Google De-Automates Addition of Gmail Contacts - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
News
7/17/2008
02:57 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
RELATED EVENTS
Faster, More Effective Response With Threat Intelligence & Orchestration Playboo
Aug 31, 2017
Finding ways to increase speed, accuracy, and efficiency when responding to threats should be the ...Read More>>

Google De-Automates Addition of Gmail Contacts

Google's decision to change the way Gmail gathers contacts is an acknowledgment that automation must be balanced by human oversight.

In a rare repudiation of automation -- the magnifier of Google's riches and the company's preferred solution to just about everything -- Google on Wednesday said that it has altered Gmail so that the online e-mail service no longer automatically adds the addresses of e-mail recipients to the sender's Gmail Contacts list.

"We've heard from some of you that Gmail's auto-added contacts can lead to too much address book clutter," said Benjamin Grol, a Google product manager engineer, in a blog post. "One of the advantages of automatically creating contacts is that all of the addresses you e-mail subsequently show up in auto-complete. We wanted to preserve this benefit while giving you the ability to have a clean, uncluttered contact list, and we've come up with a solution that's rolling out this week. It separates your contacts into two groups: 'My Contacts' and 'Suggested Contacts.'"

Google's concern about clutter also can be seen in its decision to join the Information Overload Research Group, a group of technology companies that aims to save workers from technology.

In truth, Google's decision to change the way Gmail gathers contacts isn't so much a repudiation of automation as an acknowledgment that automation must be balanced by human oversight. Gmail still auto-gathers e-mail addresses, but now they're just "Suggested Contacts." You, the user, now must now take a more active role in defining your social circle.

This minor change underscores a major problem with social computing. Social constructs like contact lists or friends lists defy description in the language of computer code. People have different relationships with those they communicate with and they're not always comfortable with the coarse categorization provided by typical automated systems. As most users of social networks will admit, not everyone on their friends list is a friend.

That's not to say automation isn't wonderful and necessary -- try scaling without it. But automation has its limits. Google and other e-mail providers have automated systems to prevent spammers from creating accounts to abuse. But spammers can defeat these systems often enough to continue spamming.

A more telling example comes from The New York Times, which reported Thursday that Seattle is pulling the plug on its automated public toilets due to drugs and prostitution -- social problems that these automated systems just couldn't handle. The article suggests that Portland, Ore., is considering hiring human attendants for its public toilets.

Perhaps in the future people will play a greater role in managing automated Web systems, too.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
IT Strategies to Conquer the Cloud
Chances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll