May 27, 2020

Blogger is talking like a robot.

Here's a message that's been appearing lately on the pages I'm seeing as I work on Blogger:
In late June, the new Blogger interface will become the default for all users. The legacy interface will still be optionally available. We recommend trying the new interface by clicking “Try the New Blogger” in the left-hand navigation. Please file any critical issues encountered.
Please file any critical issues encountered? Is that any way to talk to a human being? It sounds like they're saying if you don't like it, shut up about it. I mean, I feel like adopting that phrase as a jocose way to tell someone not to bother me about their problems: Please file any critical issues encountered.

It does go on to say "Read more" and point me here. What is this "new" Blogger?
In addition to a fresh feel, Blogger is now responsive on the web, making it easier to use on mobile devices....
Responsive on the web... I have no idea what that means other than Blogger is... easier to use on mobile devices.
A fresh Comments page helps you connect with readers more easily by surfacing areas that need your attention, like comment moderation....
By surfacing areas... That sounds like you're covering up the things that need my attention.
We’ll be moving everyone to the new interface over the coming months.... We recommend getting ahead of the transition by opting into the experience today....
No, I will wait until it's forced on me, and then I'll try opt back into what I'm told "will still be optionally available."

But speaking of improving your "interface," what about your interface with us human beings as you explain yourself to us?

A couple weeks ago, I was exploring alternatives to Blogger — notably WordPress — and I gave up because I couldn't understand what they were saying about what they offered and how I would get where I wanted to go using it. Blogger, I already know, because I've been using it for 16 years. But I get the impression that none of these places know how to talk to a real person, a person who actually speaks and reads and writes in a native human language.

Am I expected to learn robot talk?! If I talked like they do, I wouldn't be able to write a blog in the first place, not a blog that anybody could read or would want to read. Here they are facilitating communication in words, but they don't know words.

There: Critical issue filed.

ADDED: Rereading this, I paused to visualize "a fresh feel." Somehow Joe Biden was in the picture.

ALSO: I'd be interested in seeing a science fiction movie called "The Legacy Interface Will Still Be Optionally Available." You'd easily know that this would be some dystopia where normal life had been nightmarishly disrupted. In "The Matrix," the legacy interface is optionally available. You take a pill to opt out of the new world that had become the default for all users.

82 comments:

Chest Rockwell said...

I'd really like a responsive Althouse page. I can't stand reading it on a phone, which I do a lot anyway, but it's torture.

Don't be a luddite!

Nonapod said...

So they're just messing around with the interface? Nothing about adding new features, like say being able to selectively ban specific posters?

Craig said...

It sounds like a Karen wrote it. We're going to change things, and if you don't like it, tough.

Howard said...

OK, Boomer. You don't understand Millennial-Jargon v 1,238,750,784.8

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

That was likely written by an engineer whose first language is not English.

mikeski said...

All your blogs are belong to us.

rhhardin said...

That's bureaucrat talk, not robot talk.

Fernandinande said...

Apparently google is not using Qualtrics' "Customer Experience" ... er, stuff, which would

"Turn customers into fanatics

Hear every customer’s voice, fix every broken experience, and increase customer loyalty and spend."

Increase your spend!

Kylos said...

Responsive is geek speak for a web site that is coded to automatically adjust its layout based on screen size. This differs from websites that have multiple versions targeting specific devices or screen sizes.

CJinPA said...

I am sure the people who wrote that were quite proud of their wording. Seriously. The goal is to communicate information that makes it clear you are out of their league and need them.

mezzrow said...

I get your point, but fresh and Joe Biden are two things that just don't go together.

Does anyone use 'fresh' as a synonym of 'boorish and handsy' any more? I understood immediately, but then Althouse and I are in the same age cohort.

Ann Althouse said...

"I can't stand reading it on a phone, which I do a lot anyway, but it's torture."

I'm going to guess that you don't have an iPhone.

There used to be a setting where I could change it to a special mobile friendly look when you're using it on a phone, but I turned it off after trying it because I didn't like how it looked on my phone.

I'm not seeing that setting now, though, or I'd put it on to let you see it, and maybe keep it on to help you, but as I said, I disliked the look.

Ann Althouse said...

