April 01, 2016

Google's April Fools' Day Gmail Screwup

I wish this were an April Fools' Day post. Unfortunately, it's a genuine April 1, 2016 post.

I'm forced to say a few words here about Google's rather awful Gmail joke screwup today, as described in:

"April Fools' Undo: Gmail Removes Its 'Mic Drop' Feature"

... and in about 1000 other news reports by now. And rapidly growing.

I like a good April Fools' joke as well as the next person, though in recent years the trend seems to have morphed way beyond its original harmless ideology into areas that can potentially be much darker, even if that's not what the jokesters actually intend.

One of Google's strengths is its great sense of humor, but as we see in this case, when insufficient checks and balances are in place, situations can spin awry very rapidly, especially when you have a significant percentage of the world's population depending on your services.

My initial thought was that this entire set of reports was somehow a joke, but the anger in my inbox (whether triggered by people who actually saw the "feature" or only saw the news reports) is extreme. I still do not really want to believe this was real -- but it would certainly not be an isolated example of how Google sometimes drops the ball when considering the impact of changes -- even joke changes -- on busy external users (mostly non-techie users) with real lives. I don't know that any Gmail users actually lost their jobs over this as has been claimed, but this joke should have been nipped in the bud before it ever deployed outside Google. It shouldn't even have been a close call.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so -- my opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Posted by Lauren at April 1, 2016 08:45 AM | Permalink
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