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Suddenly here, now gone!

Your Humble Blogger clicked the Next bookmark on my toolbar last night, and instead of going to the next item on my Google Reader list, my browser went to a page that said my account had been disabled. Actually, it went to a help page titled I’m getting a message that says ‘Sorry, your account has been disabled.’; I didn’t get the message. I’m not sure if I have been apologized to, or for what. I sent a message of inquiry using their form, but I haven’t heard back.

This morning, of course, the news is that perhaps a couple of hundred thousand accounts were disrupted by some sort of Google event. The news is about their email service, though, and I don’t have a gmail address; I just use the Reader, the Calendar and the Docs (and some other minor apps). The Reader is just an aggregator, and so if all the info is lost, all I have really lost is the list of feeds I subscribe to, which presumably I know and can reconstruct. Except, alas, that a bunch of the feeds are essentially defunct, but may at any time roar to life; the great thing about an aggregator, as far as I’m concerned, is that if a blog or site goes dormant, you will be alerted if it shudders toward wakefulness without any extra effort on your part. Subscribing to sites that update every day is nice, but just going to the site once a day would do the same thing without much extra effort. The sites that update only rarely are the ones I will have the most difficulty remembering, though, and adding to whatever aggregator I choose.

The Calendar, though, had become Your Humble Blogger’s preferred method of remembering tasks, and also (crucially) a tool for communication with my Best Reader when one or the other of us has a logistical issue of some kind. Between the two of us, we had entered quite a lot of stuff for the next month (a tricky month for logistics and tactics), and my half of it may well be permanently gone. Alas. Back to the dry-erase markers.

As for the googledocs, I was keeping my list of Books Read in 2011 there, which was clearly a mistake. Or, at least, it was a mistake not to back it up to some drive I have somewhat more control over. I had decided to keep it up in the cloud under the assumption that (a) I will not consistently remember to add to the list whilst at home, and (2) I will eventually lose my thumb drive. In fact, I need to get used to doubling the cloud and the thumb drive. I am… fairly good about backing up the contents of my main hard drive at home (to another hard drive at home, which isn’t really best practice, I know), but I am lax about backing up the portable/invisible stuff.

Well. The reason I am bothering telling you so is not to give needless and inexpert advice. I wanted to convey the oddly emotional responses to the disabling of my Google account. Because while I was aware (and, I think, said to my Best Reader before turning in) that it could well be a mistake at their site, I still reacted strongly and emotionally.

First, of course, was simple bewildered denial. Surely if I log in again, or log in at a different computer, or reboot something, it will all go back to how it was before. This works often enough to be a valuable instinct, but it didn’t work here.

Then there was the terribly guilty feeling that I may have inadvertently violated the Terms of Service. Now, those terms clearly state that Google can just shut me off without proving or even suggesting fault, it wasn’t really rational to concern myself with it, but I did find myself going over everything I have linked to my Google account, and what could possibly have been in violation. Did I leave a comment somewhere that was much more obnoxious than I thought? But I almost never comment with my Google log-in. When I used the Notes in Google Reader, did I both forget to mark the note as private and somehow type something unforgivably vile? Did I post something to my Calendar that seemed innocuous to me but was capable of other interpretations? No, I don’t type pick up kids at schoolyard, I type Perfect Non-Reader at School. What else could I have done wrong?

The other fear, of course, is that Somebody has Hacked In to my account and committed unspeakably foul violations in my name. This could happen, of course, only… wouldn’t I have heard about it? Googling doesn’t reveal any new hideousness, but perhaps it’s all via email, and I’m going to be arrested for mail fraud. Or someone with a similar name has done some actual violence in the real world, and everyone will think it’s me. The emotion here,by the way, was not so my much anger at the unknown and putative violator, but anxiety lest the consequences visit themselves upon me.

No, the anger was at Google, and manifested itself specifically in fierce frustration at the lack of communication. Why won’t they send me an email? Why didn’t they alert me? Can’t they give me a chance to explain?

This anger is justifiable; Google really ought to have done a better job of letting us know what’s up. I eventually went to the Help Forum and read:

Over night we temporarily disabled access to some Gmail accounts due to a service disruption. The disables are in place to stop the account from changing whilst we make the necessary repairs.

Access to your accounts will be restored shortly. Whilst an account is disabled:

  • You will be unable to sign in to any Google service.
  • Mail sent to the account will bounce.
  • Hosted content you own like blogs, sites, shared items in Google Reader and so on will be unavailable.

The message you see on sign-in may refer to you to Google terms of service, but this is a generic and incorrect message. You have not violated the terms of service and we’ll restore your account access as soon as we can.

You can get the latest information on this service disruption here: http://www.google.com/appsstatus#hl=en

Google engineering teams are working around the clock to solve this problem. We fully understand the importance of your email and how disruptive this type of outage can be. The latest updates will be posted to the apps status dashboard linked to above.

Alas, the Apps Status Dashboard of which they speak so feelingly tells me that the only App with any issue is Mail, and that Calendar and Documents have no issues whatsowever (and Reader is not listed). So that’s not very reassuring to me, since I have no issue with Mail, and do lack access to the other apps. Still. The note does seem to hold out hope that in the fulness of time access to my account will be reenabled and that all will be unchanged from yesterday afternoon, when we were young. It’s probably false hope, but it’s hope.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Update: My account is back, and everything seems to be in it. I have exported my Reader list, so I can get it back if it goes away again. Hurrah!

I do still wonder if I will ever get an email or other message from Google telling me that the account is back, or telling me anything else about the situation. Yes, they have some posts in help forums, but I'm not sure why—given they have my email addy from that form I filled out—the cost of sending out such an email is greater than the benefit.


Bag! Box! Box! Bag!

(Sorry, I got distracted by the post title.)

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