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15 Annoying Things About Google

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

Saturday, December 3, 2005
14 years ago

1) When you search for the definition of a word with the define operator (for example, define:hemifidl), Google does not use their query-based spell checker to try to fix it and you have to do it yourself. But searching regular google for the same typo results in the correct suggestion.

2) Google Analytics does not take advantage of Google Maps, instead using some static, boring and highly zoomed out depictions of earth

3) I am shown the number of e-mails in my spam folder in Gmail, causing me to obsessively check it since I get more spam than regular mail. Although, I must say Google gets 99% of the spam and has never miscategorized a message. That accuracy is what makes me mad about being pestered about the contents of my spam folder.

4) Google Reader and Gmail have different interfaces, when in fact the data structures that they represent have intrinsically similar properties [that should be invisible to the user] and thus should have a common interface. I've been saying this, and Yahoo! recently picked up on it. Kudos to Yahoo! I won't be switching but I did admire.

5) I can't export my starred entries in Google Reader. Web 2.0 (commonly defined /as/ Google) is all about the users owning their data. I should be able to download everything Google has on me in a convenient xmlified archive.

6) If you are trying to get directions on Google Local and you accidentally type an address into the "Search the map" form and then properly click on "Get directions" it does not move the address for you and you have to copy/paste or retype it. Ditto "Find businesses". Simple Javascriptery.

7) Orkut exists.

8) Google Alerts don't work very well at all for the actual, bleeding edge status of the web. In fact, it's downright terrible. The only thing worse is the MSN alerts which resend you the same things every single time they crawl the web.

9) Google Book Search pretends that you can only read within a few pages of your query, when in fact you can just search for a phrase on the last page you were allowed to view and go on to read more pages using this algorithm.

10) Google hired Vint Cerf but they won't listen to Tim Berners-Lee. Old url schemas from Google Print and other Google products no longer work. This is anti-web. See w3.org/Provider/Style/URI

10) Google doesn't use their award winning translation technology to provide their customers a better experience. They just use it to win awards.

11) Although it's understandable, there are a whole smorgasborg of Linux geeks working at the Googleplex, yet they write almost all of their software exclusively for windows. E.g., Picasa.

12) All these damn product blogs. But, thanks Philipp for fixing that one (hope they don't send you a cease and desist) =) [conceptually, they should just have one blog and more bloggers, but hey]

13) The Google Accounts page looks like it was designed in Microsoft FrontPage by a novice. This is my personal data you are representing, thanks!

14) Google forgot to send Google Groups to their PhD sporting UI gurus. I'm color blind and I can tell you that schema is a disaster.

15) I can't search with regular expressions ;)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

16) I can't empty my spam folder or trash can in Gmail! I actually have to delete my 12,448 spam mails and 51,248 trash mails manually in portions of 50 each, which according to the Google Calculator – assuming it takes me 10 seconds each – would keep me busy for 4 days, 8 hours per day!

Lawrence Runacres [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Number 15 is extremely interesting! I would love to be able to search with regular expressions. This sounds like a perfect 20% project for some enterprising young programmer at Google.

It -might- be that Google doesn't want to give users that kind of search power (or, more likely, thinks this kind of search power could be easily abused – think of the Google Hacks!). This is very unlikely, but who knows?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Or just be able to have a special search for certain characters, like "." or "!".

joe lion [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

i would like to re-emphasize #s 4 and 13.

I was unbelievably disappointed when they released the travesty that is Reader. I was 99% sure that Reader would have been integrated into Gmail and we could view feeds in the now comfortable conversation-style list, and I would only have to sign into and use one damn service instead of two completely separate services to do, as you said, are basically the same thing – read email and read blogs.

And speaking of services, #13 hit's the nail on the head with the pitiful Google Accounts page. With each new service they release that's tied to your google Account (gmail, reader, video, personalized home, analytics, news, local, froogle, etc etc) but which still are not tied together in any synergistic way, they're losing valuable opportunities. The LEAST they could do is give you a list of all the services you subscribe to and easy access to those services (and TRUE single sign-in) when you log into google.com/accounts

Mark Cummins [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

16) The search in Gmail is much poorer than Google web search. No spelling correction for one. And the actual search alg seems quite primitive. If you do a two-word search, the result is a simple AND of the one-word searches. No intelligent ranking for when the two words occur close together, like in web search.

17) In Google Personalized Home, right-clicking on a section title follows the link, rather than bringing up the context menu. This bug has not been fixed in months, despite many people mentioning it in Google's feedback forums.
I actually moved to My Yahoo because this bug annoyed me so much. In retrospect the whole concept of Google Personalized Home is flawed. I want a page to aggregate news, but I don't want to see it every time I do a search.

Basil [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I want to search for "?" and not get 0 results. I'm sure there's some love somewhere.

Brinke Guthrie [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

i personalize the google news page. IE, Sports/Entertainment/Sci-Tech/US News.

