This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2010-04-05 at 12:29 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/11160
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Google Groups on the Fritz

by Matt Neuburg

Last year, when I set up a discussion group and mailing list for users of my RubyFrontier Web framework project, I made a choice between creating a Yahoo group [1] or a Google group [2]. I went with Yahoo Groups even though I'm not terribly fond of the interface and features. Now I'm happy I didn't choose Google, when I discovered that Google Groups are suffering from an annoying glitch.

Two important Google Groups features are the capability to create and publish custom Web pages [3] and the fact that you can upload, store, and share files [4]. It appears that these features - called "Pages" and "Files" - have broken for some groups. I first noticed the problem while trying to access some Pages for a Google group I belong to; but as I write this, the Is Something Broken [5] Google group (part of Google's Help Forum) is filled to overflowing with threads where users complain that they can't upload or download files and that they can't view pages.

The most frustrating part of the problem, for many, is the lack of response from Google. Indeed, there is no direct way to contact Google about such matters. Clicking the Contact link that appears when pages fail to load tells the user that you can't email Google about anything but abuse and legal matters; the alternative is to post on the Help group, which is exactly what users are doing, with no sign that Google folks are paying any attention.

This issue is making many Google Groups users, those for whom the Pages and Files features are an essential aspect of a particular group, feel that their Google Groups experience is broken, or that they have effectively lost important data. Even if the problem is cleared up soon, which of course it may well be, it illustrates a peculiarly telling confluence of circumstances:

All of that said, I'm just as furious as everyone else. For the groups where I'm dependent on these features, their loss is effectively breaking my use of those groups. Google's silence on the matter is giving users the impression that the company doesn't care about Google Groups. Google needs to take action to correct that impression, and soon.

[1]: http://groups.yahoo.com/
[2]: http://groups.google.com/
[3]: http://groups.google.com/intl/en/googlegroups/tour3/page3.html
[4]: http://groups.google.com/intl/en/googlegroups/tour3/page5.html
[5]: http://groups.google.com/group/is-something-broken/topics