"So they're just messing around with the interface? Nothing about adding new features, like say being able to selectively ban specific posters?"

I'm not seeing anything that I want, and I believe we tried the new interface (on another blog) a while back and something went bad. Maybe they've fixed that, and I can't remember what it was, but I am wary of any change..

I'm sure the ability to ban specific posters isn't part of this new thing, but it's conceivable that it might help me by making backup work on my blog and to let me see the recently posted comments collected on a page. Those are 2 things I've lost by my blog being bigger than the maximum they are making work with their functions.

Dave Greene said...

"Responsive" means, more or less, jack of all trades, master of none.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_web_design

Ralph L said...

It sounds like they're saying if you don't like it, shut up about it.

If they mean circular file. If they really want feedback, they should say where.

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: I'd be interested in seeing a science fiction movie called "The Legacy Interface Will Still Be Optionally Available."

By the author of "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" and "A Scanner Darkly," no doubt. Too bad he's dead.

mandrewa said...

Let's hope this is not Google, intending to use an automatic AI censor, offering to delete comments they don't like.

Please file any critical issues encountered is grammatically correct but semantically awkward, as in, what does this mean?

If taken in isolation I would assume a ESOL wrote it. But then the other sentences in the same paragraph are written in what looks like native English so that probably isn't it.

A lot of programmers, maybe most, are not particularly good at writing. But I kind of doubt a programmer wrote this, since if you are programmer you've been trained to break things down and make sense at a robotic level which this sentence certainly does not.

And finally I should note that compared to the stuff that most lawyers write and the laws that our politicians write and probably the majority of academic papers that are out there, this is clear English.

madAsHell said...

Please file any critical issues encountered?

The engineering documents were copied into the marketing materials.

Big Mike said...

Is that any way to talk to a human being?

It's how software developers talk to each other, and technically they are human. Sort of. Blogger needs to invest in writers who can reshape what the software developers say into "plain English."

Ralph L said...

Banning commenters seems like a total no-brainer. Gmail has a "mark as spam" button. How tough could that be to add?

madAsHell said...

I can't remember what it was, but I am wary of any change..

If you had filed a bug, then you wouldn't have to depend on wet-ware memory.

Fernandinande said...

reading it on a phone

FWIW, I sometimes read on an Android tablet; with firefox the blog is nearly impossible to read, but chrome formats it correctly.

Maybe they've fixed that, and I can't remember what it was, but I am wary of any change..

Despite some impressive products, google can and does crank out some weird, buggy software.

madAsHell said...

like say being able to selectively ban specific posters?"

Usually, a bug reporting tool will also include the ability to request features.

Does Blogger know about your concerns?

Chest Rockwell said...

"I'm going to guess that you don't have an iPhone."

I do! It doesn't help, because Blogger is just presenting your blog the same on a desktop as a phone, so on a phone, everything is very small.

IOS does have a reader view( the aA icon in the left of the address bar), but that only works for your blog entry, not the comments and i'm here to read both.

Chest Rockwell said...

"Let's hope this is not Google, intending to use an automatic AI censor, offering to delete comments they don't like."

Of course it is. There's currently a kerfuffle about Youtube automatically censoring a phrase critical of the Chinese government. If you place it in the comments, it's removed about 10 seconds later. I guarantee you there's a Chinese engineer working at Youtube who put that feature in, and no one noticed.(until now)

Youtube says it's an 'error'.

Craig said...

I disagree with Pants. It doesn't sound like an engineer to me. It sounds like a narcissistic bureaucrat.

rhhardin said...

"New and easier to use" usually means that it won't work with your browser.

Narr said...

Lousy news, new interfaces. That's been my experience anyway.

That bot-brag is what happens when people who are good with computers but not at clear human language create AI to explain things-- gibberish, cubed.

I'm pretty impressed (and relieved) that the Prof, tech-savvy as she is, is willing to forego the promised new, improved Blogger for now.

Narr
Resisting change since 1953

Sally327 said...

It reminds me of one of the ways to spot a phishing /spoof email, awkward sentence structure, use of words in a manner not commonly understood and so on. Also, I deal with customer service / call centers located elsewhere (i.e., India) and while the communication is always grammatically correct, it's not colloquial, My favorite expression they use is "do the needful", which I looked into and it's a 19th century Briticism.

