Dear Google: It’s not working

Just a quick follow up to my previous post. Yes, communication works better than no communication to let the steam out of the microwavable bag of opinions, rants and whining that is an Internet forum.

But you also have to get real. And repeatedly saying “We’re working on it, but we can’t tell you what’s wrong or when it will be fixed or why we decided to launch a service that will screw up all your calendars” is not really an answer.

If Google were a little more transparent about what it’s doing here — letting us peek behind the curtain at the real, live, concerned humans who I’m sure are in fact working on a fix — they’d incur less damage to their brand, and less wrath from their customers.

If this were an IOS problem, I’d think they were actively trying to discourage iPhone and iPad users so they’d switch to Android. But it’s a Mac thing. I’m not sure the Mac platform by itself has all that much impact on Google.

Apathy? More likely. But meanwhile, if the Forum comments are any indication, Mac users of Google Calendars are switching to iCloud, which seems to actually work.

Dear Google: Talk to us

Dear Google:

A couple of weeks ago, my Mac’s Calendar app started to go crazy. Duplicate events littered my display. Multiple reminders started popping up in long columns on my screen. As I clicked to dismiss them, another swarm would surface. It was like playing Whack-a-Mole.

It turns out I was not alone.

Google Calendars, which we use to manage our shared events around here, was introducing a new syncing system and let’s say there were (are) still a few bugs. Big, hairy ones with long feelers and self-satisfied smirks on their mandibles.

And there were a LOT of angry customers on the Forums talking about this. The rants started escalating, the rhetoric was flying. Everyone was getting more and more irritated.

Fortunately Google was actually listening. Two of your customer service folks were monitoring the web and took the time just to say, “Hey, we know about it and we’re sorry. We’re working on it. Hang in there.” Suddenly the problems seemed less severe and the rabble (us) were calmed.

There’s a huge lesson to be learned here — for Google and all of us. Communication works. When Katherine and Alice posted on the forum, even if they said “We’re not sure when this is going to be done” we knew someone was listening and we weren’t just baying at each other. It calmed things down and bought Google a little more time. As huge as your system is, I can imagine teams of coders working frantically at their cubicles to fix this and not really knowing how long it will take. But keeping us up to speed as they progress toward a fix is truly helpful.

We like Google and we like our Macs, and we’re not a bunch of unreasonable jerks. But when things go wrong, it’s damned annoying. To paraphrase Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, “We’re working here!” We don’t want, can’t afford, to have our day interrupted constantly. We just want to get back to our lives.

So, Google (Alice and Katherine, I’m talking to you), keep on keeping us in the loop. And I’ll try to remember to do the same with my own clients. Thanks.

(Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.)

iMac design evolution

iMac evolution

Just a quick visual geek post. What a beautiful set of objects. I think it’s so Interesting to see the “uplift” of the back of the 1998 and 2000 models — never noticed that before, but the 2000 one is much less dumpy in profile.

I also think that the 2002 model with its hemispherical base and adjustable screen is an amazing design. What a brilliant concept.

Every one of these has transformed the industry.

Steve

Apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steven P. Jobs (Image by Jonathan Mak)

How can I be a designer and not be moved by the death of one of the most brilliant designers of the modern age?

No, Steve Jobs wasn’t a graphic designer or an industrial designer or an interior designer or an architect or a fashion designer. But he was unequivocally a designer.

He envisioned not just products, but a new way of being in the world. A new way of working, and of playing. And he brought that vision to life.

He was the guy who decided things needed to be simple and beautiful. He was the one who dictated removing the clutter and enhancing the experience. He used the hands and hearts and brilliant minds of a huge team of stellar creators to sculpt a company — one that could create objects and adventures so beautifully designed that millions and millions of people wanted them. And wanted to be a part of his new vision of the world as well.

Was that world perfect? Not even close. But designed? Absolutely.

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh in 1984

What a moment to have captured on video. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this was the single defining event that established our new world of technology. Suddenly the power to create and disseminate one’s creation was in the hands of everyone. Onscreen design and desktop publishing became reality, and enabled our entire business. All the basic ideas that have become Facebook, YouTube, WordPress (not to mention Windows, Word and PowerPoint)  were already right there — inside this little beige box.

40 years of practice makes perfect

No, not me. Apple.

Here’s an amazing archive of 40 years of Apple advertising. It took them a while to get it right, but when they did — wow!

Apple ad from 1976

Apple ad from 1976

It’s fun to see how a company with ideas this innovative, this targeted, this elegantly simple, still had to struggle through a whole lot of mediocre concepts to find their voice. Then, of course, in 1981, they hired Chiat/Day. And the earth shook.

Back in the Dark Ages, I did some computer programming. Just a dab of Fortran on those hideous punchcard-driven mainframes they had at UCLA. I thought it was something I ought to know about. But an Apple II was the first personal computer I ever got my hands on. One of my business partners bought it for himself  — he didn’t bring it to the office, since there wasn’t yet anything you could do with it that we needed. Or so we thought. But when he showed me VisiCalc (the precursor to Lotus 123 and Excel) I was blown away. We tend to forget the horrible experience of running estimates through an adding machine, then typing them up by hand. Then having to change one figure and re-doing everything. Auuggh!

Apple changed everything. They realized you had to design the whole computing experience. They introduced us to the graphical interface. They brought us the mouse. Safe to say, there would be no Windows without Apple. But even more than that, they made using a computer fun.

And their advertising reflects all that. “1984” was as cool a commercial as the Macintosh was a computer. The simple ads where translucent, colorful iMacs are arranged like a flower transformed how people perceived the entire category. The iPod billboards were knockouts in their graphic impact and unspoken message of utter coolness. And I can’t wait to watch the new “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” TV spots.

What a treat to be able to look back on this stuff all in one place and revel in all the captured genius.