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Another Notch in Google’s Belt Of Social Fail
June 20, 2011 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday was the third Sunday in June, the officially recognized date of Father's Day in the US and many other countries. Google really, really wanted to remind you of that fact, not only celebrating the day with a special Google Doodle, but also putting reminders on the front page of Google Search and a special "Reminder: Call Dad" note in the chat roster of Gmail Calling. Many people were not happy about it.

Google's Help Forum was inundated with personal stories of paternal loss and estrangement. Twitter users are calling the feature invasive and a "social media fail". Google promises to make future reminders dismissible in the future.
posted by 2bucksplus (264 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
(The title of this post is taken from the TechCrunch article, I always imagined Google wore sweatpants)
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:33 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


A bit misguided by Google, but it seems like anyone that upset over Call Dad would be pretty upset with the whole holiday.
posted by smackfu at 10:33 AM on June 20, 2011 [29 favorites]


A friend of mine with two mothers thought it was funny enough to laugh about it with me, reminding me of my own need to call my father.

That said, this was kind of shitty of Google.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:35 AM on June 20, 2011


The local news in Seattle went out to Spokane to interview the niece of the woman who started Father's Day, with the obligatory anti-commercialization commentary.

I had totally spaced on making the call up till that point, but at 7am, I think my dad was OK with me waiting till later.
posted by nomisxid at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2011


While I really don't like all the cute little things that Google does to remind me what important day it is, I give this a resounding "SO WHAT".
posted by dunkadunc at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


Not one but two friends of mine have lost their fathers in the last month. I kind of hope they don't have Gmail (although it's hard to blame Google for the universal plastering of CELEBRATE YOUR DAD TODAY yesterday).
posted by shakespeherian at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2011


oh for fuck sakes.

here's the deal. I am not a dad, I almost lost the closest thing I have to a "dad" a few months ago. I don't talk to my real dad, nor my ex-step dad. and I don't give a flying shit about Google putting "remember call dad" on their page.

I am honestly sorry and will not trivialize the loss of loved ones... but jeeze. Do these people flip out whenever the word "dad" is mentioned? Do they punch out the cashier who says "have a nice day" when they are not having a nice day? Have we gotten to the point of every complaint, no matter how personal, has to be blow up to public scale so everyone can read about your loss/tragedy/bereavement?

IT'S
NOT
REAL
LIFE
posted by edgeways at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [160 favorites]


i'm kind of over 'fail' being used as a noun.
posted by empath at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [27 favorites]


This doodle pissed people off too.
posted by mkb at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, if "Twitter users" consider it invasive...

I thought it was a little weird, but if I think something's a little weird, there's hundreds of people on the internet who are going to go ballistic about it.
posted by demiurge at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would have been nice to have the feature dismissable, yes.

A bit misguided by Google, but it seems like anyone that upset over Call Dad would be pretty upset with the whole holiday.

I used to have difficulty with it. I don't anymore. My father's been dead for nearly two decades and I'm a dad now myself so I didn't find the note particularly upsetting. But I can imagine that those who have recently lost their father might not like an ongoing reminder posted where they're gonna see it all day. From experience, the holiday is mostly avoidable if you don't have kids yourself. Google made doing so harder for those who might be grieving, and that kinda sucks.
posted by zarq at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Invasive? They make your (free) email client/browser/VoIP service of choice, and added a small line of text on your screen. You can choose another product with more "invasive" interface features. Not providing a way to make it go away (and remember that you made it go away last year) is their failure.

And I think their cutesy changes to their logo and whatnot are ways of keeping users from taking the product for granted, in their typical minimal sort of way.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, yeah, this is not a "fail," social or otherwise. If you've lost a father so recently that the mere fact of being reminded that it is father's day by a website is going to send you in paroxysms of grief, I feel for you, but perhaps you might want to avoid interfacing with the outside world on, you know, father's day.
posted by Inkoate at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Fail" inflation, recreational outrage: I'd be okay having one post about this topic, but having a separate post for each tiny example is a bit much.
posted by grobstein at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


People who aren't asshats found it funny and nice that Google spends so much time integrating things into the logo and whatnot. I mean, christ on a crutch people, I don't fire off angry emails ranting about the injustice I faced from the loss of my dead mother every time I see a commercial showing some suburban mom baking Tollhouse cookies with the kids.

These people complaining about Google's attempt to show a human face? They need hobbies. That's what my mom would have said, anyway.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I saw the "Reminder: Call Dad" note in my gmail and it was actually really unpleasant and annoying, but as smackfu points out the entire holiday is problematic.

Also, I see it as google just trying to be nice, so I didn't really care that much. But I can see people getting deeply upset about being reminded of either an unwanted dad or a lost one. And not everyone even has a dad, or wants one. Some people just have a mom, or two moms.

Broadcasting that to everyone isn't really the best move, and considering they're google and they have access to the more than enough data on the variety of families and the human condition, that's pretty shitty to do that.
posted by loquacious at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


edgeways: " here's the deal. I am not a dad, I almost lost the closest thing I have to a "dad" a few months ago. I don't talk to my real dad, nor my ex-step dad. and I don't give a flying shit about Google putting "remember call dad" on their page."

Some of us do.

If you're going to talk about not trivializing people's loss, then it would be nice if you actually didn't immediately turn around and do so.
posted by zarq at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Really? This was not shitty of Google. Yes it is horrible if you've lost a parent, but what is Google to do, write "Call your father (If you have one)" or just not put up a message at all? Obviously people are saying they should go with the latter, but it's not like Eric Schmidt approved this father's day message in a special board meeting. Someone thought it was a neat idea, so they did it. Google made a minor mistake in not making this easy to dismiss, but making a big deal out of this is absurd. People will hear fathers mentioned about 9,000 times around this holiday, and they might get sad. That's unfortunate, but IN NO WAY anything that fits into some kind of pattern of Google "socially failing."
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


This is like when Vanilla Ice got all that flack for saying "Word to your mother" all the time.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Given how my Dad died four years ago, were I to call him, it'd be very, very long distance, that I think not even Google could handle.

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, but yesterday there were enough postings on Facebook about fathers and fatherhood, and hey -- those are my friends, and good for them that they're having a nice day with their dads. I just have to suck it up and deal with it -- it's just one of many shitty anniversaries, that's all.

That said, I'm far from alone in not having a dad on Father's Day anymore, and I found it quite surprising that no-one at Google imagined that there would be people out there who would (quite reasonably) have a problem with this particular message.

I guess they're lucky that paternal loss was beyond their imaginations.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


So would it have been better, or creepier, if Google had analyzed their database to figure out which of their users still had a dad and was friendly with him, and only added the Father's Day notes on those users' pages?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


My father is in a location that makes it impossible for me to call him directly. We communicate via email, and sometimes we're able to manage a brief, shaky Skype connection. I haven't heard his voice in quite some time. I desperately wanted to do so yesterday, but because of his current situation, that's not possible. When I saw the 'call dad' memo in my gmail inbox, I was confused at first and did a double-take. It took me a few moments to realize that I hadn't created that memo for myself and that it came directly from the Google powers-that-be.

I wasn't inconsolably butthurt, but it made me uncomfortable and I thought it was inappropriate. It's akin to a 'call your sweetheart' note for Valentine's Day or 'Don't forget to leave cookies for Santa' on Christmas.
posted by chara at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Okay, so my dad died when I was three and I'm 26 now. For a while, the Father's day thing didn't bug me because I was too young to really realize what I was missing. Then it did, but then again I was a teenager and everything bugged me. Then, between no longer watching TV shows with commercials and before Facebook, I sort of blanked it out. I even mentioned to my girlfriend, last week, re: an AskMe post about getting away from Father's day imagery how prevalent it was, because I didn't notice it.

Then, this Father's Day came and Facebook (which I use pretty often) was smattered with it and I felt a little shitty (I didn't get the chance last year because my mom had died to recently and I was still dealing with that.) I didn't blame anyone, but I just felt a little shitty. That's how it works, I guess, when you neither have a father nor the "luck" to actively kick him out of your psyche for being a jerk. Maybe. That's how I feel, anyway.

I'm a really stoic guy, so if I feel a little shitty, that means whatever is affecting me is liable to send average people into Shit Central. A Father's day message on the front page? Sure. We learn to sort of blank them out as best we can. But "Call Dad"? That's just dickish.
posted by griphus at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


The issue here is that a lot of people think of their Gmail space as personal space.

And Google* doesn't.


* and lots of folks on here, me included
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


haveanicesummer: "what is Google to do, write "Call your father (If you have one)" or just not put up a message at all? "

Make it dismissable. That's it. They shouldn't need to do anything more.

Even when Facebook used to put those "Why Not Reconnect With Your Friend" messages, they were dismissable. Click the X, and it goes away. Which was nice, because after having a couple of friends die over the last few years, seeing them show up in that box was a little jarring.
posted by zarq at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hello, dad. I'm in jail!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


What with all the datamining Google does on your stuff, I'm surprised they weren't able to tell whether or not you would have blown a gasket about such a thing.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As the article pointed out fairly clearly, I think people were not so much upset about the message itself (they didn't mind it being on the public main page) as they were about the fact that it appeared under the chat menu, which is considered a private area.
posted by Melismata at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]




Really? This was not shitty of Google. Yes it is horrible if you've lost a parent, but what is Google to do, write "Call your father (If you have one)" or just not put up a message at all?


Not put up a message at all would be good. The Google Logo was enough. Butting into my email inbox was not cool. Even Facebook knew better.
posted by ocschwar at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Two of my friends lost their fathers to cancer in the past few months and are incredibly fragile and heartbroken at the moment. I myself lost my father years ago and Father's Day still has a slight pang for me every year, more like a quiet day to honor his memory than a day of celebration. Still others have complicated relationships with their fathers or never knew them. I can't fault Google much, but maybe bringing attention to things like this will make people slightly more sensitive to the experiences of those around them. Everyone has scar tissue somewhere and even frivolous stuff like this can open it up.
posted by naju at 10:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I noticed it, and while I still have my dad, it left a really bad taste in my mouth. Same with the sidewalk chalkboard I saw in front of a cafe that had "CALL YOUR DAD!" written on it. All I could think of was how some people must feel when they read that.

Especially with the Google thing, where they make it look like you really can call your dad just by clicking that little green icon. Good one, assholes...
posted by hermitosis at 10:48 AM on June 20, 2011


zarq.

I'm sorry,

I am not really looking for a conflict.

Loss is loss and it is personal. That is sacrosanct.

At the same time one does have to be offended that a public holiday is mentioned prominently on a prominent web site. I, personally, am quite opposed to many forms of militarization, and nationalism. And yet I can somehow contain myself during the many days dedicated to different aspects of the military and country. Google slaps up a doodle for 4th of July. Should I be outraged? No.
posted by edgeways at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is why corporations retreat to bland, impersonal, inoffensive personas that become indistinguishable from one another.
posted by fatbird at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2011 [43 favorites]


I wasn't inconsolably butthurt, but it made me uncomfortable and I thought it was inappropriate.

Yeah, "inappropriate" is pretty much the best word I can think for this. It isn't some sort of mortal sin on Google's behalf, or even a "road to hell" situation. Just inappropriate phrasing.
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2011


I think it's legitimate to mention the real hurt that people may have experienced, and to feel empathy for them, without that necessarily meaning that I want to burn down Google's headquarters or something.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow are people incredibly uncharitable with their assumtions as to Google's motivations.

Wouldn't Google being assholes or shitty in this situation require them having any negative intent at all with this? Their failure was in predicting that this was a sensitive issue.

So AT WORST you could say "Google should have been more careful and sensitive" which I'm sure most people would agree with. However, GOOGLE ARE ASSHOLES WHO WANT TO RUB IT IN OUR FACES THAT WE DON'T HAVE A FATHER is just ridiculous. I'm sure the guy who came up with the idea feels pretty bad about it, but I'm also sure he thought "this'll be a neat thing that people will like" when he came up with the idea.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gee, never noticed either yesterday. But,

This
The issue here is that a lot of people think of their Gmail space as personal space.

And Google* doesn't.
and this
This is why corporations retreat to bland, impersonal, inoffensive personas that become indistinguishable from one another.
Because there's always an army of folks who will complain, regardless.
posted by k5.user at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sort of amazed by the vitriol here. My dad's been gone for a decade but somehow I wasn't horribly offended by the suggestion to call the old man. Should they have said "Call your dad (unless he's dead or you hate him or he's a total bastard and owes your mom $100k in child support)"?
posted by octothorpe at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that many of the comments here saying it's no big deal are instantaneous reactions to the Google Doodle, and are missing the main point of the article, which is that Google put the reminder to "call dad" in every single user's individual mail account, on the left-side column where your personal contacts are. I agree with the person in the article who said it's the difference between seeing an ad on the side of a bus for Father's Day and having someone sit down next to you on a bus and tell you that it's Father's Day and ask if you've called your dad.

I think there is a clear dividing line here. One is public, and aimed at everybody, and if you have a problem with the holiday, well, it sucks, but that's just how it goes and you find your own way to go along (anyone who has difficulty living through the Christmas season for any of a number of reasons can attest to that). The other is having a stranger target you, and you specifically, and tell you that you should call your father, without knowing the first thing about your life. (Jokes about how Google knows everything about your life in 3, 2, 1....)
posted by tzikeh at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


People are pointing out that it was dickish of Google because of "what if someone's father just died".

What about the people whose fathers are very much alive, but were abusive or are otherwise estranged from them?

Mind you, I don't think Google should be pilloried for this or anything, but it just feels like one of those things with a not-insignificant number of bad points.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


They didn't just "mention it prominently", they made it look like a memo possibly set by the user.
posted by hermitosis at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Um, yeah, this is not a "fail," social or otherwise.

In my opinion, it is. It goes beyond nagging alerts, friendly suggestions, pokes, prods and other socialized spam that permeate the current online user experience. In this case, Google went as far as to invade a personal space in order to pursue what amounts to be an inappropriate and unsolicited communication.

It's as if the electric company called to remind you to turn off the lights when you masturbate.

An inappropriate and invase use of the communication channel between provider and subscriber. The content of the message? Outrage aside, that's just Google's inability to empathize.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do these people throw a nutty at Sears when they advertise gifts for your dad?

I don't think my dad knows what a Google is, so had I seen this yesterday I don't think it would have bothered me.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2011


IT'S
NOT
REAL
LIFE

A button on the homepage of the biggest on the internet -- the one that we've adopted to literally mean "to find something on the internet" --- that reminds somebody that they're actually not able to call their father certainly is real life.

Yeah, "inappropriate" is pretty much the best word I can think for this.
"In very poor taste" would be my phrasing.

GOOGLE ARE ASSHOLES WHO WANT TO RUB IT IN OUR FACES THAT WE DON'T HAVE A FATHER
Nobody is saying that. Stop.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not sure why this was "shitty" of Google. We will all experience loss at some point, and will all have to deal with it while the world goes on with its own business. Confronting loss is part of being human. It's not always easy being here on Planet Earth.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:55 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the same time one does have to be offended that a public holiday is mentioned prominently on a prominent web site.

That's not what the discussion is about, and the article makes that clear. It's not about the front page of Google. It's that "call dad" showed up in every gmail user's notes column in their inbox. Nobody's bitching about the Google homepage.
posted by tzikeh at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sort of related: After All, We're All Somebody's Father

None of my hosted domains did this to me yesterday, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Gmail is free. If they send you things you don't like get a different account.

Sure, it's crappy they did this, but eh, it's more or less their option. It's their service. Use it or don't.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:57 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can just picture Bill O'Reilly....

