thunderbird. TB has a very nice search interface where you can specify all sort of booleans, and it also has the option of running the search locally, or on your IMAP server. The options change slightly when you select a server search, but they're quite similar. Dovecot seems to maintain indices, and it's been remarkably fast for the searches I've done with it -- full-body text searches are slowest, but on a good machine, they really haven't been bad at all.

I have a Linux server at home that hosts all my mail going back forever, in IMAP format, which allows me to access it from any client machine I have, be it Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android, and they all instantly update when I make changes from any one of them. Everything I've sent or received for about the last fifteen years is there.

I also have a colocated box, also running dovecot (and Postfix), for receiving mail from the Internet. Every month or two, I use Thunderbird to move the messages from the colo to my local server box, and then back them up locally. This is, admittedly, a pretty lazy backup system, far too infrequent. I could likely automate it with an ssh script or with fetchmail, but haven't actually done so. I'm really good about backups in general, but that one specific thing I have not done well. Bad me.

Basically, hosting your own domain and mail means you have to do some of your own sysadmin work, but I think you'd be pretty happy with the combination of TB and dovecot for search power. I don't search nearly as often as you do, but I do use the facility on a regular basis. If I need to find something in my archive, it never takes long.

Oh, don't forget to use SSL in your connections to dovecot; running your own encryption is one of the nicer things about running your own mail server. You can have your own CA and everything. OpenVPN comes with a really nice set of easy scripts to beat the horrible, horrible OpenSSL software into something resembling submission.... even if you don't use OpenVPN itself, those scripts are dynamite. If you configure Postfix to use SSL as well, you can both send and receive encrypted to your server, and then Postfix will use opportunistic encryption whenever it can. That's still not that common, but every one of those encrypted connections is one less bit of data that gets dropped into the government surveillance dragnet.

Feel free to drop me a MeMail if you need more specific help with configuration options.
posted by Malor at 8:53 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


stoneweaver: Setting up your own domain and managing your own email is really just not a viable suggestion for the vast majority of people that use email.

Maybe not, but I bet the average MeFite could handle it okay.

Ultimately, it's the only option if you don't want to be under surveillance by large corporations. Small webhosts typically have neither the time nor the interest in doing so.

Whether or not it's difficult is irrelevant, if it's the only choice.
posted by Malor at 8:58 AM on January 3, 2013


Maybe not, but I bet the average MeFite could handle it okay.

I actually think this is sampling bias. There are plenty of MeFites for which this would be a fairly insurmountable task. The expense, the time, the technical know-how are all barriers that are not trivial for plenty of people. They tend not to comment in the more technical threads, but they comment in plenty of others. And when they comment in this kind of thread, the response is often disappointing. Asking for a less bad option doesn't mean needing the perfect option, and the condescending attitude about how *easy* it is and if you're not capable you must be dumb or something is off putting.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:03 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


From the article:
"By default, the page is public and will turn up in a Google search. It is possible, however, to change a setting so that the page doesn't show up in search results. There is also a way for people to disable or delete their Google+ accounts."

So instead of having to create a Google account and then create a Google+ account you now create both at once, if you don't want G+ you can delete it. This all seems like a storm in a teacup to me. If G+ is finally able to provide some much needed competition for FB than I'm all for it.
posted by Lanark at 9:09 AM on January 3, 2013


Setting up your own domain and managing your own email is really just not a viable suggestion for the vast majority of people that use email.

That sounds like an opportunity to me. Build a very simple interface where you pick a domain and an email plan and press enter. A bunch of scripts fire off in the background and a minute later you get an email with the webmail address and login info for your new email account.

Every web host in the world already does this, but apparently there is something missing if so many people think that is beyond the capabilities of just about everybody else.
posted by COD at 9:12 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


WSJ *cough* Murdoch *cough* has been gunning for Google for a while; most of it is fairly misleading.

Note the ongoing fight about a payment for access to News International properties by Google News.
posted by jaduncan at 9:13 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something will come along that simply seems more fun. Facebook will look boring, it'll be the social network for your parents. Most people will probably initially dismiss the new service as being for sharing stupid cat pictures, until they realise they have their own frivolous interests and would actually like to have fun too.

Something has come along. This BuzzFeed thing talks about the writer's 15-year-old sister and her preferences, and none of them includes Facebook, which she considers something you "get lost in." The same or similar sentiments I've heard expressed in other contexts as well.

Facebook is already for parents and old(er) people. Most of the random comments and posts I see on there (I try to avoid it but do use it to post photos every now and then) in my non-"friend" universe are from old people ranting about politics and religion and current events, the same way they'd rant in a newspaper's web comment section, other than for the puzzling and stupid detail that most of them don't bother to post their insane rants under assumed names. I see next to no people on Facebook who appear to be under the age of 30. Now, of course, I'm old myself, so confirmation bias, etc. But I don't think I'm the only one who's noticed that the trendline for Facebook's demographic is getting older.
posted by blucevalo at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


stoneweaver: Asking for a less bad option doesn't mean needing the perfect option, and the condescending attitude about how *easy* it is and if you're not capable you must be dumb or something is off putting.

Again, it doesn't matter whether it's hard or not, if it's the only option.

And if anyone's being condescending here, it's you, insisting that everyone else is too stupid to do stuff that we successfully figured out. If you host with a provider, they have lots of tools to handle the complexity for you. I was with Dreamhost for awhile, and they had all the controls you needed under a nice straightforward web interface. IIRC, they even had some nice documentation explaining what needed to be done at the domain registrar, although I didn't actually read any of it.

Nothing you need to learn to host a domain on a webhost is especially difficult. Running your own machine is much more complex, but webhosts are nice and easy. This is neither rocket science nor particle physics. There are a number of relatively simple things to know, but I do think that most reasonably determined people can use this escape hatch if they want to. And, short of total disconnection from the Net, it appears to be the only escape hatch available.

If you would rather stay subservient, because taking control of your Net presence seems too difficult, then fine, do that. But the claim that believing that people can do this themselves is condescending is about as backward a claim as I've seen. Condescension is believing that people are stupid, not that people are smart.
posted by Malor at 9:21 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


COD: Every web host in the world already does this, but apparently there is something missing if so many people think that is beyond the capabilities of just about everybody else.

I haven't used their systems in quite awhile, but Dreamhost was extremely straightforward when I was with them. Basically you just had to follow the instructions to tell your registrar to use Dreamhost's name servers. Once the Net knew to ask Dreamhost for your domain info, everything from there was just clicking a few buttons, for basic webmail and webhosting.

More advanced stuff took more work, like POP3 access, or specific web hosting packages, but I suspect most people who can read and follow written directions could be up within an hour or two of starting from scratch.

Now, I didn't like Dreamhost very well, as they loaded their servers heavily, but they successfully hid most of the complexity of web hosting.
posted by Malor at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The expense, the time, the technical know-how are all barriers that are not trivial for plenty of people.

Agreed. Paid professionals fuck this stuff up every goddamn day, there is nothing simple or straightforward about setting up and running your own server presence, even if you are a geek.

