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Two weeks of dealing with Google as a developer (hashnode.dev)
913 points by danuker 76 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 330 comments

As a scientist, I often have to deal with similar BS of a reviewer misunderstanding a submitted journal article, literally insisting we do something we already did, and explained in the paper.

I try to just own the fact that I didn't make my explanation clear and visible enough, so I just submit an updated version along with a comment like "We thank the reviewer for pointing out that we didn't clearly articulate our work on X, so we revised the manuscript accordingly."

In this case change around the UI for this tool to make it slightly more idiot proof, resubmit, and it will be approved. Getting angry and adversarial will only make them have a bad attitude and intentionally be unhelpful. Take them seriously, stroke their egos, and take fully responsibility for having presented your feature in a way they didn't understand. Thank them for pointing out this huge flaw in your program and giving you the opportunity to fix it!

That is a decent approach to any "Gate Keeper" entity. The Gate Keeper might be anything from a budget holder to a government.

"The Prince" by an Italian lad off of the 16thC is still a pertinent read 400 years later and he's riffing off old Romans, Greeks and before and that's just in Europe. I'm sure China and India, int al, have similar writings. Coercion and other trickery is hardly the invention of Renaissance Italy but a fair few expert practitioners were extent.

Surprisingly enough, some people don't abide by some stated rules and need careful handling. Bonus points are awarded when you make your eventual goal the idea of your "adversary".

This is all a massive game of "us - decent types" vs "you - unpleasant types" and hence a form of tribalism.

As soon as you find yourself using a term like "As a ..." or even "We ..." why not look a little deeper and see if you can't find some common ground or defuse the situation somehow. Perhaps a chat over the blower instead of the usual email trail as a precursor to hostilities might help.

I don't know exactly what is allowed (lol) in refereeing a journal submission but surely the current situation is a bit rubbish. I've been a non scientist reader of New Scientist for 40 odd years and this sort of issue comes up quite regularly. Journos, scientists, engineers and the rest are all unhappy with the way "publication" happens at some level. This is way more fundamental than open vs closed too.

Change is indicated but it will require quite some effort.

Always, always, always “manage up”. When people in some service role like a counter person for an airline hold this much power over you, you lose almost nothing by treating them like they are the most important person in the universe. Talk them up, be overly kind, do everything you can to make their job and life easier. It isn’t fair, but I have found you will experience much less friction in life following this philosophy. Are they right? Is Anthony from the linked article “right”. No, of course not, but they have a sliver of power that happens to be extremely important to you for whatever reason and they can and will hit you with it as hard as they can and you never know what someone else is going through or where they are at in life. Don’t chance it, at least not over small stuff like this.

This "managing up" concept sounds remarkably similar to "face-work":

"With people we trust and know well, we don’t worry so much about face, but with those we don’t know – especially when those people have some power over us – we put in the face-work. When someone puts in face-work and yet doesn’t achieve the face they want, they feel bad. If you strive to be seen as authoritative and someone treats you with minimal respect, you feel embarrassed and even humiliated. In some circumstances you might try to sabotage the encounter to feel better."


This advice is relevant in many aspects of daily life too. I visualize it like tug-o-war. The more they disagree, the more they both back up + pull harder. But the more they "agree" (it's all in the delivery as @universehacker mentioned) the more they approach one another + relax their grip. Meet in the "middle"!

This was illustrated in a business communications course when the instructor asked someone to place their hand up against his high-five style. When the instructor began to push the other person pushed back immediately without being asked, in order to stay in the same place.

It is human nature!

>Take them seriously, stroke their egos, and take fully responsibility

With academic reviews, I'm a bit split on this approach. It's context dependent, but sometimes being on the offence is a better strategy. You shouldn't be rude, but if you clearly demonstrate that the reviewer is wrong and their understanding is wrong, it can have the effect of disarming them and swaying the other reviewers in your favour. It's extremely likely that 1 out of 4-5 reviewers that you typically get will be someone who puts minimal effort and doesn't get the paper. So this is something that you need to do often.

A comment added that he should just have added ,,Report objectionable content''. On the screenshot there was only a ,,Report'' button under blocking user.

I think the person who submits the app underestimates how much heat Google can get from advertisers and people for the content itself.

I think the root cause of confusion is that the reviewer took "Report" to mean "Report User". A simple fix would be to change the button to "Report Comment" or "Report Comment as Objectionable Content". To me this actually makes the interface more clear because honestly when I see "Block User" and "Report" I'm not completely sure that we have gone back to talking about the comment after the first button is talking about the user.

>literally insisting we do something we already did >I try to just own the fact that I didn't make my explanation clear and visible enough

Exactly, I think this works the best. You don’t have to explain the reviewer’s mistake and risk them misunderstanding your reply for being argumentative, the reviewer doesn’t have to admit a mistake, and your writing likely benefits from additional clarity.

Your solution for Reviewer 3 works, but often times, I just work with the editor to convince them the reviewer is confused.

Genuine question, which one is easier: - convince editor - write something that reviewer will understand

The editor reads the reviewer comments and replies also. In most cases replying to the reviewer like I suggest will allow the editor to realize it was the reviewers mistake, and they won't even bother sending it back to the reviewer... but if they do you've targeted both strategies with one response.

> Getting angry and adversarial

They didn't get angry and adversarial, they just explained and asked for clarification. Of course, kafkaesque bureaucracies don't like that, so making a random trivial change and obsequiously resubmitting is still probably the approach to use if you want to stay in business. Google these days is like something out of Brazil.

Examples of angry and adversarial:

> Who do I contact if Anthony is not doing his job correctly?

> This is becoming a joke at this point.

> So I just have to close my business because one person in the review team is having a bad day?

> Like is this serious?

You're right about the tone of those statements. But just how much dystopian bureaucracy can one take before expressing displeasure at the dystopian bureaucracy?

Once you've lost your cool you've also lost.... so take as much as you can!

You are just embracing the dystopia at this point.

It’s important to understand that in order to navigate the world we live in, sometimes you’ll need help from someone “on the inside” and often those people don’t have direct control over the outcome but can be very valuable allies. Taking your frustration out on those people is directly against your own interest.

Being angry at what is essentially a front line customer service rep will do absolutely nothing at all to end the dystopia and just make one human’s day worse.

If you’re not mad at the person who actually has the power to fix the problem then you’re wasting your breath. And to get out ahead of it, your anger doesn’t “go up the chain” either. Like all service workers, dealing with angry customers is a standard workplace hazard.

But the service worker here (Anthony) has the power to approve the app, he is just incompetent or hostile to the author. The anger is warranted (though the statements are harmless), this is targeted sabotage.

Maybe time to sue?

Not sabotage, just incompetence. Anthony is probably overworked, and has seconds to approve or reject an app. He may also not be a native english speaker, and be unsure about the meaning of the words used in this app.

Sure, he has every "right" to be angry, but that strategy will only make things worse.

Waiting a bit longer for a review seems preferable?

Quietly accepting the abuse, and getting angry are two sides of the same coin, both of which are basically "just embracing the dystopia." Notice that the same people that do the first, will eventually do the second once pushed far enough, with ultimately, the same results.

It's perfectly fine to express displeasure in a calm and collected way, the same way you would patiently correct a child... e.g. "I am really disappointed that ____, can you please ____?" (without being sarcastic or condescending)

But losing your cool doesn't correct anything, it just expresses emotional weakness and makes the person dislike you and not want to help you. Someone customer facing at a place like Google sees angry upset customers all day long, and probably makes fun of them to their friends and family, but doesn't go out of the way to help them.