"Tonight on The Factor: The War on Dads! Google tries to honor them, but is hounded and hectored by anti-Dad activists. Is Papa "persona non-dada" now? We'll have Dennis Miller on to weigh in!"
posted by inturnaround at 10:57 AM on June 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


It was really just very frustrating that it was so difficult to hide. I don't know how it felt for people whose fathers passed away, but having an absent or abusive father is not just a feeling of loss, but can also make you feel ashamed and deficient. General Father's Day stuff is expected and easy to tune out, but having to take even just ten minutes to think about how to find a workaround to hide the "Call your dad" made me, at least, feel pretty crummy and outsidery for a while yesterday, like a reminder that everyone else has or had the caring, present dad I never did. Everyone has sore spots, but this is a common enough one that Google should have at least made it easy to turn off.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


"what is Google to do, write "Call your father (If you have one)" or just not put up a message at all? "

No, they should read through your email and browsing history to determine if you have a living father, and automatically call him for you and play a recorded message.

In other news, overly sensitive people gotta overly-sensitize.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Expecting people to RTFA is being hopeful on MeFi these days...

It's as if a friend snuck into your house and wrote "Call Dad" on your kitchen calendar, shortly after he'd died, and you'd have every right to feel a little aggrieved at the thoughtless prank. That is what is at issue here.
posted by benzo8 at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Members of my family will send me text messages on mother's day/father's day, birthdays of parents, uncles, grandparents and siblings reminding me to CALL THEM. So why shouldn't I expect the same of big brother as well?
posted by wcfields at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2011


"Top psychics all agree
that the telephone company
will have a brand new service
that lets you talk to the dead."

I just re-read "Playback" by Arthur C. Clarke this weekend. The concept of a "Google Playback" (which becomes more and more possible as time goes by and Google's record banks grow) is chilling. Think Animal Crossing.
posted by Eideteker at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2011


I don't like that Google infiltrated our inboxes with their cutesy "Call your dad!"...but they also infiltrate my inbox, "read" my email, and put advertising based upon my email up at the top. So I'm neither surprised nor am I offended by this "sudden" invasion of privacy.

Seriously, there's lots of stuff on the internet that is of no interest to me. I don't care about children's toys, I don't plan on going back to school, I am not interested in that diet pill that will make me lose 20 pounds in a week, and I am not interested in cats. I see stuff about all of these things and more. People who are in AA see ads for alcohol. People who have tragically lost a child still see advertisments for children's toys. Same with television, billboards, snail mailboxes, etc. It sucks. But it's not new.

If I see something that does not apply to me (on the internet or anywhere else in life), I just ignore it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


What about the people whose fathers are very much alive, but were abusive or are otherwise estranged from them?

Yeah, that's me. I've been estranged from my dad for like 15 years, and I thought it was shitty of Google to have "Remember, call dad" plastered in my gchat. I don't think they were planning on shitty on purpose, but unintentionally shitty is still shitty. My status for most of yesterday as "No, YOU call dad".
posted by 23skidoo at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that many of the comments here saying it's no big deal are instantaneous reactions to the Google Doodle, and are missing the main point of the article
posted by tzikeh


I understand that, and assume most others do too. Where I differ is in thinking that this was a mistake born of minor insensitivity and lack of forethought rather than some kind of imagined malice, and that this was a minor transgression, not a major one that should be placed alongside others in a record of Google's failings.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2011


You know who else was really pissed off about this?

That's right...Batman.
posted by briank at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


My brother and I went out to a local steak restaurant for dinner last night - forgetting that it was Father's Day. The place was PACKED! Our own father died 5 years ago - and I still feel the loss keenly sometimes. Waitress came up to take our order and asked very jokingly - which one of was the Dad. We both laughed.

We did not mention our father was dead, we did not complain to managment that waitress had been insensitive, we did not back hand her for insensitivity. Guess what? Not everyone in the world is supposed to be sympathetic to your losses or join your pity party. Lighten the hell up.
posted by helmutdog at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lighten the hell up.

You know, just like "I'm just tellin' it like it is," most times this statement is used, the issue is not with the person it is being said to.
posted by griphus at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Google's search engine spiders just wanted to see who got unreasonably upset so they can avoid doing this to them next year. Google...it's learning
posted by glaucon at 11:04 AM on June 20, 2011


"Father's Day cards. Fuck you Hallmark."
posted by smackfu at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember the furore when Google asked me about my mother...

*leaves joke open to whoever wishes to take the bait*
posted by longbaugh at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ya know, my dad died when I was 6 months old, my mom never remarried. My oldest son died at the age of 20, he hasn't wished me a happy father's day in the 21 years since that happened, if anyone could be offended by this, it's me.

That said, good for you Google, and if folks want to pitch a hissy fit over this, so be it. Let them use Bing.
posted by tomswift at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


My father's dead (died on Xmas - double whammy) and this didn't bother me at all. You really have to get over being upset by these kinds of things at some point, it's part of moving on. Other people have dads - they should enjoy them while they can.

Bunch of whiners.
posted by melt away at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


edgeways: " At the same time one does have to be offended that a public holiday is mentioned prominently on a prominent web site. I, personally, am quite opposed to many forms of militarization, and nationalism. And yet I can somehow contain myself during the many days dedicated to different aspects of the military and country. Google slaps up a doodle for 4th of July. Should I be outraged? No."

It's okay. I agree. I don't think this is worth outrage. I think they meant well, which honestly, is great. Much better than indifference. It just comes across to me as insensitive and I wish they'd handled it differently. Not so much for my sake as other people's -- because I've been in their shoes and it sucked, you know?

Look, Father's Day is poignant and a little bittersweet for me. It's not horrible, but I do feel a little weirdly sensitive about it. I have two three year olds and am a father, but don't have my dad around to turn to for advice or assistance. If I want to talk to him or vent, I can't. It's not a big deal, but it is something I think about with a bit of regret sometimes. We had a difficult relationship, but.... it would be nice to have my father around to bounce ideas off of. To give input on big decisions, be the voice of reason when life gets stressful or to simply say "you're doing okay." And I really would have loved to be able to introduce him to his grandkids. I think he would have loved knowing them. Spending time with them. Laughing with them. Teaching them. I deeply regret that they're not going to know the good things about him -- while I'm also grateful they'll miss the bad parts. But he's gone, and now the only thing I can do is tell them about him when he gets older.

I don't feel outrage over the Google reminder. Just wish it had been handled with a little more finesse, that's all.
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


GOOGLE ARE ASSHOLES WHO WANT TO RUB IT IN OUR FACES THAT WE DON'T HAVE A FATHER
Nobody is saying that. Stop.
posted by Threeway Handshake


People are definitely calling them assholes and shitty. Those are direct quotations from the thread. I honestly don't think they're deserving of that unless people actually think they intended to hurt them or violate the sanctity of their chat list. Yes no one said the "rub it in our faces" part but how else do you jump from "Call you dad" to "shitty assholes"?
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2011


Again, what I think was upsetting/irritating to people was that it was set up as a memo next to the phone icon, making it seem like A) you had set this reminder, and B) all you had to do was click to call him.

But if it's more fun to imagine people freaking out over ads on TV etc., by all means sneer away.
posted by hermitosis at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, why didn't they do this for Mother's Day? Damned patriarchal society....

/howdoyoudothathamburgersymbol
posted by chara at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Google can't avoid being evil. It's too big. Like Mothra, really. It keeps MechaGodzilla away, gives free rides to orphans and is a perfect gentleman on dates with tiny women, but every so often it flattens a neighborhood with a stray wingbeat. Its slightest clumsiness harms thousands. It's trying to be good, really it is.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


It may not be a big deal - My father died a few years ago and I didn't feel the need to complain about this - but going back to the original article, including it as a personal-seeming message from Google to the user was a little stupid on their part.
posted by Vhanudux at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2011


"IS THIS SOMETHING I'D HAVE TO HAVE A FATHER TO CARE ABOUT!?"

I don't like that Google infiltrated our inboxes with their cutesy "Call your dad!"

Honestly, I used gmail yesterday to send my brother Father's Day wishes (our dad being, you know, dead) and I didn't even notice that.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:11 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plastered in your GMail? Invaded your inbox? It was a small reminder in the contacts section of the sidebar of the GMail web interface. It's far from intrusive and pretty easy to not see.
posted by moviehawk at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


jsavimbi writes "In this case, Google went as far as to invade a personal space in order to pursue what amounts to be an inappropriate and unsolicited communication."

This is the part I don't get; gmail pimps out that space with advertising all the time (at least I constantly get messages there imploring me to sign up with google voice). Admittedly internal advertising but still it's obvious it's not personal space. This was just another ad campaign for their voice services.
posted by Mitheral at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, what I think was upsetting/irritating to people was that it was set up as a memo next to the phone icon, making it seem like A) you had set this reminder, and B) all you had to do was click to call him.

That doesn't seem like it would be upsetting to people who lost their father though, since they clearly would not have set the reminder or think they could click to call him.
posted by smackfu at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2011


People are definitely calling them assholes and shitty.

Dude, not everyone uses "shitty" and "asshole" in the same way. I think it's shitty to tip less than 15%. I think it's shitty to not replace the toilet paper if you use the last of it. I think my neighbor's an asshole when he waits until 7:00 AM to wheel out his recycling. I think the people putting on a high school play are assholes for not putting up a sign that says "THIS DOOR LOCKS BEHIND YOU" for people during intermission.

These are all minor things, and I still use the words "shitty" and "asshole" for them. Those words don't mean that the person who used them is all raging and FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, you know, I totally missed this whole controversy while I was out spending the day with my Grandpa.

And yeah, I have a shitty estranged dad, but you can't let that control your life. You have to enjoy what you have that's good and not piss all over everyone else that is more fortunate and enjoys their relationship with their father.
posted by Muddler at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day, people will get upset over almost anything, because someone out there is having a bad day.

The internet just lets them get together and get themselves into a froth so that reporters can write a story about it.
posted by smackfu at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF - Tech giant Google announced today they would begin their new Internet Participation Initiative. "Starting July 1st, everybody who visits Google.com will receive a Participation Trophy," Google spokesperson Virginia Einstein said at a news conference. "We're all winners, and nobody should be sad if they didn't 'win' the race or 'beat' the other kids."

Many social media pundits lauded the new initiative. "Google finally finds its heart," tweeted one Twitter savant, continuing, "#fuckyeahgoogle #ladygaga #ballz."

A Gawker site allegedly wrote, "Don't look now, but Google is leveling the playing field for Interweb denizens." (Since nobody can actually read a Gawker post anymore thanks to their horrific site design, the statement could not be independently verified.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:16 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


"No, I do not want one of your damn cookies, you insensitive bastard!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's as if a friend snuck into your house and wrote "Call Dad" on your kitchen calendar, shortly after he'd died, and you'd have every right to feel a little aggrieved at the thoughtless prank. That is what is at issue here.

Not really. Google is not your friend and Gmail is not your house, and they were certainly not out to prank you. I hope that after he's gone I never forget what my Dad always says to me at times like these: "Are you gonna live? Yes? Then stop bloody moaning." Ah, the sweet sentimentality of the English protestant.

I think it's shitty to not replace the toilet paper if you use the last of it.

Could you be more literal?
posted by Hoopo at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Tell you what, Google. I'll give you the guy's DOB, SSN, and IUPAT number. You find him for me and let me know if he wants to talk.

You know, since you're so good at finding things.
posted by cmyk at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


That doesn't seem like it would be upsetting to people who lost their father though, since they clearly would not have set the reminder or think they could click to call him.

For me (again, I haven't lost my father) it was more like, "Whu...? I don't remember setting tha-- oh, it's an #$%& advertisement. BLAH!"

A minor moment of yuckness. As someone else said upthread, anything that registered as such to me was sure to trigger bigger reactions in many other people.
posted by hermitosis at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2011


Kinda odd. I didn't know it was fathers day until I saw the post on Hacker News about people being upset. Fuck you people who got upset! Why did you make me remeber I have no father!
posted by Ad hominem at 11:20 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Huh. Was not expecting this. Hopefully Google reacts by implementing a quick dismiss-all feature and continuing these sorts of non-religious holiday/culturally relevant doodles/reminders/messages/etc. They are, in my eyes, fun and refreshing things, but it never hurts to be considerate to people who feel otherwise.

The question of which culturally important moments/events should be commemorated (that is, which cultures are represented and how they are depicted) is also problematic, but that's not even on the radar of this discussion so I guess I'll stop now.
posted by jsturgill at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to admire Google's innovations in the field of getting people to be jerks to one another online.
posted by BeerFilter at 11:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wonder how different this thread would look if Google had put "Reminder: Christ is risen!" on their calendar for Easter. Just like we're not all Christians, a lot of us have very good reasons to not call dad.
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


About the time I turned 30, I suddenly became an old man and technology froze for me. I don't know what all this 3D HD BluRay garbage is that the kids are all going on about; regular old DVDs are just fine; get off my lawn. So while I use Gmail daily and find it to be the best e-mail paradigm I've ever used, I don't know what half the crap is that Google tosses up on the screen. So when I saw "Call Dad" over in the list of contacts or whatever that is on the left there, I had no idea what it was or how it got there, and assumed that it was somebody else's message either to the world or to themselves. All I knew was that I hadn't done it, so I could safely ignore it, and I did.

Google made a gaffe here, certainly. They should have made it possible to dismiss the message, if nothing else. But as for the people who are freaking out over it, I don't think anybody is guilty of overreacting to whatever relationship they have with their fathers. If a person has a deceased father, or an abusive father, or no father at all, then that person is entitled to whatever emotions he or she feels, and nobody likes to be reminded of old wounds. But for crying out loud, it's just a website. It's not real life, and it's not personal.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:23 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder how different this thread would look if Google had put "Reminder: Christ is risen!" on their calendar for Easter.

Well, I'm an atheist and I'd have no problem with that, so anyone who would have a problem with that clearly has issues.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Google did nothing for Father's Day, someone would bitch about it. There were people that bitched when the guitar doodle came up recently. People bitch at Google for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Some people bitch when there is an event and Google leaves the standard Google logo. Some people bitch about the Google logo itself. Some people made the Google homepage black to save their eyesight at night and a few cents of energy on CRT monitors, and people bitched about it costing fractions of pennies more on LCDs. There is still the one guy to sends e-mails to Google every time they change the number of words on the Google homepage.

No matter what Google does, there is always someone to bitch about it.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, let me get this straight: we're not allowed to calmly discuss our uncomfortable feelings about this? We're not allowed to point out a misstep? I'm not getting why some posters here want to shut the whole discussion down, just because they don't necessarily empathize. There seems to be a twisted logic operating here: simply by dint of being gmail users, we are not allowed to ask for better service. Or if we even feel the need to ask for something better, then we should just switch. That makes no sense to me.

A few people have said it better than me, but the point here is that Google inserted this message in a (relatively) private space, and didn't give users the opportunity to make it disappear. Whatever your personal situation is, this kind of thing is a bug not a feature.
posted by swingbraid at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's the over-reaction people are reacting to.
posted by smackfu at 11:28 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


swingbraid, I think the point is that Father's Day crap is omnipresent on Father's Day. This does not mean Google and Sears and Wal-Mart and Hallmark are out to make you uncomfortable or that they are being mean or insensitive. The objections being voiced were more than simply asking for better service or an option to turn off holiday reminders. People are taking the message Google put in their Gmail as a personal insult which was not the case.
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that lots of people in this thread think that ANY reaction to this is an over-reaction.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


People are taking the message Google put in their Gmail as a personal insult which was not the case.

I didn't take it personally at all. I just thought it was crappy to do, and I would rather have not had it there. Not everyone who thinks this is a bad thing is taking it personally.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn, I am kinda shocked by peoples reactions, yet then again I am a bit of an asshole when it comes to sensitivity (so I've been told).
I've lost loved ones, and I know how it hurts (never had an abusive one so can't speak on that front nor will I). It is a natural part of life, and I simply remember how awesome and what an impact these people made in my life. My grandmother was practically a second mother to me, whom I'd do anything for (even more than my mom at the time). She was nothing short of an amazing, unique, strong women whom I love dearly.
When she passed away, while sad I recognized this is a fact of life. Not to be so cold and callous but deal with it. I think of her all the time and do little things that her and I use to do. I suppose I reframe the situation, instead of looking at what I've lost, I look at what I gained from this wonderful person. She is still with me (I am not by any means religious), as she helped shape me into the person I am today.
Google did no harm. It is a free services, seriously if you are so pissed set up a fucking paid email server, its not hard.
posted by handbanana at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2011


smackfu: "It's the over-reaction people are reacting to."

