Followup on the Android Gmail flickering bug - what really irritates me

Summary:Transparency, Google. Can you say it with me? Transparency. Great! I knew you could do it!

Early this morning (or late last night, however you like to look at it), I wrote about the flickering bug that was hitting Android users and making their Gmail app unusable. I posted a few updates as the night went on, but even today, users continue to report ongoing issues, even after Google posted a "fix".

Google's "fix" forced me to do a full reset on my phone, made my SD card unmountable to my phone (I was able to grab all of the pictures and video off of it on my PC and they were all sitting out on Google+ anyway), and I'm looking forward to a rocking good time tonight reconfiguring my Droid Razr. Good times.

So that's inconvenient and probably goes beyond the medium-priority under which Google classified this bug on their product forum. I'm sure the many other people who reported similar results from the fix, or for whom the fix still has not resolved their issue, would agree that this is more than a "medium-priority defect". But it's not actually the inconvenience of the phone reset or even the bug itself that really torqued my twister. It's the utter lack of transparency and communication from Google about something with widespread, serious effects for many thousands of users of the top smartphone OS in the world.

Even today, there's no mention of the issue on Google's major blogs, Twitter accounts, or elsewhere. Most of us Google-watchers writing about this kept referencing one lone Googler who popped into the forum occasionally by the screen name of BrittanyBee to give us updates. While her updates were helpful, the average phone user (even us geeky Andrdoid folks) won't go trolling through forums, join 2 Google Groups (required to post and subscribe to the forum), and keep an eye on things into the wee hours of the evening.

How about a blog post? Or a tweet? The blog post could have been really short and a poorly educated monkey could have written it. It could have looked like this:

"Hey guys, we're really sorry about this, but the only way to sort out the issue we know you're having with your phones is to delete the primary Gmail account from the Gmail app. And we're even sorrier that for a lot of you, that means you'll have to reset your phones and reconfigure the primary account, the apps, and everything else. But with our apologies, watch this YouTube video that shows you what will happen and what you should do."

Would that have been so hard? It still would have been a pain, but ongoing public updates and workarounds would have gone a very long ways towards reasonable customer service. Poor little BrittanyBee posting all by her lonesome on a little forum? Not so much.

Maybe I missed Google's updates outside the forum. It's certainly possible. But I'm a relatively good Googler and I certainly didn't see anything. And it shouldn't have been something that was easily missed. Maybe a little red box on, oh, I don't know, google.com? With just a little note. But no. There's a great Google Doodle up today, but nothing to placate the many thousands of people having epileptic fits from looking at their Gmail apps or grumbling about reconfiguring their phones today when they should actually be getting some work done.

If we all lived with Google on Sesame Street, the word of the day would definitely have been "Transparency." But, I'm afraid, we don't live on Sesame St.

Image adapted from "Oscar" photo by ben hanbury on Flickr

Topics: Browser, Apps, Cloud, Collaboration, Google

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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