Clicky web analytics: highly recommended

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just discovered they have an affiliate program and, well, that’s an excuse to mention it again.

I’ve been using Clicky for web analytics for Growstuff, and I’m delighted with them.

They are basically a drop-in replacement for Google analytics, but run by a company who care more about, you know, analytics than selling ads. Clicky gives me all I need in terms of pretty charts and reports, and I can see where Growstuff’s visitors are coming from and how they’re using the site. Pretty much what you’d expect.

I’ve also paid for a premium account, which gives me two features I really love: “Spy”, which shows me people’s activity in real time (and makes a delightful “DING!” in my browser when we get a new visitor, which can be quite noisy at times, though of course you can turn the sound off if you prefer), and a heatmap overlay for the website that shows where people are actually clicking on the page — great for seeing which parts of your site are getting the most attention.

On top of all that, they’re friendly and responsive and have been really helpful on Twitter when I’ve had questions for them.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an analytics system that’s not run by a kind-of-evil ad company, and you want to support independent software companies and not be a free user, give Clicky a shot. If you use this affiliate link and buy a premium account, it’ll help Growstuff out a little bit, too.

My Name Is Me is back

A few people have contacted me lately asking where “My Name Is Me” (previously at had got to. Well, the domain registration expired, the WordPress site that I didn’t login to very often got malwared to hell and back, and when I asked around, nobody wanted to take it over.

However, I recently set up WordPress Multisite (and wow, that was easier than I thought it would be — recommended!) and I’m in the process of moving all my various blogs to it. Among them, since I had an archive sitting around, is MNIM.

And so, in “celebration” (a ha ha) of Google+ releasing a “community” feature that excludes LGBTQ people; abuse survivors; refugees; whistleblowers; people in the military, medical, legal, political, education, or social work fields; people from countries which commonly use monomyms or mixed character sets for names; people who want to chat with their gaming, open source, fandom, or SCAdian buddies; nuns and monks; performers known by their stage names; authors known by their pen names; activists and political dissidents… oh look, just go see the site. In recognition of all these people and their exclusion from G+ and similar social networks, MNIM is now back at

Note that it’s in “archival” mode — I’m not actively soliciting new people to list on the site, and the forms for submitting stories have been removed. It took a team of hard workers slogging away at all the editorial work for MNIM, and we’re no longer up for that. Hopefully the work we did last year will still be useful as it stands.

No, I still don’t want to work for Google.

You think those Google recruiters would know not to contact me, but the other day I got another perky “Opportunities at Google” email from one of them, telling me that they’d found my “online profile” and that based on my experience they think I “could be a great addition to our team!”


Since I just deleted my LinkedIn profile, I emailed them asking where they’d found this “online profile”, since it was obviously outdated. Oddly enough, it seems they’d found a page about me on the Geek Feminism Wiki, and were using the rather sketchy outline of my open source background there as justification for trying to recruit me.

The recruiter admitted that the page was out of date, and asked me to let them know what I’d been up to lately so they could add it to their records. Below is a copy of what I sent them. I’m posting it here, lightly edited, for anyone who’s interested, and in the hopes that the next Google recruiter (I have no doubt that there’ll be one) might use that web search thingamajig to find out whether I’m a suitable candidate before emailing me.

Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last couple of years, since you asked.

In July 2010 the startup I was working for, Metaweb, was acquired by Google. I was brought in on a 1-year fixed term employment contract, since the group we were acquired into (Search) didn’t really know what to do with a technical community manager. I attempted to transfer my role over to Developer Relations, but was told that I “wasn’t technical enough” for the job I’d been doing for 3+ years, presumably because I didn’t have a computer science degree and believed that supporting our developer community was more important than being able to pass arbitrary technical quizzes.

Around the same time, Google started to develop Google+. As a queer/genderqueer woman, victim of abuse, and someone who was (at that very time) experiencing online harassment and bullying, I was very vocal within Google for the need for Google+ to support pseudonymity. Google decided not to do that, and instead told people they should use “the name they are known by” while in actual fact requiring their full legal names, in many cases requiring people to provide copies of their government ID when challenged. (Extensive documentation about this is available on the Geek Feminism wiki, if you’d like to read it. See Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy? for starters.)

When I walked out the door of Google’s San Francisco office on July 15th, 2011, I was very glad to have left a company I thought was doing evil towards any number of marginalised and at-risk people. My first tweet on leaving was to criticise them for it.

