Service Provider Cloud

Google Practical Joke Goes Horribly Wrong

If Google wants to crack the enterprise market, it has to grow up.

As an April Fools' prank, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) added a "mic drop" button to Gmail, next to the "send" button. Clicking that button would mute all further emails in the thread, and send an animated GIF of a minion doing a mic drop.

Cute, huh? Not so much. The prank resulted in complaints. Because here in the 21st century, people actually use email for serious business, like work.

Gmail user Allan Pashby says mic drop put his job at risk:

I am a writer and had a deadline to meet. I sent my articles to my boss and never heard back from her. I inadvertently sent the email using the "Mic Drop" send button. There were corrections that needed to be made on my articles and I never received her replies. My boss took offense to the Mic Drop animation and assumed that I didn't reply to her because I thought her input was petty (hence the Mic Drop). I just woke up to a very angry voicemail from her which is how I found out about this "hilarious" prank.

The feature generated a long thread of complaints on a Gmail product forum.

Google disabled the feature Friday morning. "Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs."

I'm sure Allan Pashby is glad to hear that Google feels it was its own victim. And nothing says "sincere apology from a grownup" like a frowny emoji.

The prank by Google comes as it's making a big investment in winning enterprise business, after years of results that have been at best mixed. (See Google: 'Dead Serious' About Enterprise Cloud.)

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Recently, even Google Apps -- which includes a version of Gmail for business, and has been an unusual success story for Google in the workplace -- is losing ground to Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office 365.

A Google spokesperson noted that the prank was not included in its Google Apps Gmail implementation. That's important, and a relief to Google Apps users, but it's not enough.

If Google wants to be taken seriously for business, it needs to act like a company that's run by serious grownups. Businesses don't like to feel like their results are at risk because somebody at Google wanted a good giggle.

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading

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Michelle 4/11/2016 | 2:47:57 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji I certainly wonder how many people are working on the pranks! It seems like the UX team wasn't consulted before the gag went live. Too bad...
kq4ym 4/11/2016 | 12:55:12 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji One wonders how many folks are involved in the Google projects. Enough to prevent stuff like this happening, or a one or two man team just green lights the idea? Or maybe it was an excellent PR prank to get load of press, even if negative? 
Mitch Wagner 4/4/2016 | 4:25:56 PM
Re: A few years ago, while teaching gifted 9th graders ... "A 'practical joker' deserves applause for his wit according to its quality. Bastinado is about right. For exceptional wit one might grant keelhauling. But staking him out on an anthill should be reserved for the very wittiest." – Robert A. Heinlein
Michelle 4/4/2016 | 2:26:12 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji @R I wondered the same. It was as though the prank was just an excuse to let that guy go - if true. Prank or no, that seemed like an extreme reaction.
Michelle 4/4/2016 | 2:22:31 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji @Daniel it would have been better if there were some obvious switch instead of a sneaky send button.
R Clark 4/4/2016 | 4:17:51 AM
Re: Blinky eye emoji I've read about that guy losing his job so many times I'm pretty sure he's the only one to have lost their job. It was a dumb stunt by Google, but also pretty dumb overreaction by his boss. Assuming it's true, it's hard not to think a few other things were going on between him and his employer.
John Barnes 4/3/2016 | 4:24:37 PM
A few years ago, while teaching gifted 9th graders ... ... I set a few condidtions on pranks. One of those conditions was,

"Before executing the planned prank, first imagine the worst possible situation in which someone may fall for it. Then assume that if that happens, I, the principal, possibly the police/DA/judge/jury, and your parents will all assume you fully intended it. Please prepare a full confession in advance, to save me the bother of forcing it from you later."

(I have always held that educational institutions must be fundamentally totalitarian, if they are to educate at all...)

Applied here, this rule would have required someone at Google to write,

"I fully intend that someone will send an urgent, important, and disagreeable message to a boss or customer and accidentally use the mic drop feature, thus adding a gratuitious insult to an already tense situation in which their livelihood is at stake."

If anyone at Google is reading, rather than playing video games, at the moment, I could be hired to explain several other such principles, all equally useful, for a fee that would only be a low multiple of what a schoolteacher makes in a month, by the way.


danielcawrey 4/3/2016 | 4:06:18 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji I certainly enjoy Google's gimmicks on April Fool's Day just like everyone else. However, when the joke actually changes the functionality of a product without my knowledge – well, that can be a pretty big problem. This is an example of that. 
Michelle 4/3/2016 | 12:24:00 AM
Re: Blinky eye emoji @Mitch I saw that one. Good plan. 
Mitch Wagner 4/2/2016 | 12:27:27 PM
Re: Blinky eye emoji
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