Sunday, April 29, 2007

Etiology, Blogger, And You

How many people know what etiology is? Wikipedia defines it as
...the study of causation

It's a fancy term for cause and effect. Fancy or not, though, it can have useful applications in real life.

In the medical world, it might be used in a study of the spread of an epidemic. In computers, we might apply its principles for analysing a chronic network problem, as in deciding if multiple people, reporting the same symptoms, implies the existence of a major, widespread computer problem.

Have you ever been to a hospital, and seen many sick people? If you did go to a hospital, would seeing the many sick people there lead you to conclude that there is a worldwide epidemic in progress? Most people are too analytical to lead to that conclusion. They know that a hospital is where sick people are expected to be seen.

Oddly enough, though, many folks who wouldn't make an assumption about a medical epidemic, based upon being in a hospital, will visit a technical help forum, may submit a problem report (for whatever "disease" their blog or computer currently suffers from). While posting, they will see a couple dozen folks complaining of the same symptom - and will conclude that there is some major worldwide (Internet wide) epidemic level application or network problem.

This mistake occurs frequently in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken - generally with those who aren't experienced with the normal level of problems being reported at any given time (of the day, week, month, or year).

Problem reporting levels do vary. As better weather hits in various places, you will see less problem reports being submitted because people are busy outdoors. Reporting of a particular problem, that may have a cultural or geographical affinity, will rise and fall as people in that culture, or geographical region, become more or less busy with other activities.

How many bloggers are there? How many blogs are there? I wouldn't bet that Blogger will cough up the number, so I'll say 500,000 bloggers, as a straw man figure. If you see maybe a couple dozen blog owners complaining of a "common" symptom, that may or may not have the same cause, out of 500,000, what do you think that the other 499,976 owners are doing? Possibly working on their blogs, because they have no problem.

For the record, I will now state
As of late evening 4/29/2007, and based upon the etiological nature of the problems currently being reported in Google Blogger Help, there is no widespread, epidemic level problem currently being reported by any bloggers.

That's not to imply that there never will be a large scale problem, as in the 403 Forbidden of May 2007, possibly solved In Silence. But by knowing what the small scale problems are, and by keeping the noise level in the forums down, we'll be able to recognise any epidemic level problems more quickly in the future, allowing Blogger Support to get to work, find, and fix their problems.

This will benefit everybody, in the long run. Episodes like the bX-sp4hmm problem of February 28, 2007 will become more normal, and ones like the 403 Forbidden error of March 2006 will be a distant memory.

There will always be problems reported in Google Blogger Help. Google Blogger Help is a hospital for sick blogs and bloggers. Even with a large number of active problems, though, we shouldn't conclude that there is a single-caused major problem being experienced. And we certainly shouldn't conclude that any widespread problem is solely the responsibility of Blogger to diagnose, and / or resolve.

And when you report your problem to Blogger Support, either through the Google Blogger Help forum, or through Blogger Contact, be aware that Blogger Support works on problems faster when they are reported by multiple bloggers.

If you don't report your version of your problem, it may not get worked on. Even if you report your version of your problem, though, don't expect a personal response. Just be patient and persistent and polite - and provide details to encourage systematic affinity and differential testing.

Please, be polite.

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2 comments:

pcd2k said...

Aye aye Sir.

I really liked your article thanks, however, I wonder how you possibly find the time to read all those friends blogs you have in your Google Friend Connect ?

Chuck said...

P,

That's the beauty of Following. I can read the feed content when I feel like it, and when I have time. And there's always something interesting to read.