Google is doing it wrong. Again.

I'm putting this update at the top of this post as well as at the bottom, so nobody misses it:

Updated: It appears that Google engineers are actively working on a way to fix this thing, and that it may not have been intentional. I sincerely hope that that's the case, and will just point out that, if Google didn't have a pattern of social network behaviour to the contrary, I'd be way more willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

And it isn't lost on me that my G+ experience is likely quite different from most people's, I get that. If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to listen to me.


Earlier today, I took a break from work to look at my G+ timeline, and saw that it was absolutely flooded with Event invites.

I thought maybe it was just me, so I asked on my G+ thing:

Did G+ roll out some new "invite everyone you follow to an event" thing? My feed is completely overwhelmed with "everyone's invited to XXXXX event" notices, and I'm having a hard time actually seeing posts from people I'm following.

Oh, and the spammer scumbags have figured out that they can make an invite to an event that's nothing but spam. 

Is there a way to opt-out of event invites from people I don't follow or have circled? Is this yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly?

After a little bit of research and a lot of comments from a lot of people, it's fairly clear that this is yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly… or, worse, this is exactly the way the company intended to do it. I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's like Google has learned nothing from Buzz, nothing from this, and is actually doing this sort of thing on purpose.

Here's my follow up post on G+:

Google's Event thing is something the company has worked very hard on, and has a lot of big plans for.

It's too bad that I'll never use it, because Google has, yet again, made a product that may be useful and cool, but forced it upon users without giving users any control over how invasive it is.

I don't know how it is for anyone else, but here's what has happened to me today: my timeline, which I look at at least once an hour on a regular day, is nothing but invites to events from people I don't know, or — worse — invites to an "event" that is really a spammy advertisement like "You're invited to buy [something] at [dodgy website].

As a result, G+ is useless to me today, and for as long as it takes the company to actually fix this, assuming they ever do. Yeah, it's a first world problem for me, but it's also a problem for Google, because even if 1% of G+ users feel the same way I do, that's a lot of people Google has unnecessarily pissed of and possibly alienated.

Am I supposed to believe that in the development of this event thing not asingle person said, "Hey, maybe we should limit this event invitation thing to people a user has already circled."? Really? After the Buzz fiasco, not a single person in the company spoke up and pointed out that forcing something on users that they don't want and may not need without asking them first or giving them an option at rollout to disable it was a good idea? 

Instead of talking about how cool this thing is, and how excited we are to use it, a significant number of G+ users — and people like Linus Torvalds, who are way more influential than I am are among them — are talking about how annoyed they are and how much they hate it.

Is that the rollout that Google was hoping for? Has Google learned nothing from doing things like this in the past? I'm starting to believe that this isn't an accident or poor planning, but by design; I just can't figure out why. Why does Google want to annoy its users? 

Google isn't stupid, and the Google engineers who work on this stuff are very talented, but someone at the top of Google's Social Networking unit just keeps doing it wrong. If any company wants people to adopt their services, they need to earn it by being awesome, not by clumsy and invasive product or service rollouts that inconvenience or annoy people who would probably like those things otherwise.

Google is going to want a lot of people to buy their Nexus Q and their Augmented Reality Glasses, and I bet those products will be pretty cool… but I'm not going anywhere near them, and I'm not going to encourage anyone else to go anywhere near them, until Google indicates that they have some concern for the end user experience, and seriously thinks through the consequences of forcing things onto their users that they may not want, or need.

Please pay attention, People-Who-Sit-In-Boardrooms, to someone who is actually using your products and isn't surrounded by corporate lackeys telling you how to "leverage" the "intersection" of "unique assets" and "corporatespeak that means nothing but sounds impressive to you": You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don't get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that's probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.

And if I'm not someone you listen to, People-Who-Sit-In-Boardrooms, maybe you'll listen to Neil Gaiman:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

Come on, Google. I really want to like you, but you're making it really difficult. Honestly, how hard is it to give users a heads up? Doesn't it make more sense to get us excited about something in advance, so we're looking forward to it?

Updated: It appears that Google engineers are actively working on a way to fix this thing, and that it may not have been intentional. I sincerely hope that that's the case, and will just point out that, if Google didn't have a pattern of social network behaviour to the contrary, I'd be way more willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

And it isn't lost on me that my G+ experience is likely quite different from most people's, I get that. If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to listen to me.

29 thoughts on “Google is doing it wrong. Again.”

  1. Will the Wheaton Beer Chronicles (or other such names) be posted elsewhere then? Cuz that’s one of my favorite things about your G+ postings.

  2. If it wasn’t for Hangouts (which I use for roleplaying with friends in Germany and Switzerland with me being in the UK), I’d given up on G+. I first thought it would be a good and possibly less sneakily invasive equivalent to facebook but not enough of my friends use it to make it worthwhile as a permanent social networking tool. I constantly get things in my timeline I don’t want and never subscribed to (like What’s hot or bloody Par*s H*lton). I haven’t been on it yet today so I’ve missed the events thing.