What they don't often see is people showing strength and calm in the face of this BS. Someone that can endlessly adapt and redirect things back to their own clear goals regardless of what is thrown at them, without even needing to be adversarial. Think Bruce Lee's "Be like water." In most cases, this will be off script for them, and they actually won't know how to deal with that other than giving you what you want.

Know where you have the power to fight for a change.

That's from the chat at the end, and I'd hardly call that "angry and adversarial", just exasperated -- and naively assuming the person they were talking to cared that "Anthony" had been giving them the run-around for 2 weeks.

Agreed. To me this is just barely touching angry or adversarial. As a person, who was dropped by a medical practice for threatening with a lawsuit and eventually dropping the f bomb after rather exhausting months of non-activity, that was just that: exasperated.

Google clearly has an issue. The issue is not mainstream, but the moment this hits a bigger name and its community notices, I am sadly certain there will be some adjustment. I do not get why it is only publicly shaming companies work well these days.

I understand that getting the right party is important, but in the article it seems like you can't even seem to get to the right person, because:

1. there is no real person talking to you 2. the person talking to you can ignore you and say buh-bye

edit: removed anecdote

Exactly - that is just venting anger and the reviewer is likely to pass and go on to the next App. Unfortunately a) the app guidelines/rules are often vague and discretionary and b) App reviewers have hundreds or thousands of apps to review a day and don't have the time to think about borderline cases.

With app stores it's guilty until proven innocent/compliant - I've found (particularly with Apple) that taking time to resubmit saying how you are now compliant (making sure you tick all the requirements) is much quicker than waiting days for them to turn around a no again.

Those aren't angry or adversarial and Google deserve much worse.

I have a google pay support thread open. 49 exchanges. The features they keep telling me to use literally do not exist. They just keep posting the same canned response and then ignoring my response that the feature hasn’t been implemented. Then it gets passed to a new person who ignores previous happenings on the thread and repeats. It’s the most kafkaesque thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m going to print it out and bring it to court with me (I’m going to have to sue them to get my money back)

Don't forget to publish an article about it and post it to HN, I'm sure many of us are interested.

Having recently interacted with Google I have no idea why anyone would choose to do business with them unless they absolutely have to.

Every interaction with them you can feel the disdain they have for human interaction. It makes me wish I was doing business with comcast instead.

And this is why we need to cherish the web. I see no reason why a yoga app can't be done on the web. I do know that apps tend to convert better, if only we could bridge that gap.

It's in particular troubling how much of this madness we've internalized to just accept. The idea that you need to resubmit a 100 apps because Google decided you need to target a different internal version number is insane. It would be very bad if the SDK had a breaking change, but in this case it's just busy work: upping a number and resubmitting.

And what about the rule to be able to report user generated content? Who the hell is Google to interfere on such app-specific functionality? What if my moderation workflow would only allow draft posts, each manually approved, making reporting them pointless? Does Google actually check if a report gets sent or followed up? I don't think so. So it's an invasive power grab, and then poorly regulated.

These platforms and gatekeepers have become far too powerful and leveled up the arrogance that comes with it.

> And this is why we need to cherish the web.

We implement our apps with an offline mode which offers everything, but because you have to manually bookmark them on your phone home page, it is too much to ask for users and they forget. So they download the app from a store. If we had something that an online app can indicate it has a fully offline mode for the browser to pick up, it could ask ‘download for offline and add icon to your apps?’ . The extra step is preventing users from doing/knowing about this; AppStore/playstore is just lower friction.

On android/chrome, offline mode works regardless of whether the user bookmarks a page. (It's possible that if the phone needs to free up space, then whether the page is bookmarked or not plays a role in whether that page's offline data gets deleted.)

Yes, but then users have to remember in their bookmarks or something and when opening a browser without WiFi working, it often gives you a miserable message. We did testing ourselves and we had very bad experiences with the app actually still being there on the phone after switching off WiFi.

Progressive Web Apps are exactly what you're asking for, no?

Cos users want mobile apps. When Roam research and Obsidian launched, one of the biggest thing people were ranting about was that their lack of mobile apps. Simple.

Google also is dominating the browser market. Not to mention, I see Manifest v3 as something in this direction. They just don't have the exact amount of control they do in Play store is all. So my question is, how long are you gonna run?

The problem with Obsidian was that you couldn't use it on your phone at all. If they had had a hosted version with a mobile friendly web interface, i don't think a mobile app would have been neccessary

Same for roam.

Sorry, what does the last sentence mean, gonna run?

I believe the parent is offering their explanation that for scenarios that require sustained usage, end users vastly prefer mobile apps to web apps.

There’s a disparity between mobile and web apps in terms of user experience which is why they ended by asking for how long are you gonna run i.e. ignore the difference in user experience by investing in a web app while your competitors embrace it by investing in a mobile app that offers a superior user experience.

Thanks for chiming in Ayewo. Appreciate it.

Apart from the UX, I also meant that how long should we run from the fight? Both the App store and play store definitely needs to be regulated more. But the user of the comment to which I replied seems to mean to find refuge in web and ditch mobile stores. But how long is the web safe for?

The browser market is crazy monopolistic with chromium based browsers. The only legal reason why google would like to pay for Mozilla is because they don't want to be crucified for being anti-competitive. But edge being overwhelmingly successful browser means they don't have to worry about that anymore. They can just stop paying Mozilla cos there is another browser in the market. So they could say, "we at google are not being anti-competitive".

With the pathetic leadership at Mozilla, I don't see how long we will see Firefox compete. I mean reckless payment for the CEO while ditching teams and being hated by their own community. So what will you do then?

Running away won't help an indie dev or a small company. :shrug:

I wish people would stop doing crap like "you need to install our app to click this button and do the action you want to do" which I could totally do online but probably without providing that sweet install +1 and those sweet tracking data. So it happens more and more.

So much this!

Wish we could have again this idea of publishing web apps as real apps in our phones.

Slightly relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1367/

100% reliable offline access is a huge deal.

Meanwhile, the world is slowly moving to a direction where even "real apps" don't work offline. Lots of Google's apps keep offline copies, but their sync logic is broken in such a way that if you have a very very slow internet connection -- but are technically connected -- the app becomes unusable.

> What if my moderation workflow would only allow draft posts, each manually approved, making reporting them pointless?

this implies you never make mistakes. even if there's manual approval there should be a way to report content that slipped through.

>you need to target a different internal version number is insane

Upping targetSDK might mean that some deprecated functionality is not available to the app anymore. Storage access permission is one example.

Is there any large group representing App developers that could manage the large-scale negotiation and legal wrangling required to force Apple and Google to be more helpful when rejecting legitimate applications?

When I worked in Google (Ads, then later in Recommendations for Play and youtube) people often said this was intention to avoid teaching spammers how to get around the rules. But it's clear there are enough legitimate developers acting in good faith who are trying to change their applications without significant guidance that it seems entirely reasonable for a large-scale group negotiation.

Part of the problem here might be conflating abuse prevention with policy compliance.

Abuse prevention is adversarial, and it's risky to reveal details about why something was flagged as abusive. Policy compliance isn't, or shouldn't be. A building inspector wouldn't say "this building has a code violation in the kitchen area" and refuse to provide specifics about what would fix it.

An app store needs both, and they need to operate differently.

> A building inspector wouldn't say "this building has a code violation in the kitchen area" and refuse to provide specifics about what would fix it.

Electrical inspections can be very much that way.

"This isn't up to code, I'm not signing off on it."

"How is it not up to code?"

"Your electrician knows. Or you can look in the electrical code."

Your electrician doesn't know; no other inspector has ever objected to the way they've done things.

That electrical code is paywalled, despite being official government policy (written and published by a trade association, which regularly updates said code mostly to force people to keep re-buying their volumes.)