However, I don't think it needs to be - there is a real business opportunity for someone with UX and sysadmin chops. On the one side there is a virtual server that handles your own email, blog, picture and video gallery, chat service, SIP gateway and search engine for all of the content stored on it, and a dead simple app that allows anyone who can figure out Facebook to run their own internet presence.

Facebook is already for parents and old(er) people.

Yup. Tumblr and pinterest and Reddit are where things are currently happening. Even twitter seems to be on the wane. (On the other hand, Snapchat is totally a "mean girls" thing - a way to mock and belittle people without leaving any evidence of having done so.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


...but I suspect most people who can read and follow written directions could be up within an hour or two of starting from scratch.

Every day, I deal with very intelligent people -- business owners, attorneys, accountants, all sorts of folks -- and the assumption that all that it takes to follow a series of technical directions is intelligence is hilarious. And not just hilarious, but also paying my rent, because most of these successful, smart people have no mind to do these things because they are busy doing the actual thing that it is that they're doing with their intelligence.

There's this weird opinion that just absolutely radiates from the technical community that anyone who can't grasp this stuff is either lazy or dumb, and that is condescending as hell and I've got an army of clients proving my point.
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on January 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


there is nothing simple or straightforward about setting up and running your own server presence, even if you are a geek.

It is not simple to run your own server. It can be quite simple to run your online presence, if you use someone else's infrastructure. There are lots of small companies out there that would love to have you as a customer, and since they actually are charging you directly, you are the customer, not the product.
posted by Malor at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you would rather stay subservient, because taking control of your Net presence seems too difficult, then fine, do that. But the claim that believing that people can do this themselves is condescending is about as backward a claim as I've seen. Condescension is believing that people are stupid, not that people are smart.

Or perhaps condescension is assuming one is better than others, perhaps typified by calling them subservient.

Perhaps, perhaps.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:34 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's the entire premise of the thread, robocop is bleeding -- "There's No Avoiding Google+". You must be subservient to the corporation.
posted by Malor at 9:36 AM on January 3, 2013


Facebook is already for parents and old(er) people.

My son finally joined FB during college orientation, but he posts almost nothing on his wall. His use is 90% in several closed groups for the various clubs and organizations he is a part of. My soon to be 17 year old daughter still has not joined FB.
posted by COD at 9:39 AM on January 3, 2013


That's the entire premise of the thread, robocop is bleeding -- "There's No Avoiding Google+". You must be subservient to the corporation.

Except one of major premises of the article is you can't create a gmail account without creating a g+ account as well, and that premise is flat wrong.
posted by aspo at 9:43 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nothing you need to learn to host a domain on a webhost is especially difficult.

Suggestions for a useful primer? For hosts that are likely to stick around and that take security and privacy very seriously?
posted by ryanshepard at 9:51 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are lots of small companies out there that would love to have you as a customer, and since they actually are charging you directly, you are the customer, not the product.
And as I've noted above, one of those is ... Google. It is tremendously easy to set up a Google Apps for Business account, and anyone can do it whether or not you use it for actual business purposes.
That's the entire premise of the thread, robocop is bleeding -- "There's No Avoiding Google+"
But the premise is wrong. If you pay Google for services, you do NOT automatically get G+. And for those not paying Google for services, you can either disable your G+ account or simply ignore it. I have three Google accounts. Two are within Apps for Business domains which I pay for. One of those has G+ (which I use) and the other (which is my personal account) doesn't. A third free Google account does have G+, but since I never use it, it leads you to an empty page.

It seems like there are multiple ways to solve this problem. One is to manage - to some degree - your own infrastructure. The other is to learn how to use your own computer. On my computers, I use different browsers and profiles to access these different accounts. I can easily control what data Google gets from me, on a per-account basis. I think there's less complexity involved in that than in what you're proposing, and it basically boils down to "safe computing" anyway - using anonymous browsing, managing cookies, etc. That's something that every computer user should know if possible.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:54 AM on January 3, 2013


There's this weird opinion that just absolutely radiates from the technical community that anyone who can't grasp this stuff is either lazy or dumb, and that is condescending as hell and I've got an army of clients proving my point.

Thank you for saying much more clearly what I was trying to get across.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:56 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is not simple to run your own server. It can be quite simple to run your online presence, if you use someone else's infrastructure.

No, not really, and I've done it and still do it. I make my living because server security is too hard for most pros (this isn't their fault - OS vendors refuse to take responsibility for sensible default configurations ruthlessly implemented). It's easy to mess up, their customer service is sketchy, slow or expensive (choose any two), and there are usually too many moving pieces for someone who's not a deep geek to keep track of.

This is why Google rules everything everywhere - they've put in considerable engineering to make it simple, swift and secure. They've also made it interconnected, which is great - up until they sign you up to use a service you're not comfortable with, strong-arm you into using it, and rob you of your online anonymity in the process.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:56 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why are people so scared on being a genuine person on internet, be it Google or FaceBook? Yes, the companies will know a lot about us. But that's the entire point of being on a social network. That people should know who you are.

More and more, you have to treat internet like your real life. Having multiple lives in reality is tough and it should be a bit difficult on internet as well. If you feel that saying something loudly in real life can cause you harm, you should take the same approach on internet as well.

This expectation of anonymity on net is just a wish to escape/minimize the consequences of whatever you do.

Sure, there are situations (ref social media related killings in Mexico from mhoye) where anonymity helps. Its sort of given that as the impact of doing something on internet becomes similar to doing something in real life , the behavior on net must be similar to how you would behave and protect yourself in real life. Otherwise you are just deluding yourself.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:13 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This expectation of anonymity on net is just a wish to escape/minimize the consequences of whatever you do.

So I take it you've never been stalked?
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread got me thinking about the Metafilter group/community/whatever it was on Google+, so I dipped in to check on it but can't find it. Was it deleted or shut down or something? I do see a "Hangout" called "Metafilter lounge" but I don't think it's the same thing.
posted by JHarris at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2013


In a less snippy manner: Google "woman," "stalked" and "internet" and you'll see where your opinion on this falls apart like a house of cards.
posted by griphus at 10:16 AM on January 3, 2013


TheLittlePrince: "This expectation of anonymity on net is just a wish to escape/minimize the consequences of whatever you do. "

Or, for example, the consequences of being visibly female or a minority. I'm going to guess you're male. Try wandering the 'net with a female name attached to your account and take a look at what you reap.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:23 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why are people so scared on being a genuine person on internet, be it Google or FaceBook? Yes, the companies will know a lot about us. But that's the entire point of being on a social network. That people should know who you are.

My boss should know I spend a lot of my time at home photoshopping bikinis onto agricultural equipment for... purposes... and share it with an audience of bikini-machine aficionados? Bikini-machine aficionados should know I'm a lawyer with top secret clearance at a defense contractor? My mom should be in on this as well?

What if I'm a Mexican blogger who criticizes a drug cartel? Does "you have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong" still apply? Or is speaking your mind in pursuit of civic duty something wrong, now?
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can have a blogger account without a g+ account or being tied to your real name.

You can have a gmail account without a g+ account or being tied to your real name.
posted by aspo at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2013


Try wandering the 'net with a female name attached to your account and take a look at what you reap..

