Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/02/15/readers_letters_my_google_usenet/

Readers Letters My Google Usenet – wrong or right?

Blindsided Reg readers strike back

By Andrew Orlowski

Posted in Letters, 15th February 2001 09:36 GMT

Google - what's there not to like?

Until about lunchtime on Monday, very little. While general relief was expressed at the start-up's acquisition of Deja's Usenet archive, our readers were amazed to discover that they couldn't use the familiar Deja interface. Google had hurriedly knocked up a front-end, CEO Larry Page explained this week, but for many of you that meant a valuable service had been scuppered.

Not all of you are critical of Google - the company evidently has much good will from the community, but many of you are angry. Really angry. Here's a representative sample:-

Simon Birkby summed the sentiment up best with this letter:-


I've lost count of the number of times I've found inspiration, education or the answer to some challenge, in the Deja.com (nee DejaNews) archive. I'd say it's worth as a resource is probably incalculable. The ability to employ technology to deliver a usable way to 'shoot the breeze' with the rest of planet is, for me, how the Internet pays for itself in human terms. Websites are just a useful adjunct.

You hit the nail on the head - it truly felt like being blinded in some way when it went. I hope we all get it back soon

And specifically, Deja's clunky but very precise search tools, could get a specific job done, as MH explains:-

Please count me among the countless people that realize the real power and priceless asset Deja.com's search engine has provided.

Sure, you could find everything from torrid, smutty stories to age-old posts amid it's archive, but the REAL treasure lies in the exchange of TECHNICAL solutions to problem that crop up.

Where else can you go to type and file name (ie..winsock.dll) and combine it with a symptom (page fault) and find a msg. from some nameless IT guy in Mozambique? That same msg often has replies from people that have encountered the same issue, and have a fix/work around for it.

It's simply amazing!

I train a number of techies, and I ALWAYS have introduced them to Deja.com as such a tool -- an answerbook written by the very souls who encounter the same hair-extracting frustration at dealing with software incompatibilites, glitches and plain poor programming...

Many, many thanks for bringing this news to light...and encouraging a subtle backlash on those (dare I say Google..?) that fail to recognize what they hold in their proverbial hands.

Is a user rebellion likely? Nigel Hunter thinks so:

I have to confess that I'm gutted about the loss of this previously awesome newsgroup search engine. People should campaign to have the original u/i restored or we should vote with our feet.

Similarly, Steve writes:

You would not believe how utterly fucking pissed-off I am right now about this whole cock-up of a mess. Anyone interested in starting a class-action lawsuit
against Google?

Woah, there. Google is private company Steve, and we don't think there's a law that criminalizes badly designed web UIs. (Jakob's probably got a draft ready, but we digress)

Not all of you were convinced by Google boss Larry Page's summary on Wednesday, two days into the new beta Google service. Andy Turner writes:-

I can't believe that Larry Page said "Most are happy," he said, as traffic had remained constant from Deja levels, or even increased slightly.

What? Of course traffic has increased - because no-one can fecking find anything anymore, they have to hit it three times as much just to find what they wanted!!!! Sheesh.

Which makes us hope that when Google revises its beta, it won't make the same speed/content calculations that made its web search engine so successful. Mark Whitaker points out he'd rather it took a little longer, provided it gave useful returns:-

"It now takes 10 searches where 1 would do previously to find the same information! But then, "Speed was the primary thing" of course. (I'm using an ageing 56K modem and Deja was always fast enough for me.) Give me 1 slow page rather than 10 fast ones any day."

Dissenters there were, too:-

I must admit - for a targeted search, I've just played with the new interface, and find it a lot easier than the old deja setup. writes Anthony Youngman.

And a number of you think that all web UIs onto Usenet will be second best to a decent Newsreader client:-

Your objection seems to be that this interface isn't good for browsing. Well, it *should* not be. NNTP is a very efficient method of distributing the load of Usenet across the network ... people who are browsing should be browsing from their local news server.

Google have made exactly the right choices, and have returned us after many years to a Usenet search engine which actually works well. Congratulations (once again), Google. writes Simon Brooke.

Local news servers? Weren't they phased out with the end of rationing? A good point, but judging from all of your feedback, most of you don't have ISPs that provide a news feed, so it's Deja or the highway...

On balance, it was running at about 5:1 in favour of restoring the old Deja interface, and that ratio has probably doubled as the week's gone on. Many of you express hope that you'll get a Deja-like interface again, only with added Google speed. That would mean Google junked its web ranking metrics, but as the co-creator Usenet Steve Bellovin pointed out, they require different approaches.

Human conversations tend to be interesting because they stray, and Google's web search is successful because it filters out this digression and irrelevance.

Finally no US letter section is complete without the token Comedy Libertarian. This time Shawn Maheney objected to the idea we floated that Usenet should be maintained as a distributed system among the Universities, with some seed money from the Government:-

Next time you have a forced blackout due to a power shortage, think again about how much you want the gubment deciding how things get done. he writes.

Too right, Shawn: give those crazy University researchers some gubment money, and who knows what they might come up with ... like The Internet. Or Usenet. Or even this ®