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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sorry, but Google's "Accounts" Concept is Just Too Aggressive

I honestly don't know *exactly* how they might have done things differently, but Google's ubiquity is causing a major workflow nightmare for me, and I'm sure many other users.

Like many who are a bit too engaged in the Internet sphere, I use a lot of different Google services, and have more than one Google account (two primary ones, used on purpose for different purposes). A lot of my decision-making occurred before there were in fact "Google Accounts." Pretty much, the decision was to have two different GMail accounts, one because I loved GMail for its speed, searchability, storage, and organizational aplomb. The other Gmail account, for spam and email from the retailers I buy from. Simple enough. This latter also got associated with "me" in certain online forums, and certain people email me there, so I like to keep watch on it.

Now, I use a ton of other Google services, too, all with logins attached. And at some point I managed to set up at least three or four additional Google accounts, for professional reasons.

Some of the great services I use are:

Google Groups - I moderate SEM 2.0 and have set up informal ones for friends & clients & colleagues here and there. To post, you need to be logged into the *correct* Google account. As an admin for several groups, I have to help people come to grips with that fact - in addition to just figuring out how to read my own screen on any given day. Sometimes, colleagues have been confused, thinking that anyone can see certain posts that are very private in nature - because they forget that what they see on their screen is not generic - it's only showing to them because they're logged into the private group. The confusion that reigns in other people's workflow overflows into mine, to the point where I need to start one or two Basecamp accounts to segregate out project management properly. Which causes workflow issues of its own, but in the end I prefer it.

Google Chat - very useful. Lots of people use IM, me, no exception. This fires up on bootup, so here's the thing: nowadays that pretty much determines what Google account I'm logged into unless the system is told otherwise. Actually, that's a huge %$!&)(*!% pain, because it also decides that I want to be notified of all new emails, but does so in relation to a Gmail account I only use for spam and retail. Any of the other Google services I use at any given time of the day - might be associated with the "wrong" account, depending on which one I want. Plus, Chat seems to often require resetting to get rid of certain defaults that crop up from time to time.

Blogger - as you can see - I use Blogger. Uses a Google account. Gotta switch if I'm in the wrong one.

Search - if I'm logged in, it makes sure my searches are recorded! Good! I think. Unless, not good.

I'm sure there are a few other things I'm forgetting.

When it comes time to do my job, though, things get significantly hairier. I've complained about this before.

*Google AdWords* accounts are associated with Google Accounts now. So, all my clients have their own Google Accounts, that they were forced at some point to establish rather than just a standalone login for their advertising business relationship with Google. *Why?* Should this not have been a separate deal? So anyway: I access my client accounts through my THIRD Google Account, which is a master account I use that relates to my admin login for the My Client Center master account that helps me manage all client accounts, with client permission, from a single interface. (Two of the accounts in my MCC are in fact my own, and are associated with my first, and second, Google accounts, respectively.) Having that *third* Google Account makes it even more annoying to be doing the other things I need - checking my favorite email address (at Account 2), and IM'ing (from Account 1). I might add that I have about three computers that I might have this stuff set up on in different locations (desktop, desktop, laptop), so that adds additional issues no doubt.

Does that mean I should have set it up more intelligently? I doubt it, since the fact that I'd have access to a master AdWords account that was a Google Account too, to manage regular AdWords accounts that are Google accounts too, was unforeseeable when I set up the two GMail accounts and associated (without thinking) the Chat account with the first GMail account without really pondering it. We didn't know Blogger would require a Google Account login. And so on.

All the consumer functionality stuff, I think - that's my mistake in some way that I can't properly appreciate now, so I should probably deal with it. I mean that's my problem that I grew up in an era when you could have four Excite Mail accounts if that floated your boat, and it didn't affect the entire day when you were logging in and out of them.

At the very least, though, I feel that Google blundered when it required serious business customers to associate their accounts with mass, all-purpose consumer accounts. Nearly all Google AdWords logins are organized around some individual corporate person's email address. So to make sure others sharing that account login are not able to access that poor person's email, chat, Blogger account, and search history, elaborate workarounds, requiring additional Google Accounts, cursing, duct tape, and magic, have been required. What a mistake.

Did I mention that you should use Basecamp for project management? :) Or anything but something invented, modified, or acquired by Google? Google, will you promise to just keep Jotspot separate? Please don't make your customers associate it with a Google Account.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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