Is it? It certainly doesn't sound that way. Not in this thread. It sounds like anyone who dares voice even a milkd complaint is being called a whiner who needs a hobby and should suck it up.
caution live frogs: "People who aren't asshats found it funny and nice that Google spends so much time integrating things into the logo and whatnot. I mean, christ on a crutch people, I don't fire off angry emails ranting about the injustice I faced from the loss of my dead mother every time I see a commercial showing some suburban mom baking Tollhouse cookies with the kids.

These people complaining about Google's attempt to show a human face? They need hobbies. That's what my mom would have said, anyway.
"


melt away: "My father's dead (died on Xmas - double whammy) and this didn't bother me at all. You really have to get over being upset by these kinds of things at some point, it's part of moving on. Other people have dads - they should enjoy them while they can.

Bunch of whiners.
"


helmutdog: " Guess what? Not everyone in the world is supposed to be sympathetic to your losses or join your pity party. Lighten the hell up."
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't really see any over-reaction. The linked article essentially can essentially be boiled down to:

"I am 100% sure Google intended “Reminder: Call Dad” to be a cute, heartfelt message. But its execution was flawed to say the least."

I wish I had the luxury of treating ANY reaction to certain things as an overreaction. Not a lot of imagination or empathy in that sort of knee-jerk response.
posted by hermitosis at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kids who grow up with abusive parents get to spend their whole childhood being reminded by well-meaning outsiders that their parents love them tremendously and only want what's best for them. (So all that horrible treatment must be what they deserve, just like their parent keeps saying.)

So I guess it's fitting that Father's Day or Mother's Day would serve as just another one out of a million reminders that if your mom & dad don't love you, there's something wrong with you.
posted by crackingdes at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


"You know who else was really pissed off about this?

That's right...Batman."


Oh man, I can see it now. Wes Anderson's "Batman." Where Bats's parents are alive and well, but he is estranged from them. Cut to a somewhat scrawny-yet-still-schlumpy twentisomething in an obviously hand-stitched costume (made by his sorta-kinda on-again-off-again friend with benefits, who is of course a cute nerd girl with catseye glasses who crafts and otherwise plays with yarn) standing on the edge of a not-that-tall urban building (but, you know, in one of the nicer neighborhoods), forlornly looking over the edge while twee and precious indie music plays.

(He doesn't so much "fight crime" as "debate ennui.")
posted by Eideteker at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Guess what? Not everyone in the world is supposed to be sympathetic to your losses or join your pity party. Lighten the hell up."

I think we've found an underserved Hallmark market.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


handbanana: " Google did no harm. It is a free services, seriously if you are so pissed set up a fucking paid email server, its not hard."

Sorry, but as an avid user of multiple Google products, I'll reserve the right not to shut up and be grateful. Thanks.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Eideteker, you probably want to watch this.
posted by tjenks at 11:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now that I think of this more, Google's prank is also stunningly insensitive to men who are unlikely ever to be fathers: gay men who may not be permitted to adopt or raise a child of their own, men who are too old, ugly, or self-centered to have the opportunity to reproduce, men who have been injured through no fault of their own. Yes, for those of us who have a lost a father ("To lose one parent is a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness."), it hurts to be reminded of that loss; but for these men who will never be fathers, it looks like a reproach on behalf of the entire internet! I can only imagine that they must feel like Arthur Dent subjected to the abuse of Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, as Google reaches out and personally insults each and every one of them.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No matter what Google does, there is always someone to bitch about it.

There comes a point in the life of every corporation where they're just another company vying for some market share or in Google's case, an entity that rises way above that, dominating not just the landscape of their particular field, but also influencing how people behave, communicate, work and even feel. It's at this point where any member of the public should have the expectation that said corporation would use its enormous influence, intellect and wealth to benefit the greater, common good.

Google sucks at that. Big time.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:44 AM on June 20, 2011


That's right...Batman."

Oh man, I can see it now. Wes Anderson's "Batman." Where Bats's parents are alive and well, but he is estranged from them. Cut to a somewhat scrawny-yet-still-schlumpy twentisomething in an obviously hand-stitched costume (made by his sorta-kinda on-again-off-again friend with benefits, who is of course a cute nerd girl with catseye glasses who crafts and otherwise plays with yarn) standing on the edge of a not-that-tall urban building (but, you know, in one of the nicer neighborhoods), forlornly looking over the edge while twee and precious indie music plays.

(He doesn't so much "fight crime" as "debate ennui.")


You just described the current reboot of Spiderman. Batman = Spiderman^(a Wes Anderson filter)
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2011


Hoopo, I totally understand that Father's Day is omnipresent. My dad is alive and well, but randomly chose to stop being a part of my life about five years ago. Yet Father's Day stuff doesn't bother me at all, and I am sincerely glad for people who are more fortunate than I in that regard. However, I was made uncomfortable by that message in my chat list. I didn't put it there, and I couldn't get rid of it. It was distinctly personal-sounding: "call Dad" instead of a more easily dismissed, generic question such as, "Have you called your father today?". I felt it was invasive in a more obvious way than other stuff Google pulls.

I think Google's response to make messages like that hide-able is satisfactory. I don't want to switch email services, or boycott Google because of it. It's not a huge deal, but I think it's more than okay for people to voice their dislike of it.
posted by swingbraid at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


They should just run my entire reminder list for me.

TODAY:

• PAY RENT
• SCOOP LITTER-BOX
• UNDERMINE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE
posted by hermitosis at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


I didn't see any "call your dad" in my gmail. I feel left out!
posted by bitteschoen at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2011


It's the over-reaction people are reacting to.

If you've spent, say, years in therapy just trying to stabilize your life due to, say,a decade or more of severe abuse and trauma at the hands of a father-like-person in your life, and you've had to spend years developing coping routines just to sort of forget all the fucked up shit that happened to you...

...having your "private" space like your email account invaded with the exhortation "Reminder: Call your dad!" can trigger all sorts of unpleasant emotions. Fear. Claustrophobia. Outright panic or severe anxiety.

Then that's not really "over reacting". I'm really glad people have had normal, healthy experiences with their Fathers but that's not the case for all of us, but failing to empathize that not everyone has had those positive experiences - and worse, many people have had outright terribly negative experiences with their "fathers" - this is pretty shitty.

Have some empathy, will you?

I see a lot of people saying "Fuck, I don't know what the big deal is. They're just overreacting." when they haven't had the experience of being maliciously, arbitrarily beaten and psychologically abused for endless years

When I say that the message in gmail "triggered" me I fucking mean it triggered me and nearly gave me a fucking anxiety attack, like, what the fuck is that doing here? It's emotionally like suddenly finding a picture or the name of one's rapist in their bathroom or kitchen or something. Really. I'm not exaggerating here.

Something similar to this has been going on with me in my gmail before this message. My abuser was a stepdad. Not my stepdad, a stepdad. His shitty old yahoo account or his computer or something picked up a virus, and I'm in his address book. So I've been getting spam from his account.

But the first time I saw that name in my inbox I about flipped my shit cart right the fuck over. Not in fear, but in fucking rage. Because the more I got into therapy and the more I learned about how severe and outright criminal the abuse I suffered actual was, the more angry and fucking pissed off I've been about having my life and my inability to form healthy relationships has been permanently damaged and ruined.

We're talking about someone who literally destroyed my life. Destroyed my ability to focus. My ability to trust anyone. My ability to learn and grow. To form intimate relationships of value. It would be more humane if he had just stove my fucking head in with a baseball bat instead of the millions of psychic scars that left me a shambling zombie wreck of a human being.

If you (not necessarily you, smackfu) think I'm overreacting by merely complaining about this and speaking up to say "this is a problem" then you're free to go fuck yourself up a tree with a rusty chainsaw, because it's really a huge fucking problem.

Sure, I quickly got over it and moved on and went and had a nice picnic with friends and ignored it. I realize Google is just trying to be nice and have a personality. Fine, whatever.

But if it triggered me that badly, I'm guessing it positively wrecked other people who aren't coping as marginally well as I am. This sort of emotional trigger could actually cause someone to commit suicide.

The complaints are real and valid. If you think that they aren't I strongly suggest you take a step back and try to get some perspective of what people are trying to say.
posted by loquacious at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [45 favorites]


Call your dad

Just to make it clear, the thing that was in people's Gmail Inbox Contacts List said "Reminder: Call dad."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2011


If your dad died and you miss him, that's understandable and you have my sympathies. If it's recent enough that Father's Day messages are a painful reminder, that's understandable, too.
What I don't understand is the idea that Google (or anyone else) is being insensitive by celebrating Father's Day. The world isn't going to conform to your personal situation, nor should you expect it to. Everyone has a unique situation and a unique history, and society can't adjust to the extent that nobody will ever be hurt by the mere mention of a subject or sentiment.
Five Mother's Days have come and gone since I lost mine, and to be honest I don't miss her any more on that particular day than I do on any other. I would never expect others to subdue or silence their own Mother's Day celebrations and wishes on my account.
posted by rocket88 at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2011


Huh. How bout that. I was in Gmail for a good chunk of the day yesterday, and didn't notice anything. Was it only for U.S. Gmail users? Or am I just that oblivious?
posted by antifuse at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2011


I'm not sure where everyone got the idea that everyone in the world can understand everyones sensitivity points, but truth is everyone has there shit. Its all about how you deal with it.
If it wasn't google, it would be someone saying "happy fathers day" to someone who isn't a father, or god forbid that calendar we all have to remind us.
posted by handbanana at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ahh, upon looking at where the gmail message was, I understand how I missed it. I minimize my chat contacts list when I'm not using it. Which is what ANY OF THESE OFFENDED PEOPLE COULD HAVE DONE. Yeesh.
posted by antifuse at 11:55 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The linked article essentially can essentially be boiled down to

"Isn’t this day hard enough without my own computer rubbing it in my face?" and "having that ‘reminder’ there is incredibly mocking" are pretty clear examples of people taking this personally IMO.
posted by Hoopo at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's okay, handbanana, I think you've already reasonably demonstrated that you don't understand what happened.
posted by hermitosis at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me, there is a huge difference between "Happy Father's Day to all the fathers!" or even "Happy Father's Day" and "Reminder: Call dad". I don't expect everyone to stop celebrating the day in whatever way they want to, but telling me that I should call my dad is a completely different beast.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"On this Father's Day, Google would like to remind you to call your dad, or visit his grave, or have him served with papers, depending on the circumstance."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


No hermitosis, I do understand, people get all bent out of shape over anything and everything. Like I said, if its that big of a deal get your own mail server and some therapy, because it isn't particularly healthy to not adequately deal with fucked up life events which most people experience.
I get bothered hearing merry christmas, or happy easter. I don't get bent out of shape its well meaning for the majority of people, and while you may not fit in, there isn't malicious intent behind the actions. That's the point I apparently "don't get". Then again, I am assuming (perhaps wrong) that we are all mature adults here.
posted by handbanana at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ahh, upon looking at where the gmail message was, I understand how I missed it. I minimize my chat contacts list when I'm not using it. Which is what ANY OF THESE OFFENDED PEOPLE COULD HAVE DONE. Yeesh.

That makes gchat less functional. Some people want to keep their list expanded so they can see who is online.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2011


antifuse: "Ahh, upon looking at where the gmail message was, I understand how I missed it. I minimize my chat contacts list when I'm not using it. Which is what ANY OF THESE OFFENDED PEOPLE COULD HAVE DONE. Yeesh."

This is not fundamentally different advice from "DON'T USE THE SERVICE IF IT UPSETS YOU," which is similarly unhelpful. Minimizing/disabling the entire chat interface removes functionality and makes the site less useful.
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2011


The doodle, I have a hard time blaming Google about, because frankly? I saw it and didn't connect it to Father's Day, though I guess I would if I'd thought of it. It's a picture of a tie. If you're triggered by a picture of a tie, I sympathize with you personally, but I don't blame that on Google. To me, that's like walking by a store with a particular magazine in the window that reminds you of your dad and breaking down crying. I'm sorry, I feel for you, I'd give you a hug, I'm sorry again. But I'm not going to particularly blame Google for that.

The "Reminder: call Dad" was a dumb decision, in my opinion, because that's putting a generic message where people expect to see personal messages; thus, they take it more personally. Everybody deals with advertising that's like, "Father's Day is June 19th," and they basically deal, and you see that all over the internet. But I can definitely see how it would be unnerving to see it in an unexpected place.

Still, I see this as more "oops, don't do that again" and less "you bastards clearly don't care about people who have experienced loss." Note to Google: Don't put anything that feels personal in a place that feels personal. Folks are hardened to generic stuff in generic spaces.

Part of offering people sympathy when they are, as they say, triggered by something is understanding that you can feel genuinely, deeply bad for them without vilifying the person who inadvertently placed the triggering thing. Kind of a crimeless victim, if I can put it that way.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


There wasn't any "overreaction."

Nobody proposed a universal boycott of Google products, or organized a mob to firebomb Google's headquarters. All that happened was many people said, "Hey, could you not do that? Kind of insensitive." Then somebody posted it to MetaFilter and half the website erupted in, "GROW A SPINE YOU FAIRY. GOOGLE CAN DO NO WRONG."

So the lesson went from being, "Sometimes well-meaning ideas can have unintended consequences, so run 'em past some outside people first"...to, "MetaFilter is a nasty place."
posted by red clover at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


What I don't understand is the idea that Google (or anyone else) is being insensitive by celebrating Father's Day. The world isn't going to conform to your personal situation, nor should you expect it to.

I think the distinction that people are making is between Google celebrating Father's Day and Google directly addressing the user about it in a what feels like their personal space. The doodle is a celebration of the entire holiday and isn't any different from the flight attendants on the flights I took yesterday who added "and a very happy Father's Day to all the dads here" to their announcements. That general celebration is very different from "Hey. Here I am in your very own personal inbox sitting right in your friends list. Go call your dad!" which is what happened here.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of all this. Though I don't think it's the most incredibly terrible and insensitive thing in the world, there's something a bit creepy about pushing the message into users' personal space. Folks with baggage don't expect that baggage to pop up in their own home like this.
posted by zachlipton at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Like I said, if its that big of a deal get your own mail server and some therapy, because it isn't particularly healthy to not adequately deal with fucked up life events which most people experience.

Sure. There's nothing wrong with that sentiment on the surface, but the logistics of reality are almost always more difficult than the sentiment. I've been on that road off and on for 20 years, and I'm not even 40 yet, and I feel like I'm 80. Therapy doesn't fix everything. Worse, we're learning that there are biological, physical changes in brain structure and chemistry in response to trauma.

I've had to come to terms with the idea that there are many things about that trauma I'll never be able to fix, and that's a really bitter pill to swallow. It would in many ways be easier to trade all that psychological loss and trauma for, say, no legs. People could actually see and understand the problem, then. There would be sympathy instead of "Oh, you should just get over it."

Again, to reiterate: The problem isn't that Google wants to wish people a happy Father's Day. The problem was that they forced this message to people through a space that's rationally expected to be fairly private. Violating that personal space and safety of someone with loss, trauma and/or PTSD isn't something that can or should simply be waved off with "get over it."
posted by loquacious at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Personally, I didn't mind the Google doodle but I'm so glad I don't have Gmail or whatever because it's not any of Google's business to tell me to call my Dad or whatever. If I wanted a reminder, I'd have set one up.

