Google has some great services; I use a couple of them. However, as a Google services consumer and an advanced technical geek, I see several faults, flaws and limitations in several of their products, the amelioration of which would improve Google services considerably. I do not necessarily expect Google to takes these memos seriously, or to act upon them. However, I find it more satisfactory to address these perceived issues in blog form than I do using any of the standardized mechanisms Google provides for feedback for two reasons.

One, Google forums are essentially run by cheerleaders of Google, whether paid or unpaid. They do not, cannot or will not consider any point of view which suggests Google is less than divine in its perfection in all things. There is much to admire in Google products, but I fall short of attributing divinity and perfection. It follows logically that if perfection does not exist, some room for improvement does exist. From there it follows that specific improvements should at least be considered. These latter aspects do not attach themselves to Google forums.

Two, Google makes a probably largely successful attempt to avoid direct communication with its users. As an example, I once had an issue with nearly the entire contents of my Google Docs disappearing. Careful examination suggested that an older version of content replaced more recent content. This was somewhat important at the time as I had a document currently being worked on. Google fixed the issue quickly, but before that I used the emergency email contact provided for such issues. The emergency contact was a bot-by-email. It's difficult to explain precisely how and why communication can be identified as coming from a bot (and Google does one hell of a even fooled a language major at first), but I bring some significant skill to bear in that regard: I speak two languages, I have degrees in philosophy and language, I speak a smattering of other languages, and I have a degree in computers and significant technical support experience. All of which is to say that subtleties of language, subject-verb agreement, subject-verb generic conflict avoidance, the specificity of response to my replies employing and then avoiding various vagaries of language as above, and slightly stilted language usage in responses convinced me that I was conversing with a bot.

The upshot of this is that Google doesn't want to talk to me. Hence this memo series...

Google: I am not, repeat not bashing you. I respect what you do. I am making serous technical suggestions drawn from not insignificant experience in technical support, cultures, language and computer science. Take them seriously or don't, but at least read them and consider them.

Memo: Fax: August 6, 2017


August 6, 2017

I'm 'the guy who can send a fax'. By that, I mean that people who have occasion to fax documents come to me and ask if I can send a fax, I send it, forward confirmation by email and go on about my day. I do it with my Linux box. I do not have a physical fax machine which I use for sending the occasional fax; I'm just a geek who can do this sort of thing as a matter of course.

First, let's look at faxing, what it is and is not.

Faxing is old school, to be sure, but is has several inarguable benefits:

It is not email. Google, assuming you get it, I won't belabor the point but email is not secure. Yes, there's encryption, but in the real world most people are not equipped to use it (see Why Johnny Can't Encrypt, as valid now as ever it was). Consequently, people who have a legal requirement for confidentiality (doctors and lawyers) will not use email for sensitive content. Government offices, both constrained as far as upgrade budget, and panicked about cybersecurity implications and confidentiality, also will not use email for sensitive communications. Thus, they use the fax. Today, in 2017. A lot. Hence the utility of 'the guy who can send a fax'. Faxing is useful, and used even today.

Googlers, bathing in such an abundance of signal that they can get a suntan without every stepping into the sunlight may not completely appreciate it, but not everything is handled digitally, and not everyone is equipped to do so. I'm sorry, it's sad, but there it is.

Meanwhile, as a tech geek, many years ago I used a cheesy T-Mobile flip phone to receive and forward faxes. T-Mobile built the functionality into customer lines and a true geek merely had to call technical support, request the feature be added to a line, and learn a few obscure touch tone combinations in order to use it.

The point is that Google, offering Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Voice could easily set up a fax server for those not privileged to be living in signal soup. Or, to phrase it another way, fax happens.

Now, I understand completely that Google's bread and butter is analyzing user content, and the attendant big data benefit which apparently derives from knowing everything everyone does all of the time. The fax, as it uses a more old school concept may or may not be subject to wiretap law which email avoids. As such Google may not be able legally to monitor fax content. It follows that Google may want to encourage other communications mechanisms which it can more readily and legally monitor and analyze. Well and good.

However, for reasons detailed above, the fax is still in use. Fax happens. No, Google may not be able to analyze faxes for content, but rest assured that this will not result in a resurgence of the fax. Faxing is dying, but, as detailed above, it is still in widespread, and often critically important, use, and for people who do not have access to the sort of uber-geek computer systems you and I use).

Therefore, Google, please add fax capability to Google Voice. Consider it a value added service or a community donation. It will be used rarely, but when it is used it will be for vitally important and often time sensitive communication.

Since you control the servers for Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Voice, forwarding the occasional fax in either direction will be child's play (if T-Mobile could do it ten years ago with limited resources, you can do it now with Google Drive, Gmail, and Voice). You may not be able to monitor fax content, as above, (or you may, that's what lawyers are for). Tough, do it anyway. Assign it to an intern, make it tax deduction, do as you will, but please add this bauble.


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