Whatever Happened to "Don't Be Evil"?

How to make software be Not Evil:

  • Be transparent - show your user exactly what you’re doing.
  • Don’t use productivity tools as a marketing channel for your other business activities.
  • Don’t hijack your users’ day-to-day business activities to promote your own agenda.
  • Don’t email things on behalf of your users that they haven’t seen first.
  • Don’t do things that could make your users look foolish in front of customers and colleagues.

Not that hard, right? Like, that’s all stuff you’d have to do on purpose, by design - we’re not talking about bugs here, we’re talking about don’t deliberately put things into your software that will upset your users.

Well, I found a feature in Google Calendar today that scores zero out of five on this scale. If you create a new appointment in GCal, add a guest, and click Save, it will:

  1. Add a Google Meet meeting URL to your appointment. Unprompted.
  2. Do this in the background, in the shaded area behind a modal dialog box
  3. Include this URL in the invitations that’ll get sent to your meeting attendees.

Go on. Look.

(yes, I know the video is on YouTube. Yes, I know YouTube is owned by Google. No, I don’t believe for one second that Google is going to change anything because I wrote a blog post. But maybe reading this might inspire one of you to Not Be Evil when you’re doing your own stuff, and perhaps that’s enough.)

You want to have a meeting on Webex or Zoom or Jitsi? Go for it. But Google’s gonna add a Google Meet URL as well.

Of course you can switch this off. There’s a settings flag for it. But this “feature” was rolled out at some point this year, with users opted-in by default - I certainly never switched it on, because I don’t use Google Meet and I positively do not want a second URL added to the invitations to all my online meetings and calls. I generally don’t like software doing things I haven’t asked for, and I really don’t like software doing things I haven’t asked for and them sending it in an email straight away without giving me a chance to see it first.

But hey. “Don’t Be Evil” was a long time ago. I guess things have moved on a bit since then.