Anyway, how long will it be before this tortured cyber-speak is the norm and how we used to talk is considered quaint?

rehajm said...

Let's hope this is not Google, intending to use an automatic AI censor, offering to delete comments they don't like

That's usually the course when they start talking about 'improvements'. They do say moderation is part of the 'improvements'. Expect to see token controls for the blog author but Google-wide cross platform automatic deletion of specific comments and users.

The beginning of the end...

Fernandinande said...

Here's google's blog post on the new format, which is slightly different than what you posted, although many of the sentences are the same ("Posted by Fontaine on behalf of the Blogger team")

"By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface."

Bob said...

Sounds to me like someone got up on the wrong side of bed today.

But rhhardin is right. "Please file any critical issues encountered" sounds like bureaucrat-speak.

Anyone remember Up the Down Staircase? Bel Kaufman's fictionalized memoir of her time as a young teacher in the New York City school system? When the administration declined to help with something they wrote, "Let it be a challenge to you".

Althouse, you're stuck with it!

Original Mike said...

Do you think they'll fix the need to hit the publish button multiple times before a comment posts?

Yeah, me neither. Software developers (they are not engineers!) can't be troubled to fix their existing software bugs. Too many new and shiny things to work on.

Temujin said...

"A fresh Comments page helps you connect with readers more easily by surfacing areas that need your attention, like comment moderation...."

I'll note this as the day the derivative 'surfacing' was used as a verb. Maybe it's used in the floor or table finishing industries, but I've not seen it used like this before. Certainly not seen it used in reference to looking over something or reviewing something. 'Hey, I'm going to spend my day surfacing these news articles'. No...doesn't work.

That said, it's probably part of the techie lingo and will soon, like the word efforting, become used regularly, everywhere. I still cringe when I hear people say they are efforting to get something done. Soon they will be efforting to read the results of their surfacing.

Fritz said...

Fernandistein said...
Here's google's blog post on the new format, which is slightly different than what you posted, although many of the sentences are the same ("Posted by Fontaine on behalf of the Blogger team")

"By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface."


I got the message this morning on my (much smaller) blog, and decided to try it, since it's clear they're going to force it on us soon anyway.

Overall, I don't care for it; it seems more visually bloated, but with no new features that I care about, maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon. But I did see this in the blurb:

Editor
The newly enhanced Editor page introduces table support, enables better transliteration, and includes an improved image/video upload experience.


If this means it will work better for blogging from a tablet (IPad), it will be worth it. Once in a great while I try to post from an IPad while travelling. It sucks, and the third party apps to use aren't much of an improvement.

Jim Gust said...

The changes appear to affect only your experience and interface as the blog administrator, they do not affect what your readers see or how they comment.

I just tried it out on my blog, and superficially it seems mostly harmless.

Bruce Hayden said...

"By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface."

Does this mean that people like Ann will be able to revert to the older interface for only a month or two, and then that will go away?

I tried running a Blogger blog maybe 15 years ago. My problem was that I am a programmer at heart, so was forced to add features, like defaulting to showing maybe the only 20 lines of blog posts. As anyone here can probably attest I tend to be long winded, and my blog posts were no different. Blogger changed their interface a bit, and I had to recode to make it all work. OCD on my part, and, for me, enjoyable. Much more fun than practicing law. I think that what ended my feeble attempt at being a blogmaster was taking a real job, with a real law firm, that had real billing goals.

In any case, Blogger has long been an orphan stepchild of Google, which doesn’t make much money on it, and didn’t put much back into it. My question then is why and why now are they putting a little money into it? Censorship may be the goal. We shall see. If they start censoring the comments, we will likely detect it fairly quickly. A blog like this seems to attract more than its fair share of political incorrectness. At that point, maybe some of our tech gurus here could maybe work with Ann to get over the tech language hurdles she seems to have faced in her recent attempt to change blogging engines.

etbass said...

"A fresh Comments page helps you connect with readers more easily by surfacing areas that need your attention, like comment moderation...."

"surfacing" is like what a submarine does when it comes up from below.... the surface of water. And then you can see it! It was always there but beneath the surface. You just needed it to surface.

