Google needs to mind its own business

by Mathew on October 7, 2008 · 24 comments

Google is nothing if not helpful. It will suggest search terms, it will suggest driving directions for you on Google Maps, and now apparently it will suggest that you not send drunken emails late at night on the weekend. Is this what we really want from our Web services? Maybe Google could parse the content of my latest email and tell me whether I’m being a little too harsh with my mother-in-law in that email I just sent about Thanksgiving. Or maybe Google could suggest some other adjectives and adverbs I could use instead. Is that really the kind of help I need?

If we’re talking about protecting people from themselves, why not have a Google mobile GPS unit that can detect the proximity of donut shops or McDonald’s outlets and then send the user a quick text message: “Are you sure you want to buy that breakfast sandwich, Dave?” Just as the Gmail feature forces users who have had too much to drink to answer math questions (which wouldn’t stop my brother, whose math skills are impervious to alcohol consumption), the mobile service could force you to do some jumping-jacks or touch your toes, and if you were incapable of doing so it could disable the wallet function in your handheld.

I realize that this is just a Google Labs tool, which of course you can enable or disable. It just seems a tad paternalistic. And what about the innumerate, who can’t do simple math even when sober? As far as I’m concerned, Gmail should just send the email and shut up about it. When I tell Hal to open the pod-bay doors, he should just open the damn pod-bay doors.

  • Nat

    Its opt in dude.

  • http://www.obscurecompany.com hacksaw

    I think It's nice to see some PERSONALITY coming from such an otherwise faceless sentinel in our lives. Every now and again, Google comes out with a few one liners like this that make me chuckle and appreciate that they give their employees time to have some fun like this. I'm sure it started as a joke around the Gmail development office that just HAD to be pushed to fruition.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Yeah, I know that — thanks. Dude.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks, Hacksaw — I actually agree. The post was mostly meant as a joke.

  • rula

    I understand your point about it being paternalistic. But remember that tools like this already exist all over the place: Firefox's add-ons include website blockers and tools to limit your time getting “distracted” on the internet when you should be working. Some of us will insist we can take care of ourselves – and that our browsers shouldn't be playing moderator. But I suppose these things are useful when people *do* need protection from themselves. At the least, there must be some demand for this, or I doubt they'd spend the time developing it. :)

  • Sarah Palin

    I believe Google has many resources, but my child has down syndrome, so Google should ask for Math problems. Instead they should ask questions about what's in the news, because I definitely know all answers regarding what's in newspapers, for obvious reasons.

  • http://www.deadrobot.com Dead Robot

    I would love it if Google could tell me to stop watching Dancing With the Stars.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Now that would be a handy service :-)

  • http://www.tripharbor.com/blog Stuart MacDonald

    NICE :)

  • Alex Beamish

    This test shows the bias towards Mathies at Google — there should be a choice between a left-brain and a right-brain test. And being left-brained, I have no idea what a right-brained test would look like — and I'm going to get myself in trouble for even guessing, so I won't.

  • http://markmckay.ca markmckay

    Ah well at least its a little more useful then Old Snakey.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk ianbetteridge

    Remember that AI that Google is supposed to be building? :)

  • http://InternetMarketingChick.com Melanie

    I see your point, but there have been many a morning I wish I would have had to solve an equation before sending some very unwise drunken text messages, that's for sure. And there's a reason why there's a whole term for “drunk dialing.”

    I've never had a big problem with drunk emailing (no immediate gratification), but if they came out with a breathalizer for cell phones, I would probably be all over that. :D

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    True — drunk dialing is a much bigger problem, I think. Just wait until Google gets its mobile VOIP working, and then maybe it will make you do math before giving you access to your ex's number :-)

  • Gilliebee

    Hilarious. If this were the first of April, this would make much more sense.

    Still, I can think of at least one 20-something in my old company who could have used this service. But at least his emails were happy “I-love-my-job” notes…

  • Alex Beamish

    This test shows the bias towards Mathies at Google — there should be a choice between a left-brain and a right-brain test. And being left-brained, I have no idea what a right-brained test would look like — and I'm going to get myself in trouble for even guessing, so I won't.

  • http://markmckay.ca markmckay

    Ah well at least its a little more useful then Old Snakey.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk ianbetteridge

    Remember that AI that Google is supposed to be building? :)

  • http://InternetMarketingChick.com Melanie

    I see your point, but there have been many a morning I wish I would have had to solve an equation before sending some very unwise drunken text messages, that's for sure. And there's a reason why there's a whole term for “drunk dialing.”

    I've never had a big problem with drunk emailing (no immediate gratification), but if they came out with a breathalizer for cell phones, I would probably be all over that. :D

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    True — drunk dialing is a much bigger problem, I think. Just wait until Google gets its mobile VOIP working, and then maybe it will make you do math before giving you access to your ex's number :-)

  • Gilliebee

    Hilarious. If this were the first of April, this would make much more sense.

    Still, I can think of at least one 20-something in my old company who could have used this service. But at least his emails were happy “I-love-my-job” notes…

  • Pingback: Google needs to mind its own business - Amphibia Daily Links

Older post:

Newer post: