The GMail Man and More From Two Gmail Users Just Trying To Understand

This morning my friend, Alex Conner,  a programmer at nFrame in Indianapolis,  sent me a link to the Mashable article about the Gmail Man.  I wondered for just a moment why I was getting this link first thing in the morning, well, first thing in my morning which begins a bit later than I’d like.  But then our background on the subject hit me: our ongoing conversation about switching  from GoogleApps to Microsoft 365.   A lot of people I know have been having the same conversation in light of a number of sub rosa activities being implemented by Google against certain groups they don’t like.  It does get people a little nervous and thinking a little bit more about their future with Google.  Especially in light of Google’s recent Gmail intervention campaign.

Alex and I have quite a philosophical history when discussing the state of tech and current tech news.  Out of those conversations comes some great blog fodder, which both of us being so busy, we often let slip into the ether.   And I thought the the Gmail Man would be no exception.   This time, though, I decided not to let that happen and share some of the narrative of our conversation with you.

The line that really grabbed me, I told him, was this: “Maybe Google had it coming, particularly after its own recent snarky video offering a Gmail Intervention.”  It’s a pretty definitive take on the situation.  I didn’t see the video myself  but I was pretty much turned off about the arrogance of the campaign on face value.  I’m thinking to myself:  Right. Like I’m going to help you, Google,  get people onto a product that you may turn off and discontinue without warning at any time. As an IT Director, this doesn’t sound like a good plan to win clients and influence people to me.

I have always been appalled, I told Alex, -which I reminded him from our past discussions – about the way the hi-tech community in general conducts business.  It’s never been good and it comes back to bite you….eventually.  It broke the standard consumer/business model that most people knew and had a history with.  People didn’t like buying licenses for software at ungodly prices for something that was perceived as a thin CD (those are the things you get music on right?) packaged strategically in a big empty box to make it look substantial and not get real live support for it.   You add  on to that the constant updates that ‘shoved the chicken around the plate’ for special interest users but often frustrated the main consumer and even a respectable group of developers.  Then guess what?  The bite came as web services and SaaS came and undercut a lot of that market. There are other examples, too numerous to to mention,  that followed.  I then reminded him of yet another evidence of the same troubles in tech land with the article he had previously sent: “Now the tech market will take a further hit based on your article from Tech Republic the other day.”

Yes,  there is a growing awareness that its not all that pretty and slick behind the keyboard anymore.  You had an industry that was predicated on constant and sudden changes that strangely thought it could conversely create longevity for its core.  I said in conclusion: ” I think they’re all drinking some kool-aid out there in Google land.  Because its obvious they don’t “get it”.  They are not the end of the trail.   They can’t start enacting draconian changes irrespective of the trust they’ve engendered and not get some pushback from the public.  Some one else (Microsoft 365 maybe even)  will come up with a different idea that the disgruntled masses will see as better (It may even be better).   But the point is that they (the masses) will change.  Capitalism and The Abolition of Man will see to that.”

Alex’s response was: “Yep.”

We both laughed.  I wondered at that moment, like the people in The Gmail Man, if Google were reading our email.

“Hey, Google, you out there?  Read this and weep.  And stop being evil!”

We both laughed again.  I had to say that because it was Google who told us long ago  in their unofficial corporate motto:  “Don’t be evil” .

So what happened?

I’m not sure of the details.  Life is so complicated anymore.  But I am reminded as I watch videos like  “Google intervention” and “The Gmail Man” that Malcolm Muggeridege was right: “There is no new news.  Just old news happening to new people.”

Will we pay attention this time and learn from it?

ADDENDUM 8/7/2011

Last night TechCrunch released a story titled,  With Google, There Will Be Bad Blood, a riff off the Daniel Day-Lewis film “There Will Be Blood“.    As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of the blog post I had just written, “The Gmail Man”.   As usual, Alex and I were sharing links fast and technically curious on this one, too.  I share below our comments (with his permission, thanks friend!):

Alex:  “Increasingly, Google is trying to do everything. And they have the arrogance to think that they can. And it’s pissing people off.”


Me: Yeah. Didn’t know if you saw “There Will Be Blood” and remembered Daniel Planiview’s straw-sucking speech at the end.

If they (Google)  had just concentrated on making their UC top notch it wouldn’t have been such a blood bath. But its like they can’t focus on any one thing (or don’t want to). I could understand the ‘can’t focus ‘because there is so much talent within. You can’t blame a man or an organization for the depth and breadth of its talent. But its this driven push to copy others rather than get out in front that defines to others the “evil” that has fired the ire of their competitors and a growing number of their users.

Alex: Yeah; if Google was really trying to do what they say with releasing technologies like Android and the like the would have incubated separate startups. Instead, Android is saddled with being a great Google product instead of a great Mobile product. It goes on and on.

Yes it does…


Mashable: “WordPress Theme Thesis Maker Backs Down, Adopts GPL”

With the relaunch of NanoWeek, I started out with coverage of the WordPress/Thesis debate not expecting an end to the debate quite so soon.  But having had to rest up from my previous day’s exposure to the 104 degree  heat index in the midwest, I might have “missed this train” except for my good geek pal, Alex Conner, who sent Mashable’s link my way.

Reading Mashable’s  headlines was like a nice cup of hot coffee to start the day. But as the article goes on to state about the start of the issue between Thesis and WordPress,  I wasn’t the only one sleeping.  As reported by Jolie O’Dell, Pearson was able to do what he did because the community didn’t step in until the number of users of Thesis collected attention enough to get an interview:

The sleeping dog was lying quite peacefully until Mixergy’s Andrew Warner conducted an explosive interviewwith Chris Pearson, creator of Thesis. We say “explosive” in the sense that the blogosphere (and other social media spheres) exploded as the video racked up views. As Pearson revealed the financial success he’d seen from his should-have-been-at-least-partially-free-and-open-source software, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg fired back on Twitter. This testy exchange culminated in another Mixergy interview, this time a face-off between the two gents. A lawsuit was a-brewin’(1)

Well, the sleeping dog, like myself, though eventually did awake with an explosion of  debate.  And in just a week or so, has, because of the power of social media, settled into a new day with a nice peaceful resolve.

In this case, WordPress remains open and free to all…and can now be fully supported by WordPress.  As Matt Mullenweg puts it:

“This has taken a lot of my time over the past few days and was going to consume more if it went forward,” he wrote on Twitter today. “Thrilled, however, that Thesis is now legal and in compliance… What’s going to be far more useful to Thesis is the fixes we can send him now — which is the most beautiful part of open source.” (2)

That’s the beauty why Open Source is what it is and why all of us in that community support it.

And it’s always good to wake up to a good end to a ticklish problem.


(1) “WordPress Theme Thesis Maker Backs Down, Adopts GPL”, Mashable, Jolie O’ Dell

(2) Ibid