Abbie Smith is the latest blogger to switch over to ScienceBlogs, taking her ERV blog there.
Of course, there’s a tale there. ERV was formerly hosted on “Blogger.com”. Some time ago, Blogger was snapped up by Google. It’s still a large, free blog hosting site. Abbie was already planning to switch over to Seed’s ScienceBlogs, but was planning on doing so at the end of the semester so as to have some free time to devote to handling the inevitable little problems that crop up.
The schedule got advanced because last week “ERV” at Blogger suddenly disappeared from the Google search engine, and this morning the blog disappeared entirely, with a cryptic message as to how the weblog had been deleted and its name was no longer available for use.
Mark Chu-Carroll of the “Good Math, Bad Math” blog looked into the situation, found out that somehow Blogger’s administration had come to a determination that the “ERV” blog there was supposedly webspam, and vouched for Abbie’s good character. The “ERV” blog at Blogger is now back up.
Abbie is rightly indignant, though, that someone else would have to intercede on her behalf. She was given no notification, no opportunity to rebut a charge that her blog was webspam, no opportunity to collect her data, and — most importantly — no apparent way to contact anyone about the problem.
As I’ve gone over before, Google does have to balance the existence of web security problems against the information that it reveals to legitimate webmasters. However, in my opinion they’ve gone way too far toward the paranoid extreme of choking off communication with people running websites. Maybe it is arguably the correct thing to do with third parties who simply rely upon Google’s ubiquitous search engine to direct people to their sites, and who could be bad guys. I’d argue that there is still some need there for a bit more outreach. But in the case of someone like Abbie Smith, who is using a service provided by Google, there is more responsibility inherent in the relationship than simply sometimes providing a weblog host, and arbitrarily abrogating that relationship without communication and without means of arbitrating the outcome of those decisions. Google needs to figure out if they have what it takes to provide a service to bloggers, and get out if they decide that’s not the role that they want. It is not ethical to use the content generated by bloggers to bolster their bottom line without at least providing some minimal level of interactivity between the blogger and those who administer the blogger’s web presence.