Showing posts with label internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label internet. Show all posts

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why I'm not happy with the Weather Network latest website redesign

Weather Network 7-day forecast

The default page for each city is the 7-day forecast, shown to the right. (Click to embiggen. The long and narrow shape is the result of Firefox's awesome screenshot function, which allows you to take a screenshot of the full page, rather than just what appears on screen.)

At the top of the page are the current conditions.  That part's good - that's exactly the information I'm looking for.

However, the next thing I'm looking for is the short-range forecast, which isn't there.  There are two small boxes below the current conditions giving a brief summary of the next two 12-hour periods (labelled "Tonight" and "Tuesday" in this screenshot), but that isn't sufficient information. At a minimum, I'm also looking for humidex/windchill (labelled as "Feels like" in these screenshots) and probability of precipitation (labelled "POP" in these screenshots), but they don't have that information on the default page for the short-range forecast. They just have those stingy, inadequate summary boxes with way too wordy a description and way too little quantitative information.

I do want to see the long-range forecast on the main page as well, and it's right there in a format that makes me happy, just below the row of news videos.  But without a proper short-range forecast, there's a gap in the information provided.

Weather Network 36-hour forecast
The short-range forecast can be found on the 36-hour page, shown to the left.  (Click to embiggen).  And all the information I'm looking for is right there, in a format that makes me happy, in the table just below the row of news videos.

However, the current conditions at the top are incomplete. They  have the sky condition with the temperature and humidex, but that's it. No wind speed, humidity, air quality, UV, etc.

This is a problem, because now I have to have two tabs open to get all the information I want, especially when I have weather-sensitive outdoor plans, or in shoulder seasons where I have to make multiple decisions throughout the day about heating/air conditioning, windows open/closed, blinds open/closed to keep my home comfortable.

For example, I'm currently trying to find a good time to wash my windows.  To do this, I need to know the current temperature, humidex, wind, humidity and sunset time, all of which are in the current conditions on the main 7-day page, but not all of which are on the 36-hour page.  I also need the temperature, POP, and wind for the next couple of days, all of which are on the 36-hour page but not the main 7-day page.  So what was a simple at-a-glance task with the Weather Network's old design now requires two tabs.

The best thing the Weather Network could do to fix this is remove the two small boxes ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the 7-day screenshot) from the 7-day page, and remove the row of news videos. Then they should put the 36-hour chart from the 36-hour page in their place.  This would give us the same at-a-glance skimmability we had on the old website.

If it really is important to separate 7-day and 36-day, the second most useful thing the Weather Network could do is put full current conditions on the 36-day page. This would provide a single-page at-a-glance of the information that updates most frequently throughout the day, and whose updates are most immediately relevant.  (In other words, if the overnight forecast changes, that becomes relevant to me far earlier than if the forecast four days from now changes.)

If they really, really, really can't do either of those things, one very simple thing they definitely can do is put humidex/windchill information in those two inadequate short-term boxes on the 7-day page ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the screenshot.)  They have the information, it appears in every other place in the forecast that mentions temperature, and there's room in the boxes.  I have no clue why they chose to omit it in that one very specific location, but that would be easily remedied.

And if they want a bold, innovative option, they could let users customize their own homepage, with the forecasts and data of their choice.  This would have the additional benefit (from the Weather Network's point of view) of incentivizing users to create accounts and stay logged in.  They've been trying for ages to convince me to create an account and I haven't seen the need to, but I'd do it in an instant if that were the price of admission for all the at-a-glance information I want on one page.  The technology exists - iGoogle did it in 2005!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Things They Should Invent: Stuff You've Already Tried filter

On my old computer, I had to do a clean reinstall of Firefox. A couple of issues subsequently cropped up, and when I googled around the new issues, I kept finding advice to do a clean reinstall. That's what caused the issues in the first place!  (With the combination of the new computer and the new version of Firefox, the issues are now moot.)

