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I lost years’ worth of Google Docs files because of a poor user interface (googledrivesucks.com)
59 points by ovidem on Oct 25, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 139 comments

He was unlucky and didn't think things through too much, especially when dealing with such imporant files, but I agree with him that the way it's implemented is silly. If you provide a program that syncs your documents, with the name of your files, to your local system, people expect these files to be your actual documents, not empty links. Every other online storage system works that way. If you move a file out of your skydrive or Dropbox sync folder you have the actual file, not an empty link.

Dropbox also doesn't have the (IMHO) unnecesary "trash can" metaphor. You can easily recover deleted files through the web interface. If you want to delete something and make it unrecoverable, it's possible but you really have to go out of your way.

But how could that possibly work for a document that's edited in a browser? What file format would such a document be stored in when there's no local editor available for it?

Who knows? I don't know the internals of my Word or Pages documents. Why should anyone care what the internals of a .gdoc file look like? It could be anything. But nobody expects it to be a mere "pointer" link.

> I don't know the internals of my Word or Pages documents. [...] But nobody expects it to be a mere "pointer" link.

While Word and Excel (and plenty of other kinds of non-cloud document) files usually contain data besides links, and sometimes contain no links, they can contain content which is non-obviously (from visual inspection) provided through a link which is broken if the file is moved. And, unlike gdocs, you don't usually get a warning when you drag them out of the folder which tells you exactly what is going to happen if you do that.

When you drag something out of your folder on your local machine, how does gdocs give you a warning? (I'm curious, having never tried it.)

I'm assuming there is a background process that monitors the folder for changes. On my machine there is about a 3.5 second delay between moving the file and getting the warning. And if you click "OK, move to trash" it only trashes it in gdrive, you still have the file wherever you moved it. It's not a finder dialog box and can get lost behind other windows. It's bizarre UI.

> I'm assuming there is a background process that monitors the folder for changes.

I would assume its the same Google Drive background process that syncs changes made to files in the folder back to Drive, just using special handling for the case of "you moved a file that is a link to content in a Google web service and rather than a normal file".

Good question. Seems a pretty simple solution: the browser is the editor, even if the files are local. We use browsers to interact with local files all the time, for example during local web app development.

Only that's impossible as it is now (and will be for the forseeable future) because it wouldn't be very wise to give browser apps write access to the local filesystem.

You would not need to be able to edit the offline file. Instead it could still be just a link to the online version of the file, like it is now. But additionally it could contain the actual data that can be imported back to Google servers when it is accidentially deleted from the server.

I was replying to the part where "even if the files are local" i.e. not on the net.

The google drive already has access to the local filesystem, so that is a not a good reason to not have a local copy of the data.

Isn't it the Google Drive application that updates those files?

How about a proprietary binary format that would reload the data if it was synced back to Drive/Docs at a future time? As the format evolves, an online tool could at least extract csv/text versions of older data from the original files.

Edit: HDF5 is great for storing OT data too, even if the operations and handling are proprietary.

While I sympathize with the author (it must have hurt pretty bad if it made him go create an entire website dedicated to "google drive sucks") I thought it was quite obvious that files created on Google Drive with their document editor were not actually copied to your computer with the Google Drive program. It's easy to see when you try to open the file with Notepad or a similar local text editor. Additionally you get a warning when you move a file out of the Drive folder which you should always heed.

Not only that, but if it were the actual file on your local drive and not a link, there wouldn't be an option to "make this file available offline". There were cues which the author missed, but they were obviously not prominent enough which is a (the) design flaw.

Let this be a lesson that you should have multiple backups for anything important. I personally have 2 online backup systems and 3 local ones, the worth of which practice I learned the hard way like this author.

Also think twice before you empty the trash - you're manually making these files unrecoverable from the internet, and if your machine went up in smoke after you hit the button, you'd be screwed. That alone warrants serious consideration.

Glad you thought it was obvious. I just learned it after reading the OP's article. Not obvious enough, apparently.

Yeah, like I mentioned, "There were cues which the author missed, but they were obviously not prominent enough which is a (the) design flaw." I focused more on the lessons to be learned but the situation is absolutely very sad for anyone who goes through something like this.

