As an experiment, and to ensure a like-for-like comparison, I signed out of Google, and went to the .com version (I normally use .co.uk by default). I was still at the top. ↩︎
Every month Google, or specifically the ‘Google Search Console Team’ sends me an email showing the ‘Top performing pages’ on my site. Presumably that means the ones to which they, Google, have sent the most people.
Consistently, the top one is a post from 2012, about a particular use case of Pandoc. Specifically: Tip: using Pandoc to create truly standalone HTML files.
So it’s clear that if I want more engagement here – or at least more drive-by readers – I should write more technical-support-type articles.
That’s unlikely to happen at the moment. That page was a complete mess, though. There were artifacts left over from WordPress plugins, and the whole thing was displaying at the wrong width for reasons that I don’t understand. So I’ve cleaned it up, and now at least it looks a bit more welcoming for the hundreds of visitors who come every month.
I’m not even sure what it describes is still necessary – Pandoc has had a lot of changes since then – but it’s not wrong, so oh well.
When Gmail launched several years ago offering a free gigantic storage plan of, I think, 1 gigabyte, it seemed impossible that anyone could ever fill that much space with email. Since then, of course, the free allowance has quietly grown and grown. So too has the volume of email, and the average size of individual emails.
Until today, when I see this:
99% of 15 GB. Whoops! Of course, seven years of using it as a repository for daily backups from WordPress will do that. (It’s not the most elegant of backup solutions, but it’s easy and it works.) I deleted everything before 2017 and now it’s down to 60%.
It must be well over a year now since I switched my main search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo. I changed partly because of concerns over Google’s handling of privacy issues, and partly just to try out the new one.
DuckDuckGo’s results are usually fine, and if you ever can’t find something and you think Google might be better, it’s easy to redirect your search there by adding “!g” at the end. There are other special codes like this, such as “!w” to search Wikipedia.
So it’s all fine. But what I’ve only gradually realised is that I much prefer the Duck’s user interface. And this is for one simple reason: infinite scrolling.
Now, infinite scrolling isn’t always good, and I’m sure it has a negative effect on things like usability and caching, in at least some cases. But on DDG (as I’m sure no-one ever calls it), it makes the whole search experience better.
Because sometimes there are more than ten Interesting hits. Or the interesting ones are long after the tenth. But with Google, you get ten on a page. And then you’ve got to click or touch a link to go to the next ten. And it just feels so old fashioned.
After just a few months on DDG (as we should all start calling it from now on) you can’t go back to Google without feeling a weird interrupt at the end of a page, before you go, “Oh, yeah, gotta click that.”
It’s just an inferior experience.
We used to call this “thin clients”; or just a terminal logged on to a server or mainframe. Jason Snell writes of something newish that Adobe and Google are doing with Chromebooks:
This week I got a demo of Photoshop running inside Chrome, and while it was really interesting, some of my assumptions were faulty. It turns out that when Adobe says Photoshop is a “streaming app,” they mean it—it’s much more like screen sharing than native software. Photoshop runs remotely on a Windows-based server, and video of the app’s interface streams to the Chrome browser.
I was reading The Clutter Didn’t Kill the Love by Brent Simmons, about how he was trying Microsoft's Bing search engine, instead of Google. His reason was the current worry that Google is becoming less than trustworthy.
Google losing trust would be a shame. But at least a Google search for “martin mccallion” (without the quotes) has this blog as the number one hit. Try that on Bing at the moment and you get a whole pile of other Martin McCallions.1 The worst part to me is that the first six are Facebook or LinkedIn profiles (the seventh is one of those annoying directory sites, then you get me).
I wouldn’t mind other people with the same name appearing above me, if it was their proper sites; but to me social-network profiles feel like distinctly second-class web entities.
Or is that snobbish?
I doubt that anybody noticed, but my last entry has been missing a bit — in fact, missing most of itself — for a week or more. I don’t know how it happened. I did make a minor edit to it a few days after initially posting it, and I can only suppose that either I or WordPress somehow messed something up.
Unfortunately I had already deleted the draft from my PDA where I composed it. Fortunately there is a behemoth in California that looks after the careless blogger. A bit of obscure Google-diving and my post is back.
Thanks, Google. In future I’ll keep everything in text files.