When my old computer died, it simply wouldn't power up. Pressing the power button had exactly the same result as not pressing the power button. The troubleshooting of first resort in this case is a power reset: unplug the computer, remove the battery, hold down the power button for about 30 seconds to drain any residual electrical charge, then plug in the power adapter only and try again.

I tried that several times, and it didn't work.

And my attempts to google for the next steps in troubleshooting were stymied by interference from instructions for a power reset. I found a single reference to replacing the CMOS battery (haven't tried that yet because the age of the computer and the low likelihood of success made me prioritize getting a new computer), but, even with my advanced google-fu (and trying other search engines as well), I couldn't get away from the pervasive suggestion of a power reset to the rest of whatever the appropriate troubleshooting protocol would be.

Our internet usage patterns are increasingly being spied on. Couldn't they at least make use of this data to give us the option of filtering out the stuff we've already tried.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Last spring, I experienced thigh chafing for the first time in my life.

Due to my disproportionately long inseam and dislike of the current trend of tight pants, it turns out that on most of my pants the gusset fell below the bit at the top of my thighs that was chafing, meaning that the legs of my pants couldn't serve as a barrier to protect me against the chafing. What few pants I owned that did have a high enough gusset were made of unpleasantly rough or unbreathable material, which may have even made matters worse.

I clearly had immediate need of softer pants, and they probably needed to be more fitted so the gusset would stay right at the very top of my thighs and protect the area being chafed. But the last thing I wanted to do when every step was painful was go pants shopping!  So I went to multiple websites with generous return policies and ordered multiple pairs of yoga pants, one of each plausible pair in my usual size and one a size smaller.

Over the next few days, a wide selection of yoga pants arrived at my door. I tried them on and kept everything that worked for me.  It turned out my idea of going a size down was unnecessary (I hadn't bought new yoga pants in years and they're more fitted now than they were last time I shopped for them), so I returned everything in the smaller size and some of the things in the larger size.

Shortly after that happened, I started getting coupons and offers and recommendations for maternity wear.  I guess I triggered an algorithm somewhere - frantically shopping for yoga pants and opting for the larger size in every case is totally something a pregnant lady would do! 

This was all about nine months ago.  And now I'm getting coupons and offers and recommendations for baby things!  Even though I haven't bought yoga pants or maternity wear or anything comparable in the meantime, apparently online shopping algorithms are the kind of people who count months.

I wonder how long this will persist for? Will I be getting offers for toddler things for a few years, followed by back-to-school offers and high school graduation offers?  Will they start trying to sell me those conception monitors if I don't shop like a pregnant lady for a few years, on the grounds that my non-existent child should have a sibling?

Maybe I should use Privacy Mode when googling for baby gifts just in case...

Sunday, February 05, 2017

How Google can solve the "post-truth" problem in one easy step

Google searches contain the option to refine results time posted. On the results page, click on "Tools", then click on the little drop-down arrow next to "Any time".

This means that Google maintains "last updated" metadata for the pages it crawls.  Which means that Google can sort results by date.

Google can use this power to combat the "post-truth" problem with one easy step: allow users to sort search results from oldest to newest.  That way, the very first instance of a particular combination of keywords will be right at the top.

This will make it a lot easier to see when a story or an alleged fact has been fabricated out of whole cloth, because the first result (or, at least, the first result that actually refers to the thing in question) is very recent and originates from the person making the false statement.

It would also be an incredibly useful feature to have in Google's Reverse Image Search. Often I do a reverse image search to find the origin of an image that's circulation, but the fact that even Google's relevance algorithm tends to favour novelty means I get pages and pages of results from social media. If we could easily show the oldest instances of an image first, we could quickly identify cases where someone is posting "This is what's happening right now" when really it's an image taken in a different country several years ago.

Google already has this data, as evidenced by the fact that it allows you to refine results by time posted. Any computer can sort by date. All Google has to do is put an "Oldest First" option on its interface, and everyone will be able to fact-check with a single click.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Things They Should Study: do political positions correlate with attitudes towards politically-incompatible celebrities?