Glad you read the article though, now you're not going to fall for this flaw in the future.

> I thought it was quite obvious that files created on Google Drive with their document editor were not actually copied to your computer with the Google Drive program.

For a techie, perhaps. For a non-techie, that's something they're unlikely to have ever seen happen in their filesystem. Even if they opened it in Notepad, they'd probably not know the ramifications of what's shown there.

If they opened it in notepad they'd see a one-line URL, which is pretty obviously not the 5-page paper they typed. But I suppose many people wouldn't ever open it in anything other than the Drive interface, and I continue to agree it's not obvious enough for certain types of people.

A non-technical user would not think to open it in Notepad, and would likely assume the data is hidden from view but still there.

What cues did the author miss? Why would the author (or anyone) expect the file they JUST copied to their desktop to now suddenly be in the trash can?

Because Drive tells you so.

If I take real files (.doc, .cc, .py) in a folder on my computer and move them into my google drive folder on my computer, Google Drive syncs those files to the web. Now my real files exist, sync'd, in two places. My local disk and Google's disk.

If I take Google Doc files I have created in the browser and drag them from my google drive folder on my computer, into another folder, I get a file named the same as the document I had created that basically contains a URL. My gdoc files still only exist in the cloud. What I have in my hand is bupkis. So what are gdoc files? They certainly aren't real files and few people understand that they are worthless outside of the Google Drive folder.

No one expects this is how document dragging to or from folders works.

When dragging gdoc files out of a folder, there needs to be someway for Google Drive to give you the actual file from the cloud.

I feel really, really sorry for OP. However, since Google closed my adsense account without any serious reason, I learned not to trust them, so I keep backups of every service I have with them.

I'd recommend anyone who uses Google Docs to download a zip file of their Drive weekly, and if possible, use some of the backup tools like [Insync].

Overall, I agree that the Google Drive interface is not totally clear about what the disk files represent.

[Insync]: https://www.insynchq.com/

Would you say Insync is worth the $10 if I only have one Drive account that I want to back up? They do offer backups, right? Their site seems to advertise multiple account sync as its biggest feature.

Huh? If you remove the files from the copy of Google drive on your disk, they get removed on the web. It's one "drive." That's KIND OF THE WHOLE POINT. It's not poor user design.

That they go to the trash is good user design, to prevent users from doings things like this guy did...

No, the point is that if you see a bunch of ".gdoc" files on your computer, and you move them to another directory on your computer, you would reasonably expect that those files contain the document data, not that they're merely "pointers" to online data. That's "kind of the whole point", as you yell.

I agree that the user wasn't being super-careful, but it's entirely reasonable to think that, if Google docs appear on your local hard drive, that they are files that can be manipulated just like any others, and that copying/moving them to another folder would preserve their data.

The links thing is stupid, but it does tell you. http://i.imgur.com/ijTQTTq.png

Users can't read anything, and if they could, they wouldn't want to:


Yeah, I think it's disingenous that the OP didn't mention that warning message, or the screenshot.

I still feel bad for him - but the warning clearly says:

"An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved to your trash on drive.google.com.

This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted."

That screenshot really ought to be in the original link. Kinda changes how bad I feel about this.

Yeah, I don't get this part. The user moved the files from google drive to his local disk. Aren't the files therefore still on his local disk?

EDIT: re read article . Moving files into local disk deletes them on google drive and makes the moved versions useless links. Now agree with the author: that's goddamned terrible.

EDIT 2: actually the files are always links, but if the links are moved outside google drive the correspondi go data is moved into Google drive trash. See jamesaguilar below. Still goddamned terrible.

No, the files in your drive "look like" they are files, but they are actually just links. So him moving them to the local disk did not actually copy the files to local disk.

The real failure here is that you shouldn't be able to move the drive links out of the drive folder, since semantically that does not actually move the files.

(Filed a bug, but I'm not on the Drive team so I can't really take responsibility for this getting fixed. It does seem like a problem to me, but I don't know their infrastructure nor the limitations of shell extensions, so I can't really comment on whether a fix is feasible either.)

> The real failure here is that you shouldn't be able to move the drive links out of the drive folder, since semantically that does not actually move the files.

Or stop trying to force a connection between Google Drive's file view and Google Docs.

Move the links out of GDrive all you want, it should have no effect whatsoever on the hosted GDocs. They're just links, after all. Since when does moving or deleting a link delete actual data?

Someone at Google tried to force a connection that doesn't even make sense, and this is the result. Whoever decided that moving a link out of a folder should delete the hosted document should be fired.

Well said...

That's not how Google drive works: the gDocs "files" stored on your computer are not actually files, they're just links to files that are accessible on google drive. to test this you can turn off your router (or just disconnect from the internet) and then try opening a gDoc, you'll get a "cannot connect" error.

There is very little you can do about this, google is okay with it because there's no official offline gDocs viewer/editor so in their minds it doesn't make sense to fill up your harddrive with real files that can't even be accessed on your computer. Also they warn you that those files aren't real under certain circumstances (I've seen the warning before, though I don't remember the context).

It's interesting to see comments like this. The implementation is so awful that people literally do not believe it. They subconsciously dismiss what happened and come up with an alternative that makes sense.

"... the .gdoc files are just empty links with no data. I see a list of everything I wrote in Google Docs, but can never see the actual content again."

Google does not sync the data to you, just a tiny file with the same name as your data that bounces you to the website.

When you're moving a document off some drive, you expect a moved copy to work.

Except for the part when they tell you.


Heh, "tell you". The part that matters is in the secondary part of the alert and is only a single sentence. It's buried among all the other, less important stuff. And even then, "This item is just a link." is not very clear at all. Without already knowing how this stuff works, I can't say that I'd necessarily understand the meaning here.

What this alert needs to say is something like this:

WARNING: you have moved this file out of Google Drive WHICH HAS DELETED IT. The file that you moved does not contain your content. It is merely a link back to the original content WHICH IS NOW IN THE TRASH. EMPTYING YOUR TRASH WILL PERMANENTLY DELETE THE DATA AND THE FILE WHICH YOU MOVED DOES NOT CONTAIN A COPY OF IT.

They're destroying the user's data in a scenario where they would not expect it. A teeny little warning buried in an alert filled with other stuff simply does not cut it.

The fact that you need lots of DIRE CAPITALIZED TEXT to get the point across shows, I think, that this whole system is a bad idea.

If you work on client programs, you know or should know that users don't read. It's important to prevent them from easily doing dumb stuff (where a single "do dumb stuff anyway" button does not really count as sufficient deterrence -- because it's not dumb from the user's perspective, it's only "dumb" if you know the internals).

Well, if not clear to the users, then it isn't good UI -- even if it's obvious to you.

By this logic, you can trivially prove any UI to be a bad design. Find a single person who finds it unclear, and voila: the UI must be bad.

As blcknight alluded to, this rule is only relevant when the proportion of users for whom it is an issue is non-trivial.

Yes, we are in agreement. I did not say "one single user".

Regardless, I think it's pretty bad design. I would naturally expect a file named "My Document Name.gdoc" that's sitting in a folder on my desktop to actually contain the contents of my document. That's how files normally work. Doing otherwise goes against longstanding convention.

And most other people, I imagine.

Dropbox would work the same way. Although it might be permanent, but I've never tried something so ridiculous.

I think you missed the part when the original document is not a document, but a link/reference. There's no analogue in Dropbox.

Dropbox lets you recover a file if you've deleted it recently.

Even if the trashcan is emptied?

Even better: items that have been "deleted" don't count toward your storage limit, even if they are recoverable.

How can I restore a permanent deleted file? I can't find the option to do that

I don't think you can... I don't see an "empty trash" button anywhere though. You can't permanent-delete a file just by removing it from a folder on your computer. You have to log in to the website, right-click it, select "delete", click the trash icon at the top of the screen, right-click the file again and select "permanent delete". That's not even close to what happened to OP.

Well, the OP emptied the Google Drive trash can that it is the same than permanent deleting files on Dropbox.

The complaint is that Google Drive's UI is confusing, and can lead to unintentional data loss. Dropbox has a much better UI, and it's harder to lose data by accident.

Ah, yes, it is confusing for Google Docs files

But this is how EVERY DAMN cloud drive works.

It's how EVERY DRIVE in the history of computers work!

