i can’t qualify this in any significant way, but google analytics is bad.

maybe i should qualify what i mean by “bad”. i mean “bad” as shorthand, in the same way that pre-Zoom video chat services were bad:

yes, real-time communication and audio/video syncing are difficult and technically complex challenges. yes, there is a panoply of difficulties that are unimaginable to the naked eye. yes, the people who built older, less performant video chat services are incredibly competent — i would imagine more competent than me!

but they were bad to use. this is the appeal of Zoom, to me, almost as an anti-silicon valley company: they took a bad product and just made it good.

google analytics is a terrifying, complex, and powerful product. it is used by vast swaths of people: advertising agencies, tech companies, coffee shops, shopify stores, fortune 500s. you can do so much with it, because the engineers who built are smart and capable of building highly scalable systems that can address almost any use case.

it is also so bad to use.

a common (and valid!) genre of counterarguments to “thing is bad” is “thing is complex; thing has to grapple with internal complexities from which you are insulated, and external use cases of which you are ignorant; thing is many things, and to call it bad is reductive”. those things can all be true, but they do not mask the unmistakable fact that sometimes, thing is bad.

and i want to immediately dissolve any implication of people: the idea that “only bad people make bad products”, and that bad products come from bad people, and thus “thing is bad” means “people who made thing is bad”, is bonkers and obviously incorrect. talented — superstar, even! — engineers, designers, and managers can create bad products. i certainly have. a lot of the work I did on kindle was on bad products; most of my iOS apps during my big iOS phase were bad; lots of buttondown is bad. i hope that i have many bad products left to give.

(bad institutions make bad products, maybe. but i think more often, bad products just emerge that way, as if from the ether. provenance is less interesting.)

the best computer experiences make you feel like “you gained a superpower”, as cliche as that is to say. i remember the first time i used GPS in chrome and audibly exhaled; i remember the first time i used livegrep or tineye; i remember the first time that, yes, i used zoom.

google analytics makes me feel so dumb whenever i use it. i am pretty good at navigating web apps and it flusters me. i am writing this blog post rather than continuing to work on it 1 because it overwhelms me: with menus, with options, with charts and modals.

a common refrain after zoom’s IPO was “what is the next company that iterates on a bad solution that is obvious in retrospect?”

here is my answer: someone, somewhere, please make a better google analytics. it is a bad product in a space desperate for a good one.

  1. granted, i’m also doing this because the preview service for the task that i’m trying to accomplish is throwing a 500. this is not reflected in any of google’s status boards, of course. 

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