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March 13, 2012 9:29 PM   Subscribe

"Why I left Google": James Whittaker joined Google from Microsoft in 2009. Now he want back to MS, and explained why he left Google
posted by growabrain (128 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's amazing how Microsoft has gone from being the big bad wolf to the underdog everyone roots for in 10 years. What a world.
posted by anewnadir at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus...

The old Google made a fortune on ads because they had good content. It was like TV used to be: make the best show and you get the most ad revenue from commercials. The new Google seems more focused on the commercials themselves.


Google is a publicly-owned company with priorities to match, but I'm curious what he expects from Microsoft that would be significantly different.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What happened to the two comments that were here? I swear just a few moments ago, there were two comments. One of them was short and sarcastic, but it had a very important point.

We don't know how much he was making at Google, and how much Microsoft offered him. His post could be punishment for Google not counter-offering enough.

I imagine Google has many of the issues he mentioned, but his job hopping from one to another implies that it's not just company culture that he's in it for, otherwise why go back to MS?
posted by formless at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Really well put, I've felt this way since Google made the big change with Google+. I used to really admire and respect them, but now it seems like they have lost their way.
posted by jonclegg at 9:55 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


“social isn’t a product,” she told me after I gave her a demo, “social is people and the people are on Facebook.”

Pithy, and to the point. For myself, I prefer the layout and structure of Google+ more, but I have few friends on it, so rarely go there.*

*Though, interestingly, it seems very popular in some photography circles I kind of hover around.
posted by smoke at 9:57 PM on March 13, 2012


Since Eric Schmidt left and all the cool Labs products have been shut down, Google as a "product" isn't as fun or quirky as it used to be, and there are very few surprises or cool tools to use. It's no big deal, I suppose, although they did some to Gmail where it now takes a couple of clicks to navigate back to the main mail page. That is irritating.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:00 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Funny how "Do no evil" is looking more like the low expectations they are.
posted by Brian B. at 10:03 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As long as they deliver my automated car and Android glasses to use while my car is driving itself I'm happy.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:08 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Plus is interesting to me because nobody I know uses it but I've somehow been added by over 300 people I don't know. I call it my "Who the hell are you people?" network.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:13 PM on March 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Does anybody actually like Facebook? The only people I know who use it regularly are those who don't know any better. It is the AOL of the modern Internet.

If Google wanted to beat Facebook, they should have made things that helped people understand how stupid Facebook is, not built a better Facebook.

Of course, there is a lot less money to be made in setting people free.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 10:14 PM on March 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Okay, time to play "spot the inflection point". What was the first thing you noticed that made you wonder about Google? Something that made you say "that was pointlessly bad", as opposed to "hey, that's cool". The thing that you are going to point back to in a few years.

For me, it was when '+' stopped meaning "must be in page", and I found out they did it so that it could be used for Google+.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:17 PM on March 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


This is what happens when margins shrink. It happened to RCA, it happened to IBM. Google is just another company.
posted by wuwei at 10:21 PM on March 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Does anybody actually like Facebook? The only people I know who use it regularly are those who don't know any better. It is the AOL of the modern Internet.

Wow, do you seriously not have any friends? I don't like Facebook but I use it a shit-ton. One useful way it works is to distinguish interaction with friends and relatives (Facebook) from interaction with work-related folk (email). And I really, really do know better.
posted by unSane at 10:30 PM on March 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


Does anybody actually like Facebook? The only people I know who use it regularly are those who don't know any better.

I use it and like it, and I certainly don't know anything better for the way I want to stay in touch with friends in four continents. I'd venture to guess that I know a fair amount of the options that are out there as well.
posted by jacalata at 10:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Something that made you say "that was pointlessly bad", as opposed to "hey, that's cool".

Instant preview. Useless image of a linked page leaping up to obscure my search results page because I happened to let my mouse drift over the preview spot of doom. I use a greasemonkey script now to make it stay gone.
posted by Babblesort at 10:35 PM on March 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


Google became (pre-Windows 7) Microsoft when they started pushing Android out without any influence over the hardware it was running on. Expansion at any cost, regardless how well it was going to run or what the experience would be. This was how it was until very recently, when Google started trying to reign in Android's design and interactions across devices with basic user experience guidelines, and I think they've been putting more pressure on OEMs and carriers to shore up hardware and OS variations, too. Google fragmented their experience and pushed a complex, difficult to use and maintain product to speed expansion, just like Microsoft did for decades. Maybe this is just one example of many at Google.

It took Microsoft about 20 years longer to figure out that some control over the end-to-end experience matters, but it's surprising that Google ever followed their path. Maybe this dude hopes Microsoft is further around the corner than Google is.
posted by pkingdesign at 10:37 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


His post could be punishment for Google not counter-offering enough.

That is.... not likely.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:38 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a good justification why he left Google, but why did he go back to Microsoft? What on earth are they doing that's any better?
posted by danl at 10:38 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


What was the first thing you noticed that made you wonder about Google?

When I noticed how difficult it is to get in contact with them over something as simple as, "Hey, ____ doesn't fucking work right." They don't wanna hear it.
posted by fleacircus at 10:40 PM on March 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


That pretty much matches up with what I've been reading about what's been happening to Google in lots of different places, and it's a damn shame. It's doubly bitter for me because I have zero interest in social network stuff (at least as it exists on Facebook or Twitter let alone Google+) and I am not what you might call a fan of the encroachment of advertising into every aspect of our daily lives.

Google's services are so deeply intertwined with my online life now that just thinking of trying to disentangle myself makes me feel tired, but I suppose I'm going to have to try at some point.

Too bad; outlook not sunny.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:44 PM on March 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


When they started getting rid of things. They're a technology company with massive, massive datacenters. The cool little services can't have cost more than the smallest whisker from the tiniest iota in the balance sheet, but I'm sure they benefited some people enormously. But bang, they started disappearing for no apparent reason.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:46 PM on March 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Does anybody actually like Facebook? The only people I know who use it regularly are those who don't know any better. It is the AOL of the modern Internet.

I don't like Facebook. I don't like the company and the site is buggy and confusing. But I can't go a week without checking it. I've deactivated my profile numerous times, but I always come crawling back after an embarrassingly short respite.

Facebook isn't successful because it produces great software products. It's successful because, like the teen girl said, everybody is on it. They had a huge head start on the social media race and it's going to take more than another Facebook to wean users off it.

The AOL analogy is actually perfect, except that everyone misremembers AOL as an out of date service that spammed with world with CD-Rs, when in its heyday it was the most user-friendly way to get online with all your friends and family. AOL was gross from a web standards perspective, but as an average user who doesn't know or care about those things, it was a shoe-in.

Google's biggest mistake with G+ is that they pretty severely underestimated how much people do not care about nice software.
posted by deathpanels at 10:48 PM on March 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Google+ made a token gesture at being the anti-Facebook with circles for keeping aspects of one's online life separate. However, now they are now endlessly nudging you to share the shit out of everything on their sites and merge all your separate identities into one easily trackable advertising unit. PicasaWeb for sharing photos? You should upload those photos to Google+ instead. Want to make an inane Youtube comment under a pseudonym? Post it on Google+ instead under your real name.

If Google wanted to beat Facebook, they should have made things that helped people understand how stupid Facebook is, not built a better Facebook.

This. Google should have focused on making Facebook irrelevant, not recreating themselves in its image.
posted by benzenedream at 10:50 PM on March 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


When I noticed how difficult it is to get in contact with them over something as simple as, "Hey, ____ doesn't fucking work right." They don't wanna hear it.

There's a good reason for this. They, like most software companies, are probably quite appreciative of useful bug reports from users. The thing is that most user but reports are horrendously awful. If you accept feedback from random end users, you get feedback that looks like YouTube comments.

