I like Google, they generally speaking offer a great product. If I want to search for stuff, Google is my weapon of choice. Of course even the best companies make mistakes. And clearly Google has just made a huge mistake.

I have no idea how many people use Blogger, but I am sure the number is in the millions. Blogger is a cheap and cheerful way to create a web presence. Pretty much, 5 minutes and you are live on the web. It really doesn’t get better than that.

Unfortunately ease of use comes at a price. There have been some reports recently that Blogger has become a haven for web spam and malware, life became even more uncomfortable for Google when it was publicized that their CAPTCHA system had been busted, oh for those of you not familiar with the term, its that silly deal where you have to punch in a bunch of very hard to read letters and numbers. The theory is that this prevents spam! Computers, so they say, cannot understand these cryptic messages, well, yes they can. Gmail’s CAPTCHA system got hacked a few months ago and consequently Gmail has now become a major source of spam.

One can only assume that the Blogger melt down that occurred on Friday was a result of an algorithm change that went awry. In my mind at least, it was not caused by any manual intervention because some fairly significant, and obviously not spammy blogs were hit.

No Right Turn is one of New Zealand’s top political blogs, and recognized as such not just by other bloggers, but also by politicians and journalists (it was a finalist for a Qantas Media Award this year;  It covers New Zealand and international politics from a left-wing perspective, with a particular focus on Parliament, elections, climate change and human rights. In addition to the usual commentary, It is notable for wonking policy and using NZ’s Official Information Act to keep an eye on the government; it has mobilized campaigns, lobbied MPs, and in one significant case, changed the law.

I do not consider ‘No Right Turn’ to be anything but a serious site. However it was one of the victims of the indiscriminate lock out. The Blogger involved was to say the least a little upset.

NRT has a five and half year history and a regular and frequent posting schedule. Apparently, this makes it spam.

I was locked out sometime around 14:00 NZST on Friday, August 1st. Naturally, I filled out the form requesting reactivation, and fortunately its the weekend down here, so its not like I’m losing days of active blogging time. But according to the form it might take two business days to be reactivated, which may take me over into Monday (NZ Time). A friend of a friend at Google is apparently looking into it, and I have some confidence it’ll get sorted.

I can stand a one-off, two-day outage over a weekend, because my livelihood doesn’t depend on it. But other people’s do, and this will be costing them money. What I’m really worried about though is the thought that this will happen again. If my blogging is constantly interrupted by false positives as spam, then the blogger platform becomes untenable. But that’s a problem too, because my URL is basically my brand. I’ve seen sites die because they’ve moved, and I don’t want that to happen too.

More concerning is the thought that stupidity at Google will see my five and a half year archive of posts deleted. There’s about a million and a half words there now, a five and half year history of NZ politics seen through the eyes of an interested amateur. Possibly there’s even a book in there somewhere. The thought that it could vanish in a puff of logic due to a bot gone wild is horrifying.

To the best of my knowledge Google has now fixed the problem, and the vast majority of the blocked blogs are now back online.  But it does give one food for thought. When Blogger News was just a young pup we hosted it on Blogger. Blogger seemed like a simple and easy to use solution. Of course we soon found that when you have hundreds of accredited authors Blogger starts to become a little unstable. Yesterday would have been a disaster for us if we were still on the Blogger platform. There is no doubt that Jan and I would be booked into the local psychiatric facility by now!

The moral to this story is that free is not always the best price. Free comes at a cost. And the cost is loss of control. I was pretty upset at the threat of losing two years worth of articles. Ok many of them are not that interesting, but I do have some that I am quite proud of. I have been a big proponent of ‘Cloud Computing’, on paper it seems like the ideal solution for someone like myself.  In fact I will shortly be doing a review on a new Cloud Computer that has just been released by CherryPal (as soon as my demo unit arrives). The question in my mind is not whether Cloud Computing is right, it is more who’s cloud do you use?

Google lost a great deal of my respect yesterday, not because the event happened, as the saying goes “sh*t happens”, sometimes upgrades do that. No, the loss of respect comes from the fact that Google has made no attempt to even acknowledge that anything even happened, it is as if the whole event was just a figment of everyones imagination!

Simon Barrett


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