Google Chat Nearly Got Me Fired

by @edent | # # | 6 comments | Read ~727 times.

My colleague was understandably ticked off with me. A week previously, they’d asked me to get something fairly urgent done. I hadn’t done it – and all hell was breaking loose.

I wasn’t being truculent or disobedient. I simply hadn’t seen their message. And it was all Google’s fault.

At work, we use Google’s G-Suite. It’s a brilliant set of email and document tools. It also contains two incompatible messaging apps.

When I started using it – the chat product was “Hangouts”. At some point, Google released “Chat” – their latest product – and encouraged users to upgrade. So I did.

But Chat and Hangouts are built by two different team who – I can only assume – hate each other only slightly more than they hate their users.

If Alice is on Hangouts and sends a message to Bob on Chat – Bob receives the message.

Similarly, Bob on Chat can message Alice on Hangouts. Hurrah for interoperability!

But this lulls users into a false sense of security!

If Alice on Hangouts sends a message to Bob and Carol in a group, problems occur. Users on Chat won’t see group messages from Hangouts.

Similarly, Hangouts users won’t see group messages from Chat.

OK. So perhaps the answer is to use both Chat and Hangout simultaneously? Well, that’s a recipe for disaster because each app sends its own notification for the same message.

So you end up with multiple notifications for the same message across different apps.

Unbelievably, this is by design!

Group conversations in classic Hangouts or Chat can’t be viewed or replied to in the other service. Group messages are not compatible between the two services.
We recommend recreating any group conversations users want to continue in Chat.
Chat and classic Hangouts interoperability

I can’t understand the sheer contempt for your users which would lead to this situation.

Don’t worry – there is a solution! It’s easy. Just convince every single person in your organisation to switch! And then to change their app! And uninstall the old one! And then disable the chat Hangouts from the browser! And learn an entirely new UI! And lose all of your old conversations! And lose the ability to chat with external users.


Google initially said they’d force everyone off Hangouts in 2019. They didn’t do that. They’ve now said All remaining classic Hangouts G Suite users will be moved to Chat in “late 2020”.

I smoothed things over with my colleague. We realised that we’d each missed messages from each other – and that cancelled out any ill-will.

We both agreed that Google is a bit shit and that in the future we’d send any important messages over Slack.

6 thoughts on “Google Chat Nearly Got Me Fired

  1. Maybe you should have used Google Duo, or maybe Google Allo, or maybe a nice email through Google Inbox. Can’t imagine why users find this confusing.

  2. Richard B says:

    Perhaps I’m missing the wider context Terence but I can’t see how this is anything other than 75% your colleague’s fault for assuming an instruction was received and digested.

    It’s naive to assume using an IM on today’s collaboration tools means guaranteed delivery AND viewing AND acceptance of the instruction. Plus it doesn’t take long to realise Google chat is a bit shit.

    You’ve already suggested there are multiple IM options used in your organisation, plus there’s email, meetings, texts. The cognitive load is wide, and it’s not like IMs are a Kanban board where you pull from tasks to be done.

    Most middle or senior managers asking a colleague to do a task would ask a follow up if it was important and their colleague hadn’t replied to the message. If you don’t get at least “ok” in response then you should assume it hasn’t been received.

    1. @edent says:

      Not really her fault. We’d been having a long conversation over IM. She then sent a message to me and Carol. She got a response from Carol (indicating that it had been seen) and we carried on talking in the main thread.
      It was entirely reasonable for her to assume I’d seen it.
      Should she have followed up with an email? A phone call? Possibly. But she had evidence in writing that she’d asked me to do something.
      This is 100% Google’s fault for not telling her that the message wasn’t delivered to me.

      1. Richard B says:

        That makes sense now knowing it was a threaded conversation. I agree with you now, it was entirely reasonable – especially given the main chat had continued outside the thread.

        Don’t know about you but I find threaded chats more annoying than useful, even on Slack with it’s better UX. It feels like the IM equivalent of when you’re having a meeting and 2 people start having their own separate conversation, making it harder to follow what’s going on.

  3. DMs were always kept in-sync between the two services, unlike group messages. Did this just change? (I’ve been waiting patiently for my DA to just turn off Hangouts globally for over a year now, to no avail.)

  4. another reason never to use any chat functionality for something important that needs doing. Or at least not the only route.

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