I remember getting a bug report about an install script that didn't work in the Mac version of our product. This end user had gone so far as to diagnose that we were trying to run bash-specific scripts in the default shell, which on his machine was zsh.

Because he had been so helpful, I emailed him personally thanking him for a report, and offered him a beta version of the product with a fix for his bug in it. If all end user reports were even 1/5th as useful, we as software developers would *love* to receive them.

But most are not. 99 of 100 messages to an end user support address will wad along the lines of:
"this is shit. Doesn't work." it's not helpful so very few people are willing to sift through it all for a useful report of a specific problem.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:50 PM on March 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I feel stupid for saying it, but Facebook is great in its own way. True, it is a completely boring interface, but it does what I need it to do: it helps me connect with people who live far, far away. I certainly don't spend time playing games on it or whatever, and it is a lot better for some reason than Google Plus... There are people in my G+ feed who are absolute morons, and I have no idea how they got there!

Google is not really meant for the top twenty percent or whatever of users anymore. It's geared for people who don't have any idea how the Internet works, which is why you see dumb things like personalized search results and Instant. There are ways around it, but I tend to use Google a lot for work, logged into my Gmail account, so my results are always polluted with info that I have no particular interest in, except in the context of writing copy for a client.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The closing of Google Labs and the continuous cancellations of neat but obscure products is, to me, a lot more damning than the focus on Google+.

The recent changes to bring everything else in line with G+ have given rise to a bunch of WTF moments for me, and not just because I have to learn a new interface (Hell, I Iike learning new interfaces.) They've impaired functionality in order to unify appearance.

There's a good reason for this. They, like most software companies, are probably quite appreciative of useful bug reports from users. The thing is that most user but reports are horrendously awful. If you accept feedback from random end users, you get feedback that looks like YouTube comments.

They don't need to accept the feedback... they just need to read it. I get as much from giving feedback to Google as I do from praying, and I'm an atheist. (I also leave thoughtful and precise feedback, being someone interested in web design and a computer scientist --- they rarely respond).
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:08 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Re: enjoying Facebook, I think the only way I'll ever really enjoy it again is if I take the time to thin out my friends list so it reflects my actual group of friends, and take a hard line on not letting it become mainly a list of vague acquaintances, coworkers and extended family. At some point I got a lot more comfortable sharing nothing than potentially sharing with people who didn't know me that well and just gave up on it, and sorting it all out with different privacy settings seems like a hassle at this point. That was actually something I really liked about G+ at first, Circles made it dead simple to create different levels of privacy AND you had a fresh start on building a list of friends - but, like most people, my friends never bothered with G+.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:09 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


They had a huge head start on the social media race

The guys at MySpace and Friendster disagree with you.

Facebook won because a) it was clean and spare, unlike MySpace which allowed anyone to launch audio on pages. Audio!

And b) APIs that allowed Zynga to turn everyone into a gamer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:12 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a good justification why he left Google, but why did he go back to Microsoft? What on earth are they doing that's any better?

The enterprise. It's not Google delivering the cloud to enterprise, it's Microsoft (and Amazon). It's not Google Docs but Live that's being used in the Fortune 500, and MS Office is on something like 99% of all Global 2000 desktops. And Chrome's endless updates, ironically, freak out enterprise IT folks who like their nice, locked down IE. And, love it or hate it (oh who am I kidding -- no one loves it), Sharepoint is the enterprise CMS and doc server -- Google offers nothing comparable.

And it makes sense. Google is all about advertising. Microsoft is all about hooking into the billions of enterprise IT spending. Google's main forays into enterprise have been small business (through selling branded Docs) and higher ed. They've had no willingness to move beyond that. And they don't have to.

And that's the other interesting thing about MSFT -- look at Windows 8. It looks consumer, but what they're really selling is a seamless experience across enterprise devices.

Right now, I think MSFT is in better shape than Google. They're leaving the woods they've been lost in the last decade or so, and they're starting to understand who they are, even if they are still doing stupid, distracting things in the consumer division. Google is just entering the woods. Microsoft may never be as dominant as they were in the 80s and 90s, but they will remain formidable. After all, IBM has remained important even after all these pivots they've made. Ballmer, for as wrongheaded and contemptuous as he's been, hasn't steered MSFT into the shoals like Fiorina did with Lucent and HP, or that gaggle of idiots did with Yahoo. Google better hope Larry Page can also keep them clear of the shoals, though their insistence on shoving G+ down everyone's throats.
posted by dw at 11:33 PM on March 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


though their insistence on shoving G+ down everyone's throats makes me think they haven't learned Microsoft's lessons.
posted by dw at 11:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've got this totally unsupported notion that one of the big turning points for Google was when they noticed the sheer number of people who would search for Facebook, YouTube, etc - sites they used day in and day out - rather than typing the address into the address bar or bookmarking the site. I see people search for the address itself, facebook.com, rather than typing that exact same thing into the address bar, and I recall an article about someone at Google noting this trend a few years back. It's just The Way You Use The Internet for a lot of people who don't want to learn anything new, they just want it to work every time. And in my head, in this totally unsupported-by-evidence image I've got, someone in the company realized that, oh shit, we've co-opted browser address bars, a (if not THE) core tool for browsing the web, what else can we filter through ourselves? How much of the experience of the web can we make into The Google Experience, if we can do that? And, well, we've always made our money on ads, this will just streamline the process...
posted by jason_steakums at 11:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Facebook won because a) it was clean and spare, unlike MySpace which allowed anyone to launch audio on pages. Audio! .. And b) APIs that allowed Zynga to turn everyone into a gamer.

This and much more; the Harvard launch followed by an initial expansion only into the the university sector by way of the ivy league created a solid cohort of influential and socially active people who could reliably find each other by their real names (the student ID requirement). Expanding beyond that about the time earlier adopters were graduating could not have worked out better. A huge amount of almost unkillable momentum was created.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:39 PM on March 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Officially, Google declared that “sharing is broken on the web” and nothing but the full force of our collective minds around Google+ could fix it.

Ugh, that is so gross. Reader's now-dead sharing features were the best implementation of link sharing anyone's ever done - it killed my urge to blog completely and definitively kept me off Tumblr. When the plussing went down, it was indeed the moment that portended all the more irritating changes.

The problem here is that over the past six months Google has changed in my mind from a trusted personal partner to an adversary which has deliberately chosen to make my life harder than it has to be.

On the (er) plus side, I am blogging again and have incidentally rethought my time and data commitments to Twitter and Facebook - specifically because if the changes at Google.

I think it would be awesome if Microsoft succeeds in picking up Google's torch, but I doubt very much they will be able to. I do think that there will be successors that will address these consumer dissatisfaction issues which Google has created for itself, and I sure hope they get here soon. It is not out of the question that Google could bring back the services they've dropped and dismantled, but can they wil my trust back?

I doubt it very much.
posted by mwhybark at 11:42 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Google's main forays into enterprise have been small business (through selling branded Docs)

They are destroying this now as well with the new interface. Now everything has to have an avatar next to it like my business is a giant teenage chatroom.

I've been on the forefront of everything Google did. I got into every beta and if it was location-locked I used proxies to sign up anyway. Nowadays I find myself searching for a Mail and Apps alternative because how ever unsuccessful my business is, it's no goddamn teenage chatroom!
posted by patrick54 at 11:44 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Errata:

because of the changes

win my trust back
posted by mwhybark at 11:44 PM on March 13, 2012


Blazecock Pileon: “Google is a publicly-owned company with priorities to match, but I'm curious what he expects from Microsoft that would be significantly different.”

