Minify urls, a few other updates.

Sorry about the downtime this morning, this was to perform a little maintainence on the servers, and to update the backend software.

There’s a few new features and fixes:

  • Custom menus now parse all instances of $user,$host,$nick, not just the first.
  • If you click on a user in the userlist, any changes to the userlist will be queued up – the menu will not move just as you’re about to click something! If you move the mouse off it, it’ll close in a couple of seconds, and any pending changes will occur.
  • You can now see your IRC status at the top in yellow. This is useful to confirm that it is really trying to connect to another server. Previously there was no real way to make sure it was.
  • You can now use the integrated url minifier if you want to paste a really long url. Just click [Minify URL] at the bottom, and put in a url. Note also that if someone pastes one of these urls in the chat, and you’re in Mibbit, you can just mouse over it to see the destination url :)
We hit another couple of milestones this last week, we had 4,400 users online at the same time, and at another point we had more than 500 users connected to Freenode.
I’m going to work hard on improving the situation with some networks this week, so if you’re having issues connecting to a network, hopefully that’ll improve soon.

Google account disabled without reason for 6 days and counting.

This post is a little off topic, but I think it’s important. A company really shows its true colors when things go wrong, or when users need help. Google has shown that it simply doesn’t care.

On friday 31st October, I woke up, went to check my gmail, and couldn’t login. It just said “Account has been disabled”. No reason, nothing. I went through their ‘contact us’ form. It replies with an auto-responder stock email listing irrelevant reasons. I emailed back, more auto-responders. I’ve since called their adwords support number, who keep saying “We’re looking into it”. 6 days is long enough to reinstate an account. Do searches on the net – search twitter – it’s not just me. Lots of people are having the same thing happen to them. Don’t be like I was – unprepared.

My password was extremely secure, I don’t have any security issues on my PC etc. I haven’t knowingly done anything wrong, and haven’t changed anything recently. I did see 3 emails to my backup email address with password reset details. I assume this was how the attacker managed to get my account disabled. What if an attacker decides to get your account disabled for fun? Are you prepared for that?

While they’ve been looking into it, I’ve been looking into moving everything as far away from google as I can. Do *Not* rely on google.

GMAIL

I loved gmail, it was easy to use, it stays out the way, very fast, excellent. But that’s over now – my 3 years of email history has been snatched by the big G for no reason. Stupidly in retrospect I trusted them and didn’t take backups. So alternatives – I’ve moved to yahoo for now – ymail. The interface is pretty good, not quite as slick as gmail, and it does include some irritating “news” “ads” etc which is a bit intrusive to the core task of reading your email. They do, however, support push to the iphone, which gmail does not – handy if you want to know when something’s up.

If you do use email, think about having a local copy of the data as backup – you can use an imap email client such as Apple Mail to download everything – although your guess is as good as mine as to if Google considers that suspicious behavior.

The other irritating thing is that I had a ton of contacts in my gmail which I can’t get at. I don’t know if I have them somewhere else or not.

Blogger

Blogger was nice enough, and served it’s purpose well. Again, I trusted Google to hold my lovely data safe and warm, and in return they smacked me round the face with a wet kipper. Well never again. My old blog is all lost for now – maybe I’ll be able to get the data from it if Google ever return my emails, who knows.

I’ve moved to a wordpress install for now, it’s pretty simple to setup, and actually looks a ton more configurable. There are loads of other options if you want to host a blog yourself. Just think for a moment how much of a pain it would be if your blog suddenly was all gone as mine was…

Adwords

Adwords is still the leader in contextual advertising, and works really well. I spent a lot of money with adwords, and got together some good keyword groups which of course are all lost now. There are adcenter from microsoft (Probably called Live! something now) – which is ok(ish), and there’s yahoo. But also a lot of newer ones which you should probably take a look at if you don’t want to depend on google. Also make sure you backup your data, If you have a valuable list of a keywords you don’t want to ever loose, don’t trust google with it.

Adsense

Adsense is good, but it’s looking old and dated. No ajax support, it’s pretty uncustomizable. It doesn’t really fit well into the new crop of webapps that are coming out. Google is seriously lagging behind here. But, it still makes good money. There are several alternatives out there, and don’t forget the large number of affiliate networks working on more usually a per lead/sale basis. You can often earn more money like that.

Youtube

I stupidly fell for the google line “Sign in with your google account”. So I have old videos I can’t access etc. Oh well, I didn’t loose too much here, so I signed up again, this time with a separate login for youtube.

Code

I put a couple of bits on google hosted code – now completely inaccessible. I’d probably recommend github if you like git, I’m not sure where if you’re more of an svn person. Sourceforge used to be ok.

Calendar

My wife can’t access our shared calendar anymore, as I think it was registered under my account first. At least I have an excuse to forget things, regardless, if you care about your data be wary of trusting it to google.

 

“A Google Account operates as a single Google sign in, made up of an email address and password of your choosing. It gives you access to various Google services, including AdWords, Google Groups, Google Alerts, Google Product Search, Personalized Search, your Personalized Homepage, Google Answers, and much more. If you’ve used any of these services before, you already have a Google Account. If you have a Gmail account, you can use your Gmail username and password to sign in to your Google Account.”

Yeah! Sounds great until Google disables your account with no reason, doesn’t reply to any emails and leaves you with nothing, and *ALL* your accounts disabled.

Be warned.

To be honest, if I don’t get my account back or any reply from Google I won’t be surprised. But if this is how they treat paying customers, they won’t be the king of the internet for too much longer. Building cool useful apps is just one part of the equation. Looking after your usebase is the other. That’s what they seem to fail at. They have some clever people, so it’s surprising they don’t have this side sorted out at all.

My advice would be go to the smaller players. The companies with a face. The ones who provide support. Choose slicehost for your hosting…. make sure ideally the company/people you’re dealing with have an IRC channel or chatroom or at the very least a decent support phone number. The smaller players know better how to do customer support – perhaps it’s just an issue of scalability – we in the web development world often talk about applications scaling, but what about support scaling? How do you deal efficiently with support enquiries etc? If you’re Google, you just ignore them it would seem.

The irritating thing is I’d heard a couple of stories about this happening to other people, but had decided they had probably done something wrong, or it was just some fluke occurrence – I trusted Google. So in summary, I’d say take a long look at what you’re using, and make sure you’re covered in case someone like Google decides to just pull the plug on you.

 

If by any strange chance Google are reading this and wish to help, please email me contact@mibbit.com

Some people in similar situations – it’s not just me:

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/open-letter-to-google-why-have-you-taken-away-my-google-gmail-accounts/7873/

http://www.lockergnome.com/blade/2008/10/20/hello-google-stop-disabling-user-accounts/

http://www.indocontest.com/google-account-disabled/

http://www.cloudave.com/link/trust-the-cloud-but-have-a-backup-plan-google-lockouts-are-not-fun

http://www.uvox.us/search-engine-journal-google-has-disabled-my-gmail-account/

Welcome to the new blog!

Well, I wasn’t planning to change the Mibbit blog, but Google has disabled my account for the last few days, so I’m moving things off google. The previous blog was hosted on blogger which used my google login details.

I’ll try to retrieve the old posts from that blog soon, and put them here.