January 20, 2022

"Bug: New Google Docs Hidden" Plus Look Back At a Month of Concerns About "Hidden Docs" Issue

Technology working properly all of the time is one thing but communicating with users and fixing  tech problems is another. Here’s the story.

Barry Schwartz thanks us (you’re welcome) for alerting him to a problem with Google Docs Lists (that we think is now solved).

You can read about it on Barry’s Search Engine Roundtable blog.

Here’s a bit more.

As Barry’s post points out problems were first mentioned in a Google Help Forum thread about a month ago. Here’s a review:

  • Two Days Later She Reports That There is a Problem and Says Google is Working on It, Suggests a Workaround (June 3, 2011)
  • On June 9th, the Google Employee Returns to the Forum and Reports That Things Should Be Working For All Users, “By the end of next week.” That would be June 18th, 2011.
  • On June 17, 2011 We Learn From the Google Employee That the Problem Should Be Fixed
  • 5 days later, on June 22nd, 2011, Forum Posts Reappear (in the original thread) Make It Appear the Doc Lists Problem is Back
  • We Do Not (and Have Not) Heard From the Google Employee Who Was Responding Earlier in the Month
  • Yesterday (June 26, 2011) the Google Apps Status Dashboard Said that There Was a Problem Effecting a “Significant Subset of Users.” The Problem According to the Status Report, “…Affected Users are Able to Access Google Docs List, But May Not Have Access to the Most Recent Data.”
  • About 2 1/2 Hours After It was First Posted, the Status Page Said the Problem Was “Resolved.”

We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.

So, nearly a month after it was first reported we have hope but wonder if the problem is fixed? Let’s wait a few days to see if it sticks.


  1. With the Resources Google why did the problem take so long to repair?
  2. Why did it take about 3 days for Google to respond to the forum thread?
  3. Later we read that it could take another eight days two repair. What type of priority did this problem receive?
  4. Did Google mention the problem on the actual Docs site since not everyone reads the help forums?
  5. When the problem reappeared why didn’t Google respond in the thread and acknowledge the “issue” had returned?
  6. How does Google determine which threads to acknowledge in the forum?

Finally, even though Google Docs and other Google cloud services are free there are no promises or guarantee that everything will work properly all the time.  That’s understood by users. However, Google also has its reputation for honesty, transparency and keeping users updated about what’s going on with all of the services they offer.

Of course, there are those who PAY for more access to Google Apps using Google Apps For Business.  Customers are guaranteed reliability, support, and many other features not available to users of the free service.

It’s worth mentioning that two people in the forum reported problems with Google Apps for Business users as far back as May 31, 2011. So, were Google Apps for Business customers part of the significant subset yesterday? Were paid Google Apps users part of the technical issue for the past month?

Have paid customers had the same problem for the last month? Were they notified?

Finally, given that Google is one of many companies working to get people, companies, and governments to use their cloud-based services. If this is going to happen we would like to learn about how they communicate with users (both free and fee-based) users and what they can do to improve communication with users about things not working properly?

Although completely unrelated (or is it?), a few weeks ago when Google ended their Uncle Sam and other specialty search sites the company did not inform users about their disappearance until after the fact and after there were multiple posts about it in a web search help forum. The company did say they will try to do better.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.