I lost my Dad to cancer almost 6 years ago, on my 25th birthday (he was 55, and just days away from his 56th birthday). I'm still extremely sensitive to stuff around my Dad and his death and I have to avoid talking about it or I start to get really emotional. I can't help it, that's how I feel. Last night, I had to call eBay for some technical assistance and at the end of the call, the guy said, "Be sure to wish the old man a happy Fathers' Day for me." Of course, he meant well and I just said thank you but I had finally gotten through a Fathers' Day without falling apart and then at 11PM I get this reminder that kind of upset me. Am I too sensitive? Yes, probably. But I feel what I feel and my feelings are totally valid.

Anyway, it's not like Google is out to piss people off (that would be a bad business model at the very least), but it seems pretty invasive to actually set reminders to "call Dad"; I can only imagine what victims of physical or sexual abuse from their fathers must feel. Anyway, it's not a big deal to put up a FD doodle, but they shouldn't be messing around with calendars, task lists, emails, etc.
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we dadless freaks should probably just shut up about our totally overblown and invalid feelings, get a hobby, and stop demanding such unreasonable things as a "hide" feature. Why should Google worry about alienating people like us when they have so many normal customers?
posted by oinopaponton at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The bigger story in all of this is that Google is so tightly wound with the functioning of our day-to-day lives that this sort of thing is not only noticeable, but also considered something of an intimate intrusion.

Nobody would have cared if some random company had put out a TV commercial saying "Happy Father's Day, call your dad." The real story is that people got a seemingly direct message in the same window as their email inbox, and this was realized after the fact to be a not-great decision.

(Also: does anyone remember what Google did for Mother's Day this year?)
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess it's not a slow day on Metafilter.
posted by josher71 at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think the inbox thing is the one that's problematic. Imagine if your property company put up a similar note on the inside of your apartment door after they did some routine maintenance. Yes, they own the space, and yes, they're technically operating within their rights, but part of your agreement with them is that they let you treat the place as your home, and people don't harangue me in my home unless I've invited them in to do so.
posted by invitapriore at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2011


Because everyone should bend over backwards to accommodate everyone.
And if you think gmail is private, your only kidding yourself, as they actively scan emails for ad placment. Not exactly private by definition.
posted by handbanana at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even though my dad is dead, what bothered me was not so much that this was a Father's Day message and thus reminded me of my dead father, but that Google thought I was so dopey and forgetful that I would have forgotten to call my father, were he alive, even while every single source of media is barraging me with Father's Day messages and has been for the last two weeks. I felt somewhat insulted by this "Reminder: Call Dad" thing from Google. It was weird, being nagged by Google to do something I can't possibly do.
posted by wondermouse at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Had it said "call your Mom" on Mother's Day, no one would have bitched.
posted by rahnefan at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2011


It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded.
posted by avocet at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


LOL displaced angst.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:17 PM on June 20, 2011


I lost my father 27 years ago. I'm far more offended and outraged by the constant cultural reminders (TV ads, print ads, news, TV shows, etc., etc.) of what my relationship with my father should have been (which it never was, even in my wildest dreams) than I am by Google dumping a "Reminder: call Dad" blurb in the contacts section of my gmail. The news last night was full of cutesy photos of their dads (alive and dead) sent in by station viewers. I found that intrusive, creepy, and upsetting.
posted by blucevalo at 12:17 PM on June 20, 2011


And if you think gmail is private, your only kidding yourself, as they actively scan emails for ad placment. Not exactly private by definition.

If the message had been placed in the "advertising" segment in rotation with the other AdSense ads, then we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.

What they did was place the message at the top of the contact list. It couldn't be removed or hidden without hiding the contact list. I actually use that contact list. Gmail chat is my primary IM client for both AIM and gmail contacts.

There's a reasonable historical expectation that this part of the Gmail application is private and under user control. I add and remove contacts from that list - Google leaves it alone.
posted by loquacious at 12:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe that's the disconnect here...I just can't get my head around the idea that the Google contacts list is personal space.
posted by rocket88 at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Had it said "call your Mom" on Mother's Day, no one would have bitched.

Did they do that? If not, why not?
posted by kmz at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2011


handbanana: "Because everyone should bend over backwards to accommodate everyone. "

A request that people be able to turn a notification off without losing functionality is not asking them to "bend over backwards."
posted by zarq at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use Thunderbird.

And I miss my dad.
posted by avocet at 12:20 PM on June 20, 2011


your only kidding yourself

Do you work for Google or any of its subsidiaries in any capacity? I have to ask because your reactions defy common sense, logic and sock puppet etiquette. They're actually disturbing, if you know what I mean.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:20 PM on June 20, 2011


Nope, don't work at a google, just find this outrage over a free, voluntary service a bit disturbing.
posted by handbanana at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2011


I find it hard to imagine confronting something like this and being utterly unable/unwilling to psychologically cypher it as something that a) arbitrarily doesn't apply to me (ie. the dozen and a half gmail ads I ignore every other day), or b) I can infer however I want (ie. interpret 'call' as ' "send" him a 'thinking of you/miss you'-type thought-- I do this "to" my grandparents all the time.)

In the age of Sensitivity, we all get to bitch about the world's failure to cater to our intricate emotional rider as much as we do about the hot coffee we spilled on ourselves.

And yes, it might benefit you to think of free e-mail a bit less as "personal space."
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just can't get my head around the idea that the Google contacts list is personal space

Well it's obvious that it isn't now, but before yesterday, I never saw any messages from Google in my contact list. Maybe it was naive to think that Google would never put anything there, but it was totally a reasonable thing to think based on what had been done in the past.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:23 PM on June 20, 2011


I don't think anyone disagrees that there should have been a "hide" feature, but seeing it characterized as "Another Notch in Google’s Belt Of Social Fail" strikes me as obnoxious and makes me (and I suspect others) inclined to be hostile towards the complaints even though I can sympathize with them.

Possibly much of the hostility is sourced in the "social fail" line because this misuse of the word fail bugs me. I imagine the message was a 'social success' with the vast majority of people who saw it. Though adding a hide feature would have been nice and will almost certainly be there in the future.
posted by pseudonick at 12:26 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


outrage over a free, voluntary service

Who is outraged? Really, name names or stop saying that. It's a gross misunderstanding of people's reactions here.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:26 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


People React Differently To Stimuli Due To Variations In Personality and Personal Experience, Film at 11
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:26 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


23skidoo, have you been present for the title and after the jump as well as comments? Seems like some people are taking this too personally.
posted by handbanana at 12:29 PM on June 20, 2011



Just to make it clear, the thing that was in people's Gmail Inbox Contacts List said "Reminder: Call dad."


Ahhhh ok... but I did see "call your phone", just that, nothing else. Now that I think of it, maybe because of location? Father's Day is not the same date all over the world so I guess Google's magical powers adapted to the location set in Gmail.

(That still leaves me wondering why I didn't see that on my location's Father's Day - I guess they only did it for users in the US?)
posted by bitteschoen at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2011


Seems like some people are taking this too personally.

Physician, heal thyself.
posted by red clover at 12:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experience is similar to griphus. Father's Day and Mother's Day are crappy holidays for me that involve countless dodging of "What do you plan to do for your mom?" or "Did you call your dad?" questions from acquaintances and coworkers. I know where the reminders about the day will be - grocery stores, restaurants, Facebook - so I personally shut those avenues off, stay in, and watch movies all day.

But the last place I expected to see this reminder was in my gmail account. It was kinda crappy. Not malicious, but just crappy and another reason to roll my eyes and groan inwardly. I'm not the type to make a big deal out of it, but if people are complaining about it then it means Google is unlikely to do it again next year, which is fine by me. Lots of people get hyperbolic over the internet when they get upset, and it's an unfortunately useful tool in getting a company to pay attention to your complaints.

I don't think anyone's going to be really missing out if next year Google doesn't tell you to Call Dad. It's not about sanitizing the internet, just your personal inbox.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


23skidoo, have you been present for the title and after the jump as well as comments? Seems like some people are taking this too personally.

Yep, I saw the title, and I've read all the comments. The people who are most vitriolic in this thread are the ones who want to criticize those who have a problem with this.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:35 PM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


If you're triggered by a picture of a tie, I sympathize with you personally

I was triggered. I always hated ties and I always hated these kind of holidays. My sons knew this and left me the fuck alone. Google didn't bother me, except for the tie.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:37 PM on June 20, 2011


I guess "Google makes slightly tone-deaf error in generally successful and good spirited effort and moves quickly to fix it" attracts fewer pageviews than "Another Notch in Google’s Belt Of Social Fail."
posted by pseudonick at 12:37 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: getting people to be jerks to one another online.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:38 PM on June 20, 2011


I for one am outraged that there is outrage!
posted by Ad hominem at 12:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Another Notch in Google’s Belt Of Social Fail."

People who don't read TechCrunch on a regular basis may not be familiar with their headline style that makes the NY Post look understated.

if your job is to micro-analyze google and write a couple articles a day on the subject pretty soon the tone gets of hand.
posted by GuyZero at 12:39 PM on June 20, 2011


Anyway, it's not like Google is out to piss people off (that would be a bad business model at the very least), but it seems pretty invasive to actually set reminders to "call Dad"

I understand that, I do understand why it being a reminder in the contacts list as opposed to an ad or a doodle is perceived as more invasive. So yes, despite what we may individually think about this being an overreaction or not, they did something wrong - based on the amount of annoyed and upset responses, it's a marketing faux pas. They placed it right there in connection to their service to call phones from gmail, right? So it's marketing. And with marketing, whatever your intentions, you the marketer don't get to decide what's a mishap or not, the consumers will. So based on the reactions, they did fail.

I wonder how they're going to approach it. Will they respond with an apology? Will they abandon any other similar marketing through reminders and stick to embedded ads?
posted by bitteschoen at 12:41 PM on June 20, 2011


This is not fundamentally different advice from "DON'T USE THE SERVICE IF IT UPSETS YOU," which is similarly unhelpful. Minimizing/disabling the entire chat interface removes functionality and makes the site less useful.

I guess it's going to vary by person. For me, I open up my google chat window in gmail (if I'm ever using it in the gmail window, more often than not I'm using it thru trillian on my desktop or the google chat app on my phone) only in the case where I want to send somebody a chat message quickly - my days of randomly deciding to see who is on IM and sending them a message just to chat are in the past. So having the window minimized isn't exactly breaking GChat for me. But I could see it being frustrating to the cross section of people who have to (or choose to) use GChat strictly from within GMail, for whom a "call your father" reminder on Father's Day would be offensive/painful. I'm just not one of those people (but I lost my father almost 17 years ago, so perhaps my loss isn't fresh enough).
posted by antifuse at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2011


If you've lost a father so recently that the mere fact of being reminded that it is father's day by a website is going to send you in paroxysms of grief, I feel for you, but perhaps you might want to avoid interfacing with the outside world on, you know, father's day.

It's not just on Father's Day, there are constant reminders pretty much everywhere you go for most of the month leading up. Every time you go to the grocery store, or look at a magazine stand, or see ads in a web browser you're likely to see ads about Father's Day. Are we supposed to avoid interfacing with the outside world the whole time?

My dad died 16 years ago, about a month before Father's Day. His birthday falls right between Father's Day the anniversary of his death, so every year I'm pretty blue for a month or more as each anniversary rolls around.

Sorry if I'm not mourning on your schedule.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


bitteschoen: " I wonder how they're going to approach it. Will they respond with an apology? Will they abandon any other similar marketing through reminders and stick to embedded ads?"

PC Magazine:
Google on Monday apologized for a Father's Day homepage doodle connected to a Gmail chat promotion that some felt was insensitive.

Like it did on Mother's Day, Google featured a Father's Day-themed homepage doodle, with a tie replacing the "L" in Google. Underneath the image, however, there was a Google Voice link that read "Dad. Father. Pops. No matter what you call him, call your dad from Gmail." What prompted some backlash, however, was that Google also included a "call dad" reminder within Gmail's chat window.
The apology was from one of their employees in a forum response, here:
Hi everyone,

I want to let you know that I’ve been reading your feedback in these forum threads and sharing it with the rest of the team. It was not our intent to upset anyone with this reminder, and to those who found it jarring or uncomfortable, I’d like to apologize.

I agree with what you are saying about the ability to hide the notice and the rest of the team does too. This was the first time that we ran a notice in that spot, and it ran for less than 12 hours. If we run any other notices there in the future, we plan to make them dismissable so you can easily get rid them if they don’t apply to you or if you don’t want to see them anymore.

Whether you celebrated Father’s Day or not, I hope you had a peaceful and happy weekend with your loved ones.

Best,
Sarah

posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can just see an episode of The Office written around this. David Brent attaches some kind of non-removable note to every phone in the office, telling people to call their Dads. Tim, visibly unhappy, explains to the camera about his father, but tries to brush it off with a shrug, saying he understands David meant well. David Brent going around with that grin of his, asking everyone if they have called their Dad yet, showing off what a great, human boss he is to the camera. Camera zooms out, then in, on an employee quietly crying in the corner, as someone else notices and goes over to try to comfort them. Maybe our hero Tim notices too, and puts an arm around David Brent, thinks of something clever to distract him with, and pulls him away before they reach the crying employee over their shoulders.
posted by catchingsignals at 12:51 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


People who aren't asshats found it funny and nice that Google spends so much time integrating things into the logo and whatnot.

RTFA. The point is made that nobody objects to them altering the logo because it is perceived as public [web] space. The issue was getting reminders within Gmail -- private space -- itself.

While a subtle point, I think TC is noting a dissonance at Google.
posted by dhartung at 12:52 PM on June 20, 2011


"What about the people whose fathers are very much alive, but were abusive or are otherwise estranged from them?"

I don't understand why this isn't the end of the conversation. My dad is awesome, but some dads are rapists. QED.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yes, it might benefit you to think of free e-mail a bit less as "personal space."

It's not free. Gmail is subsidized for me by advertisers in return for allowing them to show me ads based on the content of the mail/spam I receive. In return for generating profits for Google, I would appreciate that a company that goes through so much pain to hire the best and brightest to harvest our data to put a litte more effort into hiring people with, you know, personable skills rather than tie every engineer's bonus to some abstract social notion that they weren't hired to understand in the first place.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rejected Google Slogan: "If your Dad wasn't such a Motherfucker, you wouldn't exist. How about a call?"
posted by Renoroc at 12:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


That'll show'em for trying to be helpful.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Had it said "call your Mom" on Mother's Day, no one would have bitched.

I think this may win the 2011 award for "Most Incorrect Sentence on the Internet", which is a tough category to win, but really it's just an honor to be nominated.

Look, I hate Mother's Day. Mostly, I hate it because my mother was, uh, not awesome. So I'm watching TV and there's all these commercials, right? "She was always there for you. Now you can be there for her. Diamonds!" "No one will ever love you more. Tell her how much you appreciate that. Flowers!" I do not enjoy these commercials, the radio ads, the junk flyers that come into my mailbox, the casual reminders here and elsewhere, it's not a ton of fun for me.

So I get anxiety attacks, so what? No big deal to the broader world, and I certainly don't expect the world at large to give a shit about my personal situation. So I live with it, because what else is there to do?

I think Google was trying to be helpful, and I think Google did not really understand that a lot of their users have a different view of the interface than they do. When conflicting presumptions bump into each other, it usually looks a lot like this. It's not a big deal in the long run, just maybe don't insert user notes for people because they can insert their own if they want to, and maybe don't assume that everyone's playing happy families the way they are in the ads and sitcoms.