See how easy that was? You evidently don't spend a lot of time in submarines, huh?

Ann Althouse said...

"By the author of "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" and "A Scanner Darkly," no doubt. Too bad he's dead."

Yes, exactly.

Ann Althouse said...

"By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface."

So as long as I "revert" before late July, will I be able to stay in "legacy"?

It should mean that, or it would be pretty deceptive to say "The legacy interface will still be optionally available."

Do they mean The legacy interface will still be optionally available until late July? Or do they mean The legacy interface will still be optionally available as long as you opt into it before late July?

tcrosse said...

"surfacing" is like what a submarine does when it comes up from below.... the surface of water.

"Broaching" is when a submarine inadvertently surfaces. An officer who has the con when this occurs is said to have earned his wings.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'll note this as the day the derivative 'surfacing' was used as a verb. Maybe it's used in the floor or table finishing industries, but I've not seen it used like this before. Certainly not seen it used in reference to looking over something or reviewing something. 'Hey, I'm going to spend my day surfacing these news articles'. No...doesn't work."

I studied "surface," the transitive verb, when I was writing this post. I wanted to say that it only means to cover things up by adding a new surface, like when workers surface a road. But it did have another meaning, which is consistent with the use here (from the OED):

"transitive. To bring or raise to the surface."

1885 Money Market Rev. 29 Aug. 331/2 To surface the tinstuff now accumulated.
1949 T. Roscoe U.S. Submarine Operations World War II xviii. 237/2 Surfacing the submarine in the dusk, he started her in on the approach.
1959 Times 14 Feb. 8/7 Of all the green things which he [sc. a coypu] surfaced he chose to eat only the succulent roots of the reeds.
2008 UK Newsquest Regional Press (Bradford) (Nexis) 27 Mar. Robinson worked for four years down a mine..surfacing coal which was used for heat and power in homes, factories, trains and ships.

It didn't feel natural to me, but there you have it.

Of course, the intransitive verb "surface" is easily understood — a submarine surfaces.

Ralph L said...

You have some issues to file critically.

As anyone here can probably attest

No, we never read your shit.

stevew said...

It is surprising and puzzling that Blogger does not allow for the automatic moderation of specific commenters. There must be something in the base code and design that prevents adding that capability.

Perhaps you could file that as a critical issue? Were you my customer I would recommend you log it as a Sev 1, especially given the impact to your work day and the functioning of the blog.

Ralph L said...

"Surface" is being surfaced as the new "curate."
It's recently been ordained.

zipity said...


I used to be in the photofinishing industry. The vast majority of the photo processing equipment came from Japan (Fuji, Noritsu, etc.)

The User and service manuals were unintentionally hilarious translations from Japanese to English. Surprised nobody died from the bad translations.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

WTF is blogger putting a line across the screen for? That’s weird.

etbass said...

It really is pretty bad when a blogger as prominent as Althouse, can't get the attention of a behemoth like Google. You would think they would tailor the whole package to your needs; doubt there is a more prominent blogger in Google's retinue.

n.n said...

It's technicalese to effect socially distancing, similar to how technicians refer to an unwanted baby, especially when it is sentenced to be Planned, as a "fetus" (a diverse... colorful clump of cells), rather than a "baby".

Ann Althouse said...

“ I do! It doesn't help, because Blogger is just presenting your blog the same on a desktop as a phone, so on a phone, everything is very small. ”

Try turning it sideways.

Ann Althouse said...

“ It is surprising and puzzling that Blogger does not allow for the automatic moderation of specific commenters. There must be something in the base code and design that prevents adding that capability.”

Their standard answer has been that it’s not worth doing because people who get banned can easily find another way to post.

Fernandinande said...

Surprised nobody died from the bad translations.

Always thank the spirit of toilets

David-2 said...

Don't bother looking for an answer to your question about what it means for the "legacy interface" after July.

I'll tell you what it means now: "legacy" is the tech codeword for "old crap we're no longer maintaining but for some reason still have to have running". Nobody - not one single developer, program manager, QA person (not that Google has those: they don't) - wants to work on the old crap. All of them, 100%, especially their management, are looking for a good reason to kill it altogether.

