This blog is where I post about my consulting work with Microsoft Technologies, and other random tidbits that don't fit in my Photo Blog or my Iraq Blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deleting 4,000 Gmail groups... (or: Repairing Soocial replication damage)

I tried out Soocial.Com last week. Soocial is a new service that advertises "Hassle-free contacts". It claims it can synch ALL your contacts across multiple applications and multiple platforms while it perfectly toasts your morning bagel.

In reality it's a young beta application that launched a little too soon, and you should use it with extreme caution. I'm sure it's going to be great when they work the bugs out, but today it still has some "issues".

In my case it created over 4,000 groups in my Gmail account over the space of a couple days before I noticed. NOT a happy thing!

Gmail doesn't have any sort of bulk delete option, and deleting all 4,000 of them one at a time could have taken years... So I downloaded the Google API and wrote a little .NET application to do it for me. Nerd overkill, but it was a good excuse to learn something about the Google API.

If you have this problem too you can download my application here:


Note: This is a very simple brute force application. It will delete ALL your email groups (no way to keep the 10 you REALLY care about).

You can read more about the issue here on their support site:


UPDATE: Soocial is currently offline. I get prompted for a password when I try to access their site... I would guess the are busy fixing bugs... :-)

UPDATE2: This tool still gets a surprising number of downloads, and today "Ben" asked if I would share the source code. No problem. Here is the link: http://blog.scrappydog.com/2010/02/souce-code-for-deleting-googlegmail.html


Unknown said...

Scrappy, you rock man for making that tool available. I hope it will be useful to some users.

We are working hard on fixing things. Although the downtime is unrelated to the GMail fixes we are doing. The google groups bug is high on our list. We are rewriting our Sync engine to work with version 2 of Google Contacts API.

Thanks for your patience and for helping us help you.

Norcross said...

Wow. You saved the day in more ways than you know. I've found Google's contact management to be spotty at best, but I figured I'd try Soocial out. it completely borked my setup (created 487 empty groups). This solved it. Thank you. Thank you.

whofysh said...

Wow, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. It was taking me almost 3 minutes to delete each group x 700+ groups.

I owe you a day and a half of my life.

From your profile picture, it looks like I owe you more than that.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Running your app twice removed the 1,617 groups that Soocial created in gmail. You saved me A LOT of time. Thanks.

Paul said...

Ok, Here it is June, and I just did the same as you, signed up for Soocial and got the many thousand group problem. THANK YOU for saving my bacon. I couldn't even browse my groups because there were so many and it killed my browser.

Soocial has a lOOONG wasy to go. I guess I should have looked more before jumping in.

I finally paid up for goosync and it works great.

Unknown said...

Scrappy, you are the man!

Unknown said...

Add me to the list of the forever-grateful...an ugly day has turned into a day at the beach--thanks!

benguthrie said...

Thank you SO much. Soocial created 11,000 groups in mine and rendered groups useless for me. It was so many that Gmail choked on the javascript to show them.

Your app is great. Thank you.

Unknown said...

You saved another user... I created a bunch of google groups using a tool called CompanionLink which syncs ACT databases up to google accounts... I chose the wrong field and made a 125 bogus groups, your tool saved the day.. Any chance you'd open source it for some of us to learn from? Thanks!

Eric Bowen said...

No problem Ben, here is a link to the code: http://blog.scrappydog.com/2010/02/souce-code-for-deleting-googlegmail.html

Wayne Willis said...

Thank you so much for writing it, contributing it and documenting it. Very standup of you.

Jason Veenstra said...

Scrappy, thank you so much for making that available! It worked perfectly!

Mike Gray said...

Thanks, man! A couple different sync routines got out of control and made a massive mess of my stuff. Appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the utility!!!!!!!!!
You saved me hours of clicking.

lukeoverhere said...

