Down on the Googlemail funny-forum, one patient won’t be taking any more medication
Earlier this year I had a long and at times irritable email correspondence with Oliver Letwin, the Tory MP for Lyme Regis. My points were that (a) every ISP with whom I worked was lying about selling on my name to third parties (b) Orange had broken it’s ‘unlimited recipients’ promise, and was thus in breach of its original contract and (c) none of these silo-based goons ever put real telephone numbers, Head Office or email addresses on their websites.
You have to admire Oliver, because he’s frighteningly diligent and unfailingly polite. Also (as every TV interview with him shows) he has a wicked sense of the ridiculous. What’s more, after I illustrated my grumbles one by one, he was won over by the power of argument. We need more MPs like this. About 645 more of them.
The third parties name-scam has since been revealed for the shower of dissembling rubbish it always was; as for the Orange nonsense, I gave up on them and decided last week to move to Googlemail instead. Since when, one of my ’send’ groups has become ‘unrecognized’. One day it was recognised with an ess, and the next it was unrecognizable with a zee.
I should know better by now than to go along with anything online that says ‘Help’: you can type ‘udder’ into a dairy farming website help-box and get ‘Sorry, your search produced 0 results’ back. Google’s trick (and it’s getting one year older every twelve months) is to send you to a Help Forum. This is a mental hospital straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: it’s obvious the staff are madder than the patients, but it’s either the Help Farm, or compile the whole 167-name list all over again.
It’s hard to know where one should begin in describing the Swiftian nature of this ’service’ concept. I the customer go to join other poor devils with the same problem, and we then share (but do not solve) it. ‘Gee, yeh – I got that problem also’ say my fellow inmates at the Funny Farm: but their voices trail away, revealing that they too are wondering what the point of this surreal place might be.
My particular forum (’bcc unrecognizable’) had entries with the exact same problem as me going back to October 2007. Yet none of the Google subterranean grubs had thought to think (as it were) ‘Hey guys – maybe the problem is with us….maybe the enemy out there need some help from us.’
You get visions, while languishing in the Help Forum, of what the others look like. Maybe they have long white beards and scrawny arms, and they have little bits of pot in their claw-like hands with which to dig under the window-bars, and eventually make good their escape. They keep canaries in cages, and write letters for some of the illiterate prisoners. They have riots about the food now and then. And keep on waiting, hoping year in year out that one day, a new prisoner will arrive and tap on the wall, ‘Just remove the semi-colons between the names and all will be well’.
Enough whimsy already. After two frustrating hours, I arrived at a page with lots of numbers on it…and realised – with the sort of satisfaction that must have entered Machiavelli’s heart from time to time – that Google had played right into my hands. For the numbers betrayed just how impenetrable Googlemail problems must be.
In the Superbowl that is the Google Help Forum, there are 12,257 different discussions about how to compose and send gmail. 13,213 more groups are discussing how to read and receive gmail. A further 6,668 fellow travellers are swapping ideas just on the subject of how to sign in and open the damn thing. At this stage, I was left wondering if you could really call these people ‘users’ of Gmail without contravening some law about trade descriptions.
It beggared belief – but it continued. Fully 25,369 Gmail discussions were for those who couldn’t work out the contacts system, or the settings. 3,490 were for the folks who – exhausted by the first 46,513 discussion threads – couldn’t find the coffee shop. There was no discussion group debating whether people who even wanted to find a virtual coffee shop might be totally nuts: but this very fact only confirmed my view that customers prepared to go through all this nonsense were far, far, far too nice.
There are a further fifteen pages of debate covering every imaginable thread – a near-eternal and probably infernal spinning jenny of threadbare tethers stretching out towards infinity. And meanwhile, in the deep-mine catacombs of Google, all remained quiet – save for the gentle sound of enormous cheques dropping to the padded floor.
A rough back-of-envelope calculation suggests that around the world right now, there are some 3.7 million gmail customers flailing around the dark Chateau D’If that is their Help forum. Which, by the shortest stretch of the world’s most dull imagination, is a scandal, a travesty, an obscenity, a con, a joke, and many other things of an undesirable nature – but not service in any way, shape or form
The Googoyles get away with it, of course, because without all these ethically challenged ISPs, our creatively bereft leaders will be unable to watch, read and hear everything we do electronically going forward on the roadmap to serfdom.
This still can’t explain why we the People have been putting up with this piss-take for nearly a decade. But as there are five billion of us and only eight of them, it does suggest that the real guilt is ours, not theirs. For we have free will, whereas they have only the tragic and unchangeable paucity of their criminal thoughts.