Technology

Mostly complaining

My New Skype Password

I  don’t use Skype very much. When someone asked me to install it on their computer today, I had to reset my password. I have to do this because Skype makes it very hard to remember your password for their product, and they make you use your password to do anything.

First, I go to skype.com, but I can’t simply download a copy of Skype to install.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know it says “Download Skype” but after I click the button the next page requires me to  either log in with my Skype account or fill in three screens of information, a new email address and a capcha to create a new account.

 

 

 

I have an account but since I can never remember my password and try to guess, I fail twice and get a lock-out message.

 

 

 

 

 

I then get a reset token emailed to the address they have on file. At least I can remember my email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After receiving the email and clicking the reset link, the real fun begins. The Skype site does helpfully say that my new password must be at least 6 characters, including 1 number and 1 letter.  So I enter a 9-character password with a couple words and letters and numbers strung together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I continue trying different combinations of words and numbers and get the same message over and over. They’re into complexity, so I try a long phrase of words and numbers. Oops, there’s a maximum character limit they haven’t mentioned until now.

 

 

 

 

I finally give up and enter a totally random string of numbers and letters, which guarantees that the next time I need to install Skype on a computer, I will have forgotten the password and will have to start back at the beginning.

Or I can go to download.com next time and get a copy of Skype there.

Ob-XKCD

How Google shapes what you see

Google manipulates search results in several different ways. It gives you results depending on where you are geographically, using your IP address to determine where you are. It collates what other people in your geographic area have been searching for and suggests locally popular search terms to you. It also changes your search results based on your own previous searches and currently open browser windows. You could say that Google spies on your other open web browser tabs, and changes your search results accordingly.

In this example search below, you can see I was looking for “78rpm” – and search result #8 was a Tom Waits related item. That’s kind of a peculiar return to have in the coveted top 10 – why is it there, when Tom Waits’ career started years after 78rpm records went out of style?

If you look at the other tabs that are open, you can see I had been doing searches for Tom Waits album art. The 78rpm search was completely unrelated to the previous searches, but Google made some heavy-handed assumptions that if I ever searched for Tom Waits, I will always want Tom Waits in my search returns. Not a very good theory, actually! In fact, this search return seemed so strange that I then tried the same search term on a computer that did not have the same search history.

The Tom Waits entry did not show up until around return number 44 — it didn’t appear until the fourth page!

What does this say about how Google is shaping what I see? How often do seekers go to the fourth page of a search? What am I missing when Google privileges some information over others, based on a secret recipe that I can only guess at, making decisions about what it thinks I should be seeing? Where might we end up, letting one company be our portal to information, if that company is shaping what it lets us see?