If I take my files out of my HD, they will be deleted from the HD. If I move my files out of my flash drive, they will be deleted from my flash drive.

The only way that I would be surprised by this behaviour is if I had never used a computer at all in my life.

But this is how EVERY DAMN cloud drive works.

No. No, it's not. I have experience with Google Drive, iDrive, SkyDrive and DropBox. The only oddball one that leads to losing data like this is Google Drive.

With SkyDrive, it works very similar to DropBox. Your cloud drive is just a folder on your disk, synched between multiple computers. If you move a file from your cloud drive to your local drive, it moves the actual file - not a pointer to it.

Google Drive is a terrible morass of confusing design. It's not an exaggeration to say they should shut down and start over.

Except when you copy files from your hd or flash drive, you except the copies in the new location to actually be files. That's how every drive I've ever used works. That's not how google drive works.

Turn of CAPS LOCK and read the article!

document.gdoc is not a file, you are mistaken

If he has the local copies of his documents from the local Google Drive sync, wouldn't he at least have that backup, or are the local files not really files at all but just pointers to the cloud storage files?

If it's the latter, does that mean that's it's literally impossible to make backups of your Google Docs documents? If I were to use a another backup program to backup my Google Drive folder, it wouldn't be possible to restore those files if the Google Drive files got deleted?

It looks like indeed it's the latter -- the .gdoc files are just pointers, and moving them out of the google drive is akin to copying the pointer/shortcut...

But, more than that, moving the .gdoc file pointer out of Google drive moves the actual cloud file to the trash? That was my best guess after re-reading the OP, and that does seem like a UX issue. From a UX point of view, moving a shortcut to a file should not move that file to the trash somewhere else.

No, it sounds like in his case, they were just pointers. I wonder, too, what happens around offline access.

"The steps I took were to move files out of a Goole Drive folder on my local computer thinking that the files were all there. In fact they are there, but the .gdoc files are just empty links with no data. I see a list of everything I wrote in Google Docs, but can never see the actual content again."

.gdoc don't actually store the document content. They are just small json files with a url and id that point the the actual document on google servers. There is no way to actually get a copy of the google document.

If files weren't completely deleted when the trash was emptied, then people would be kvetching about the horrible security implications and the only way to be sure was to keep files on the local disk so that when you emptied the trash, the files would be really gone....

This is surely true. It's also true that real world data loss is worse than nonsense internet flaming.

I think the arguments can be dumb too, but the guy actually lost files here. And it's the kind of mistake I could see myself making pretty easily. In other contexts you protect against this with non-local backups (ironically, that's probably 90% of my usage of Drive), but there's no equivalent in the cloud world. It's a real issue that needs to be addressed, I think.

Yeah, there are many back-up equivalents https://www.cloudhq.net https://mybackupbox.com/ https://mover.io/product/backups

And And those who lost their file will blame the UI. I understand the frustration and how terrible the poster feels but this anecdotal argument is irrelevant to the actual safety or UI quality of Google Drive.

There will always be users who lose their data due to glitches, technical illiteracy, bad design etc. There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of million Google Drive users.

The lesson that can be learned here is this: Your personal data management system should never have a single point of failure.

Disclaimer: I was a Googler sometime ago but wasn't anywhere near the Drive team.

Again though: the real issue I see here (not the giant UI rant or the Google is Evil nonsense) is that cloud-managed content like Google Docs cannot be backed up meaningfully. I think that's a real problem, and until it's fixed other people are going to be tripping over the same issues.

Yeah, I agree thats its not really intuitive but you can back up cloud managed content by converting it in various formats for export. https://www.google.com/settings/takeout/

I don't think the issue is emptying trash deletes the files. The issue is "moving" a file from Google Docs to the desktop, creates a link on the desktop, but moves the Google Docs file to the trash. You now have a link on your desktop to files in the trash. Why would anyone think this is a good thing, or what the user even wanted to do?

Ehhh, no. That's how dropbox works. If you delete a file it stays in the cloud for a month before it's fully deleted. You can use the web interface to do a proper delete, but the interface makes it clear what you are doing.

Not only that but dropbox keeps a few revisions for you if you happen to overwrite the file.

I've NEVER heard anyone complain about these features before.