The backlash against the backlash, to me, is much more interesting. The insertion of the message clearly hurt a fair number of people in a comprehensible way. If the message had not been inserted, would there have been an equal or greater number of people who would have been wounded for its lack? Were there people who really needed that reminder and would have suffered without it? Those are genuine questions, because I don't really know, I don't make these phone calls. I suspect there isn't a significant and equivalent harm on the other side, although I could be wrong; but if I'm not, I just wonder where the reverse vitriol is coming from. Why is it so jarring to discover that other people were hurt by something that didn't hurt you? What quality of your life is impaired by that discussion? Why do you think that other people expressing their pain is directed at you? I really do want to know.
posted by Errant at 1:15 PM on June 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


Father's Day is the #1 day for collect calls in the U.S. True.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just wonder where the reverse vitriol is coming from

Let me know if you ever find out. After checking some other community sites where the story was posted, I sadly drew the conclusion that a fair amount of people have either a weird fetish for Google, which is excusable, or a weird desire to willfully disregard what it being discussed while being as insensitive as possible at the same time.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What EatTheWeak said.

And I stand by my previous comment from another thread. People are either uber-sensitive and uptight or just trying really hard to find something to complain about.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2011


I found out yesterday that when you do a Google search for LGBTQ topics, Google puts a little rainbow on the end of the search box. Which is randomly neat.
posted by msbutah at 1:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whether you celebrated Father’s Day or not, I hope you had a peaceful and happy weekend with your loved ones.

Best,
Sarah



I DON'T HAVE ANY LOVED ONES!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:28 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm finding the hostility and rage against people who were upset completely bizarre.

I wonder if a nice reminder to "go to church!" on a religious holiday would be A-Okay? If not, why not? The majority of people might like a nice note on their email interface reminding them that it's time to worship. Should they be deprived because you have a different religion or view of religion?
posted by taz at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


People are either uber-sensitive and uptight or just trying really hard to find something to complain about.

Have you, like, just been ignoring a lot of the comments in this thread? I mean, okay, maybe people are uber-sensitive. That doesn't mean that they invented their feelings because they were bored and didn't have anything else to do: that emotional response is genuine. Can't you disagree with someone while still empathizing with them?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm finding the hostility and rage against people who were upset completely bizarre.

Quoted for truth. There so much anger in this thread coming from the people who didn't see, or weren't upset, by having a personal reminder show up in their own mailbox interface, and it's all directed at the people who were upset by it. It's incomprehensible to me. Where is all of this rage coming from? What, exactly, is the real problem? Because I don't think that it's about other people being "too sensitive" (which, itself, is a problematic phrase). Something else has to be going on here, but I have no idea what it is.
posted by tzikeh at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm trying to make a conscious effort to say more often that I like the things that I like, and to skip over the opportunities to say that I don't like the things that I don't like. I encourage everyone to do likewise, because it seems to make life kinda neater.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see it as google just trying to be nice

Come on. The message was, "No matter what you call him, call your dad from gmail."

That's not "just trying to be nice." That's "just trying to sell Google." I think the Techcrunch article is very fair in pointing out how sending a message like that to users' inboxes is yet another example of Google's marketing folks allowing greed to blind them to the difference between honest and corporate online social interaction. It's a difference I'd agree most folks don't think much about - until someone like Google's marketing department gets it so obviously wrong. It's instructive that Google keeps getting it wrong in such basic ways.
posted by mediareport at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the message had not been inserted, would there have been an equal or greater number of people who would have been wounded for its lack? Were there people who really needed that reminder and would have suffered without it?

I have needed a reminder once for Mothers Day when I was living in Japan and could barely read Japanese and was off my hometown's time zone by 12 hours and most of my coworkers weren't North American. It came from someone at a pub rather than Google though. Obviously Google did not have to put the message there and no one would have been wounded by the lack of it, but the issue people are taking is that a message to "call Dad" on Father's Day is not designed to make *you specifically* upset any more than the existence of Father's Day itself is. Also many of us don't consider parts of GMail's interface to be personal space or sacred.

Why is it so jarring to discover that other people were hurt by something that didn't hurt you? What quality of your life is impaired by that discussion? Why do you think that other people expressing their pain is directed at you? I really do want to know.

How did you reach this conclusion? People are reacting to the statements in the linked article and the comments in this thread that imply or explicitly state that this was shitty or assholish of Google, and that the message was "mocking" or "rubbing it in." It was clearly none of these things. The inadvertently upset you with their message, and this was obviously not their intention. I don't think a single person anywhere has said that their lives have been impaired by people complaining about it, just that it's strange to lash out at Google for recognizing Father's Day like so many other businesses do.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong and people are making fun of you and your pain because they're big jerks.
posted by Hoopo at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2011


So, as someone who has been in therapy for the past 6 years dealing with PTSD due to spending most of my childhood with an abusive father figure (and a neglectful biological father), I noticed this yesterday and found myself completely indifferent. I think Google should have made it possible to hide the message, however I don't think they did anything wrong beyond that. But, then, I also see my Gmail inbox as being their space which they allow me to use. I suppose if I saw it as my own space, I might feel differently.

With that said, I can empathize with the people who were hurt by this, but, in my opinion, it isn't the sort of situation in which blame needs to be attributed to anyone. For example: due to childhood-abuse-related things, the smell of bleach gives me flashbacks and can almost always send me into a panic attack. My boss doesn't know this, because there really isn't any reason for him to. If he decided to clean the bathroom and floors in here with bleach, the next time I came into work, I'd almost definitely have a pretty severe panic attack. No one in that hypothetical situation would have actually done anything wrong, it's just one of those things.

So, I think they should have made the message hide-able. Beyond that, I don't think Google did anything wrong, here. Again, that's all just my opinion.

A better father's day message might be "Call a dad." My best friend had his first kid around Christmas last year, so I called him instead. I could hear a little giddiness in his voice about that.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


the issue people are taking is that a message to "call Dad" on Father's Day is not designed to make *you specifically* upset

And when people say "that's gay" or "that's retarded", they're not trying to make a specific person upset, either. Just because someone wasn't being shitty on purpose doesn't mean they weren't mean people can't still say "Hey, that was shitty".
posted by 23skidoo at 1:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The inadvertently upset you with their message, and this was obviously not their intention. I don't think a single person anywhere has said that their lives have been impaired by people complaining about it, just that it's strange to lash out at Google for recognizing Father's Day like so many other businesses do.

There's a difference between a business "recognizing father's day" and what Google did.

Let's take a restaurant, for example -- a restaurant "recognizing father's day" would simply have a sign saying "happy father's day" in the window, or maybe print "happy father's day" on the menu for the day or some such. What Google did, however, is the equivalent of asking each and every customer, as they came up to the register, "you're taking your father out for dinner tonight, right?"

I didn't notice the thing, and I wasn't bothered by it -- but that may be because my own Dad is awesome. But I do still think that the "putting a 'don't forget to call your Dad' reminder on everyone's account" was a weird intrusion, and one that had a great potential for backfiring. (What's next -- emailing its users a list of sex tips on Valentine's Day?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The inadvertently upset you with their message, and this was obviously not their intention.

Their "intention" was to use Father's Day to hype their gmail phone service. I think the point is that a company which understood social media would know that a significant percentage of its users would not appreciate that kind of direct message; they would have avoided that if they gave a shit about anything other than getting more people to use their free service so they could make money on their information in the future.

It's definitely odd, given Google's past idiotic over-reaches on social connection, that no one in a position of power had the brains to realize that there's a difference between direct "call Dad with our phone service" messages and a general "happy Father's Day!" on the Google home page. Worth talking about, for sure.
posted by mediareport at 1:54 PM on June 20, 2011


Can't you disagree with someone while still empathizing with them?

It's possible in alot of cases, but honestly I see little to empathize with. I'm not talking about the loss of a family member here, that's real and has real effects on people.

I'm talking about the creeping sense of entitlement that a product/service should be completely, perfectly suited to the person using it (that means it would have to know every user and their situation in life (read: be omniscient)) while also being, dare I say it, free to use. It's simply unrealistic to expect that. Google tried to be cute with THEIR (not your) product. I can't help but think it wasn't malicious, it may be slightly obtuse of them but who is to say that they really weren't trying to help a few people who may not have the best memory and/or relationship with their dad make a call in case they had forgotten.

Are these same, seemingly traumatized (or at least offended), people going to somehow avoid all references to Father's Day? I mean, do they also boycott/complain about GroceryStoreA because they have a display of cards out front for the upcoming holiday? It may not sound like it but that's a serious question... Google doesn't force itself into someone's life, it's a product/service that you have to opt into to benefit from and I think there are much bigger fish to fry in this world/country/state/city/community/household than getting tied into a knot about your web-based IM client having a "Call your Dad" notice or rainbows at the end of a search... or for saying "Go to Church" for that matter if they want to, people can and should vote with their feet if they don't like it.

I also vote it should have been hideable, but hiding it yourself is as easy as clicking the X at the top of your browser. And if it was advertisement fodder, it's still their little red wagon, they can push it or pull it wherever they want for better or for worse.

Full disclosure: I don't go to church either, and I do have a dad to call, but I'm lacking a grandfather that was quite close growing up.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:58 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, that's something I didn't consider: the difference between the message "Call your dad" and "Happy Father's Day". Interesting.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2011


I usually check my email on my phone, so I missed this yesterday. Which is fine; my dad's been dead since '95, and it all stings less than it used to.

Did they do this on Mother's Day? My mom died in '96, and for the first couple-three years, I basically holed up in my apartment and avoided live TV as much as possible, because it hurt like hell to know I couldn't call her. Even though we both thought it was a dumb holiday.
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on June 20, 2011


Should they be deprived because you have a different religion or view of religion?

No, but I wouldn't get angry if my ATM said "Merry Christmas" either. Or when it wished me a happy birthday, although I didn't celebrate it as such.

I think this has a lot to do, with of all things, our recent discussions about spoilers. It is a request that the world match the contours of your emotional state of being. That people should not be reminded of unpleasant things in life, even though we may not know who those people are, or even have much of a relationship with them. In some instances, most people have similar contours, as a whole, or as a group. Most people don't like epithets directed them, in general, or as part of their membership in a group.

But others seemed to be so finely determined that it would be impossible to determine whether or not a statement would offend them grievously without an intimate notion of their feelings. An example with a somewhat distance acquaintanceship:

A) Man, I need that like I need another hole in my head.
B) (Visibly hurt) My father shot himself in the head, please don't use phrase in front of me

Now, the violent death of a family member is not something actively discussed with non-close friends. In this conversation B assumed an emotional intimacy, and more importantly, knowledge about the event. And sense people's emotional contours vary greatly from person to person, triggers for traumatic events are completely unpredictable.

This is not much of a problem with 1 to 1 conversation. In the case of the above exchange, I just didn't mention their father in front of them, or holes in my head, again. But with the Internet, as was said upthread:

Its slightest clumsiness harms thousands.

If I inadvertently wished someone who just lost a father or child happy father's day, and they had a reaction, I would apologize, and file that away for future reference. If the person ranted at me for 5 minutes, and then complained to all of my friends about how horrible a person I was, it would be seen as an overreaction. Google however, it enormous in size, and these individual actions compile into a large complaint.

So why are people annoyed? A couple of reasons:

1) The assumption that the phone icon under the chat window is "personal space". The phrase is ill defined, and no one really has a good reason other than people assumed it was, although I have never heard of anyone discussing the fact that this part of the web site was personal space.

2) People are looking at the reactions of people as if Google was a singular person. As in the example of above, if I got this reaction because I asked someone if they were calling their dad on father's day, I would be surprised. But Google is a company, and the rules are different for them, arbitrarily.

3) Many of us have also had loved ones lost. It is the nature of fathers to be mourned, and to mourn. It becomes harder to have empathy on someone when their situation, at least the relevant details, mirrors your own, but their emotions don't. This doesn't excuse callousness, but it means that it becomes harder for someone to understand why it is upsetting.
posted by zabuni at 2:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Are these same, seemingly traumatized (or at least offended), people going to somehow avoid all references to Father's Day? I mean, do they also boycott/complain about GroceryStoreA because they have a display of cards out front for the upcoming holiday? It may not sound like it but that's a serious question...

Again, this is not like complaining about a grocery store having a display of father's day cards. This is like complainnig about a grocery store asking all of its employees to say, "Don't forget to get a nice card for your father!" while they're checking out your groceries.

Google doesn't force itself into someone's life, it's a product/service that you have to opt into to benefit from and I think there are much bigger fish to fry in this world/country/state/city/community/household than getting tied into a knot about your web-based IM client having a "Call your Dad" notice or rainbows at the end of a search... or for saying "Go to Church" for that matter if they want to, people can and should vote with their feet if they don't like it.

So when a product you've been using changes its formula for the worse in a way you weren't expecting them to, without warning -- say your cable TV package drops your favorite channels from the lineup and adds the "All-Day 700 Club marathon Channel" -- you'd just drop your cable service and not complain at all?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm talking about the creeping sense of entitlement that a product/service should be completely, perfectly suited to the person using it

That makes sense, but I think that your comment about people being 'uber-sensitive' wasn't aimed at this particular argument, but rather at the genuine hurt feelings that have been expressed.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2011


And when people say "that's gay" or "that's retarded", they're not trying to make a specific person upset, either. Just because someone wasn't being shitty on purpose doesn't mean they weren't mean people can't still say "Hey, that was shitty".

Or maybe it's not someone being shitty at all. Saying "Don't forget to call your father" on Father's Day is not tantamount to using the words "gay" or "retarded" to denigrate something. On top of it all, they appear to be apologetic about it and are willing to implement the suggestion to make it so you can hide these messages in the future.

EmpressCallipygos, I'm not actually seeing much of a distinction there. Why would a restaurant advertise "Happy Fathers Day" if not to get business? Plenty of businesses tell you to "buy so-and-so for Dad this Father's Day" or to send a card to Whoever on Whoever Day.

Their "intention" was to use Father's Day to hype their gmail phone service

Yes. And they are not the only business using father's day to hype their product or service.
posted by Hoopo at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, this is not like complaining about a grocery store having a display of father's day cards. This is like complainig about a grocery store asking all of its employees to say, "Don't forget to get a nice card for your father!" while they're checking out your groceries.

Funny how so many people above seem to be ignoring this part.
posted by mediareport at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


but who is to say that they really weren't trying to help a few people

I am. They were promoting their services. There is no intent to be helpful when trying to gain market share.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:08 PM on June 20, 2011


EmpressCallipygos, I'm not actually seeing much of a distinction there. Why would a restaurant advertise "Happy Fathers Day" if not to get business? Plenty of businesses tell you to "buy so-and-so for Dad this Father's Day" or to send a card to Whoever on Whoever Day.

The distinction is between having them post an ad somewhere impartial that says "don't forget to get a card for your father" and having an actual person saying that directly to a customer's face, one-on-one. Its...directness is more what I'm getting at as being the cause of the rancor. Because you can ignore or throw away an ad if you don't want to see it, but...if someone is speaking to you, you can't retroactively jam your fingers in your ears and go "LALALALALALA" or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2011


I bet they don't send any reminder messages NEXT year.

So you folks who need a little nudge, better remember to write something on your calendar.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have needed a reminder once for Mothers Day when I was living in Japan and could barely read Japanese and was off my hometown's time zone by 12 hours and most of my coworkers weren't North American. It came from someone at a pub rather than Google though.

Sure, and I think this is an interesting point. I'm sure that in your own life, you know people who whom a "call Mom or Dad" message would be well-received and people for whom it wouldn't be. You know that because you have a much more detailed level of information about the people to whom you would be speaking than Google does or could, and when you receive or provide those reminders they are specifically targeted. It doesn't seem strange to me that Google would receive some negative feedback on applying specific messages to a general audience.

Obviously Google did not have to put the message there and no one would have been wounded by the lack of it, but the issue people are taking is that a message to "call Dad" on Father's Day is not designed to make *you specifically* upset any more than the existence of Father's Day itself is.

Of course it's not designed to make me or anyone else specifically upset. I haven't found that people are arguing that Google specifically tried to piss them off and are now happy about having done so, although maybe you have in which case I'll appreciate the education. But just because something isn't designed to make someone upset doesn't mean it couldn't have or didn't have, and it doesn't mean it shouldn't have either. Intent is important, but so is consequence and effect.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong and people are making fun of you and your pain because they're big jerks.