> That electrical code is paywalled, despite being official government policy (written and published by a trade association

If you're meaning the US National Electric Code written and published by the National Fire Protection Association, I would point out that it is available to the public for free:


You need a free account and you can't download a PDF, but strictly speaking the contents of the document are not paywalled.

That's actually really problematic - both that the code is paywalled and that an inspector would be cagey about it.

That's an established existing cartel.

app store regulation is a new forming cartel, without any formal body nor oversight.

Even a cartel would be easier to deal with. Google could then say "your Play Store Certified Compliance Specialist can tell you what's wrong".

It seems more likely that what's going on here is the issue was flagged by a bot which doesn't tell the human reviewer why it thinks there's a problem, and the reviewer believes they will be in more trouble if they make a mistake in overruling the bot than if they make a mistake in agreeing with it.

It's insane enough that we even allow corporations to own platforms and users. Software development should be free. They should not be able to reject anything. We should reject that notion entirely instead of playing the game they made up.

It may be hard to believe, but free software development stacks are a relatively new thing. When I was growing up, you had to buy the compiler, and the documentation for how to use the tools, and the language. (Though I think most 70s and 80s era computers came with BASIC)

While I sympathize with the idea that this should be open and free and easy, there are too many bad actors out there, so we can’t have nice things. And for every “free” platform and language and toolset there is either a developer who’s being funded by some other source or not being paid at all.

The tooling wasn't free because it costs money to develop - that is sensible. But it didn't limit what you could do with the stuff that you made with said tooling. You didn't have to pay all OS vendors for the privilege of them allowing your code onto user's devices. I think that's really what OP refers to, not the cost of tooling.

And, yes, most computers from at least 1980s onwards came with something. DOS had BASICA first, then GW-BASIC, then QBasic - and these all were quite adequate for plenty of tasks, even games. By the 90s, we even had free 32-bit C++ compilers (DJGPP 1.03, 1991).

But there might be alternate approaches that allow for more freedom. For instance, what if Google assessed the risk level of each app and presented that to users, rather than blocking publishing entirely?

They could add all sorts of scary warnings in-between a user and a suspicious looking app, but eventually still allow both users & app developers to proceed if they have sufficiently high intent.

They could even monetize it by getting developers to pay per update if they want a "detailed assessment" which was able to result in a "very low risk" rating, if passed.

That already happens -- google already allows both users & app developers to proceed if they have sufficiently high intent. Here is one example:


> They could add all sorts of scary warnings in-between a user and a suspicious looking app

That's a nice looking app, would be a shame if it had a big scary warning on it.

If they did that, they would rightfully be accused of running a racket.

They currently block some apps from publishing altogether. Is that not worse?

They'd block all the same apps, and some extra for the racket money. So no, current situation is not worse.

Software development, on Android at least, is already free. It only takes a few clicks to enable third-party apt files, and then you can install software from any source. (And if you complain that this is too complex.. well, it is simpler than many Windows InstallShield wizards at least). You can even install f-droid and then you have appstore experience without a review.

What Google controls is "endorsement" and that's where Google is rejecting things. If you want to reject it, go ahead... but a lot of people actually want it.

A union for customers of monolithic tech companies who provide negligent support could be cool.

I've been chewing on this idea for a while now. I would love to join a software buyer's cooperative and pool my money with other like-minded individuals.

Me too! It's an interesting idea.

Sounds like in this case it needs to be a craft union or industrial union: a union made up of laborers of a craft or industry (in this case, mobile app developers).

Get enough developers of high-profile apps on board, and now you have negotiating power. If they balk, make a union-controlled app store, threaten to sell apps only on the union store.

One problem with this approach is that the customers of the app stores generally aren't individual developers, they're the companies that make the apps. It would be stronger to say

  Uber, King Games (candy crush), Roblox, and PUBG Mobile are dissatisfied with the way policies are unevenly enforced on the App Store / Play Store.  Here are our demands, kindly address them or we will collectively deprive Apple / Google of the app revenue and band together to make our own.

  Developers Alice, Bob, Carol, Dan, [...], and Zelie, who work at Uber, King Games, [etc] are dissatisfied with [...]
... Although, I can't say I would like to live in a world where the biggest revenue producers for the app stores get to dictate terms to the app store providers.

That's not a problem at all. Pretty sure the GP meant publishers, e.g. Uber, King Games, Roblox (...).

That is a completely ridiculous solution to a very simple problem. How do we give bargaining power to developers? We break up the app store monopolies. That's it.

Google/Apple giving you shit? Give them the finger and put your app on another store. There's no stronger bargaining chip than the free market.

Which other store? The only stores that matter as far as mobile goes are Google and Apple's.

I'm not an Android user, but aren't third party app stores allowed on Android? https://www.androidauthority.com/best-app-stores-936652/

They're probably not great places to try and grow your userbase based on the number of users compared to the Play Store, but they exist.

> They're probably not great places to try and grow your userbase based on the number of users

Cca 2012 there were thriving, competing stores then Google shut that shit down. They got sued and lost, but the competing stores were dead, never to recover.

I don't know if they are dead, on my Samsung Galaxy I usually download apps from the Samsung store not from the Playstore.

F-Droid is still around, as is Amazon's thing.

Maybe courts can force phone manufacturers to include those stores just like they forced Microsoft to include other browsers on Windows. Without that, people are always going to stick to the default store.

That’s a chicken and egg problem. Break up the monopoly, and the competitors will come.

It’s not like the Google/Apple stores would be hard to compete with. They both have massive, longstanding problems that consumers and developers have been complaining about since forever. There’s a lot of opportunity to innovate in that space, if only it were actually possible to compete.

That's not easier at all. By a wide margin.

IANAL, but isn’t that group called “the court system”? This person is stuck in google’s kangaroo court, but they should just switch venues as soon as the apps are removed and sue google for damages. They can demonstrate google materially impacts their business and is acting in bad faith. Going through google’s legal department is probably going to quickly get the result they want.

Didn't work very well for Epic (v Apple). While the law might force their hand, it may just end up in a lose-lose situation (the most likely outcome).

The Coalition for App Fairness, which of course, is currently involved in major litigation against both Google and Apple.

It's open to new members! It looks like the author of this post is already a member.


Thanks for pointing this out- I either failed to recall it existed, or didn't know it existed, but it more or less is what I was describing above.

Support legislation requiring Apple and Google to allow third party app stores.

But this is already about Google and Google already allows third party app stores. (I mean even Epic, which is a pretty well-known, high-profit company couldn't get very many people to download their store for Android.) The solution is to support legislation requiring companies to give specific details of what the problem is rather than allowing them to play these games of "bring me a rock."[0]

[0] https://jonathanbecher.com/2020/08/30/the-bring-me-a-rock-ph...

Google allows third party app stores, or just installing apps without any app stores at all. But there's much less $$$ in targeting users outside of the walled garden.

> But there's much less $$$ in targeting users outside of the walled garden.

That's due entirely to Google's aggressive anti-competitive business practices. Legislation that "allows third party stores" would also need to include rules preventing Google from, for example, blocking non-Google app installations unless users flip a switch buried in the settings app (which looks different on every phone), and then plastering the screen with scary technobabble about security vulnerabilities to scare the average consumer away.

My Samsung phone comes with Samsung App store, ready to use. No need to flip a switch or accept scary warnings.

Did you choose the Samsung App Store, or was it preloaded on the device by the phone manufacturer?

