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<nettime> Ippolita Google Book: Chapter 2, (third and last part)
Patrice Riemens on Thu, 19 Mar 2009 05:48:11 -0400 (EDT)

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<nettime> Ippolita Google Book: Chapter 2, (third and last part)


Well, as the first negative comments are in (always nice to come down
Memory Lane to the hallowed days of "BS-engineering Nettime" ;-), the
first atrocious errors have also been signalled (thanks PP!):

The Google hire-gimmick with prime number of course runs in TEN (10)
digits, not 2 (stoopid, huh?)
Upon which you're of course supposed to _upload_ yr CV, for _downloading_
by Google... (even more stoopid!).
(all this happended in the previous post)

Cheers, we soldier on all the same!
patrizio and Diiiinooos!

NB this book and translation are published under Creative Commons license
2.0  (Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike).
Commercial distribution requires the authorisation of the copyright holders:
Ippolita Collective and Feltrinelli Editore, Milano (.it)

Ippolita Collective

The Dark Side of Google (continued)

Chapter 2  BeGoogle! (3rd & last part)

Exhibit #3  Image is all, but a little bit of 'philosophy' doesn't harm
either ...

Google's {public} image cannot be reduced to its site and sleek interface,
whose simplicity and speed has earned the firm so much success [*N17]. In
cannot be reduced either to the Googleplex, the Valhalla of technology's
ueber-gifted. And its not only about 'Being Good', and yet make a lot of
money, by combining brazen commercial strategies with the suggestion of
Google being part of academic culture and F/OSS communities through its
incentives and funding.

But where its image also, and mostly, resides, is in the enterprise's
'philosophy', which is expressed, in clear and easy to understand
language, as the 'Google thought' [Google-think?]. The word 'philosophy',
however, might be slightly misplaced, since this 'thought' is not really
informed by the love of knowledge and transparency. But anyway, one can
find online the Ten Commandments that guide the actions of the 'Good
Giant' Google. The first sentence of this gospel already sets the tune:
"Never settle for the best", as indeed, according to Larry page, Google's
ultimate goal is "the _perfect_ search engine", which "would understand
exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want". Thus Google
does not strive to reach the greatest number of people possible, it wants
to reach _all_ people, satisfy _everybody's_ desires, in one word, bring
happiness to Earth. In order to achieve this, it works relentlessly on
research and  innovation, as is laid down in "The ten things Google has
found to be true".

1. "Focus on user and all else will follow". Google's growth was fuelled
by word of mouth, and attracted users who were enthusiastic about its
performance. This is the exact opposite of aggressive advertisement
campaigns. Ads should not jump on users, but present something useful.

2. "It?s best to do one thing really, really well". "Google does search.
With one of the world's largest research groups focused exclusively on
solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it
better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we've been able
to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements".

3. "Fast is better than slow". "Google believes in instant gratification.
You want answers and you want them right now. Who are we to argue? Google
may be the only company in the world whose stated goal is to have users
leave its website as quickly as possible". Two major intuitions, and
realisations, have enabled Google to arrive at this 'speed': the
development and constant amelioration of the PageRank[TM] algorithm,
continuously indexing through the networks, en the use of modulable
platforms that are interlinked and extremely flexible ('clusters'). Now
speaking of speed as the Holy Grail, it might be a timely idea to think a
little deeper. sometimes, even in the realm of IT, slow maybe a virtue
[*N18] [Makes sense, comes from the country that invented Slow Food ;-)

4. "Democracy on the web works". "Google works because it relies on the
millions of individuals posting websites to determine which other sites
offer content of value". We already know that Google uses PageRank[TM] to
evaluate the sites linked to another web page and assign them a value
partially based on that of the sites to which they are linked. the
representation of this electronic democracy is rather idyllic: Google's
index results are allegedly an  'people-based ranking index' based on an
algorithm doubling as electoral law which {supposedly} would enable the
users-citizens of the Net to express their confidence/ cast their vote by
way of providing links to other pages, and to find the result of this vote
regularly expressed through the respective position of favoured web sites.
The equation 'link = vote' is rather simplistic and forced, as
'refinements' are constantly being introduced to calculate rankings, by
selectively tweaking the value of these votes/links. One could speculate
that a link provided by a porn site might weight less than one coming from
an university ... In which case one might ask whether academic cultures
ranks higher in popularity than porn... what is certain however, is that
with the continuous growth of the mass of information, this 'democracy' is
bound to expand exponentially.