I hit SAVE

then, it rearranges back to the regular look- personalization is gone.

Brooks Filmond [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

17) I sometimes want a case-sensitive search. Searching for NeXT gives you a metric boatload more entries than you really want.

Mark Draughn [PersonRank 5]

14 years ago #

By signing up for different services at different times, I've managed to accumulate several Google accounts, and it seems I'm always switching between them. Or rather, the complexity of it all discourages me from using Google more.

To some extent, this is just user error on my part. But it also represents the different identities I have on the web: blogger, computer consultant, and private user.

I'm not sure what Google can do about it, but here's one possibility: Allow users to have multiple identities at the same time. For example, when I'm running Google Talk, I might want to be busy as a blogger, but available to my software clients.

All other portals have the same problem, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.

A single-identity system is fine for a desktop computer, at home or at work, and it's good enough for logging in to a single web activity, like Amazon, but it's not sophisticated enough to work with the entire world on the internet.

An integrated multi-identity system that works with all Google services would go a long way toward making Google the "Web OS" they want to be.

Bugme Knott [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

That's actually 16 things, since you listed 10 twice.

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

"16) I can’t empty my spam folder or trash can in Gmail!..."

It gets auto-deleted after 30 days I believe.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

~20) Some papers on Google Scholar are not available online (e.g., search for "A thought translation device for brain computer communication"), and have more authors than can fit in the space allotted. There is no way to coerce Google to show you all the authors, even though they have them in their database.

Jack DeNeut [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

The Google index is pre-computed, so there is no way they could offer regular expresion searching. This is also the reason you can't search for partial word matches.

Wyclif [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

<i>"16) I can’t empty my spam folder or trash can in Gmail!..."

It gets auto-deleted after 30 days I believe.</i>

That's still your data. Users should be able to manipulate that data, meaning deleting data before some arbitrary date.

Simple, right?

grumpY Duide [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

disagree on not supporting old url formats. this is typically impossible for a lage site to support in any case, so its just easier to 404 them. yes wouldn't it be nice if we designed the perfect url format in the first rev, or have that magic redirector that always works and covers all cases. neither of these is ever true, so 404'ing is the best way to communicate to users that the link needs to be recast.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

ftr, 15 was entirely tongue-in-cheek

GamingFox [PersonRank 2]

14 years ago #

I want to re-emphasize the point number 1...

Not only it won't check your spelling, it won't check for other forms of the words too like pural form.

Searching for define:house and define:houses will give you different results.

I hate searching for a word I never heard of before and find out it is not standard form for that word. How I know what is its' standard form if I never seen it before? Google define should watch out for something like that.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

21) Google Calculator rewrites your query into a non-equivalent form when doing unit conversions.

For example, enter:
((113,400 + 22,680) / 2) kg in pounds
it returns:
((113 400 + 22 680) / 2) * kg = 150 002.523 pounds
reenter it the way google rewrote it:
((113 400 + 22 680) / 2) * kg
and google no longer recognizes it as a math problem! this is because google erroneously replaced your commas with spaces. let's go ahead and fix them for google:
((113,400 + 22,680) / 2) * kg
it returns:
((113 400 + 22 680) / 2) * kg = 68 040 kilograms

Thus, your conversion is lost.

Personman [PersonRank 8]

14 years ago #

People have touched on this with the regexps and ?s, but I will say it outright: I really, really want to be able to search for specific punctuation. A recent example: I wanted to find out about a certain chemical reaction for chemsitry class. Searching for
"AgNO3 + NaCl" should return only sites that are talking about that reaction, not sites that just list the terms. Yet _not one_ of the first-page results has the reaction. That is bad.
Capitalization would be nice too.

Another thing I think would be really useful would be something like the following:
insentence: "term1 term2" and
inpara: "term1 term2"
We can search for two words right next to each other, with quotes, or anywhere in the document without them, but frequently the one is too specific and the other too broad. I doubt they'll ever do this, but it would be nice.

A general thing that would be awesome would be an API for people to write new search filters like the above. These could then be downloaded individually and added firefox extension-style to google. It would be awesome!

Adam [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I agree with much of the original list and the comments afterwards. Just a couple of nitpicks:

re: #3, the spam folder showing the number of unread. I think originally this was the way you prefer it, Brian. But initially Gmail's anti-spam algorithms weren't nearly as refined as they are today, so lots of us early adopters begged Google to show us when items had been placed into the spam folder so we wouldn't miss important mails.

Personally, I've grown so confident with Google's much-improved anti-spam filtering that I just peek at the folder weekly or so, and the unread numbers don't gnaw away at my soul in the meantime :D. But I can totally understand feeling otherwise... and so maybe Google could make this "show unread mails in spam folder" option available as a preference setting.

About #11... remember that Picasa was bought, not built from scratch by the Google folks. But I understand your general argument there...

Aussie [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

My Gmails don't auto-delete after 30 days... I have items in my deleted box for over a year now.