Yeah I had a weird experience with that a few years ago. Registered for a forum with a name that (didn't occur to me at the time) implied I was female. Pretty much from the get-go I was getting tons of friendly personal messages, way more than I had ever received on any other site or forum. Eventually I put two and two together.
posted by mannequito at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013


However, I have no clue how much Google knows about me and how well targeted their ads are because with Adblock I just don't see any ads at all, and I never search Google logged in.

Does Adblock get rid of Google's text ads too? Generally speaking, for high-volume search terms like "Pizza + ?YOURCITYNAME", the first search results are paid results, right at the top, to right hand side, leaving just a couple of organic search results "above the fold". These are all text ads, so I don't think Adblock can help you there.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2013


your Facebook social graph can become a burden as time passes, dragging you back to the past. More and more people may want to shake off this burden (part of which is the requirement to use your real name).

Maybe it's because I'm older than other people commenting in this thread, but I deleted most of my high school friends from FB long ago. Most of the people I interact on FB I've never even met! We all tend to be married to Japanese spouses and have kids who cross two cultures. A fair number of these folks are translators and copywriters, as I am.

I guess after a certain age, it becomes easier to throw out the past, but I suppose if I was still in my twenties (a hard decade for many emotionally) Facebook would be one hell of a burden.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 AM on January 3, 2013


This thread got me thinking about the Metafilter group/community/whatever it was on Google+

The original group was accidentally set up as public. It was deleted and we've all moved to the Metafilter Lounge, which is private. Or as private as a group on G+ can be.
posted by COD at 10:52 AM on January 3, 2013


You can have a blogger account without a g+ account or being tied to your real name.

You can have a gmail account without a g+ account or being tied to your real name.


For now. If you work at it. Did you read the article? Have you bought an Android phone recently? There's a real push to consolidate all of your online personas, and then pin them down with your real name under one master account. It's getting harder and harder to opt out.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:56 AM on January 3, 2013


TheLittlePrince: "This expectation of anonymity on net is just a wish to escape/minimize the consequences of whatever you do. "

KarmaKaze : Or, for example, the consequences of being visibly female or a minority. I'm going to guess you're male. Try wandering the 'net with a female name attached to your account and take a look at what you reap.

griphus So I take it you've never been stalked?

If there is net stalking or people negatively responding to you being a female, the objective should be to log a complaint and get those responsible to shut up.

I am sure, in real life, you don't subscribe to "females should hide themselves if they want to avoid people commenting on/molesting them".

And, by the way, the stalking or any disgusting behavior is mostly enabled by the anonymity that net offers. The greater internet fuck wad theory.

I believe if there was less anonymity, you would have less bullying.

From my perspective there are two main objections against reducing anonymity:
1. Protection against powerful evil people when you are engaged in civil disobedience or something similar - There you should be able to work a bit extra hard, use TOR etc.
2. Protecting kids who don't know the dangers of real life well enough. - Kids should be allowed to be anonymous up to a certain age.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Why are people so scared on being a genuine person on internet, be it Google or FaceBook? Yes, the companies will know a lot about us. But that's the entire point of being on a social network. That people should know who you are.

For me this is an all or nothing issue. Until everybody is identifiable, and this is managed in a transparent way by a neutral body, I'm sure that at least 50% of the net population will balk and want nothing to do with it.

Yes, the foolbook / gogglers are on board with this, but they are idiots by definition (And yes, I know you, dear reader, are the genius exception.)

Abuse aside, I think it's inevitable that we'll all have some kind of identity online which will map one to one with who we really are. It's going to be interesting watching how that is implemented technically and socially, and how long it will take.
posted by w.fugawe at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2013


I read the article, and I have a problem with its second sentence and major thesis. You don't need a g+ account if you create a gmail account.

I just created a new gmail account, unclicked the "you may use my mail contents and +1s to personalize my ads" (paraphrased) checkbox that is pretty damn visible (has nothing to do with creating a g+ account, but I thought it was relevant considering the gnashing of teeth about how google just wants to mine you for moneys) and boom I had a gmail account. On the next page I chose not to create a g+ account. Account created. No real name attached. No personal identifying information public or private attached. No hassle.
posted by aspo at 11:08 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tumblr and pinterest and Reddit are where things are currently happening. Even twitter seems to be on the wane.

The day Google buys Tumblr is the day I go "off the grid" and become one of those libertarian preppers. Search, Youtube and Tumblr are where I live my online life of opulence. One entity running all three would have too much power over me.
posted by fatehunter at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2013


TheLittlePrince: If there is net stalking or people negatively responding to you being a female, the objective should be to log a complaint and get those responsible to shut up.

Wow, I wish I lived in your world, where logging a complaint makes abusers and stalkers shut up, rather than redoubling their efforts and bringing friends.

I am sure, in real life, you don't subscribe to "females should hide themselves if they want to avoid people commenting on/molesting them". "

Should? No. But there are places I don't go alone/at night so as to not be attacked. Would I like to live in the world where I could walk safely on all streets and at all times? I sure would! But I don't live in that world. And the fact that folks in meatspace go by their real names somehow has not created that world.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


> I believe if there was less anonymity, you would have less bullying.

Remember when newspaper comments (and elsewhere) started attaching your facebook profile to whatever you said? I, at first, also assumed that there would be less generally nastiness in the absence of protective anonymity. Instead, the nastiness seemed to become even more emphatic and sincere.
posted by postcommunism at 11:25 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or, for example, the consequences of being visibly female or a minority. I'm going to guess you're male. Try wandering the 'net with a female name attached to your account and take a look at what you reap.

Not that I agree with everything TheLittlePrince is saying here at all and I understand the need and desire for privacy/anonymity on the internet regardless of what one has done "wrong" but as a woman and a minority I get tired of the constant perception that every day of my life is a pile of violent abusive suck.
posted by sweetkid at 11:30 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


sweetkid: "Not that I agree with everything TheLittlePrince is saying here at all and I understand the need and desire for privacy/anonymity on the internet regardless of what one has done "wrong" but as a woman and a minority I get tired of the constant perception that every day of my life is a pile of violent abusive suck."

Well, I'm white, but I am a woman. I wouldn't say every say of my life is a pile of violent abusive suck, either. On the other hand, my online life got a whole lot more pleasant when I started protecting my identity.

It's not every second of every day, and clearly I'm "out" as a woman here, but there are corners of the internet that are different than here. That's the issue at hand here. It's not that it's never ok to use your real name (I have a facebook account under my real name), it's that there are situations where anonymity or pseudonymity suits better, and G+ wants to make it harder to do that.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:37 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am sure, in real life, you don't subscribe to "females should hide themselves if they want to avoid people commenting on/molesting them". "

They shouldn't have to, but they certainly should be able to.
posted by Jpfed at 11:37 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


If there is net stalking or people negatively responding to you being a female, the objective should be to log a complaint and get those responsible to shut up.

To whom, exactly, will the complaint be logged? There's the webhost (who doesn't care) or the proprietor of whatever forum/website/whatever (who might care, but have a sphere of consequence only within their domain)?

