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Google support gone wrong

Google really produces great software. I use many of them: Web Search, Picasa, Reader, Feedburner, Analytics, Images, Groups, Docs, Translate, Code, Chrome, Maps, Video, Blog Search, Youtube, AJAX API, Webmaster Central, and Site Search.

Just to name a few :)

Problem is, with many of the above, if something breaks you’re out of luck. Because it’s god damn impossible to get a hold of someone that you can talk to. Do you reach anyone at Google with your e-mails? Does anyone from Google read your forum posts? Highly unlikely.

Google is a great example of support gone wrong. I think the explanation is easy: Few of the programmers I know want to deal with support. They want to deal with coding! And since Google is a company of programmers, it doesn’t want to do support.

Let me tell two stories:

Feedburner

Feedburner once was a great company, with a simple but thought out service. They gave you subscriber statistics of your RSS feed. You just redirected your feed to them, and made all your subscribers sign up to their generated feed, and they did all the tricky calculations. Simple, efficient.

As a company Feedburner understood the value of being personal. Messages throughout the site stated “My feeds like a little namespace to call their own”, “Sometimes your feed just wants to look good. Spruce it up in the following ways”, “Oh dear, what kind of trouble?”. Nice personal touch :) Feedburner developers where easy to get in touch with, an e-mail and you had a friendly, knowledgeable person to talk to.

Then Google came along and bought the whole thing. Everything was rewritten to Google’s platform, domains where switched, and chaos ensued. Of course, during that time, Feedburner’s previous support people totally vanished, and everyone was directed to the Feedburner Status Blog, when you could confirm they where not working on your problem. Just great.

For three weeks now, my subscriber stats have jumped from 800 to 3000, back an forth, several times per week. Nice, isn’t it?

feedburner_stats

Feedburner is apparently broken, and the simple service of delivering feed statistics doesn’t work.

So I post to their Google Group, the place where you should ask questions about the service. Three months later, several other users have reported having the same problem, but no reply from a Feedburner developer.

Now I’m thinking of switching. Anyone have a good alternative ready?

Google Wave

Services that start at Google are even less likely, compared to acquired services like Feedburner, to have proper support. It’s just not a priority, and there’s far too many interesting programming challenges to deal with users.

So when Wave gives me an old picasa name as my username (<company name>.<place of one of our conferences>@googlewave.com), I know there’s very little chance that I’ll get help from anywhere. The official channel to ask for help is their support forum, but it doesn’t seem that they reply to issues there. My message there from two weeks ago stands on it’s own, with no replies.

It’s the proposed revolution that will replace e-mail, and I can’t use it :(

Bad trend

This trend of Google not offering even basic support from dedicated people is a unfortunate development, that should be taken seriously by executives at Google, and dealt with at a very high level.

Launching new web services is easy, improving a services based on feedback is much harder. Google has not yet managed to crack that nut.

Friendly Bit is a blog by Emil Stenström, a Swedish interface developer and web strategist that blogs about the modern web and how to make best use of it.