Oh sweet jesus, I thought I was doomed. I imported my work CRM list of over 9,000 contacts, all of which had groups/categories - massive, massive time savings. Thanks a bizillion!!!

Roger said...

Hi there,

I found this here post due to my gmail contacts being bugged by multiple blank groups that closely resembles the issue reported here. Except I don't use any other sync features than android 2.1 on my phone and Tbird on a couple of pc's.

Still, each group appeared duplicated many times as of today. Like 247 groups instead of ~20.

Your app was the cure. It proved to be a real time saver, showed to be clean and harmless, to say the least. I want to thank you for this and post here in case someone one googles for the issue, as I did.

As for losing valid groups, I have found that exporting contacts will save groups in a field. Do so before running the app to quickly restore group information after cleanup. Failing to will indeed have you recreate your groups manually, which is bad... I guess.

After running the app, only default groups should remain, which is expected behavior.

Import csv file. This should merge the contacts and apply groups assignment. It did for me, flawlessly. Just in case something gets messed up, I created a temp group for imported entries. That was useless and I'll just delete that group. Do the same, it won't hurt a bit and can save the day..

In case Gmail will not merge the contacts, try and use the duplicated contacts feature.

Side note, might be important or not: before trying the whole procedure, I launched "duplicates lookup" in gmail and, to my surprise, it would return thousands of entries. Gmail reported duplicates as merged.

Relaunching duplicates detection again would still find hundreds of entries. Same message : duplicates merged. Again : dozens... And so on, until gmail returned "no duplicates found". Weird. Clicked maybe 8 times before getting a "zero duplicates return.

Maybe having no duplicates helped with then flawless procedure I experienced. So make sure to check for duplicates as well, it might very well be a side and hidden effect of the same bug. Note that I exported before checking duplicates and the list was correct. Go figure...

I hope that those hitting the same bug will report here if they find anything make the topic move forward.

Thanks again, a lot, for sparing me like... hours of useless, unproductive work. This is the first time that gmail ever let me down and you the man who brilliantly fixed it.

For those interested in a safer, more complete backup, Thunderbird and the right extensions will sync contact information, down to the picture.

Rojer - Biarritz - France.

新竹工程師 said...

I'm Y.C.Chen from Taiwan.
Thank you for your software.
It does a great help for me.
thank you.

Dools said...

Thanking you.

worked a charm

Anonymous said...

I was really stressing about how I would get all of these groups off of my phone since it was snyched with my gmail account. Thanks to you, 2442 Family Groups have been removed in just a couple of minutes. :) Thank you!

Anonymous said...

could you do another one for contacts? That would be epic :)

Cady May said...

Thank you ever so much!! I had hundreds of duplicate groups from importing contacts from my palm desktop, this worked great! thanks!

Anonymous said...

Worked great!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

G said...

Thank you! Successfully deleted aprox. 750 groups in a few minutes.

Unknown said...

Thanks! What a time saver.

Unknown said...

Thanks! What a time saver.

MM said...

Sir, you are a very good person and will be blessed for many lives to come for making, and sharing this script.

Worked like a charm after Thunderbird or Google Voice (not sure which) put 1000's of duplicate groups in my contacts.

Thank you!!!!

psd said...

Thank you.

Unknown said...

Hello, Eric. Your tool is a savior to all of us with the messy address books and groups in Gmail! Thank you!

Is there any way to make your utility work with GoogleApps accounts? I tried and it did not work.

Thanks in advance

Cathy Kyle said...

It didn't work for me. :( I tried installing it a couple of times without any luck.

Unknown said...

Cathy- Did it give you any errors? Does the install fail? Or does the app appear to run, but nothing happens?

Unknown said...

I too have this issue but it says Execution of request failed.
I have a GoogleApps for business account so I am not gmail.com so maybe that is the problem? Any help would be great I probably have a thousand or more!

Unknown said...

I haven't tested this code in a couple years... it's very possible that Google has made some breaking change in the Contacts API