Staying Under the (Mainstream) Radar

Staying under mainstream radar while releasing meaningful and original contents is a good way to attract people actually interested in your activity, thus making easier – as Seth Godin said – turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.

An empirical look at the way people and companies use profiling and stats suggest that to get more traffic (i.e. pay-for-click ads) contents are shaped just to attract people rather than to provide actual information.

Think of the usual effects of looking at your analytics: you take note of the queries made by users and you shape your content accordingly, to be sure to attract people who use these words. The price you pay for being that “smart” is that you’re not the one who controls the content of your website because you let the users (or, better, Google) do it on your behalf.The result is that all websites are made equal and turned into some sort of digital brochure. In other words, is the tail that is wagging the dog.

Personally, I’m more at ease with Henry Ford’s quote

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

If You Really Dislike Google, Just Do A Better One

The usual, questionable and acritical article raises “awareness” about the “danger” represented by the way Google handles the results of users’ queries, this time the “victims” being the “consumers”. The source of this article is a study supported by Yelp.

While I’m not a statistician, I wonder how is possible to give general credit to a study based on a “random sample” (no method to build the randomness is disclosed) of less than 3.000 people compared to the billions of users that daily query the web through Google, furthermore without taking into account the huge ethnic and cultural differences of the countries whose users come from.

And I wonder why the journalist wrote it  without asking an independent expert opinion. She just released what  seems just a summary of the study’s summary, without  actual knowledge of the topics involved. In other words, this article is somehow in between disinformation and misinformation. And, to be clear, I’m not questioning the integrity of the journalist (for instance she duly exploited the Yelp’s involvement in the study);what I criticize is that she didn’t actually deliver informative contents. No matter if this comes from a poor grasping of the mathematics methods, or by way of a lack of knowledge of the digital business world. Fact is the her readers aren’t given sound information, and what they got, instead, is the usual “Is-Google-evil?” article that, from time to time, appears all around the net.

Moving to a general issue, at the end of the day, things are pretty straightforward: Google neither is perfect nor necessarily “friendly”, but if you dislike Google, just build a better one, instead of using spin, FUD and the law.

Of course, If you ????.

Post Scriptum: I neither work for Google, nor have other kind of involvements with it.

Search Engines And Short Term Memory (or: the digital Alzheimer)

I was looking for the source of a satirical quote I’ve read years ago and, of course, I tried Google as first tool, but with no results. The only option would have been to go back in my garage, open the boxes where I stored the old newspapers, and try to find the line I need.

This lead me to an obvious but never considered conclusion: if something is “just” on paper, is going to be forgotten because “average joe” (including me) doesn’t make the effort to go over the “search” button push, looking for sources not available online.

True, Google did launch the digital library initiative, the Gutenberg Project is releasing the ebook version of the public domain literature classics and there are similar activities elsewhere, but there will always be an off-line knowledge that people don’t care to look for because it is offline.

The final word(s): our memory goes back in the past as deep as a search engine can.

Google and Germany’s Ministry of Justice: A Wrong Idea of Dominant Position

The Germany’s Ministry of Justice asked Google to disclose its search algorithm because of the Mountain View company dominant position on the relevant market.

The request is not legitimate at least for two main reasons.

First: Google’s current “market position” is not based on a “users’ lock-in” as in the file-format case (for longtime, not being able to open a .doc file has been an effective method to have the users stuck to Microsoft Word). Everybody is free to use whatever search engine of choice. Yes, because Google is not the only kid in town: Yahoo!, Bing, DuckduckGo are in the same business, but steps behind Google. Sure, Google is THE search engine, as Altavista was a few years ago. But who but (some) historians still remember about the Google’s predecessor? And here comes the point: Google’s success is made by the people who use it: give them a better search engine (and additional features) and Google will fall on a fingers’ snap. This is the last iteration of a wrong concept of “dominant position” and “monopoly” when matched with a successful digital business model based on information as quid-pro-quo for providing (partially) free services.

Second: even if the “dominant position doctrine” were relevant to this case, the German solution would be possibly worst than the disease to be cured, because it would set the precedent that a company, for the sake of the “free market”, should be forced to disclose its industrial and trade secrets. Try to tell this to the pharmas or the automotive manufacturers and wait for the answers!

So the bottom line is: If you want to beat Google, instead of tying its hands, do create a better one.

 

 

Google’s executives indictment in Italy. Here are the reason’s why.

Finally the Court of Milan made public the opinion that backed the indictment of a couple of Google’s executives charged of Italian Data Protection Act infringement by not removing a violent video from the company’s video sharing platform, video.google.com. The opinion of the Court tells basically what I “guessed” in a previous post, (easy guess, BTW) while analyzing the charges against the managers.

Thus, to put it short, Google’s people have been indicted because they failed to verify, under the Italian Data Protection Act, whether all of the people depicted in the video positively consented to its upload. No matter that the service agreement bind the user to publish legally obtained content only.

As I’ve written and told in serveral places, this is a wrong decision.

Wrong in a legal perspective, for it set on ISP’s side an hidden duty of pre-emptive control over users’ activity.

Wrong in a social perspective, for it breaks the tie between a crime and its “author” and reinforces the idea of “faida” (the collateral vendetta of the ancient barbarians.)