Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Posting from a BlackBerry

OK. I am waiting to meet some friends for dinner on this hot evening and thought I would try posting from my BlackBerry. It's pretty cool, actually, though if I could dictate instead of type, that would be even cooler.

Will Google come up with dictation technology for this type of thing? Who knows, but it would be cool. And maybe such a thing already exists.

I am a fan of the BlackBerry though. I had it out the other day and my boss said that I'm such a geek. A closet geek, I corrected. Slowly coming out and embracing T geekiness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Google's Personalized Search: Are We Really in Control?

The esteemed Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel, posted this little nugget on the Google blog which, obviously, sparked my interest in his opinion piece for the Financial Times. Ignoring a few grammatical errors and quite a few spacing issues (we hope that have more to do with FT than Mr. Fleischer), the article does a fairly good job of quietly dosing the fire of privacy concerns that have arisen since Google's bid to acquire DoubleClick (for another ridiculous amount of money)and its change in its data retention policy.

Mr. Fleischer states that "the responsible way to handle this privacy issue is to ask users if they want to opt in to the service." He goes on to explain that when you open a Google account, you are giving your consent to Google Personalized Search, or "opting in" to the service. And just like email marketing campaigns, you can still "opt out." The point, however, is that the user is in control, which for some sounds a little odd coming from a company like Google. Control, by its nature, is a facade. No one is really "in control," some just manipulate better than others so the illusion of control seems all the more real.

I always think of that scene from "Jurassic Park," where Hammond and Ellie are sitting at a long table, trying to eat up the melting ice cream, and Hammond talks about the next time, "when we have control," to which Ellie points out "but we never have control." Giving the pace of technology, you have to pause for a moment and ask, do we really have control over our search history?

Google certainly wants to make that facade look real. After all, you can turn off the "Search History" function. You don't even need to "pause" it, just use the "Remove all" or "Delete all" function and once it erases your search history, it automatically pauses the service so no more search data can be found. But is it really gone? Has it really been erased?

If you're spent anytime in the online world, you know things aren't ever really "erased." Things still exist, somewhere. And some day, a curious, enterprising individual for reasons unknown, may want to find that information that you believed had been erased. Deleted. You remember deleting your search history, pausing the function and sleeping easier. After all, Google puts your in control of your search history, right?

On a final note, a little bit of humor found on Digg: "Google in 20 years".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Information Overload"

I was reading this article in the New York Times today that discusses the "the postsearch wave, the Internet ad market 2.0" and it reminded me of two things. First, display ads are appearing more often now on websites like NTY, Chicago Tribune, PC Magazine and the like. Advertisers have figured out that pop-ups are annoying, so the ads appear within the page, the "close" button often blending in quite nicely so it's hard to find. Drop downs are gaining in popularity as well; those ads that when you roll over them, the bottom drops, presenting you with a complete ad. The graphics have come along way, some of the ads are kind of cool, but I'm starting to be more careful where I place my mouse.

The second thing that popped into my head as I was reading the article was "information overload," a phrase that seems to be tossed around quite a bit these days. Information seems to be reaching that economy of scale, with hardware, software and broadband connections getting cheaper by the day so more and more people have access to tools and information, essentially giving everyone a platform from which to do what they please. The amount of information presented on the Web at any given time is staggering, and, unlike watching CNN which repeats the same news all day long, there is always something different.

It is difficult to NOT be informed these days, and find random nuggets of information that may prove beneficial down the line.

Economies of scale. It's no longer about leveling the playing field, but becoming unique. Everyone has the opportunity now, and can watch or read about others and learn. Information as at the finger tips.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"I" in Front of Everything

OK. I'm not entirely sure of this phenomenon, though it seems to be catching on a little faster than tacking on "-ability" to the end of every word.

The letter "i," lower case, has become a staple in front of words that used to stand on their own just fine. There is the portal and search engine iWon that gives away cash prizes, giving some weight to the "iWon" name. The search engine has remained in relative obscurity, few taking notice of the "i" in front of "Won."

Then Apple came along with its "i" products, most notably the iPod and iTunes. Even if you just Google the letter "i," Apple's iTunes page is the first result. And let's not all forget the iPhone, the latest offering in the Apple "i" product line. Too bad there won't be "iTV." We have to settle for "Apple TV", but hey, can't win them all.

Apple, however, no longer corners the market on useful products that start with "i." Google has joined the mix with "iGoogle," the new name of the Personalized Home Page. Of all the companies overflowing with originality, I guess I expected a little more from Google. I figured Google to be a trend setter, not a follower.

On the surface of things, "iGoogle" does seem to follow a trend established and used rather effectively by Apple. The rest of the world rides the coat tails of Google, after all, so shouldn't Google be able to ride someone else's for once? But to leave it at that would do an injustice to language, the word Google and the letter "i," lower case.

Where Apple slapped an "i" in front of "Tunes," "Pod" and "Phone" for reasons that make sense to someone at Apple, Google's use of the letter "i," lower case, creates a sentence: "iGoogle," meaning "I Google."

Call it a declaration. "iGoogle" signifies that you, a user, declare Google to be your search engine of choice. And, generally, you search. Google, besides being an obnoxiously large corporation, is also a verb. Apple, however, is a fruit. You consume Apple. It's passive. Google, well, that requires thinking and typing and more thinking and typing until you find what you want.

Words are Google's business, falling under the more accepted term of "search," and what better declaration to make than "iGoogle."

The Position Angle

Surprise! As reported by the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets, Google is fighting Viacom's $1 billion copyright infringement law suit against YouTube.

Google, not surprisingly, is arguing "safe harbor" under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, claiming "Viacom’s complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression." In other words, Google is positioning itself as the defender of freedom of information and freedom of the Internet while casting Viacom as the destroyer of those freedoms.

You have to hand it to Google's legal team for always positioning the company on the angle of freedom of the Internet, of information, etc. And since Internet law, is, well, murky at best, Google is on the verge of writing Internet law that we will all have to live with, whether we like it or not. You could almost say we've been brainwashed by Google, and lured into a false sense of security that will be sealed by "Google Laws" so we're trapped.

Contrast Google's growing legal track record of the "freedom position angle" against Microsoft, another gigantic technology company quite familiar with the court system, in more than one country. Doesn't seem to matter what angle Microsoft tries to present, it always comes out sounding like a control freak, and further cements its reputation as the "evil empire," or the corporation everyone loves to hate.

It would be absolutely fascinating to compare the legal teams of both corporations and see what is about Google's team that everyone seems to love, and how they are consistently able to cast the other party as the evil-doer, even when there is a gray area that casts a very dark shadow over the colorful Google logo. And what is it about the Microsoft legal team that seems to perpetuate the "evil empire" persona?