Growing up, moving on…

I knew, back in 2003, that going off to University would, nominally, at least, change me. And, to be fair, I wasn’t too phased by that; by then I’d undergone sufficient re-wiring of my basic character that I was fairly used to the idea.

And, even by this time last year, I knew I’d changed an awful lot – Hell, by this time last year I’d not only managed to loosen up a great deal, I’d finally realised that I’d needed to loosen up since 2000, when, with the ending of the Anslow Thing I’d decided that I’d sorted myself out and got over sundry emotional traumas (I hadn’t, mind you, but I didn’t realise that at the time).

And now I’m back in Newport, waiting to go back to Aber to get stuck in with Freshers’ and I’m finding myself wondering if I was ever like some of the people I appear to know from back here. Dan may be able to help me on this one, since I remember having conversations with him back when I was still on the edges of the Aber group, and nervous about making a mistake. (Actually, I was that until about this time last year, as well…)

Now there may (Although I personally doubt it) bew Newport-type people reading this, and that’s amazingly impressive, and congratulations on navigating to a web-page, even if you have done it in IE like a slightly nervous sheep…

…For those of you I know from elsewhere, let me give some background:

In Newport we have a sort of mailing list. It’s more a “cut ‘n’ paste lots of addresses into the ‘To’ bar list,” but it gets the job done, as long as you can conceal the full headers, and it’s not too bad. It is, however, full of hotmail addresses.

Now I don’t, in theory have a problem with hotmail addresses. I have one Hell of a problem with hotmail accounts, but that’s a different matter. Lots of people have hotmail addresses. I have a hotmail address, although I haven’t looked at it since October 31st 2004 or so…

Recently, noticing the large number of hotmail accounts on this list, I offered to send people some invites to Gmail, so they could have a look, and give it a go. Nobody wanted to.

Now that, in itself, I find very odd; I’m not someone who lives in social groups where people say “D’you want a Gmail invite?” and people don’t say anything, not even “Nah, I’ve already got a hundred to give out myself, thanks.”

And so I began to wonder: Just who are these people? And who on earth was I when I met them?

This week, it’s all flared up again, when Statto removed two of his e-mail addresses from the cut ‘n’ paste, and said so, explaining that ones like “msn@[statto’s website]” were the addresses he uses for instant messaging, because hotmail is rubbish. He then made another plug for Gmail, and then things went a bit weird.

Now I appreciate that Gmail isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that some people might give it a go, and say “Actually, this isn’t for me.” I’ve no problem with that, since, as most of us know, it’s not always the easiest thing to try something and then have to stand up and say it isn’t what you expected, and that you don’t think what it actually is is right for you. In fact, just by doing that, I’m inclined to give you a small bag of points.

What I don’t understand is when people refuse, flat out, to try something like this, in a situation where Giving It A Go doesn’t cost anything, and there’s no chance of negative repercussions.

My argument to people wondering if they’d like to give Gmail a go runs something like “It doesn’t cost anything, it takes five minutes to set up, and you don’t have to use it, if you give it a go and find you don’t like it.”

Specific arguments with regards hotmail point out that you don’t have to delete e-mails (Hotmail had got to the point where I was having to throw away e-mail every couple of weeks, which was both a pain in the arse and tiring, as I’d have to keep sifting through things I’d already elected to keep in five previous sortings).

I also tend to point out that, for no good reason, Hotmail deletes all your emails, if you don’t log in for thirty days. This is not at all helpful, and there’s absolutely no reason for it. Sure, you can pay them to not do that, but d’you pay postmen to not sneak into your house if you go away for a month and burn all the letters they’ve ever shoved through the door? Of course you bloody don’t.

I’m not going to list the continuing failings of hotmail, not least because (I hope) telling them to the readers of my blog would be something of a “coals to newcastle” scenario; I’m just listing some of the reasons I’ve suggested people try Gmail for a bit.

I even suggested people could create a Gmail account and then forward such e-mails as they don’t wish to lose to the Gmail account. Important messages are thus kept pretty much forever, and the people doing it don’t have to suffer the embarrasment of trying to explain why they’ve stopped following the herd that is the rest of the Users they hang out with.