Sometimes the celebrities I follow on Twitter get people telling them to shut up about politics and stick to entertainment.

This is something I find difficult to understand. 

I do see why someone might not want incompatible political opinions turning up in their Twitter feed.  But what I don't understand is why you'd want to keep following someone once you know that they hold these incompatible opinions.

When someone has incompatible politics (by which I don't mean simply that I don't agree with them, but rather that I see their position as outright harmful and/or cruel) I'm not able to respect them enough to be a fan of them. I cease to be interested in their day-to-day life and thoughts, and most likely in their work as well.  Even if for some reason I do maintain interest in their work (for example, perhaps if one member of an ensemble cast for a major fandom has incompatible politics) I no longer have any desire to hear from them as an individual, just to see the finished work.

It would be interesting to study this on a broader level.  Are there any patterns of the political opinions or affiliation of people who want to continue following politically-incompatible celebrities but not hear about their politics, as compared with people who lose interest in politically-incompatible celebrities, as compared with people who can cheerfully continue following a celebrity without regard for their incompatible politics.

They could also study whether there are patterns in real-life relationships as opposed to celebrity-fan relationships, but I find the celebrity-fan relationship particularly interesting because it's unidirectional. If a parent holds political opinions you consider harmful, there's an element of "How can you bring a child into the world and then work politically to make the world a worse place?" But the celebrity has no loyalty or attachment to the individual fan and the fan adores the celebrity, so it's an interesting and unique dynamic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Things I did invent!

For years and years, I've been telling the universe to invent things for me. This week I shut up and invented the things for myself!

1. Since I discovered the Toronto Fire Active Incidents page years ago, I've gotten in the habit of checking it whenever I hear a siren, just to see what's going on. However, not all sirens are the fire department.  So I was going to write a Things They Should Invent that someone should merge the Toronto Fire Calls map and the Toronto Police Calls map (as well as ambulance data, if it is available) into a single "What's that siren?" map.

Making a map isn't in my immediate skill set, but people who are smarter than I am have already turned these data streams into twitter feeds. So I made my very first twitter list, which shows all police and fire calls in near-real time (there's about a 5 minute delay). So now when I hear a siren, I just pull up my list and within moments the answer to my question will appear.

(Although if anyone is feeling ambitious or creative, I still think a map would be a better interface).

2. There was some visible sediment in the reservoir of my coffee maker.  Neither running vinegar through the machine nor rinsing it out would budge it, so I figured it needed to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, since it's only a 4-cup coffee maker, the reservoir is small enough that I can just barely get my hand in and couldn't move it around in the way I needed to to scrub the sediment. A bottle brush wasn't soft enough, and that sponge-on-a-stick thing that's like a bottle brush but with a sponge was too bulky. I thought a q-tip would be about the right size and texture, but I couldn't get my hand in properly to manipulate it the way it needed to be manipulated.

I was going to write a Things They Should Invent of extra-long q-tips for these kinds of cleaning challenges, but then I had an inspiration:

I took a cotton ball (the kind you use to remove makeup or nail polish), stuck it on the end of a fork like it's a meatball, and used that to scrub the inside of the coffee maker reservoir.  The cotton was the right texture, the fork gives it the kind of stiff support you need for scrubbing, and the fork was long enough that I could manipulate the movements of the cotton fully because my hand could be outside the reservoir. The whole thing was perfectly clean in about 20 seconds!

I've never before been able to actually make one of my Things They Should Invent, and this week I made two in one week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Research/Journalism Wanted: what's up with the people who didn't see it coming?

This post is about the information that reaches people (including me) organically, without them making any effort to find it, as opposed to the full set of all information available.  While reading this, you may find yourself thinking "But you don't have all the information! You're just talking about the subset of information that reached you organically!" Yes, and that is exactly what this post is about.

In the wake of Brexit, my twitter feed has been showing me examples of people who voted Leave but were unaware of the consequences. I was rather surprised by this, because I was aware of those same consequences, and I haven't even been actively following the issue!  The information reached me with no effort on my part (and, in fact, despite my having mentally categorized it as To Disregard), but it didn't reach people who actually got to vote in this referendum, and would have voted differently if they'd had this information.

