Google Upsets Google+ Power User Wil Wheaton Again, What About You?

    June 30, 2012
    Chris Crum

Geek celebrity Wil Wheaton is what you might call a Google+ power user. He’s actively engaged on Google’s social network, and has amassed 1,373,118 followers to date. That’s a lot for Google+. Google, however, keeps doing things with Google+ that are pissing Wheaton off, and if they’re pissing Wheaton off, there’s a good chance they’re pissing off other users.

The sources of frustration have mainly stemmed from Google forcing Google+ down people’s throats (as some see it), and blasting out features with usability issues. The shift to Google+ for local search has certainly irritated some users as well, even if Google’s grand plan may warrant such changes. Are you happy with the way Google has pushed Google+ thus far? Let us know in the comments.

Last month, Wheaton fumed about a feature Google was testing on YouTube, which placed a Google+ like button in the spot where the YouTube thumbs up button would normally be. It would prompt users to upgrade to Google+ when not signed in. Wheaton was worried about losing YouTube upvotes, though Google told a us a very small number of users were actually seeing this test feature, which may never see the light of day.

We had a lengthy conversation with Wheaton about whether Google is forcing Google+ down people’s throats. Read our whole interview with him here.

So why is Wheaton upset this time? It has to do with Google’s rollout of Events on Google+. At Google I/O, Google announced the feature, and it soon went live. Here’s Google’s promo video about it:

The rollout, however, apparently did not go exactly as planned. Here’s what Wheaton had to say on Google+:

Wil Wheaton

Did G+ roll out some new "invite everyone you follow to an event" thing? My feed is completely overwhelmed with "everyone's invited to XXXXX event" notices, and I'm having a hard time actually seeing posts from people I'm following.

Oh, and the spammer scumbags have figured out that they can make an invite to an event that's nothing but spam. 

Is there a way to opt-out of event invites from people I don't follow or have circled? Is this yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly?

Some of the events Wheaton was getting invite spam for included things like: “Something in Columbia, Not Giving a Fuck Friday,” and “The Guild Wars 2 Release Date”.

Wheaton followed that up with a post on his blog, where he added, “I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s like Google has learned nothing from Buzz…and is actually doing this sort of thing on purpose.”

In case you don’t get the Buzz reference, Google pissed a lot of other people off when it first launched the now defunct Google Buzz in people’s Gmail inboxes, due to some privacy issues that resulted in lawsuits.

Wheaton posted a follow up post on Google+, where he talked about the new Events feature more. “It’s too bad that I’ll never use it, and will kill it with fire, because Google has, yet again, made a product that may be useful and cool, but forced it upon users without giving users any control over how invasive it is.”

He later added, “As a result, G+ is useless to me today, and for as long as it takes the company to actually fix this, assuming they ever do. Yeah, it’s a first world problem for me, but it’s also a problem for Google, because even if 1% of G+ users feel the same way I do, that’s a lot of people Google has unnecessarily pissed of and possibly alienated.”

Finally, Wheaton updated his blog post, saying:

It appears that Google engineers are actively working on a way to fix this thing, and that it may not have been intentional. I sincerely hope that that’s the case, and will just point out that, if Google didn’t have a pattern of social network behaviour to the contrary, I’d be way more willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

And it isn’t lost on me that my G+ experience is likely quite different from most people’s, I get that. If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to listen to me.

In yet another Google+ post, Wheaton provides a response from Google’s Vic Gundotra:

+Vic Gundotra says “We are doing exactly what you requested. We should have contemplated and anticipated how people would abuse this and how painful this could be for celebrities with large followings.

We have pushed a number of fixes yesterday (some were bug fixes that showed up at scale). Expect more fixes today. Sorry for the trouble Will.”

Google+ Events could ultimately be a very important feature for Google+. After all, this is a feature Facebook has offered for a long time, and this means one less thing that Facebook can do that Google+ can’t. Google also has the benefits of Android, Google Calendar and Gmail and all of their users, to make this a very integrated, and usable tool. At Google I/O, Google announced that 400 million Android devices have been activated, with 12 new ones activated every second of every day. Google also announced that Gmail has 425 million unique users a month.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the feature turns out to be a big part of the user’s everyday Google experience. My guess is that it will play into Google’s future search plans. Google also announced Google Now at Google I/O. This appears to be Google’s way of decreasing your dependence on search, while still keeping you within the Google universe, by pushing information to you before you need to search. More on that here.

Do you like the direction Google is headed in? Share your thoughts.