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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Google, Get the Bugs Worked Out

Brinke Guthrie worked in commercial radio for most of his career, including a stint at CNET as website editor. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a BFA in Radio-TV-Film. Brinke and his wife live in the Bay Area, together with a growing collection of 60’s Gerry Anderson DVDs, diecast spaceships, stuffed animals, and anything Pixar creates.

I have been an avid follower of techy stuff (referred to from now on as TS) since Dell 1.0 in 1997. Now on Dell 2.0 and headed toward HP/Compaq 1.0 shortly – Michael Dell gets no more money from us. More recently, I really got on the Google bandwagon. I like their TS. When they work. And to quote Billy S; “Aye, there’s the rub.”

I have just about had it with the unavailability of their services. (Referred to from now on as UN.) I punch up the Google personalized page, and half the time I see Bookmarks UN...or Gmail UN. And sometimes when I click on the Gmail icon in the toolbar, I get the ’Oops! Cross your fingers and try again,’ or some witty phrase.

Listen. The eternal-beta tag is getting old. Gmail has been out for 2 years. With all the Stanford diplomas walking around the ’Plex, I would think that two years would be quite enough to get the bugs worked out. I just won’t deal with the UN anymore – for the time I am back to Yahoo mail. Why? Well, it always works. It’s always there. I sign in, it’s there. Comparing a 2-year old to a 10-year old in the real world isn’t fair. But in the tech world, the playing field is a lot more even where the tech heavies are concerned. I still can’t get the new Yahoo! Mail Beta, but that’s an entire different story.

GDS works well. Earth does, too (tho an import from Keyhole.) Picasa (another import) is OK, but I have no use for it as my photos are very well organized and I use “Microsoft Picture It!” which works fine. Talk I don’t need ’cause I have no one to IM with. The toolbar works fine. I guess my gripe is solely with Gmail. Mail is the Net’s true killer app. We have come to expect this: “click mouse/send mail.” Done. If we don’t get that bottom line, well, that’s a problem.

I like the look of Gmail. That’s my main attraction to Google – the look. And the personality. I love the logos, and personality is one thing Yahoo and MSN sorely lack. Google comes at you with a sense of humor and whimsy.

But look, don’t shove whimsy at me in place of structural solidarity. I’d like it to work. People who make the argument, “Gee, it’s a free beta, what do you expect” are just not living in reality. Sure it’s free...all web-based emails accounts are! (Minus extra storage.) And after two years, I do expect more from the world’s hottest tech company. All those PHDs oughta have the buggers out by now. But yet when we log in...whammo. UN.

Google’s biggest threat? It’s not Ballmer’s bluster. It’s not Semel’s visions of Hollywood grandeur. (Though you know he was digging Tomkat’s visit.) The biggest threat comes...from inside the Googleplex. If you start believing the hype...if you expand so much without paying attention to the things that got you’re set up to fail. The Roman Empire tried expansion, and after awhile that didn’t work out.

Google, you should slow the pace and quit rolling out widgets (oops, that’s Yahoo, sorry) every other week, slapping a beta sticker on ’em to excuse the lack of functionality. The masses are now duped into thinking “they call everything a beta, so that’s OK.” No, it’s not. We put our trust in your TS, so we deserve a basic level of service. Everytime Gmail fails, everytime there’s a Bob who gets his many mails unanswered (has anyone ever got anything but a template response from tech support?), you lose a little more of your user base.

There was a Net before Google, and it got along fine. Fix what you’ve got before trying to take over the rest of the world. It will still be there when you’re ready to assimilate us.


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