Someone should do research and/or journalism about these people. What did they think was going to happen? Where did they get that idea from? Were they given incorrect information, or just not given all the correct information they needed? Why didn't the information they missed reach them?

And, perhaps most importantly, how close did they the information get to reaching them? Was a friend of a friend on a social network posting the information they needed? Was it in the newspaper they read but on a boring page they just skimmed over?  Or were they nowhere near it and would have needed to drastically revamp their media consumption practices and/or voting research to have reached it.

After interviewing as many of the people who didn't see it coming as possible, the researchers/journalists should publish the results, highlighting any patterns they noticed.  This would serve two purposes: helping regular people see information consumption patterns that correlate with being less informed than one would like, and helping people who are trying to spread information or raise awareness see how to reach the people who would like to be more informed but don't even know it yet.

As a random made-up example, suppose 68% of the people who were misinformed got their incorrect information from their hairdresser. Then people would know that you should question/snopes/factcheck political information provided by your hairdresser, no matter how brilliant she is about doing your hair.  Or, suppose 68% of people who didn't get the information they wanted were two degrees of social media separation from that information. Knowing that, people might retweet links to political information that they normally wouldn't retweet because they think it's glaringly obvious.

And this isn't just a Brexit thing. Similar postmortems should be conducted for all elections, and for any other undertaking where they can find a significant number of people who didn't see it coming.  For Brexit we're hearing the morning after about the people who didn't see it coming, but the turnaround isn't always this fast. They should follow up after six months or a year, find people who didn't see it coming, and figure out why.

There's something wrong when the desired information doesn't reach people who will be voting in a referendum, even though that same information organically reached a random foreigner who is deliberately disregarding information on the issue. Investigating exactly how this happened is probably the first step to making the problem go away.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Warning: LinkedIn could machine translate your profile without your permission!

I was shocked to receive an email from LinkedIn cheerfully announcing "We have translated parts of your public profile into German!"

This is a major problem for me for two reasons: because it's machine translation, and because it's German.

Machine translation is a problem because I'm a translator. The presence of anything that sounds like machine translation in my profile is harmful to my professional credibility, because it makes it look like I can't translate and/or can't judge what constitutes good translation.

German is a problem because I've never worked professionally in German. My professional experience is in the domestic official languages market, so if I were to have another language in my profile, it should be French.

(The French isn't already there because I'm not actively networking, so I maintain a very minimal LinkedIn profile - just enough information for people who already know me to distinguish me from my doppelnamers.)

My bare-bones English-only profile makes me look like an Anglophone who isn't actively using LinkedIn. Many multilingual people who don't make full use of LinkedIn have unilingual profiles, so it doesn't parse as significant. But an English and German profile makes me look like someone who is actively seeking work in English and German, but considers French not sufficiently relevant to bother with.  That would be off-putting to people looking for the kind of French-English translation that is my bread and butter! An English-German profile marks me as irrelevant to the official languages market before you even look at the content of the profile, while the content of the profile renders me irrelevant to any non-desperate client on the English-German market.

I'm fully aware of the argument for having a fully fleshed-out multilingual profile, and I made a deliberate choice not to do so at this time.  However, I did not make a deliberate choice to have a machine-translated profile or to have an English-German profile, and it's assholic of LinkedIn to impose that on me.  That would be like if they noticed that I don't have a photo in my profile, so they did a google image search for my name and inserted the first result, or if they noticed that I haven't put where I went to high school so they populated that field with data scraped from Only this is worse, because people may well evaluate a translator's translation skills based on the quality of the translation in her profile.

If LinkedIn does in fact have German-speaking users who want to access English-language profiles via machine translation, the option to machine translated should appear on their interface, like it does (to varying degrees of success) with Facebook and Twitter.  They should see my profile as I wrote it, with a little "Translate into German" link that they can click on, making it apparent that the German machine translation is the result of their having clicked on this link, not in any way something I wrote.

