I’m pretty annoyed by this blog post up on Techmeme and Techcrunch at the moment.
Fuck You, Google.
There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts.
You know who my third most frequent contact is?
My abusive ex-husband.
Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did.
Fuck you, Google. My privacy concerns are not trite. They are linked to my actual physical safety, and I will now have to spend the next few days maintaining that safety by continually knocking down followers as they pop up. A few days is how long I expect it will take before you either knock this shit off, or I delete every Google account I have ever had and use Bing out of fucking spite.
First of all, the crassness of the title leaps out at me. I’m not above using crude language, once in a while, but it’s a title that screams out “Hey, I’m not interested in having a dialogue with you or fixing the problem… I’m just here to call you names and whine.” It’s less the wording but the sentiment expressed at the outset.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sympathetic to people like me who have gripes about the contact management on Google, which is only a portion of the problem she’s experiencing, but not the main thrust.
Here’s the crux of the problem, and it goes beyond just this one particular blog post: she’s complaining because she doesn’t understand Google Buzz, Google Reader, and wants to make as much noise about it as possible. That I do not, and cannot respect, because it’s celebrating and pushing off responsibility for her intellectual failings to someone else.
Sound elitist? It is, a little bit.
As someone who’s never been athletically inclined his whole life (I was 6’2” in high school and couldn’t sink a basketball in PE if my life depended on it), I’ve dealt with the world looking down on me for my inability to perform activities that require a high level of physical coordination or strength. That’s my life. I deal with it. It ain’t fun, I get ribbed a lot, and I’m expected by society, friends and family to do naturally a lot of things that I have a great deal of difficulty with.
When my wife and I were first married, we had to move my wife’s stuff in with my own a couple months after the big day. As my son Jacob was born about nine months and five minutes after my wedding day, when I say “we had to move my wife’s stuff,” I really mean I had to move all my wife’s stuff. Down three flights of stairs, 100 miles down the road and then back up one. By myself, with no help.
As someone who struggles bench pressing a sack of feathers, it wasn’t easy, but it was something I was expected to do, and I found a way to make it happen.
I expect the same thing from people who put their lives in the hands of technology.
Look – if it’s a bug, I dig it. Yell away. I do. If my chainsaw is broken or doesn’t do the job, I’m going to yell, curse, and demand a new chainsaw. If I can’t operate the chainsaw or hurt myself with my chainsaw, then I may curse and yell, but who’s fault is it, really? Can I really be angry at the chainsaw manufacturer when I’m just too weak to operate it properly?
Similarly, “Harriet Jacobs” is angry at Google, as are many other folks, for exposing their private data to the world when it’s just a matter of not using the tools properly. She couldn’t be bothered to ask someone, she couldn’t trouble herself to research how to configure the privacy settings or even read the help documentation.
There’s a simple solution to “Harriet’s” sharing problem.
1) Turn off Buzz.
2) Turn off all public and sharing data in Google Reader.
3) For sharing with her boyfriend, since she’s sharing with only one person, either email him the posts or create a tag and make it public, and have him subscribe to that tag in his Google Reader (or any other reader program).
4) Set her Google profile to private.
I understand that this is difficult to figure out, but technology is hard sometimes. You hafta read the help pages or other visual cues. Sometimes you hafta research things to figure out the answers to your problems. Ask for help. Find someone who knows something about Google products.
The Chainsaw Metaphor is Appropriate, in This Case
It’s a perfectly applicable metaphor – me screwing around with a chainsaw, getting all pissed off and using it improperly could put my life in danger just as badly as improperly using a tool that gives out my personally identifiable information to people who wish me harm.
Truth is, though, you’re on the Internet. You’re going to give out personal information when you’re using social tools, like email, reader programs, and blogs. It’s inevitable. All Google Buzz did was show you what you were already giving out.
In the end, it’s just one person yelling at Google, but it’s a person that not only has a large following of her own, but for some reason we as a tech community has decided to highlight in a misguided effort to garner more page views and cannibalize the companies we cover for a few extra bucks in ad revenue.
Why do we celebrate ignorance and intellectual laziness? I’m not just talking about “Harriet” here, but to a certain extent it applies. We point out people who for some reason can’t tell the difference between public and private (who are in my mind no better than folks who can’t tell the difference between ReadWriteWeb and a Facebook login screen), and frame it as if it was some sort of failure of Google.
We certainly don’t celebrate physical laziness in our culture. Those who excel physically are the subject of adulation as much as those who fail are the subject of ridicule. Still, though, even in the intelligentsia and tech community, it’s still kosher to celebrate the folks who don’t understand and can’t be bothered to find out as a failing of the makers the technology they don’t understand.