Friday, 7 August 2020

If it ain’t broke...

In the 1970s, financial journalist Patrick Hutber came up with Hutber’s Law, which was “Improvement means deterioration”. At the time, it was all too common for companies to announce improvements to their products or services that actually in important respects made them worse.

And that seems to be a principle often followed nowadays by tech companies. Every so often, all the major services that you use announce a new improved version. Inevitably, it’s initially confusing and hard to get used to. Eventually you work out how to do most of the things you used to be able to do, but there’s always something they seem to have forgotten, and it’s hard to see anything that’s actually better. Facebook was the most recent example of this.

And now the same has happened to the Google-owned platform Blogger, which hosts this blog and several others that I run. I’d known it was coming, but earlier this week I was taken aback when I logged on to create a new post on Closed Pubs and suddenly found I couldn’t do many of the things I was used to. And they certainly have past form in this respect.

One obvious change is that many verbal links to actions have been replaced by icons, some of which are far from self-explanatory. It’s also no longer possible to select multiple comments for approval or deletion.

This blogger is certainly far from impressed, and neither is this Twitter user:

Everyone uses these platforms in their own way, so one person’s experience isn’t necessarily typical of the general picture, and I’m sure I only use a limited subset of the features that are available. I tend to create posts in Word and then copy them into the composing window to add the final formatting touches and import any pictures.

There are two options for this – the HTML view and the Compose view. The latter ostensibly offers a WYSYWIG interface, but it can be very fiddly to set up items as you want them, and the end result still doesn’t necessarily reflect what you see on the screen. So, for the limited amount of formatting I want to do, mainly inserting pictures and links, I tend to prefer the HTML view, where you are at least in full control of how the final version will actually appear. But they have now dispensed with the options to import pictures and add links, meaning that the former have to be done through the Compose view and the latter require manual input of the necessary code. It can still be done, but it’s more time-consuming if your blog is anything more than a slab of plain text.

It’s not so bad as to be completely unusable, but it will certainly make creating new blogs in future a more time-consuming, fiddly and laborious and process. And for anyone wanting to set up a new blog, I certainly wouldn’t recommend they used Blogger to host it.

Edit: Another issue is that, on the blogroll of blogs such as Tandleman's, no thumbnail is displayed against posts created with the new editor, even if they contain images.

26 comments:

  1. I wonder if this is to produce a more mobile friendly version of Blogger as the app was always a bit crap. Options to import pictures and add links are still there

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    1. Yes, making it more mobile-friendly is one of the claimed advantages. You can import pictures and links through the Compose view, but no longer through the HTML view. And (from experience) in the Compose view it has a tendency to lose the links.

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  2. In a different area, the worst thing that you can see on the label of your favourite foodstuff is "New And Improved!". By which you know that the recipe might well be "new" - which usually means, expensive ingredients replaced by cheaper ingredients - but the end result will be anything but "improved" - unless the improvement is in the producer's financial bottom line...

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    1. And it's likely to be smaller, contain fewer calories and be less appetising.

      Long time no see, Paul :-)

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    2. Yes, what are Google playing at? I thought I was going crazy the other night after attempting to post a relatively short piece. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the text to wrap round the images, as it normally does, and when I checked the appearance by hitting the “Preview button” there were acres of empty white space and the continuity had gone.

      I switched to the new interface a month or so ago, and until recently it seemed fine – once I’d got used to the new layout and the dozens of different icons. Something happened though, prior to Wednesday evening, no doubt some geeky programmer/web developer making “just one more teak,” and that was enough to cause me an evening of grief and frustration.

      I have subsequently reverted to the so-called “legacy interface,” but as you point out Mudge, we don’t know how long Google will keep this platform live.

      These large corporations seem to have a knack of alienating customers/users and all because of a mis-guided philosophy that requires them to constantly innovate, even when what they’ve already got, works perfectly fine.

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    3. The legacy mode is apparently going to be withdrawn on 24 August. This post was created via the new interface. I got the text to wrap around the image by aligning it to the right and shrinking it. But all the links were created in the HTML editor by manually typing in the A HREF= code, which is a bit tiresome.

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    4. Thanks for the tips, Mudge. I'll let you know how I get on, after I've posted my next piece.

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    5. The new interface worked like a dream this evening - surely it can't last?

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  3. I agree,one of the most dreaded words is 'upgrade',if you want something to infuriate you try having a Sky Q box installed accompanied by the company's appalling customer service

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  4. battle through it mudgie lad.
    the world needs to know all about the twilight of the pubs and why everything is worse than it was in 1950

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  5. Wordpress are doing something similar - they've been nagging me for ages to 'upgrade' to their new improved interface, and the reminders have now started saying that if I don't switch they're going to impose it anyway. They seem to have made it significantly harder to do what I want to do - write posts that are mostly text with links and a few pictures, and have them come out looking like I want them to - but easier to use if you want to do something completely different. So that's all good.