Consumer choice is restricted by those anti-competitive business practices I mentioned. Whatever deal Samsung has with Google for preloaded software is irrelevant. If you wanted to install the Epic Games Store, you'd have to go flip that switch[*]

[*] actually, Samsung allows Epic to distribute their store through the Galaxy store app. So that's a bad example lol, but EGS is the only major Android app store I could think of. If anything though, the fact that Samsung allows this is evidence that increased competition benefits consumers. Samsung doesn't have the market position Google does, so they need to make different decisions to compete. Making it easy to install a third-party store without Google's security theater bullshit is good for consumers.

Relative to almost anything else a consumer might want to choose in their purchasing lives, tapping a screen a couple of times doesn't seem to qualify as difficult. Definitely not as a restriction of consumer choice.

By “tapping a screen a couple of times” you’re referring to the process of enabling side-loading on Android?

Because if you don’t think that’s a problem, then you must be living in a bubble surrounded by techies.

Imagine you’re trying to start a competing app store. What does user acquisition look like for you on Android? Besides the regular ad spending to promote your app, you also need to figure out a way to guide consumers through the installation process.

Even if you manage to solve that problem effectively with some kick ass tutorial, your main competitor doesn’t have to worry about that. They will always be advantaged no matter how superior your product/service is.

And that’s just the side loading side of it. There are many other anti-competitive things Google does on Android to maintain their monopoly.

I have the consumer choice to buy any compatible car battery I want. That doesn't mean it's easy to install. Unless I'm living in an ivory tower with people who find app stores easier to install than car batteries.

Ease of installation (which, again, at least in my rarefied atmosphere of people who find tapping a screen under 10 times [0] easier than, say, going and buying a compatible battery, remove the old one, installing the new one, and disposing of the old one) still isn't particularly to do with choice. Android certainly has choice. It's Apple that doesn't.

[0] https://www.howtogeek.com/696504/how-to-install-third-party-...

you right android good apple bad

Doesn't Verizon lock down all their phones against sideloading? Doesn't do much good for google to allow something if everyone else is still allowed to do the same. The user needs to be able to download from the web like any windows/linux/mac app. Security and curation are no excuse for preventing it.

No, they don't.

And Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft! I’d love to write software to run on my PS5.

Homebrew development has been a thing for as long as video game consoles have been around. I don't think it'd be reasonable to require Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft to provide the development toolchains/SDKs/software they've developed for free.

However, it would be good if they were required to allow third-party software installations with software written using third party toolchains (like the homebrew ones). Consoles like the PS5/Xbox really aren't all that different from PCs nowadays, even from the software library side. Most games are cross-platform, and even Sony has been bringing their exclusives to PC.

So really, a PS5/Xbox/Switch is just a gaming PC with arbitrary anti-consumer, anti-competitive restrictions. Even if these restrictions actually subsidize the price of the hardware, it's still harmful to consumers since they end up spending a lot more money on software over the lifetime of the console. Plus, that hardware is extremely locked down, so it's not like consumers are really benefiting from those supposed subsidies. They're just paying slightly less up front for a machine designed to take a lot of money from them.

This is coming in the EU. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

^^^ this

According to https://play.google.com/about/developer-distribution-agreeme..., you can file suit in Santa Clara for a contract dispute.

I think it will be pretty hard to fight a class-action legal battle with Google over a contract since every Android phone will happily install arbitrary APK files for users without the play store, but serving an APK from the play store in the first place requires agreeing to the above contract in full.

You don't want this to be a lawsuit; you want it to be a friendly, bidirectional negotiation.

That's backed by a severe economic impact for Google if they don't play nice.

The Digital Services Act is supposed to provide some legal recourse, at least in the European Union. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Services_Act https://verfassungsblog.de/dsa-fails/

However, ask the politicians at the European Commission, and they will boast that it is about this:

> By summer 2023, the first very concrete effects of the #DSA will be visible for all users. This includes: Accessible "button" to easily flag illegal content


Which just happens to be what the reviewer was complaining about (ways to report "objectionable content").

The EU is in a weird place.

They seem to be genuinely motivated by "individual rights", but with more of a focus on harassment rather than freedom of expression, so they usually err on the side of over-enforcement (of censoring rules, etc), since they're so used to the under-enforcement of the past.

This is what trade guilds were for.

Antique webs of trust with documentation purporting legitimacy.

That's still, in real terms, how college degrees are done.

The play store could have tiers so beginners can still access it.

"Untrusted app" versus "trusted app".

Then if you had satisfied the trust for say the itunes store you can bring the documentation over to fast track it on the play store.

It shouldn't be an incremental one off pain in the ass every time. Do the passport paperwork once and be done with it

> Is there any large group representing App developers

Why would enlightened individualists band together? It reeks of unions, or worse, tribalism! /s

National governments.

I think at least one thing worth a try is: make a tiny, relatively inconsequential change, and submit it again.

If you had a 93% success ratio before, you've got pretty good odds that you'll get a new reviewer on the next update and it'll be approved.

Maybe something like the copy change puffoflogic recommended. Just make any tiny change in the area, re-submit the app, and hope you get lucky with a better reviewer.

From my experience this is exactly what you need to do. You don’t even need to change the app. If your CICD pipeline is already incrementing the build number then just kick off a new build and re-submit that. If you frequently get apps kicked back then add notes to the “how to test section” like “you can test reporting user generated content by doing x, y, z. This is the only user generated content in our app.” It does seem like the “how to test notes” actually get read whereas the appeal notes do not.

Bingo. On Google Play - even for fairly serious alleged policy violations - if you just submit another update, it's very likely to be accepted and typically the policy issue won't be checked anyway.

We had a situation where one of our updates was rejected because they didn't like the app listing description (which has nothing to do with the update). The next update we pushed, we didn't change the listing metadata, and then it was accepted.

Always quite infuriating to work with Google Play.

The App Store is strict, but we've found it _far_ more consistent on applying the rules, and also dramatically faster to accept updates (usually accepts updates within about 6 hours, vs up to a week for Google Play).

That's the sad thing about this story, it really just sounds like Goodhart's law in action, a certain % of apps need to get rejected/reviewed/appealed each month.

You don’t have to change anything to submit a new version.

It's not clear from the screenshot that the "Report" button is reporting content rather than a user, especially when it's listed right under "Block user". (Also keep in mind the viewer of the image has no idea how you brought up that popup, like whether you tapped someone's name or their comment, so that context is missing.) I would just make that clear in the app + screenshot by calling it "Report post" or "Report comment" or something like that.

There was a previous topic about this issue where the developer just iterated on things (changing font size, labels, add text, remove text) to past whatever bots they have.

I think that approach would be valid here. Change the link to "report content", etc.

That is exactly the solution I was thinking of. Under the block user, just add 'report content' and call it a day. You can't convince the machine that it is insane.

At this point, why not just add the link to report your non-UGC. If this is what they want, give it to them. You can just ignore the reports on the backend. You can probably remove it next update when you don't get Anthony since it's pretty clear it's just one stubborn, lazy reviewer.

All that said - the Play Store and App Store review hell is one dystopia I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I'm so happy to work on the web now.

Good thing web browsers aren't fully controlled by Google and Apple

This is why its the ethical responsibility of every dev to use Firefox when they can.

Mozilla Foundation has already expressed an interest in controlling speech within Firefox. It is not an option.

Indeed, the only way forward is w3m.

For some reason Firefox has horrendous issues on older devices. On my Win7 company-issued laptop a fresh window from a fresh FF install grabs 3.2 out of 4GB of RAM. On my phone (2GB RAM) it gets into a crash loop where trying to type into the address bar or load a new page crashes the browser. Data loss due to crashes is less frequent than when I was running Chrome, but spending 10 minutes every few days repeatedly restarting the browser is gradually getting me to move to Brave.