Sometimes working for a company can mean something. What's funny to me, though, is how competitors shape companies. Competing with Apple really made Google better; Android was one of the best things they've ever done, if only because it elevated a dream we all had in the early nineties to something that millions upon millions of people use daily on mobile devices. But competing with Facebook has not really been good for Google.
posted by koeselitz at 11:58 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


What was the first thing you noticed that made you wonder about Google?

When they bought Postini, claimed they had no record of our 3 year contract, and then tried to double our bill for services, then threatened to sue for collections while we disputed. Then told us we were too small to actually buy services from them.

So, 2007.

Actually, I wasn't surprised by any of that, so apparently, before that.
posted by dglynn at 12:08 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, Google's ranking of results that produces forum or discussion board links, almost exclusively to pages with piles of cruft plus google ads, requiring page load after page load to follow mostly useless conversations, makes my internet experience worse. I literally checked to see if Bing had different results because I actually had a problem to solve.

Bah, those forums have slowed down lots of projects by preventing people from finding what used to be FAQ answers.
posted by dglynn at 12:15 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've started becoming a little more concerned about just what I tell Google, although I do tend to use G+ more than I do FB (I can do without the endless invitations to games etc.). I'm glad Microsoft is finding it's way again, competition is healthy.
posted by arcticseal at 12:17 AM on March 14, 2012


Since Eric Schmidt left...

I am fucking astonished that Schmidt's departure and replacement by nerdy former stanford graduate student co-founder man is what made the company evil. I mean, its always the other way around right? Talk about trope inversion. Its supposed to be Naive/Brilliant/unwordly nerdy founder gets pushed out by evil businessman that then turns the company to the darkside...wtf?!?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:25 AM on March 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


> there is no drama here

Facepalm.
posted by polymodus at 12:29 AM on March 14, 2012


Its supposed to be Naive/Brilliant/unwordly nerdy founder gets pushed out by evil businessman

Eric Schmidt is the co-author of lex and has a PhD in EECS from UC Berkeley. So I think he gets some nerd cred too.
posted by zippy at 12:36 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why I joined Google over Microsoft: Fuck 520.
posted by lantius at 12:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


I recently left Google after 5+ years there (to be the CTO at a startup, whee!). There was (and still is) a lot to like.

The first real sign I saw of Google losing its way was a couple of years ago, when we would all dogfood some new product (Buzz, for example), people would say exactly what was wrong with it, the execs and PMs would say why everyone was wrong (if they bothered to respond) and ship something awful. When the end users complained bitterly, if the execs bothered to respond at this point, they might lamely cite UI test numbers claiming that what they pushed had tested OK. Here's the key thing: No one in charge seemed to learn from this non-feedback cycle. The next PM/exec would come along and ram something awful down peoples' throats again.

Probably the last big round of this I saw from the inside was Vic Gundotra's insistence on Real Names for Google+ users. There was pretty overwhelming complaint about it internally, the iron-willed execs shipped it anyway, and lo and behold, people hated it. I will close by noting that Vic Gundotra is an ex-Microsoft guy.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 12:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [34 favorites]


It kind of goes unnoticed, but in my mind the most promising and potentially revolutionary Google product these days is Documents, in combination with the Calendar, Chat, and Voice Communication services linked with it. I've ported much of my day-to-day collaborative work to Google Docs and found it to be fantastic for productivity. Still some issues and lacking features but there's no doubt in my mind that a cloud-based, offline-synced virtual workspace model will be standard in the near future. Windows 8 appears to be moving in that direction, too. As for bug reports on Google products, I've found the company to be remarkably receptive. I've reported at least half a dozen bugs in Docs and received responses from the development team almost immediately. Those bugs all disappeared within days or weeks. Google+, on the other hand, is pure meh.
posted by jet_manifesto at 12:48 AM on March 14, 2012


lantius: "Why I joined Google over Microsoft: Fuck 520."

Not a fan of the free ORCA card? 545 goes right across the bridge, as does Connector, both with free wifi...

posted by fireoyster at 12:55 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of the 545s I catch seem to have wifi recently :( I hadn't realised how much I missed it until I caught a connector home one night.
posted by jacalata at 1:02 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Probably the last big round of this I saw from the inside was Vic Gundotra's insistence on Real Names for Google+ users.

Yeah, this was the point where I lost all faith in them. It wasn't that the real name thing affected me personally (I would probably use my real name if I ever joined it), it was the heavy lashings of fuck-you that they put all over the way the policy was implemented.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:26 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know it's a truism, but it needs to be stated over and over again, because nobody in a position of power seems willing to accept it. The processes that turn a potential Corporate Giant into an actual Corporate Giant inevitably end up destroying it. It's such a cliche that it almost resembles physical law; a life-cycle of corporatism.

Management focuses exclusively on the means of stable and predictable profits, and by doing so ossifies itself to a point of inflexibility—and, by extension, irrelevancy, because the modern market is inherently dynamic.

It's very tempting to reduce this to a platitude of "MBAs ruin everything". So tempting, in fact, that a rational soul struggles to do otherwise. The only way to evolve is to suffer through a thousand blind alleys on the way to transcendence, but a focus on quarterly profits makes this impossible. There are no shortcuts. "Streamlining innovation" is an oxymoron. What we need are more creators and less managers. If you're a true believer in the power of the free market (as I expect most MBAs are), then accept that it knows more than you. Stop assuming that you can predict what it wants. Offer up a bountiful and eclectic harvest and allow it decide.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:35 AM on March 14, 2012 [17 favorites]


Yeah, this was the point where I lost all faith in them. It wasn't that the real name thing affected me personally (I would probably use my real name if I ever joined it), it was the heavy lashings of fuck-you that they put all over the way the policy was implemented.

I actually sent some feedback over that, something I very rarely do. At that point -- quite a long way into the whole G+ real names debacle, before they backpedalled, while they were still sticking to their guns -- I was genuinely afraid to enable G+ on my primary stavrosthewonderchicken email (one of several tied to that username/persona), because we'd been hearing about people's email accounts being closed because they were trying to use G+ with a pseudonym. With all the years of emails, and all the other services I had tied to the account, let alone all the sites I'd registered at using that email address, having it closed would have been disastrous.

I told them I was simply scared of having that happen, and as a consequence would not be using G+, and that, for what very very little it was worth, I no longer trusted them. And that an awful lot of other people probably felt the same.

The truth is, I have since constantly been in fear that I'll click something that I oughtn't to have clicked in their increasingly-impenetrable UIs (turning on the multiple sign-in thing, for example, the consequences of which are totally unclear to me as an avid, skilled computer person since the 1970s) and end up regretting it.

Such a bummer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:41 AM on March 14, 2012 [17 favorites]


Oh yes. Multiple sign ins. How hard can it fscking be? People sign in once for each account. Or you set it up so that the accounts are all aliases of the same central account, presenting different results for each alias. It used to work. Now it randomly forgets that I'm signed in, or gets confused about which account is which, or tells me that I can't access particular services because I'm signed into the wrong account even if the screen I'm on says that I'm on the right account. It's such a mess now and I can't see any reason - unless it's something tawdry like being able to count ad clicks across a number of linked accounts, which would be (a) pathetic; and (b) very pathetic. It's like they're down to one programmer and he can't keep up with the bug reports.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:15 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm an early Google adopter and use more than one of their services pretty happily.

Yet the first time "hmm, does this feel ... weird?" moment was when they introduced email with targeted ads, because that was the first time (that I'm aware of) that Google was using private content – my friends' emails to me – to do targeted advertising.

The Google+ real names fiasco was another. I don't care a great deal about using a pseudonym, but when Google was trying to define themselves as the "we're not controlling and evil like Facebook" (the company that forces you to have one identity) and then a) forced the use of real names and b) made gender public too (am I remembering that one correctly?) and then c) responded so cluelessly where they had previously in the launch seemed really engaged and smart ... it was like a switch flipped and all the developers and architects of Google+ stopped talking and Vic Gundotra started.

