05
Feb
google
Last Updated: March 29th, 2013

The following is a guest post and an open letter to Google from Simply Applied, the makers of apps Sign and CritiCall. It was written by Chris H and Peter V, the developers on the Simply Applied team.

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To put it plainly, Google’s Developer Support is awful. It’s entirely faceless, avoiding human contact like a recluse living under Uluru in the Australian Outback – its almost enough to long for the days of, “Press 1 for Billing” phone menus. “Developer Support” relies almost entirely on you helping yourself and if something goes wrong in the process you’re forced into a near insanity-inducing endless cycle of self-help. Our company experienced the worst of it in a recent incident involving the Content Maturity Rating of one of our apps, Sign - don’t get too excited, there’s no nudity in our apps. Names haven’t been changed to protect the innocent because Google’s Developer Support is a crime.

Google, at its heart, is an information and advertising company. Neither really lends itself to providing customer support, and a quick search of the internet will show a relatively low level of satisfaction with people who have attempted to resolve issues using Google’s so-called support. This is in contrast with people’s relatively positive experience with using Google’s products and services.

Google relies heavily on automated self-service – an extremely low price customer service option that can handle quick and easy questions and problems relatively well. Think of it as an advanced FAQ with specific instructions. The problem that has arisen in the last couple years is that Google has greatly expanded its products and services, increased its user base (especially with Android), and moved into hardware sales with its Nexus line of products. Despite this shift in corporate strategy, Google continues to rely on a relatively outdated method for providing customer support to increasing levels of customer dissatisfaction.

Even more concerning is that Google’s Android, which is dramatically gaining market share around the world as the mobile OS of choice, is heavily reliant on a vibrant developer community which helps drive interest in the Android ecosystem. Though these developers are vital to the success of Android, Google relies on the same self-help approach for supporting its developers. As our company’s recent experience highlights, this is woefully inadequate. Google needs to make significant changes in its approach to both customer and Developer support.

Google used to have a forum for Developer Support which at least offered the opportunity that a Google staffer would read your comment or question and respond. However, Google ended the Android Developer Support Forums in late-2011. Google has since created an Android Developer Group in Google Groups; however, the focus of that Group is to “Discuss developing Android applications using the Android SDK. Get help with troubleshooting apps, advice on implementation, and strategies for improving your app's speed and user experience.”

To the extent that a developer has an issue with non-technical, app distribution, or Developer Console issues, there are links directing to Google’s developer pages, which provide information about developing apps for Android, but do not readily appear to provide any developer support. Having submitted questions on the old Google Forums without receiving any response, this is not what I would consider as “support.” Further, almost all replies appear to be by other developers, so instead of providing actual support, Google is creating more work for developers by having them resolve other developer’s problems. A clever solution, but not actual support.

While this article focuses on Google’s developer support, many of the same frustrations apply for Google’s customer support. I’ve suggested some ways Google’s Developer Support can help itself later in this article. Google should consider implementing these suggestions for both its Developer Support and regular Customer Support.

The Situation

A little while ago our company received the following notice from The Google Play Team stating that Google changed the content settings for our apps Sign to “Medium Maturity”.

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Email Screenshot - January 14, 2013

With that, Google unilaterally changed the content settings from an “Everyone” rating to “Medium Maturity” and even removed the option to change the rating back in our Developer Console.

It is important to note the following frustrating points about the situation:

  • We were never informed that our app content was under review;
  • We were not given any specific information about why the unilateral change was made (beyond the general information provided in this email); and
  • We were not given an opportunity to respond or reply to the change before it was made live in the Play Store.

Although Google has every right to do this (making this change without providing advance notice to the developer) under the terms of service that developers have to agree to, that doesn’t make it the right approach. Our app is essentially a speed dial app, among many other speed dial apps in the Play Store. Certainly you could set one of speed dial gestures to call your favorite 1-900 “contact,” but I’m pretty sure that isn’t why Google changed the Content Rating on our app. The change was likely made due to some sort of algorithm in place that automatically evaluated the permissions and description of the app. Regardless, our speed dial app now has the same content rating as apps containing hate, sexual content, and violence – a situation which could definitely impact our ability to sell the app and at the very least limits our potential customer base.