Something is wrong with your Win7 PC/Firefox. On my ancient Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Windows 7 laptop I'm seeing ~400MB of RAM usage and a few percent CPU usage having a few bank and a few government websites open. Firefox version 107.0-64 bit.

Do you have an SSD on that machine?

Could it be an extension you installed?

As if Firefox is not funded by Google.

They've divorced themselves from Google funding in the past (and signed with Yahoo in the US, other search engines elsewhere) and likely could again. Not to mention being paid by Google for a service and literally being Google are two very different things.

How’s the view from up on your pedestal?

Pretty good. We have Containers Tabs :)

What I've learned from Google is that you are always talking to a bot, it just happens to be that some of those bots are human. Even though they are walking and talking simians they are executing a conversation script and have no agency and ability to control an outcome spare the most banal common issues.

It's funny. Google will flood us with captchas if it thinks we're not human but they subject people to inhuman treatment whenever we need to contact them. Bots for me but not for thee.

Power asymmetry is vexing.

At every step, we need to prove our validity to Google's AI. Whether it's as Real Human, or for a legitimate app.

I'm developing a new appreciation for the old Paranoia RPG. At least Google doesn't have the power to disintegrate us yet.

Maybe they don't even have the option of replying, just picking one of a few canned responses.

They probably have to solve a reCAPTCHA just to override the autocomplete.

> Press TAB to reply to this customer with our suggested response. If you wish to choose another canned response, please first find the house numbers hiding inside these fire hydrants in the hills.

HN is the only useful escalation mechanism at this point, so have an upvote.

I somewhat doubt Google responds effectively anymore to bad PR on HN, because (a) they're so large and each group is acting in its own best interest, and (b) Google has for so long had a cultural belief in the fiction that better automation™ or at least mechanical turk-style automation (low-cost, powerless, script-following, outsourced support agents) is always preferable to personally serving people.

In other words, the further they position themselves from the people they serve, the better and more "scalable" their business will be.

I've seen posts on HN within last year where Google screwed something up with censorship or app review. Posts get massively upvoted here and within a day or two Google fixes it. Could be coincidental, but highly probable that some Googlers read HN and act to fix high publicity problems or even just problems that they weren't really aware of until reading about it here.

I ranted here about a YouTube app problem that only occurs on Google TV (Android-based), and within like two weeks it was fixed. Coincidence?

Im confident theres a few googlers watching things and happy to play the role of Harry Tuttle.

I'm an ex googler, and I am furious.

If I was still at Google, I would have posted this shit on memegen making fun of the Play team all day.

They should be ashamed for handling customers like this.

> They should be ashamed for handling customers like this.

That's been the case with almost every Google service I've ever used =/ Even paid ones, like GCloud, Adwords, Workspace... even when you can get in touch with a human (which is hard enough on its own), they are usually not helpful at all.

Customer service really isn't your ex-company's forte.

I think the one exception to that has been Google Fi, the tiny wireless MVNO. For some reason their support has always been amazing, quick and helpful and to the point. No runarounds, they just do what it takes to solve your issues. I was astounded how much better they were not just compared to the rest of Google, but also compared to major carriers like Verizon and AT&T.

> They should be ashamed for handling customers like this.

But is shame allowed by Play policy?

Can't believe you've published 100 apps and are only now experiencing this. That's the craziest part to me. It's not just Google Play btw -- the app stores are so notoriously bad that they nearly made me quit app development outright. Your experience is not just common, it's actually relatively mild. Something to look forward to: having your app accepted onto the play store only to randomly be taken down for policy violations a few weeks later with no warning or explanation. This will happen several times until it almost kills your company. It's a rite of passage to get bullied into desperation by big tech.

For the sake of your sanity, minimise the number of interactions you need to do with the app stores. Submit a bare bones app to the stores with all the native libraries you might need, then live the rest of your days on OTA updates (expo-updates, codepush, etc). This is against store policies but everyone does it and I've never heard of an app being taken down for it.

I clicked on this thinking "immature rant incoming", but darned if I didn't end up increasing my anger at the exact pace he did with every step! Nothing more frustrating than talking to a human refusing to behave like a human, and a process that isn't a process.

You'd love "The Trial" by Kafka.

I want to guess the following and maybe knowledgeable people can chime in:

I would guess that the people reviewing these are contractors, paid by the app they review, and with a certain set of criteria that they're supposed to apply, but they make mistakes. And the supervisors of these contractors (who themselves are contractors) don't have great ways of comparing the work of one person to another / enforcing consistency, except by the customer escalating it.

I would guess that this is approached by Google as a piecework customer service task for contractors (a pure cost center to review and QA app submissions) and not employees, so it means that even something so important as developer experience is being outsourced, and not being daily internalized or felt by Google's own engineering team or product managers (who have moved on to more year-end-review-favorable projects after setting the top-level guidelines).

They probably only review (and whose job is it full time?) error reports / QA / complaints about this process every week and all you are is a line on a sheet that says to them well, "not that many people are upset, so it's going ok, we don't need to worry / put someone on it full time".

Until you get to be a huge revenue developer and worthy of some employee's attention -- and even then only on the "interesting" aspect of your needs, not the day-to-day is it working well experience. You're in the hands of minimum wage contractors reviewing whether you've adhered to sometimes subjective rules, with only so much interest in resolving something they have to study to understand -- and who has the patience for that? They're not SWEs themselves, they have no idea what your description of the problem is really trying to convey (unless they're talented people, and if so they're probably out of there soon).

Until that changes, there will be really frustrating cases like this. Even if your livelihood has come to depend on the app you built.

Am I guessing wrong?

At least for my company's app, 100% of logins for the Google Play reviewer account come from IP addresses which geolocate to various cities in India. These are absolutely human reviewers because they have to use backup codes for TOTP. I don't know if the reviewers have a contractual or employee relationship with Google, though.

It's worse. The reviewers are explicitly forbidden from being helpful, as a protection against scammers "gaming" the reviews.

The store doesn't care about your app, unless you are a major company like Epic. They won't profit from your small apps' commissions enough to make paying for proper support worthwhile.

I had this problem with a phone case that I ordered from the Google Store. It shipped, allegedly, but the tracking never updated. After ten days I asked to cancel my order but was told that this could not be done as I had a tracking number. If I wished to return the item after it was received, I could do so for a full refund.

I spent a week going back and forth with them and explaining that nothing had actually shipped and, again, asked for a refund. 90% of the time they sent me something telling me what the tracking number was and that I could return the item once it was received for a full refund. The other 10% of the time they assured me that I was being handed off to another service tier and that this group would surely be able to help me.

The higher tier just sent me the same tracking number and seemingly ignored my pleas and my question of what happens if I do not receive the item before the return window had closed.

It wasn't even worth that much, but I was being petty and tried to respond within minutes of them emailing me. My thought was that someone over there was desperately trying to keep their work queue empty, and I was going to do my best to prevent that from happening.

They finally refunded my order 18 days after it had been placed. The tracking information still says that they're waiting for the package from Google. I'm half expecting a phone case to randomly arrive within the next few months.

I was also thinking I was talking to an AI after a number of emails, so eventually I tested it out:

> I wish to speak to a human. If you are human and are allowed to write anything, please use the word "cow" in your reply.


> We appreciate you getting back to us and we apologize for any inconvenience this is causing you. Yes, you are communicating to a human being and per your request, please see the word "cow".

The most dry way to user 'cow' ever. Humor must be crime within that department.


Even today I got a rejection to my appeal at the same time my app update went live. They don't hold any record of previous communication or history on app updates and rejections.

The rejection was for a too minimalist text I fixed already in an earlier update. They quoted a text that was not part of the update (!).