As bad as I feel for the OP, you have to take responsibility instead of blaming Google. Seems like they do a good job of explaining when you empty the trash in Drive:

"Files in your trash are about to be permanently deleted, including Google Docs in your Trash. Warning: When using Google Drive for PC/Mac, Google Docs aren’t actual files saved on your hard drive; they are links to files stored online."

If you want a real backup of Google Docs, try Takeout: https://www.google.com/settings/takeout

It's just very unintuitive and it deviates from the popular and most accepted paradigm. I would think Google drive syncs your actual files, and that it would just choose Google Docs as its default editor.

Google Drive syncs actual files.

Google Docs, however, does not provide "actual files" with substantive content for its native documents, you have to export them to other formats to have "actual files".

The "poor user interface" gave me a dialog window with a warning and two buttons:

An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved to your trash on drive.google.com.

This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted.

"Ok, move to trash" "Undo"

None of which really spells out that the "file" you moved out of Google Drive doesn't actually contain anything useful. That's what "This item is just a link." is supposed to tell us, but that's just terrible wording. What exactly is "This item"? I work with files, not items. What is "just a link"? The only "link" I'm familiar with for files are symbolic links and hard links, and that doesn't apply here.

Google definitely jumped into Drive and Apps without putting any thought about privacy or recoverability into it whatsoever. There's a reason why they keep launching in beta - because they get an MVP out the door and then people start using it as if it's ready for production.

Further, everyone I know that uses Google Apps / Drive has no idea how to use it properly. One common thing I see is people will send a link to a particular document not knowing they've unwittingly given the person access to all of their documents. One person sent a link out to a spreadsheet that had a beach house signup in it. A couple of clicks in the unfamiliar user interface and I find myself looking at the filenames of all his docs - one of which was potentially very embarrassing. For his sake, I didn't mention it but only sent him an article later on about how to secure your Google Drive files.

> One common thing I see is people will send a link to a particular document not knowing they've unwittingly given the person access to all of their documents

What? Share links for documents are just a link to that document no to the folders where they are

Everyone hates making backups. Everyone loves them when something happens.

There are many free online data storage systems. If you're happy with the privacy implications, it's not hard to run Google Drive, Dropbox and box.net on the same directory for some degree of resilience.

Note that this wouldn't have helped him in this case. The .gdoc files are only "links" to the online version, which he deleted from the online interface, while clearing the trash.

Backuping them over Dropbox/Box/Skydrive/* would have been useless, as he still has those .gdoc files anyway. To actually get a backup, he would have saved the files as .doc/.pdf/any other classic format from Google Docs.

I'm not saying that backups are useless, mind you - Only that they wouldn't have helped in this specific case.

You might be missing the point. How was he supposed to back up a .gdoc file? In fact he did, it's just when he put the file back it was deleted.

Google Drive gives you this fake file pointer that it wants you to think is a document, but then when you try to use it as such (backup and restore), you find out the files actually got deleted.

This is a case of shitty UI, plain and simple.

You can't make backups of gdoc files, the content is never stored locally, it's only on googles servers.

It's not possible to schedule an occasional job that copies everything from Google's services to a local hard disk?

Can you explain how that would have helped him at all? Backing up gdoc files is useless if the underlying file in the cloud has been deleted.

Because the backup should have been of the documents, not the gdoc files.

While this is a good strategy for real files, the .gdoc files in your Google Drive folder are nothing but links to web files. They contain no real data.

There's a marketing opportunity here for Dropbox. "Dropbox, we sync all your files, not just the links to them."

Drive syncs all your files, too.

The various Google Docs, etc., web apps only put links to the real content in Drive, however.

Any file that you created with a method that would let you store it in Dropbox will be synced the same way in Drive as it would be in Dropbox, the only difference is web apps that are tied to the Drive UI that don't store their substantive content in Drive in the first place, which obviously Dropbox won't help with. (Conceptually, you could have web apps that do the same thing in Dropbox, though I don't know if the Dropbox API and Web UI have features that would make it attractive to do.)

Honestly dude, I always check my recycle bin before emptying it for this exact reason: I never know what I accidentally put in there, and I will almost never do a full delete, I'll go in there and remove things in groups.

