February 24, 2008

My Double Standard for Web Services

I don't play fair. I admit it.

The kind of miscues and errors that would get big headline, keyboard-pounding rants from me when the biggest of Web services fall short might instead get a pass if I know the service is run by a small handful of developers, or if I'm on a first name basis with the author. Instead of joining a chorus of complainers about why a service doesn't act the way I wanted it to, or implying they are unresponsive or nefarious in some way, I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Part of me wonders if this is just due to my own personal biases, or if I should expect companies that operate to the masses to perform at a higher level. Just as you would expect to get better service from a paid relationship than a free one, does it follow that a company with hundreds of thousands of users should be more tightly honed than one with a few dozen or a few hundred?

I was thinking of this over the weekend as on Saturday, I logged into AssetBar, and found, to my surprise that none of my feeds were updated. Peeking over at Google Reader, I knew that blogs were still being posted to, news was still being written, and keywords were still being discovered by search engines. But AssetBar lied to me and said I had nothing to read. A shame!

Given how fond I am of their service, and its potential, I could have jumped up and down, shaking my fist. But I didn't. Instead, I lobbed a quick note to the site's developers and said there had to be a glitch somewhere. No big deal. And sure enough, AssetBar posted a note to their blog saying they were updating the servers, which had caused my issue.

But if it were Google Reader who had gone hours without updates, there's no doubt I would likely have said something, and many others would have stood alongside me, calling them out. Just see our reactions when this type of thing has happened before:
Google Reader Down Overnight?
Google Reader Glitch Deletes Feeds: Blogosphere Weeps
Ack! Google Reader Update Wipes Out History
Now is that entirely fair? Probably not. Poor Google Reader team. I know they work hard and do a great job. But I also know that when it comes to smaller services just getting off the ground, like AssetBar, FriendFeed, LinkRiver, ReadBurner or RSSMeme, if they blow up something, or a key feature goes bump in the night, I'll likely give them a pass.

After all, ReadBurner did go down hard on February 1st, and took the entire site history away. (See: ReadBurner Down) When it did, I jokingly posted, Forget Twitter Issues... ReadBurner is Down!, and in the same post, gave Alexander Marktl praise for taking the opportunity to eliminate duplicates and add new features.

I never would have let Google get away with that, or Microsoft, YouTube, Apple, you name it. The big guys are held to higher standards, and always will be. It comes with the territory. That might not be fair, but that's the way it is.


  1. Funny that both YouTube and Bloglines had significant downtime this weekend...

  2. Probably not as funny for their hard-core users. I don't use Bloglines, so I wasn't affected, and I've knocked YouTube for their occasional downtime before.

    See here: http://tinyurl.com/3b6rny