Damn That Google! I Mean, Damn! That Google!

Google certainly has elevated itself on the Web recently. With their “second spring of cleaning” that included the demise of Reader followed by the release of Keep, the love/hate relationship with the company that says “you can make money without doing evil” seems to be out in full force.

Why I Love and Hate Google

Do I actually love Google? No. I am impressed with many of their products, and I use them daily. In many instances, I do not have a compelling reason to use another vendor’s product instead.

Do I actually hate Google? No. I am as wary of Google as I am of any vendor. Let me explain.

Vendors are in business to make money. Usually, that means they need to focus on the needs of their customers in order to get something of value (e.g., money, data) from us. Sometimes businesses make good decisions about customer needs, and sometimes they do not. Even when a business makes the most sound decision possible, some customer is going to be negatively impacted.

The announcement of the upcoming end of Reader hit me pretty hard. I have used Reader since about the time it was first available. I scour many feeds, and Reader allowed me to sync across devices. Reading many sources, I needed something that knew what I already read or marked as read. Prior to Reader, I was using NetNewsWire, but it could not sync across devices. Currently, it still cannot even though they have plans to add this capability.

Since the announcement of Reader’s demise, I have switched to Feedly. I am still getting used to it, and although it is unsettling to go away from something I knew how to use in my sleep, I am finding some nice benefits. I keep my business related feeds looking like Reader. I do this because the images that accompany the feeds are useless in terms of telling me anything about the stories. For my personal feeds, the opposite is true. Using the default view of Feedly actually makes scanning the stories easier. Nice!

So what does this have to do with loving or hating Google? I have to remember that Google is a vendor, and vendors are in business to make money. Although any vendor has to work to keep me as a customer, they do not owe me anything. If they are too shortsighted about their customers, they may go out of business, but they do not owe us anything. So I do not love or hate Google. I just am wary of vendors.

Strategic Planning for Working With Vendors

I have been working with vendors in a business capacity since 1986, and I have been in the Information Technology (IT) field for the past 16 years. One thing I have learned in all of this time: have an exit strategy.

Part of the planning process for purchasing a product from a vendor that will be key to your business or workflow will be how you will leave that product and/or vendor one day. The leaving may voluntary or involuntary, but the result will be the same. You will have to change something vital to what you do.

In the case of Reader, I had 3 requirements when I first went with it:

  1. handles the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) protocol
  2. syncs across devices
  3. exports in a standard format

In March of 2013, those 3 requirements have come in handy as I am involuntarily ending my relationship with Reader. Admittedly, if I stay with Feedly, requirement #3 may not be important. Notice I said “may not be.” Feedly currently uses the Reader backend, but they are promising (currently vaporware) to have their “Normandy” backend ready and in place for a “seamless” transition when Reader is shut down.

I have no issue with the fine folks at Feedly. I just recognize they are a vendor, and I am wary of vendors. NetNewsWire’s plan to sync across devices is vaporware at the moment. In fact, treat any announcement or timeline a vendor gives you as vaporware until the product is delivered. What does this mean in a practical sense? Requirement #3 above may still be utilized. I can export my feeds right now from Reader, and I can import them into any standards based RSS product. This is how I approach any strategic planning decision when it comes to products used in my business, and I suggest it should be part of your approach as well.

Vaporware Is Vaporware Until It Is No Longer Vaporware (but It Will Eventually Go Away)

This may sound stupidly simple, but I am amazed at how often many people make plans on vaporware. Until the service is available, until the product is in your hand, until the software is on your computer or available in the cloud, until the food is at your table, etc. it is all vaporware.

And with the demise of Reader, the circle is complete. What was once vaporware became a product. The product thrived for awhile, but now it is going away. This is true of many items you use, and it is certainly true of nearly all software.

What is your exit strategy?