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Turning The Tables On Trust

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Recently Google upped and announced it was going to shut down its RSS feeds service,  Reader, and that's that. Users have up to July to get used to it or whistle Dixie. I was as upset as many others who rely on Reader, specially as the basis of beautiful news apps. 

I still am most annoyed but at the same time a little amused at how one can get so indignant at losing something one never paid for or earned in any way. I was taken aback with their announcement but earlier this year I had already gone through similar experiences though it was not with products that are as important to me as Google Reader is.

The first was a photo editing app that gave my pictures a beautiful finish. Jazz was filed with presets customised and saved for my use. And then came an update and off they went. The app no longer gave the same results and I all but had to abandon it much to my sorrow.  But then I contacted the developer and clamored for the lost features.

He said the app was most powerful now but to me that wasn't the case at all. After some discussions, he said he would give the missing controls back — and in a few weeks, he did.  I was overjoyed, not only at getting my app but at being heard. Thousands of people would feel the same if Google listened and gave us back Reader. 

True,  someone else will come up with a solution if Google doesn't and perhaps a better one, but Google will go on to the next thing having changed the loyalty of many users including influencers like Om Malik who is annoyed enough not to try out Google’s new note taking app, Keep. Marco Arment, maker of Instapaper says it's all business and every company has the right to do what works for them and while that's true, I think users that are loyal are as important, specially when you have so many products and new projects. Buy-in and just plain buy would happen more readily if users had a background of trust, not betrayal to go upon.

Another service that turned the tables on me was a social analytics startup,  Crowdbooster. After serving up a weekly diet of flattering numbers in my email, it decided to go paid. Nothing wrong with that, and Crowdbooster did it elegantly enough, offering deals to switch over. I might have if it had been important enough for my work but ended up saying goodbye pleasantly and forgetting about Crowdbooster.

Google could have done a Crowdbooster.on us,  giving us the choice to pay or go find something else to do but I suppose that was too much trouble.

As I write this, I get email from my blog hosting service with apologies for some unexpected downtime and reassurance that they're fixing the problem right away.  That's the small but important sort of thing we take for granted. But really, it's something that goes a long way towards building trust. A company's gotta do what it's gotta do,  but there's a way to do it.

By say, August, all but those who depended on Reader, including many bloggers, will have forgotten about Reader.  All will be forgiven. Some of us will always wince when we hear the word, Reader.

(mala(dot)bhargava(at)gmail(dot)com)