Google Says ...

An unofficial, unaffiliated source of comment and opinion on statements from Google, Google employees, and Google representatives. In no way is this site owned by, operated by, or representative of Google, Google's point of view, policies, or statements.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Inside Google Magazine...

Google needs a monthly magazine. Google needs a consumer-oriented voice that can do two things: tout the strengths of Google and Google products and services; and present a more balanced assessment of the various controversies that surround Google.

This year, Google has found itself buried in legal actions and news stories over several topics. While the corporate attorneys would prevent Google from speculating madly in print (and I'll adress what I mean by "magazine" in a moment) and thus poisoning their legal options, a Google Magazine or Inside Google would give alternative voices a fair platform in which to present their concerns. Not to argue their legal cases in front of the public, but to help explain what's stake if Google prevails in some way.

This is a bold step for a corporate entity, but it's a step that would help Google build trust around the world. And they badly need trust for their long-term financial success. Google is now large and ponderous in some ways. If they roll over they are almost certain to crush some little person who cannot run out of the way fast enough.

But while a monthly print magazine would be interesting, I think it would be better if Google distributed a .PDF or Flash magazine from The front page. And they should set a standard for the publishing world by publishing the November issue in November (I'm sick of buying next month's magazine this month -- that makes absolutely no sense and no one is fooled by it).

The reason why Google needs to set up an autonomous media production group is that their "official" Web sites are so loaded with propaganda that no one trusts them. In fact, even their employees' private Web sites are viewed with considerable distrust. I have no idea of why people say Matt Cutts cannot be trusted. He has never been caught in a lie but a lot of people in the SEO world say, "You cannot trust Matt Cutts". I mean, literally, they say that in the open on forums.

Who has Matt betrayed, and why doesn't that person come forward to warn the rest of us?

If you look at Google Book Search's Legal section, Google makes an amateurish attempt to bamboozle visitors into believing that everything is okay and authors and publishers are really not going to get hurt by the Library Project, etc.

Oh, and just to be fair, after you read all the testimonials about how great Google Library Project is, there are two bare links leading to specific statements from opposing groups. It's like doing a search for some product you think you have heard about, finding a page listed in the search engines that says it sells the product, and then you click on the link only to find an endlessly scrolling page loaded with fake testimonials from anonymous people. You have to scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll to get down to the, "And it just costs $49.99 to buy this cheap crap!" button.

Google, you can do better than that. You owe it to us, your using public, to do better than that.

The closest thing to a magazine right now is the collection of Google blogs, but they are not updated on a consistent basis. Google Book Search Blog is updated frequently, with loads of great content. I like this blog because it takes marketing seriously. Okay, I just criticized them for playing fast and loose with the facts on their legal page. But overall, the Book Search people seem to understand marketing better than all the other sections at Google.

Look at the "Useful links" they post in the margin. They index the official Google Book Search site for you, point right to interesting and useful content. How much better it would be if they pointed to this month's latest Inside Google Magazine articles.

I would look for this magazine every month. What's more, Google could sell advertising in it. What would you pay for each download, Mr. Business Operator, Ms. Business Founder? Would you want to put your smiling face in front of 10 million people a month. Of course you would. There's a medium for Google advertising waiting to be invented.

There are a lot of powerful things Google could do with a monthly multimedia magazine. I think the Internet is ready for it. In fact, if they don't do it, someone soon will. PodCasts and Google Video becoming passe. A downloadable magazine with embedded video content would be the utmost cool thing.

Until next year, when we would have to have Google television for cell phones.

Think about it Eric. I'm available if you want to talk....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Google expands its crusade to legitimize Google Book Search

Note: I have toned down some of the rhetoric. I hope it's clear I am expressing opinions and writing for effect.

I think Google is cranking up the volume on Google Book Search. In doing so, they are relying on the age-old principle of, "The more you say something, the more acceptable that saying becomes". Another variant is, "The more often you repeat a lie, the more believable it becomes". I'm not suggesting that Google is lying about anything -- far from it. But propagandists have long understood that repetition is critical to establishing believability and credulity.

Advertisers and marketers study how effective repetition is. We have to constantly find new ways to repeat a message because people ultimately tune out the message, although some experts suggest that even when repetitive messages become white noise they still have a subliminal impact.