In the "real" world, you can tell the police someone has been harassing you at your doorstep, at your workplace, at the bank and at the store and they will (hopefully) do something about it and make sure this person doesn't bother you anywhere at all. There is no internet police.
posted by griphus at 11:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Karmakaze

Wow, I wish I lived in your world, where logging a complaint makes abusers and stalkers shut up, rather than redoubling their efforts and bringing friends.


I am sure, in real life, you don't subscribe to "females should hide themselves if they want to avoid people commenting on/molesting them". "

Should? No. But there are places I don't go alone/at night so as to not be attacked. Would I like to live in the world where I could walk safely on all streets and at all times? I sure would! But I don't live in that world. And the fact that folks in meatspace go by their real names somehow has not created that world.


Neither do I live in that world because it doesn't exist today but I would welcome any steps towards that world and i believe knowing who you are really interacting with helps us in moving towards that world.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:41 AM on January 3, 2013


The idea of abandoning Google becomes more appealing as they continue to junk up the one thing I truly valued them for: search. Like Mars Saxman, I use two browsers. I confine all my Google crap to Chrome - mostly business related stuff, with privacy settings as high as Google allows. And I always have firefox open and use Duck Duck Go or Bing there.

Why are people so scared on being a genuine person on internet, be it Google or FaceBook?

I'm totally genuine whether I am using mjjj as you know me or using my real name, by which my clients and family know me. I don't have multiple lives - I have one life. But by having that thin veil of anonymity, I can do things like express myself politically without fear of losing a client. I can also avoid a former bf/stalker that gave me grief and kept me fearful for more than a decade.

A few of my more trusted long-term clients know my mjjj handle, but most don't. I am in a conservative industry. In the pre-Internet days, I went to work and wore a suit. I left the job at end of the day and had "anonymity" in my personal life because we didn't occupy the same social spaces. I sort of think of using mjjj as taking off my corporate suit so that I can comfortably attain some social space from my clients on the searchable web without worrying that they will stop employing me as a consultant because I support a socialist muslin kenyan or because I post things they think are too weird or risque on my blog. If you have a job where you can totally let your freak flag fly without fear of reprisal, the more power to you. Those are generally not the kind of jobs I've had.

But I am not and have never been two different people. Same person, pretty genuine. My clients don't need to know my personal life no matter how much Google thinks we should be friends.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


griphus To whom, exactly, will the complaint be logged? There's the webhost (who doesn't care) or the proprietor of whatever forum/website/whatever (who might care, but have a sphere of consequence only within their domain)?

In the "real" world, you can tell the police someone has been harassing you at your doorstep, at your workplace, at the bank and at the store and they will (hopefully) do something about it and make sure this person doesn't bother you anywhere at all. There is no internet police.
I understand where you are coming from. Internet started as wild west and now, as more people move in, rules are being formed, communities are being setup, trade is happening ... its slowly tending towards, say a commune? :)

If you lived in the "wild-west", you would be very right in being secretive, not sharing information, having multiple hideouts etc ... you cant afford to show off everything.

But, in an commune, its important that you know who is next to you, you can trust the other person, you know how they will react.

You believe internet is still closer to the wild-west and i believe we are now closer to that commune.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2013


There is no internet police.

Wait, what about our Mod Squad?
posted by madamjujujive at 11:59 AM on January 3, 2013


You believe internet is still closer to the wild-west and i believe we are now closer to that commune.

One of the joys of the internet, TheLittlePrince, is that people can share their opinions under a pseudonym and not be bound by the assumptions people make in real life. Aside from the issue of harassment, as a woman I am less likely to have my statements taken seriously in my male-dominated hobbies. A dude named "Muhammad" or, heaven forbid, "Osama" is going to have a hell of a time posting on any American news site and be taken seriously. A young man from a conservative family who is looking for support about being gay will never seek out positive communities for fear that he'll be outed on the internet.

The price of your glorious identity-bound future is paid by minorities. I'll pass, thanks.

That all being said I am a Google fangirl who is on G+ with my real, full name, but that's because it was my choice. I really dislike Google's emphasis on real names and I wish they had more support for pseudonyms on G+.
posted by jess at 12:07 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's not every second of every day, and clearly I'm "out" as a woman here, but there are corners of the internet that are different than here.

God help you if anyone finds out you're a woman on XBox Live.
posted by mhoye at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


> You believe internet is still closer to the wild-west and i believe we are now closer to that commune.

This is not a wisecrack: I'm expecting internet drone attacks of some form to become first possible and then common. I would say "you read it here first" except that I'll bet somebody's beat me to the prediction.
posted by jfuller at 12:46 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, in an commune cult, its important that you know who is next to you, you can trust the other person, you know how they will react.

This way, the the cult leaders will be able to use their leadership to shame you, exclude you or kill you outright for thinking and feeling things that the cult does not approve of! Of course, they will ever only use this against the impure and evil, so we will have noting to fear, brother.

No. Thank. You.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:53 PM on January 3, 2013


The other is to learn how to use your own computer.

Unfortunately this is increasingly and seeming proudly frowned upon.
posted by juiceCake at 1:28 PM on January 3, 2013


God help you if anyone finds out you're a woman on XBox Live.

There are real women on XBL?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:38 PM on January 3, 2013


I was listening to a video game podcast, and one of the hosts (a woman with a high voice) mentioned that, to avoid harassment, she tells everyone on XBox Live that she's a prepubescent boy, rather than a woman.
posted by griphus at 1:39 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Telling people you don't use Google's services is the new "I don't even have a TV"

I'm pretty sure that not having a Facebook account is still the new "I don't even have a TV". Not using Google's services is the new off-the-grid back-to-the-land hippie survivalist lifestyle.

/me returns to flipping through the latest issue of Permaculture Sysadmin
posted by hattifattener at 2:04 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am sure, in real life, you don't subscribe to "females should hide themselves if they want to avoid people commenting on/molesting them".

Stalking comes up in these discussions because it's one of the few situations where almost everyone agrees that someone (other than themselves) has a legitimate need for some privacy. It's not that women or sexual or ethnic minorities are the only people who might need privacy, but when people base their arguments on an assumption that nobody needs privacy, then women and minorities are the most obvious counterexample.

the objective should be to log a complaint and get those responsible to shut up

Log a complaint to whom? You'll need to create a Great Internet Father (or simply accept Google as your feudal lord) in order for that to work. I'd rather not have a lord at all, thankyouverymuch.

And, by the way, the stalking or any disgusting behavior is mostly enabled by the anonymity that net offers. The greater internet fuck wad theory. I believe if there was less anonymity, you would have less bullying.

I don't think the real world bears this theory out at all. Just because a popular Penny Arcade strip says something doesn't mean it's true, you know. Lots of meatspace communities with persistent unique identities (what you think of as "real names") are rife with bullying, abuse, cliquish petty authritarianism, and so on. Lots of virtual communities with much looser forms of identity have powerful social norms which prevent those things. Heck, even the regions of 4chan in which any kind of persistent identity is frowned on often have somewhat functional social norms.
posted by hattifattener at 2:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


my online life got a whole lot more pleasant when I started protecting my identity.

