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Technical, Technology

Google Groups Gripes

I don’t like the new Google Groups. There’s a smaller reason and then there is a bigger reason.

The smaller reason is that the “old” Google Groups has worked well for several years. The new Google Groups, it is a wee bit harder to navigate, but even more than that, it is frequently broken. See http://groups-beta.google.com/groups?q=gmirror — as of this writing, 9/10 of the hits from this search yield a message that says:

Topic not found.

We’re sorry, but we were unable to find the topic you were looking for.
Perhaps the URL you clicked on is out of date or broken?

Yes, perhaps google Groups is broken. I e-mailed them about it yesterday.

But this points to the bigger reason, which is that I use Google because it is the best search engine, hands-down, and it is the best search engine, because they focus, not on the “interactive portal” thing, like Yahoo!, but on search. The New Google Groups does not focus on search. There is a navigation pane on the left that invites me to “create a new group” … why? If I want to create a discussion list, there are already thousands of web bulletin boards, mailing list managers, Yahoo! Groups, and good old USENET itself. I don’t want to create groups, I want results!

I think it is well and good to allow users to post to get an answer to a question that they are researching. To that end, some interactive capability allows Google Groups to fulfill the user’s mission of finding the data they seek. In offering interactive “group management” capability, Google is straying from its core strength of being a research tool that quickly and accurately provides relevant results to my research. I would rather they spent their efforts on Google Groups integrating, say, Yahoo! Groups, and phpBB, mailing list archives, and whatever other “group” like discussions are happening across the Internet. If you are a killer research tool, and you have a massive index of the Internet, then creating yet another mailing list manager is a distracting waste of your talents and capabilities.

When I first stumbled upon Google in the height of the boom, we kept waiting for it to go all “portal” on us, which was all the rage back then. They never did. Google focused on search, and as search engines go, it was without equal. Now, most of the “portal” sites have gone away, replaced by a handful of “best of breed” portals like Yahoo! Google never died, because they focused on being the best search engine, and they figured out how that could make a lot of money for them, so they are still around today — they make money because people use the site, and people use the site because it is the best search engine.

Perhaps I am a crank, but two things that would allay my concerns are that if most of my research-searches actually worked, as Google Groups used to work great, and that Google has, if you like, something of a monopoly on the ancient USENET archives; If Google decided to no longer be the killer research tool, I want the killer research tool competitor to have things available. The motto is “Don’t be Evil” is good, but I think “make information useful and accessible” is also important.

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Categories: Technical, Technology