An open letter to Google

Hi there!

You probably don’t need me to tell you that you’re the world’s per-eminent site for search. However, having just spent a fruitless hour on your site looking for a way to send you a message, I can tell you that you are almost certainly unaware of how ironic that is.

Because if there’s one place that your vaunted searchiness falls flat, it’s on your actual site. Not that the search there doesn’t work, although it could certainly be improved, but because of the things it does not find. This is not a criticism of the search, by the way. It’s a criticism of your lack of imagination and extreme control-freak tendencies. Search won’t find these things because they are not there to find.

And that can only be because you have chosen not to put them there.

Most noticeably, it’s almost impossible to actually speak to anyone from Google in any way.

Which makes it hard to appeal the capricious and apparently none-too-tethered-to-reality decision-making process that leads to some of your stupider decisions. For instance, although you’ll reject a Google Places listing for “inaccuracies”, you don’t trouble yourselves at any point to specify what they are, and there’s no process to find out what the problems are. Which can be ever so slightly frustrating when you’ve taken the time and effort to get everything right in the first place.

It seems that reality is frequently inaccurate, but Google is definitive.

Definitive, but never accountable. Even the help pages at Google try their level best to send you to forums where your problems can be solved by other Google users at minimal expense or liability to the company.

Or another example, and this one I really love, because it shows just how insular and afraid Google truly is: there’s no way I can find to submit helpful suggestions for improving one’s Google experience. Understand, this means that Google has apparently decided that it can ignore zero cost suggestions from its legions of actual users in favour of overpaid consultants.

So this is why there no way to edit your YouTube channel subscriptions globally, only individually. Why there is no subject line in Google Wave, just the first line of your message in bold. Why Google Buzz is opt-out rather than opt-in.

Google is as bad at admitting to mistakes or taking advice as Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck. Hell, Google has deliberately created institutional processes aimed at preventing the reception of advice.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Contact Us page on Google sometime. Note how Google anticipates all attempts to contact them as falling into several neat categories. When Google started out, their big selling point was giving the actual results, rather than results filtered into categories like Yahoo! did. Google had only one category, and it was always “Other”. But now, a decade plus on, the one thing that Google never is, is Other.

Congratulations, Googloids. You’ve succeeded in creating a near-perfect echo chamber in nearly every internal aspect of your company.

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