Don’t Give Us The Pickle

I’ve been railing against pickles since early this morning. I’ve been waving my hands in the air, wild-eyed, with my hair an absolute mess over something that really isn’t important. Pickles! Those vinegary cucumbers are the bane of my existence. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that knows me that I enjoy going to the local watering hole for a cold one with a burger and fries. I’ll pore over the menu carefully to ensure I get the appropriate vegetables and cheeses for the best possible dining experience. More importantly, I look to see if they serve a pickle with the burger, so I can ask them to hold it. I don’t even want one on the plate. When I go to an establishment and pickles aren’t on the menu, and yet one of those evil little things arrives on my plate, I am a little upset. You see, I know it sounds weird, but I can still taste them. Surprising me with a pickle isn’t a gift at all—instead, it is a source of frustration.

Of course, I am not really here to tell you about my strange dietary habits, but instead would like to touch on the recent behavior of many internet organizations to force us to opt-out of things we don’t want. I would assume that many, if not all of you are aware of Thursday’s change to the Google main web page. For me, I was visually assaulted with a bright contrast of colors before my first cup of coffee. I understand this isn’t some paramount issue, or a place to draw a line in the sand, but I think this illustrates a growing trend that is generating massive amounts of frustration in the user community. The trend is ‘the pickle on the plate,’ so to speak. We may or may not want new and exciting (or in this case, relatively mundane) features, but we do want to choose for ourselves if this is something we want. It isn’t the security damaging changes made to the privacy policies of Facebook, or the error laden launch of Google Buzz, but it shows a disconnect between application users and the people designing and rolling out these features. The fact that Google turned off the forced adoption of backgrounds to the main page after only a few hours, shows how they again misjudged their customers.

Another parallel for the office environment is how every single iteration of Microsoft Word gets significantly more complex. The added features may or may not be nice, but now that I need to click my mouse sixty times to double space a paper, I get a little annoyed.

*Deep Breath*

On one hand, this really isn’t something to get too worked up about. Maybe I am overreacting–just a hair. On the other hand, if we don’t complain about being forced to opt-out of every single service, every single day with some new company, then the practice will continue. When Twitter rolled out geo-location for tweets, they were nice enough to ask me if I wanted it included. While I decided against it, many of my friends decided to share where they were tweeting from. It’s cool to be able to actively make that choice, and not be part of the driving force on Google search trends for “remove Google background.”

So as you market your products and roll out new services, try to keep in mind there is apparently a very fine line between “value-add” and “value-annoy,” and forcing your customers to adopt something you think is “neat” may not be the best course of action. Now if you’ll excuse me while I send this pickle back to the kitchen.


One Response to “Don’t Give Us The Pickle”

  1. Andy Dixon says:

    Joel — awesome, very nicely put. I agree wholeheartedly with your points!

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