Google's Communication Problems Continue: Blogger Can't Get His Blog Turned Back On After Six Months

from the not-cool dept

For the last few months, we’ve been seeing more and more stories about Google’s communication problems with users. This has always been something of an issue with Google — which seems to prefer algorithms to humans whenever possible — but we’re seeing it so often, that I’m really beginning to wonder if this is a serious problem (or potential Achilles heel) for the company. It seems like Google could take some serious lessons from a company like Zappos that treats everyone like a human and goes to amazing lengths to resolve any problems. Instead, too often dealing with Google feels like tossing a request into a giant shiny white box where you may or may not ever hear back — and, if you do hear back, it’s unlikely to be particularly helpful.

For example, we’ve already talked about the problems many suddenly banned advertisers have had in getting any kind of explanation from Google (let alone any recourse). On top of that, there was the situation with users being locked out of their Google docs, with little communication from Google available. This is really potentially quite damaging. It gives the impression of a giant white wall between users and the company in an age where having some sort of human connection to a company is increasingly important. I recognize that Google has it in their DNA to be afraid of people gaming the system, but in shutting itself off from the world, it may be creating more problems for itself.

The latest example is instructive. Jack Yan alerts us to his own writeup of the struggle he’s gone through to try to get Google to reinstate a blog it incorrectly deleted back in July. You can read the forum exchange that began in November (after many months of going through the regular official channels and being told to “wait 2 days” over and over again with nothing coming of it). Jack summarizes the forum exchange this way, with Google’s explanation first, and his response in parentheses:

  1. You probably didn’t follow the suggestions. (Yes, I did.)
  2. You didn’t do it at the right time. (Yes, I did.)
  3. Wait two days. (Waited, nothing happened.)
  4. Wait till this afternoon. (Waited, nothing happened.)
  5. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
  6. You’re not the owner of the site. (Owner steps in and says I am allowed to follow this up for him.)
  7. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
  8. I’ll ignore the main link you give and focus on a second one that is less useful. (Look at the first one then.)
  9. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
  10. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
  11. Your search term is not relevant to this. (But it shows you a cache of it.)

The exchange is incredibly frustrating to read, and I’m amazed that Jack remained as calm as he did through it all. In fact, he notes that Google itself had a cache of the site for a long time — including when he kept submitting for reinstatement and getting told to wait two days. But now Google’s own cache is gone, so he’s pointing the Google folks to Yahoo’s cache to prove the blog is not a spam blog. And Google’s response appears to be nitpicking over the search term, rather than the cache itself, or looking for ways to get the blog back. I know plenty of folks who work at Google and care deeply about their products and how they’re perceived, but I’m amazed at how badly the company seems to handle basic customer service issues like this one.

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Comments on “Google's Communication Problems Continue: Blogger Can't Get His Blog Turned Back On After Six Months”

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Anonymous Coward says:

simple solution

DONT FUCKING USE BLOGSPOT OR FLICKR OR ANY OF THESE STUPID SITES FOR SHIT YOU CARE ABOUT. you can get a great hosting package that works fine for personal sites for easily under $50 a year. if you are too cheap to pay for it, then don’t complain when shit doesn’t work the way you want it to.

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: Re: simple solution

Apart from the “you get what you pay for” adage you mean?

Seriously though, there are lots of people out there who don’t need 5 nines service for example. There is a whole spectrum of reliability being demanded by different segments of the market, along with a spectrum of ability and willingness to pay.

If they’re not meeting a group of people’s reliability/price tradeoff then something will have to give otherwise they’ll just lose money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the company not keeping promises, they’ll just lose customers if they are breaking their promises more than they had promised to do so … if that makes sense …

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 simple solution

Agree, although I read your comment as saying either:
(a) provide a reliable service with a charge if necessary, or
(b) don’t provide a service

missing out (c) provide a unreliable service for free / less than a reliable one.

Granted the takeup will depend on competitors and how much unreliability people are willing to put up with to avoid shelling out.