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  6. There's me thinking that this a blog about beer and a very good one at that.
    And now it has morphed into another of those techno-moans so prevalent every where on the internet.

    Rule one of cyber life: If you want a well engineered, easy to use, well maintained product don't look to Google.
    Apart from the search engine every thing they make looks as if it was thrown together on a Friday afternoon with more emphasis on cosmetics than core functions.

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    1. I'm only commenting on this because it's directly relevant to the blog. And, as stated, I have done the same in the past.

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  7. Off topic, on wooden lolly sticks, my dad is the same, he also can't stand the idea of turning the pages of a wet newspaper, pages all stuck together.

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    1. You've obviously been reading my Twitter. On a related note, I can't stand it when people lick their fingers to turn the corners of newspaper pages. And anyone who does it to printed books should be shot.

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  8. Professor Pie-Tin10 August 2020 at 11:48

    On another technical matter which pre-dates your current woes any comment I write on your blog on my Android 'phone seems to disappear into the ether unless, of course, you are deciding not to publish my witty and erudite offerings.
    Which today, August 10th, are about the lifting of the opening ban on Ireland's 3,500 wet-led pubs which have been shuttered since March 15th.
    Except they're not open after Ireland's gormless PM, Mehole Martin, extended the closures until at least the end of the month and posssibly, he warned, until 2021.
    By jove, I hear you exclaim, they must still be keeling over in their hundreds from Covid-19 on the Emerald Isle.
    Except,here's the funny thing, there are only 12 people in the entire population of six million in hospital with the virus and only six of those serious enough to require being in ICU.
    Yes, there are occasional Preston-like spikes, but the last two major ones involved migrants on minimum wages living in appalling conditions and a meat processing factory.
    And here's another funny thing , despite the continued clampdown on pubs, the travel restrictions, the regional re-lockdowns and the general fear and paranoia the government is generating Ireland's incidence of C-19 will this week be higher than the UK's for the first time in the pandemic.
    A month ago when the UK opened up pubs it led Ireland by eight times the number of cases per 100,000 of population.
    Bizarrely last weekend Lady Pie-Tin and I enjoyed a few pints over an excellent pizza in a local micro-brewery where the only difference from normal was our contact details were taken, we could't stand at the bar and we were officially time-limited to just under two hours although in reality we could have supped away as long as we wanted.
    So only a dozen people in hospital, only the occasional death and yet the entire tourist and hospitality industry which Ireland relies on so heavily has been decimated and the country still has the most draconian travel restrictions of any EU country with only 10 countries in the world,including Greenland,where you can visit without having to quarantine for 14 days on your return.
    Surely there's an Irish joke in there somewhere I hear you ask - well the government has removed Monaco from their list of safe countries, possibly after it was pointed out the principality has no airport and to get there you would have to fly to another country which would require quarantining.
    Fortunately Greece remains on the safe list and even more fortunately Lady Pie-Tin and I took a punt ( even though our currency is now the euro ... that's your twofer joke )at the height of the pandemic when Easyjet were virtually giving away flights.
    Sadly our flight to Rhodes goes from Ireland via the UK which is not on the " safe " list and we'll have to quarantine on our return anyway unless we fly to Belfast and get the train back into Ireland where no-one will be any the wiser.
    And that's not a joke.

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    1. No, rest assured that all your comments are being seen and published - it's just that, apart from in the first day or two of each post being published, all comments are moderated as a precaution against trolls and spammers.

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    2. You have my sympathies (for once), Prof. I'm surprised the Irish put up with such nonsense.

      ps. Who's checking up on those who are supposed to be quarantining in Ireland, because no-one seems to be doing so, over here.

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    3. Paul, at the risk of being controversial, the Irish 'put up with':

      1. The adoption of the Euro
      2. The near wipeout of cask ale in their country
      2a. (and independent breweries come to that)
      3. One of the worst (and poorest value) healthcare systems in Europe.

      And all fairly meekly, without much of a visible fight. I'm not having a go - there are many things I like about Ireland - but I don't really buy the idea that 'The Irish' are somehow a doggedly resistant people that one pushes about at ones peril!

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    4. The Irish seem to meekly acquiesce to all kinds of things as long as they're not imposed by the hated Brits. Nowadays it seems that it's the English who are the only people in the British Isles who put up any kind of fight against the Nanny State.