So, for the record, I didn't even know about this until today. I was not personally affected by the message, nor need I have been to comprehend why other people were. Also, this is a ridiculous and gross mischaracterization of what is a pretty simple argument, which I guess was my main point: why is there such an impetus to deride the people who are complaining about this as weak, feeble, and kind of pathetic?

The message appears to be: hey, fuck you, the world is not set up for your convenience. Which is, you know, true and fair enough. I just wonder why those saying so think the world should be so set up for their convenience that they have the moral high ground to reduce other people to impotent caricature for disliking an ad. Here's a few quotes from this thread:

Not everyone in the world is supposed to be sympathetic to your losses or join your pity party. Lighten the hell up.

Bunch of whiners.

People who aren't asshats found it funny and nice that Google spends so much time integrating things into the logo and whatnot.

People are either uber-sensitive and uptight or just trying really hard to find something to complain about.


So, people who complain are whiners, asshats, either uber-sensitive and uptight or seeking reasons to whine, and they need to lighten up. That doesn't seem like a fairly significant amount of vitriol to you? And for what, saying bad things about Google?

How much of this reaction is coming from the perspective of the tough against the soft, the strong against the weak? How desperately do people need to appear to be better than their neighbor?
posted by Errant at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Saying "Don't forget to call your father" on Father's Day is not tantamount to using the words "gay" or "retarded" to denigrate something.

Re-read my reason for comparing the phrases. My point was that it doesn't matter if the person who says something didn't mean to offend. "But I didn't mean it like that" is a shitty excuse for "that's gay", and it's a shitty excuse for seeing "Reminder: Call dad" in your gchat window.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And for what, saying bad things about Google?


Nope, for wanting the Burger King "Have it your way!" experience for free and automatically.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:25 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google doesn't force itself into someone's life, it's a product/service that you have to opt into to benefit from and I think there are much bigger fish to fry in this world/country/state/city/community/household than getting tied into a knot about your web-based IM client having a "Call your Dad" notice or rainbows at the end of a search... or for saying "Go to Church" for that matter if they want to, people can and should vote with their feet if they don't like it.

Screw that. People don't have to vote with their feet, they can vote by saying "Hey Google, this sucked" and then Google can decide if they want to change it or not.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is like complainig about a grocery store asking all of its employees to say, "Don't forget to get a nice card for your father!" while they're checking out your groceries.


having an actual person saying that directly to a customer's face, one-on-one. Its...directness is more what I'm getting at as being the cause of the rancor.



"But I didn't mean it like that" is a shitty excuse for "that's gay", and it's a shitty excuse for seeing "Reminder: Call dad" in your gchat window

I'm sorry, I can't possibly respond to all of these but I don't think that a company that offers some kind of phone service saying "Call Dad" on Father's Day is particularly insensitive or malicious and I find these many analogies to be poor at best.

Errant, I apologize--I was using the general "you," and I did not mean "Errant" specifically. I expressed that poorly.
posted by Hoopo at 2:30 PM on June 20, 2011


Nope, for wanting the Burger King "Have it your way!" experience for free and automatically.

If you were allergic to mushrooms and you ordered a Whopper which normally doesn't come with mushrooms, would you just eat it? Would you throw it away and say "Hey, I guess they're well within their rights to start adding mushrooms to the Whopper without telling anyone"? Or would you complain and see if you could make it so that mushrooms were optional in the future?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:32 PM on June 20, 2011


Hmm. Interesting response to this. I noticed the note and thought it was cute--kinda reminded me of my mother's lightly annoying, sing-songy voicemails, in which she nags, "Call your MO-ther!"

I 'lost' my dad at 8. Our relationship was complicated--he went kind of crazy first, and I remember him as this lurking, depressed person sleeping on our sofa for much of my life. For a long time, I identified strongly as "the girl with the dead dad." At 8, it feels like such an unusual thing, something that really marks you. I had other father figures--my pop-pop, a close friend of my mother who gave me art lessons. But I lost the latter at 15, the former at 19. Both were sad things.

But it's funny, even as a kid, I always thought that loss was so idiosyncratic in its specificity, so private, that I never really knew how to treat those generic statements of grief. I'd be fifteen or sixteen or twenty-four, and someone would find out about my dead dad and they'd apologize and look at me meaningfully. But it's such a personal thing--and also such a normal thing for me. I mean, it's my life. I'd be a different person without it.

That's one thing that's odd about our culture, how grief like that, trauma, is never really quite normalized. And we all have some of it, don't we? Something in our past, to varying degrees, which has hurt us. Sometimes I wish those things were more okay to talk about. I don't much "celebrate" Father's Day, though there are times I've shared it with my husband's father (that was nice). But I do like to use it as a time to kind of think about how these men shaped me, for better or for worse. Maybe we need days to remember people we lost, too. After all, it's something that's pretty damned universal. No one is every the only person to face grief. You're alive; that means you had a father at one point, or at least a sperm donor. And if you're alive, someday you're going to have to face life without them. So it goes, I guess.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:35 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I can't possibly respond to all of these but I don't think that a company that offers some kind of phone service saying "Call Dad" on Father's Day is particularly insensitive or malicious and I find these many analogies to be poor at best.

Your misunderstanding my point if you think I am trying to say that Google was being malicious. I am not saying that.

I am saying this: The fact that Google was not trying to offend people should not give them a free pass wherein they do not have to consider whether what they did was a good decision or not. It does not matter that they were not trying to offend people.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:36 PM on June 20, 2011


Errant, I apologize--I was using the general "you," and I did not mean "Errant" specifically. I expressed that poorly.

No worries, apology accepted.
posted by Errant at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2011


(What's next -- emailing its users a list of sex tips on Valentine's Day?)

Ah... I was hoping on twitter there was already a hashtag for all the most surreal reminders Google could be sending out on different occasions, but no, it's all just commentary and links to the articles. It's serious enough no one has even come up with a parody?
posted by bitteschoen at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2011


For the record the message didn't ruin my day or anything. I just went "bleh" and ignored it and wasn't really at my computer much for most of the day anyway. I'm not so annoyed that I want to write a letter to Google or anything. It was ignorable enough that I wasn't really going to mention anything about it until this thread.

Most of the energy in my reactions here is in response to people saying more or less "quit your whining, it's totally invalid" and that's not ok. I'm trying to point out why it's not ok, and the depths at which this message from Google could be a problem for a whole lot of different people who didn't have the best dads - or at best have lost dads that they loved.

But to reiterate and try to better describe why it was a problem where this message was places is because it's where official system messages go, like "user123 is trying to send you a message. Accept? y/n" or "we're having connection difficulties" and that sort of thing.

So it could be read as an official system message. Like someone's dad was trying to contact them, or that there was the risk of accidentally initiating a call to someone that they didn't really want to talk to. Can you see what I'm getting at? I'm really tech-savvy and for a split second I thought that "dad" was trying to contact me.

This is different than walking past displays of gifts or greeting cards or all those usual reminders. This one looked like an official system message.

I can see why people would be really bent out of shape about it. I'm not personally one of them. After the split second of realizing it wasn't actually a system message my thought process went "Eh, no. But I bet I'm going to hear about this later, because that's kind of shitty."
posted by loquacious at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


23skidoo, I happen to agree with those who are saying that Google did nothing wrong here. People can be offended by something without someone having done something wrong to them. I'd wager there are employees at Google who have had difficult relationships with their fathers too. This incident doesn't seem to have been a concern for many people with similar situations on Metafilter who received the message, but it's a question of one's particular sensibilities. At any rate, Google seems to have realized its actions upset some of its customers and it sounds like it is now trying to implement something where you can opt out of the messages in the future or close them or whatever. What you're saying seems kind of redundant considering the company's response. And they certainly have not received a "free pass" from everyone based on this thread, but they do get one from me this time because I can't see how this was wrong of them.
posted by Hoopo at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]



Most of the energy in my reactions here is in response to people saying more or less "quit your whining, it's totally invalid" and that's not ok. I'm trying to point out why it's not ok, and the depths at which this message from Google could be a problem for a whole lot of different people who didn't have the best dads - or at best have lost dads that they loved.


This.

And man, why are we so threatened by other people's feelings and the assumed appropriateness of those feelings? They're just feelings, feelings happen, they are almost always totally okay, no matter what they are. (Yes, I said almost always, so we can skip the part where we think of feelings that are not okay.) And no matter what they are, they are also deeply personal, and we aren't really all that fit to pass judgment on others' feelings. Even if you don't think Google did anything "wrong," do you really need to judge others' reactions either way?
posted by liketitanic at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


People bitch and moan all the time about changes in practices on free sites/services; it's practically a sport on Metafilter. I don't think this is why people are so GRRRRRR angry at people who were bothered. I think that for whatever reason, it's because it has to do with emotions instead of say, some aspect of functionality. If Google has made a choice to change Gmail in a way that affected usage in a way that a lot of people didn't like, I don't think we'd have a thread filled with chiding and scolding that Gmail is free so just STFU. I think that there would be a lot of over-the-top angry reactive comments.

I've noticed this with a lot of issues... if the question has to anything to do emotional reactions, the people who disagree get very, very angry, and accuse complainers of entitlement and special-snowflake status, but if it's something that affects they themselves in any functional way (or if it's about religion), then they feel entitled to their entitlement... presumably because it's about how they want to use something, instead of how they feel about something.
posted by taz at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This incident doesn't seem to have been a concern for many people with similar situations on Metafilter who received the message

But it's not about any one person's personal reaction to it, it's about making an unnecessary business decision that affects a whole bunch of people who react to things a whole bunch of different ways. If it didn't bother you, that's great. If it didn't bother a LOT of people, then awesome. I can understand their viewpoint. But there isn't just one way to interpret what Google did, and whether it's right or wrong to do what they did, it sure seems obvious that it would piss a bunch of people off, for one reason or another.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:13 PM on June 20, 2011


i'm kind of over 'fail' being used as a noun.

How about we replace it with a Don Martin-style onomatopoeia?

FLEEN!

BLART!

WEEEEEERZZZZTTT!

Any of those are suitable.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The distinction is between having them post an ad somewhere impartial that says "don't forget to get a card for your father" and having an actual person saying that directly to a customer's face, one-on-one

I went to my grocery store yesterday (Father's Day) and the woman behind the register did in fact ask me, face-to-face, "So, doing anything special for Dad today?" If someone HAD said to a victim of abuse, in person, what the woman at my grocery store said to me, I think the response here on Mefi would be much more supportive of the victim. You can't logout IRL.

The annoyance over angry Google users' reaction to this, I think, comes more from a general feeling that it's counter-productive to take anything on the internet than from an actual lack of empathy over real suffering. I felt that way before reading what loquacious wrote. But then, I didn't get the whole 'OMG he should resign' sentiment surrounding Weiner after his tweets came to light. There's penises all over the internet; when I saw the original pic I remember thinking that at least his was covered by a layer of clothing.

I understand about triggers. There's a scent that brings me back to the time when I was hospitalized, I ran to the bathroom and hid after a graphic scene in a movie brought back my own rape. But words in a Google chat list serving as a trigger never even occurred to me. I imagine it didn't to Google, either. Their response, once it was brought to their attention, seemed appropriate.

Metafilter: penises all over the internet.
posted by misha at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2011


A bit misguided by Google, but it seems like anyone that upset over Call Dad would be pretty upset with the whole holiday.
Are people confused about what Google did here? They put a 'reminder' in people's Google calendars. If someone's father just passed away it could be kind of painful to see. Much more so then a simple mention of "father's day" or the google logo they did. It looks like something people would have inserted themselves.

There is a huge difference between talking about "dads" in general and telling people that they, specifically, should call their specific father.

The people who are just saying people should "Suck it up!" and not be bothered with it seem to lack empathy. Yes, random things actually can cause bad feelings in people. It doesn't mean those people are somehow weak and broken and we should just ignore them. It's all great that you can be super-stoic but I don't really get the antipathy for people who aren't.

---

It's amazing how people are able to form opinions about things without apparently even bothering to understand the most basic facts, gleanable in about five seconds. Think about how many political opinions are formed by people who don't have any interest in understanding what's even going on?
Wow are people incredibly uncharitable with their assumtions as to Google's motivations.
How so? I haven't seen any posts discussing their motivations, I assume they just thought it would be 'fun'
Seriously, there's lots of stuff on the internet that is of no interest to me. I don't care about children's toys, I don't plan on going back to school, I am not interested in that diet pill that will make me lose 20 pounds in a week, and I am not interested in cats. I see stuff about all of these things and more.
Adblock.
Where I differ is in thinking that this was a mistake born of minor insensitivity and lack of forethought rather than some kind of imagined malice
OMG NO ONE IS SAYING THAT.
What I don't understand is the idea that Google (or anyone else) is being insensitive by celebrating Father's Day.
OMG NO ONE IS SAYING THAT. The issue is the 'reminder' telling people, specifically, to call their fathers.
posted by delmoi at 3:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I have one dead biological dad and an alive stepdad who walked out on my jobless mom about 6 months ago and left me to be financially responsible for her. I had a little macabre laugh to myself about the thing on Google and whether they had invented a way to call dead people and people I don't even want to talk to, and then I moved the fuck on with my life, like I do every other regular day, because there's just no point in sitting and wasting my energy being upset about Google being stupid or life being unfair.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, they should read through your email and browsing history to determine if you have a living father, and automatically call him for you and play a recorded message.
I wonder how long it's going to be before people have personal bots setup to do all their socializing. A bot would send a software-generated message to your friends, and their bots would analyze it and respond. You'd just get a synopsis of what the bot thinks is important. You break up with your girlfriend and a couple days your bot schedules a meeting with a compatible partner -- with everything having been worked out by her software. All social contact could be mediated. We'd all just blindly show up where our cellphone tells us to be. It would be similar to the lives of celebrities or the very rich, who have their 'people' handle all those details.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 PM on June 20, 2011



If someone HAD said to a victim of abuse, in person, what the woman at my grocery store said to me, I think the response here on Mefi would be much more supportive of the victim


It's small talk though, that would be an unfortunate situation, but it's not personal and it happens all the time. My wife lost her father 5 years back and she doesn't much care for father's day. I'm not going to walk on eggshells around her though and sneak off to call my dad secretly.

My wife did this to a cashier earlier this year, asked her about her Thanksgiving plans. She said "Actually I don't really get along with my family so I'm just going to go home after work and get a pizza." Was it shitty of my wife to ask about someone's Thanksgiving plans while making small talk? I don't think so.

I think this is where some of the reactions are coming from. It's easy to inadvertently step on someone's toes with seemingly innocuous remarks. If Google saying this to people is shitty, is it shitty when other people do it? Am I also rubbing peoples' face in it, or mocking them? If after such a situation occurred and someone told me "that was a shitty thing to do" or "it's like all you people asking about Thanksgiving are mocking me and rubbing my face in it," I would think they're over-reacting.

Are people confused about what Google did here? They put a 'reminder' in people's Google calendars

Probably. I've been on Gmail since forever but I don't use these features. My impression from the articles was that it was in some kind of chat roster thingamajig rather than a calendar, but I don't really expect much from a free service in terms of stuff like this.

I just opened Gmail and the ad at the top was for a military school for "underachieving boys." Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, wait a minute....what is that supposed to mean? Fuck you, Google!
posted by Hoopo at 3:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


II've been on Gmail since forever but I don't use these features. My impression from the articles was that it was in some kind of chat roster thingamajig rather than a calendar

Wait, so you don't even use gchat? Really, why does it matter to you what other people think who actually USE gchat, then?
posted by 23skidoo at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2011


Please, please, please get over it. I know that maybe you have a SAD DAD STORY and that's awful and I;m sorry it happened to you, but 95% of the population doesn't, special snowflake, etc.