Multiple times I have overcome a rejection, by just adding a single character to my main app store text (a space char will do). And just re-submit.

Then you get to re-role the dice, and perhaps the update can go live.

I also always appeal everything, use their feedback tools, give single star ratings to review process, etc, hope it will set something in motion.

> Yes, you are communicating to a human being and per your request, please see the word "cow".

GPT-2/3 can probably do this.

> We appreciate you getting back to us and we apologize for any inconvenience this is causing you. Yes, you are communicating to a human being and per your request, please see the word "cow".

I'm not convinced. Are they training people to be more like AI?

> I also always appeal everything, use their feedback tools, give single star ratings to review process, etc, hope it will set something in motion.

Or it will flag you as overly negative, someone whose reviews can safely be ignored. Who knows.

I really much doubt humans write and talk like that. This is probably AI again and your query wasn't "clever" enough IMO.

Perhaps introduce some typo that will AI take on literary and human wont...

Stay off Google. Stay off Apple. Stay off Facebook. Stay off Amazon. Stay off Microsoft. Stay off Reddit. Stay off Twitter. Stay off Adobe. Stay off Salesforce. Stay off Oracle. Stay off Sony. Stay off eBay. Stay off GoDaddy. Stay off PayPal. Stay off Etsy. Stay off Steam. Stay off Comcast. Stay off RCA.

Own your platform from the bottom to the top. If your business model requires you to rely on one of these companies, pivot.

We have lost. They have won. They can deplatform anyone for anything or for nothing. Your continued use of the platform depends on whether or not you make them money. You are entitled to nothing they have built. They are not providing public services or utilities.

Abandon them, or on your own head be it when, not if, you get fucked.

If possible, stay off the U.S. Dollar.

What about passing a law that if your company is whatever this big at providing services, automatically enforcing that they need to behave as a utility company.

At this point, even Walmart, CVS, etc... should be treated as a utility company. the moment you got a big chunk of the economy depending on you, company lost ability of stop providing services, unless a court case is involved.

You could have just said "Stay off the Internet"

Avoid life in all forms, if possible.

So very true, so few people realize it

You seem to have missed a detail in their replies "We confirm that your app has options to report and block abusive users but your app does not contain functionality to report objectionable content." You complain that they haven't answered the specifics of your emails yet you've actually failed to address theirs.

Unpopular opinion but it seems like their response was reasonable tbf.

Yes, I think this is an issue of language/context. Perhaps the developer doesn't appreciate the full scale of the meaning of the phrase "objectionable content". Google for some reason thinks this app may be a legal liability, and they won't tell exactly why because it would make their position worse if they admitted they knew something.

I agree, the author is conflating the ability to report and block a user due to their content and the ability to report specific content of that user.

All they had to do is add a link to report the specific contentId that user created.

The author was blinded by frustration and didn’t read.

This could be clarified by a quick phone call to a Google developer support engineer.

If Google is "too big" to run a competent support department then it should be broken up.

From the Day 2 email, they're not conflating the two:

> The only user generated content on the app is

> 1.) Comments (which you can report or block by tapping on the comment)

> 2.) User Profiles (which you can report or block by tapping "More" in their profile

Didn't he address this? He has both the ability to report/block users and also the ability to report content (comments) in his app.

From the Day 2 email, they do have that already:

> 1.) Comments (which you can report or block by tapping on the comment)

It'd be great if google offered an option for a video call with a reviewer for $500/hr as an escalation option for businesses who are getting nowhere with the regular process. Ideally you'd get a refund if you turned out to be correct, but I'd be happy even without that.

That’s a terrible idea. What if instead they were held accountable to criminal and civil processes and if Google didn’t meet their end of a contract they were accountable for it.

They can offer their support via a legal accountability mechanism and not a paid-for escalation.

Funnily enough I once saw a post here with someone at fb I believe who had an entire side business like this for a couple hundred where they escalated issues to their pal in support.

It's done all over, I'm not even mad.

That sounds like you'd just create an incentive for reviewers to block more apps, and refuse to admit they were wrong.

IIRC there is already an option to pay Google 7500 $ or something for a new review? I can't remember exactly how it is dressed up to get around antitrust concerns, maybe as a security audit.

Although it's not app store review, Apple DTS is like that (but way cheaper). And I have to say the quality of developer support you get from it has been amazing for me.

Why $500 and not just enough to pay for the salary of that person, or just enough to even be profitable for Google?

How do you suggest to estimate "profit" on such a service when the downside is a risk (however small) of an almost 20 G$ fine by the EU?

I don't think the discussion is specifically to the GDPR issue, also such a service should reduce risks, not increase it.

Automated rules and policies are saving Google hundreds of millions of dollars an hour; they don't want to open the floodgates of spammers reverse-engineering ways to socially engineer the hapless app review humans.

>Automated rules and policies are saving Google hundreds of millions of dollars an hour

Surely this is exageration, right?

That sounds a lot like Google's problem, not ours.

It appears that they've solved it, then. And now you have a problem.

Actually it sounds like our problem, given the content of TFA.

Google already fixed the problem from their end

>Are you a human? If not, please put me in contact with one.

Little did he know that the entire google play store was set up as a gigantic Turing test. It was never about the apps...

GLaDOS: Thank you for participating in this Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center activity.

Just this past week, our app got the boot too. The reason was that the app was in violation of "user privacy". May be it was strings.xml that angered the Algorithm, may be it was the user reviews, may be it was something on our website... Then, magically, the app came back up. It turned out that as we were migrating our domain name to a new DNS Nameserver, the cached DNS entries probably pointed to an IP address that didn't exist, and the privacy policy web page was therefore 404 for a brief while.

Downloads from our website for the app went up by 2x, but that number dwarfs in comparison to installs from the Play Store. What can I say, Android developers are slaves to The Algorithm. At least until some other Algorithm at Google decides to properly staff up its support centers for developers.

As a contingency, what we do is:

- Sign our own APKs.

- Bake in a custom update mechanism as an escape hatch (this is against ToS, but whatever...).

How are you able to sign your own APKs? Are you grandfathered in before the change to require Google Play app signing?

You can provide your own key when setting up Play App Signing. There are three or four options for setting it up; only the default option has Google generate the key, the rest you supply the key.

This is relatable. I have spent many hours attempting to get someone at the IRS to answer my questions, and the best part is that they have always ended up hanging up on me after putting me on hold, and there is no way to pick back up where you left off with them since it's all done verbally.

I shall now go read The Metamorphosis.

They've been starved for labor. That is being fixed, but it will take a while.

Last time I had to actually talk to someone at the IRS was over a decade ago, but I recall it being an efficient conversation, and as pleasant as it could have been, given the topic.


Regardless of the reason, it's maddening when someone is holding onto a quantity of your money that is not quite large enough to want to fight for it in court, but plenty large enough to be meaningful to you, and essentially keeps it by successfully avoiding meaningful communication.

Having dealt with the IRS a few times, I can relate. You'll get a different answer (from a different person) to the same question each time you ask.

My advice is to never deal with the IRS yourself. Hire a tax attorney who has some experience in dealing with them.

Also, are you referring to "The Trial" (also by Kafka)?

This morning I woke up and found I had turned into a giant cockroach. How will I now be able to appeal Google's Play Store rejection? Will I even be able to convince ReCaptcha that I am human? I can't even convince myself that I am human.

Just hope you never get screwed by the USCIS. At least you found a way to talk to a human, if only for a second. The USCIS just phone menu trees you into disconnection.

Give The Castle a read...

It's sadly appropriate that the author died before being able to finish the nightmare.