Someday maybe I'll post an AskMe about this, because I'm immensely curious. Every time this topic comes up on MetaFilter a number of female members agree, "Yes, that happens to me. I can't be female, online, and not harassed, all at the same time." From reading MetaFilter this sounds like a universal, invariable experience, yet MetaFilter is the only place where I get that impression, and in myriad other contexts I'm told that isn't the case at all. I don't doubt that it happens but I wonder why it's apparently unavoidable for some women and unheard-of for others.

There's this weird opinion that just absolutely radiates from the technical community that anyone who can't grasp this stuff is either lazy or dumb

That's definitely the impression I get from much of this thread. It's funny to me because I think about how often I read FPPs on MetaFilter where IT professionals start arguing about laws and interpreting court cases. Those threads are embarrassing to read. There really is an underlying assumption, I think, that, "Because we're smart people, we can discuss anything with authority and expertise."

Based on how ridiculous those people sound when trying to discuss the law, it makes me think that if I tried setting up an email server I'd probably burn my house down.
posted by cribcage at 2:38 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The greater internet fuck wad theory.

The greater internet fuck wad theory fails to account for the fact that the Internet was largely created by fuck wads engaging in heated flamewars under their academic and professional credentials, and a key early case of sexual harassment happened in the friendly and supposedly vetted walled garden of Lambda Moo. Seriously, these are not new issues and there are entire volumes published asking the question of why otherwise mild-mannered academics engaged in sexual and professional harassment of peers over open and archived mailing lists and usenet.

Or for that matter, just reading the letters column of your typical newspaper reveals that having your name and city of origin in print is not a strong deterrent for people with strong opinions.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


More and more, you have to treat internet like your real life.
but man it isn't

i am already taking seriously as many simulacra as i possibly can, i don't have the resources for any more
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:20 PM on January 3, 2013


also, the wild west stopped being the wild west due to the genocide of the indigenous population and subsequent colonization of their land so maybe that's a bad metaphor to use if you are trying to describe something positive
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:24 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


robocop is bleeding: "So if I want to share a picture of my wedding ring to help answer a question about how scuffed titanium can get, I just take the picture, launch the app, upload it tagged 'weddingring', and lo I know I can direct people to 'www.easyphoto.com/myaccount/weddingring.jpg' and be done with it."
Can't you just dump the pic in your Dropbox? It has both a public folder (for generic files) and a gallery folder (with a nice gallery interface).

Failing that, imgur does what you want. I have no idea whether there's an app for that, though.
posted by brokkr at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2013


Based on how ridiculous those people sound when trying to discuss the law, it makes me think that if I tried setting up an email server I'd probably burn my house down.

Yes, you probably would, which I talked about, I thought, at fair length up there. It is not reasonable to expect you to run a server yourself.

But, if you used a webhost, you'd be up and running very quickly, with minimal hassle. That's what I've been trying to communicate. If you can successfully cook a meal from a recipe, you can register a domain, and get email and a basic, static website up.

Now, if you want to go further and start adding stuff, the complexity level can quickly go parabolic, but email really isn't that hard. Big webhosts have gotten everything all set up to begin with, and you just need to feed them a few pieces of info to slot you into their prebuilt environment. They've solved all the hard problems already, and adding a new instance to handle your domain is trivial. You're probably just a couple of directories in a filesystem, and a couple of small configuration files that their scripts can generate automatically. There just isn't a whole lot to providing email and/or webmail for someone. It's the exact same thing, over and over, a million times.

Because you actually OWN the domain name in this kind of setup, you can fairly easily move the mail and site to any other webhost that has a GUI you like. You're in charge of the relationship, instead of the other way around.
posted by Malor at 4:07 PM on January 3, 2013


I believe if there was less anonymity, you would have less bullying.

Why would you think that? There's no anonymity in schools, but plenty of bullying goes on there.
posted by mhoye at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It strikes me that fearing anonymity is one of the primary marks of an authoritarian.
posted by Malor at 6:46 PM on January 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wish Fnarf and others like Fnarf would not hold up their extremely atypical usage as anything other than a tiny bit of noise in a sea of data

So, I stepped away from this thread for a day, but I have to respond to this. I absolutely am not holding my usage up as anything at all; I was if anything demonstrating one way to avoid some of the problems of G+ privacy by using Google products somewhat selectively. Yes, that's just me. I don't have a stake in the larger argument, because it frankly goes over my head a bit; all I am is one dude floating in the warm, gentle sea. Maybe there's sharks, I dunno.
posted by Fnarf at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2013


If you can successfully cook a meal from a recipe, you can register a domain, and get email and a basic, static website up.

I can cook a meal from a recipe, and I cannot do the things you said. I don't even really know what it means to register a domain. I don't know what a "static website" means, unless it means a website where nothing ever changes, but then it wouldn't really do a good job of being my website, would it? I don't know what an "environment" or an "instance" is in the sense you mean. I do happen to know what a GUI is, but I haven't always. I highly doubt that I "can fairly easily move the mail and site to any other webhost that has a GUI you like," since I once moved my wife's e-mail from an .edu host to gmail, and it required several tries, took me most of a day, and required me to ask an Ask MeFi question, and to this day I haven't managed to do the same for my own e-mail.

I have a Ph.D. in math and, for me, doing basic calculus is as easy as cooking a meal from a recipe. But that's because cooking and doing calculus are things I know how to do and have known how to do for a long, long time. Those things feel easy to me but that feeling is incorrect.
posted by escabeche at 7:54 PM on January 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


As another generally computer-literate person who can cook and do calculus, I second escabeche's comment.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:09 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow quite a few responses. I should have expected this because what I am saying is contrary to the usual inclination. Thanks for the feedback and thoughts. I am new here and its been good interacting so far. Now, getting back to the discussion at hand.

1. Regarding stalking/bullying on internet and need of anonymity for that: In real life, if anyone needs to go private to prevent stalking, it is a failure of the social system there. Its basically saying "sorry, we cant do anything to stop that guy/girl. So you should hide". The same is on internet. If on a social network, you have to hide yourself to prevent harassment, its a failure for the social network. Till now, Google/Facebook/any social network doesn't really care beyond a point because the attitude is "hey, he can/you can just throw away this ID and create a new one. You don't even have to leave the network". But once they enforce having real identities, the onus would be on them to prevent such harassment. Otherwise, either people will leave or sue them. Both of which is bad for them. In a way, by asking for real identities, Google is implicitly becoming a party to prevent harassment/bullying.
Now, internet has one advantage over meat-space when it comes to preventing harassment: everything would be recorded somewhere. In real life, a harassment law suite often becomes "he said - she said". But on the net, if you know someone harassed you, you can get the proof and nail the bastard. Plus, it will be hard for a serial offender to continue because everyone knows the guy.
The harassment on XBL is simply because people know they can say anything and get away with it, no consequences. They will use another ID/another server and keep on harassing someone else. But, the moment they have to connect their xbox IDs with real life, you bet they would think twice once someone complains and the police/the admin has the proof to ban them permanently or make them pay penalties.

2. I was really troubled by "fear of anonymity is a mark of an authoritarian" cause there is so much truthyness to it. Just to clarify, i am not afraid of anonymity. I think there is a trade off between being anonymous and having a real persona .. and i think everyone having a real persona online will result in a better overall payoff. anonymity should be needed for something really important or critical with real persona being the norm, not the other way round as it is now.