  3. I agree 100%. I loved my Google Reader… until they changed it without asking me. Google wants me to figure out how to use G+ to see my friends’ recommendations. I looked at G+, but balked at a “hey, you’re giving everyone access to your Picasa album” type message, but gave me no “No, thanks” button. I haven’t devoted time to figure out how they’re screwing me by creating a G+ account. I loved my iGoogle homepage… until they changed it and made ridiculous UX changes. This is all on purpose. And it sucks.

  4. Google+ has sadly become a large target for spammers. Even for someone like myself with a tiny fraction of the amount of followers you have gets a bunch of bullshit. For a long while I had actually hoped to use G+ openly and post my updates in the Public timeline as I do with Twitter but that lead to just too much spam. There was so much hope for a sort of happy medium between Facebook’s closed network of friends social aspect and Twitter’s more open-ness to spreading updates around the world. Instead it’s become a mess and until it cleans up it’s act it will not attract more users. Sadly I see this as a catch-22 as I doubt Google will try to clean it up until more users start to come.

  5. You know that you can turn off the ‘What’s hot’ from your stream, right? Go to ‘Explore’, on the top-right there’s a tool, drag to the left until the end: ‘Show nothing from this stream in “All Circles” ‘. You can do that to all your others circles too.

  6. How lame am I that I don’t have a single Google event invite on my timeline! I’m sure I have 5 or 6 orders of magnitude less people circling me though.
    I don’t know why they got rid of the tab that shows you stuff from people who circled you but are not in your circles. I guess if I really cared about what they say I would just circle them back, hm. But then why break their own model now by showing not-circled people’s invites in your stream? Seems like it must be a mistake somewhere.

  7. I haven’t touched Google+ as I have no need of it, but this doesn’t surprise me. Google as a company doesn’t seem to have any interest in letting the user have control of their experience. I refuse to install, much less use, Chrome due to its lack of a) installation control, and b) cache control. I don’t care how fast your effing product is, if you don’t let me decide where I want to install it and how it should run, I will not use it*.
    Of course the most successful company in tech right now is Apple, whose entire history involves telling their users “just do it the way we tell you, you’ll like it,” so maybe that’s where Google is getting its ideas. But even Safari has goddamn cache control.
    *Side note: how stupid is the very concept of caching in 2012? Yeah, it made sense in 1995 when connection speeds were very slow and web pages didn’t change very often, but in the current world of the constantly-updating, interactive, user-generated-content web, the very idea of caching views for the next time the user visits a page is inane.

  8. Don’t be fooled. Google is an advertising company and it will probably always be one. Even if their software is good, it is not their core business. It is then unavoidable that these sort of decisions like the one you are writing about are happening, quite intentionally.
    (my opinion, not Microsoft’s)

  9. Heck, Im like everyone else, I don’t love Facebook. However google is doing something wrong, I love my gmail but I eventually deleted G+.

  10. I was this close (holds fingers three micros apart) to finally signing up for G+ and then I come home to find this.
    No thanks. I’ll stick to my dead and decaying social media outlets. Those might not have anyone on them anymore, but at least I don’t get spammed.

  11. I wish someone at EA would get the same message about not convincing people to try their products by forcing it on them unasked. I just want to play games. I don’t want or need another launcher.

  12. i actually have a strong compulsion to go, YES! me too. but i will hold off on this for the purpose of maintaining some modicum of independent thinking. i can see the appeal for a ‘bandwagon’like reaction to launching social network platforms without adequate beta testing. simply said google is a company and stockholder dividends are key to considerations around growth and expansion, “user experiences” in this case come as a distant after thought. i find some irony in the fact that this article doesnt have an embebbed google+ button next to the twitter one.

  13. “If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself.”
    *giggles uncontrollably*

  14. I am really disappointed with Google. Lately I feel like there has been a change in management. They built the company on creating awesome products that connected everything to everything in ways that people wanted. Now, they are restricting all those connections to only the ones they want. I really feel they are moving away from a company that gives people what they want to a company that tells people what they want.
    The Reader fiasco was a perfect example

  15. Give them hell Mr Wheaton! Why do companies (Google, cable companies, phone companies, Microsoft, etc) feel the need to force stuff on their users weather they want it or not, then come up with some stupid explanation how it is so great. If it is great, people will flock to it, if they don’t it is not great. Google has been steadily heading away from their unofficial motto “Don’t be evil.”

  16. May I use your final two sentences (with attribution, of course) in discussions about, oh, pretty much everything I seem to get into discussions about? That captures my feelings perfectly.

  17. This kind of foolishness is why I don’t have G+ and don’t plan on getting it.
    Oh, and I kind of adore the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” turn of phrase. I’m going to see if I can work that in to a conversation this weekend.

