I do most all of my writing and management within Google Drive. That’s where I write most all of my blog posts, where the spreadsheets that include my editorial calendars are stores and where I keep presentation decks for reference later. It’s a great tool, especially in how it allows for offline editing that’s backed up the next time you connect to the internet and how Docs integrates with WordPress for easy publishing.
That being said, it’s also extraordinarily frustrating because it exemplifies how technology companies feel users are too irresponsible or ill-informed to be given anything more than cursory control over the management experience.
See, I want to be able to keep a few key documents at the top of the list of files, preferably even adding them to the “Quick Access” row of files the system feels I open frequently. That’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the most useful to me. Instead I’d love to make that a row of files I use as templates or even a collection of folders with important material. Or maybe I could just do something as simple as sort the main page by “Starred” documents. Or get the list of folders out of the main list on the Drive front page.
None of that is possible, though, because it’s not anything the designers and developers think is the ideal user experience or some such. Either these use cases didn’t occur to them or they had a reason for not allowing for that level of flexibility. Whatever the reason, it’s frustrating because it means I have to trade a non-optimal and sometimes exasperating experience for convenience.
This is by no means the only instance of tech companies thinking they know best or, as is often the case, putting profit motives above the user experience.
For instance, Instagram says no, the reverse-chronological feed isn’t coming back because it sees higher engagement with the curated feed. That’s fine and they’re within their rights to make that call, but what if someone simply wants to make a different choice?
Or how about how Twitter keeps trying to create alternatives to its main timeline? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the Twitter app I’m not interested in the “In Case You Missed It” collection of Tweets it thinks are relevant to me for any number of reasons? Personally, I come to Twitter to see what the current conversation is, not to revisit what someone posted seven hours ago. I’m an intelligent adult who’s been using the service for 11+ years, I know what I’m getting. Stop introducing new features that automatically curate events or signal breaking news and educate people on Lists work, then introduce TweetDeck-like columns on the mobile app.
It’s not that I don’t think companies should be able to create the products and feature sets they want. It’s that I resent the insistence that I and everyone else fall in line with what they’ve decided is the optimal experience instead of allowing for flexibility on the user end. Even if only eight percent of people take advantage of that flexibility, it’s likely it would cost little to make it available and maintain it.
I, and others like me, are square pegs so stop trying to fit us into round holes. I just want to be able to organize things in a way that makes sense to me, not be bound to the limited ideas of others.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.