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Does Matt Cutt’s Think Google is Evil, or just Civilized?

Matt Cutts has posted a lengthy bit on the issue of Google being Evil. He says that internally, Google is a “polite, concensus-driven company”.

Google the organization in many ways mirrors the character of its employees. Google is a very polite, consensus-driven company. Usually if you get everyone in the same room and everyone explains their reasoning, the best decision emerges pretty quickly. As a result, I can’t recall ever hearing someone shout at Google. Even when issues are hotly debated, we tend to keep our discussion and our self-criticism within the company.

I would like to point out that all Matt really said there is that they (the internal employees Matt meets with) have a common agenda. They listen to each other and reach concensus on issues. It doesn’t address what that common agenda is, nor does it address how we non-Googlers are increasingly recognizing how evil Google the for-profit-powerhouse has become. While Matt’s post wasn’t exactly about “Google being Evil”, it should have been subtitled something like that because it directly responds to several posts on other, high profile blogs this week suggesting Google enters 2007 with a negative image, and one that belies the “Do No Evil” mantra of 2006543. Matt avoids the direct question by suggesting that Google is full of polite people who work together. There’s no shouting at Google.

Umm.. actually there is a good deal of shouting at Google. Matt probably means there isn’t shouting inside Google.

I propose a new metric of success for Google. The Google Shout Ratio. The ratio of shouting at Google, to shouting within Google, needs to go down. Like in golf, lower score is better. Let’s try and get Google to zero.

That can be accomplished in only two ways: either the amount of shouting directed AT Google by frustrated, rudely-handled web masters (the numerator) needs to decrease, or the amount of shouting within Google, between the various employees, (the denominator) needs to increase. It’s the old numerator over denominator thing. It’s not too hard to grasp, but it is a bit of math and fractions are involved. Try, and I bet you’ll get it.

One way to decrease your Shout Performance Ratio is to deliver less frustration and rude bahavior unto those of us outside the Googleplex. I know Google is deathly afraid of big numbers, and views each of us out here as a threatening voice when considered individually (gosh, there must be a googol of us !), but really, Matt, we are not just a “collective”. We are individuals. Every one. You may treat the web as a corpus, and the index as a corpus, and even your bank account as a vast collection of dollars, but “web masters” are not a corpus. We are people, and each of us is unique (just like everyone else). Answer our emails. Address our issues. Treat us like the humans we are.

Another way to lower your golf shout score is to start shouting at one another inside Google. I am less a fan of that approach, but it would increase your performance. The thought is that the more you shout at each other in there, the more you will have in common with us out here. Perhaps some empathy might take root. At the very least, there would be less of a “you polite, concensus-driven Googlers” vs. “those outsiders” mentality. At least when you don’t have concensus, someone inside the Googleplex will be in agreement with us, right? The way you are doing it now, if someone agrees with us, you all have polite meetings until concensus is reached. Since I see very little favoring us webmasters coming out of Google these days, I have to assume you are successfully repressing the pro-web master voices with your concensus approach. All I’m doing here is putting a little more pro-user-mojo into the performance metrics for you guys.

Is Google evil? Who knows? According to Matt, the people inside Google are polite and concensus driven. So….. well, whatever. But is Google Evil? I’m going to go by the Shout Ratio. For every individual shouting at Google, there needs to be someone in Google shouting at the problem, for the performance ratio to achieve unity. More complaints = poor performance. More internal shouting, as hopefully external complaints go down, and Google gets rewarded for doing well. And in the tradition of BigCorporateManagement, any questions like “what happens after all the people are happy yadayadayada…” will get addressed at a later date.

So for starting 2007, here’s a few things on the list of what Google needs to fix:

  • one site, one webmaster: this is ridiculous. We own networks of sites, not just sites. We manage sites for others, sell sites, and buy sites. We don’t need to grant Google access to our proprietary business information, we don’t need to “claim” our sites before the eyes of the GreatGoogle, and we don’t need Google suggesting that if we own our DavesFineAudio.tld website is possibly spam.
  • send in spam reports: please stop encouraging disenfrachised wannabee competitive webmasters to report their competitors as spam. It hurts Google more than anyone else.
  • represent the buyer and the seller: In real estate, it’s illegal to represent buyer and seller in the same transaction. Duh. Well, with AdSense and AdWords, Google is playing both sides of the coin. If there is no shouting inside Google about this, it must be because you all have excessive profits in common, and are able to achieve concensus that Life is Good inside Google. Out here it’s as obvious a conflict of interest as there might be. I don’t think Elliot Spitzer is Governor of New York because he wants to stay Governor of New York, you know what I mean?
  • cleanup your room: Google is paid billions to “organize the world’s information”. Use some of that profit to detect spam sites. You can start simple, like the ratio of AdSense characters to non-AdSense on-page text. If it’s greater than 2, it’s spam. That alone will make a nice improvement, but hire a Ph.D. or two and I know you can do even better.
  • stick to your knitting: I don’t compare Google to Yahoo! except in search, so why do you? If I want photo sharing I will use Flickr. That’s why Yahoo! bought Flickr. If I want to post video of my sons playing hockey on the Canucks home ice, I’ll use YouTube. That’s why you bought it, I guess. Does anyone really need this non-search beta stuff?
  • snake oil quality score/ratio/factors: listen, it’s plain as day that these landing page quality factors and such are all just efforts to grab more profits from the table, so why masquerade? If it’s quality, we should see the improvements and we don’t. So why not just increase your take to 90% of the AdWords/AdSense play, and let the players play the game. There are plenty of web masters who will still play for the peanuts (especially in Moldavia and China) so you don’t need to worry about that. And at 90% house you can still enjoy excessive profits without all the phony “quality improvement” mumbo-jumbo. After the initial shock, the shouting outside will stop, the shouting inside will go back down and things will be fine.  Just stop trying to sell us snake-oil-salesmen on the newest, improved elixer in the form of a “quality initiative”. Nobody’s fooled, Google. Nobody.
  • And finally, recognize that the BigSecret is not a secret any more. There is simply not enough quality traffic to support the ad inventory, and everybody knows it. Raise the prices you pay the good publishers, raise the costs for the good ad placement, and recognize your parked pages for the crap they are by pricing them fractionally and similarly banning the Buy Crap at ebay stuff from the network except for those lowest-tier, probably well-matched MFA pages. A spade is a spade and it’s only good for shoveling.

Most marketers I know recognize the bad press for what it is: a yearning that Google be good. Listen to that, Google. You can’t buy that sort of brand loyalty, but you sure can piss it away.


One Comment

  1. Cygnus wrote:

    That was very straight to the point John; I liked it. The biggest piece, as far as I see it, is the adsense recognition — it so glaringly obvious by looking at some of the most basic MFA sites not only how much adsense code to expect, but where to expect it…a little tweaking would go a long, long way.

    Although not as egregious as representing buyer/seller simultaneously, other things that bother me are the lack of validity on basic operators (site:, link:, etc)…some SEOs only go to Yahoo and MSN when they want to see whether recently acquired links are showing up — that’s a bad thing for Google; there’s no reason to put out sample or false information, especially if the goal truly is to aggregate and organize the world’s information.


    Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 7:54 am | Permalink