Next year, maybe you can check a box in your profile as to whether you've been abused/abandoned etc. and you won't get the message. The inability of people to look outside their personal experience really drives me bonkers.
posted by GilloD at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Emotional responses are not the only kind of valid responses... but they are valid responses.

And also, marketing is ALL about people's emotional responses. The fact that no one at Google foresaw and prevented this reaction really is a failure on their part.
posted by hermitosis at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


he fact that no one at Google foresaw and prevented this reaction really is a failure on their part.

Okay, but you could literally do that with ANYTHING. "Happy Godzilla Day!". Well, hey now, I was molested during a showing of Godzilla. How dare they!

It's a rabbit hole, man.
posted by GilloD at 4:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Please, please, please get over it. I know that maybe you have a SAD DAD STORY and that's awful and I;m sorry it happened to you, but 95% of the population doesn't, special snowflake, etc.

Next year, maybe you can check a box in your profile as to whether you've been abused/abandoned etc. and you won't get the message. The inability of people to look outside their personal experience really drives me bonkers.


I have really bad news for you: most people outlive their parents, and so most people are going to have a sad dad story at some point in their lives. But can I get a quote on this 95% statistic?

Also, saying "get over it" is a very clear indicator that you have no ability to look outside your own personal experience. I wonder how you have managed to avoid driving yourself bonkers.
posted by Errant at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


My initial response to seeing that line in my gmail was, "Damn Google, I wasn't going to give you guys my cell number but I am totally reconsidering now that I know Google Voice can call beyond the grave."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, so you don't even use gchat? Really, why does it matter to you what other people think who actually USE gchat, then?

Oh FFS man, it's there on the side of my gmail interface too along with all my contacts, I just don't sign in, and why in the hell would you have to use gchat to have an opinion on this anyway? Fuckin hell
posted by Hoopo at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011


Okay, but you could literally do that with ANYTHING. "Happy Godzilla Day!". Well, hey now, I was molested during a showing of Godzilla. How dare they!

Actually that is really not the same thing at all. I'm sorry you don't see that.

I'm not even someone who felt actual pain -- I saw the alert and thought, "Wow, I can immediately see how that was a bad idea." And I was also irritated because I had never seen any sort of ad or message in that area before, so I though, "Great, there's one more place where I will have to periodically tune out useless nonsense." Sort of like when in-video YouTube ads first started.
posted by hermitosis at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, but you could literally do that with ANYTHING. "Happy Godzilla Day!". Well, hey now, I was molested during a showing of Godzilla. How dare they!

If people will complain about ANYTHING, then provide evidence that people complained about what google did for Mother's Day, or for the lunar eclipse, or for Les Paul's 96th birthday. I'm not kidding, I'm being completely serious.

If people will complain about anything, it should be no problem for you to find lots of complains about each of those things that google did. If you can't, then you're going to have to admit you're wrong that people complain about ANYTHING.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just don't sign in, and why in the hell would you have to use gchat to have an opinion on this anyway?

No, have an opinion, by all means, but if you don't even use gchat, this doesn't affect you in any way whatsoever.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:19 PM on June 20, 2011


I get offended when dates are all fucked up and back-to-front (month first, SERIOUSLY?).
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


WTF is your point, 23skidoo? I use services from Google including gmail and somehow got opted-in to gchat at some point and rarely use it. Is this discussion only open to people who regularly use gchat? Do I have to have received the ad personally? There's no room for other people here to discuss whether Google putting a "call dad" reminder is insensitive or inappropriate?
posted by Hoopo at 4:36 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know why you're inferring all of that. I'm just suggesting that by not using gchat, you don't understand a key aspect of why this could be bothersome to someone who uses gchat. I really don't care what parts of gmail you do or do use, but if don't use a thing, you're not going to understand why something is/isn't bothersome about it in the same way that someone who DOES use the thing will understand. I don't there's anything all that shocking about that at all.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2011


The funny thing is that it wasn't that big a deal. The thread in the help forum apparently started with an enquiry that was polite and complimentary about aspects of Google's services. The entire thread is two pages -- the average Metatalk thread is longer than that. Skimming through, half of the comments seem to be people ridiculing the ones who were affected. So that is not many people. And as far as I can see, none of them are threatening to quit Google or anything. Not one. Google got the message and responded pretty quickly, apologised and agreed to do things differently next time.

The rest of what little reaction there was seems to be from people enjoying noting that Google fucked up again, because a company of that size with so many people and so much talent can't seem to get social right, and Google Buzz and Google Wave lol. And Techcrunch is just Techcrunch.

But:

Do these people flip out whenever the word "dad" is mentioned?

No, of course not.

Do they punch out the cashier who says "have a nice day" when they are not having a nice day?

No, of course not.

Have we gotten to the point of every complaint, no matter how personal, has to be blow up to public scale so everyone can read about your loss/tragedy/bereavement?

It's a help forum dude.


IT'S
NOT
REAL
LIFE


But it is, you see. You remember how angry people got over favourites? You think favourites mean more than people's relationships with their parents?

But look at the number of times people here had to explain that nobody assumed Google were being malicious or had ill-intent, that people were fine with Google celebrating Father's Day, but just not with telling them to call their Dad in their inbox/chat/phone section and not letting people remove the damn thing. They were just ignored, again and again, because we already have our own narrative in mind, thanks very much: people whine too much, are always looking to be offended, to complain about life being unfair. This is just another batch of these people, weak and full of complaints over irrelevant shit, unlike me.

It is a bit like the War on Christmas. Christmas is everywhere, and people who don't celebrate Christmas already live with it, are surrounded by it, adjust themselves to it every year over the entire period and try not to get in the way of anyone else's happiness -- but you try to say it might be nice or more inclusive to say Happy Holidays, to do this one small thing for them, to help them not feel excluded... and man, it's war.

It's not actually "the offended" who are blowing things out of proportion, y'know.
My wife did this to a cashier earlier this year, asked her about her Thanksgiving plans. She said "Actually I don't really get along with my family so I'm just going to go home after work and get a pizza." Was it shitty of my wife to ask about someone's Thanksgiving plans while making small talk? I don't think so.
Did your wife tell the cashier to call her family? Write it on a post-it and stick it on her phone? Where she can see but can't remove it until the end of the day?

It's like none of you are willing to give people who may be hurting enough benefit of the doubt to even understand what you are ridiculing before you get your kicks in.

Let's look at the cost/benefit as Errant has done:

Benefit: all the people who are hurting, who don't have a Dad, who misses their Dad desperately or are wracked with guilt already over having to cut off or keep their Dad at a distance for their mental health, sanity or safety (I assure you there are more of them than some of you seem to think), they hurt a little less. There is a little less hurt in the world.
Cost: to Google, nothing. A little less advertising for the phone function maybe? To people who want to celebrate Father's Day, what, all the promotions in all the shops for the two weeks before the day, online and off-, all the promotional emails and letters and junk mail not enough for you? Still need another reminder? And you weigh that against all the hurt it brings up for people, and you say Nope, my reminder is more important, and it has to be right there, in the phone and chat for everyone?

And you say they are entitled?
The inability of people to look outside their personal experience really drives me bonkers.
LOL I know right?
posted by catchingsignals at 4:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


Huh I saw it and thought, "hey its nice to have a reminder there." I can see where people might not like this and might think its intrusive but I liked it. I think that Google should keep it but have it set "off" as defualt and be turned on through the settings like how you can with "My Clips."
posted by lilkeith07 at 5:52 PM on June 20, 2011


I'm sure no one will have a problem when Google adds a task to everyone's calendar saying "kiss my spouse" on Valentine's Day and "hug my child" on ... Child Huggery Day.
posted by zippy at 6:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My wife did this to a cashier earlier this year, asked her about her Thanksgiving plans. She said "Actually I don't really get along with my family so I'm just going to go home after work and get a pizza." Was it shitty of my wife to ask about someone's Thanksgiving plans while making small talk? I don't think so.

Yes, but google wasn't asking people if they were going to call their dads, they were just telling people to do it
Next year, maybe you can check a box in your profile as to whether you've been abused/abandoned etc. and you won't get the message. The inability of people to look outside their personal experience really drives me bonkers.
Uh, it sounds like that's exactly what you're doing. Also why "please, please, please" I don't understand why you're bothered by people being bothered. That's even weirder then being bothered by it in the first place.
Sort of like when in-video YouTube ads first started.
Get adblock. Seriously. The web is sooo much better.
posted by delmoi at 6:19 PM on June 20, 2011


Google didn't tell me to call my Dad, who has been dead for 35 years. It's like wishing someone Happy Holidays and they get into tizz about Christmas, or how they don't celebrate because it's too profit-centered, or Hannukah isn't the same thing, or whatever.

Hello, we provide you a nifty free service (that allows us to make a nifty profit). So, somebody on our team decided to sling in a reminder that Dads are nifty, call yours if you have one to call. OMG, the horror.

I miss my Dad. I wish he could have met my son. I wish he'd been there for a lot of milestones. We've missed 35 Father's Days. If you have a Dad or 2 to call, I hope you called him/them. I don't feel bad that you have your Dad, and a reminder that calling your living Dad is nice does not harm me. Enough with the special snowflakes who can't bear to hear about someone else's happiness. Srsly. Happy Father's Day, all y'all who are Dads, and Happy Having a Father Day, if you have one.
posted by theora55 at 6:34 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That bummed me out a little all day, that day.

It was precisely the "call your father" order. "Happy Father's Day" would have been nice! But I immediately said what I'm sure a lot of other people did ,"I'd call him if I could, don't tell me to do things that I only wish were possible."

I looked at this thread... but... I'm not going to get into this. Suffice it to say that seeing this made me a little sad all day. Life is sad enough without a sad mail client. Happy Father's Day is not sad.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:43 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about the special fucking snowflakes who can't pass up an opportunity to sneer at someone who says Oh, hey, this is a sore spot for a lot of people?

Some people are not bothered by Google's reminder. Some people are. I really don't get the need that some unbothered people seem to have to be dismissive and insulting to those who were bothered.
posted by rtha at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Enough with the special snowflakes who can't bear to hear about someone else's happiness.

Is your reaction (or lack thereof) somehow so empirically valid that it should completely negate others'?
posted by hermitosis at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw that yesterday and thought "hey, I'm glad google always has these reminders!".

Father's day is MUCH less promoted than mother's day... I noticed as I almost forgot to buy and mail a card. (But I'm off the hook anyway with the postal strike in canada!)
Everything is painful for someone, mother's day, valentine's day, xmas, birthdays, and so on...but we as a culture celebrate these things bc they also bring large amounts of people happiness (and I guess a lot of money to hallmark and whoever). I don't want google to stop changing things up on occasion, I like their designs and creativity. The days they have something up are a little more interesting. (I also think the whole imbalance between father's day and mother's day and sensitivity about each is interesting...but that's another whole can of worms).
posted by bquarters at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


People weren't complaining about the Google doodle. The were complaining about the "call you dad" reminder (with phone number, if you had one for him) you saw if you were logged in to mail/chat.
posted by rtha at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


we as a culture celebrate these things bc they also bring large amounts of people happiness

As we should. There's nothing wrong with wishing people "Happy Father's Day" because it's fairly understood as an exclamation that celebrates the day in general, without getting into the specifics of people's personal lives. People don't go around saying "Reminder: Call dad" to each other on Father's Day because it's too specific. You're opening up a can of worms there. Keep saying and celebrating Father's Day, just don't try and tell me that that is what one is doing when they say "Reminder: call dad." It's like saying "Remember, Jesus died for your sins" instead of "Happy Easter".
posted by 23skidoo at 7:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


People don't go around saying "Reminder: Call dad" to each other on Father's Day because it's too specific.

Really? My friends do, but maybe we're all just a bunch of slackers who lose track of dates.

My father is hearty and hale, but my mother passed away suddenly just over three years ago. The lead-in to Mother's Day each year is absolutely grody as every possible marketing venue shouts at me about just how very irreplaceable our moms are. However, if I logged on to Gmail on Mother's Day and saw a similar note, I would think to myself, "Fucking right, call your mom. I wish I could. Do it now."

Actually, thinking about it, I totally make blanket statements to people that they should call/write/hug their mom and dad as much as possible, because you never know when you won't be able to anymore. So I guess, for what it's worth, I didn't mind the reminder.
posted by jess at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really? My friends do, but maybe we're all just a bunch of slackers who lose track of dates.

You're right, let me be more specific. People don't go around saying "Reminder: call dad" to strangers and expect them to know they mean "Happy Father's Day".
posted by 23skidoo at 7:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see a parallel between this and Microsoft Office's eager paperclip, who was only trying to help ("It looks like you're writing a letter...") but was universally disliked because it's not the computer's place to tell me how to write a letter, or to remember to call Dad. Just another hint that Google is slowly turning into Microsoft.
posted by pguertin at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


30 or so years ago, South Central Bell did a commercial with Bear Bryant, which ended with him saying, "Have you phoned your momma? I sure wish I could call mine."

Back then, there was this huge positive outpouring towards that commercial. I'm just imagining how it'd get covered now.

Dad died 17 years ago. There was a 10 year gap there between when he died and I became a father where I could give a rip about Father's Day. Even now, I don't really care all that much about it.

I can understand and respect the feelings of someone whose relationship with their father is or was poor or whose father (or whomever they considered a father) died in the weeks or months or years before that ill-thought Gmail message.

At the same time, I do think as a society we get our hackles up about any corporate or personal message that's in the slightest way off-putting, and it's almost like we play this game of Let's Make Them Crawl Across The Carpet.

It feels like we've forgotten the meaning of grace, that every one of us does stupid shit that we need to apologize for all the time.

But I think it's possible to hold both thoughts. Google was wrong-footed and offensive with their little message. And yet, all of us are from time to time, so maybe we should cut them a little slack.
posted by dw at 7:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bear Bryant is awesome. That is all.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is where some of the reactions are coming from. It's easy to inadvertently step on someone's toes with seemingly innocuous remarks. If Google saying this to people is shitty, is it shitty when other people do it? Am I also rubbing peoples' face in it, or mocking them?

I think we're all talking past each other.

* Google is like the person who stepped on someone's toes with a seemingly innocuous remark.
* There are people who are saying their toes are being stepped on.
* But THEN you have people saying "oh my god, what's the big deal that someone stepped on your toes??"
* And THEN you have people in here saying "what, someone can't complain their toes were stepped on? Sheesh!"
* Meanwhile, the actual people directly involved -- the person who accidentally stepped on a toe, and the person who got stepped on -- have made up, because Google apologized.

....And as for "but no one is saying that the people can't complain," I give you this:

Please, please, please get over it. I know that maybe you have a SAD DAD STORY and that's awful and I;m sorry it happened to you, but 95% of the population doesn't, special snowflake, etc.

Gillod, you say that "the inability of people to look beyond their personal experience" bothers you. I find it puzzling that you are yourself unable to look beyond your own personal experience and try to understand why some people may be upset by something you personally find innocuous.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I just want to say, if you are reading this and turning over in your head for the ten-thousandth time whether you should try again to force down that fear of your parents that has been there in every fibre of your being since your were a child and push it deep down enough so that you can try with your parents again despite all the times it made things worse because people like theora55 and jess say you should and it's fucking with your head, I just want you to know that it is not your fault. If your parents make you feel desperate, it is not your fault, and you should not call them or contact them unless you feel you can do so without damaging your mental health or the life you have built or are building away from them. People like theora55 and jess don't appear to know or give a shit, but some of us do. We know the horrific things some parents are capable of doing to their children, and we know that our lives are not your lives and even if we managed to reconcile with our parents it does not mean you could or should, and we know that however clear you may feel at times about your decision and however much others assure you it is the right decision, for some of you it never goes away, and you turn it over and over for the rest of your damn life, and stuff like what theora55 and jess say fucks with your head and starts it again. But that is not your fault, and if you don't reconcile before they die it is a sadness but it is not your fault, because nobody should think of their parents and feel terror. Feel free to memail, if you could do with someone to talk to.
posted by catchingsignals at 9:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


or for Les Paul's 96th birthday

It was clever, until the guy in the office next to mine spent all day playing with it.
posted by aaronetc at 9:52 PM on June 20, 2011


I'm losing you at step 3, Empress.