Not only all this but the system doesn't work. The play store is flooded with low quality baiting garbage. Somehow their onerous policies block out legitimate users and have a VIP line for spammers

This is not entirely surprising since spammers have all day long to reverse engineer the process, while legitimate users have a business to run.

This is an under-appreciated point. Look at the solution suggested in the top comment -- paraphrasing, it's "learn to game the system like the spammers, and accept that as a cost of doing business".

Google should be specifically designing towards mitigating this.

This is what surprises me the most about these stories of dealing with Google/Apple app stores. Most of the apps that aren't produced by very well-known studios or large corporations are just trash. There are few gems here and there but its like digging through a landfill to find anything decent.

It's amazing how good some of the apps on the F-Droid app-store are.

I bet the way this works is that google has some automated system that just runs the app, detects the user generated content and tries to report it. Then it gets stuck on some button or other because the label doesn't match the heuristic, or perhaps it tried to click it but there was a hickup with their automation and it failed to respond. So you got to resubmit a new version so their test automation runs again. Its like flaky ui tests, that would explain why most of the identical apps went through the review.

Then you have some guy somewhere working in "support" who when answering tickets can only select from a bunch of branching text lego blocks. To prevent them from getting social engineered to do or reveal or kinds of sensitive information.

With Google scale its hard to imagine how you can implement the "elevate to a manager" button at their support centers without just causing spammer/scammer exploiting it in a second.

We let two megacorps run these global infrastructures and think its normal, then complain about it, like as if this all supposed to make sense in the first place.

There's only one conclusion: stay far away from google.

Don't use their products, as the possibility of having gmail cut off from you is a serious threat. Same for google voice and google cloud.

Don't publish apps for android - not at all if possible, or at least don't use the google store if you must deal with android, as the possibility of having your app that was A-OK for 5 years suddenly targeted like that is a serious threat too.

I'd add, don't ever work for google. There're not many jobs I would refuse to do, but having google as an employer is where I'd draw the line. It might be a lesser hell and easier for my conscience to work for a weapon manufacturer.

The problem is that Apple does the same kind of thing (arbitrary app store review by bots), so you're saying not to do any mobile apps.

As a little side project I wrote an Android app and went through similar turmoil—guess I can’t feel too bad for myself when the cofounder and lead developer of “~100” apps runs into similar issues. In this vein, I too wrote a similar story and it’s at https://medium.com/@mtc.dev/my-first-android-app-story-331c9....

We have ~500 applications in the Play Store and we have experienced the same thing from Google multiple times. Literally the exact same thing – we already have robust reporting mechanisms and Google are seemingly blind to them for a proportion of our applications.

This makes me think that they have some internal rating mechanism (perhaps based on reviews or previous reports or who knows what) which flags some apps for extra "review".

At Chatango we just gave up on our Android app. We don't have a report button because we don't want users to gang up and falsely report profiles. We are counting unwanted incoming conversation blocks and take action based on that, and have hierarchical moderation in each chat. That was way beyond what we could explain to the play store policing bots so about $500k in development was trashed by Google, we went website only, because it's an uphill battle. We have tens of millions of users.

What would happen if it looked like users could report, but you actually did nothing on the backend? Like how it works on Youtube?

> We confirm that your app has options to report and block abusive users but your app does not contain functionality to report objectionable content.

Isn’t this the crux of the issue? Are the not asking for a separate “objectionable content” report type, distinct from the generic “report” option? They also don’t seem to show what happens after you press report? Does the app give reporting options? Is “objectionable content” an explicit one of those?

I agree that Google customer support is the worst.

But I read this:

> We confirm that your app has options to report and block abusive users but your app does not contain functionality to report objectionable content.

to be the answer to the question.

I would try adding a link that says, exactly, "report objectionable content" to the user comments. It seems like the issue is that you aren't providing enough flavors of reporting, so give it to them.

But I'm sorry OP has had to spend days on this, and suffer at the hands of unhelpful reps.

Based on the chat transcript Demz seems like either another bot or someone who just doesn't give a shit. Can't be bothered helping someone? Just spam the "I'm sorry you're frustrated" macro then cut them off. Easy job.

Idk, maybe I just speak bot but it seems obvious from the wording that the app needs to split out its "report" button into "report content" and "report user". I don't think they need to do different things, but it will check the box of

> We confirm that your app has options to report and block abusive users but your app does not contain functionality to report objectionable content.

To be clear, I don't think this will actually make the Play bot go away and not keep coming back with bullshit, but it will trigger the bot to generate new bullshit which will almost feel like progress, if your soul has already been destroyed.

If you have to long press the comment to bring up the report screen. How do you conclude that you are reporting a user? I'd find it more logical if that related to reporting the content.

What makes you think this is about logic?

That changeset needs to come with an easter egg that says "Fuck you Anthonyyyy!" if triggered.

We have had a similar experience, spanning over several months, where even updating the application and giving instructions on how to test it didn't trigger any reaction (just the same repetitive mail: "Your app does not comply with Google Play rules ...").

When I mean "give instructions on how to test it" : we created a test subscription on our platform, sent instructions on how to register and see what our app is doing, and our logs showed that no one attempted to go to that test subscription.

We also asked ourselves if we were exchanging emails with a human or a robot, and couldn't reach a conclusion.

Labor costs and the primary purpose of call centers or bot chats: attrition. At a large scale a central focus of managing customer service is lowering labor costs. Less service. Automated call centers are literally designed to ensure that a certain percentage of people do not talk to a human, irrespective of whether their problem was resolved. Friction is added on purpose.

And of course, with AI playing an ever more prominent role, we can be certain that it's probably not a real person, soon enough even on the phone.

We can do better. :)

The ideal way this works is that you can sue them for a lot of money for doing this unfairly, so that they are forced to build a better system in order to avoid losing a lot of money.

I would suggest an open revolt against walled gardens by developers. Nothing short of a coordinated rejection of this model will get the attention of the press, and raise enough awareness of the downside of allowing monopolistic control of the core technology platforms our society is based on.

If the future of customer-service is full of AI like “Anthony”, I’m moving to the woods.

You are much too late. The woods are already full of people who escaped.

Why wait? Anthonies are already the present of customer service.

I wonder if part of the problem is that Anthony is not a fluent English speaker, and perhaps does not realize that he is not as clear as he thinks he is.

He's as clear as the inability to elevate this problem requires him to be.

If "Anthony" is an AI, why does he take days to reply? Surely a sufficiently capable developer relations AI could handle dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of developer queries simultaneously!

Rate limiting. They wouldnt like to make the conversation too fast for them. And also to keep the conversation more “realistic”.

This kind of moderation is broken across the board. No one knows how to scale it.

1. Amazon has completely lost the battle with fake reviews. Not only are they completely incapable of removing even a fraction of the huge swaths of obviously fake reviews, they also flag accounts more or less at random and permanently shut off their ability to post reviews. Escalating to support and they simply respond, "we've reviewed this and found it correct. This decision is final" with no indication that anything like common sense was used. It's clear that review moderation has been outsourced to an team who is incentivized to flag accounts and never unflag them and which acts without accountability or oversight and is taking random action in a vain attempt to be seen to be doing something rather than admitting they cannot cope.

2. Youtubers routinely complain about demonetization, content strikes, and spurious DCMA takedown. Even for Youtubers earning a living wage - and therefore presumably earning Google a high multiple of that in ad revenue - have huge amounts of trouble getting a reasonable human being on the other end. In the B2B space that level of spend would at least get you a named account person who you could contact to resolve issues. Heck, buying a burger at McDonalds gives you more access to a reasonable human you can escalate complaints to.

