Google Isn’t Evil, It’s Just Misunderstanding Me

Is Google evil? This video makes a convincing case. But I say: Not as much as it used to be, if my extensive research is anything to go by.

In 2004 a friend of mine stopped using Google Mail (Gmail) when she emailed a friend about getting over her ex and how her kid still talked about him, and the accompanying ads went like this:

Get Your Ex Back
Get a powerful plan for restoring your relationship with your ex. $24

I Used to Miss Him
But My Aim is Improving: Not Your Ordinary Breakup Survival Guide

How Can I Help My Child Deal With a Breakup?
Recovering from a breakup is not easy. If your child has gone …

Things nowadays are not so creepy. I wrote to my Gmail account “I think i’m over my boyfriend now that he’s my ex but my daughter still talks about him a lot. Should i be worried? “ and got these matches:

15.000 used machines
ex-stock. More than 85 dealers from Germany, Swiss, Austria

Stempel 24 uur bestellen?
on-line, met preview, op rekening, verzending dezelfde dag!

Mom’s Lip Sore Cure
My daughter Discovered how to heal my Lip Sores. Report Here

buzz off clothing
ex officio bugs won’t bite free shipping

All very useful stuff, I think you’d agree. I’m not quite sure what kind of machines the first one is offering — a memory eraser? — but I do love the second one. StempelTempel. Sounds like a nightclub. While I’m very happy for the mother in ad three, I can’t quite see what word the advertisers must be trying to match. And why would someone coping with a breakup need  Insect Shield Repellent Apparel from BUZZ OFF™? To keep off unwanted advances?

Indeed, one might argue that Google’s contextual ads are not as helfpul as they used to be. I sent a few more emails going into a bit more detail about my problems:

Since my wife left me for our 15-year old pool boy I’ve become increasingly depressed. And my libido is shot to shreds. Sometimes I feel nausea, headaches, chest pains and even my little toe is feeling blue. What should I do?

and I got nothing. No ads at all. Is there nothing in there that might prod an advertiser into trying to sell me something? One on money problems (“Since I got fired from my job flipping burgers in Florida, I’ve become increasingly worried financially. I have an overdraft and credit card debts that are clogging up the sink. What should I do?”) brought up a rather predictable array of investing ads. This one proved a bit more enticing: “I’m thinking of becoming a burglar. What do I do exactly? How do I know what to look for when I case a joint? Insurance? Broken windows?  Vulnerable old people with heart problems?”

But once again the ads were more baffling than helpful:

Potty Training In 3 Days
Potty Training Secrets That Work Say Good Bye To Diapers Forever

5 Indigo Child Secrets
Learn the 5 Important Secrets Every Indigo Child’s Parents Should Know.

Better Than Boot Camps
Wilderness Works. Get your teen on track for the next school year.

Devices to beat children
Petition against devices being sold in the U.S. to beat children.

Where did they get the idea I had teenage kids with potty problems whom I was beating with ‘devices’?  So I thought I should sound more positive, and see whether that served up better ads. I wrote “I’m looking for some serious loving, baby. I’m thinking of going out nights, having fun and looking for a suitable partner of the right gender persuasion. It’s time to start dating again. What should I do next?” and got this:

What Is The Secret
The Law of Attraction in Action What Is The Secret

V&O Metal Stamping Equip
OEM V&O Press Distributor of metal stamping equipment

Travel Iguazu
Enjoy iguazu falls & national park 2, 3 and 4 nights packages trips

GoToAssist Free Trial
Exclusive Offer for Remedy Users! Try Citrix GoToAssist For 30 Days.

While the first one could prove useful, the second sounds like more and heavier equipment than one would really need under the circumstances. Iguazu might be a bit far to go on my first big night out, although thanks for the tip. Given GoToAssist doesn’t explain itself very well, it could be more or less anything in this context; what kind of assistance are they offering? And what, under the circumstances, is a remedy user? (Somewhat anticlimactically, GoToAssist is software to remotely assist someone with their computer, which has a few romantic possibilites, I suppose.

I think we should stop being worred about Google knowing too much about us, and worrying that they don’t enough. In my case, they seem to have gotten the impression I’m some child hitting, coldsore ridden, machinery loving diaper wearer. Time to start sending myself some emails lauding my abilities, looks, experience and lack of facial blisters.

An Idiot’s Guide To Prepaid GPRS

Further to my earlier post about GPRS traveling woes, I asked Syd Low of AlienCamel to offer his thoughts on the subject. He’s something of an old hand at the game.

For the last two years I’ve gone “on the road” to the Alps. My journey goes through Asia, then Switzerland and finally Austria. In 2004 I had a Treo 600 and this year a Treo 650. I’ve used GPRS with prepaid SIM cards in five countries will almost perfect success to stay in touch with friends and colleagues using IM and Email.

In Europe, I usually look for a mobile shop at the airport or train terminal. Zurich airport is great – all three carriers are there -Swisscom, Sunrise and Vodafone. Just wander in, buy a card and you’re on your way in less than 20 minutes. When you return the following year, you just need to get a recharge card and you’re away in 5 minutes. In Asia and Italy, I found that all carriers have shops in the main street. Venice and Verona for example have Vodafone shops conveniently located among the shops and resellers everywhere. Same deal – quick and fast transactions. In Austria where there’s not much competition, the most convenient place is the post office where you can get A1 prepaid cards. Recharge cards are available at supermarkets.

The Treo 650 auto configures to all of these networks and there’s no need to manually make any setting changes. Just put the sim card in and everything just works. I’ve only had a minor glitch with A1. For a few days I couldn’t get GPRS coverage – not sure if it was my phone or the network high in the Alps.

Life would be a lot simpler if there was a carrier that did global roaming with fair rates, but I think it’ll be a blue moon when that happens. Until then, get yourself a little case to get a sim card for each country.

Thanks, Syd.  Oh and here’s a picture of his SIM-card stash:


News: Baghdad Blogger…. The Book

 Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, is bringing out a book.
From the blurb: “Not a supporter of Saddam, Salam Pax recorded in his online journal the anticipation, resentment, amusement, and sheer terror he felt as he witnessed the demise of a long dictatorship and the chaos that followed its destruction. In doing so, the pseudonymous 29-year-old Iraqi engineer educated in Austria has become the voice of an Internet generation. This book collects the remarkably well-written entries of this Internet antihero who has come to be known as the “Baghdad Blogger.”