Developer Support – An Exercise in Self Help

So we immediately set about trying to correct this issue and stepped into Google’s world of Developer Support. The Developer Support page is basically a “self-help” page which provides a lot of links to information relating to common issues. In and of itself, this is not a problem. Certainly a large portion of the inquiries that Developer Support gets relate to these common issues and it would be a waste of resources to attempt all of these issues personally. The problem with the Developer Support (or lack thereof) is that it fails miserably when the issue you’re trying to resolve doesn’t fall cleanly into one of the four (yes four, as in 4) issues that Google actually lets developers contact them about. We’ll get to that later.

While this article focuses on the specific issue we have been dealing with, it applies to any issue that Google has not pre-determined it supports via e-mail. There is no option for any other method of contact, e.g., chat line, Google Talk, phone number, etc. After detailing what’s wrong with Google’s Developer Support and the frustrations with trying to resolve an “unsupported” issue, we’ll have five (5) suggestions for how Google Support can be improved.

Developer Support – Let Me Let You Help Yourself with That

There are apparently two main Developer Support home pages for Google’s Developer Support: Developer Support Resources and Google Play Support for Developers. I say “apparently” because after navigating around Developer Support, you’ll find much of the information to be repetitive, and therefore doesn’t flow intuitively. You’ll notice quite a few similarities between the information provided on the two pages – so why two separate pages?

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Developer Support Resources, Website Screenshot – January 24, 2012

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Google Play Support for Developers, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

Since I was looking primarily for Google Play Support, I started with Google Play Support for Developers. Under Contact Us, there is a brief description which reads, “Need to contact our support team? For our registered Google Play developers, we provide Email Support for the following issues:”. It then lists the six (6) specific issues for which Google apparently provides email support, none of which addressed the specific issue we were faced with.

So I looked at the next best options available: the Help Center listed at the top, and the Contacting Support link in the Help Resources menu on the right. The Contacting Support link doesn’t actually contact support or even take you to a page describing how you can contact support. Instead, it simply reloads the exact same Google Play Support for Developers page you are already on. So I tried the Help Center – “The fastest way to find answers….” So I tracked down the “Help” page, shown below.

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Google Play for Developers Help Center Page, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

The Help Center is essentially the same information as the Google Play for Developer Support page with a different layout and several additional links for self-help options. The Contacting Support link under Additional Resources simply takes you back to the initial Google Play Support for Developers page. Not seeing our issue under the “Fix an Issue” menu, and not seeing further options for contacting support, I looked at the Google Play Developer Content Policies which provided a summary of the content guidelines and this gem.

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Publishing and Distribution Issues, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

Wouldn’t you expect to find a link for “contact us”? Confused? So was I, and despite clicking through pretty much every link available, I wasn’t able to locate any other ways to contact Google than through the Contact Us options provided on the first page – which is limited to six (6) specific items.

The six (6) issues Google will let you “contact” them about are:

  1. Registration or Account Issues
  2. Publishing and Distribution Issues
  3. Bugs in the Developer Console
  4. Report an inappropriate app (wait, is this a Developer issue?)
  5. Report an inappropriate developer reply (definitely not a Developer issue)
  6. Publisher Application Removals

So out of the six (6) issues listed, only four (4) really address developer-related issues. Clicking on any of those six (6) items takes you directly to a form to fill out to contact Google specifically about that issue.

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Report Inappropriate Developer Reply, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

Notice that while in the “Google Play for Developers > Help home > Contacting Support” page, it states, “This form is for Google Play users….” This seems inconsistent at best. There is a link to click if you are a developer and that link takes you directly back to the Help Center page where you can kindly go help yourself, or something like that.