What I do not expect, from the people I find interesting, is that, at this point, they should flat out refuse to give it a go. Especially not with arguments like “You’re fools” and “I’ve got 2Gb with Windows live mail”

That’s like saying “You’re stupid to be looking for a new job, I’m making £4.00 an hour just eating poo in the elephant section of the Safari Park, why would I want to read a jobs page?”

Now there was – and I know there was – a time when I had a talk with Dan about the use of MSN and such, and he made some very good points, in consequence of which I began to try Gaim. I don’t do instant messaging much, these days, but when I do, I use Gaim.

That’s because I didn’t lose anything by giving it a go, and then I found out that it was actually much, much better than MSN. I didn’t, you’ll notice say “that’s stupid,” or “I can’t be bothered,” or even “I’m getting a mediocre service now, and I don’t believe I might deserve better,” which is basicaly what the other two boil down to.

Not everyone, I know, is happy with the idea of taking the side of a computer, or re-installing windows, or turning on “show system files” or whatever it is in the view>folders menu. That, more or less, I can understand. After all, people shell out between 500-1000 quid for the average home PC, and they don’t know how it works inside, and they don’t want to. Taking the cover off is like showing a 35mm film to the sun; it might ruin everything, and you didn’t design it so you’re going to leave it alone.

That’s not really my approach, mine being more the trial-and-error-and-abort-undo-quit variety (I was eight when I first attempted to create enough space on the computer to install a new game – I did it by deleting a pile of things called a “.bat” file, which sounded rather silly and pointless, and the whole thing started to come to bits rather spectacularly), and sure, I do things some people wouldn’t, like trying Linux for a bit (not that I ever booted into it very often, not enough games).

But trying new e-mail programs isn’t really the same; it’s all remote and away from you, and there’s no chance you’re going to fuck up. And yet I find people I used to be reasonably good friends with recoiling in horror at the prospect of something new that they might try. Much better stay where we are.

Fire? Pfah. Sure, there’s a burning tree over there, but we’re in the cave right now, and those guys waving lumps of deer at the burning tree can’t be waving us over just for the sake of it, there must be some catch… Let’s stay here until the sun comes up and we can see again. Bloody cave, why doesn’t it stay light in here for longer?


I’m left wondering if I was ever like these people, but I think the answer’s “probably not;” I’m not desperately adventurous in many ways, and I know I worry about things more than the average 21-year-old, which I ascribe to having gone through rather more than the average 12-year-old in such a manner as to make me aware that bad things happen fast.

But really… I didn’t think, back in 2003, that I would change as much as this. Is it, then, not that I have changed very much in essentials, but that they’ve changed? Or were we all always like this, and just thrown together by the circumstances of being in Newport?

I can’t tell which of those three options I’d preffer, to be quite honest; and – and this doesn’t apply to all of the people back here, although I notice I’m still not getting any applications for Giving It A Go – I really don’t think I’ve changed very much in this respect myself. Yeah, I used to use hotmail and MSN, but when people suggested I try something else, I tried it. And I gained a lot from it…

…I guess I’ve just got enough self confidence to not worry too much about trying something new, huh? Or, maybe, it’s not that, but that I’m not too scared to try something new in case I have to go back to the old thing afterwards, but that’s not something you should hide from; try it, like it, keep it, or hate it and go back to the old thing; at the least you can say “I have tried this thing, and it wasn’t for me” and, yeah, that takes guts, but it’s not as scary as saying “someone will fix things in due course, meanwhile I’m going to put up with this shit.” Follow that path, and you’ll be stuffed faster than you can say “I can’t be bothered to try…”


Reading this back I notice I’ve been remarkably scathing towards the Newport people. Uh. That would be because it’s stupid and annoying to say things like “Statto has been using Gmail for a couple of years, and he’s just spent six weeks working at Google in London – he must be being paid to offer us invites!”

