Google. Where’s Our Doc?

A few days ago, there were several of us on Twitter discussing the possibilities for a new open journal. Twitter is often not great for deep conversations, so following the success of the Ning Alternatives document, I thought I would tweet out a public, real-time Google Doc so people could write and share characteristics of a model, open (academic) journal.

The creation of the document moved quickly, and within minutes, we had several pages of information that helped to outline possibilities and partnerships that would help make this open journal a reality. Off the top of my head, collaborators included (I think): Jon Becker, GNA Garcia, Ira Socol, Jeremy Brueck, Tom Fullerton, George Veletsianos, Cole Camplese & Rob Wall (if you were involved, please let me know). Cole actually took a photo from his iPad while he edited from Twitterfic (see below).

Editing Document with the iPad

But then, all of a sudden, we could no longer access the document. The document now produces the following error:

Google Docs Error
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

So, I am writing this for a couple of reasons. First, we want this document back, and I’m hoping that someone at Google Docs will actually respond and help us recover it. There does not seem to be a straightforward way of getting Google’s attention, and thus, no easy way to resolve this problem. Second, I am using this as an example as a possible pitfall of depending on cloud computing. What if this was your dissertation? An important grant proposal? That book you’ve been working on? Or a document with some of your most important memories? While in this case, the issue happened so quickly that we didn’t really get a chance to take alternative measures – I hope this prompts you to keep a back up. The cloud can’t be trusted.

In any case, please forward this message along, and hopefully it gets the attention of a Google engineer that can actually do something about this, or get us some answers.


Update: As of May 4, 2010, the document is now working. Thanks everyone who passed this one. On May 3, the issue reached the Product Manager of Google Docs, and the team attacked the problem almost immediately. I received an apology, status reports, and finally, a detailed report of what had happened and how it had been fixed for the future. Overall, I am very satisfied with response I received from Google.

22 thoughts on “Google. Where’s Our Doc?

  1. Pingback: amichetti (Adrienne Michetti)

  2. Pingback: calyps (** Ali **)

  3. Pingback: yishaym (Yishay Mor)

  4. Pingback: lmockford (lmockford)

  5. Pingback: tbeckett (Thomas Beckett)

  6. Pingback: snappity (gretchen schaefer)

  7. Pingback: derrallg ( Derrall Garrison)

  8. Pingback: mguhlin (Miguel Guhlin)

  9. Pingback: michellekgross (ملکه Malka מלכה)

  10. Pingback: smiffy (Matthew Smith)

  11. Pingback: whois_com_au (

  12. Pingback: burntsugar (RSColley)

  13. Hey Alec,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I actually did get a response from Google via the Help forum earlier in the semester on an issue students and I were having trying to share iGoogle pages. That’s the good news. They (Google) responded directly to me via the forum for a couple weeks saying they had not forgotten about our issue and were working to find a fix. Then (the bad news) complete silence – and no solution. It’s like they could not figure it out so they had nothing further to say – at least that is what I was forced to conclude.
    Very important points you raise about relying too heavily on the cloud. I wonder about institutions moving entirely to ‘Google Apps’ and how well supported they are when things like this happen. I’m not signing up anytime soon….
    I hope you find your work.

  14. I’m glad that you appreciate the irony of the situation. Between this and the Ning-thing, I’m really re-considering how comfortable I am using web services like these two. Maybe it’s time to get back to the good old fashioned approach of hosting your own web services. Remember back when someone who wanted a blog or wiki would need to pay to host their website and install/configure the web app software themselves (or hire nerdy folks like us to do it for them). It might not have been as easy, maybe not even as accessible for a wider group of users, but we owned our own data.

    Gotta go – my Apache config mojo needs some practice.

  15. Dr. Couros, shouldn’t you have known better? The Google Docs text editor was presented to the general public as a New ‘Preview’ version – unfinished, i.e. without all the features in the ‘Old’ existing version. As it goes with ‘Preview’ versions (apparently Google has abolished the old-fashioned labels of a product being at an ‘alpha’ or ‘beta’ stage) such versions are constantly tweaked and updated and as such should be considered (extremely) unstable.

    I don’t put the blame on you – Google does make it look as if the products and features they fork out are stable when released to the general public – but with your background you could have been able to see beyond the beautiful facade.

    I hope someone from Google Docs will contact you soon (I’ve asked TC Gill, of the Google Docs Help forum, to escalate your issue).

  16. Pingback: TeachaKidd (Lee Kolbert)

  17. Pingback: cristinacost (Cristina Costa)

  18. Pingback: bluepixel_ (BluePixel)

    • Hi Styli,
      The Ning document works fine – but it’s the other one (lower in the post) that does not work.

  19. I must be 12 hours behind as I was still trying to help resolve the issue when I heard from the Googlers that it had been resolved yesterday.

    I’m glad they were able to retrieve the Doc and determine why it happened. This is definitely something to keep in mind as we work in the cloud.

    When you invite someone to a Doc you have the option to include a copy of the Doc in the invitation. This is something to consider using as a backup when working on something – just invite yourself and you’ll have a backup in your e-mail.

Comments are closed.