Finally, when Google really messed with search. It's been a gradual downward slide over the past two years, from

1) not condensing results from single sites - now a single content farm or forum can take multiple slots in a results page, where previously I might see one about.com entry with a couple of sub-entries indented and immediately following.

2) eliminating the plus operator for no good reason from the user's perspective,

3) switching from engaged query help ('did you mean?') to just doing it, to the point that I sometimes get results I didn't want and worse, didn't ask for.

I know Google hires smart people. I know a bunch. But from the user's perspective (this user and others) they went from 'can do almost no wrong' to 'what the hell?'

Oh, and the Google Wave / Buzz rollouts. Those too.

And switching the name of the Android Market app from 'Market' to 'Play', an app users have known as Market for two years, and where the only notice of the change was a mandatory you're going to ignore it anyway app upgrade notification.

Thank god it's possible to make Chrome default to verbatim search
posted by zippy at 2:28 AM on March 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


The processes that turn a potential Corporate Giant into an actual Corporate Giant inevitably end up destroying it.

This is a truism that is clearly untrue - if by "destroying" you mean bankruptcy or some such. If you mean street cred, then yes, I suppose, but I draw the jury's attention to Apple.

3) switching from engaged query help ('did you mean?') to just doing it, to the point that I sometimes get results I didn't want and worse, didn't ask for.


Holy flying shitballs this drives me absolutely insane, more than any other irritating things with search now. It's fine when it's correcting spelling mistakes - even when the spelling is right but more uncommon it happens rarely enough. But I grow incandescent with rage when it just drops a search term because a search without it yields far more results. Irrelevant results you bastards! I didn't just put that word in there for funsies! Having to add quotes to, like, everything grows increasingly irritating. Also my already liberal use of the minus sign has ballooned, but I don't know if this is G's fault or the internet's.
posted by smoke at 2:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


"Google+ and me, we were simply never meant to be."
So baby think of me once in a while...
I'm at MSDN in Seattle
posted by marienbad at 2:51 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't just put that word in there for funsies!

Yes, this is how I feel too. I know I have no entitlement to anything from Google (I'm paying nothing, after all) but it's just so ... ArGRAHAHARRHGL ... to break something for a bunch of users and not put in a "Hey, do you hate this? Check this box and WE WON'T DO IT AGAIN"

It's like they've A/B tested themselves into some heinous local optima which maximizes short-term revenue while also maximizing the odds that the most vocal users will start looking for an alternative

and if they find a good alternative, they're going to be pretty vocal about the new awesome thing. See also "Why my family uses Google Chrome."
posted by zippy at 2:55 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Speaking of google annoyances, anybody who knows how to avoid those popup ads in videos in youtube, wins an internet.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:25 AM on March 14, 2012


Adblock plus does it for me (on Firefox or Chrome, actually).
posted by jaduncan at 4:09 AM on March 14, 2012


over the past six months Google has changed in my mind from a trusted personal partner to an adversary which has deliberately chosen to make my life harder than it has to be.

Okay, I've said this a number of times, it's an ad company, but more importantly, it's an ad platform that's been developed over a number of years. The backend stores the data for the ads; the middleware and interface are designed to harvest user data, and serve ads. Anything else now (including search) is gravy and ephemeral.

Many of the things that people don't like about Google anymore are simply explained by the emerging dominance of the ad platform. For example, a social network built on an ad platform, is clunkier than a social network platform that works but which is instrumented for serving ads. This is because, in the underlying architecture, the social is defined in terms of marketing potential. The 'making life harder' is very real and caused by the fact that, in the end, they are now designing not for the social users, but for the ad buyers.

btw my new gmail interface is a disaster, violates all sorts of basic usability rules, right back to Fitts' Law.
posted by carter at 4:14 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Still some issues and lacking features but there's no doubt in my mind that a cloud-based, offline-synced virtual workspace model will be standard in the near future.

See Apple and iCloud.

There are a ton of reasons why this is a bad idea. #1-10 are "You are giving your entire company to company X without QOS and data protection clauses in the contract?"

If I had a lawyer or doctor who did that, and then suffered a loss or compromise of my data, not only would I sue for that, but I'd sue for malpractice.

I use the cloud for things like music, video, and calendar sync. Things, fundamentally, that aren't important, esp. since I also have them backed up locally.

I know IT, I'm in IT. I'm quite senior in IT. Thus, I don't *trust* IT.

And The Cloud's big sell is "trust us, we'll handle it...."
posted by eriko at 5:18 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


> They, like most software companies, are probably quite appreciative of useful bug reports from users. The thing is that most user bug reports are horrendously awful. If you accept feedback from random end users, you get feedback that looks like YouTube comments.

For comparison, Apple's bug radar system works well. It's a functional bug-reporting system whose entries are visible only to Apple, and which requires a separate registration (developer account), and unlike Google's shit system -- public complaint forums that nobody from Google ever reads -- if my Apple bug report is for a unique enough problem and is well documented, I will hear back from an engineer.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 5:20 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google: hire a designer. Maybe two. Your shit looks like shit.
posted by Camofrog at 5:58 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


They really seem to be struggling with growing from a company that targeted early adopters and innovators with clearly better products, hoping they would evangelize and spread the word, to a company aimed directly at the mass market and taking on all the things that originally drove the early users to use Google services. In TV terms, it would be like HBO moving away from producing shows like the Wire and becoming the pre-cable CBS.
posted by Forktine at 6:28 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Google: hire a designer. Maybe two. Your shit looks like shit.

I don't necessarily disagree with this, but I am leery of people who make these huge statements about big software products. How much do you know about designing an application that is used everywhere? I mean everywhere: every country with Internet access. What do you know about the cultural signals of certain colors? How much do you think about the color-blind/ blind/ disabled? There are a zillion graphic designers out there who could make something prettier than the Google product you're thinking of; perhaps there is a reason they haven't, other than Google is too stupid to hire them.
posted by yerfatma at 6:57 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What was the first thing you noticed that made you wonder about Google?

When I discovered just how fucking designed-to-be-monkeywrenched Google Maps/Places listing are.

Essentially, anyone can create a Google Places listing for any business. Any business. You do not have to prove you actually own or represent the business. A client of mine discovered this the hard way a year or two ago when they discovered that the Google Maps/Places listing that showed up at the top of any Google search for the business wasn't theirs. It had a completely wrong phone number and the text was completely different than their own listing.

Turns out, some marketing firm had created the faux listing and the phone number listed re-routed the call through the scammer's system, then forwarded it on to my client's phone.

Repeated attempts to contact Google to get the fake Places listing taken down was met by robo-replies about how the faux listing wasn't owned by my client and, so, no action could be taken.

Eventually, we tracked down the source of the faux listing and served them with a take-down order. That's when we discovered another little detail about the Google Places system...Multiple listings for the same business morph together over time and, even when a listing is deleted by the owner, pieces of it will live on within the morphed entry for several months, until it eventually fades away.

It's a completely fucked-up system that only geeks sequestered away in their holy tower of techno-awesomeness would think was a brilliant idea.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:58 AM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


The best analogy for this sort of thing came from friend, who said "once people discover it's nice to put a little bit of whipped cream on their pie, it will usually end with the spray can nozzle aimed directly into their mouth".
posted by davebush at 7:05 AM on March 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have to give Google props for one very, very specific thing: so far, the Google Reader Android app is the only Android app to handle alt/title text on images correctly (long press > View Caption). Lots of webcomics and humor blogs put extra jokes in alt or title text, so if I'm on Android I have to read them in Reader or it drives me nuts. Doubly so for webcomics like Achewood and Three Word Phrase which don't embed their strips in the rss feed, so you have to click through to a browser, and none of the Android browsers support alt/title text like Reader does.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:11 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When they bought Blogger and ignored it and the entire dev team.