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    5. Professor Pie-Tin12 August 2020 at 14:29

      The Irish prefer to be subjucated and it's all our fault. You see after 800 years of ruling them and organising their lives properly we were kicked out but Paddy didn't quite know what to do with his new found freedom.
      First of all they started killing each other in a messy civil war and then when that was over they allowed the Catholic Church to rule them with a rod, often applied by priests to the backside of naked boys while they buggered them.The nuns didn't notice because they were too busy aborting the unborn children of poor unmarried mothers in their care.
      Around the time the Church was begining to fall into disrepute as child-abuse allegations surfaced along came the Lisbon Treaty which Ireland voted against - until the EU led by the crooked Gallic midget Sarkozy threatened the entire country into changing its mind a year later with another Lisbon vote in favour of an expanded EU.
      They completely lost the will to rebel around the time of the banking crisis in 2008 when the EU bailed them out but insisted the price to pay was also paying back all the European banks, mainly German, who'd taken a punt during the no questions asked boom years.
      And when Brexit came along they swallowed the whole Project Fear nonsense that so many Remainers in the UK gobbled up like hungry sheep.Their lapdog willingness to do the bidding of Druncker and Co has seen them rewarded just a fortnight ago with the news that they're now the 5th largest contributor to the new EU budget despite the country having 1% of its population.
      In truth the idea of the Fighing Irish is a misnomer.
      They've been crapped upon so often by a corrupt policial class and its toadying Irish media they really are a beaten race.
      The Irish Times today reports ' growing scepticism ' amongst vintners about a September opening and at the same time figures are released showing a single person - just one - remains in ICU and only five others with C-19 in the entire country.
      There are 25,000 employed in the pub trade alone sat at home today doing nothing except sitting in the garden getting a tan and earning €350 a week in free handouts.
      It beggars belief.

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    6. The Stafford Mudgie17 August 2020 at 14:10

      P P-T,
      But will a united Ireland be much better ?

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    7. Professor Pie-Tin17 August 2020 at 18:48

      Well t'other Mudgie the truth is that it's hard to say because in the 15 or so years I've lived here permanently and the ten more on top of that where we've owned a home here I can't recall a single animated conversation about the subject of a united Ireland.
      It barely gets discussed in the media and never once in all the hundreds of times I've supped in my local.
      The only time it comes up is when I wind up my Irish chums by saying why don't you take the thing off our hands because we don't really care about Northern Ireland and they recoil with horror.
      When they're beery and singing the anti-Brit nonsense of the Wolfe Tones they're passionate Irish people but point out the enormous amount of money that Blighty pays each year to NI and the idea that all those angry Protestants could be their fellow citizens and they go green at the gizzards and it ain't from patriotism.
      Much as I'd like it to happen it won't.Northern Ireland is as much a foreign country to Ireland as it is to the rest of the United Kingdom.
      Frankly I'd be perfectly happy if the Scots buggered off too.

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  9. Yes I have reverted too. It seems a pointless exercise, but we'll be stuck with it no doubt. WordPress has never appealed somehow. Dunno what to do.

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  10. I agree about the new Blogger UI for pretty much the same reasons.

    20+ years working mainly in digital have taught me a few things, so I'll explain the rationale behind why so many 'upgrades' don't actually benefit the user and what they really achieve.

    1. Making life easier for Developers. This could mean moving from custom code to a standard 'library' or replacing it with code that is already used in other places. It could mean changing code so that it's easier for less experienced devs to get to grips with quickly. It could mean stripping out features to simplify the whole thing.

    2. Saving money. For big operators, the cost of bandwidth and server space is not insignificant. 'Streamlining' technology so that it uses less of these things can add up to savings in the long term. It might well be that the new version allows them to cut down the size of the server farm by 30% or something. Nobody thinks about this stuff but it's out there.

    3. Analytics. The frenemy of every Usability bod. Sometimes UIs are changed, not to benefit the user but to allow the greater capture of Analytics data. It's a classic conflict of interests - generally the fewer clicks (or swipes or drags etc. we call these 'events') required by the user to accomplish a task, the 'better' the UI is. However, with fewer events occurring, , the fewer opportunities there are to capture the event and build a picture of the overall journey. Really horrible UIs deliberately build in extra steps just for this purpose.

    Some, none or all of these may be part of Google's thinking. It may also be change for its own sake. It may even be that they did a bunch of user research and the new UI is genuinely what a majority of users want. But I suspect not.

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  11. To be fair, Google have now addressed my major complaints about the new interface - the lack of the facility to add links and upload images in the HTML view. So it's now usable, although more fiddly than it was before.

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