Lookout, France! Google hires neo-con headbanger

Axis of Do No Evil

The company that prides itself on “Doing No Evil” isn’t taking any chances with its latest executive appointment. Dan Senor, the company’s new Global Communications and Strategy VP, has a CV guaranteed to have Register columnist Otto Z Stern firing a celebratory fusillade skywards from his compound in New Mexico.

A former Senior Associate at the Carlyle Group, Senor was briefly Scott McLellan’s deputy as White House spokesman before becoming head of the the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq’s information department. The White House web site bills him as Senior Advisor to Presidential Envoy L. Paul Bremer III. Fox News hired Senor as a panelist in February. While in Iraq Senor showed his loyalty by going jogging in a Bush-Cheney ’04 tracksuit.

Not everyone is impressed.
Continue reading “Lookout, France! Google hires neo-con headbanger”

GoogleNet – the ultimate embrace and extend?

We’ve been reading stories about the “end of the internet” ever since the internet was exposed to the public more than a decade ago. Telcos, media companies, infrastructure hardware providers, and operating systems monopolists have all taken their turn as the villain in this particular drama. So far not one has succeeded.

But the really scary thing about “the end of the internet” was never how easily it could be achieved, but that it might be welcomed by most of the people who actually use it. Now Google has helped drive the point home.
Continue reading “GoogleNet – the ultimate embrace and extend?”

Google to Wall St: our CFO couldn't make it. So meet the Chef

The next time Google invites Wall Street analysts to a six hour financial presentation, it may as well direct them to a point in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Microsoft already has a wonderful MapPoint “drowning service” that will show them precisely how to get there.

That surely was the unspoken sentiment behind Google’s first ever analyst meeting in Mountain View this week, which left Wall Street’s finest perplexed. CFO George Reyes gave a brief introduction, took a couple of questions, but didn’t give a presentation, as is the norm.

Instead Charlie Ayers, former Grateful Dead chef, described how he’d prepare a delicious lunch of grilled pork tenderloin.

Executives gave nothing away.

The slideshow can be found here, although we’ve distilled some of the essential banality of the day by capturing some screenshots, such as this one:

Google financial analyst day - Slide 1
Continue reading “Google to Wall St: our CFO couldn't make it. So meet the Chef”

Google's No-Google tag blesses the Balkanized web

Karl Auerbach’s prediction that the internet is balkanizing into groups of people who only accept traffic from each other took another step closer to reality today. The veteran TCP/IP engineer and ICANN board member has warned of the effect for years.

“The ‘Net is balkanizing. There are communities of trust forming in which traffic is accepted only from known friends,” Auerbach told Wired last year.

The trend can be seen at various levels. At the user level, where we see bloggers repeating each other in an echo chamber and reinforcing their views; in the middle of the network, where Verizon recently blocking off inbound email from Europe, and it’s happening deep down at the packet level too, as a result of the net’s background radiation.

But all these may look like an innocent prelude. Google said today that its search engine will respect a new link attribute, “rel=nofollow”, which will means its algorithms will not give weighting to the target URL. MSN, Yahoo! and blog vendors said they’ll follow suit. It’s effectively declaring PageRank™ dead for weblogs, in an attempt to stem the problem.
Continue reading “Google's No-Google tag blesses the Balkanized web”

Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed … in 42 days

This year marks the 100th anniversary of George Orwell’s birth, and the writer who best explained the power of language on politics would be amazed what can be done with the Internet.
Second Superpower
On February 17 [2003] a front page news analysis in the New York Times bylined by Patrick Tyler described the global anti-war protests as the emergence of “the second superpower”.

Tyler wrote:

“…the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”

This potent phrase spread rapidly.

Anti-war campaigners, peace groups and NGOs took to describing the global popular protest as “the second superpower”. And in less than a month, the phrase was being used by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. .

And a week ago, a Google search for the phrase would have shown the vigorous propagation of this ‘meme’.

Rub out the word

Then came this. Entitled The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head, by James F Moore, it was accompanied by a brand new blog. The details need not detain us for very long, because the consequences of this piece are much more important than its anodyne contents.

It’s a plea for net users to organize themselves as a “superpower”, and represents a class of techno-utopian literature that John Perry Barlow has been promoting – the same sappy stuff, but not as well written – for the past ten years.

Only note how this example is sprinkled with trigger words for progressives, liberals and NPR listeners. It concludes – if you can find your way through this mound of feel-good styrofoam peanuts –

“we do not have to create a world where differences are resolved by war. It is not our destiny to live in a world of destruction, tedium, and tragedy. We will create a world of peace”.

In common with the genre, there’s no social or political context, although the author offers a single specific instruction that is very jarring in the surrounding blandness: we must co-operate with The World Bank. Huh?

It’s politics with the politics taken out: in short, it’s “revolution lite”.

Now here’s the important bit. Look what the phrase “Second Superpower” produces on Google now. Try it! Moore’s essay is right there at the top. And not just first, but it already occupies all but three of the first thirty spots.

The bashful Moore writes: “It was nice of Dave Winer [weblog tools vendor] and Doc Searls [advertising consultant] to pick up on it, even if it’s not really ready for much exposure.” No matter, Moore is an overnight A-list blogging superstar, at his very first attempt.

Although it took millions of people around the world to compel the Gray Lady to describe the anti-war movement as a “Second Superpower”, it took only a handful of webloggers to spin the alternative meaning to manufacture sufficient PageRank™ to flood Google with Moore’s alternative, neutered definition.

Indeed, if you were wearing your Google-goggles, and the search engine was your primary view of the world, you would have a hard time believing that the phrase “Second Superpower” ever meant anything else.

To all intents and purposes, the original meaning has been erased. Obliterated, in just seven weeks.

You’re especially susceptible to this if you subscribe to the view that Google’s PageRank™ is “inherently democratic,” which is how Google, Inc. describes it.

And this Googlewash took just 42 days.
Continue reading “Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed … in 42 days”

“This MS Antitrust story was created by a computer program”

Google’s News service is remarkable: and the most astonishing thing about it is that it is generated automatically.

” The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program,” says a note at the foot of each page.

But why stop there? Why not use Perl scripts to generate the copy, too? You don’t need messy human wetware – foul drunken journalists – and it’s much more of an “end-to-end” solution, whatever that may be. It could revolutionize the industry, because once you’ve done away with journalists, there’s no need to employ expensive PRs to buy them drinks (or in Apple’s case, “decline to comment”.)

We’ve been secretly testing our own story generator, and here we shall reveal exactly how it works. Google keeps its algorithms and weighting secret – but we’re delighted to share them with the world. But be patient: it’s a work in progress.
Continue reading ““This MS Antitrust story was created by a computer program””