Thursday, June 5

Killing Insert Invitation on Gmail must be STOPPED!

Gmail Users -

While the world has many other things more worthy for you to consider,  I'd like to put to you a case of a small but powerful feature that has been maligned and statistically considered not worthy of continuing being part of our day-to-day Gmail life.

Granted, you may never have seen this feature (and according to the stats, you are 99.999% likely not to have), but I would ask you to help right a wrong that I think is happening.  This feature is incredibly powerful, useful and worthy of your support.

Insert Invitation PopUp Window
This feature?  Insert Invitation.

You might think - why do you care so much about this feature?

Truthfully, it is because it is one of my frequently used features both for work and my social life - due to the direct connection is has between my email and my personal calendar.

For business meetings, it is quite invaluable because it allows me to propose, in a very efficient way, a time and place for a meeting without having to go to my calendar and have to add someone via the Add Person link in creating an event.

For my personal life, it allows me to work with my friends to choose places and times to get together and have them know - and be able to have the email include the invite which means that my friend is not receiving TWO emails as you do with Microsoft Outlook or using the Google Calendar Add Person function.

Why is Google Removing Insert Invitation?

Found when you click on the Attachment paperclip
When I clicked on the Insert Invite icon on an email, seeing the message "Starting July 2014, this feature will no longer be available.  You can continue sending email invitations from Google Calendar." got me a bit concerned.

Now, while the rest of the world was very upset about the loss of Google Reader, this functionality I thought would hit the SME business community - especially when Google Apps have been working to supplant Microsoft Outlook and Exchange.  But, when I followed up on the issue, I learned this:
  • Out of the total Gmail user base, only 0.00001% of them use the feature in any 30 day period
  • Given a public accounting of 450M active users, that is 4500 users using the feature
Additionally, continuing to maintain this feature means having to support the integration between the Gmail team and the Calendar team, which means maintaining the codebase, the APIs, the testing harnesses and customer service issues to deliver the feature.

So - if you consider that engineering bandwidth is a finite resource AND that the usage numbers suggest a failed feature, you would chalk this up to a disappointment for 4500 users.  

But something about this data does not ring true for me.  Let me show you why.

Can we examine that rationale before we let Insert Invitation go?

My concern is that, while I love making choices based on data, sometimes I have to question the data that is presented when I have anecdotal experiences that suggest otherwise.

Case in point: in the past two weeks, I have seen - in my view of London tech companies - at least four people using the Insert Invitation feature without prompting.  When I asked what they thought of the notice, their comment was "Well, I can not do anything about it."

Now, if I use numbers from the Google Apps pages, the primary user of scheduling tools should be businesses, and using the following logic, I assume there we should have approximately 165M calendar invites occurring in a 30 day period.

Which hat should I wear today (circa 1999)?
Now, lets put my "product manager" hat on for discussion sake. I am going to make some assumptions where this should help create some understanding.
  • according to the current Google Apps page, 5M businesses use Google Apps
  • 40M users of Google Apps worldwide (as of December 2012) so, let's go with 100M users today
  • lets assume that a majority of the calendar invites are established by a scheduler - whether they are a project manager, a secretary, a scrum manager - and that is usually one out of every ten employees
So, using this survey data from betterCloudBlog, let us say that suggest 40% of the business have (on average) 1 scheduler, 50% have 25 schedulers and about 10% have 100 schedulers.

Thus - there are approximately (1 * .4 + 25 * .5 + 100 * .1) * 5M businesses = 115M users should be using this feature.

Now, if I suggested that 10% of emails in any person's inbox per day were scheduling requests, and the average employee received 20 emails a day, then we should have 23M calendaring request emails.

Assuming that the average number of people on a calendaring request is 3 (an estimate), then 23M / 3 = 7.7M actual requests made for calendaring per day.

So - something seems amiss when you consider that only 4500 per 30 day period come from Gmail - and the "back-of-the-envelope" calculation suggests that there should be (7.7 * 30 * 5/7) = 165M requests in the same 30 day period.


So, these numbers suggest that either the Insert Invite feature in Gmail is something that is REALLY not used or something may be wrong in the reporting detail.

My anecdotal evidence suggests that something is not correct with the stats that are being generated, especially given I am being conservative with my estimates above.

Don't we schedule from the Calendar window normally?

When I work with a PA or EA in my companies, I notice that they always have their Calendar tab open to check their boss' calendar and see how things should be scheduled.  Based on this, the normal function would be to keep calendaring in the Calendar app.

But having a ratio of 4500 / 165M seems very confusing.  It would suggest that 99.997% of people who schedule use the Calendaring app to schedule appointments rather than using this feature.

Does that make sense to you?

We did not save Google Reader, why save this?

Truthfully, I have no idea if we can save this feature - or if it could become a Google Labs feature or if it could be baked into an app like Yesware.o  But the benefit of this functionality is incredibly sticky and beneficial to the use of Google Apps and I would ask someone to take a serious look at the statistics and see why this discrepancy is occurring.

And, if you care about this feature - please comment here and on the Gmail Forum thread we have talking about this issue.


Furbo said...

I'm not much of an influencer, but I did post this to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. In regard to Google Reader, I was pretty upset about that, but I think that was different animal in that others quickly came in and filled the void (e.g Feedly). Given that API issues and tight integration required, this will be much harder to do for Gmail (or Google Apps). Thanks for beating the drum on this... it is so pathetically lame that they are doing this!!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

Anonymous said...

This thinking is endemic of the new generation of project management at Google! If you followed the progression, they hide all of the features so it makes it very un-intuitive and hard to find even if you were working with gmail for years. Then, they justify cutting off the feature because no one is using it. How moronic can they get.

Anonymous said...

I f&^king agree!