So Google’s Support for Developers Page is somewhat confusing, redundant, and contains circular links which basically redirect you to the same two main Help pages (Google Support for Developers and Help Center) which provide a litany of pre-determined issues Google is happy to let you fix yourself. Oh, and it also has four very specific and limited developer issues which Google is willing to support through email. That’s it - there are no other contact options.

The Runaround

Stuck, I finally decided to fill out one of the Fix an Issue forms and selected the most general form I could find, hoping that in describing the issue, I could reach someone at Google who could point me in the right direction. Thinking “Publishing and Distribution Issues” was relatively general, I was greeted with the following.

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Publishing and Distribution Issues, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

I’m not trying to “Report an Issue,” I’m “contacting customer support,” just like it says in the header. “Reporting an issue” doesn’t provide much confidence that Google is even going to respond. Obviously not wanting to be disturbed by developer problems, they also clearly include a link to check out Known Issues that they suggest you visit “before submitting an inquiry.” Then, confirming my fears, they kindly inform you that they probably will not be contacting you about the issue unless they need something or “have additional information to share.” Again, I’m contacting customer support to fix a specific issue I’m having. “We might get back to you” isn’t support.

Regardless, I filled out the form, including selecting an “Issue Type” which I was not only required to fill out in order to submit the form, but which further limited the types of issues Google’s Developer Support was willing to handle.

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Publishing and Distribution Issues, Website Screenshot - January 14, 2013

Finding no suitable option and not having the ability to select “Other,” or opt out of selecting an option, I chose a general category and proceeded to write a very detailed description of the email I received concerning the Content Rating change, why I felt the change was incorrect, and provided my contact information (both email and a phone number) where I could be reached.

To my shock, shortly after submitting my request, I actually received a quick reply from [email protected]Re: [0-5868000000389] Your message about Google Play

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Email Screenshots - January 14, 2013

As you may have guessed, [email protected] isn’t a real person and the response was clearly an automated response email providing several additional ways I could help myself. Luckily the bottom of the email also stated, “If the above suggestions are unsuccessful, please reply directly to this message with additional information that will help us troubleshoot your inquiry.

Now we’re getting somewhere – so I immediately replied to the email and pasted in the exact same explanation I had provided in the form, noting that my issue was different than what the form indicated because there were no other options provided.

Even more shocking, I actually received a response from The Google Play Team within 30 minutes - to a completely different issue. It also included a link back to the “Help Center,” and explained that I could reply directly to the email notifying me that my application had been removed from Google Play.

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Email Screenshot - January 14, 2013

I had not received a notice that my application had been removed from Google Play, and the Content Rating change email I did receive did not state that I could reply to that email if I wished to appeal the decision. Further, nowhere in the information in the Help Center did it state that I could reply to the email I received or appeal the decision.

So I took a shot and replied to both the original Content Rating change email I received and the email from the Google Play Team regarding appealing an application which had been removed, figuring that at the very least I appeared to be communicating with someone at Google about my issue even if they were ignoring what I was saying.

Since replying to both of those emails, I have heard nothing back from Google, The Google Play Team, or even [email protected] I did get an email from [email protected] which thanked me “for contacting Google Play Android Developer Support,” which was nice, but otherwise unhelpful.

I have not heard anything in over 3 weeks, since those fleeting moments of interaction with The Google Play Team. I have submitted a couple other forms in the Help Center in the hopes of having better luck with another member of The Google Play Team, without success.

The Takeaway

As anyone who has experienced something similar, as I’m sure many developers have, the process is extremely frustrating and leaves you feeling powerless to support your product or application. This isn’t Developer Support; this is getting the runaround. Developers deserve better. Android is the most successful OS in the world and a big reason for that success is due to the developers who create apps which enhance the user experience with their Android device. As it stands now, Google’s Developer support primarily consists of the developer fixing their own problems on their own and wasting a lot of unnecessary time in doing so.