When they hired Doug Bowman and then ignored him.

When they shutdown notebook.
posted by Mick at 7:12 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Competing with Apple really made Google better; Android was one of the best things they've ever done, if only because it elevated a dream we all had in the early nineties to something that millions upon millions of people use daily on mobile devices. But competing with Facebook has not really been good for Google.
posted by koeselitz


Your definition of competing is a little off. Apple showed Google the way with Android the way. The reason your dream became a reality (no idea who 'we' is) is because Apple led the way. Giving Google credit that millions of people have great mobile devices is a whitewashing of history.

At least with google plus they actually tried to create a facebook competitor that was different. Sadly, it turns out they're better at mimicking than innovating.
posted by justgary at 7:15 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh yes. Multiple sign ins. How hard can it fscking be?

Either you aren't a developer of your not hiking things through. Dozens of different products, developed at different times, with different teams, in different languages, all forced to converge on a new API and common authentication and it's just going to work?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:16 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


"There's a good reason for this. They, like most software companies, are probably quite appreciative of useful bug reports from users. The thing is that most user but reports are horrendously awful. If you accept feedback from random end users, you get feedback that looks like YouTube comments."

I wholly agree, Google know a lot about textual parsing and analysis, and with Postini they understand how to recognise spam with very high levels of accuracy. It would be relatively little effort to apply these filtering skills to their own bug reports to sort out the wheat from the chaff. The fact that they haven't done so means they simply don't care.
posted by epo at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, there's a missing "but" before "Google".
posted by epo at 7:28 AM on March 14, 2012


justgary: “Your definition of competing is a little off. Apple showed Google the way with Android the way. The reason your dream became a reality (no idea who 'we' is) is because Apple led the way. Giving Google credit that millions of people have great mobile devices is a whitewashing of history.”

This is only true under the assumption that Android is identical to iOS, which (as a user of both) it distinctly isn't, both in philosophy and culture.

"We" is "the Linux community."

And if I can just say this – Google is a tech company. Tech companies compete with each other. Just because Steve Jobs got it into his head that Google would never compete with him doesn't mean that makes any sense at all. It's pretty clear that Apple, for all their monolithic beauty, never gave a crap about the dream of free software. Google at least has pretended to, and it was nice to have a competitor in the marketplace that did.
posted by koeselitz at 7:39 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Google: hire a designer. Maybe two. Your shit looks like shit.

I don't necessarily disagree with this, but I am leery of people who make these huge statements about big software products.


Then Google needs to also think about localization and adding options for the visually impaired. I'm pretty sure they can afford it. Design seems like an afterthought with all Google products.
posted by Camofrog at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2012


Google at least has pretended to...

I, on the other hand, prefer to know who my enemies are. I greatly dislike finding out that someone has merely pretended to take my side. Deception is, generally, considered to be a flaw. The reason I no longer like Google is I've realized their deception. Their hypocrisy.

For companies like Microsoft, I've always known where they stood, they've always been clear about where they stood, and thus we could come to a certain detente. Honorable ideological opponents, as it were.

Google, on the other hand, feels to me like a traitor. You cannot come to a detente with a traitor.
posted by aramaic at 7:50 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, localisation, that was my first clue google was going wrong.

I don't want to default to Dutch as my language, look at Dutch search results or get a *.nl variant of google news; don't use my ip address to guess what I want.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:56 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my observation, any publicly-traded company is slouching towards amorality; the shareholders, in aggregate, demand the maximization of value. If a company were to abandon a lucrative market (China, say) simply because of the ethical compromises required to operate there (censorship, or collaborating in identification of political dissidents), heads would roll. Lawsuits could be filed.

Google reached the amorality threshold sometime around the middle of last decade, when they decided to compete with Baidu and other native Chinese portals for the title of most obsequious government lackey. They later withdrew from the market, of course, with very loud complaints of state-directed hackery, but I give them no credit for it; by that time it was clear their Chinese venture was a popular failure, and being seen to "stick it" to the regime on their way out the door was a net positive in other markets.

A lot of people seem to consider Eric Schmidt's replacement with Larry Page a line of demarcation between "don't be evil" and "meh", and in some ways I agree; I recognized the closing of Google Labs as an assault on the "20-percent time" system of focusing employees' effort on their greatest passions.

But Google was slouching inexorably towards "meh" long before then. Google's Android software is one example of this: a foundationally substandard operating system, purchased and hastily rebranded to compete with Apple's iOS while Eric Schmidt sat on Apple's Board and was privy to their strategies. I'm a partisan, admittedly, where iOS is concerned, but I can't help but to second Steve Jobs' reported characterization of Android as stolen software; the patents it infringed upon aren't even the half of it.
posted by The Confessor at 8:03 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


aramaic: “Google, on the other hand, feels to me like a traitor. You cannot come to a detente with a traitor.”

How has Google become a "traitor" to free software?
posted by koeselitz at 8:05 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It kind of goes unnoticed, but in my mind the most promising and potentially revolutionary Google product these days is Documents, in combination with the Calendar, Chat, and Voice Communication services linked with it. I've ported much of my day-to-day collaborative work to Google Docs and found it to be fantastic for productivity

I use Docs a lot, but I think their really pretty spectacular failures with regard to Docs are emblematic of their failure overall.

Docs has potential to be amazing and utterly transformative, but it's a 60% solution. Offline basically doesn't work (even on Chrome); they privileged Docs to the detriment of Notebooks (without replacing Notebooks) and now Evernote and Springpad and Memonic are eating everything they've left on the table and by the way getting used for stuff that Docs would be better at; bugs are going un-fixed and feedback un-heard (because as noted, it's really really hard to give Google feedback on anything).

Analytics also provides some great examples of utter fuck-youishness. The new interface omits PDF exports, which we use all the time (clients love them and they're really useful for just giving an account person an overview of what's happening), and has moved to a geek-macho-bullshit, user-hostile "make your own report" approach to supporting legacy features (i.e., don't complain about the fact that we didn't bother to include all the old reports, make your own and shut up about it).
posted by lodurr at 8:12 AM on March 14, 2012


Google's Android software is one example of this: a foundationally substandard operating system

Oh, please, different way of threading =/= "foundationally" substandard.

purchased and hastily rebranded to compete with Apple's iOS while Eric Schmidt sat on Apple's Board and was privy to their strategies

Not sure how this makes sense, given that Google purchased Android in 2005 (and it had been around since 2003) and Schmidt wasn't on Apple's board until 2006.

I'm a partisan, admittedly, where iOS is concerned

You don't say.

but I can't help but to second Steve Jobs' reported characterization of Android as stolen software; the patents it infringed upon aren't even the half of it.

So many of those patent claims are so evidently bogus (slide to unlock? C'mon!), and Apple's history of--if not outright boasting about--stealing all manner of stuff from HP, Palm, etc just for iOS is so extensive, that it's really hard to take any beef from Jobs/Apple towards Android at all seriously.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:20 AM on March 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


eriko: ... "You are giving your entire company to company X without QOS and data protection clauses in the contract?"

If I had a lawyer or doctor who did that, and then suffered a loss or compromise of my data, not only would I sue for that, but I'd sue for malpractice.


Erm....Guess what: They're doing that, now. I doubt you'd be able to sue for malpractice, since it tends to be rolled out across most practices in an entire region. I'd be extremely surprised if the Health Information Exchange vendors had QOS or data protection clauses that were worth a sweet damn to the patients. I mean, I don't read the contracts, but I've dealt with three different HIE vendors as a service provider by this point, and they really don't impress me as being interested in more than the statutorily mandatory compliance in those areas.
posted by lodurr at 8:20 AM on March 14, 2012


mick: When they shutdown notebook.