So all complaints about it not working on some browser or performance degradation or outages will go to the bitbucket; except for the first good security flaw someone discovers: That will be the excuse to kill it they're all avidly looking for.

Regardless of any promises about "July" it can disappear at any time, the sooner the better as far as they're concerned.

gadfly said...

From what I read in the explanation by "Fontaine," You will have to revert back to the Claasic Themes, else you must pick a new theme (Contempo, Soho, Emporio, Notable, Essential or Simple) and customize it as best as you can.

The Althouae template was one of the original Blogger themes:

Blogger Template Style
Name: Minima
Date: 26 Feb 2004
Updated by: Blogger Team

Tomcc said...

"We wish to illicit feedback in the surface of improving our new interface"

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I've been reading both the blog and comments on Android phones for 6-8 years now and never have a problem. I do not use Firefox and would never use Chrome on anything. Just the plain vanilla Samsung browser.

I've tried firefox and other browsers on my android phones but never liked them because they made blogs and websites hard for me to read.

Samsung lets me set a nice large, easy to read, text size, wraps it and keeps it consistent across most websites.

I've also been reading on my Android tablet. Same comments as above. Standard Samsung browser.

I use K-9 mail for phone and tablet email. Great program. I just wish they offered a Windows version so I could upgrade from Eudora-2007. I've tried every email program available and nothing works as well as Eudora 7. Except K-9

John Henry

Narr said...

Endeavor to persevere!

Narr
I do

Steven said...

Right, so, to start, "file" is a verb with utterly standard meanings, among others (per Merriam Webster_:

transitive verb
1 : to arrange in order for preservation and reference
2a : to place among official records as prescribed by law
b : to send (copy) to a newspaper
3 : to initiate (something, such as a legal action) through proper formal procedure

Now, among computer software developers, these meanings are extended very slightly for the jargon phrase "file a bug" and variants. Which, while being a jargon phrase, is an entirely natural one. Because when you "file a bug", you are making a bug report (thus filing it in roughly the same sense as definitions 2a and 2b above, but to the programmers rather than a newspaper or official records) in a database (thus filing it in sense 1) in order to bring it to the attention of the developers to fix (thus filing it in sense 3).

So, "Please file any critical issues encountered" means, "Report any major problems through the system designed to make sure they're fixed."

Gregg said...

Why not just buy a website The domain annalthouseDOTCOM is for sale. I'm not sure what it costs. You might recoup any costs from advertising. I think having your own domain is the way to go.

Allison said...

"Please file any critical issues encountered"

"file" is short for file a bug report . It means to tell them of the problem you are having. A "critical" bug is one that crashes the system, loses permanently your data, prevents you from logging in, or otherwise causes a lot of problems, as opppsed to something merely wrong or annoying (like how they still haven't their stupid Comments comments overwriting the input box so you can't fix your spelling mistakes.)

Leora said...

I am reminded of an error I made in my early accounting days when I told the receptionist to file a report - meaning send it where it needed to go - which she heard as put it in a file folder in the file cabinet. Many issues a few months later.

somewhy said...

The legacy interface will still be optionally available

- is the perfect metaphor for the world in which we now live.

MD Greene said...

Google is killing blogger deliberately. Heck, it isn't even maintaining its search engine anymore. It is helpful to keep in mind that Alphabet/Google raison d'etre is to sell advertising.

John henry said...

Althouse.com is available for $4,999 on godaddy. Someone already owns it.

But a number of variations like thealthouse. Com, real althouse.com or althouse log.com are available for about $15/yr

Do it through Wix.com and they'll throw in a free website, 99 email addresses and a blog.

I'm tempted to buy an althouse domain and donate it to you just to get you out of Google.

Or perhaps althousearchives.com as a repository for all past posts and comments.

A couple dozen volunteers could each download a couple months, then upload to the archive.

John Henry

John henry said...

I think you are obsessing over this way too much. You've been dithering for a couple years now.

Just do it.

Or stop moaning about it.

John Henry

Kirk Parker said...

Gregg,

That is completely irrelevant to the problems at hand.

stevew said...

"Their standard answer has been that it’s not worth doing because people who get banned can easily find another way to post."