3. Bullying in schools today vs bullying on internet - Bullying in schools is prevalent today because most of the time the authority is lax and the situation turns into "he said this/ I never said this" without any proof. The proof is much easier to obtain on internet. The only reason you have people bullying on the net is because they believe they are "behind seven proxies" and no-one can find out who they really are.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 12:09 AM on January 4, 2013


I can cook a meal from a recipe, and I cannot do the things you said. I don't even really know what it means to register a domain. I don't know what a "static website" means

What he means is, the things are not hard. You can learn to know and do these things, it isn't any more complicated than cooking a meal. You might have to pick up some new ideas, but so does one who wants to learn to cook. Here:

A domain is a domain name, the address of a website. The top-level domain is the stuff after the last period, usually "com". The part just before that is your site's domain. These days, you usually pay a small periodic amount to an organization like Dreamhost or GoDaddy* and they take care of both registering the domain and providing the web hosting service for you. That's why Malor says it's simple really, because the people who actually host your page will do all the complicated stuff for you, for free, just because you choose to go with them. They also typically will set up email for you, for the same reason. (Competition can be a wonderful thing.) Once you have the domain, you can point it wherever you want pretty quickly, whether at your site or someone else's.

A static webpage is a HTML file you code yourself with nothing fancy done for you automatically. It's "static" because it never changes unless you change it. Most sites these days are "dynamic" in some way; on these the web server, the program running on the host that sends your web pages across the internet on your behalf, creates the HTML documents on the fly as sites request them, instead of simply uploading to them a static HTML file. The advantage of this is that instead of having to code up the HTML yourself, you can edit your site more easily and the site will take care of the coding for you, as well as doing chores like tracking links incoming and outgoing and keeping an archive of posts.

* Who I hate, because they supported SOPA. I have a long memory for these things.
posted by JHarris at 12:29 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


There legitimately are many people for whom "the internet" and "facebook" are interchangable terms. Many MeFites, particularly the ones contributing to these kind of threads, have much more understanding of the nuts and bolts of computers and the internet than many other groups of people. There's a whole world of technical abilities that anyone commenting on this thread might not have any competence in, anything from cheesemaking to underwater welding; I hardly think it's condescending to point out that the technical ability of one group of people can't be expected from the population at large.
posted by eurypteris at 4:28 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


People keep talking about hosting email yourself and how cheap and easy it is blah blah. But I've yet to find somewhere I can host my five domains with reasonable tech service when things go wrong, a billing service that actually works, useful amounts of hosting space and services for my needs, and actual honest to god email hosting that works, for any kind of reasonable sum let alone US$20 per year. Having five domains is the killer, I'm generally stuck paying five hosting fees making it 5x as expensive, plus my space and bandwidth needs are so so low that even US$20 is a lot of money.

I was using NFSN but I got locked out of my account due to a mistake with the one email I don't host myself (so can't fix) and I currently can't even register my domains at a new account there, plus they don't do email anyway. The last shared hosting service I tried to use screwed up the billing so badly that it got nearly a year overdue before they sent me a bill, and they still continue to bill me regularly 6 years later despite my regularly pointing out that I'm no longer their customer. The one before that lied to me then tripled their charges (which I only found out after their billing attempt thankfully failed), and they also still send me customer emails something like ten years later even though I keep telling them to leave me alone. So you can see I'm kind of burnt, even without taking into account the money side of things.

Right now I'm using a free DNS service to send the email part to gmail and don't have any webhosting. But I'd love to drop gmail, find reasonable web hosting, and get everything back running properly, but it's not actually as easy and cheap and lovely as some of you seem to think it is, despite that I know what I'm doing. And even then I'm stuck with the @gmail.com account that I use professionally because it's been used in my publications etc.

Why are people so scared on being a genuine person on internet, be it Google or FaceBook?

I should be able to have casual conversations with my friends scattered around the world without every potential employer using it as part of their hiring decision. Basically.

I don't give a fuck what google or facebook knows about me but I certainly do care what they publish about me, particularly when it's done after the fact or without my permission. I don't want a g+ account set up in my name because I don't want anyone thinking that I'm using it and thus expecting to have access to what's in it, which sadly is becoming the normal expectation of many employers. None of that is controversial and none of it makes me a bad person for wanting to use social websites for, you know, being social.
posted by shelleycat at 8:03 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can cook a meal from a recipe, and I cannot do the things you said.

Of course not. You may not be able to skateboard, either, or crochet, or paint.

It seems like a lot of people have these huge barriers in their head, wherein they convince themselves that Some Things Are Hard And I Cannot Do Them No Matter How Hard I Try, when, at least with basic webmail and a basic website, it just ain't the case.

Some skills are very hard. They take a lot of brainpower to master (like calculus) or a great deal of native physical skill (like football, or martial arts) or an inherent talent for charisma (like politics). And some skills are easy, like cooking, or changing the oil in your car, or replacing a light switch. And, having those skills, you can tell the difference. You personally know perfectly well that calculus is hard, that you had to spend a lot of time learning it. You might have natural skill, and are aware that it's something you're inherently good at and didn't have much trouble mastering, but you will also know that it is fundamentally a very complex thing.

So, as someone who's done it for my entire life, let me assure you: computer and system administration is, in total, a huge number of very simple skills. Learning HTML is nothing like learning calculus. Learning how to use Windows or Thunderbird or webmail isn't even vaguely like particle physics. The 'advanced' skills usually aren't even that advanced, they just require that you have mastered a great number of the simple skills first. Computers are mostly difficult because of the quantity of the knowledge required, not the complexity.

That's the big dirty secret of computers: most of the knowledge isn't that complex. There's just a lot of it. Now, you can get complex, insanely so; programming a 3D game from scratch, for instance, requires mental gymnastics that I believe I am not physically capable of doing. The starting point on stuff like that would be your calculus skills, and it gets hairy beyond belief in very short order. It takes a truly brilliant person to successfully write a 3D engine; there's a reason John Carmack is so effing rich. But the vast, VAST majority of computer skills are nothing like that, requiring nothing beyond some patience and a little study, and often not even that much.

If you know enough computer skills to find and post on MeFi, then it's only a few small steps to registering a domain, and getting webmail and basic webpages up and running. Learning to change oil would be substantially harder. (not to mention more physically taxing!) Learning all the things you need to run an actual server would take much longer, probably a year or more, but the webhosts have condensed almost all of that expertise into scripts and web pages, so you can just plug into their architecture and go.

Changing oil is easy, but I don't do it myself. I pay someone else to do it, mostly because I lack the tools required to make it easy. It's just a monetary cost, with no long-term consequences, but I could save myself $50 every 5000 miles. I can't be arsed to bother. I am lazy about oil.

Likewise, if you want to use GMail, then you are being lazy about learning your other options. Running basic webmail somewhere like Dreamhost is no harder than doing your own oil changes. If you think the price, the loss of your privacy and anonymity, is worth avoiding a little work, then that's fine. But it is lazy, and no amount of complaining about arrogant IT people will change that. You have other options. You do not have to surrender your privacy; the money and knowledge barriers to escaping GMail are quite low.