This was probably it for me, really. It seemed like such a no-brainer as a business proposition -- I would have paid for more features -- and indeed, as I noted, other companies are now making lots of $$ on the concept. I work with people who use Evernote the way people are intended to use Docs. I keep hearing about people who use Springpad as a replacement for all kinds of things they could be going to Google for.
posted by lodurr at 8:25 AM on March 14, 2012


The new Google Analytics interface is annoying and I cannot believe that PDF export is still missing. Add in the insanity that is trying to use Website Optimizer with it (which requires another login or setting up a third service in AdWords to share with others), and you get the feeling that the whole company is so big that the left thumb doesn't know what the left index finger is doing.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:59 AM on March 14, 2012


They are destroying this now as well with the new interface. Now everything has to have an avatar next to it like my business is a giant teenage chatroom.

Didn't you get the memo? The future is a giant teenage chatroom.
posted by acb at 9:02 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Confessor: “Google's Android software is one example of this: a foundationally substandard operating system, purchased and hastily rebranded to compete with Apple's iOS while Eric Schmidt sat on Apple's Board and was privy to their strategies. I'm a partisan, admittedly, where iOS is concerned...”

Obviously. That's not a correct characterization at all. Did you read the article you linked at all? Regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, Android is growing faster than iOS and has been for a long time. You can say it's substandard, but the fact that versioning lags a bit is not a reason for saying that.

“... but I can't help but to second Steve Jobs' reported characterization of Android as stolen software; the patents it infringed upon aren't even the half of it.”

This is insane, and I doubt you can find anybody from the tech community to back it up who doesn't work at Apple. The patent system is destroying software. It's an open secret that Steve Jobs was happy to steal patented software when it suited him. And the patents Apple (et al) hold on software are just nuts – slide to unlock? Come on now. This is the kind of thing that stifles inventiveness and destroys companies. Or maybe you want to be a plaintiff in the new Yahoo suit against Facebook, I don't know.

What's most telling is your claim that "the patents it infringed upon aren't even the half of it." What's the other more-than-half? That Android stole iOS's soul or something? That Eric Schmidt betrayed Steve by competing with him? Is the other half that it's substandard? If so, why does that make it stolen?
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


btw my new gmail interface is a disaster, violates all sorts of basic usability rules, right back to Fitts' Law.

I already mentioned how it's relatively difficult to navigate back to the Inbox, and it's all damn-near impossible to view labels, especially the Spam folder.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 AM on March 14, 2012


[Folks, don't do the same Google/Apple stuff, it's tiresome. Also don't complain about it here, go to MetaTalk or FIAMO]
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


It seems like the really big theme here is how easy it is for CEOs of companies that were once the next big thing to get infatuated with newer companies who come along and assume that role. That happened at Facebook, I think, when Mark got all crazy over Twitter and tried to Twitter-fy everything in Facebook because it seemed like a competitor. Since they still have market share in their niche, it wasn't such a huge thing, even if that was a bad direction. But for Larry Page to have gotten obsessed with competing directly with Facebook seems rather disastrous. Google was always supposed to be on a hundred different fronts, doing a thousand different things – the bend the company down toward one single-minded approach seems like a big mistake.

I've wondered if those "Google glasses" people were talking about a few weeks ago might be a last gasp of the old Google, but probably somebody else here knows more about it than I do.
posted by koeselitz at 9:19 AM on March 14, 2012


The new gmail interface really is silly. My new laptop, like all new laptops, has much less vertical space. The amount of vertical space they waste with the black bar of other google properties, and the search box that I rarely use is amazing. I've also realized that when replying to a long email chain the "Send" button often scrolls out of view, and the button I accidentally hit (because) it's in the same place is "Back to Inbox". I was wondering why so many mails I had written were hanging around as Drats.

> I was genuinely afraid to enable G+ on my primary stavrosthewonderchicken email

I felt the same way. I would love to try out Google+, but making me bet my Gmail account, all or nothing, to try it out? Nope.


> If you accept feedback from random end users, you get feedback that looks like YouTube comments.

I love the idea of google docs, and have used them a few times. But any time I've tried to figure out any thing beyond the basics (the documentation is paltry) I've always stumbled into google forums and found tons of other people with incredibly clear complaints/questions/requests that go completely unacknowledged.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I found a partial solution to get Verbatim search back. Others seem to miss it too so I'll describe it.

I'm on Firefox 3.6, Windows 7. Instead of using the search box I now type into the address bar, with a 'g' in front of my search terms (keyword search, for those who know these things).

1) Make a new bookmark somewhere. I doesn't matter where as you won't be clicking on it directly.

2) For Location, put:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&tbs=li:1

I don't know about all of the elements there. The important ones are "q=%s", which includes your search terms, and "tbs=li:1", which forces Verbatim search.

3) For Keyword, enter 'g'. That's just the letter 'g'.

4) You can leave the other items blank, though I gave it the name "Decent google search", because I'm passive aggressive.

5) Now that we've created the bookmark, suppose we want to search for 'banana'. In the Address Bar (the place where the URL of the current web pages shows up, not the usual search bar), enter

g banana


Hope that helps somebody.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


There's a good reason for this. They, like most software companies, are probably quite appreciative of useful bug reports from users. The thing is that most user but reports are horrendously awful.

Absolutely. At the same time, you can toss tier 1 techs or some other thing at the problem so that you can figure out if something might actually be broken. I've worked in tech support and I get that this is a real problem. I also think that I know how to submit a decent bug report. There is a disconnect, a total one, between the problem reporting system and the problem solving system. As much as I had a good time making my Hey Google song, it was a little nuts that "My town is misplaced by 100 miles" bug report took several months to fix with no feedback other than automated robot reports.

We get it, economies of scale are where new capitalists are getting their surplus value from. But once it becomes obvious, very obvious, that they don't care about you, you have to be ready to not trade on your "hey we're the less evil alternative" reputation.
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


The new gmail interface really is silly. My new laptop, like all new laptops, has much less vertical space. The amount of vertical space they waste with the black bar of other google properties, and the search box that I rarely use is amazing.

This is exactly the reason that I switched by to the old view, and very similar to the explanation I gave them when I did it.
posted by inigo2 at 10:12 AM on March 14, 2012


Reading this thread from my desk at Google, where I started working late last summer, I feel sad.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:24 AM on March 14, 2012


A recent Google move that has not been mentioned, which fits into the general theme of the original post (which holy cow has a lot of meat to it), is Google Play. So about a week ago, Google "launched" Google Play, which is essentially a re-branding and an all-in-one packaging of Google Music, Google Books, and whatever they call the movies they sell via Google/Android Market. What I found particularly insidious for me, one of their end users, was that they totally ignored Google Listen (podcasts), and Google Reader. I would have LOVED to have seen a Listen/Music integration, and though it would be less important to me, could fully grok a Reader/Books integration.

What they did, however, is made a product decision solely based on a market concept, as in "how can we drive the most revenue to our coffers" first, and "what is it end users actually would benefit from" second. I get it...this is how most public companies operate, but Google at least at one time said they were different.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:38 AM on March 14, 2012


Reading this thread from my desk at Google, where I started working late last summer, I feel sad.

sad because Google seems to be missing the mark on so many things, or because so many non-Googleites just don't "get" it?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:45 AM on March 14, 2012


and don't even get me started on Google TV, which destroyed my job at Logitech working on my beloved Squeezebox. That was 80% Logitech's fault for going all in on GTV, but 20% I give to Google for that. And when a company you don't work for spoils your job, not through competition, but through partnership, well...they become just a little bit easier to dislike.