Plus, public transport in the UK is a fantastic example of how to provide unreliable service *and* charge a lot for it. Gotta love monopolies.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Paying Customers

I’m guessing people who actually pay Google (e.g. for Google Apps) get better support.

It’s actually an interesting question — how do you build a scalable user support and feedback service? Code, memory, CPU time, and bandwidth are all relatively cheap compared to manpower but actual person-to-person contact is the hallmark of a good customer support system.

I think that’d be something you’d want to toss to the Insight Community Mike.

Michael Ho (profile) says:

Re: Paying Customers

I’m not so sure the person-to-person contact equates to good customer support… The classic example is an ATM — where there is only human-to-machine contact. ATMs are great for the purpose they serve, and there’s no way to “escalate” an ATM into a human2human service (nor should there be).

The real trick is how to combine automated support with human support so that the automated support and the human support are provided when at the exact appropriate times….

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Paying Customers

What if the ATM (the ones you can deposit cash in) eats your money? It might be nice to escalate that to a person.

Person-to-person contact does not automatically mean good support, but all else equal, I think it’s a plus. Until we get really some good AI, automation only helps us deal with foreseeable problems. A big chunk of customer support is about what happens with the unforeseeable (e.g. bugs) and for that you need people.

Plus there’s a tremendous psychological benefit for the user to having the actual name of someone you can hold responsible for your problem.

IMHO, the problem is that you have small teams of developers creating products that get millions of users overnight. This allows scenarios where a single engineer can push a change that benefits 99% and screws over the remaining 1% in all sorts of strange ways.

Because that 1% consists of edge cases and outliers, you’ll probably have to sort through their issues on an individual basis. Yet because you have millions of users, that 1% is really quite large. Rather than spend his time helping out the 1% he screwed, the engineer’s time is better spent working on another iteration of the product designed to help out some other 99% of its users.

That’s not much comfort if you’re in the 1% though.

Michael Ho (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Paying Customers

Sure… Human customer support reps are good, but I was just pointing out that automated support is not all bad. I wouldn’t want to be forced to talk to a human being for every transaction that I’m now accustomed to doing myself on an ATM. And I sometimes prefer the self-checkout lane at my local grocery store… Do I want them to get rid of all the cashiers? No way, because the human cashiers are much better at finding the prices for fruits and items that don’t have barcodes on them.

So I think we’re agreed that there are those 1% cases when a human is essential for good service. And there’s also the “genius bar” examples — where if the customer *knows* his/her problem can only be fixed by a human, that a human customer service rep should be readily available. The key is trying to augment those humans as much as possible with technology so that their efforts are maximized.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Paying Customers

I’d like to add ordering food to that list. The day I ordered my first pizza online (leisurely choosing from a nice list of ingredients, instead of standing on the phone saying ‘hold on a second—WHAT DO YOU GUYS WANT? Do you have that? — NO THEY DON’T HAVE THAT! Okay so on one half we’ll have.. wait, hold on — WHAT? OKAY I’LL ASK” and so on) was a very good day indeed.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You shouldn’t have a single point of failure to store important data. Electronic is fine, just make sure it’s backed up to the appropriate level. For example, protect against Google screwing you by saving everything locally. Protect against drive failure by backing up to a separate disk. If you need to protect against complete destruction or unavailability of a whole facility, back up to a remote location. How much backup you need depends on how badly you need to have access to the content. But saying not to store anything important electronically is just silly.

zealeus (profile) says:

Paying customers

I’m guessing people who actually pay Google (e.g. for Google Apps) get better support.

FWIW, my school’s a customer of Google Apps for education- virtually identical to business apps, except we get it free. We actually do get decent service and I’ve been able to get a real, live human being on the phone occasionally. Granted, they always have to pass me on to another department who might or might not call me back a few days later, but I’ve definitely dealt with worse paid tech support.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

In the end, it points to a simple solution:

If you want to run something, get a host and take care of it yourself. Don’t depend on some other service to provide you tools that they can take away without notice.

