Google Gripes

I’m still thumbs up on using Google Reader — remember kids, there is no “best” web application, and just because I say its great does not mean something else might work better for you. Not only am I prone to be wrong, but there is just no way in the fast changing webscape for anyone to say definitively “A” is better than “B”.

That said, there is one major feature Google Reader is lapsing behind Bloglines on- the ability to have a cut and paste code “clip” to have Google Reader generate a blog roll on another site– their current code does an elegant job of being able to create JavaScript cutlets to display aggregated contents form folders or tags, so howmuch Google Brainpower would it take to just make something that returns a list with titles/links of subscribed feeds? The data is there, as it does provide an OPML export.

So I’m still using Bloglines solely to generate my blog pile. The process now is to export from Google Reader my OPML, go to bloglines, erase all feeds, and then import the OPML. How efficient is that, eh? There are numerous others who have been requesting this for months at the Google Groups for reader.

It would seem there might be a WordPress plugin that renders content of OPML files, but I came up rather short, some overly complex for the task. And in Googling for PHP code for OPML parsing, it turns out the code is already built into the admin parts of WordPress, as there are functions to import an OPML file or URL to generate a set of WP “LInks”. So one static way would be to just do that as it, which would give me data in the form of a linkroll I could roll into a WP template. But then it’s not dynamic.

I’ve not coded an WP plugins but may mess around to see if there is a way to use the code already in admin/link-import.php and admin/link-parse-opml.php to rough this out. Ideally a decent code should cache a copy locally so it does not have to keep yanking the OPML from Google.

Gripe number 2 has to do with the hijacking of copy-able links on Google Search results. I depend heavily on Google search to find appropriate links for just about everything I do– my repetitive steps are command-K to put the cursor in the firefox search box, type keywords, hit ENTER, and hopefully copy the link from results where I need the link.

But for the last 8 weeks or more, Google changed their search results. For example, a few barks back I was writing about captchas, so I ran a Google search to find the linkable reference- my results looked like:

google search results

So if it looks like the second result, for the CAPTCHA project, looks like the relevant link is it, and the mouseover status suggests this link goes to http://www.captcha.net/, a right/control click should allow my to copy the URL. But rather than getting http://www.captcha.net/ what I end up with is


which in effect does send me, when clicked, to the intended site, but it passes me through a Google script which is likely gathering some data before sending me to where I thought I was going. So now, to grab the URL, I either have to follow the link itself, and copy it from the address bar, or, do a mouse select to grab the text of the URL from the search results.

This is sounding awfully trivial, and for most users, it pretty much gives them what they are aiming for, and gives Google all the piles of data to improve their service (that is what is occurring, correct?), but it just seems to happen without much notice that Google changes their results. In fact, it happened last year, and in October 2005 I noted how the behavior went back. Heck, maybe each year is just a ratings sweep for them.

Thus ends my Google gripes.

Except for one- I wish more folks would publicly pester for them to somehow apply their mega-billion dollar stock option genius to remove the incentive that rewards comment form spammers who work feverishly to get their porn, pill, casino links inserted into the web sites of millions of frustrated bloggers and web site managers. Recently, I removed over 500 of these from the nets of my SpamKarma 2 plugins- they never saw the light of day on my blog, but in what un-parallel universe do I need 1000 animal sex URLs per minute flooding my way.

For the folks that “do no evil” you sure provide a lot of incentive and enable financial reward for what seems to me is rather evil and hurtful practice. Google, do something about spam link insertions!

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.