Technology Section

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 4:01pm

Remember years ago when the concept of "Customer Service" didn't exist and if you had a problem with a product and called the company, you got nowhere? Perhaps some of you have worked with products or services that came "as-is" and offered no additional feedback, and only token support -- no actual support, but a suggestion for "where to go" if you had a problem...and the alternate meaning for "where to go" was more likely the intent, as the actual "where to go" was nothing more than a relatively barren wasteland populated only by others searching for solutions to similar problems?

That's what I'm dealing with at this moment. The product is one that is well-known for ~not~ being officially supported. Problem is, the support forum that users are directed to appears to be wholly void of any Google-ish help beyond the basic FAQ information (at least for this problem).

The product? GMail...specifically, when a GMail account has been shut off for a "violation of TOS" when it's highly unlikely that any such violation occurred, and affected account is a one set up for a professional non-profit organization's headquarters.

A few weeks ago, the primary hosting provider for the non-profit's website started experiencing problems. The site server began acting very sluggish, and attempts to work with tech support resulted in responses that wavered from "You're right, there's a serious delay in network response time" to "it's all fine from our end" - the latter of which was easily disproven by running a traceroute from 4 different locations across the US and getting nearly identical results.

Eventually, the server stopped responding more often than not, and the site was moved under emergency conditions to a new hosting provider. The email was set up to utilize Gmail at that time in order to minimize downtime, as it had been reliable in the past and would enable the folks at the new HQ to continue to correspond with folks signing up for the upcoming convention, which was just gearing up for a two-to-three month registration drive.

Gmail's been reliable when set up for similar reasons and uses, and there was no reason to believe there'd be an issue. Google doesn't offer any support for it beyond some automated 'contact us' options and a support forum, but that wasn't considered to be a big deal.

Until they deactivated the account today with the enigmatic "This account has been disabled due to a TOS violation." No information is available as to what could possibly be conceived as a violation, and the client has no capacity to send or receive mail for the key personnel at this time.

Google's automated "contact us" option still hasn't responded; their online forum has questions akin to "Why was my account deactivated for a TOS violation?" laying unanswered save for a few fellow Googlers, some of whom attempt to help and some of whom simply appear to be being smartasses.

No Google folks.

The essentially unanswered questions go back at least through most of 2009.

An attempt to contact the Corporate Headquarters and ask them to have ~someone~ at least dive into the fora to try to address questions gets the same noncommittal "I'm sorry you're having problems, but I have no resources for this -- you need to visit our online forums" as a response.

Google, the mighty behemoth of search engines and supposedly effective, user-friendly computing, has yet another flaw that detracts substantially from its reputation for relative excellence: they are failing to provide even anemic responses to serious problems encountered with their own policy enforcement.

It's not a technical glitch or a support request per se -- it's a problem that directly stems from actions they've taken w/o any option for information or recourse.

It's an issue I might not have been as surprised to encounter from other vendors -- particularly on products offered freely, and clearly denoted as not having support included -- and yet it smacks of complete indifference and arbitrary (random, inaccurate) enforcement of policy.

Google, you can do better.

The apathy, the lack of due diligence, the dysfunctional support forums and absence of customer service all combined fly directly in the face of the image you've so carefully cultivated.

I'm disappointed and frustrated.

Monday, June 7, 2010 - 5:28pm

And we shouldn't forget the deja-vu inducing Ixtoc I disaster from June 3, 1979 or the Exxon Valdez incident off the coast of Alaska from March 24, 1989.

There are others, but these help illustrate some of the primary factors -- and unwelcome, unexpected and unplanned costs -- that fossil fuel dependency incurs.

There are other options. There are significant changes we can make in policies and procedures that impact energy, transportation, manufacturing and construction that would drastically alter our dependency on fossil fuels while strengthening our economy and reducing waste. Before we can make these adjustments, however, we must accept that we are accountable for the decisions that we make and the policies we pursue, not only as individuals but as a nation and as a civilization.

The question is, are we mature enough as a species to make the commitment to growing up and making the difficult adjustments required to review, alter and adjust our current consumption and utilization toward sustainable alternatives?

