Google

Tomorrow’s Technology, Yesterday’s Insights

Jonas Söderström on how Google’s ‘People Analytics group’ goes to extreme lengths to work out how to improve workplace happiness, something Europeans figured out decades ago:

In my view, the dream of “Big Data in the Workplace” thrives in that hole in the American corporate mind where more human ideas – such as decent trade unions, a commitment to conversation and dialogue between employees and management, and empowerment of employees, even giving them some say over how their workplace is designed – should rightly be found.

Give technologists a problem, and they’ll try and solve it with technology.

The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’

Julian Assange reviews Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s new book, ‘The New Digital Age’:

Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture – a decent, humane and playful culture – has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.

Exhibit A: PRISM.

Don’t Be Evil, and Get Rich Trying

My short break in California has so far included four hour-long trips on Caltrain as I hop between the cities of San Francisco and Palo Alto. These short periods disconnected from the web, have allowed me to catch up on my reading list.

Does Google Have Any Social Skills at All?

Sam Biddle:

Everything new from Google is prima facie fantastic, and served with the best intentions. Google is a monolithic company, sure, but it’s filled with geniuses who want to make your life easier through technology. Nobody’s faulting their ambition, or questioning its motives. But we have to wonder: Are these new things meant for regular people, or the data-obsessed, grace-deficient Silicon Valley nerd vanguard?

DuckDuckGo

Not a week passes without there being a controversy involving Google. If they’re not pilfering a Kenyan business directory, then they’re jumping into bed with opponents of net neutrality or subverting default cookie settings. Even if you ignore these concerns, it’s hard to deny that their search engine is starting to suffer too. Fortunately, there’s an alternative.

No Longer Loving Google

Nelson Minar:

I refuse to give in to a cynical view of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto; that ethos was very real, a sincere and important guiding principle. And if a big company like Google can’t avoid being evil, then what world-changing enterprise can? But I think Google as an organization has moved on; they’re focussed now on market position, not making the world better. Which makes me sad.

Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves, I’d rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion.

Sound familiar? As much as I despise Facebook, Google isn’t any better behaved. In fact, its crimes are often far worse.

I still have a Google account, although the only services I rely on are search and Reader. DuckDuckGo is looking like a promising replacement for search, but nearly every decent RSS reader still syncs with Google Reader (even if through unofficial and undocumented APIs). As soon as that changes, my Google account will be deleted.

Created by Machines

Marissa Mayer addressing Google designers, as quoted in In The Plex by Steven Levy:

“It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where,” Marissa told them. “It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.”

This explains everything.

(via Buzz Andersen)

Don Norman: Google doesn’t get people, it sells them

Bobbie Johnson at GigaOm:

“What is Google? What do they sell?” asks Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things and a demigod of the design world.

It’s a question that gets asked a lot, especially as the company’s power and products continue to expand. In a talk on Friday at the dConstruct conference in Brighton, England, he pointed out that – despite the complexity of the organisation – the answer usually looks pretty simple.

“They have lots of people, lots of servers, they have Android, they have Google Docs, they just bought Motorola. Most people would say ‘we’re the users, and the product is advertising’,” he said. “But in fact the advertisers are the users and you are the product.”

Then he went further. “They say their goal is to gather all the knowledge in the world in one place, but really their goal is to gather all of the people in the world and sell them.”

Whilst some bemoaned the fact that his opening keynote shared little new, I think it’s important to be reminded how the industry works, and how it’s changing – sometimes for the worse. The world needs more people like Don Norman.