As my experience shows, the options for contacting Google are very limited and unhelpful “form email” responses to submitted queries appear to be the norm. There is no reason that the Google Play Team can’t actually provide “Help” to the developers who have played a significant role in Android’s success. This impacts users too. While the issue we are dealing with may be relatively minor, other developers probably have even more significant issues that they have struggled to get resolved. This is a waste of the developer’s time and resources both of which would be much better spent actually improving the application itself instead of receiving an administrative runaround.

Google needs to change its approach.

Let’s Turn the Tables - How Google Developer Support Can Help Itself

So what can Google do? The following suggestions to Google would get things going in the right direction.

  1. Restructure Developer Support - The Developer Support page(s) need to be solely dedicated to developer issues and not intermixed with user concerns or user issues.
  2. Fix the Main Developer Support Page - The main Developer Support page needs to be simplified and consolidate the Self Help functions into a single description instead of giving the illusion of many different help options which are actually all the same.
  3. Invite Communication and Feedback – the Contact Us options need to be expanded beyond email contact only - Google is a large company has plenty of resources to provide adequate chat and phone support.
  4. Improve Responsiveness – after the initial contact from a Google employee, we’ve received no other information or contact about the reported issue. - Google has the resources to staff a proper customer service center to assist its developers.
  5. Embrace Customer Service – it’s a great opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression that makes users and developers want to continue to use Google’s products and services and support them through continued development of applications.

Developers AND users need to put pressure on Google to improve its Developer Support services. Everyone would benefit from the results.

Oh, and if we ever get a resolution to our Content Rating problem, I’ll be sure to pat myself on the back for a job well done and congratulate myself, “Thanks Google Developer Support!”

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • qbking77

    Well said

    • http://www.facebook.com/amishcrusader Shane Capuano

      Sup qbking77 :) I'm going to piggyback on your comment and correct a word from the article, is that cool? ALRIGHT.

      4) Improve Responsiveness – after the initial **contacmt** from a Google employee, we’ve received no other information

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Fixed, thanks.

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    There's a lot Google can do... with the amount of money they make it they should have the worlds best customer support... instead they have the worst customer support, not just for Android developers but for ALL Google services (apart from their Nexus phone customer support on the phone which is ace)

  • squiddy20

    Wasn't the main issue with the Nexus One the lack of support? Seems they haven't learned to apply what they learn from one area, to another...

    On another note, a few months back I contacted Google Play's support for what I perceived to be an error in a song (obviously not "Developer Support", but still in the same vein as "support"). A little over a *week* after I first contacted them, I got a response by someone who seemed to actually be human. Very stiff and formal and somewhat helpful, but still lacking. It shouldn't take more than a few days to get back to a customer, Developer or not, let alone the 3 weeks you've experienced.

    • ChrisLH

      Google's support failures aren't limited to developers, for sure. Hopefully they get enough pressure to actually change things because its pretty embarrassing that a company with the resources Google has can't provide better support to its customers and developers.

      Also, about 8 months ago, AP had this article about letting developers reply to comments on their apps. [URL]http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/06/21/like-a-boss-google-play-store-now-allows-developers-to-reply-to-reviews-2/[/URL]

      They still haven't expanded this ability to any developers who aren't considered "Top" developers. Again, this is a customer service concern - as a developer, I should be able to interact with customers who have a problem with my app. These negative comments are typically for issues that are 1) very easily fixed 2) outside of the developer's control, or 3) legitimate issues. In any of the three cases it would be very nice to be able to respond accordingly so that other users can verify that the developer is actively supporting the application. If a dev decides to act inappropriately, then the user can see that as well and decide if they want to support that developer by downloading their app.

      Also, negative comments and ratings have a disproportionate impact on smaller developers who rely on ratings and comments to gain traction for their apps in the Play Store.

      Thanks for the comments!