If LinkedIn has also machine translated your profile, or if you want to prevent it from doing so in the future, you can opt out on your public profile settings page. Specific instructions can be found here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Things They Should Invent: reconcile Vote Compass and Political Compass

When I took the Vote Compass quiz, I was surprised to see that the relative positions of the Green Party, Liberal Party and NDP were different from their relative positions on Political Compass.

I want to make it clear: I'm not complaining that one of the axes is inverted (although it is) or that the scales are different (although they are).  I'm saying that the positions of the parties relative to each other are different on the two tools.

On Vote Compass, the Green Party was the furthest left economically.  In other words, if you drew a line of best fit through the plot of all the parties, their order, from left to right, would be Green, NDP, Liberal and Conservative

On Political Compass, NDP was furthest left economically.  In other words, if you drew a line of best fit through the plot of all the parties, their order, from left to right, would be NDP, Green, Liberal and Conservative.

They can't both be right. Someone, somewhere, must be missing something.  And it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an ordinary voter to figure out who might be missing what.

I'd love to see the Vote Compass people and the Political Compass people get together, discuss their interpretations of the platforms, and arrive at a consensus about the relative positions of the parties.

Both tools are trying to achieve the same thing - trying to give voters objective information about which parties best align with their own political views. They could better achieve this, and appear more objective and more credible, by pooling their respective expertise and arriving at a consensus.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In which Google messes up and gives me a scare

I recently decided to try a face cream containing retinol.  Shortly after I applied it, I felt a funny taste in my mouth.

So I googled retinol taste in mouth.

Near the top of the results was the wikipedia entry for strychnine poisoning!

It turns out that this result came up because Google perceives "retinol" as a synonym for "Vitamin A".  The strychnine poisoning article has a "Poisonings, toxicities, and overdoses" category box at the bottom, which includes a link to Vitamin A.  And one of the symptoms of strychnine poisoning is a taste in the mouth.

So I didn't die, and the next time I tried the retinol cream there was no taste in my mouth, so it must have been unrelated.

I haven't noticed any difference in my skin using retinol though.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Today I learned you can add pages to!

If you look up an active web page on (aka the Wayback Machine) and they don't have it archived, you get a page saying:

Wayback Machine doesn't have that page archived. This page is available on the web! Help make the Wayback Machine more complete! Save this URL in the Wayback Machine

If you click on the "Save the url in the Wayback Machine" link, the page will automatically be added to the archive!  (Unless, presumably, its robots.txt file prevents this.)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fanfic drought

Another recent stressor has been that the In Death fansite has stopped posting fanfiction, and another reliable source has not yet materialized.

The In Death universe is my current fandom happy place, and a steady flow of fanfic is a vital part of maintaining that happy place.  Rereading isn't nearly as effective at giving me the same happy as a new story, and since there are only two novels and possibly one novella a year (I know this is a lot for an author to write, but it isn't a lot for a reader to read), I turned to fanfic.  When I worked in the office and I had to do an emotionally devastating translation, I'd take a break to walk to the nearest wifi hotspot and open up the day's fanfic updates on my ipod.  Then I'd maintain my equilibrium by taking breaks in the In Death universe throughout my workday. When I have a panic attack, I deal with the trigger, have a glass of wine, call a friend if I need to be talked down, and then read fanfic until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.  When, in the course of day to day life, I get a feeling that's best described as "I wanna go home!", there's an implicit "...and read fanfic!" to it.  If I go home and there isn't any fanfic to read, the "I wanna go home!" feeling isn't 100% assuaged.

My latest round of condo drama was in November, which is NaNoWriMo, and therefore a lean period for fanfic as our authors try to write their novels instead.  And I'm sure a good part of the reason why this condo drama was so stressful for me was that most days there wasn't any new fanfic for me to read, so I couldn't fully reboot my brain as much as I needed to.