Still, I have unlimited space so I shouldn't complain. I used Hotmail with it's 2MB limit for years.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Aussie, the space is not quite unlimited... I regularly have to delete older mails 'cause I'm at the storage limit (currently at 81%). That's why it's especially annoying I can't clear more than 50 mails at once.

Soople Joe [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

That Google doesn't let me create a site similar to Soople.com.

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Philipp, you could go to settings and up the messages per page to 100 then you'd go twice as fast............

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> I think originally this was the way you prefer it, Brian. But initially Gmail’s anti-spam algorithms weren’t nearly as refined as they are today, so lots of us early adopters begged Google to show us when items had been placed into the spam folder so we wouldn’t miss important mails.

That might be right. I just realized there are thousands of messages in my trash can and I had no idea. Looks like I was erroneously filtering a high-volume mailing list into the garbage =) Anyway, I don't mind it being in there...out of sight out of mind. Does Google want us to have spam in mind? I like the idea of an option.

Eliz B [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

The Official Google Blog is useless and patronizing. There's no insight on the development and application of the company's products and services but rather a bunch of "look how awesome we are!" stuff about volleyball courts and the company cafeteria.

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

My biggest complaints are the lack of spelling corrections in [define:...] and the fact that Gmail doesn't automatically delete the trash. I've bugged Google folks about the [define:] problem and they said people inside company are clamoring for it to. I have 31000 messages in my trash. It was hard enough to put them in there, I'm not going to go through and delete them 100 at a time. If the trash says it will delete files after a month, it should freaking delete the files! The are lying about the behavior, which is a no-no.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Related to 4) You cannot subscribe to the atom feed for your own Gmail account through Google Reader :(

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

ftr, you /can/ access your gmail rss feed directly (e.g., even if you were previously logged out) with this method:

mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom">user:password[put at-character here]mail.google.com/ ...

This is no more insecure than anything else, but Google Reader won't do any authentication when requesting a feed so you can't use it to subscribe. Even if you could, I would be wary, as Google has been testing some methods of displaying others feeds. It could be pretty bad if the whole world was subscribing to your inbox...=)

anand kishore [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Point 11 is something to be noted. For instance Google Talk has no Linux version too. Quite saddening for linux fanatics.

Jun Zhang [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

machine translation and regular expression support in a search engine are both too hard to implement

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I think Google only scares away from "hart to implement" if it doesn't serve a large user base. And it's safe to say that most people don't have a clue what regular expressions are, let alone know how to use them. I can see them becoming meaningful only in an API, and then the question is if Google would want to give API developers that kind of power, and for what purpose. I'm not sure they would?

Jeff Dalton [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Being a developer, my number one annoyance is not being able to search for useful code constructs. # {, etc.. etc...
someone already mentioned question mark, but there is so much more here!

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> machine translation [...] support in a search engine are both too hard to implement

Au contraire. Google is currently the world leader in machine translation [1]. At a presentation at my university they showed how the technology used to win the NIST competitions scales linearly with the total size of all Google corpora. Take half of a look at Google's public translation service and it's evident that they are not using it publicly.

[1] nist.gov/speech/tests/mt/mt05e ...

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Hey! I just logged into to Gmail and noticed half a gig of stuff was gone. I looked in the trash and sure enough they finally deleted it.

B. N. Beckwith [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I have a Greasemonkey script that will now create a page of all of your starred items. It provides a sort of missing export feature.

Check it out at: userscripts.org/scripts/show/2 ...

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

awesome, i like it

localudal [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Second 10) must be reversed... at least for Google UI experiences. In essence, the Google translations problem is not ' Google doesn&#8217;t use their award winning translation technology to provide their customers a better experience. They just use it to win awards.', but quite the opposite: translations are ridiculously babelfishy, and in many instances plain wrong. See here: goolocalizations.blogspot.com . There might be just two good localizations: Google in Bork-Bork-Bork and Google in Klingon. The rest of translations is just a bunch of award-winning crap. Pity there's absolutely nobody at Google who understands this, or has linguistic education, even a secondary one.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Localudal, I think Brian was referring to Google's non-public translation efforts, which won them an award for best automatic translation system. Also see: blogoscoped.com/archive/2005-0 ...

localudal [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

'non-public translation efforts'? what's that? CIA/NSA sponsored contest? What were other (declassified, naturally) contenders, I wonder.
(no I'm not, because it's a hoax: Google can buy whatever non-public award they wish)

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Google has excellent computational linguists..I know this for a fact. (Kurzweil pointed out that no one their actually knows Farsi...but if you've ever taken a linguistics course this won't be surprising...i've done translations to/from languages I can't even pronounce without IPA =)

Localludal, it was actually NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology, just up the road from me in Boulder, actually. Yes, a federal organization.). The companies are not required to release their intellectual property, but it's not a secretive program or anything. NIST is very good about supporting science in general. I don't have time, but if you Google around you can find IBMs paper which outlines the procedures they use to guage the efficacy of the translations.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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