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.)

Turn any website into an app on your Mac

Fluid App logoAt FreeAssociates, we manage our projects with Basecamp, a wonderful, simple online system from 37Signals. I’m constantly closing the window — accidentally or through force of habit — then having to re-open it in my browser. I really just want it to act like an app on my Mac and function independently from my other web browsing.

Guess what? It can!

With Fluid, which was named a Macworld “Gem” for good reason, you can turn any website into a real application, running independently in its own separate window, with its own custom icon in your Dock. That’s how Basecamp now runs on my system. I’ve made one for Google Calendar, too, which is just like having it on my hard drive.

Such a simple, smart solution to an annoying problem — one I didn’t entirely realize I had!

(For you Windows users, you can try Google Chrome’s Application Shortcuts feature or Prism, which uses Firefox and is also available for Mac and Linux)

OK Go(ldberg)

How hard is it to make art? Sometimes it’s really hard.

At TED, Adam Sadowsky talks about the 10 Commandments that guided the design and construction of the incredible Rube Goldberg machine that’s the star of  the OK Go video “This Too Shall Pass” .

It’s a small world. Better pronounce things right.

After seeing the photo in the LA Times this morning of Robert Downey, Jr. and Guy Ritchie sporting their three-piece tweeds, my wife Patricia and I found we disagreed about the pronunciation of the word “waistcoat”. Her British mother pronounced it “waist-coat”, and I had always heard that the correct British pronunciation was “west-cut”. So she grabbed her dictionary and I grabbed my computer to see which of us was right. (Both, it turns out.)

As usual, she beat me to the punch with her paper-based reference, even though I am a world-class Googler. Nonetheless, I found a resource that no printed dictionary can match:
Forvo: the pronunciation guide. All the words in the world pronounced by native speakers

I think it’s a site everybody in this global economy should bookmark. (How controlling am I? Jeeeez!)

Like Henry Higgins, I’m fascinated by accents, and by the way our language has morphed over time. Perhaps you like that stuff, too. If so, check out this database of amazing accents — English as pronounced by people from various countries:
The Speech Accent Archive

And this site showing different native speakers’ accents from England, Canada, the USA, Ireland, Australia and, yes, even India:
The Audio Archive

As Sherlock says in the movie, “Data, data, data!” I’m sure he would have found the internet absolutely fascinating.