Less than a week later I got my first email from a Google recruiter — not first ever, of course; I’d been spammed with them for years, but first since I quit working for them. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it. In case you can’t be bothered clicking through and reading it, here’s the money shot:

If you are a Google recruiter, and you want me to interview for SWE or SRE or any role that has an algorithm pop quiz as part of the interview, if you want me to apply for something without knowing what team I’ll be working on and whether it meshes with my values and goals and interests, if you want me to go through your quite frankly humiliating interview process just to be told that my skills and qualifications — which you could have found perfectly easily if you’d bothered to actually look before spamming me — aren’t suitable for any of the roles you have available, then just DON’T.

The very day after I blogged about that, my Google+ account was suspended, for using the name I was almost universally known by. Over the next couple of months, I campaigned tirelessly for Google+ to change its policies, working with the EFF and other advocates. My work was covered in Wired, The Atlantic, and a number of other mainstream press outlets. Obviously this was to no avail as Eric Schmidt (at the time, CEO of Google) described pseudonymous users like me as “a dog or a fake person” and no substantive change has ever been made to allow pseudonymous use of the service, despite promises to do so.

I returned to Australia and went back to school. I did a semester of Sound Production at TAFE, but it turned out that the sound engineering course I was enrolled in wasn’t really my cup of tea, just like I’d previously decided, back in the ’90s, that university wasn’t for me. Like so many others, I quit my computing degree because I was more interested in the Internet and open source software than in fixing COBOL applications for banks who were worried about Y2K. But then, I’m sure Google’s HR system already knows all about that — if I’d had a degree, you might have considered me worth keeping on last year. Instead, Google’s reliance on higher education credentials causes it to weed out people like me, even though I have a track record a mile long and buckets of evidence to show that I’m good at what I do.

In the end, I’ve spent most of the last year lying in hammocks reading books, working in my garden, going to gigs, hanging around recording studios, doing the odd bit of freelancing, and, over the last few months, travelling around Europe. It’s given me a good opportunity to reflect on my previous work.

Since I’ve been out of the Silicon-Valley-centred tech industry, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society. Companies like Google and Facebook — in common with most public companies — have interests that are frequently in conflict with the wellbeing of — I was going to say their customers or their users, but I’ll say “people” in general, since it’s wider than that. People who use their systems directly, people who don’t — we’re all affected by it, and although some of the outcomes are positive a disturbingly high number of them are negative: the erosion of privacy, of consumer rights, of the public domain and fair use, of meaningful connections between people and a sense of true community, of beauty and care taken in craftsmanship, of our very physical wellbeing. No amount of employee benefits or underfunded projects can counteract that.

Over time, I’ve come to consider that this situation is irremediable, given our current capitalist system and all its inequalities. To fix it, we’re going to need to work on social justice and rethinking how we live and work and relate to each other. Geek toys like self-driving cars and augmented reality sunglasses won’t fix it. Social networks designed to identify you to corporations so they can sell you more stuff won’t fix it. Better ad targetting or content matching algorithms definitely won’t fix it. Nothing Google is doing will fix it, and in fact unless Google does a sharp about-turn, they’ll only worsen the inequality and injustice there is in the world.

I guess you’ll want to know what I’m working on at the moment. My current project is an open source, open data project called Growstuff, which helps food gardeners track and share information about what they’re growing and harvesting. It is built on principles of sustainability, including a commitment to a diverse and harassment-free community, to actively supporting developers rather than excluding them based on misguided ideas of meritocracy, and to funding the project through means that will never put the people running the website in opposition to our customers. That means no ads, in case you’re wondering. We’d rather our members paid us directly; that way, we’ll never forget who we’re meant to be serving. I’m working on Growstuff from home, where I can be myself and feel safe and comfortable. I work with volunteers from all round the world, and get to teach programming and web development and system administration and project management and sustainability to all kinds of people, especially those who’ve previously been excluded from or marginalised in their technical education or careers. We get to work on things we know are wanted and appreciated, and we don’t have to screw anyone around to do it.

Let me know when Google has changed enough to offer me something more appealing than that. If you don’t think that’s likely to happen, then please put me on whatever “Do Not Contact” blacklist you might have handy. I know you must have some such list; I only wish you regularly referred to it instead of spamming people who not only don’t want to work for you, but have nightmares about it.

Further thoughts on workflow

Further to the post on my mostly-mobile digital workflow a couple of weeks ago. It’s had a little while to shake down, and I’ve come up with two real problems so far:

First, the exercise of replying to comments is tricky on mobile. Quite apart from the typing-on-my-phone issue is the problem that I can’t see the comment I’m replying to as I reply to it. This leads to me saying to myself, “I’ll answer that when I’m next at my laptop”, and then forgetting. Apologies to anyone who’s had belated or entirely absent replies lately. I think a semi-fix for this might simply to be to open the “reply” in a separate window from the comment I’m reading (in WordPress, I could have a reading copy open in Safari while replying via the WordPress app). It’s a bit fiddly though. Other suggestions welcome.

