Monday, 15 February 2010

What a cock up

Junior Einsteins strike again

A few days ago I expressed dissatisfaction and frustration provided by the poor human interface of technically slick but user-unfriendly online systems for publishing text. I cited bitter experience with Google Knol. Ben Foulger suggested that I try Scribd. I did and, though easier and better looking than Knol, it still had me crying out in frustration:

Why don't the Junior Einsteins who put such things together find staff capable of writing instructions that are anything but insultingly incompetent?

Notwithstanding, it is up there and Adelaide, Dupont, who seems to know about such things, commented on the posting was getting hits, 39 in the first day As of a few minutes ago this figure had passed two hundred, for which I am modestly gratified. At that level the system 'works')..

I saw today that, had also added a couple of kind technical tips to help me make better use of this site, using the facility for commenting that Scribd itself provides. Well meant advice but beyond my limited threshold of competence, I'm afraid, as I responded to her in the same place:

Thanks for the tips but I honestly don't understand them and if I have to fiddle further I shall either create more half-cock versions or lose the lot. It will have to stand as is while I go off and try find a system that is more user-friendly/idiot-proof (or, more succinctly, idiot-friendly).

I had to return to Scribd this evening and noticed that my response read as follows:

Thanks for the tips but I honestly don't understand them and if I have to fiddle further I shall either create more half-**** versions or lose the lot. It will have to stand as is while I go off and try find a system that is more user-friendly/idiot-proof (or, more succinctly, idiot-friendly).

Shocked, I wrote the following couple of sentences to probe the system:

I learned to shoot with a short-barrelled Lee-Enfield rifle, and later instructed others to do the same. That was a pretty idiot-proof weapon. Just sometimes, if badly mishandled (trigger pulled before bolt closed) it would 'jam', fail safe, neither cocked nor uncocked, or (as has entered the English language) it was at half cock.

It was published instantly, so by non-human hand:

I learned to shoot with a short-barrelled Lee-Enfield rifle, and later instructed others to do the same. That was a pretty idiot-proof weapon. Just sometimes, if badly mishandled (trigger pulled before bolt closed) it would 'jam', fail safe, neither cocked nor uncocked, or (as has entered the English language) it was at half ****.

I therefore added a little more:

I see that an egregiously programmed robot has indeed instantly Bowdlerised what I have just written. I am glad that I did not chose to write about keeping chickens.

I do not know what else is proscribed here and have no intention of finding out by way of trial and error. I shall not be using this site again and shall publicly advise others against doing do.

The limits of freedom

I can accept the limitations of my own technical competence. Over time I shall doubtless extend what I can do, and others will no doubt from time to time help me learn, as has happened in the past. These are largely matters within my own control and discretion.

What I cannot have is control over what I say exercised by a machine programmed by a semi-literate and/or a prude. This is homogenisation of the Internet and a curb on free speech. Sites of this kind, exercising such a policy/mechanism should play the game, state clearly and up front what they are doing and.list the words (and presumably the topics) may not be entertained there.

Such Grundyism is not something specifically North American. Recently a correspondent from London told me that she is unable to access Conductive World from the public libraries in her borough. Other CE blogs open satisfactorily for her therfe, but attempts to bring up Conductive World bring up a big red barred sign and the legend:

This site is barred

Embarassing in a public place. An impudence and an inconvenience anywhere.

There are no illustrations on Conductive World (some softwear automatically screens out flesh tones) – just words. So just what are the forbidden taboo words. And do such 1984 measures extend to accessing the Internet from schools, social-services, health facilities, universities, commercial bodies? Talk about the Chinese!

Adelaide had already suggested another system, Zoho. It looks like I shall be trying this rather sooner than I thought.

References

2 comments:

  1. Many years ago on Delphi Forums there was a censoring system. It was especially galling when I became an assistant moderator on a Polish and Slavonic forum.

    (I would have had to have programmed Polish swear words into it as well, meaning much use of the Alternative Dictionary in various tongues).

    It was easy to program various words in and out, and consult.

    Scribd is a big public system.

    Do read the FAQs: like community, finding and reading documents, writing and publishing documents.

    (Especially the part about: "Can I change a document once I publish it?")

    Other users will have tips and tricks as well.

    (I will say that other people have complained of poor support on this service as well).

    Yes, freedom of speech is a big problem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And are you sure there are no illustrations on Conductive World?

    Some of the links show illustrations or icons.

    Some of them may have objectionable content.

    ReplyDelete