And if not now, then when?

How much damage do we need to do, how scared or large the negative impact must we witness before we decide that there are options we must explore, develop and adopt?

Connecticut Man1
Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 7:57pm

From RSA Animate:

This lively RSA Animate, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.

Will this video drive you to be motivated enough to leave your mark in an Open Thread?

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 8:49pm

This video clip of a Dan Ratigan segment is worth understanding better than I do, at the moment.

But I'm reposting it because the two experts in this segment are discussing the details as industry insiders and seem to be telling us that, 'well yes, BP's running an attempted top kill plug into a portion of the leaking structure where they've focussed our attention on live video feed since they've been forced to let us watch. However, that section-leak is effectively the size of a mouse, when the elephant is a mile or more distant from the video feed.'


I'll be rewatching this clip more than once as I try to reconcile the implications with other sources of information, but please help me out by watching, interpreting, and posting what you understand.


Saturday, May 22, 2010 - 11:06pm

Doing some site maintenance this weekend. Site will at times be unavailable for short periods of time as we update the database. Thank you for your patience. :)



The login box has moved from the top right (just below the menu) to the top of the left column.



Our blogroll has been updated.  If your blog is no longer listed and you want it to be, please leave a note in the comments.  Any blog that resulted in "not found" or that had not been updated in over a year was removed from the list.



 FAQs have been moved off of the main horizontal menu and can now be found under Citizen Journalism Toolbox.

Timelines have been temporarily disabled as we move them into a kewl new format.



On the left, we now have a "Tag Cloud".  How cool is that?  :)



OK ... all done for now.  As always, kudos and/or complaints go in the comments.



WE have added another level to the categorization of content on the site.  Now, when you create a new commentary you will see a dropdown for selecting a "Section".  If you use this feature, then your commentary will show up in the Sections overview accessible through the new menu item on the top menu.  Free tagging is still available and the section tags are not required.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - 12:29pm

Email from MoveOn regarding Facebook Privacy issues.  They are asking for action on the part of  Facebook users to,

Facebook should stop sharing my personal info with outside companies without my permission. If you agree, set this as your status today and join this group:

I have heavily curtailed my facebook activities since the last invasion (heh ... not that I spent a whole lot of time there anyway). 

Dear MoveOn member,

Every day, we entrust more and more of our private information to websites and online social networks like Facebook. So I take Internet privacy very seriously.

That's why I'm so concerned with the changes Facebook recently made to its privacy policy and use of personal data on third party websites. These changes take away important control that users had over who has access to their information.1,2 

I and others have expressed our concern about these changes and Facebook is starting to feel the pressure. Now, as Facebook considers how to respond to the outcry from its customers,3 we all need to keep up the pressure. 

That's why I'm asking you to join me in urging Facebook to stop sharing your information without your permission, by setting your status today to read:


"Facebook should stop sharing my personal info with outside companies without my permission. If you agree, set this as your status today and join this group:"


Facebook provides a valuable service, but online social networks need to allow users to retain control over their own personal information.


The information that Facebook is now sharing with third-parties and with the public is very different from the spirit of the site's previous terms of service.4 Certain parts of your profile, including your hometown, interests and activities, and your profile picture, must be made public or deleted—even if you restricted whom they were shared with before. Certain third-party partners now have access to all of this information, including your list of friends and their information, as soon as you visit their websites—without asking your permission.


These changes undermine the protection of your personal information on the web. 

Recently, I sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to examine the use and distribution of personal information by social networking sites like Facebook.5 Three other senators and I also sent a letter directly to Facebook, urging them to provide an opt-in mechanism that would seek your permission before sharing your information.6

Facebook can take immediate action to remedy this situation—but before they will they need to hear from enough users who care.

Can you join me in advocating for privacy on the web?

If you're on Facebook set your status to read: 

"Facebook should stop sharing my personal info with outside companies without my permission. If you agree, set this as your status today and join this group:"

Thank you for joining me in advocating for a safer, better Internet.


Senator Charles Schumer