Google’s Way

Matthew Bietz —  October 27, 2008 — Leave a comment

I don’t like it when software insists that there is only one right way to do something. Most of the time it doesn’t matter (or I don’t care) if I have to click A before I can click B. And while I generally like the clean design and ease of use of Google products, even they have their moments of “Our Way or No Way”:

a) Labels (not folders): I don’t mind labeling things. I believe that for some people labeling works extremely well. And from a technical perspective, labels aren’t all that different from folders. But folders operate on the idea that a message can only be in one place at a time. I arrange my e-mail by project (rather than topic). I am a frequent filer (I like an empty inbox). I delete a LOT of e-mail rather than saving it. And I like folders. But GMail makes me feel like I’m a weakling for not joining the hip crowd and throwing off the oppressive folder paradigm.

b) Search (don’t sort): Sorting is a really efficient way to find things, especially if you don’t remember the exact words. Try sorting your spam box by subject sometime – I bet you can skim for false postivies it much faster. But not in GMail – they won’t let you sort.

c) Full feature widget (not the simple one): I use iGoogle as my home page. iGoogle used to have a great GMail widget that gave a really simple count of unread messages, showed previews if you wanted them, and allowed you to hide the previews if you didn’t. Recently Google decided they had a brand new whiz-bang widget that made the old one useless. So they took the old one away. But the new one is significantly different, especially in that you can’t hide the previews (so that subject line about the Richard Simmons dolls you are bidding for on eBay shows up on your home page at work). Doesn’t matter that a lot of people prefered the old one – we can’t have it any more.

I admit, Google is not the only company who does this stuff, and they aren’t the worst offender. But every once in a while I hear someone tell me about how amazing Google is and how they can do no wrong, and I cringe.

Matthew Bietz


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