The day I lost my trust in Gmail...
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 5:02:32 AM
Trust builds up slowly, once lost it is rarely regained. In those early days after the April 1 non-joke, trust came readily to Gmail. For me it started with my favourite four-letter word, "Undo". Commonplace client-side, web services rarely offered this basic functionality. That as much as latency made for an inferior user experience. Gmail was an exception. You delete something you rather wouldn't, you pick it up from trash. You did something you should't, you click on the "undo" link, and all was well again.
For a while.
I mostly prefer to use Opera, which has been troublesome with Google, but the two have mostly made up lately. Worse, I have been to many places with limited connectivity, using phone network or fritzy WiFi that drops. This means the "Basic HTML" rather than "Standard" service. Here in China I have little choice even when the connectivity is good, Opera+Google+China+Standard fails in most cases. Basic HTML is actually good enough, you lose some flash of Standard, but it the lack of connectivity, not the lack of flashiness that slows you down. What is worse, and I cannot say if it is Basic HTML as I have too little experience with Standard, but Gmail has become unreliable. Not unreliable as the well-publicised spat with Chinese government unreliable, which is annoying but not really damaging (it is better now, at times VPN was required, now it is only recommended). The problem was losing-your-email reliability issues. You write a message, the connection is lost, you press Send, and get an error message. No problem right, unlike IE6 (boo!hiss!) you can go back one step in history and retrieve that message, right? Wrong. Whatever script Gmail is running it interfers with Operas now-less-than-stellar history functionality so that chances are you got nothing.
This and other issues have caused a number of lost messages from me, and more often my co-workers (whether using Opera or other browser). My advice has been the old adage to save often, as well as the somewhat-stoneagey-but-safe "type it in in a word processing program and copy it into the browser" since all modern word processors/text editors autosave without any freakish AJAXy unreliability, or maybe the best "Use Thunderbird". I can't really say I like Thunderbird, but at least our data have been safe so far.
Two days ago I started a company-important document that I worked on and off on. Of course I should have headed my own advice and used a word processor, but using a browser is convenient. I did save (though not as often as I should, Gmail's autosave is not much), so I ran a risk of data loss, but nothing catastrophic. So I thought until the "discarded" message suddenly showed up. When Google say "discarded" they mean it. That is not a nice little "We moved your message into the Trash folder for you, do you mind?", or "We deleted your life's work. Undo?", or even "We messed up, all your changes since your last save are gone. Sorry.". It does mean "The message you have been worked on from the beginning through what we told you we have saved to the last changes is now gone and deleted. There is no way of getting it back. We are not telling you why we did it, and there is nothing you can do about it. Have a nice day."
Trust builds up slowly, once lost it is rarely regained.