In Gmail users’ inboxes Sunday, Google put a small line of text in its chat window. “Reminder: Call Dad,” it said.
Almost immediately, users took to the company’s service forums to ask how to remove the reminder because, for one reason or another, they couldn’t, or didn’t want to call their fathers.
Sarah Price, a Google community manager, responded on one forum after two messages like this, saying, “It was not our intent to upset anyone with this reminder, and to those who found it jarring or uncomfortable, I’d like to apologize.” She then said that if Google runs any more reminder campaigns like this in the future, the company plans to “make them dismissable.”
As TechCrunch’s Alexis Tsotis pointed out in her post on the subject, the difference users saw between Google’s Father’s Day doodle and this reminder was that the Google Chat reminder couldn’t be removed from their personal space. It showed a lapse in social judgement, she said, pointing out that Facebook didn’t step in to push Sunday’s popular meme to post your father’s picture as your profile picture.
Google doesn’t have a great history with making itself social — though CEO Larry Page is reportedly very serious about pushing social efforts — and has a history of setting up well-intentioned services only to find customers aren’t nearly as excited about them. From Buzz, which landed it in trouble with the FTC, to the largely incomprehensible Wave, the company may still have more to learn about how people use their products to keep in touch.
Do you think Google was out of line? Or are people being too touchy?