5. "You don?t need to be at your desk to need an answer". "The world is
increasingly mobile and unwilling to be constrained to a fixed location.
Whether it's through their PDAs, their wireless phones or even their
automobiles, people want information to come to them". Flexibility of time
and space is an important objective. The convergence of electronic media
(TV, radio, phones, Internet ...) towards miniaturised mobile platforms is
an unheard of boon for the world's largest supplier of search solutions.
As we saw earlier with the 'war of standards', early penetration of future
markets is /strategically/ vital, especially for Google, which produces
search interfaces, but not the electronic supports on which it could
impose its own software (like Microsoft and Apple). Each new device {out
on the market} is therefore a new territory to be conquered.

6. "You can make money without doing evil". "Google is a business. The
revenue the company generates is derived from offering its search
technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on
Google and on other sites across the web". But advertisements are text
only, hence not very intrusive. The proposed links are relevant to the
search query (AdWords). And users can very easily become advertisers
themselves: it's a DIY formula. If you are maintainer of websites , you
can even make money on the Google network through AdSense, by putting ads
that are relevant to the content of these sites. 'Don't be evil' and
'Don't harm anyone' apparently also means 'Don't advertise those who don't
advertise you', and of course guarantee that Pagerank[TM] is not for sale.
The trust users put in the correctness of the search returns is Google's
major asset and shall not be squandered for the sake of short-term
benefits. Its function is to generate indirect, 'second line' incomes,
based on advertisements.

7. There?s always more information out there". "Once Google had indexed
more of the HTML pages on the Internet than any other search service, our
engineers turned their attention to information that was not as readily
accessible. Google indeed accumulates a bevy of heterogeneous databases:
images, newsgroups posts (Usenet), telephone numbers, postal addresses,
financial information, etc. If your aim is to be the world's largest
info-mediator, accumulation of data should know no limits!

8. "The need for information crosses all borders". "Though Google is
headquartered in California, our mission is to facilitate access to
information for the entire world, so we have offices around the globe". An
Academic, American Culture for All. You need to have a grand vision of
things: whatever happens, index more and more information, and make it
accessible to everyone. 'Localisation' is an essential part of Google's
universalism: speakers of be it Korean or hackers' jargon,  Hindi, Xhosa,
Star Trek's Klingon or even 'Pig Latin', Zulu, Esperanto, {Muppet
Show's}'Bork Bork Bork' - all should have access {to a dedicated Google
search site}. The interfaces languages run into 100+. Google is #1 search
engine in over one hundred countries. A very impressive performance, but
verging a trickle towards the totalitarian... The whole operation smacks
of political correctness and appears respectful of minorities, but reality
is that we have to do with a 'super-layer', the surface sheet of the one
and only interface, which flattens and homogenises differences, spreading
the Mountain View style all over the planet.

9. "You can be serious without a suit". "Google's founders have often
stated that the company is not serious about anything but search. They
built a company around the idea that work should be challenging and the
challenge should be fun.". This injunction aptly resumes the Googleplex,
which is organised like a campus in order to maximise profitability. Hence
we are told that "There is an emphasis on team achievements and pride in
individual accomplishments that contribute to the company's overall
success", and that "this highly communicative environment fosters a
productivity and camaraderie fueled by the realization that millions of
people rely on Google results. Give the proper tools to a group of people
who like to make a difference, and they will". Maybe this is the ultimate
method to exploit 'creatives', transforming them into enthusiastic
supporters of the 'Google experience' at the same time.