That's when I look at the linked article and see "rubbing my face in it" and "incredibly mocking," and the third comment into the thread says it was "shitty" of Google. The "Call Dad" reminder message being 'incredibly mocking' and resulting in your computer 'rubbing your face in it' carries certain implications, as does the idea that Google did something "shitty" by sending a Father's Day advertisement for their Calling service.

That's when people start saying "hang on, what's the big deal if Google says 'Call Dad' on Father's Day amidst a tidal wave of Fathers Day shit that's been going on in every business with male clientele for weeks?" THEN there's "hey, yeah, fuck your toes!"

Now its started to get ugly and there's disagreements over whether it's insensitive or inappropriate or an invasion of privacy or violation of trust or something for them to put this message in peoples' gmail/gchat/calendar/somethingsomething for the first time and whether it comes off as a personal directive aimed specifically at you, and then bad analogies start flying and it even gets uglier and somewhere along the line it apparently turned into 2 monolithic sides with one being people who don't give a fuck about your pain and think that you should just get over it and suck it up already.

But yes, in a previous comment I made earlier in this trainwreck we kind of meet up again at step 5.
posted by Hoopo at 10:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


pguertin writes "I see a parallel between this and Microsoft Office's eager paperclip, who was only trying to help ('It looks like you're writing a letter...') but was universally disliked because it's not the computer's place to tell me how to write a letter, or to remember to call Dad."

Clippy was a bad idea because it was relentless and annoying, this thing from google lasted 12 hours. I realize that many internet users barely have the attention span to compose a twit but 12 hours is hardly in the same class relentless and annoying wise.
posted by Mitheral at 10:15 PM on June 20, 2011


Huh. I hadn't heard about this whole thing, because i was too busy emptying diaper pails and changing crib sheets to check my email (or do anything else online) yesterday. I'm not sure how I would have felt if I had seen it.

Funny thing is, though, when my dad - with whom my relationship is... complicated, and whom I had no intention of calling -- called to wish me a happy father's day, I was busy trying to get the younger kid into a car seat without having her eye poked out by the older kid, and really didn't have time to talk. 15 minutes later, in the car and everyone happy, I reflected a bit on how I kind of blew off my dad - and truth be told, wasn't actually particularly happy to hear from him - and felt pretty bad because I knew there were so many folks out there who couldn't call their dads, let alone receive a call.

So I guess what I'm saying is I had a completely Google-free and yet eye-opening father's day, and I'm really glad I'll get to see him in a couple weeks (even though it won't be exactly simple).

And my daughter drew me the cutest scribble ever, so screw you, Google Doodles.
posted by nickmark at 10:28 PM on June 20, 2011


Maybe I can take a little stab at the difference between general Father's Day stuff and the specific thing that accidentally hurt some people.

My mom died a few years ago. She was a CPA, and every year around April 15th I still get a little low, especially as my taxes have gotten all expat-y and complicated in the last few years. It'd be nice to be able to give her a ring and have her straighten me all out on that, but I just can't. Now given those feelings I get, do I think that I shouldn't have to do taxes? Do I think that I shouldn't have to see ads for accountants every year? No way. I'm totally aware that my feelings on the topic are a little ridiculous and I definitely don't expect anyone to cater to them. I get misty-eyed about taxes, and that's silly, and it just happens.

Now, on Google Calendar, they used to have this example entry when you'd click to make a new item. It just said, "e.g. Mom's birthday." And that always stung a little bit. It kept coming up and there wasn't anything I could do to change it. I'd be minding my own, setting up something fun with friends, and it was just a little tiny kick in the teeth. Real gentle-like. It just sort of said, "Hey, most people have moms. You don't, huh? Huh." (They've changed that now, it looks like, and you always get "e.g. Breakfast at Tiffany's.")

That GCal thing was just an innocuous example they set for showing you how to title an appointment. It never occurred to me to drop them a line and ask them to change it, because it didn't seem personalized. And then you have the Father's Day thing, which went a little step further. This was something in a location where it looked like maybe you drunkenly set something up to remind yourself, maybe years ago or something, or maybe someone was playing a mean-spirited joke on you. The jolt was like: pick someone whom you needed and who died, or pick someone who really hurt you in a permanent way. Then insert their name, and picture it over there in the chat box, near all the people you talk to regularly. "Call David Green." "Call Sharon Athar." Whoever. Because "your dad" is a concept, but "Dad" is a person.

So that was the jolt. So very many people don't have dads anymore (which you kind of only notice when you join the Dead Parents Club), or have dads who really hurt them that it doesn't seem particularly "special snowflake" to notice that and consider their feelings.
posted by lauranesson at 11:45 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


That's a good point lauranesson over the default appointment text.

From a systems engineering point of view, email and your inbox is not a private space. Most email is sent unencrypted at some point as it bounces around between mail servers to get to its final destination, even if certain hops are. Gmail has only recently switched to https on by default; it used to be that only the login was encrypted. Google of course automate scanning your email to add adverts. It's somewhat akin to sending all your correspondence by postcard, and hoping nobody at the sorting office reads it.

In that context, sticking an advert to 'call dad', to presumably remind people of the gtalk integration in google mail didn't seem a clueless thing to do - after all, it's google's service.

I work as a senior sysadmin. I have the full capability to read people's email at will - and given the ToS of the work account that they agree to when signing up, I even have the right to do so if necessary, given they're supposed to only use it for work-related material.

I don't, of course, except by invitation of the account holder in order to fix a specific problem with their email - and even then, I'm VERY good at not actually reading even the subject headers, and certainly not the email bodies. You just sort of blank them out.

To do anything else would be unethical. Even though they're not supposed to, I'm sure many of the users use it for personal correspondence; even for very private information. Despite that email is far less secure than paper letters in that respect, people EXPECT privacy in there, even if it is - at a technical level - an illusion.

So by putting this reminder in what most people perceive to be a very private space, as opposed to the giant logo on the front page, it strikes directly at the heart of how Google sees your inbox, and how other people see it.

In the grand scheme of things, it's merely a bit inept and unthinking, causing hurt to some where they could have avoided it. But it does illustrate the difference between an engineer's view of email, and the way most normal people see it.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:23 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the google support forum:
someonecaring [writes] Lol. People seriously need to stop being overly sensitive. If you were offended by this because your dad died/was abusive/was gay etc. Then you really need to stop being such a pussy.
Someonecaring actually took the time to register and join just to make this comment. Aw.

I'm not understanding why it's suddenly so infuriating that Google is getting feedback on an action that had unforeseen consequences. Is always wrong to complain, or is it only wrong if it doesn't affect you the same way?

Have you ever noticed how much thinking goes into even the slightest Metafilter change? It's because there's no such thing as a universal experience, and solutions that seem minor and logical can have people howling because it affects them in some way that might not be obvious. I feel sorry sometimes that Matt and Co. have to tiptoe through landmines to do anything, but I'm glad they are cautious, responsive and thoughtful instead of sneering and highhanded.

So the upshot of the current Google issue is that a) Google will make it possible to disable those notices, and b) they probably won't phrase things in such a way that it looks like you are receiving personal messages from a contact. How is that a bad thing?

If one deeply disturbed person were pushed over the edge because they were terrified and horrified by a message that seemed to be coming from someone they thought they'd escaped – is that an acceptable price to push back against those you consider thinskinned? Because if they got that upset, they'd probably do it anyway? If someone is teetering on the edge of the bridge contemplating jumping, would you be okay with slightly nudging them as you passed by because hey, it's their problem not yours, and you're in a hurry?

Does it really make any sense to be furious that somebody else has a different experience than you and expresses it? Why do they need to shut up? Why don't you shut up?

Or maybe we can imagine spaces on the internet where people are able to give their opinions and reactions about various subjects, or even places where people can get help and support with issues that they have using a product or service, places where they are allowed to speak, even if it's a complaint, even if it's a complaint you don't share.

The Google Support Forum seems like an okay place to ask how to turn off a Gmail reminder to "Call Dad," and Metafilter seem like a place where people might reasonably dare to discuss their thoughts about that, even if they think the Call Dad thing might not be the greatest thing ever – but if it really bothers you that much, why not just shut up? For fuck's sake, it's not real life. If reading opinions or complaints on the internet is going to send you in paroxysms of rage, maybe you should just get off the internet.
posted by taz at 1:54 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to be sensitive, I really am, and I get how one can be sensitive to the point where a reminder in Gchat that reads "Call Dad" is a trigger, but a lot of this tut-tutting and how "No one's saying it's shitty (even the people who are literally saying it's "shitty") , but people should be more sensitive!" sounds a lot like the PMRC and "We're not advocating censorship, we just want warning labels!" Which IS a trigger for me, since my family was killed in gang warfare, and I was raised by violent rappers as one of their own.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:18 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


My dad died about two months ago. It hurts like hell and I'm reminded of the loss several times a day, but I'm not so sensitive and self-important to think that Google is out to screw with my feelings when they make a well-meaning suggestion about calling dad on Fathers day.

Especially when I made a similar suggestion myself. There are real offensive things happening out there. This isn't one of them.
posted by dgran at 7:32 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think part of it is the fact that it's phrased somewhat as an order, and kind of a brusque one. It's not "Reminder: today is father's day" It just says "Call dad" I would be annoyed if I saw it even if it was just that I had already called him and thus didn't need a 'reminder' about it.

Also, the "It's free so you have no right to complain!" thing makes no sense. Google does these things because they make money at it. If you have an android phone then you likely paid for the Gmail client (which isn't part of the open source android distribution, phone makers have to pay for it separately). But beyond that just because something is zero cost doesn't mean people don't have an investment in it. People use Google's products for lots of pretty intimate things, and having them hop in the middle and start using that to tell you want to do can be disturbing.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2011


A bit misguided by Google, but it seems like anyone that upset over Call Dad would be pretty upset with the whole holiday.

I don't know how it felt for people whose fathers passed away, but having an absent or abusive father is not just a feeling of loss, but can also make you feel ashamed and deficient.

These two sum it up. I had an abusive dad, and for years I didn't even think of it as 'abuse', but that he didn't like me and I couldn't work out why. Father's Day was a horrible time of year, because for a month or so I'd have to walk past window displays and see adverts and feel like that's what I should be doing. A Google message wouldn't really make a difference, but I'm still surprised when, say, I get a sewing magazine and see father's day cards inside and I can't turn the page fast enough.

Now he's dead so, you know, double whammy.
posted by mippy at 8:49 AM on June 21, 2011


Please, please, please get over it. I know that maybe you have a SAD DAD STORY and that's awful and I;m sorry it happened to you, but 95% of the population doesn't, special snowflake, etc.

Um, everyone is trying. Really hard. If someone said to me at the supermarket 'What are you doing for Father's Day?', I'd answer politely but I'd still get upset. I have to watch Father's Day ads at work. My colleague has a picture of her Dad as her desktop wallpaper, and sometimes when I walk past I feel sad that I would never do the same, but it's her desktop, and it's fleeting, and I get on with my life. I spent a good few months in therapy and am about to go back into it so I can keep on doing just this. I didn't log into Gmail on Father's Day but this would have pissed me off.
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


At any rate, it was a failure from a marketing perspective. Google wanted people to read the message and think "Oh Google, you so sweet and friendly!" and then "And I had totally forgotten about this Google Voice feature, maybe I'll try it!"

Instead, a significant number of people saw the message and thought "Well that's weird." or "Don't tell me what to do." or "That's depressing." or "[family issues]." These people didn't come away with a cheery opinion of Google. Worse, these people were busy being mildly annoyed, or thinking about loss, or thinking about their crappy parental relationship, and did not click through to check out Google Voice.

I doubt Google cares whether people should have been upset; I bet they do care that people were upset. They were trying to provoke a certain response, both emotionally (brand good!) and in terms of action (look at feature!). And for a lot of users, they did something else entirely. So leaving the personal arguments aside entirely, still, fail.

I will eat my hat if only 5% of the population has a dead father, or an absentee father, or an abusive father, or a father who's an addict, or a father with serious health issues, or a father that they happened to be having a fight with last weekend. Provided I cannot find a hat of my own, I will buy one, and eat that.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:15 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I first saw this on Hacker News, and felt better knowing that the people who were most dismissive and disdainful would not get it either when it comes to their own businesses, and it will show.
posted by catchingsignals at 10:51 AM on June 21, 2011


I doubt Google cares whether people should have been upset; I bet they do care that people were upset. They were trying to provoke a certain response, both emotionally (brand good!) and in terms of action (look at feature!). And for a lot of users, they did something else entirely. So leaving the personal arguments aside entirely, still, fail.

Exactly. That in the end is the one thing that cannot be disputed. There is no wrong or right when you're a brand and piss off a considerable part of your users, there is only "oops" and "we're sorry and won't do that again" -- and "maybe we should find out why we didn't even consider the possibility we would piss of a considerable part of our users".

Because frankly that's the thing that's most puzzling about this. I would not personally have been in any way upset, in fact, I'm kind of upset I did not find that reminder in my contact list (at least, at the right date for my location, because I did totally forget about Father's Day, ooops). But doesn't mean I cannot see why it upset or annoyed or simply mildly bothered others. It sure doesn't mean that, had I been on the team who came up with the reminder idea, I wouldn't have seen this coming, like many others who made this specific point already - and no it's not hindsight. Really, it doesn't take a genius to have the thought pop in your head that hmm, maybe, not everyone would welcome advertising disguised as a direct personal reminder like that, directly in your own personal contact space (yeah sure it's on a free email service and it's not your locked drawer in your bedroom, but come on, it's a list of your own contacts, doesn't get much more personal than that, in that interface) and involving close family relations.

Who doesn't know that family relations can be a minefield? They could have avoided this so easily. I could throw a wild speculation that those gmail teams are made of enthusiastic young people who have not yet fully navigated these simple complexities of life, if that didn't make me sound like grandma. But really. That's a likely factor.

So, no, the description of this as "social fail" is not exaggerated at all. It's a factual description of what happened here to a corporation. For a corporation, when engaging in advertising, good intentions don't matter, overreaction of end users doesn't matter, level of acceptability of what makes users' reactions valid or not, all that doesn't matter, it's all entirely subjective. I do happen to think it was an overreaction but so what. My opinion didn't stop it from happening.

And we're not talking about some government policy, or the rights to freedom of the press, or individual freedom of opinion, or artistic expression - all areas where indeed the debate on the level to which outrage is justified or acceptable would matter a lot - we're talking about a company and their services. So the only paradigm that applies is the end result. And the end result is enough people were pissed off to make it a news story. You may wish it wasn't so, but it was so. If that's not a failure of corporate communication in the social networking area, what is?

Fascinating though, the whole discussion, here and elsewhere. I suspect the corporation in question is also finding it very interesting. In fact, do you all realise everyone who commented on this, starting from the people who were offended, are providing Google with free consulting? Whereas the people who came up with "call dad reminder" were paid probably lots of dollars? Ah...
posted by bitteschoen at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2011


Had it said "call your Mom" on Mother's Day, no one would have bitched.

Totally untrue. I'd have "bitched." Or at least politely suggested that that sort of reminder should be opt-in.

I go through this every Mother's Day -- There's a week of near constant reminders that I'll never get to see Mom again. The Happy Mother's Day stuff doesn't bother me. Well... I don't take offense anyway. But the people who ask "Have you called your Mom yet?" do piss me off. If you don't know me well enough to know my mom is gone then you don't know me well enough to nag me about making a personal call.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:22 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


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