Yeah, because all 26 of you guys are so crucial to capitalism that either Microsoft or Google will collapse in bankrupt ruins if you do or don’t switch your free e-mail provision within the next week…

Come on, guys, I’ve told yez where to find this entry, now either leap to yer own defence or ask for an invite and give the bugger a go. You lose nothing, really. And if you’re worried that the rest of the guys down here will say “Huh, they’ve got a new e-mail, well I’m not going to talk to ’em, anymore,” then for fuck’s sake, they’re not worth talking to anyway. We’re adults here, aren’t we? Not bloody-minded fourteen-year-old girls?

Seriously, I’m not trying to have a go, and I’m not trying to sound like an angry bastard (Really, I’m not, it’s just happening because I genuinely don’t get the refusal to try something where you can’t possibly lose).

I’m not saying “I don’t want to be friends with you,” either (See point about bitchy young girls, above); I’m just genuinely perplexed to find friends from school to be so different to, well, all my other friends. And I don’t know why that’s the case, and I’d really like to. So go on, leave a comment. The authentification isn’t great at maths, but it does OK.


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  1. On September 19, 2006 Alex (scouse) says:

    I’ve pretty much avoided the whole debate, the reason being that i can’t be ntohered joining in. I have no pproblems with my hotmail account-the space is big enough to store most of my emails, but small enough to keep me organised. I hardly ever go over about 5% of my useage anyway. As for spam, I hardly get any. It must come from having an unusual address. The point is, if it aint broken, then why fix it? For me hotmail is definately not broken. I can however see why others mighht think otherwise. I would guess that the other fine people of newport feel somewhat similar.

  2. On September 19, 2006 Tam says:

    Ok, well the bit i completely agree with is you sounding like an angry bastard and that you have a sense of loathing for everyone you knew before you went to uni. Secondly, i have returned from my internetless summer break to find my inbox full of emails arguing about types of email accounts-a random read and frankly it got tiresome and boring. However, as i am in my fourth, most important, year of uni, and have shed loads of work to do, i have decided to waste my time getting to grips with a new account and see what all the blooming fuss and debates and seemingly personal attacks on old friends is all about. So send me an invite and do your worst!!!!

  3. On September 19, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    There we go! That’s the sort of thing we like to see!

    Scouser, yep, I agree with you! I reckon most people don’t care one way or the other, and that’s fine, which is why I’ve tried to lure the debate over here where we can trap it in a pit and throw sticks at it. And if you’re not using your inbox that much, then that’s fair enough; it is, at least, a reason, which is a big and acceptable step up from “I haven’t got the time.”

    Tamsyn, excellent, hooray, etc. Or, at least, “good, the debate’s moving over this way, and that’s a good thing”. And, yeah, I am sounding like a bastard, but I am – possibly foolishly – counting on people knowing me well enough to spot the tongue-in-cheek bits and not get too offended whilst still thinking about what I’m saying. That is, I’ll admit, a gamble, because it’s possible there’s people in Newport who’ve forgotten how to tell when I’m seriously putting the boot in, and when I’m humorously wearing a pair of comedy red clown shooes for the purposes of making a point, but I’ll cross that one when I come to it.
    Yer invite’s on it’s way.

  4. On September 19, 2006 Tam says:

    well i tried…. but the server is down! slightly ironic i guess. Maybe its not all that great after all…

    And hun, i agree that you sounded like a bastard, not that you are. You’ve tormented me for enough years that i never take anything seriously anymore :p

  5. On September 19, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Ah! There we go! For a minute you had me worried that you’d read the whole thing and decided I meant it all!

    The danger with doing the tongue-in-cheek bit, I always find, is that in order to make it obvious that you don’t mean it, you have to be really over the top. The trouble with that, of course, is that if people still take it seriously, then they get even more pissed off!

    And I didn’t torment you at all! I just, sort of, carried you about a bit…

  6. On September 19, 2006 Graham says:

    Note the email address above? A Gmail address. I too have been in possession of one since the inception of the service back in the summer of 2004 – I picked one up from a coursemate while I was working at Motorola. I don’t use it because I don’t particularly like it. I found the layout cluttered compared to Hotmail, and I’m a big fan of the Windows Live Mail format, so I’m even less inclined to switch over now.