Google is not being subliminal or subtle at all in its campaign to establish the legitimacy of Google Book Search. This week they are playing the liberal card with a Google Blog post titled Celebrate Your Freedom To Read. The post, written by Leslie Burger, President of the American Library Association, is a clever use of a conservative voice to make a liberal point: let's all oppose banned books.

I wonder if the ALA would support adding The Satanic Bible or Al-Qaeda's training manual to the works of literature that high school students should have access to.

It's not a question of whose morals are right, but of whose books are more popular with decision-makers. American schools have been banning books for as long as we've had American schools. The ALA advocates the popularization of reading banned books outside of school during Banned Books Week. But they try to direct your attention toward banned books that are at least acceptable to a sizable minority, if not a majority of Americans.

All this liberal-versus-conservative controversy fits nicely into Google's campaign to persuade everyone that Google Books really is a great thing for us all. As I have said previously, I am ambivalent about the service. Google really doesn't seem to appreciate just how important intellectual property rights are to other people. On the one hand, they strive to hide the secret sauce that controls their search results. On the other hand, they have an active policy of intimidating authors by reporting all DMCA requests to the Chilling Effects Web site. Chilling Effects is a very deceptive site. It presents itself as a moral watchdog. But the site's primary function appears to be to bully people into not protecting their intellectual property rights, and Google seems to support that bullying wholeheartedly without reservation.

So the message Google sends to everyone is, "We get to protect our intellectual property rights, but we're going to trample yours and make you look like petty little self-important twits for wanting to protect your own."

Is that harsh? Well, let me praise Google for how they are conducting their propaganda campaign. It's an advertising campaign. It's a branding campaign. It's an educational campaign.

Google Book Search is a powerful resource and I hope that ultimately a lot of people benefit from it. I'm not about to boycott the service just because it may be violating intellectual property rights. I'll leave it to the courts to figure out what the boundaries of my rights are. I hope and trust the various parties suing Google really do have my best interests at heart -- or at least share interests with my own.

But the Google Book Search campaign demonstrates in a positive way (in my opinion) just how effective repetition can be. They are using both the Google Book Search blog and the official Google Blog to tell people they can Explore Banned Books Through Google Book Search. They are showing Web marketers how you can assemble multiple voices of influence to hammer a message home repeatedly.

In time, as Google brings more voices of moral acceptance to its side, the message will become acceptable to many people -- eventually it will become persuasive. People will become so used to hearing and seeing the message that they'll accept it as part of their normal world experience. And when a message becomes normal and comfortable, it feels safe. And when a message feels safe, it becomes believable.

Google doesn't have to be right about anything. All it has to do is keep pressing home the message that Google Book Search is useful and valuable and eventually everyone will be saying it's useful and valuable.

How useful and valuable won't really matter. I say it's useful and valuable, but I also say it's a bit snarky. After all, Google is encouraging millions of students across the United States of America to read books in violation of their school districts' policies (these books can be read online, and therefore from school computers).

That is a little short-sighted on Google's part. But then, bullies and visionaries alike seldom think about whether what they are doing is wrong.

The lesson I want Web marketers to take away from this post is that you can employ powerful propaganda and marketing techniques to brand your service or products. Google is providing a textbook example of how to do this. But I hope you choose not to pick a morally divisive service to promote. Google is large enough that it can afford to tick off a few people.

Most small business operators cannot really afford to take that risk.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Google refines the art of content spamming...

Not to be mean, as Google's tools are well-intentioned and actually neat. But I find that more and more Google stuff is geared toward helping people create mashups (Web pages consisting of gizmos supplied by other Web sites). The Web went through a mashup movement in the late 1990s, and it was not a very pretty thing to see.

In fact, you could say that in some respects Xenite.Org is The Web Site That Mashups Built. You name it, I put a third-party service on Xenite at one time or another: forums (through frames), Internet TV shows, Internet RPGs, Internet radio (I still miss my Xenite NetRock, NetCountry, and NetJazz services), scrolling/blinking/flashing news, comics, polls, and stuff I cannot even remember.