  18. Gaiman: “When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.
    I’ve never been able to understand what he meant by that. Search? Google wasn’t first to that. Web-based e-mail? Google wasn’t first to that. News aggregator? Not the first. Smartphone? Not the first. Browser? Not the first.
    In terms of high quality products that they’ve actually delivered, when has Google done anything except hop on bandwagons?
    Re: Events. This is not meant to be shitty and I hope you won’t interpret it that way: You’re famous. And that does change the way you use the tool. And Google probably should have taken that into account before rolling out a beta test of this functionality.
    Furthermore, speaking as someone not-famous I was really, really annoyed when I discovered that G+ events people invited me to were being automatically added to my Google Calendar.
    With that being said: I absolutely desire an event-planning tool to be part of my social networking platform. Even more than that, it was Facebook’s event-planning functionality that originally got me to create a Facebook account. And nothing has distressed me more than watching Facebook systematically break their event functionality in every way possible to make it a less useful and a less universal tool.
    One of the key ways Facebook has broken their event-planning functionality is by preventing users from inviting people who aren’t their friends. So I would consider it hugely problematic for Google to do the same.
    Now, with that being said, Google has a unique challenge: G+ is as much a blogging/twitter platform as it is a social networking tool and that presents unique challenges. As I said, Google should have realized that being able to target people you follow with event invites would have a distinctly different result than being able to target people you’re Facebook friends with and/or have an e-mail address for.
    And G+, in general, would benefit hugely from giving me a lot more control over what does and does not show up in my feed.
    So I think there are a lot of issues here that Google can and should be addressing. But I don’t think we need to paint them as mustachioed villains because their beta test is a failure.
    (Now their decision to make it so that G+ huddles can only be used on your phone and you can’t access them from a web browser? That’s pure villainy. I’m unleashing the laser sharks as we speak.)

  19. Wow Wil,
    My problem is exactly like yours only different. Every day 100s if not 1000s of people don’t send me invites or comments. You’re spot on comparing this to the Buzz fiasco. Listened to RFB ep.33 today. Good stuff!

  20. Hey Wil… slightly off-topic, but on your Tumblr you made a post I wanted to tell you something about, and there’s no way to message you through tumblr, and I don’t want a tweet to get lost. I’m pretty sure Gary Larson has asked that people don’t post or repost his comics on the internet, because he does still make his livelihood off of them. Since you made that conscious decision about the post/repost of the Chris Hemsworth photo a few days ago, I figured I’d give you a heads-up because I know you do care.
    Can’t wait to try and meet you at GenCon! Have a lovely day. :)

  21. Re: Spam – I don’t know what spam software/utility G+ uses, if any. My blog is on WordPress and they use Akismet and I’m absolutely happy with it! Catches the spam that pretends to be comments too.
    As to “Social Media” – when I first heard it called that, my first thought was “sounds like social disease” – which over time I have come to consider an accurate description. I had a Facebook acct until they threw me out for using a professional name that all my friends knew me by. Then they said they’d let me back in if I’d send them a copy of my driver’s license and SSN. Yeah…. that’s a cold day you know where when I do that! (And here I was in the top 100 on Mouse Hunt! The NERVE! ;-D)
    Then I followed the whole G+ thing and figured I could just ignore it. But just to be safe, I “googled” to see if I had an accidental account with God only knows what “secrets” about me they were keeping for a future blackmail attempt. Turns out I somehow avoided that by never “signing up” for any of their “products.” And to KEEP me annon to them I even switched search engines so they can’t track that. (Now someone else tracks it, I presume.) But my experience with FB was instructional – so I didn’t sign up for anything from Google.
    But hey! I’m an open minded fellow. When I did a piece on my blog about Facebook’s IPO, I handled it straight up – by saying that with a PE of 95 or 100 it was WAAAAY over priced, and the Big Boys have been pumping and dumping it ever since! (FB’s stock should have opened at around $6, +/- $4)

  22. This crap is exactly why I don’t have a G+ account and am distancing myself from FaceBook. They do things which put my privacy at risk without considering anything more than what it does for their bottom line.
    Recently FB attempted to assign everyone an @FB.COM email address and make it the primary contact address. As far as I can tell, this was shouted down.
    Before FB revised their privacy policy a couple years ago to grudgingly allow that maybe people do have a certain right to a little control. They allowed any entity who you might have liked or signed up for a game with to have complete access to all of your personal information. After they revised the policy they grandfathered these cretins in and made it very difficult to deny them continued access.
    Don’t believe me? Try to block Zynga without logging into your FB page.
    Now Google is nagging me for my cellphone number. WHY IN GOD’S NAME WOULD I GIVE GOOGLE MY CELL PHONE NUMBER? They can contact me the same way any other spammer can. Through my junk mail folder.

  23. They got even worse.
    Google shopping will no longer show firearms or firearms accessories. Just type in .357 and hit the shopping link. No search results found.
    I’m not a rabid gun advocate, but it offends me that Google thinks that they know what’s good for us. I don’t know what your opinions are on firearm ownership, but I have carry permits in two states and I am of the opinion that people who say, “people shouldn’t be armed” mostly mean, “People who are not me should not be armed.”
    And they rolled that lovely feature out on the 4th of July. Happy birthday America indeed.
    *Steps off soapbox*
    Sorry about the rant. It’s just one of those slippery slopes.

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