Yes, if you have no backups, and never restore from your backups, and just rely on a free service keeping all your things for you for all time, things might go awry.

I don't know of any backup service that doesn't work this way unless you explicitly tell it otherwise (e.g. a "Never Delete" option).

No backup service in the history of the universe gives you non-working local "files" that are just links back to the cloud when you attempt to copy a file to your computer.

The problem is not that Drive deleted his stuff on Google. The problem is that Drive deleted his stuff on Google after taking an action that should have left him with local copies of the data, but didn't.

I get it, it sucks that this happened. But does that make Google Drive "suck"? The author himself states he has used it since the service started - that's what, 6 years? I agree that what happened was unfortunate, but it's a bit immature to go around badmouthing the entire product because of this. It's not like this happens everyday for every single user.

Google Drive started in April 2012. It's been a year and a half, approximately, not 6 years.

He mentions using Google Docs from the start, which eventually became Drive.

The problem he encountered is part of Drive, not Docs.

gDocs has been around for a lot longer

They try to warn you, but the warning message doesn't make any sense, unless you already know what it's trying to say.

   "An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved
   to your trash on drive.google.com.

   This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on
   drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted."
See how the meaning of the phrase "this item" actually changes from one sentence to the next?

You can't actually write a decent warning message, because if you did, it would sound so ridiculous, you would never actually be able to live with it.

   We noticed some files have been removed from your Google
   Drive folder.

   We can't tell the difference between you moving files
   from your Google Drive folder to another folder on your
   hard drive, and you simply deleting files from your
   Google Drive folder.

   We're going to guess that you performed a delete, and so
   we've also moved the actual document, which is stored in
   the cloud, to your Trash folder on drive.google.com.

   If you actually moved files out of your Google Drive
   folder to another folder on your hard drive, you might
   think that file you have on your computer is a copy of
   the source material. Alas, it is not.

   Please understand that file you may have on your
   computer right now is just a link to the item in the
   cloud, which is currently sitting in the Trash. You
   DO NOT actually have a copy of item itself on your hard

   If you empty your trash in the cloud, you will be
   permanently deleting the only copy in existence of this

Make it as as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Conflating hyperlinks with the actual content to the point where deleting the hyperlink causes the content to move to the trash is nonsensical.

Yes, sure, but that's not a reason for me to not use Google Drive. In fact, the "Empty Trash" in Google Drive has a similar prompt [0]; how many clues does this guy need? I have not seen a filesystem do better, so we're all ears on this magical UX that doesn't involve alerts for destructive actions. Evil Google!

[0] Empty Trash? Files in your trash are about to be permanently deleted, including Google Docs in your Trash. Warning: When using Google Drive for PC/Mac, Google Docs aren’t actual files saved on your hard drive; they are links to files stored online. Learn more You can’t undo this action

There is an export feature, which allows you to export "all" your data you have stored on Google's server incl. Google Docs (which will be exported to Word, Excel, PowerPoint formats, respectively). In your account settings there you can find "Download your data".

Doing regular backups even of your data in the cloud is in my opinion a crucial action, since everyone trusts fully into the cloud provider to provide his data always, anywhere and forever, which is - as you experienced - a dangerous and naive assumption.

Man, I don't know. I feel for this guy, but not every computing tragedy is the software's fault. The author never says what he expected would happen when he moved stuff out of the Google drive.

I learned along the way never to make assumptions about how file syncing works. There's no right answer to what to do in all situations, so your expectations aren't always going to match what the programmer/product owner decided to do.

Virtually everyone would expect that, when moving stuff out of Google Drive, the stuff you moved would actually contain stuff.

There's literally no precedent for any other way. You move a file, and the file you moved still contains the same thing. That's how it works everywhere, including with all other file syncing services.

Remote volumes are not new. They don't replace backups.

As the author said: "I didn't think anything of it". Nothing to add :)

Wow, I'm amazed by the number of comments written by people who apparently use Google Drive without having researched backup solutions. Interesting. Here are my notes on the subject:


Well, he deleted years' worth of Google Docs files because of a poor user interface, but he lost the Google Docs files because of an irresponsible backup policy.

Sad, to be sure, but there's no kind of critical document storage that doesn't need a backup.

