The Longest Now

Reflexive G-juice
Thursday March 17th 2005, 4:49 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Sean Bonner’s latest post about public perception of Google out in California, jibed exactly with a certain vibe I’ve been getting. I don’t understand it, but there it is.

Not long ago, Google was the haven which I expected to someday harbor people who were deeply obsessed about information coordination in all of the right ways; people with a sense of the vast span of current ideas, what ‘information technology’ could more appropriately mean, and how different that is from what has been realized in recent decades. Privately I hoped that they had already found a few such people. I have finally given up on that last and vainest hope; and have a hard time sustaining the earlier one.

This has nothing to do with them being evil — as far as I’m concerned, they’re not good, they’re grrrreat! The company is made up of a remarkable collection of well-meaning idealists, including many friends of mine. But something is definitely wrong; and I wish I knew exactly what.

For instance: I use gmail for some high-traffic mailing lists I am on. I have been sending them feedback from time to time, with no response from their team. Fine; they are busy. Yesterday I went to send them feedback and a suggestion, and noticed that there was no longer a feedback link where there had been. I had to dig to find one beneath their series of help menus. Fine; it made me read through the help docs to see if my suggestion had already been made. The idea of getting feedback-submitters to fill out a multiple-choice form first of ideas they are in favor of was charming.

But. After sending them mail, I realized I had mistyped something, and sent a follow-up. Then, half an hour later, I had another suggestion to make, about a different aspect of the product. As before, it was one that didn’t appear on their shortlist of features they were considering. And… I found that I could no longer access the feedback page at all; instead I was redirected to the generic help-homepage. I had been cut off. It was an awful feeling — there I was, wasting three minutes trying to find a way to send helpful feedback, and I was just being quietly pushed away. I’ll try to duplicate the effect on a different machine today, but really… what kind of way is that to interact with your users?

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