  • http://pandu.poluan.info pepoluan

    It gets worse. Have you heard about the "Moon+ Reader" app that got booted out of the store thanks to one dubious complaint? http://www.google.com/search?q=moon%2B+reader+google+play&hl=en&safe=off&client=ms-opera-mobile&channel=new&tbm=nws&tbo=u&sa=X&as_q=&spell=1

  • armshouse

    You actually get good service if you use and pay for Google apps. Surely app developers are also making money for Google and so should be treated with the same level of service

    • omegavesko

      I agree. I've heard Google's paid services (specifically AdWords) have great support. This should definitely be expanded to developers as well, especially ones who maintain paid apps.

  • David

    The developer support really is terrible. One of my apps was suspended for violating part of one of their agreements. The email said I could reupload the app if I fixed the problem, but didn't actually tell me what the issue was. It also said I could reply to the email to appeal the suspension.

    I tried replying the same day, asking if they could tell me what the issue was so I could fix it. This was over a year ago, and despite emailing several more times over the next couple of months, and trying the form mentioned in this post, I've heard nothing at all from them. I even managed to find a general Google phone number, but while the woman who answered was friendly enough, she could only suggest emailing again as there was no phone support for Android.

    Luckily, the app was very small, and not something major, but it still left me with an extremely bad impression. If they are just going to ignore any attempts to contact them, why even bother saying you can contact them?

    • ChrisLH

      Wow, that really sucks. Sorry to hear about your app. Regardless of the size of the app, it still takes time and effort on your part to put it together and release it in the Play Store and its unacceptable to have that lack of response.

      Luckily the issue we're faced with isn't nearly as severe, but its still a concern.

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Since we're posting stories here, I'll tell mine. One of apps that I've published, called OpenTTD, got removed from Google Play, and I've got lawyeresque email with lot of headers and just three words of sensible text: Transport Tycoon Deluxe. So, i've replied to Google support with a counter-claim, stating that OpenTTD is a complete open-source remake, has no content from the Transport Tycoon Deluxe, the opposing party cannot claim any rights to OpenTTD, bla bla bla. I've got reply in several days, that my counterclaim was forwarded to the opposing party, and that they have to bring it to court in two weeks, if they want to insist on their claim. In two weeks the app got restored on Google Play. Also there was a bit of drama on OpenTTD forums. That's all to this story.

  • FrillArtist

    What I don't understand is that Google makes billions and billions of dollars that it throws on frivolous projects like their self driving car and all that. How much would it cost to set up a proper customer and developer support department. You know, like other major corporations? What a joke.

    • Greg Sanders

      The self-driving car is *NOT* frivolous. Huge profits to be made.

      Anyways, the point is they probably ran the numbers, and realized they could run the #1 OS with basically no developer support. Might change someday, but I wouldn't bet on that unless there are financial reasons to do so.

      • FrillArtist

        In the grand scheme of things, it IS frivolous. You can't sell products and services then proceed to ignore customers because there are huge profits to be made elsewhere. If money is so tight that they can't afford a proper customer service department, cut money on developing future products and direct them to providing actual support for products and services you sold to your customers. However, we all know money isn't tight at Google so why can't they set up a proper customer service department? Besides, what is the guarantee that customers will get support for their self driving cars? Lol.

  • http://k3rnel.net Juan Rodriguez

    It's not just Google / Android Devs that get the shaft. I was kicked out of Adsense for some nonsense reason, and the appeals were all made by some robot. I kept getting the exact same response with no way to reach a human. After a while I just gave up.

    As for devs... Andrew Neal (The dev of Apollo Music Player), received a C&D from the a-holes at musixmatch back in November. It's february and he still hasn't been able to get his app reinstated.

  • Matthew Fry

    I know this is re: developer support issues but I just want to say how disappointed I've been in Google with regard to the Nexus 10 and their inability to even acknowledge there is a problem with Jelly Bean. The Nexus 10 shipped out in November and here we are in February and not only is it not fixed, Google will not even say they know the problem exists. Someone posted his crash log on the Google forums. 38 crashes in 28 days. I've been running AOKP for the last week and a half and the only time it has crashed is when I downloaded, installed, and ran Chrome.

