Thank you, Google, for the new homework assignment: Hangouts vs. Chat

Thank you, Google, for the new homework assignment: Hangouts vs. Chat

Summary: Google today broke Google Chat by forcing Hangouts on all of us. David Gewirtz gets all cranky about the change. It's not pretty.

TOPICS: Google

I really dislike software updates. It didn't used to be that way. It used to be that I looked forward to the new features, new capabilities, new toys.

But that was before I had a life and responsibilities. Now I have both, and I find myself to be somewhat more change averse.

Today, a day I had a lot of other more important things to do, Google decided to break one of my most-relied-upon resources: Google Chat.

Let me be clear: I use Google Chat for work. I talk to many of my colleagues about work-related activities, about ZDNet editorial, and about projects I'm working on.

I don't hang out.

I don't use Google Chat to make new friends or to share small details about the danish I had for breakfast or hear about new TV shows. I use it to coordinate meeting schedules, deliverables, titles, abstracts, article drop times, and the like.

My Google Chat list is carefully curated. There are about 30 people on it, all of whom have something to do with work. Robert Scoble, as much as I like Robert, has never been on my Google Chat list, because I don't work with him.

Today, all of that changed. My Chat list is gone. In fact, my nice little Google Chrome extension for Chat is gone, as well. Poof. Stolen, like the time stolen from me today trying to recover my work messaging system.

My Google Chat list is carefully curated. There are about 30 people on it, all of whom have something to do with work.

In its place is Hangouts (and Robert Scoble is on the list). I had a British professor who used to titter every time someone mentioned hanging out, because to him, hanging out meant, well, something very inadvisable in public.

I don't want to hang out (either using my professor's definition or the more mundane one) with my work associates. I want to send a quick chat and get back to work. So do they.

This morning, however, I have to figure out what happened to my list of work associates, figure out how to get Chat back, figure out how to stop everyone in my Google Plus (which today is such a minus!) from hanging out on my desktop, and then wonder if every other work associate I've got has the same issue, and whether all of our productivity for the next week has just gone down the chute.

So, thanks Google. Thank you so plus'n much.

Topic: Google


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • you don't get the progress

    and what people want. communicating with more people is a plus not a minus.
    google has once again improved the user experience for 99% of us.
    LlNUX Geek
    • LlNUX Geek....You know Loverock Davidson will never agree with you

      and as usual Loverock will be left behind.............
      Over and Out
    • progress and what people want

      "you don't get the progress
      and what people want."

      If it is not what people want - can it truly be called progress?

      Technology's purpose is to serve us.
      • A faster horse

        Sometimes, people think they just want a faster horse...
        Michael Alan Goff
    • You just don't get it do you?

      Some people use their computer to WORK. I can accomplish that whether it's Windows, Linux or OS X. So it's not about OS frameworks. What is it about, you might ask?

      It's about people collaborating to do business. It's not social media. It's not "hanging out." It's work flow. Unfortunately all vendors are increasingly ignoring workers and setting their sights for consumers that consume content and waste time. Win 8 is a step in that direction. MS learned that corporate customers don't want that, so we get some back peddle in Win 8.1.

      I upgraded from Lightroom 3 to 4. The biggest feature enhancement was better integration with social networks for posting your pictures. My pictures are not snap shots from a poor quality smart phone or tablet camera. They are high quality digital photos from my DSLR cameras. I don't upload those to social networks as I won't release my copyright as required for posting. as for Creative Cloud, I just say NO!

      I won't begin to describe the disappointment with ubuntu Unity. And OS X Mountain Lion is only a smaller step towards iOS than the Win 8 foray into consumption operating systems suitable for phones and tablets.

      David's tale is just another example for avoiding SaaS and the "Cloud." When you have no local code or durable license, you are at the complete mercy of the provider. Unfortunately, the provider is more interested in teens and tweens than their business customer base. Why? Because teens and tweens have plenty of disposable income and plenty of time to waste.
      • re: using computers for work

        People who are serious about using their computers for work either don't use free services like Google Talk to communicate, or they are fully aware that such services may change at any time without notice and they learn to adapt. Simple as that.
    • At Least You Thanked Google, They Deserve Thanks For ...

      pissing you off. Look at it as a blessing in disguise.

      Anything Google does that drives you away from using their service is a blessing that deserves thanks.
    • not true

      Nobody asked me - it's not what I want!
      Lance Harvie
  • Just download google talk...

    I use gchat on a daily basis for work as well, just download google talk, mine didnt change a bit with the recent changes. Not sure why you would want to have gmail open all day anyway and if you pulling windows out all day for conversations... then you may as well use the app they created for that purpose...
    • Never knew having a mail client open all day was bad.

      "Not sure why you would want to have gmail open all day anyway"

      Thanks, I see I have been doing it all wrong.
      Opening Outlook once in the morning and leaving it open all the work day.
      Never knew having an email client open all day at work was a bad thing.
      • So thats what I have been doing wrong at work?

        Opening up Lotus Notes in the morning and keeping it run until I leave for the day?
        Man, I wish someone had told me this was the wrong thing to do. Like 20 years ago!
      • Tray

        You can at least minimize Outlook to the notification area. Also, Outlook does a lot more than just email, it's where a company schedules events, books conference rooms, looks up people's numbers in the master directory, yada yada. I too prefer the perpetually in beta "Google Talk" desktop app over the web browser.... though I think most professional companies are moving to Lync anyway.
  • Feeling Your Pain

    We just migrated to Gmail from Exchange at work and had Lync uninstalled in favor of Chat. Now, Chat has been removed and Hangouts is in its place, but won't function because it attempts to connect to Google+ which is blocked because of work place policy. Unless the Gmail web client is open (which sucks for a work environment, by the way) there is no IM capability. At least I won't be disturbed.
    • re:

      Well, sorry to say it, but that's what you get when the decision makers at your company switch from a vendor (Microsoft) who is focused on providing solid, stable enterprise level software to a vendor (Google) who is focused on generating advertising revenue from here today, gone tomorrow toy apps. Not sure why they made that decision, but you get what you pay for.
      Sir Name
      • And that's only a fraction

        of the functionality they gave up by moving from Exchange/Lync to Gmail. Crazy choice if you ask me.
      • re: Sirname's comment

        Hmm. would that be the same Microsoft who just left happy Messenger users high and dry with sucky Skype as a 'upgrade'? No support, lousy chat quality, no way to add new contacts... who could ask for more, except for me to pay for that lousy system.
        • What?

          Skype is a better product than Windows Live Messenger. The issue with Skype is the client software. They simply need to redo the user interface and de-emphasize upselling people to Skype Premium. They did this on their Mobile Clients. The Desktop Clients need the same treatment. Other than that, Skype is fine.
    • This made me laugh

      Ha. Lesson learned? Why would a company move to a 6-yr old "Beta" utility that hasn't been updated in years from a professional suite like Outlook + Lync? Your IT ppl, CTO, or whoever is charge should be fired.
    • Google Apps for Business

      If you pay for Google Apps for Business, Google+ is off by default, but chat works as expected. Google Talk within an organization using Google Apps can be configured on who to allow and not allow users to chat with. So if you'd rather pay for Lync than Google Apps for Business then that is your choice, but a free consumer product and a paid premium product shouldn't be compared on the same level.
      Logan Hairgrove
      • What?

        If they are selling to the same customers (Google Apps for WHAT, exactly?), then they can be compared directly. Lync is better, period. Even Skype is better than Google Talk, IMO, especially when evaluating platform support.

        Using Google Apps you pretty much tie your hands IRT what mobile platforms you can get a good user experience on.