I love the creative environment one finds on the Web, but one day as I went looking for free content for Web sites, I realized that all the free content sources I was finding offered the same stuff, which had by this point pretty much become garbage. The Internet TV and radio services shut down or were sold; I installed UBB and later VBulletin so I could run forums off my own server (actually, I started with forum scripts from Matt's Script Archive); comic artists stopped updating their strips.

And science fiction and fantasy news was pretty much absorbed by No one else could really turn it out fast enough. A few fan mega sites produced their own feeds -- and I once actually had the largest science fiction news resource on the Web -- but people got tired of writing news stories. They stopped updating their RSS feeds. The RSS-to-Javascript tools I used went offline.

Today, Xenite.Org relies more on original content than it ever did before because I simply got tired of yanking pages that no longer worked. You cannot rely on other people to keep the feeds coming, not unless you pay them. And I just don't think there are enough unique services for everyone to provide truly unique mashups.

So, when I see that Blogger now lets you draw images from Flickr, I think, "Okay, that's cool but still pretty tame." It would, in fact, be nicer if they could fix their image upload problem (because I haven't been able to upload any images).

And when I looked at Google AdSense's plug for Google Related Links, I wanted to say, Been There, Done That. Related Links aren't all they are cracked up to be. A lot of times, you get one cheesy video that has nothing to do with your topic. I know darned good and well there are a lot of Lord of the Rings videos available on Google video. Why do I get only 1? And why does only 1 headline show up in the News?

That is just so...lame. I'm supposed to impress people with this stuff? What would happen if I stack Related Links boxes on top of each other?

On the other hand, I noticed how Colin Colehour suggests using Google Base to upload genealogy records. Now, that could be kind of cool. My father sent me a family genealogy a few years ago that one of my uncle's sister's cousins's mother's brother's son's something or other did up. The history goes back a fair number of generations to some guy named Martinez who jumped off a ship near California.

But the last time I looked at Google Base, you could only post something for 30 days. What is the point, guys? I don't want to have to devote the rest of my life to logging in to Google every 30 days just to renew a genealogy listing. I'd feel so Lost doing that.

So, while Google has introduced some neat ideas, I don't think any of them really go far enough. Here are a few suggestions that I would recommend:

Google Base should let you download W3C-compliant HTML code that you can place on your own Web site (better yet, let Google Base push it to your Google Pages inventory). I realize people want to be found in Google Base, but after that first 30 days, a lot of us are going to say, "Eh. Not worth the trouble." It would be great if we could say, "At the end of 30 days, create this page at Google Page with this content."

Related Links should allow you to design a custom channel that displays 1-4 listings in the box where you can qualify the sources by domain, keyword, or something more detailed than just on-page content. Especially if your on-page content is a mashup (and my Lord of the Rings news page is now a mashup because -- surprise! -- I got tired of writing original content).

What Google really needs to do is create a Google Channels service where you can create a mashup-in-a-box combining content from all over the place. And allow people to make the channel distributable. I mean, let me add it to an inventory of predesigned channels that other people can subscribe to and add to their own Web pages. That's what was so great about Netscape's RSS-driven MyNetscape. They allowed us to create channels that people could add to their start pages. It was just so righteous.

I'd still like to feature up-and-coming comic artists on Xenite, but I'm tired of looking for them. Google, while you're adding services just to please me, let's see Google Comics, a combination between Google News Search (fed by preselected channels) and Google Base (timed content contributed by people who care enough about their work to jump through all the hoops). You might be able to use the Google Coop technology to produce it. I'm not sure. When I signed up for Google Coop and saw all the rigmarole I had to go through to produce a mashup, I immediately became depressed and closed the browser window.

It's got to be simple, smooth, and provide an immediate reward. By allowing people to distribute their content to other Web sites, the Google Mashup Express will stay fresh and innovative. It will blow the old free- and pay-syndication content services out of the water.

And when you've destroyed the competition, Google, you can monetize Google Channels. I hereby confer all rights to the trademark to Google, Inc. provided they deliver on my eensy, teensy little request and give me the service.

NOTE: Today is September 11, 2006. Five years ago, Osama Bin Laden proved he has no love for God or Man and no future in Paradise.