With your own domain and software, you can host anywhere. Considering how inexpensive hosting is, it is almost foolish to use free tools.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of course, then you would expect customer support from your hosting company, but some hosting companies have a bad history when it comes to customer support.
So in that case, it might even be better to host your own website on your own server, but then you’d also have to get a business DSL line to have a decent uptime, except that some providers have bad customer support as well. So you might want to start your own DSL provider business to make sure that you have proper customer support.

Wait, what was this for again? A simple blog?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nonetheless they are businesses and their business models rely on users. Nobody is saying they aren’t free to treat those users how they will, but those users absolutely should complain if they are treated poorly, because that is how the damn free market works! Nobody is asking for legislation to force Google to offer better customer service – they are just exercising their right to complain, and warning other potential users of the challenges they might face if they choose Google for their blog, so that those users can make a more educated consumer decision.

Where is the problem?

Rick Klau (user link) says:

Quick follow-up from Google

Really sorry I missed this thread when Mike originally posted. There’s no defending a six month delay in resolving the situation, nor is there any excuse for our volunteer super users treating users with anything less than respect and patience.

With that said, I had an e-mail exchange with Jack on Monday, which he documented here:

He found my e-mail address on another comment thread, reached out and we resolved the status of his blog. As he explains, this particular blog was very much a borderline case. Our automated systems rightly identified a number of indicators that mirror known patterns on actual spam blogs; when reviewed by our review team (after an appeal was filed) they still saw it as likely a spam blog.

In this case, oddly enough, the automated and human systems worked – up until Jack went to the forums. We’re analyzing what broke down there, and actually began actively evaluating alternative systems last month to better scale to support our millions of users.

We do not hide behind the fact that we’re a free product – we absolutely have an obligation to ensure that Blogger works for our users and that we earn their ongoing use.

I’ll have more to say on this once I have a bit more info, and will be updating our users about any changes we may make in our support approaches on Blogger Buzz (

In the meantime, anyone who’d like to reach out directly about their Blogger experience is encouraged to contact me directly: rklau -at-

Product Manager, Blogger

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Quick follow-up from Google

I just want to say this:

To all the people that said “if you want to complain you have to pay”, “it is okay for free services to have bad service”, this part of the reply says it all:

“we absolutely have an obligation to ensure that Blogger works for our users and that we earn their ongoing use.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth: YOU ARE ALL WRONG.

And kudos to Rick Klau for caring and trying to fix the issue, eventually.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Quick follow-up from Google

Good show GT, I had thought about highlighting that as well… so many people have an initial reaction of “what do you expect?” – but any company that ever said that would lose all its customers pretty quickly, and no company would ever say it, even if it’s what they were thinking (not casting doubts on sincerity here – I believe Rick means what he says)

When did customers start feeling like they owe companies some sort of sympathy or understanding?

Jack Yan (user link) says:


Dear Mike: thank you for writing up what I had gone through over the last six months.

Rick Klau at Google has indeed fixed things for us and we had a private discussion on why the case was borderline.

I wish we had come across someone like Rick earlier. Only yesterday, I had a discussion with a mutual friend who identifies him as one of the good guys inside Google. The courteous and efficient way we were finally dealt with confirms that. His 24-hour turnaround, from my email to the restoration, is to be commended.

However, I am still rather miffed at what I had been through on the forums, which was frustrating. My ‘Christmas panto’ blog post was directed mostly at that experience, because I still found the procedure obstructive. The last post in the Google support thread was HTML code from the Yahoo! cache (in response to Chuck pasting the frameset code [!])—which was strangely deleted within a day. It was as though he, or someone on the forums, did not want to see that proof.

For my own (former) Blogger blogs, I had opted for FTP publishing, which I would recommend—and have done so for Vincent.

I am glad to note that there is one rule for everyone—provided you can get someone like Rick Klau who can make a judgement on whether the complainant is legit or not. Go through those forums, as I have, and there are a lot of sploggers crying foul over deletion, and those guys do not deserve to get their blogs restored. I’m guessing Rick checked me out, and saw that I had a pretty decent and honest record of blogging—and knew that he wasn’t dealing with a splogger.

On the forums, though, could Chuck have not done the same thing?

