April 08, 2010

New Google and YouTube Q&A/Discussion Forums: Will They Reduce the "Google Mail" Deluge?

Greetings. First, the Executive Summary: I've created some new forums for questions, discussions, opinions, and related matters associated with Google, YouTube, and other Google-related services. They can be accessed via Google, YouTube, and More (GYM). The forums are unmoderated, but are subject to these usage guidelines. Registered users can reply to previous threads, create new threads, and even add discussions to FAQ entries. I hope the new forums can be of some value to the community.

Now for the longer explanation. Here are some stats that you haven't seen before. On any average day, I now receive close to 1K legit, non-spam e-mail messages. About one-third of these are from mailing lists or other sources that can be reasonably sorted via at least partly automated techniques, then perused as time permits. The remaining two-thirds (what I call the "action group") need some level of more immediate personal attention -- the majority merit some sort of reply (at least to acknowledge their receipt).

More than half of the "action group" e-mails now typically involve Google in some manner -- that's usually hundreds of Google-related messages each day -- day in and day out.

They cover a wide range -- from the straightforwardly logical to the bizarrely conspiratorial, from issue-oriented queries, to requests for assistance understanding how to use particular Google services, to pleas for help from persons having real or assumed problems associated with Google services and/or who have been unable to get any response from Google despite repeated attempts to contact Google directly.

A logical question at this stage would be -- uh, why do they come to me? The reason usually seems pretty clear. People start to Google Search about their Google-related thoughts or concerns -- sometimes even specifically looking for a Google Ombudsman, and find references to my many essays, discussions, quotes, and other materials where I've attempted to illuminate and analyze a wide range of Google-related issues over what's become a quite significant period of time. They find my contact info (always easily available by design) and send their comments and queries to me, in the hope that I can do something useful to explain, help, or whatever.

Sometimes I can be of assistance, and sometimes I can't. But I have a policy of trying to respond to every single such message in a substantive way. Some messages I can answer partly or completely from my ever-growing collection of pre-written texts that I've composed over the years on different Google topics. More often than not I need to write a specific reply -- sometimes researching new aspects of issues in the process.

None of this is my job. In fact, the time spent this way now greatly impinges on my time available for the very important -- nay, critical -- goal of finding paying work. On the other hand, I am unwilling to just "blow off" persons who have taken the time to compose sometimes extremely detailed messages and are often pleading for explanations or assistance in their dealings with Google.

But the volume of Google-related queries continues to increase, and without a significant change in my overall circumstances, I need to find some way to offload some of this for now at least.

That's where I hope that the new Google, YouTube, and More (GYM) forums can especially help. By providing a venue where Google users can pose queries, offer comments, and engage in open discussions, my goal is to build up a resource that will be able to help answer many routine queries without my direct intervention -- though I will always be staying on top of the discussions and certainly will be participating in many of them. And I'll continue to deal with as many direct e-mail queries related to Google as I can (though I may refer some senders to the forums as appropriate if good answers are already there).

A number of different sub-topics are currently defined in the GYM forums for various sorts of Google-related questions and comments, and as I noted above an FAQ section is present as well (which I've only begun to seed with entries from my large collection of writings in response to individual queries over time).

Ideally, none of this should be necessary, certainly not on the part of an individual not employed by Google. But it's the best compromise I can come up with for now.

We'll see how it goes.


Posted by Lauren at April 8, 2010 07:33 PM | Permalink
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