(As an aside, this seems like a must-have feature for blogging platforms that have mobile apps. Why doesn’t WordPress have this? Anyway, consider it noted as a desired feature for any future Dreamwidth mobile app development.)

Secondly, I am missing an RSS reader. I switched from Google Reader to NewsBlur last year around the time of the kerfuffle that I won’t bother linking to, but I have one fundamental problem with NewsBlur on mobile: there’s no star/favourite/etc option on the mobile client, and I use that (or used to use it) heavily for “interesting, come back and deal with it later” articles: often recipes or knitting patterns from my various food and craft blogs that I want to do something with later, but don’t really want to go through the steps of bookmarking right now. That may sound incredibly lazy — how hard is it to bookmark something on the spot? — but opening a link to the article on its blog site, then clicking through to Pinboard, then zooming in and entering tags and all that, then saving, is a pretty heavy multi-step process for something non-urgent. I used to like just starring them all and then one night when I was in the mood for looking at recipes and knitting patterns, going through and dealing with them all as a batch.

The upshot of this, anyway, is that I’m not really using NewsBlur as much as I could be, and I wind up missing lots of posts by people I’d like to read. Or rather, I sometimes eventually see them, but usually after the comments have peaked and died, and so it’s more of an archival reading exercise than a live one. (See, eg., Charlie Stross’s meta post on comments, which — ironically yet predictably — I didn’t see til it had about 250 comments, after someone I follow on Twitter linked it.

I would actually like to see those things more or less as they’re posted. For those bloggers who automatically post on Twitter when they have a new post, I can do that. For those that don’t… *sigh*. I’m actually pondering setting up an RSS reader via Twitter, since that’s something I check nearly constantly. I could create an account for the purpose, and a set of RSS-to-Twitter ifttt recipes. Has anyone done something similar? The obvious pitfall I can see looming is that I’m not sure ifttt supports multiple Twitter accounts, so I might need a separate ifttt account as well. Ugh. Thoughts?

A final alternative: I’ve been using Flipboard a bit for random browsing, but could quite happily upgrade it to a more serious role in my workflow. It supports RSS but only via Google Reader. Don’t suppose anyone knows of a way to get RSS on Flipboard without Google?

Huh! OSM on iOS

Somehow I missed this back in March (see also: not being very functional online lately), but it seems like Apple is ditching Google Maps in favour of OpenStreetMap. They’ve already started using it in iPhoto and word is it’ll replace GMaps throughout iOS in the not-too-distant future. Official announcement, more commentary and analysis from searchenginewatch.

This is great, because it saves me from trying to figure out how to do it myself. I’ve tried a couple of OSM apps for iOS but haven’t found a particularly good one. They tend to be slow, ugly, and of course not integrated with other apps. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple delivers.

I’ve been trying to get away from using too many Google apps since they showed their true colours last year. Opting out of the Google monoculture only to buy into an Apple one wouldn’t seem like a win, except that the underlying data is open licensed, which makes a big difference as far as I’m concerned. In some ways this reminds me of a project I worked on at Monash University, lo these many years ago, where the policy was, “use whatever proprietary crapware you want, as long as it supports open standards.” At the time we used it to choose Netscape SuiteSpot (pause to laugh — but it supported POP, LDAP, iCalendar and the like) over Microsoft Exchange. I don’t now what Monash is using these days for email, but I bet the transition was made easier by the fact that they could drop in anything that supported those same standards.

Like the open standards that underpin the Internet, OSM’s open license means a variety of apps and platforms can be built on it, and users can choose between them. And, with any luck, corporations like Apple will contribute back (with money or staff or just a vague aura of legitimacy) bring OSM the same sort of respectability that Linux and other open technologies have gained over the last decade or so.

So anyway, once I can cut over to OSM on my phone, the most important Google apps I have remaining are mail and docs. With regard to mail, does anyone have an alternative which is:

  1. as searchable as GMail is, or nearly so, and
  2. has decent keyboard shortcuts?

I rely heavily on those features, and would find them pretty hard to live without. I’ve tried IMAP with Thunderbird and in the past, and am not particularly happy with them, so let’s assume those are off the table for now. I’m actually almost tempted to go back to a command-line based solution, perhaps offlineimap and mutt with some heavy indexing.