You've already learned enough to get hooked up with GMail...learning just a little more will let you move on.
posted by Malor at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Um, I'm not lazy. I just don't have a couple of hundred euros to throw at the problem. It's nice that some of you do, but no reason to be rude about it.
posted by shelleycat at 8:31 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think Malor's right on the question of quantity of knowledge vs. complexity of knowledge, but I also think the quantity of knowledge needed to manage one's own domain hosting infrastructure is beyond what most people are going to want to devote to it, so it's not really germane to this discussion. I say this as someone who's run his own domain for a decade or so, and will continue to do so. (I just use GMail as an alternate email address that forwards to my own domain-hosted email.)

If you're someone who wants to host a domain for something other than just email, maybe it's worth it to go the extra mile to deal with the hassle, but for most people, it's really not. There is some care and feeding involved with setting up regular backups, keeping up with software updates, dealing with the occasional heavy DDoS that slows things down, etc. Google's got an army of people to deal with this shit for you 24/7, so chances are even if you're an experienced admin, you're going to have more downtime over the long haul than your Google services will.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


More and more, you have to treat internet like your real life. Having multiple lives in reality is tough and it should be a bit difficult on internet as well. If you feel that saying something loudly in real life can cause you harm, you should take the same approach on internet as well.

My real life involves a certain level of compartmentalization. There are people who know I'm bisexual, and people who don't. There are people who I engage in religious community with, and people with whom I don't discuss religion at all. There are people with whom I'll talk about my life as a high-functioning crazy person, and people I won't.

I don't go out of my way to put on a robot suit when I visit those support networks in real life, nor will I deny my participation when asked, but I don't want that participation to be indexed for the sake of people who wouldn't have the sense to politely ask me in person.

That's likely to remain the case while discrimination and prejudice about aspects of my life are commonplace. Most employers can't ask about my religion, sexual orientation, or my health, but they can be biased on what comes up via an internet search.

Yes, that does complicate my life a bit. But as far as I'm concerned, that's a necessary complication.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:58 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Um, I'm not lazy. I just don't have a couple of hundred euros to throw at the problem.

Well, Dreamhost is $9/mo, and they're not even the cheapest out there, I just know their web-based tools are pretty good. I'm not saying to use them, but I'm familiar with their product, so they're a handy benchmark. And domain registration is about $9/year.... so probably about $20 to get started.

That's more than zero, but it's not ridiculously expensive. It would take, hmm, I guess about three years to reach 200 euros, depending on exchange rates.
posted by Malor at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2013


PolarisMail is $12 a year (a freaking YEAR!) for a 25 GB email account with all the usual bells and whistles. (POP3 / IMAP / webmail, etc) Add another $15 or so if you want to register a domain with them. So the high level level technical skills required here are the ability to fill out a couple of web forms to open the account, and then the ability to use webmail to get to your email.

That doesn't seem to be out of the realm of possibility for most people. The problem is not the cognitive skills to fill out the form, it is the lack of understanding of the tradeoffs of using an ad supported email service in the first place.

Note - I'm not presently using PolarisMail, but I've been contemplating switching to them.
posted by COD at 10:15 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


COD: "PolarisMail is $12 a year (a freaking YEAR!) for a 25 GB email account with all the usual bells and whistles. (POP3 / IMAP / webmail, etc) Add another $15 or so if you want to register a domain with them. So the high level level technical skills required here are the ability to fill out a couple of web forms to open the account, and then the ability to use webmail to get to your email. "

Yes, there are plenty of webmail providers that can host your mail on a vanity domain. I was interpreting the domain hosting tangent as more of a Dreamhost/Linode type situation where you're administering the machine itself, or at least the services themselves via some kind of CPanel setup.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2013


In rereading, I realize that I misphrased my final paragraph above, saying that you're lazy if you use GMail. That's not true. What I meant to say is that if you use GMail and don't like the privacy implications, then THAT'S being lazy. I'm lazy about oil changes, and pay dollars to avoid doing it myself; you're lazy about switching your email, and pay in privacy. If that's a good tradeoff for you, that's fine, I have no problem with that. But it is what it is.
posted by Malor at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2013


I was interpreting the domain hosting tangent as more of a Dreamhost/Linode type situation where you're administering the machine itself

Well, I was assuming that if you want to take the time to make a domain, that you'd want a simple webpage to go with it, and setting up email and basic web hosting via Dreamhost isn't really any harder than doing just email via PolarisMail. More expensive, but hardly any different as far as administration goes.

If ALL you want is mail, you don't even need a domain, you can just get an address in someone else's. If it's one you pay for, presumably you won't have your privacy invaded and be advertised at, as the fee for service.
posted by Malor at 10:32 AM on January 4, 2013


Oh, and the entire reason I brought up Dreamhost is because you don't have to manage the machine yourself. That is the point. Linode is very different.
posted by Malor at 10:33 AM on January 4, 2013


Right, so I think we're basically in agreement here? The more administrative overhead you want to take on, the more you can do with your hosting setup. I used Dreamhost for several years before switching to Linode, and will never go back, but I still reckon that a vast majority of folks are going to find even a Dreamhost setup too much of a hassle (and too much money to spend on something they can get for "free".)
posted by tonycpsu at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2013


The problem is not the cognitive skills to fill out the form, it is the lack of understanding of the tradeoffs of using an ad supported email service in the first place.

This needs to be emphasized again and again. The hard part here is not the technology (at least not at first, you can always go deeper down the rabbit hole if you like). Registering a domain and using an FTP client to upload photos to your "website" is basically a two-click process at this point.

The hard part is doing the cost benefit analysis to determine what solution best suits an individual. Nobody can do that analysis for you, and often people can't do that analysis for themselves, even when they already understand the underlying technology at hand.

Many times, the cost benefit analysis is not a question that can be answered just by considering the options. The only way to know what works best is to try different things. Of course, some people will argue that they don't have the time (or the inclination) to try different things, and they want something that "just works". That's why companies like Google exists, they provide useful solutions that work right out of the box.

But making the decision to use Google involves an implicit cost benefit analysis, and the worst part is that the underlying costs are not always obvious when the decisions are made. So people who think they are getting around the hard decisions come to realize that they are not, they are just weighing the costs and benefits differently (and sometimes incorrectly).

The trick to many of the "free" services that Google and other companies offer is that they make it seem like they are making the cost benefit analysis easier (it's free and automatic, and I don't know how to do it on my own, so the choice is obvious!), but that's not always the case.
posted by grog at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, Dreamhost is $9/mo, and they're not even the cheapest out there

Right, and times five that's US$45 per month, times 12 is US$540 per year. Not exactly zero is a bit of an understatement. Plus I have .nz domains which are significantly more expensive to register and most US based registrars don't deal with, so I'm not moving those anywhere.