At this point, some people will feel moved to recommend things for me to read instead.  While I always welcome reading recommendations, that is a solution to a different problem.  The problem here is not something to read, the problem here is something to make me feel a certain way.  I can't articulate this feeling apart from "fandom happy place" and "rebooting my brain", and only new, quality content from my current fandom happy place makes me feel that particular way.  This is a very rare phenomenon.  It has only happened before with Harry Potter and Eddie Izzard.  Harry Potter fanfic doesn't work any more because I got closure on the fandom with the final book.  Eddie Izzard doesn't have fanfic, what with being a real person rather than a fictional universe, but I got this same feeling from watching everything he's ever done.  However, I caught up on Eddie completely, and now new stuff arrives only sporadically.  The vast majority of my ongoing fandoms don't generate this happy feeling.  Even Star Trek and Monty Python never generated this happy feeling, even though they were my primary fandoms for well over a decade.  I never even had this feeling before Harry Potter.  It's quite rare, and not readily reproducible.

So not only do I have no new fanfic to reboot my brain and take me back to my happy place during the two weeks when I'll be without my computer, but I also have the looming spectre of no reliable source of new fanfic for the indefinite future. Even though I still have my other amusements and comforts, this casts a certain gloom over everything.

Analogy: the effect of In Death fanfiction in my brain is like the effect of cheese in salad.  You can make a salad without cheese, but it's yummier and somehow more complete with a wee sprinkling of cheese. The flavour of the cheese complements and enhances the flavour of everything else, and it just doesn't satisfy my needs quite as well without the cheese.  While I can handle a salad without cheese without too much complaint, the prospect of a future without a reliable source of cheese is terrifying!

I know that some people reading this will have thoughts about the appropriateness of fanfiction as a happy place and other things that would make more appropriate happy places. If you feel moved to share these thoughts, my upcoming post or two (haven't yet worked out if it will be one or two posts) on resilience and emotional management will be a more useful place for them.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blogger is imposing captchas on me against my will

Recently, captchas appeared on my comments pages.  I didn't put them there, my comment settings have Word Verification set to "No", but they're still there.  I even see them when logged in with my own account as blog author!

And to add insult to injury, my spam comment queue is still full, with multiple spam comments a day.  This means the spammers are getting past the captchas, but the captchas are still there inconveniencing real people who might want to comment!

Not impressed, Blogger!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My latest Twitter win

Friday, September 19, 2014

Typing is slow in Gmail

For the last couple of weeks, when I try to type a reply in Gmail, typing is really slow.  The letters are appearing at about half the speed at which I type, and every once in a while there's a "hiccup" so some of the letter I type don't appear.  I haven't changed anything about my browser (Firefox), and I've been using Gmail in this browser forever.

Googling around the idea, I see different people having the same problem with different browsers, which suggests it might be Gmail.

A workaround is to click on the "In new window" icon, which is a little arrow at the top right, next to the printer icon, above the "reply"  icon and the date".  Amateurish screenshot:

Nevertheless, this is less convenient, so I hope Gmail fixes this slow typing problem so we can once again reply on the same page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things They Should Invent: follow-up online reviews, with automatic reminder emails

Just over a year ago, I bought a paper shredder. (Brand name Rosewill, from Newegg.)  Just days after the one-year warranty expired, the shredder's motor died, in a rather terrifying puff of smoke and sparks.

When I was buying the shredder, there were online reviews from people who had problems, with follow-up comments from the manufacturer saying to contact them and they'd replace it under warranty, and there were reviews from people saying "I don't know what you're talking about, I didn't have problems."

But I wonder how many people had problems after the warranty period expired, but never thought to write a review because who goes back to the site you bought it from a year later to write a review?

Online review sites, including retailers, should fix this by standardizing the idea of follow-up reviews.  You write a review after you get the product, and then after a certain period of time you get an automatic email asking you to write a follow-up review.

The period of time for a follow-up review would depend on the product.  A week or two would be plenty for something like nail polish, but maybe six weeks would be good for moisturizers and stuff that are supposed to produce longer-term results.  I think 110% of the warranty period would be very informative for electronics.