    Now the thing that has puzzled me most about this whole debate is the comment about spam. If you want to know the other big reason why I don’t back Gmail just yet, it’s the sheer quantity of spam I get. Not just now, but back when I first started. I’m sorry, but saying Gmail accounts don’t get spammed is like saying Macs don’t get viruses. My email address is ‘vulnerable’ because it’s a fully formed name but I like having an email address that’s a fully formed name and not some fudged up thing that has underscores and the like plastered in random places. I get more spam in my Gmail account than I do in my Hotmail account. HOWEVER, all that junk *has* been caught by the spam filter without me having to do any configuring, which is nice. I use whitelisting on Hotmail but that in itself has never proved too much hassle.

    What I do prefer is Hotmail (or rather Live Mail’s) image and content protection in spam emails. Gmail doesn’t display the images (thus preventing the active linking method of determining user activity) but it does display a cached version of the image directly below. Now what if the content is pornographic? Maybe I don’t want to see the cached image? I find it odd that Gmail both displays and doesn’t display the image, if you get what I mean. This is a minor niggle though.

    Live Mail is marginally slower than Gmail, but I really like the AJAX/ASP enabled interface – the ability to drag and drop emails is very nice and effectively gives me installed email client functionality through a browser. I hate to admit to not being as concerned about bandwidth use as I should be, but that’s what happens when you have a cable connection :/

    Something else that I’d like to address is the constant railing against MSN Messenger (now Windows Live Messenger.) JTA, you’ve linked to Dan’s diatribe against MSN more than once now. While it was valid at the time, most of the comments are out of date.

    – Microsoft are never going to charge for the use of the IM client.

    – Microsoft’s security team are pretty damn hot these days. I won’t defend the stupid mistakes they’ve made in the past, but there has been a lot of internal reform in that department.

    – Messenger supports offline messages (and offline conversations)

    – Contact list renaming is supported.

    – Mixed client support is starting.

    – Point 6 (only letting people contact others they know) I happen to disagree with anyway. I think the enhanced privacy engendered by that decision is better for young children, and besides, you can publish your MSN contact through profiles and Spaces if you really want to.

    – Platform independence *is* an issue, but there are moves within Microsoft (especially since .NET 2.0’s final release) to drive for more multi-platform solutions. I don’t expect to see MSN for Linux any time soon, but then there aren’t many MS products for Linux. Shame.

    The feature lists of the two applications are quite large now, and while subtley different, there are a number of shared points. I also don’t like the point that “ICQ has more features, ergo is more complicated” – if you can’t make your feature set accessible, then your UI designer is doing something wrong.

    He made some good points at the time, but few if any of them have held true in the long run. It’s a little daft to keep pointing people to a 3-year-old blog that contains mostly inaccurate information.

    I know I come across as a Microsoft fanboy, but I think it would be more appropriate to describe me as lazy and tired of the MS-bashing that seems so prevalent amongst fellow geeks. Frankly, they’ve ballsed up enough times – but they still make a lot of good software. There’s still not enough incentive for me to make the effort to switch things like my email account or IM client when both services are being regularly improved to counter what arguments there may have been anyway. Until I run into something that really *really* upsets me, I’m not inclined to make the switch. It’s not ‘fear of change’, just a passing nonchalance towards the whole thing. I think the same probably goes for most other people on the pub mailing list – note that out of 26 people on the list, less than 25% actually bothered to reply to the points about Gmail. Hardly deserving of a scathing attack on the attitudes of your friends. Tongue in cheek it may have been, but I was still shocked by some of the comments you made. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the nastier replies to the emails were made more out of annoyance at the level of spam it was creating (and it *is* spam – both in spirit and legal definition: unwanted or unsolicited emails, usually promoting a commercial product or service ;) )

    I think the whole thing has just gotten a bit out of hand. I understand that you and Statto want us to have the best services that we can get. I understand that you’re both frustrated by the general unwillingness to take advantage of such services – but at the end of the day you need to relax and try not to worry about it, because for the most part it doesn’t affect you in any meaningful way.