There's no way I'm paying several hundred euros per year for domains that have a really really tiny amount of storage needs and traffic just so I can have email that works somewhat, when google gives me the email for free. Even the US$108 per year that your hosting example costs for one domain is way too much money for most people given they get their email for free from google and given how much easier gmail is to deal with than someone like dreamhost (and every cheaper place I've looked at is outright horrible). Laziness has nothing to do with it. Stop being arrogant.
posted by shelleycat at 3:37 AM on January 5, 2013


Also maybe I'm weird, but nearly all my friends have run their own domains at some point or still do. Lack of know how is not the problem. And they/we all now use gmail because we got so sick of being screwed over by our hosting providers and, at the start, gmail was so much better. Now we're kind of stuck, every time I've looked I haven't been able to find a reasonable alternative plus, as I mentioned before, I now have a gmail.com address permanently linked to my professional life (same as everyone else).

I'll take another look around for a better alternative now and see if things have changed, but frankly any amount of money is an issue for me (less so now I earn euros but still). And that really is a big part of the issue here. We don't all choose free+privacy issues over paying for something because we're lazy or stupid or can't figure out the tradeoff, we do it because we can't afford to pay. This is absolutely a privilege issue, nice for those of you with money and time to do something else, sucks for us that don't have those things. Given how google and gmail has changed since we started using it I think it's totally fair for those of us currently locked in to it to be concerned and kind of annoyed at those changes, it's not what we signed up for.

But hey is saying we're lazy or stupid or unable to make good decisions makes you all feel smug then go for it.
posted by shelleycat at 3:47 AM on January 5, 2013


Well, Dreamhost is $9/mo, and they're not even the cheapest out there

Right, and times five that's US$45 per month


You can have unlimited quantities of both domains and mail addresses with Dreamhost for your $9/mo, at least per their claim. I think they might chase you away if you were trying to run, say, Metafilter for $9/mo, but I doubt they'd care about five small domains, if that's what you mean. And hosting is not the same as registering; you can keep your .nz domains with the New Zealand registrar. (In fact, you'd probably have to). But, after paying Dreamhost for hosting, and telling them to get ready for your domains, you update your registrar, configuring those domains to use the Dreamhost DNS servers. That tells the Net to talk to Dreamhost for those domains, but doesn't change the registrar or the registration ... all you're changing is the name server records.

Transferring a domain is a fair bit harder than just creating one. It's very easy to just make a new one from scratch. If you can bake a pie from a recipe, you can make a domain. But when you want to MOVE a domain to a new host, that gets more complex. That does take actual understanding of what's going on. In your case, thinking about moving five domains, I would expect that to take me at least a full day. Moving from a single Gmail address to a new domain is fairly trivial, but moving five websites, and five email setups, would take some planning, prep work, and testing before cutting over. From my perspective, that strikes me as a much larger potential hurdle than the financial outlay. You would probably want to duplicate the services GMail is offering in the new environment, to minimize disruption to your workflow. You'd have to bend Dreamhost to do things more or less like Google.

This is something, sadly, you'd probably want expert help with.

As far as fiscal outlay goes, at least if you can believe the claims of unlimited domains and email accounts, you should be able to move everything to DH for that $9. The only entity you're getting a divorce from in this scenario is Google, not your registrars. You still deal with them, and still pay your yearly fees, like normal.

Even the US$108 per year that your hosting example costs for one domain is way too much money for most people given they get their email for free from google and given how much easier gmail is to deal with than someone like dreamhost (and every cheaper place I've looked at is outright horrible).

Okay, so you value $108 per year, plus the convenience of a system with features you like, and an interface you know, plus the time involved to switch everything over to someone else, more than you value your privacy. If that's an okay trade for you, then I don't care. Given the complexity of your setup, you're not selling your privacy as cheaply as many are.

But hey is saying we're lazy or stupid or unable to make good decisions makes you all feel smug then go for it.

I would rather lose money than time, so I pay for oil changes. I'm lazy in that area. You would rather lose privacy than $108+hassle, so you host with Google; you are lazy about hosting. You have options, you choose not to exercise them, and that's fine. The judgement you're perceiving is coming from your own head, not mine. You don't, I suspect, really want to trade away your privacy and be snooped on, but you don't feel you have the time and money to do anything else, and then you're transferring that anger to me. I'm not the person to be mad at, here. If you should be angry at anyone, it should be at Google, for altering the deal you originally made with them. You do have remedies, fortunately, other than praying they don't alter the deal further.

Don't be pissed at me for pointing out those remedies, or that those remedies cost more than you want to spend. Be pissed at Google that you feel you need them. And, if I'm misreading, and in fact you don't feel you need them, then there's absolutely zero reason to be angry with me at all. I'm nattering about something you've decided you don't care about, so don't worry about what I'm telling folks here.

Off on a bit of a tangent, I've also heard pretty good things about A Small Orange and NearlyFreeSpeech for web and mail hosting, but that was a bunch of techies swapping tips. I don't know how easy their systems are to navigate for non-IT professionals.
posted by Malor at 9:28 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the self-hosting tips, Malor. But I'm sure you know that using the word "lazy" in standard English carries a strong negative judgement. Not everyone has studied Haskell or Perl. Me, I both use and appreciate nerdly dramatic self-deprecation, but I'm not surprised when other people don't.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, this has been making the rounds:

Google permanently enables moderate safesearch on images
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2013


Okay, so you value $108 per year, plus the convenience of a system with features you like, and an interface you know, plus the time involved to switch everything over to someone else, more than you value your privacy. If that's an okay trade for you, then I don't care. Given the complexity of your setup, you're not selling your privacy as cheaply as many are.

For me the thing is that the money is tangible and the loss of my privacy is abstract to the point of being invisible. I have not experienced any negative effects that may have been mitigated by using my own setup. I don't know of close friends or family who have. I don't know the Mexican woman murdered for expressing herself on Facebook, I don't know the circumstances and decisions that led up to it, or what kind of cost benefit analysis she was or should have been doing.

The last big privacy kerfuffle I really followed was Google auto-scanning emails for ad placement and that turned out to be a tempest in a teapot. I keep hearing people wailing about privacy but I look around and see that most people are doing more or less what I'm doing, so if there's hell to pay for it later at least I won't be paying alone. I currently feel like I have enough tools to decide on a case by case basis how public or private I want something to be and I don't feel any urgency at all to go learn how to be a sysadmin.

(And it seems to me that by hosting a site on dreamhost or using an alternate company to mediate your web presence, you're just as dependent on their goodness/lack thereof as you would be on Google anyway, and what do I know from them?)

To me it feels like there's a bit of a Chicken Little effect happening. Every time there's a hue and cry about privacy and then it's not clear to me how it actually impacts me , or that there's any clear alternative, and things keep on keeping on like usual, I'm less inclined to get all het up to even do my own research the next time. If it is a real concern, kind of like global climate change where it all seems abstract until it doesn't, and so easy to keep on going on, then we're all kind of screwed anyway (except maybe for a few survivalists).

Like climate change I think that haranguing individuals to make what are really annoying for themselves changes that don't actually add up to much is less helpful than an effective technological, legislative, and political agenda to put in system-wide changes/regulations that make it easy and mindless for the individual to do the 'right' thing.

I think the kind of person who enjoys the kind of dogged teamwork and bureaucracy of a long political fight and the kind of person who enjoys the rugged individualism of maintaining a private survivalist Internet presence are pretty different.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:55 AM on January 11, 2013


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