    The only reason they get away with this stuff is because we are all a bunch of chump change. My Nexus 10 cost 400 dollars. Your app makes 5000 dollars. You are not worth the effort to support. Google has been about 1 for the last 10 things they've done. Google+, Wave, 4.2, 4.1, Drive, Currents, Nexus One, Nexus 4, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 10, Nexus Q, Chrome OS, Google Music. They're all getting better but... they're starting to feel like Microsoft except Microsoft products generally are just buggy when released. Google's latest stuff doesn't even work.

  • ChrisLH

    Maybe its worth setting up an online petition - If enough developers sign it, maybe Google will take notice. I'll start one if someone will recommend a good online petition website. The only one I'm familiar with is change.org if anyone has any other suggestions.

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    while not a developer, i concur with the 'absence' of meaningful support from Google.
    I have an issue created by the ridiculous two level security that they initialized (and are now very vocal about scrapping), and after following the obscure, meandering instructions for solving the issue, i find they don't work, and there appears to be no option, or way to actually contact a living being; or even a robot (probably preferable). I am beginning to dream about the advent of UbuntuMobile; looks good on a Nexus!

  • http://twitter.com/mrjayviper Jayel Villamin

    contacted google about some apps I was having problem installing. tooks almost a week for initial response. When I had the same problem on iOS, reply are next day or the day after! Google is run by nerds who doesn't know the meaning of proper customer support. they just want to put out programs out there.

  • Andy S

    I hope for the benefit of the developers, users and the android eco system in general that some google employee actually sees this and starts some kind of ball rolling. Android would be nothing without the devs. See how long you can use a google device without using non-google created software. root, roms, most apps, themes, tweaks, temporary bug fixes(example being the chainfire app that temporarily sealed the holes in the exynos kernels which took samsung like 2 weeks to fix properly) , the list goes on and on

    As for the one typo, considering the length of the article i'd say he did pretty well and certainly still got the point across

    also.... where do we set our play market options to high maturity? :D

    • ChrisLH

      In my defense, the original article as written didn't have a typo, but in the back and forth editing process obviously an inadvertent key was pushed. I take full responsibility for it and thanks to Shane for pointing it out and Artem for fixing it.

      I'm with you in hoping that somebody at Google picks up on this and initiates some changes.

    • Guest

      "where you can kindly go help yourself, or something like that". gem of the article. ;) ;)

  • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

    I was fuming throughout reading this article as it reminded me of some 3-4 times I faced 'Play store dev support'. I'll share the most recent story -

    I had made a Ubuntu theme for android. Named it "Ubuntu theme - UCCW Skins". It had uccw widget skins and a tutorial which instructed users on how to use the widgets to make your android device look like the ubuntu OS. And I had added a "TRADEMARK" text in the description saying "Ubuntu is registered trademarks of Canonical Ltd.This app is not affiliated with or endorsed by Canonical Ltd". Lot of people liked and installed it. Then after 10 or so days, Google pulled it down claiming "IP violation" and "impersonation".

    1. I've received the same suspension mail for my 2 other apps before; so I knew replying to this mail is totally useless. I guess they have a "auto-forward to trash" for mails received at [email protected] . I never got ANY response whatsoever after replying to their suspension mail.

    2. How did my app commit "IP violation" and "impersonation"? Search for "Ubuntu theme" in play store and you'll see several apps which are using the official Ubuntu logo as their app icon..!! Those are fine...??

    3. I lost all the ratings. Publicity and marketing done for those apps is total waste now. I had to rebuild the app, change the name, redraw the graphics and do the promotions from square one.

    4. All the users who had bought it, can no longer see it / download it again from play store. Hence they feel cheated/scammed.

    In the least, google should do this -
    1. Scan the app and description/graphics for any possible violation at the time of first upload itself. Take time to make it live in play store; no issues. But don't make it live, popular and then yank it. Developers lose credibility.
    2. If that can't be done, at least mail the developer BEFORE suspending the app. Tell them so n so thing in the app is violating so n so policy. "fix these or we'll suspend the app in 24-48 hours" (or any time duration they see fit).
    3. And make reaching a human for support easy. The article didn't explicitly call it, I'll do it. Play store developer support is total BS. It's mirage.

