One of the reasons why the chat box can no longer be disabled in the new version of Gmail is that it will include some new features: updates from your contacts. Yes, they are the same contacts you barely know, but these updates will help you learn more about them.
Gmail’s code suggests that you’ll be able to delete the updates you don’t like, reply by email or post a comment. It’s not very clear what kind of updates you will receive, but they’re probably the latest important actions of your contacts from different Google services.
Oh, Google. I know you want to be social. I know that all the cool kids are doing it, and that you just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. I know that you’re going to get right back on that horse and keep trying, no matter how much you annoy your core audience.
But please, as you force us all to socialize with everyone we’ve ever emailed, at least learn from the hard lessons of other social media sites (okay, mostly Facebook):
- Last year, when Facebook unveiled its News Feed and Mini-Feed features, the user backlash was huge. More than a hundred thousand people signed a petition against the feature. The reaction was so negative that Mark Zuckerberg, who has posted on the Facebook blog a grand total of four times, actually had to address the issue twice, finally heavily refining the privacy features and acknowledging that they made a grave mistake.
- This year, Zuckerberg had to apologize again. Project Beacon forced messages on users (specifically commercial messages) that they simply didn’t want sent out and didn’t want to receive. The biggest problem, though, was that all users were automatically opted in without their consent. The backlash prompted Zuckerberg’s most recent post on the Facebook blog.
The bottom line for the rest of us? It’s about time to start weeding out those “contacts” that you don’t actually . . . contact.