Thanks to Techdirt, there’s now a proper record of these incidents, and Rick has kindly offered his contact details—which hopefully can be a remedy to others who have had to fight for such a long period. At the end of the day, something good came of this for other legit bloggers.

Rekrul says:

I know plenty of folks who work at Google and care deeply about their products and how they’re perceived, but I’m amazed at how badly the company seems to handle basic customer service issues like this one.

Why would you be? I can’t even find an email address or contact form for Google any more. They want everyone to use the convoluted Google Groups to get help.

I’d like to actually be able to talk to someone there to complain about the absolutely idiotic practice of showing me web pages that don’t have ANY of the words I searched for. “These terms are only found in links pointing to this page.” Well then show me that f****** page instead of this one, which has absolutely nothing to do with what I searched for!!!

Tal K says:


most big companies do this now. They know that most people don’t care enough to persist through being ignored and messed with, and then if you manage to make enough noise, (see this tech dirt article) then of course someone like Rick Klau is going to step in and try and save face, because 99% of people won’t make a big enough scene to get that far. That’s why people threaten legal action, it’s bad press.

As for the free service argument, sure it’s free in terms of money, but my personal information and behavior is valuable to me, and they make money off the fact that I am will to post it on their website. They also make money any time anyone clicks an advertisement. So yes the service is free in terms of zero dollars, but the users are what gives Facebook, and Google it’s value.

Also: Mike my facebook account has been disabled since 12/22 without response from facebook, if you would like to post an article about it I will demonstrate the point that I make in the first paragraph. Internet businesses still act like normal businesses in a lot of ways.

Mr_Toad (user link) says:

Worse things under the sun

First, commiserations to Jack Yan and the frustration he’s experienced. Here’s my take on Google Blogger.

I had an idea for a site and Google Blogger allowed me to test it, without cost. I may well upgrade my idea to a full website at some point in the future – it just depends on how successful the results are.

Yes, of course I prefer to have my own server and yes, it’s a challenge to make my ‘blogspot’ behave as I would like – but it’s been a fun challenge to be honest and I have succeeded in getting the layout I wanted. It now has the appearance of a website, not a blog. If you want me to do that for you too, check out my free offers.

Horses for courses, I say. Just make sure that you backup any content you really couldn’t cope with losing – just in case.

Heywood says:

Google really does stink nowadays

Google used to be great. Now it totally SUCKS. I can’t find pages I used to be able to find, and it does direct users to ads and “associated” pages that don’t have a single search term I have requested.

Bitterly disappointed in it….it’s gotten glitzier, but WORSE, as time goes by.

Krishna (user link) says:

Blog deletion by Blogger

I have just searched for Blogger blogs deleted by Blogger and the SERPs run into millions (not exactly the number of blogs). I also visited the forums where the experience of bloggers are quite deplorable. In addition to getting deleted, you are insulted, and it is HARD to take for an HONEST person. I use many Google services that are excellent, and I think the problem is only with blogs.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think that the stupidest I have ever dealt with is google’s way of resetting my password. I can’t hear what code I’m supposed on my telephone. I sure don’t know in what month and year I started a Google account, and how in hell am I supposed to know what month and year I last used my account It’s pure insanity

Jack Yan (user link) says:

Password reset

To the commenter above: Google really doesn?t like hearing it?s messed up. So it makes the questions near impossible to answer. I understand about seven people in the US have autobiographical memory?they?re likely to be the only people who can tell them what month and year they started their Google accounts.

After the above incident, I deleted all my Blogger blogs. I was on FTP publishing myself, but after seeing what Vincent went through, I decided that Google could not be trusted. To this day, Google still claims I have one blog left but won?t show me what it is (it?s not on my dashboard). Rick Klau?s successor proved to be far less on the ball, and one of the support guys claims it?s a blog that I have no connection with at all.

Blogger remains a total mess. Avoid at all costs.

Owili Godgift (user link) says:

Simple Solution

If they’re not meeting a group of people’s reliability/price tradeoff then something will have to give otherwise they’ll just lose money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the company not keeping promises, they’ll just lose customers if they are breaking their promises more than they had promised to do so … if that makes sense …

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