Every last one of the core Squeezebox dev team knew GTV was a foolish venture to begin with from day 1. It wasn't a hindsight 20/20 thing, it was a foresight 20/20 thing.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:46 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reading this thread from my desk at Google, where I started working late last summer, I feel sad.

Please report to the __yellow__ Googly Neurological Rewiring Center for a __mandatory__ evaluation.

It's right behind the kitchen with the snacks, past the lobby filled with yoga balls and power nap hypno-pods, to the right of the free laundry.
posted by zippy at 11:07 AM on March 14, 2012


Well, I just got out of the thread bitching about Microsoft. Now it's time for Google!

I recently switched from Chrome back to Firefox* because Chrome insists insists that I use that stupid Instant Search, even if I have it turned off in the settings. I finally found a workaround (which doesn't work for me, because for some reason the new search engine won't take) in a Google forum that, as usual, doesn't even seem to have been read by anyone from Google, much less responded to.

I mentioned in a previous post about an Android quirk that allowed for automatically updating apps over 3G, with no global setting to disallow apps to update. They did finally fix that in the latest release, over a year after the problem was first mentioned, and not seemingly acknowledged that entire time. Even a "we did it this way on purpose, suck it up" would be preferable to the way they seem to (not at all) handle bug reports on their own bug reporting system.

And don't even get me started on their GMail redesign, or those damn preview windows that open if you put your mouse cursor in the wrong place in search, or the whole "+" thing, or how everything has to be Google+ now.


*Firefox, of course, has it's own annoying thing where it won't listen to my settings to turn off search and form suggestions. I swear to god, I'm going to fire all software into the sun.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


jet_manifesto and lodurr disagree about Docs:

j_m: I've ported much of my day-to-day collaborative work to Google Docs and found it to be fantastic for productivity

lodurr: I use Docs a lot, but I think their really pretty spectacular failures with regard to Docs are emblematic of their failure overall.

I loved Google Docs and used it for years, but now that they're abandoning lightweight, fluid-width editing and imposed a new editor with mandatory page-oriented formatting, they're losing me.

It was clear they'd decided to morph Google Docs into a Word replacement for office and other paper-oriented environments, adding real-time collaboration as a differentiator.

But that new thing is slow, clunky, and inflexible. You can't turn off real-time collaborative editing, so even if you're just whipping up a shopping list, there are second-by-second autosaves to allow a putative collaborator to see where your cursor is. This leads to obnoxious lags and freezes. If your network connection drops, the document disappers. (The old version left the doc up with a warning, so you could copy the text and save it locally.)

With paper-oriented page formatting, the editor is unusable on small screens (hey, some of us still have and use netbooks!) and can't take advantage of bigger monitors. Table handling is messed up. Many existing documents don't convert properly.

Several times last year, the Docs PM promised some solution to the fluid-width problem, but he's been silent on the subject since November, and since last month there's a blood-banner sucking up space on old-format docs with the legend

This document will soon be upgraded to the latest version of Google documents.


The appearance of that banner was the turning point for me
posted by tangerine at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


mcstayinskool, I noticed that zippy included the Google Play switch as one of several complaints, altho in small text. I too am annoyed by the change. The part that grates for me is that I NEVER use the music, movies, etc; all I use the Market for is getting apps for my phone or my tablet. It's not "play," despite the fact that some of those apps are games. The tablet, since it has a click-on keyboard, is my main day-to-day computing device, not a toy.

This whole pile of smaller and larger irritations has accrued over the last few years; I'm not sure what the last straw will be, but it's getting close.

(On preview: tangerine, I'm particularly furious about the suckitude of Google Docs on Android.)
posted by epersonae at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2012


MetaFilter: My "Who the hell are you people?" network.
posted by WalkingAround at 11:59 AM on March 14, 2012


Man, you guys must be using a different gmail interface. The one I'm using was clearly modified to optimize vertical space usage -- there's significantly less distance between the top of the browser window and the first entry in the message list. Also, I see all my labels in a list down the left side. I don't like that they try to prioritize them instead of presenting them alphabetically, but that's been going on for a couple of years now at least.

There are a lot of things in the gmail UI I'd complain about (e.g., no way to send to more than one distribution list), but those -- I just literally don't see them in the version I use.
posted by lodurr at 12:22 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


mcstayinskool: And when a company you don't work for spoils your job, not through competition, but through partnership, well...they become just a little bit easier to dislike.

Heh. I'm not sure you'd know this, but you just described IBM. Paging the irony patrol....
posted by lodurr at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I've been following this discussion all day and it is extremely one-sided. Is there nobody here who likes the new direction?

When I bothered with airing my grievances with the "new look" in Google's support forums the Google employees (and some shills) all said that they know for certain that the vast majority of users prefer the "new look". So where are these people?

BTW I went back to the support forums today and found that they disabled the helpful/unhelpful function, which people used to protest the corporate speak non-answers to their problems.

Like the problem goes away if you decide not to look at it...

posted by patrick54 at 12:26 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


patrick54, that's kind of disturbing, but it's consistent with what I've seen in the forums discussing Analytics: endless praise for the new UI, total silence on any criticism.

as for the 'new look' -- if it were just a new look, i'd be for it, I generally like the look. As I've said, I like that GMail chrome takes up less of my gmail screen. But they do seem to be refressing features like crazy, throughout their product lines.
posted by lodurr at 12:28 PM on March 14, 2012


refressing >> regressing
posted by lodurr at 12:29 PM on March 14, 2012


MetaFilter: My "Who the hell are you people?" network.

And that's the way we like it!
posted by zombieflanders at 12:45 PM on March 14, 2012


When I bothered with airing my grievances with the "new look" in Google's support forums the Google employees (and some shills) all said that they know for certain that the vast majority of users prefer the "new look". So where are these people?

You should know that when a company representative uses the phrase "the vast majority of users", they are referring to the users at the company.

See also: The shit Adobe keeps bloating-up their products with.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:04 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I bothered with airing my grievances with the "new look" in Google's support forums the Google employees (and some shills) all said that they know for certain that the vast majority of users prefer the "new look". So where are these people?

Most people don't say anything good or bad about a service, but you can use A/B tests to see whether various metrics such as conversion from visitor to new user, or time spent on site, increase.

Google does a lot of A/B testing. 41 shades of blue worth of it. This has the virtue of making every product discussion rational (in theory). It has the shortcoming that it attracts people who know how to measure, but not necessarily what to measure, and it also leads to via premature settling for good enough because you are unlikely to make a major change necessary from something OK (mp3 players before Apple) to look what happens when a brilliant designer works from first principles and changes more than one variable at once (iPod).
posted by zippy at 1:07 PM on March 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Like many of you, I feel a growing irritation when using Google products. I was spurred by this discussion to try to fix a few of them…

I posted a blog entry which allows Firefox users to install a "google literal search" engine for their searches; if you normally use the small "search" box to the right of the location^Wawesome bar to search, you can add this and then set it as your default.

Apologies for directing you to my blog for this, but (as far as I know) I can't embed it in metafilter because it requires use of a bit of javascript. If you want to look at the xml search specification file, you can download it directly: google-literal-search.xml

I also took the time to search out this greasemonkey script, which removes the google tracking from google search results (and, more importantly, fixes right-click "copy link URL" in case you want to send a search result directly to a friend or colleague): Google Real Link
posted by jepler at 1:31 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google, from the outside, appears to be a company that hires a lot of really smart-with-machines people and then expects them to do smart-with-people work.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


So I've been following this discussion all day and it is extremely one-sided. Is there nobody here who likes the new direction?

I still use Google products for a lot of my daily computing needs, especially email and searching. The Gmail interface bugs me because the icons are totally unintuitive, but it works great.
posted by deathpanels at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2012


Is there nobody here who likes the new direction?

