Monday, October 19, 2009


Why online services suck



Does anyone other than me think online services suck?

The thing that annoys me the most is language settings. Online service designers one day had this great idea to check the geographical IP address the user visited their site from, and use it to automatically set the language to the native one for the country they visited from. While this sounds nice in theory, most people only know their mother tongue, and also go on vacation now and then, or visit some other country for business purposes.

So here I am, on business in a foreign country, and I connect my laptop into the Ethernet jack in my hotel room which comes with free Internet access, so I can check my e-mail. What's the first thing I notice? The entire interface is no longer in English. Even worse is that the various menu items and buttons are moved around in this other language.

Even Google, known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to web services can't help but make the same mistakes. I'm sitting here looking at the menu on top of Blogger, wondering which one is login.

For Google this is a worse offense compared to other service providers, as I already was logged into their main site.

Google keeps their cookies set for all eternity (well, until the next time rollover disaster), and they know I always used Google in English. Now it sees me connecting from a different country than usual and thinks I want my language settings switched? Even after I set it to English on their main page, I have to figure out how to set it to English again on Blogger and YouTube?

What's really sad about all this is that every web browser sends each website as part of its request a "user agent", which tells the web server the name of the browser, a version number, operating system details, and language information. My browser is currently sending: "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv:1.9.0.11)". Notice the en-US? That tells the site the browser is in English, for the United States. If I downloaded a different version of Firefox, or installed a language package and switched Firefox to a different language, it would tell the web server that I did so. If one uses Windows in another language, Internet Explorer will also tell the web server the language Windows/Internet Explorer is in.

Why are these service providers ignoring browser information, and instead solely looking at geographical information? People travel all the times these days. Let us also not forget those in restrictive countries who use foreign proxy servers to access the internet.


However, common issues, such as annoying language support is hardly the end of the problems. In terms of online communication, virtually all of them suffer from variations of spam. Again, where is Google here? Every time I go read comments on Blogger, I see nothing but spam posts. Even when I go to cleanup my own site, the spam just fills up again a few days later.

Where's the flag as spam button? Where's the flag this user as solely a spammer button?

Sure Google as a site manager lets me block all comments on my site till I personally review them to see if they're spam, but in today's need for hi-speed communication is that really an option when you may have a hot topic on hand? Why can't readers flag posts on their own?

In terms of management, why doesn't Blogger's site management features include a list where I can check off posts and hit one mass delete, instead of having to click delete and "Yes I'm sure" on each and every spam post? Why can't I delete all posts from user X and ban that user from ever posting on my site again?


Okay, maybe this isn't so much an article why online services suck, but more about language and spam complaints, and mostly at Google for the moment. Jet-lag, and getting your E-mail interface in Gibberish does wonders for a friendly post. I'll try to come up something better for my next article.

11 comments:

henke said...

Luckily, all webbrowsers, including IE, allows you to set a header for what languages you want, and in what order.

If only it was used for more than serving http server error pages...

Bz said...

User filtered spam might be an issue because users with an agenda may mark a post with an opposing view as spam. But at a minimum it should be removed until reinstated by you. If spam automatically got filtered, they'd stop spamming...

insane coder said...

Bz: Yes, someone could mark an opposing view as spam, it wouldn't have to be automatically filtered though. Google could setup an algorithm which could require a certain amount of marks from "trusted" users before it became spam.

flamingspinach said...

Hey Nach, what country were you visiting, incidentally? :)

NIC1138 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dude5 said...

While I agree with you that the assuming that the IP has anything to say about the language I want to see is bad, using the browser's language in the user agent string is not much better, especially when there is a Accept-Language HTTP header that is meant to be used for exactly this purpose. Also Accept-Language lets the user specify multiple languages to fall back on.

NIC1138 said...

Totally fair. The web just lets me more sad every day.

Only recently did Twitter come up with a "flag as spammer" option in their website. That was about time!...

I have a feature request similar to yours, although it is something much harder to implement. There should be blog tools suited for localization, and tools for creating web pages in general. I often want to post something to my blog both in Portuguse and English. I wanted to post in Portuguese first, for example, and then have a tool to help me translate my post for English readers. Same goes for my personal page and wiki.

It seems Google's translator might do it, let's see. But if it can't decide your locale automatically, the nuisance your are complaining about will remain. :)

Dan said...

It strikes me as odd that blogger, as a subsidiary of google, which in turn has the best email spam filters on the internet, doesn't have a blogger spam filter option. In such an option, if a post looks like spam to the filter, it asks the blog owner if it's okay to post. If a post doesn't look like spam to the filter, it will post immediately.

And what's with this captcha? I mean, pretty much any OCR could read this. Am I wrong?

Ryan N said...

I was pretty sure it had everything to do with what locale your browser sends in the headers. In my personal experience, changing locales on my computer changed Google, Youtube, Facebook... Lots of sites.

insane coder said...

For those wondering, here's my language settings. It doesn't make any difference, it's not obeyed.

insane coder said...

So I just found out a an interesting tidbit. If you go to http://www.google.com/ncr it will give you Google in English, no matter which country you're connecting from.

I don't know if it'll set every Google website to be English only, but it certainly helps for searching at least.