Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Google Multiple Accounts

Right on the heels of the sublime, here's the ridiculous: Google's support for multiple accounts.

First of all, though, don't get me wrong; I worked at Google for years. I left voluntarily, and still consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked there. I'm very lucky to count many current Googlers amongst my friends, and by no means am I irrationally antagonistic towards Google.

This multiple login madness has driven me over the edge, though. It's been on Quora; on Twitter, on Buzz (I lost the link, but the thread included Jeff Huber) and on Google+. Amongst people with whom I work it's inciting fury and despair in equal measure.

Here's a simple reproducible example: let's start off with a fresh new Chrome Incognito Window:

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and let's sign in to my work account. Here's my work email.
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I'm going to use this "multiple accounts" feature to sign in with my personal account too. First

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and then
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and, username and password later, boom:
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You see those two tabs there? Two perfectly coexisting Gmail tabs. One for work Gmail; one for personal Gmail; they both work. This, ladies and gents, is Google Multiple Accounts.

Thing is, though, I'm about to click a YouTube link in my work Gmail:

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which works well enough and opens the YouTube "watch page". Great video! I want to share it…
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…but I have to log in…
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and BOOM the trapdoor opens and you're in login hell.

First you get this:

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and of course you click the only link which is going to take you forward. Or so you think. In fact that link takes you to this:
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and I mean DIRECTLY, no login form in sight.

Again, meaning to make forward progress you click "Sign in":

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and you're greeted by a welcoming login form:
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at which you log in, only to be returned directly to this:
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But wait, look above. See the "hepwori" at the top right? I did actually sign in successfully, but got this error page nonetheless.

Already I see the Google guys rolling their eyes and sighing about the YouTube guys. But wait, there's more.

First of all, falling through this trapdoor has caused not just one, but both of my email tabs to log themselves out. Here's the work tab:

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And personal:
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So OK, perhaps this is still YouTube's fault? Let me ask you this. At this point let's say I open a new tab with ⌘T. In the Chrome address bar I type "foo" and do a Google search. Which account, if any, has this search added to its Web History?

Of course you've no idea. Nobody does. It's all random. Sign into two Google accounts at the same time and you're opening yourself up to the undefined, and good luck with that. Steer clear in particular of Blogger, YouTube, AdWords and Analytics… but basically your best bet is not expecting any of this stuff to work at all.

Google Apps customers are afflicted daily, and it's maddening. Google's silence on it is a particular shame, and—with due respect to many of my Googler friends with this suggestion—multiple browser instances or profiles aren't the answer. Either support multi-account sign-in in a single browser, or don't.

Update: a commenteron Google+ writes:

Sometimes [tabs with multiple logins] all work (ie co-exist) and then, for no reason i can fathom, i get logged out and i spend two days signing in to various accounts to try get back to where i was (ie, multiple accounts happily co-existing)
and yes, this is another part of the problem: the sheer fickleness of the system. On my home laptop and work laptop I have the same set of tabs open and yet the behavior is different when logging into additional services.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: grr!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I took some photos of the West-Coast Hepworths today.







And Wendy took a photo of me:


This one, though, is from the hospital this last week. We're going to meet the subject in June 2012 and until then it's called Ce Ce. We're excited.

Ce Ce

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trauma equals traffic

I've been running this blog for over a decade now. In that time the second most trafficked post is Broken Wrist, Day 15. Still today, "broken wrist" features in two of the top ten keyword sets which bring traffic to isaach.com. To say I'm surprised would be an understatement.

But give the people what they want, right? So here's another story of personal medical trauma.

For four recent months I had no strength in my left shoulder and couldn't raise that elbow above shoulder height. It doesn't sound particularly awful but it interfered with even simple things like trying to put on a t-shirt, or carrying @thebeean in my left arm, or getting her in her car seat (inherently a left-handed activity). My shoulder would fall out of joint even with the weight of cradling Lux's head in my arm at bedtime.

It started with a fall down the stairs in early August: in socks, rushing down our polished wooden staircase one evening to comfort a crying @thebeean, I slipped and landed on my backside but also on my left hand. In medical circles, I later learned, they call this a "foosh": Fall Onto Out-Stretched Hand. My arm was straight and locked, and all the force went directly to my shoulder.

It was only a couple of weeks until I realized that the injury wasn't minor, and only a couple of weeks after that that I gave up waiting for it to get better on its own. I went to see my GP.

I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. At first he thought I had a sprained rotator cuff. He sent me for physiotherapy. I went to a bunch of appointments, did a slew of exercises at home, but there was really no improvement: after six weeks I still had severely restricted upward motion in my left arm. My physiotherapist sent me back to the orthopedic surgeon with a suspected torn labrum.

The surgeon took another look and decided it wasn't a labral tear and was indeed a sprained and inflamed rotator cuff. He explained my options: I could go for an MRI, or I could get a steroid shot into the joint. He also explained that the most likely outcome of the MRI would be that steroid shot. So hey, I opted for the shot, skipping the MRI.

It was unpleasant, no doubt about it. The doctor froze the flesh on the outside first—I couldn't feel the needle, it's true—but the cortisone burned and swelled and burned deep inside my shoulder joint. I certainly can't recommend it for the experience alone. He left the room and told me to gently move my arm around to spread the chemicals internally. He'd be back in five minutes.

You know what? During those five minutes I experienced what felt like nothing short of a healing miracle. By the time the doctor came back I'd got 170° of motion back into my left arm, up from a constant 110° over the last sixteen weeks. Right now, just over two weeks on, I'm using my arm fully again—including to carry Lux around. I can ride my bike again without discomfort; it's fantastic.

Here's the super gal I can now carry around properly:

Day 476
Overall I'd recommend the shot.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 470

Today marks 470 days since @thebeean was born.

Day 469

I'm still trying to take at least one photo each week.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

More Thoughts on Platforms

One of my very favorite books is The Systems Bible. It's a fantastic blend of parody, wicked humor, sharp insight, and thought-provoking truisms about systems. The particular genius is that the "laws of systemantics" around which the book revolves apply so well across so many diverse types of systems: political systems, social systems, management systems, business systems, transport systems, people systems, security systems, taxation systems, legal systems, computer systems and so on.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Talking of systems, one of the very best systems practitioners I know left a comment on my blog post about platforms the other day:

When you say "You need to design this stuff in from the very beginning" ... I disagree. I'm not sure you meant it because later on you say "design ... with a platform mindset" which is (to my mind) quite different.

I don't know of many platforms which were created, from day one, as platforms. Platforms tend to emerge from successful products. Any of the things I've ever done that approached platform-ness started out as specific solutions to specific problems which after various rounds of a-ha! moments eventually evolved into platform-like things which supported the original solutions but also an entire class of solutions to similar problems.

If you start by trying to create a platform, you will likely fail. On the other hand, if in the course of building your product and iterating it into what customers actually want, thus making it wildly successful - if in the course of doing that you are "designing with a platform mindset", then you have a fighting chance of making the next evolutionary leap - extracting and then abstracting the platform from the product.

He's right, of course. And what else would you expect of one of the smartest systems guys around? My rhetoric went too far, and in fact his counter-argument is a simple analogue of laws number 15 and 16. So there's that.

I think the broader point remains, though: the best external platforms are built on top of solid internal platforms—and you'll struggle to deliver the former without first developing the latter.