The Google Plus team turned on a new feature today while it was being announced at Google IO in San Francisco. Google+ Events is a new feature that integrates Google+, Calendar, image slideshows and Hangouts to create a flexible invitation system for event organisers of all sizes. It looks like an interesting and exciting capability.
Except for one thing. It allows anyone to invite anyone to anything. That means anyone in your circles, or who you can identify on Google+, can be added to your invitation and they will receive it via e-mail, on their calendar and on their Google+ timeline. While there are ways to change the default settings to stop the e-mails and the calendar updates, the postings to the timeline are mandatory.
Sounds great, right? Not if you’re someone like Linus Torvalds. From the moment the capability was turned on, well-known figures on Google+ were deluged with event invitations from people trying out the new capability. With no way to control which invitations are actually displayed on the timeline, users like Torvalds found the Event invitations became the dominant form of communication on Google+. His solution? Quit Google+.
It seems that this is the way you get technical support from Google. I was also affected, and after using the new feature to contact Google+ boss Vic Gundotra for comment got a reply saying “I’m already working on it. Team is all over this.” That was reinforced a few moments later by a message from a press spokesman saying “We’re aware of the issue, and we hope to roll out a fix very shortly. We appreciate all the feedback we’re receiving from users and we’re listening closely.” I know they are looking at this unexpected problem behind the scenes; there’s still no fix, though.
This has happened before. When Google+ was introduced, many people discovered it became impossibly noisy if you added a high-volume user like Robert Scoble to a circle. Eventually Google added a “volume control” to fix that, but the service was significantly the worse for the fact no-one had considered the high-volume corner-cases in advance. Sadly, it seems the lesson wasn’t learned.
It’s great that Google are trying new ideas and creating these new services, and I’m looking forward to using this Events capability when they have it fixed. But I do wonder how many times they will make this mistake of forgetting about the high-volume users – the very people who make Google+ initially attractive to new users.