10. "Great just isn?t good enough". "Always deliver more than expected.
Google does not accept being the best as an endpoint, but a starting
point. Through innovation and iteration, Google takes something that works
well and improves upon it in unexpected ways". Of course, in order to
satisfy all the desires of all the world's users, and that ever faster and
ever better, one needs to ever push back the point where one's desires are
satisfied. One must desire to desire to be the best. Seen in this context,
being second is worst than not to exist at all. But as far as we are
concerned we'd rather go for the following motto: "Making money, within a
firm devoted to excellence, is moral obligation!".

[NB. All the quotes are from Google's 'Corporate information' website at:
http://www.google.com/corporate/tenthings.html ]

Exhibit #4 Google and Open Source

Probably Google's most complex weapon is its strategy of
co-operation-cum-exploitation of the world of F/OSS. The Google Code
initiative (started March 2005) is a token of honour towards the F/OSS
community: "we are friends of theirs" say the Google's founders, "because
we owe them a lot". The site of Web's most used search engine explains
that Google Code is not about promoting the development of applications
working on its own APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), since there
is already a site devoted to them, but to make F/OSS development tools
that are of public interest available to everybody. The first four
projects on Google Code were actually programmes created by Google's own
engineers to optimise creation, optimisation and debugging of code. The
projects affiliated to Google code are also hosted at sourceforge.net and
distributed under a BSD 2.0 license (meaning the code may be used both on
F/OSS and on proprietary applications). Moreover, Google has recently
promised to make all kind of software available to the F/OSS community,
and these are mostly the outcome of the famous 20% of their working time
employees are free and encouraged to devote to personal projects.

So it's not a total coincidence that shortly after launching this
initiative, Google embarked on a robust recruitment drive of F/OSS
developers: the "Summer of Code", a contest of talents with a US$ 4500
prize money to be won. And then came 'Google Earth', and finally, like
every power that has achieved to create a distinct life-style of its own,
Google materialises a long-cherished dream: http://www.google.com/moon/ !
/Yes, Google's on the Moon!/  /To honour the first landing of Man on the
Moon, on July 20, 1969, we have added a few NASA images to the Google Maps
interface so that all can pay a visit to our celestial neighbour. Have a
nice trip!/ {: "After over three decades, we're finally getting ready to
go back to the Moon. To help you prepare, and to whet your appetite for
exploration, we teamed up with scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center
to bring you this collection of lunar maps and charts. This tool is an
exciting new way to explore the story of the Apollo missions, still the
only time mankind has set foot on another world."}

Google's moves, which are those of a {typical} 'quasi-monopolist' in both
its methods and its aims, already have had a direct effect on its
competitors. Today, Google is fast on its way to become a giant occupying
all spaces of the market; its constant stream of new services choke
smaller companies to death, as they are desperately battling to recruit
engineers and developers, and live in the constant fear to see their
products poached and duplicated.

The continuous launch of new services, coupled to the in-house funding of
potential spin-offs by its own work-force, make that Google today
factually has closed the market in terms of technological innovation.
Indeed, who would risk today financing a Web-based project, knowing full
well the risk that in a matter of days, it would be Google that launches

Google has managed to represent itself, both to observers and to the
average users, as a stalwart of progress. Starting with its search engine,
designed in a way to be rapidly and easily understood by its users, it has
multiplied ideas and proposals for {new} services.

With its choice for F/OSS, the relational economy that Google engineered
has become a 'world view' that can immediately be adopted as a desireable
evolution, towards a 'benign capitalism' as a dispenser of abundance, the
kind of 'ethical' economic dispensation that individuals are looking for.

End of Chapter 2

(to be continued)

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:

The Center for Internet and Society, Bangalore
The Tactical Technology Collective, Bangalore Office
Visthar, Dodda Gubbi post, Kothanyur-Bangalore

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