This would be far more useful than one-time reviews of newly-purchased products, and would significantly increase traffic to the websites.  (At a minimum, you'll double the number of visits by people writing reviews, so you can show them recommended products etc.)

Friday, May 09, 2014

When and why did people start using backwards smilies?

I first learned about smilies in the early 90s, on BBSs.  I learned that a happy smiley is :) and a sad smiley is :( .

But in recent years, I've seen people doing their smilies backwards.  So if they want to make a happy smiley, instead of  :) they put (:  .You have to tilt your head to the right instead of tilting it to the left.

Having used smilies for 20 years, I don't tilt my head any more.  I just skim and quickly process a) the fact that a smiley is present, and b) the direction of the parenthesis.  So when I see a backwards happy face like (:  my first thought is that it's a sad face, because for the vast majority of my life a smiley with a left parenthesis has been a sad face like :(

How did these backwards smilies come about?  Why do people think they're superior to regular tilt-your-head-left smilies?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A new personal best on Twitter!

Once upon a time, Eddie Izzard retweeted me.  It was the best thing that had ever happened to me on Twitter and I danced around like an idiot and called up people on the actual telephone to tell them that this had happened and saved the screenshot under the file name "I win at twitter".

Today a new personal best happened:

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, that's Eric Idle. Of Monty Python fame.  Replying personally (and nearly-immediately!) to a question I asked.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Does Mozilla actually benefit from me using Firefox?

So there are calls to boycott Firefox because its CEO has made anti-gay political donations.

My question: does my using Firefox actually benefit Mozilla or its CEO in any way?  I didn't pay for it.  I'm not being shown any advertising.  Does it actually have any impact on them?

This question is not purely academic.  As I blogged about before, I don't want to use Chrome because I don't like Google's sneaky attempts to manipulate me into using it.   But if we should be boycotting Firefox too, what am I supposed to do?  Use a subpar browser?  (I've used IE and Opera, and find them both less useful than Firefox or Chrome.)

On one hand, it seems more important to choose not to use Chrome, because my reasons for doing so are directly related to the company's business practices as they affect me as a consumer.  They keep inconveniencing me in an attempt to get me to use their browser, so I shouldn't reward this by using their browser.

On the other hand, you can't let convenience overrule a political boycott, or that completely defeats the purpose of a political boycott.

On the other other hand, if Google so very badly wants me to use Chrome (which users don't pay for either), there must be some benefit to a company if people use their browser.  Although Google and Mozilla have different corporate structures. Google has shareholders and stuff, whereas Mozilla doesn't. The internet tells me that the Mozilla Corporation is not non-profit, but its profits support the Mozilla Foundation, which is.

Normally I'd go ahead with the boycott, but in this case the user-friendly alternative is something I'm already boycotting.  Not sure what to do here.

Any thoughts?

Update: Some info via @AmyRBrown on Twitter (you can see the full conversation here):

A primary revenue source for Mozilla is money paid to them by Google when people access Google via the Firefox search box.  (The FAQ of Mozilla's 2012 Annual Report confirms this, and adds that they also get search box revenue from "Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon, eBay and others".)

So an effective economic boycott would be not to use Google or any other revenue-generating search function in the search box.

Changing the search engine to Duck Duck Go should generate the same results without Google involvement, and there are also unofficial Google toolbar add-ons for Firefox that don't pass through the search box and therefore generate revenues.

I haven't yet figured out if my own preference of Wikipedia in the search bar generates revenues, or if there are other benefits to my using Firefox even if I'm not generating revenues for them.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

How to see the number of results with Google verbatim search

I previously blogged about how Google's Verbatim search function would be more useful if they showed the number of results.

I just figured out how to see the number of results.

First, a review of how to do a Verbatim search:

1. Do your search normally.
2. On the results page, click on Search Tools
3. Under All Results, choose Verbatim

To see the number of results, simply click on Search Tools again.  The results page won't change, but the menus that dropped down when you clicked on Search Tools will pull back up, revealing the number of results.