First Look

Google's Inbox: Just more "Nannyfication" of productivity

Google's Inbox just tries too hard to do my email Google's way. Give me "manly" software ...

screen shot 2014 11 01 at 2.27.55 pm
Credit: Google

I’ve been using Google’s Inbox by Gmail app and web interface for a few days now and I’m pretty certain that it’s not an improvement over Gmail. That’s not to say Inbox is actually bad; just that it doesn’t really make handling large quantities of email any easier ... in fact, it can actually make it harder! Plus it has a bug (or an oversight depending on your point of view) in the iOS that is, at least, a deal breaker for me.

My problem with Inbox is that it tries to do too much in the way of organizing. It makes judgements about the purpose of items and, with impressive accuracy, bundles them as single items in the display that expand when clicked on. The problem is that often the clue to what’s in the bundle will be images or videos that don’t really convey the importance of the content. And there's too much "reach" in what gets bundled ... sure it's mostly accurate but it's too inclusive ... I could probably figure out how to change the bundling to suit my tastes better but I don't need to learn yet another system.

Anther gripe is that delete for any item or bundle can't be done with one click; it requires clicking on a menu and then selecting trash (the same applies to spam). I suspect that the idea is to encourage us to keep everything (which, I suspect, allows Google to do all sorts of sexy Big Data analysis) but that’s not what I want … I get many newsletters and group messages that I have no desire to keep and  making deletion and flagging as spam more complicated is not helpful.

What I find really annoying is on the iOS version is if you forward something the actual forwarded content can’t be edited! You can add text before the forwarded material but that’s it! 

There’s also the use of big colored circles next to each message that show either the first letter of the sender’s first name or their avatar if Google’s got hold of it from somewhere. It’s a technique that I’d argue adds little to clarity and winds up making me feeling like I’ve somehow gone back to preschool.

I think that Google is falling into the same mindset that many software vendors, (especially Apple with their ridiculous “duplicate” in place of “save as”) are moving towards: Nannyfying their products. You can just hear the designers: “Let’s make our app simpler than driving a car, easier than tying your shoe laces, more intuitive than the spoon. Oh, and what colors does Playschool use?” Pah! 

Give me manly software that I can drive as I prefer. Software that helps but stays out of the way, makes my interaction with content fast and efficient, and doesn’t try to make me take a forced route march.

Have you tried Inbox? What did you think?

[mg]

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