I like the new look of all their products, and have no problems with how gmail and search currently work (hell, when I try things like duckduckgo I'm stunned by how bad the results are and that people are actually swapping to it).

Perhaps the discussion is one sided because people who have a problem tend to complain, while people who are happy just keep using the products. Seriously, every single person I work with uses gmail and search daily and I haven't heard a single person even mention any of the current updates much less complain about them. I just don't think it's a big deal for most people.
posted by markr at 4:54 PM on March 14, 2012


Gmail Android app "Archive" icon: filing cabinet! Like you're filing it away!
Gmail web client "Archive" icon: a... box with an arrow on it?
posted by jason_steakums at 5:55 PM on March 14, 2012


You people and your fucking telephones all the time. Get over it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:10 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I worked for Google for 4+ years and left about 3 years ago, which was the height of the financial crisis. They wouldn't let me transfer from NYC to Boston (Cambridge) because a transfer counted as a hire, and none of the offices was allowed new employees. A year later they were hiring again. I left them to join a startup in Boston and have not regretted it one bit. I don't think my going mattered much to them, either. They've done plenty fine and I was a bit player.

Personally I'd put the inflection point at around the start of 2007. Until then, hiring was booming and there were lots of interesting little projects starting up or being acquired. But around that time, new projects appeared a lot less frequently, and the existing ones had to repeatedly justify their existence and regardless they were starting to be killed off. By 2009, when I was trying to figure out if I wanted to stay in NYC, there were no projects that sparked my interest enough to keep me there. Also, the perks that Google has been famous for started to be curtailed.

I'm sure it's still a great place to work, but the magic is gone and if I were a young engineer I wouldn't aspire to work there the way I once did.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:12 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


google tracking from google search results

Drives me crazy when I just need a link to a webpage, that you can't try and copypaste it from the google search results without getting a whole lot of cruft with it.

Vexing!
posted by MartinWisse at 3:56 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons I switched to Google from Yahoo was because I could right-click & copy the link on Google, and couldn't on Yahoo. Now that's gone, too. I should check to see what Bing lets me do w.r.t. that....i actually like Bing, when I remember to use it. I've just got so many things tweaked to work with Google search that I don't think to use it unless I'm doing something unusual, like competitor or search placement research.
posted by lodurr at 7:42 AM on March 15, 2012


As most of us would expect the hacker news thread on this post is an absolute scream.
posted by bukvich at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2012


you can't try and copypaste it from the google search results without getting a whole lot of cruft with it.

I hate this too. Fortunately Greasemonkey has a solution for you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2012


So I've been following this discussion all day and it is extremely one-sided. Is there nobody here who likes the new direction?

What should tip people off are the little details, as much as the big-scale direction the company is headed in. When there's no mention at all of Pi Day on the front page, a playful kind of "micro-holiday" for us geeky types, you know their priorities have changed pretty dramatically away from where they used to be.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 AM on March 15, 2012


Actually, I would welcome a shift away from the pure tech-geek focus. I think that's a big part of their problem -- it's the source of problems like the over-reliance on data, the tendency to ignore technical feedback from users, the fact that their UX often more or less totally ignores the experience of non-technical users, etc.

So if they want to celebrate the birthday of Akira Yoshizawa instead of name-checking a celebration you can't miss if you're a geek on the web, I don't see that as having any bearing at all on their strategy.

Also, it's kind of odd, I think, to assume that a decision about what anniversary to create a Doodle for would be an indicator of the company's global mood or direction. If it comes down directly from Larry, sure, maybe, but if it does, then the company is pretty fucked up.
posted by lodurr at 10:21 AM on March 15, 2012


Actually, I would welcome a shift away from the pure tech-geek focus.

That seems precisely the reason why Whittaker left. Maybe their public face used to be representative of us developers, but not for much longer, clearly.

Also, it's kind of odd, I think, to assume that a decision about what anniversary to create a Doodle for would be an indicator of the company's global mood or direction.

I don't know. The Doodle is a marketing thing, certainly, and any kind of marketing does, to some non-inconsequential degree, indicate what kind of public image a company wants to present, whatever the motivations might be. One can stand back and look the large and small decisions as an aggregate and decide if there's been a change in direction (or not, equally).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:48 AM on March 15, 2012


This and much more; the Harvard launch followed by an initial expansion only into the the university sector by way of the ivy league created a solid cohort of influential and socially active people who could reliably find each other by their real names (the student ID requirement). Expanding beyond that about the time earlier adopters were graduating could not have worked out better. A huge amount of almost unkillable momentum was created.

This was the core business plan which a kid who knew how to write nice php and simple web interfaces stumbled upon and came to call his own.

Facebook itself is a manifestation of this idea, not any specific technology or platform.

Google helped teach people how to use the web, enabling easier access to by providing the most rudimentary socially (or collectively)-driven search results. Facebook taught people how to talk to others using it. Will people remain addicted to both just like they are addicted to TV? Or will the skills they accidentally acquired while playing within these spaces urge them to go elsewhere and create worlds which are more their own.

Fundamentally, the internet is really much, much more than these centralized figures, and over time, people brought into its influence will spread out, across the millions of forums and message boards, wikis and sources of documentation. There is much, much more meat out in zipf's tail than in the head, where if we focus our attention and capital.

We can, and will socialize these beasts.
posted by melatonic at 12:27 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google became (pre-Windows 7) Microsoft when they started pushing Android out without any influence over the hardware it was running on.

Great observation. I never could understand their interest in that space other than being involved in the growth of mobile platforms. Their Chrome initiative made sense because raising standards for browsers feeds into their business and oddly enough another browser has done some good in taming the diversity of web standard compliance. Android makes no sense to me, in two senses of the word, though.
posted by dgran at 10:35 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anybody actually like Facebook? The only people I know who use it regularly are those who don't know any better.

There are lots of things I don't like about Facebook, but some pretty big things I like about it. The biggest one is that it allows me to keep low level, yet nevertheless regular and active, social interaction with a network of friends and relatives that are spread out all over the world.
posted by bardophile at 10:35 AM on March 17, 2012


Their Android strategy is basically identical to their Chrome strategy. Make sure that mobile users have sufficient technology to use Google products, and make sure Google isn't locked out of the market or dependent on their competitors for access.

Just say mobile web use continues to grow as it is, but there is no Android, instead the mobile market is split between Apple and Microsoft. With both being closed ecosystems Google would be entirely reliant on Apple and Microsoft for access to mobile users. They couldn't even release something like Chrome on mobile without Apple and Microsoft blessing it.
posted by markr at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I debated making this a new thread, but figured most of the same discussion would probably come up there (and create more Apple V. Android headache for the mods): The Case Against Google.
posted by codacorolla at 7:44 AM on March 23, 2012


Google+ solves Google's big problems, at least in theory. It delivers a social network—arguably better constructed Facebook—that lets it understand the connections between people. It also lets Google tap into a stream of real-time data, and build a search system around that without having to worry that it will ever be left at the altar. And it does so much more, too! It has real time photos, like Instagram. It has a video chat service, like Skype. It lets you see which businesses your friends recommend, like Yelp. It's a one size fits all solution, and what's more it's on the open Web. Perfect! (from codacorolla's link)

aaarghh, G+ sucks due to usability issues, above and beyond people looking for social payoff. Reader's sharing features, as noted above, were the BEST linksharing implementation ever, and I was happily using that. When they pulled the plug on that, the company earned my critical and skeptical ire.

The article that codacorolla links to is pretty damning, and a solid roundup. it might actually be worth a front page post.

you know what elese would be worthwhile? an alternatives to gmail post.
posted by mwhybark at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2012


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