Google Instant, Wave and gmail… Time to move on… But where?

Google has been getting on my nerves lately. Maybe I’m just too busy and small things can cause me to overreact, but here is the rundown:

1) Google Instant: interesting idea, but I don’t generally find it very useful. The main problem that I have with it is that it only returns 10 results and then you have to page through 10 results at a time! Very inefficient! So I decided to turn it off and get back to my normal use. This worked fine in the computer at home, but at work Google refuses to disable Instant! I can turn off with the selection on the right of the search bar, or on my preferences and it refreshes the page and Instant is still on.

2) Google Wave: yes, I don’t think it was all that useful, but I was using it. Now they are shutting it down perhaps by the end of the year. So all this time spent setting up a Wave and getting used to it might have gone nowhere. Yes, I was an early adopter and early adopters need to deal with things not working out, but coming from Google it sounds silly. They have a lot of products out there that don’t work, nobody uses it, but it’s still up and running.

3) Gmail: my annoyance with gmail is the same as I’ve had in the past: it is too aggressive on trying to remove spam from my inbox, and classifies random emails as Spam from time to time. I have to keep adding people to list of “known contacts” so that they don’t get sent to spam, but I can’t keep doing that all the time. And the most annoying thing is that you can’t know why something ended up there. Sometimes it’s obvious, but most of the time I can’t seem to find anything on the email to suggest that it should be classified as spam.

The challenge now is what to do about this. I’ve tried at work to switch to Bing, but there are a few things about using Bing for general search that doesn’t work so well. The way results are grouped is a little less useful, based on how I’ve been trained so far. For example, let’s say that I want to search for “wicket nullpointerexception dropdown”:

On Google, as of today (because those things change quite rapidly), you can see a clear pattern: there are multiple websites with some results and some with repeated results, because they are showing the same thing: the archive of the mailing list. On the first page of results you can see nabble, mail-archive, osdir, archiveorange, and all showing the same fundamental results from their users mailing list. The “great” thing about the Google results is that I can easily spot it, look at the quality of the results and decide whether my question might be on those mailing lists or not. If they are, I can choose one of them and select “see more results from …”. If not, I can just ignore them.

On Bing things are quite different. All results are mixed in and you can’t easily spot when it’s a mailing list and when it’s the Wicket wiki page, or their old sourceforge page. The relevance itself is about the same (an actually pretty bad, as most of those types of queries), so not being able to effectively filter and dig deeper into the results is a pretty bid disadvantage.

So what is the conclusion? Well, I can’t do Google with only 10 results per page, and I suffer through Bing, so maybe I should try my hand again on giving up on general search and just keep links to “specialized” pages, like searching mailing lists directly, or doing code search on, or something else that I don’t know of yet. I tried to do that before, but it never worked for very long. Maybe I just didn’t have enough motivation then.

Now onto the next topic: Google Wave. This one is trickier, because I haven’t really tried anything else yet. So I’ll leave this topic for future analysis.

gmail… Being a front-end for one of the oldest technologies around the web, there must be equivalent offerings out there, right? Well, unfortunately no. People have found that email doesn’t really make money, so nobody has really invested in it. There are only two “better” options that I can think of:


  1. Giving up online access and believe in ubiquity of mobile devices and make my iPhone my email client of choice. I can still write longer emails on “crappy” web email clients, but leave the iPhone to do all the display. The problem with this solution is that the iPhone mail client is still quite crappy. The inability to batch select items and mark them as read is very annoying when you subscribe to mailing lists that have some discussions I don’t really care to read at all. So not optimal, but maybe do-able, considering that I don’t really receive that many emails on my inbox (I have a lot of emails that are auto-archived to mailing lists – those I’ll handle next)
  2. Give up on email. Yes, I know I can’t really give up on email, the same reason why I can’t give up on snail-mail. But I can greatly reduce its usage. For mailing lists I can use the multiple online interfaces (some of them I mentioned above on the search result) and stop subscribing to them directly. For alerts that I receive from some companies, I can just visit their websites. For talking with friends, I could use other means, like twitter, Facebook (ugh), text messages or many other messaging solutions.


So, as you can’t see, they aren’t much better, but they provide a little bit of a solution.

What is next? Well, I’ll start implementing some of those things. I’ll get back to my plan of not using web search, I’ll start reducing the email that I receive and see if I can at least get it to only receiving personal email on gmail (yes, I can’t see myself going the Facebook direction). Let’s see how it goes.

Another Google property that I use more than I actually enjoy is Google Reader. But I didn’t want to go that way yet. I’ve been playing with Digg, but it hasn’t worked quite as well. Maybe I just don’t have enough friends there.

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