Pffft, shitty answer. As a boss of mine once said, "If you're going to lie make it a good one, don't insult me with a poorly constructed fabrication.".

Art in LA said...

IMHO, Google is consistently bad at product documentation -- Blogger, Google Analytics, Adsense and I'm sure elsewhere. Ultimately, folks just figure it out. And, there are those out there who completely understand the techno-speak.

Besides advertising, I don't know if many Google businesses are profitable, warranting additional investment in features or user documentation.

tcrosse said...

Pffft, shitty answer

Banned? Go to Google and open a new gmail account under an assumed name. Use it to log into Blogger to make comment under a new assumed name. Easy peasy.
The only way our hostess knows it's you is by your style, which is what got you banned in the first place.

gpm said...

>>a science fiction movie called "The Legacy Interface Will Still Be Optionally Available."

Sounds like a Twilight Zone episode.

--gpm

stevew said...

I would argue tcrosse, that enabling that functionality would at least slow them down, and "because it wouldn't completely solve your problem" is a lazy man's answer.

cubanbob said...

Meade now that the moderation is on full time, are the miscreants still trying? Have any adopted a new gmail account?

Narayanan said...

I read on my Motorola while away from home.
double tap enlarges and reformats text to fill view area.

look in your phone system settings and see what adjustments are possible.

my browser is Chrome?

Scott Patton said...

There will be a surfeit of surface at your service.

gadfly said...

Comment moderation needs rules but once rules are established, fully automated levels of moderation are available through third parties such as Viafoura.

Don't know how much such a service costs, but reduced comment reading and your reactions could make your blogging endeavor easier.

Meade said...

"Meade now that the moderation is on full time, are the miscreants still trying?"

Yes. Sometimes, rarely, they get through and then when we see the published comment or someone brings it to our attention we delete it.

"Have any adopted a new gmail account?"

Not that I'm aware of.
By the way, is it just me or has the comment section become more readable, enjoyable and interesting since full-time moderation?

stevew said...

It's not just you, works that way for me too. I must admit I'm still adjusting to the delay, it's a bit conversation inhibiting. But, moderation and delay have greatly reduced the annoying and off-putting tit-for-tat personal attacks. Which is nice.

Mal said...

Maybe all the anti-trust pressure on Google/Amazon/Facebook/etc. is finally having an effect!

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/02/22/697170790/antitrust-3-big-tech

Althouse's blog is very easy to read on an Android phone. And Android - like Blogger - is owned by Google. But Althouse is a pain to read on the iPhone. You have to flip the phone sideways to have a halfway decent experience.

Google is probably trying to get rid of these types of platform discriminations before the DOJ starts its attack.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/15/doj-and-state-ags-likely-to-file-antitrust-lawsuit-against-google-wsj.html

Justice Department and State AGs likely to file antitrust lawsuit against Google, WSJ says
MAY 15 2020
Google will likely face at least one antitrust lawsuit related to its advertising business from both the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general in coming months, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Shares of Google parent Alphabet dropped sharply on the news, down as much as 3% after-hours.

The DOJ is aiming to file a case as soon as this summer, according to the report. At least some of the state attorneys general involved in the multistate probe led by Texas are likely to file suit in the fall, the Journal reported.

This is the magic of trust-busting! No wonder they tried to hide the changes with technical jargon instead of clear English.

ken in tx said...

To me, the phrase about 'if you have a problem, file it' means 'if you have a problem submit it to us'. I was surprised that Ann took that as a negative.

Original Mike said...

Blogger Meade said..."By the way, is it just me or has the comment section become more readable, enjoyable and interesting since full-time moderation?"

It's pretty much just you.

Meade said...

Considering I contain multitudes, pretty much just me is plenty!

amiracle said...

They're rolling out what barely qualifies as a Beta version, written by a new and incompetent generation of programmers who still use antiquated HTML tags like "font face." I've also started looking at alternatives and had the same frustrating experience with WordPress. Everything there is about polish and flashy design with substance taking a back seat or better yet getting shoved in the trunk. Blogger had its flaws, but they weren't many and it was still a superior platform; now the flaws are front and center, and what incentive is there to keep using the platform other than the inertia of already being there?