  7. On September 19, 2006 Statto says:

    I think the whole thing has just gotten a bit out of hand.

    Agreed! I mentioned it once, and then mentioned it again because I’ve been trying to consolidate my several e-mail addresses into My only further contribution was to rebut Sarah’s accusation that I was in the pay of Google. Add in a couple of e-mails from JTA, and the fact that most people clearly couldn’t give a damn either way, and it looks like a mountain manufactured from a molehill.

    …but at the end of the day you need to relax and try not to worry about it, because for the most part it doesn’t affect you in any meaningful way.

    The meaningful way in which it affects me is that I’d like to stop using MSN Messenger. I would like to finally streamline my contact list and no longer need a multi-protocol client like Gaim to talk to my friends. I think this has become something of a meaningless dream, though. Even if I can convince 50% of people to use Google Talk, it’s clearly never going to convert everyone, which is what I’d need.

  8. On September 19, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Wotcha Graham! No problem with anything you said; as long as people are trying new things and seeing if they’re suited to ’em or not, that’s fine by me.

    I think the trouble with the post, reading it back after some time wire-brushing the paint off a gate (I’m now covered in nasty little black flecks) is the way I contstruct the whole thing; there’s not really a clear definition between when I’m talking about me, and when I’m talking about people I know, or randoms in the street. But that, really, is a criticism I keep leveling at the blog in general; I dont’ so much do posts and trains of thought full of tangents; dunno if you’ve been reading back old posts, but there’s some where I end up with clauses and triple-brackets and no end of gubbins, because I try to follow everything through at once.

    Interstingly, Statto thought the post was going to be about the pros or not of Gmail, so I wonder if everyone else is visiting expecting that… Hm… I can see if they’re anticipating that, they’ll get upset. Ugh. Joys of failing to anticipate the expectations of readers.

    I’d be interested, if you don’t mind, to know which bits you found were unjustly nasty, & if they correspond to the bits where I’ve gone off and bitched about people in general, rather than the Newport people, or what. I think they will, but then, I can tell where I’ve randomly broadened the scope of the argument, which maybe you can’t.

    That, of course, just raises *further* questions as to how I should construct posts, and if I need to start resorting to faffy ordered lists, or if I’m OK to press ahead with the “start writing and see what happens” thing.

    I will admit, however, that the original purpose of the post was to wonder about the different approaches of my social circles, something which rather got lost when I started to wonder why people resist change.

    Hm. Badly written post, then, would appear to be the consensus here.

    [Having written that – and I promise I didn’t engineer this – I’ve just realised that in the time it’s taken me to write this response I’ve gone from “Excellent post, it’s moved the debate out of the inbox and people are actually giving reasons for their approaches” to thinking “That post is unclear and might annoy people” Hm.]

    But, yeah, it was getting to be a pain in the arse doing it all by mailing list, which is why I ended up luring things over here to begin with.

    But, yeah, do let me know which bits you found surprisingly harsh, and I’ll see if I can clarify if they’re about actual people I know, or theoretical people wandering about and dragging their heels in general.

  9. On September 20, 2006 Luke says:

    In many ways I have little to add to this argument, but I would like to say that I can’t believe anyone really cares about this. If you’ve found something that’ll improve your quality of life then good for you, and kudos indeed for trying to help others. But if they’re absolutely satisfied with what they have (lin the manner of technologically limited dolts such as I), I think perhaps you should leave them to that little bit of happiness.

  10. On September 20, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Aye, Luke, ye may be right… It’s just it’s a very different reaction to the one I’m used to. Which, in fact, is rather what the post was supposed to be about, only I tend to do posts from a “start here and say stuff and see what happens” angle, rather than a “keep initial purpose of post in mind at all times” angle, which is why I ended up ranging over Gmail, and human passivity.

    Now wondering if I ought to have another stab at yonder initial idea, but it’d only end up going on about the different ways people write blogs, so it’s probably quicker not to bother and to return to painting a gate…