3. Sellers on Etsy or Ebay have little to no recourse when customers demand refunds. The only way to survive is to simply refund anyone who asks and roll it into your prices as a cost of doing business.

4. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play are awful to develop for because of all the intrusive demands they make and their seeming unwillingness to provide clear or consistent feedback. Despite this, both are stuffed to the gills with copyright infringing knock-offs designed to skirt gambling laws by selling addictive skinner boxes to children and actively fraudulent products that try to trick you into paying $1.99/month for the rest of time for a flashlight app, neither of which seeming have any trouble getting approved. What's the point of trying to pretend you have high quality standards while rubber-stamping garbage?

You can get banned from amazon for fake reviews? I’ve made a good bit of money with reviews for nonsense products; probably at least $1,000.

It’s so obvious to me when I see a fake review now.

Short but not too short.

Mentions a specific product feature or cast member (show reviews are fake too.) padded worse than a 6th grade book report on conjunctions and other words to match a word county.

I had a similar experience with an Adwords account getting banned for "Circumventing systems", and we were completely confused as to why we got the rejection.

And then the appeals process after that was just like yours: copy pasta email without any explanation about how to fix the problem.

Reading this and similar stories makes me glad that I've not gotten into mobile app development.

Its sad but it is what happen when you depend on a thirty party. I have always hated this software monopolies. If you can, host the app on your own web and tell your clients to download it from there

This doesn't help OP, but since others are sharing stories...

I recently received a series of notices from my credit card app about rejected $1241 charges on my card. My card company was rejecting the charges because I have my daily limit set lower (which I modify when I need).

Someone got my credit card info and set it up as THEIR Facebook pay payment source. And while I don't use Facebook Pay, I can assume from my credit card transaction list that when setting up a new card, FBPAY makes a $1 charge/hold as a test to validate the card. If that hold succeeds, then I guess they are happy enough.

What real companies do, if they want to ensure that you control the card you are using, is to make some small random charge and then require you to tell them how much the charge was. If they charge 0.61, you would only know the amount if you had access to the account behind the card. But no, Facebook just charges $1 and presumably doesn't even ask you "tell us how much we charged".

I opened a support ticket with Facebook because I wanted the person responsible for the attempted fraud to at least get banned. I provided exactly all the data required, including screenshots of the failed transactions from my mobile credit card app. It should be pretty easy for FB to find in their system, since the crook made 10! attempts for the exact same amount over a period of hours. Oh and as I provided all my credit card details, that should be IN their system and easy to associate.

Long story short, my very slow email interactions were just as stupid as TFA's. Worse even, the Facebook support moron kept trying to refer to my Facebook Ads account, which I do not have and never even mentioned. Eventually they just banned me from running any Facebook ads, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue.

The support people at many of these companies are either stupid, non-human, or low budget non-English speaking people who copy/paste text from a cheatsheet. And the companies that run such support operations are assholes, top down. There is zero excuse for a "top tier" tech company to have the problems these companies have. It's just a shame that it is virtually impossible for anyone to do normal life/work stuff without having some dependency on these companies.

The screenshot provided doesn’t make it clear if you’re reporting a user or a comment. Would suggest changing the copy in the UI (reporting a user, reporting a comment) and submit an update.

But yet they keep apps that siphon your email and just completely ruin your phone on the market place. (My older parent downloaded it thinking it was something else.. required a full reset of her phone)


Despite reporting..it's still up months later.

Solution: make a small change to the report screen. Right now it just says report or block. Write a sentence in a subdued font weight/size and color that says “this report button will do Xyz.” Then resubmit. See what happens. It’s kind of like all those times when you were learning how to code that you would make a small change, run the program and hope for the correct output. Rinse, repeat and eventually you’ll look into the right solution.

As ridiculous as it sounds, have you considered adding report functionality to the other (non-UGC) content in the app? It seems like the review team isn't budging with your current argument so it may be worthwhile to add report functionality (even if the actual reporting is basically a no-op) just to appease them.

Heck, even feature flag it and disable it once the app gets in. Probably won't be flagged again in subsequent reviews.

At what point will developers just detect if it's being tested by the play store and just disable any feature which would prompt further review?

It's Stripe for Play Store reviewer sandbox detection and anti-analysis!

I'm ready to invest.

This whole app store thing with Apple/Google is BS. Imagine if your car could only drive to locations approved as safe by the car manufacturer, and they could auto-ban your Grandma's house with no recourse.

At least on Android you can install alternate app stores like F-Droid. All you have to do is allow apps to be installed from unknown sources.

If you use Apple, you're just out of luck unless you want to mess with whatever hacky workaround is popular this week.

I've been using altstore successfully, minor hindrance of resigning side loaded apps every week, but if you can leave your PC on it does that automatically.

This is not “minor hinderance” for 99.9% Apple users. It’s absolutely unusable unless you are an “enthusiast”.

With a free apple developer account, you're also limited to only three "active" sideloaded apps. It's a huge hindrance. If you want more, you've got to shell out those 100 bucks per year.

I have never felt the need to do so on iOS. I cannot say the same about Android.

because you're an consumer and not a power user.

there's nothing wrong with that, but a very wide array of preferences different than yours does exist.

Lucky! I felt it very early on in iOS and that does not seem to have abated.

Your use case might be fine for their app store only, but it doesn't mean thats true for others.

You mean aside from when you see every free android app cost $6.99 on iOS?

I’ll take a 6.99 price over android craware loaded with ads.

What if I told you there are blockers that work through the Android VPN API that can strip out ads out of every app. Using Blokada 5 myself.

Having an ad blocker is a core essential on today's internet. Even Apple makes $4B/year in just ads.

Can you share more about your experience with android?

Death by 1000 cuts of little frustrations, lags, etc.

> Imagine if your car could only drive to locations approved as safe by the car manufacturer

We're not very far away from that. Example: Tesla sells auto insurance based on real-time tracking of driving behavior, and explicitly lists "where you live" as a factor. So it's quite possible "real-time location safety" is already part of their model. So you may already be charged more for driving to your Grandma's house. Granted this is not a ban, but it is close enough for discomfort and all it takes is the right (or wrong) motivation and the loop can be trivially closed.

Location of the insured vehicle has been a factor since I started having insurance about 24 years ago (speaking for 20 years of Geico, and more recently Progressive).

The scale at which manufacturers and insurers like Tesla can use real-time location data in actuarial models (and whatever else they like) is quite new, though.

The important distinction is that the same entity tracking your real-time location also has unprecedented control over the car and your ability to use it, and very little transparency. This is basically the same dynamics as app stores.

Is it obvious that they can charge low enough prices the rest of the time to make this dynamic pricing an attractive offer?

Are people somehow forced to buy Tesla insurance when they buy a Tesla?

There needs to be a way to have 3rd party app stores on these platforms. Tired of the private platform argument. Google/Apple works hard to crush viable competition. It's time for laws to be written to step in and fix this.

Thats why most of the Apps i download are from F-Droid

It's more like if you could only drive approved cars on the regular roads.. which is already the case but regulated by the government instead.

My car happily drives on private roads, and even dirt and gravel, without government approval.

You’re getting the analogy backwards - you can’t drive an unapproved car on a public road.

It's a terrible analogy no matter how you interpret it.

Approval of cars is based on whether those cars can harm other cars.

If I want to "drive" (use) an unapproved "car" (app store) on a "public road" (my own device), I should be able to do that.

I think the analogy is more if you could only drive your car on government approved roads.

> if you could only drive approved cars on convenient roads.. which is already the case


This already happens with Drone. you can only flight to locations approved as safe by the manufacturer, and they could ban a location without recourse.

Isn't that based on "drone no-fly" maps from respective governments rather than what the manufacturer decides?

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