  • donrhummy

    Artem, if you create a website where we can all sign our agreement and give us a way to contact google about this, I'll sign it.

    • ChrisLH

      I tried to start an online petition last night on Change.org but the website was having some issues and kept telling me to try again later. I'll try to set it up this morning and post a link.

    • ChrisLH

      Included a link to an online petition above.

  • fredd

    I thought about developing for Android but reading this I start to consider Ubuntu and Apple. And I don't like Apple too much. But I also don't want to live in a novel by Kafka

  • ChrisLH

    Link to the online petition I set up. Please pass this along to any developers you know.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/google-s-android-developer-support-improve-developer-support-and-provide-chat-phone-support-for-developers

    Artem - maybe we can include the petition at the bottom of the article?

  • Floss

    I have generally found their feedback to be extremely delayed. I remember at one my point my app got taken off the market with no explanation given, and after waiting about 3 weeks I finally just republished under a different name. After about 5 weeks they finally got back to me and republished it. After over a month though you lose all steam you may have gained with an app though, making it completely worthless to me.

  • ArtV

    The apparent takeaway here is not developer support, but not getting caught in an administrative cycle where your app is subject to re-rating or removal. I don't think it's fair to lump in "support" as I understand it, and the apparently purposefully opaque process for those in the policy violation loop. I'd imagine these guys deal with a lot of shit hourly, so I'm inclined to cut them a break if they don't put a re-rating above the other things they have to tackle like malware or emails from developers of actual banned apps.

    Granted, the above doesn't solve for cases where an app has their content rating mistakenly overridden. That said, the email that they sent seems straight forward. Your app was re-rated due to some apparent social networking component of it. The money question is; Is this true or not? http://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/188189?hl=en

    If so, you had your answer, and they don't seem inclined to entertain an appeal. That seems like their only crime. Putting an "and we don't give a shit, contact us only if your app gets suspended" at the bottom of the email.

  • Reece Dunn

    I've had a similar experience with my port of eSpeak to the Android platform. The application supports over 80 languages and accents via text-to-speech, so I listed them. I was then told that my description was spam and had 7 days to remove it or have my application removed.

    I contacted support and after a similar process to you was told to "see the spam notification email for proper appeal process", but that email did not have such an appeals process. Instead, it mentioned:

    1. Do not post repetitive content.
    2. Product descriptions should not be misleading or loaded with keywords in an attempt to manipulate ranking or relevancy in the store’s search results.

    But (1) the content was not repeated, (2) the description was not misleading and (3) the list of languages was relevant to the application.

    The email also did not mention what it considered spam in the description. Fortunately, that was the only change I made so I could infer that this was what was considered spam and removed them.

    The SwiftKey application has a similar list in its description (listing all languages it supports as input), but that description is not marked as spam. I contacted developer support again to ask for clarification on why my description was marked as spam but SwiftKey was not -- I was met with defaning silence.

    I suspect that the reason SwiftKey's description is not flagged as spam is that they list the languages one per line, whereas I listed them as "Afar, Spanish, ...", but as I am not sure what will trigger their spam detection I don't want to risk it as they may change the rules and do not show a "this may be considered spam" message in the description submission page.

  • ryan

    Great article Chris, if there is anything I can do to directly help let me know. I'm very frustrated that I can't get any help from Google directly. Very, very frustrated developer! Let me know if there is anything I can do further to help with the cause...

    Ryan

  • Jacob

    I know this is a bit old, but it is nice that someone feels my pain. My app was removed for "intellectual property and/or misleading behaviour violation" and I haven't received a response for ~3 days so far. This is crazy because I am losing money for every day that goes by, and I am unsure to what could have possibly caused the removal. A support phone number would be nice. Thank you for this post!

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