But there is no way to backup Google Docs files, is there?

What exactly was the "responsible" backup policy supposed to have been?

Something like https://code.google.com/p/gdocbackup/ combined with another backup (on physical media or in the cloud).

I disagree with this. It sounds like he had the reasonable expectation that the files WERE backed up, living both locally and on Google's servers. He might have even thought he was testing his backups by opening one of the local "files" after he moved them.

> he had the reasonable expectation that the files WERE backed up

All of my .gdoc and .gsheet files were 4 KB when I last used the Google Drive desktop client. How is it reasonable to conclude that all of one's Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets are 4 KB each? I could definitely understand how my mom might arrive at this conclusion, but this guy identifies as a "web designer and developer".

Why didn't the user backup all their Docs using Google Docs built in "Convert and Download All" tool? http://i.imgur.com/AnOAIw9.png

I wrote a followup Medium post on the implications of Google's interface design: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6608719

We've become so heavily dependent on Google, it is kind of sad that the author's email (listed at the end) is a gmail.com address.

Came here to say the same thing. It takes the piss out of his argument.

Google Drive does that Dropbox does that Skydrive does that

All of them have poor user interfaces?

He's not talking about general files but rather gDocs, which Dropbox and Skydrive don't really have an equivalent of.


The first three are only links (or pointers) the last one is an actual file. When you remove the first three from the gDrive folder Google will actually move those documents to the trash and your link becomes kinda useless, when you move the last one from the gDrive folder Google still moves the file to your trash (in gDrive) but because it's a real file, you still have it. Google does this because they don't offer a true offline viewer/editor and thus it makes no sense (to them) to take up offline space.

With dropbox all files are considered real and therefore when you remove them from dropbox you retain the file even if it's no longer synced.

While skydrive has office docs, they too are stored as real files on your computer and thus if you remove them from the skydrive folder you get to keep the file even if it's moved to the rB in skydrive.

note: (in the screenshot) those check-marks might be skydrive check-marks and not google's, this is because my gDrive folder is inside my skydrive folder for redundancy -- it still wont sync gDocs, but since I don't really use gDocs I'm okay.

I have a Skydrive synced folder on my computer. Files I put in there are copied to Skydrive. If I remove a file from that folder, it is still a physical file on my computer. Google drive local "files" do not contain your data. I don't know about Dropbox.

> Google drive local "files" do not contain your data.

Google Drive local files do, in fact, contain your data, for any files that you put into Drive.

The issue is that the native files for certain web services that use the Drive interface (including Google's own Documents, Spreadsheets, etc.) are just links to content stored with the web service, not containers for the content itself.

Dropbox does not do that. I can't speak for SkyDrive.

If you move a file out of the Dropbox folder it is deleted from Dropbox

Yes, but you have a copy of the actual file, not a hollow reference to the the deleted version on Dropbox's servers. You can also recover the file via Dropbox's version interface.

Yap, like Google Drive or Skydrive.

The problem is just with Google Docs files

The problem is that Drive and Docs are no longer different products and what used to be Docs appear as "files" in your Drive.

He should have kept a backup. Possibly some sort of cloud backup system.

which is why I have a hazel rule that copies any document that is added to my linked cloud drive folder to a NAS

File a FOIA request and get your data back from the NSA.

Is this a thing?

Yes, but it's really not a great idea. It takes away resources that could be used to answer FOIA requests that might actually result in responsive documents.

if the files were ever synced to your computer, you might be able to recover them using software that can undelete files. Personally, I'd just use dropbox ... it's dead simple.

Did you read the article?

Google drive doesn't actually sync files, just links.

Drive actually syncs files.

The Google Docs (and Spreadsheets/Forms/etc.) native files are, however, links to online resources that are manipulated via an API, not document files in the usual sense.

So, let me get this straight. You moved everything to Google Drive, not keeping a local copy. Then you emptied the trash. And you didn't have a backup of your documents, but instead decided to leave everything in the cloud. Then, when something goes wrong, you blame Google. Am I understanding correctly?

Nope, not understanding it at all. He moved files out of his google drive, but the files aren't files, just links to the cloud. So even though he still has the files, they have no data in them.

But, still no backup? Files only exist in Google Drive, and no where else?

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