Has Google become a big waste of time?

Google used to be a marvel of productivity. Zippy, uncannily accurate search. Minimalist e-mail. Fantastic RSS reader. What happened?

Google used to be a marvel of productivity. Zippy, uncannily accurate search. Minimalist e-mail. Fantastic RSS reader. What happened? It seems like I spend half my time nowadays just coping with the New Google.

Wasting time on Google Buzz

The Google Buzz roll-out was a huge, complicated waste of time. Everybody who cares, and who wants to believe in Buzz, is wasting countless hours trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Almost all my conversations on Buzz are about Buzz itself, and how to figure it out.

Part of the problem is that Buzz wasn't ready to ship. But the whole conception of Buzz lacks direction, clarity -- not to mention documentation.

Until recently, Google shipped predictable products. They were simple to use, optional to use, very polished, and came with a "beta" label. Google Buzz is the opposite: It's complicated, un-finished, and not offered as "beta." Worst of all, it's features are forced on users, who then have to either spend a lot of time trying to figure them out, or spend a lot of time trying to get rid of them.

Wasting time on Google Reader

I'm a huge user of Google Reader, which I rely on to deliver news from my RSS subscriptions (of which I currently have 190). I've been very meticulous and active in the management of my Reader subscriptions, and always ride that thin line between "fully informed" and "totally overwhelmed."

Then along comes Buzz and WHAM! People I follow on Buzz can now choose to flood my Reader feed with their content. To the best of my knowledge, I'm powerless to stop it. I'm really busy today, but spent two hours searching for a solution to this problem, because it has made Reader unusable.

I've opened up the question to my Buzz community, and so far nobody has any idea.

If I don't find a workable solution, I'm going to have to migrate to another reader, which is another massive hit to my time.

Wasting time on Google Blogger

Google recently announced that FTP-posted blogs on Blogger would be discontinued, and that the company would provide porting tools to move blogs from the URL that you own to the URL that they own. I'm quite certain that over the years I've added so much incompatible code that their porting tool would never be able to figure out what's going on. That means I have to move them by hand.

Google says only a small minority of users publish via FTP. Unfortunately, I'm one of them. I had three blogs there.

So far, I've moved one of my blogs, which is a blog I maintain that links to all my columns, to Posterous. I figure, since I have to re-post every single item, I might as well move it to Posterous, which is easier to use and more flexible than Blogger. Besides, Google will inevitably acquire Posterous some day anyway, so what's the difference?

It took me about 18 hours to re-post everything. I still have two blogs to go. Ugh!

Wasting time on Google News

I'm a heavy user of Google News Search. It used to be great. Now it's a pain. Let's say you want to search for your favorite tech writer in all the world. You go to Google News, enter the string "Mike Elgan" and get all the results, right?

No, not any more. Until recently, you'd simply be presented with all the results in News that matched your criteria. Now you get something else. Google News results got "smart," which means complicated and beyond user control.

With the first result, you get something that matches your criteria, then a link to "all 485 news articles" or whatever it is. Click on those, and they don't match your criteria! Those articles instead are Google's guess about what you really meant to search for.

In the past two weeks, coping with Google has become an enormous drain on my time. Has Google completely lost touch with the qualities that made it rich and famous?

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