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Friday, July 21, 2006

Who wrote Alex Chiles' essay?

On July 1, The Google Blog patted itself on the back over an essay posted to GooglePages by a 12-year-old girl. Google Is The Center OF My Internet World is a well-written essay about the various features of Google that Alex likes.

It's so well-written that she reportedly got 106 out of 100 points, according to the Google Blog.

Curiously, Alex's other papers demonstrate a much more 12-year-old writing style. For example, compare Ties Shoes Bad, Bad, Bad! with the Google essay.

If you buy tie shoes you will spend a lot of money. You will spend an estimate of $452 in your lifetime buying 166 pairs of shoelaces! You need to buy new shoelaces for many reasons! Your cat might think it was a piece of string and chew it all up. Then you’d have a chewed up piece of string....

That could be something written by a 12-year-old.

Nine out of ten times when I use my computer I find myself interacting with Google’s products including Search, Froogle, Google News, Gmail, Google Earth, and the Google Toolbar. What do I like about these products? They make finding different types of information extremely easy. Google has different search engines that I use to find all the information I need, whether it’s a website, new article or an item for sale....

This could be something I might write. The sentences are longer and more complex and they make use of the conjunction whether, a word you don't often find 12-year-olds using frequently.

Google’s user interface (human computer interactions) is clear, easy to use and understandable....

I don't remember writing many parenthetical offsets when I was 12 years old, much less parenthetical offsets that make use of technical jargonese like "human computer interactions".

In addition to searching websites, Google also has news and product search. Google News makes finding articles extremely easy. Articles from all the popular news websites are gathered together and then made searchable. This puts all the news you could ever want in one place, at Google News. I use Google News mostly for current events homework and other research. Similar to Google News, Froogle gathers products for sale into one searchable place, providing “smart shopping”. ...

This paragraph looks like it may incorporate some original short-sentence writing with more mature full-sentence writing. Note the use of the offset expressions such as ", at Google News" (capitalized) and "Similar to Google News,".

And how many 12-year-old girls write about "searchable places"?

So, let's assume for the sake of discussion that, yes, an adult helped a 12-year-old score 106 out of 100 points for an essay. How many parents have helped their children with homework?

And there seem to be a lot of guys named "Bill Chiles", so it's impossible to know if Mr. Chiles is the Microsoft employee, the owner of an offshore oil contracting firm, or some other Bill Chiles. I'm pretty sure it's not the Bill Chiles who was sued in 1836, although perhaps he knew Nicholas Flamel and nicked some longevity potion before Nicholas gave up the Sorceror's Stone (aka Philosopher's Stone to some Harry Potter fans).

The point is, why was this essay given so much assistance when others apparently were not? Is this a bit of propaganda that fell into Google's lap, or is there something else to be said about it?


Blogger Linda said...

I can vouch for the authenticity of Alex and her work since I’m her living, breathing mother :)

Alex truly is infatuated with Google and uses most of their products. This essay was her last one for 6th grade LA class. Not only did Alex learn a lot about writing during the year (this was her last essay), she also worked really, really hard on this essay. Yes, we also did give her some help.

Some of the items that you seem to doubt are in fact written by Alex, for example the concept and use of "human computer interaction". Alex happened to picked up one of my web usability books and decided it was "way cool". She read a good portion of the book as well as had various conversations with me about terminology and concepts.

So, yes, she’s a real kid, very happy with Google products, having fun with the web and learning from the experience :)

9:38 PM  

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