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Google is an Addict

I have lost a few friends to addiction, and spent a considerable amount of time learning about addiction and the way individuals get caught up in a spiral of destructive, compulsive behavior that eventually destroys them (usually after causing considerable amounts of collateral damage). Let 2013 go down as the year Google became an addict.

An addict, as you know it (someone addicted to drugs or some other “substance”) exhibits a fairly well-defined set of behaviors. Even if we temporarily ignore the following VERY IMPORTANT aspects of addiction:

  • genetics and other non-behavioral factors may modulate propensity for addiction (disease model)
  • addiction likely has roots in other health / mental health disorders (behavioral health, co-occurring disorders)

we still are left with the fact that addicts behave a certain way, as they spiral down into the depths of addiction towards a likely eventual “rock bottom”.  That “addict behavior” includes the following:

  • re-alignment of effort from tasks of daily living to the single task of securing a supply (of drugs)
  • shifting belief system that rationalizes changed behavior that supports drug-seeking (such as stealing to get cash for drugs, scamming to get drugs, ignoring needs of others/responsibilities)
  • increasing desire to isolate oneself, limiting interactions (and trustful relations) to like-minded peers (other addicts)
  • voluntary continuance of behavior that has serious negative consequences to self, even though aware of those consequences (compulsive, destructive behavior).

Funny how I see Google exhibiting these signs of addiction in 2013, with gusto.

Under Larry Page, Google re-aligned resources away from building the quality, innovative, and delightful search engine we enjoyed at Google the organization pulled back on the “20% innovation” concept, and aligned creative efforts with the core business of advertising targeting and identifying prospects for advertising targeting.

Google seems to have stripped autonomy away from the individual “leaders” it hired away from their innovative startups, and assigned them to the single task of “gaining more power” over the flow of traffic and commerce on Google’s properties. Google is clearly damaging its own projects, on the way to achieving these new goals.

Aside from an elite few, many top-tier technologists who “went to work for Google” are now basically pushing advertising onto the world for a living. That damage (to staff morale, to industry reputation, to the stream of talent formerly looking at Google as a great place to work) is considerable.
Google is addicted to power and money.

Google has CLEARLY started to isolate itself from others. No longer a fun, energetic member of the web economy, Google is actually hated by many companies and company leaders. Entire industries have engaged in discussions about “what to do about Google”. Retired tech industry veterans (the ones who don’t fear Google’s wrath) openly reference Google as “evil”.

Yet, in true addict fashion, Google’s behavior suggests it disagrees with the haters. In many cases, we see Google vilifying the haters, as if Google thought everyone else was out to get Google (justifying the abusive behaviors like a drug addict justifies stealing from a wealthy friend).

Google is an addict, and needs help.

Unfortunately we know that a deeply addicted individual — one who is truly under the power of the addiction and is not able to exert free will, will not seek help. No matter how much you may plead with Google to seek help, to get substance abuse counseling, and to realize how abusive and harmful its behavior is to the rest of the community,  Google will not do it. Google will only seek more, more, more of the drug it wants.

Every addict is unique, but it is very likely that it will take a near-death experience or a rock bottom crash to make Google change its ways. And there will be a ton of collateral damage.

In the mean time, hide your stuff.

When there are no Jobs

As in independent consultant and small business owner, I see how the markets and society impact productivity every day. One thing that need acknowledgement is that we are responsible for our own difficult situations. By we, I mean the tech sector companies, managers, workers, employees, investors, and consumers.

When we don’t respect education, we don’t get well-educated workers coming for jobs. When we have poorly-educated or not-very-smart employees in roles within a company (especially managers), we get inefficient and often error-prone execution of job functions, which leads to low quality products and services.

When we neglect education, we also isolate our independent personalities, “free thinkers”, highly-motivated and creative people, as they are most neglected by a lesser education system and lesser organizational function. Some say we “breed” mediocrity, but I don’t agree with that as much as I think we alienate those who do not fit into the “mediocre” group (perhaps pushing them out of view, leaving “mediocre” in sight).
At least two facets of this process lead to self-reinforcing mediocrity in our economy. As we manage companies that hire ill-prepared thinkers as employees, and manage the error-prone and lower quality production of products and services that results, we lower standards. At the same time, those free-thinkers and creatives and highly-motivated workers seek employment outside of that system.

This leads to our “Silicon Valley” experience on the one side (highly-motivated and creative thinkers seeking alternative systems of employment) with it’s exploitative labor arrangements distorting the purpose of labor away from production and towards servitude. It also feeds a lop-sided financial world driven by a winner-takes-all mentality with “go for the gold and invest” vs “hold back and try to hinder” behavior.

Like a sump, a community of lower-motivated and “entitled” workers makes up the largest remainder group. They accept work at mediocre dysfunctional organizations, and accept lower standards while seeking to make lives and find happiness.

But the consequences of this downward slide of economic civilization also include a perhaps less obvious “cheating society”, where workers who do not engage with the high climbers but who do not fit in with low-demand entitlement community of workers, do their best to “get ahead” within the system. These workers often ending up holding down multiple jobs or careers (e.g. job at the bank by day, real estate agent by night) or working as freelancers and contract workers. They “cheat” by exploiting “loopholes” in the system for personal gain. While “cheating” is a harsh word, if you look closely you might find a significant portion of their “earnings” come from exploitation of the overlaps between their endeavors, or their personal monetization of “slippage” that exists in the positions they hold.

Examples of “cheating” include personally selling excess office supplies from work on ebay (rationalized with “they were just going to throw it away”), spending company budget lines on training that is more relevant for the second job than the one that’s funding the purchase, calling in “sick” when there is an opportunity for better pay at a side job, etc. Sitting on multiple boards where there is conflict of interest or benefit derived from mutual considerations. Taking full benefits even when not needed (rationalized as “it’s mine, part of what I negotiated when I took the job”), deciding to execute a plan that is not truly needed by the company but would make your job much more fun, etc. The examples are so numerous and behavior so common we have come to accept them as “normal” or even “benedfits”, even though most of it technically is illegal or close to illegal. It often seems that the bigger the company, the more the cheating is considered “normal”. The government seems to be the biggest company of all, in that respect.

Psychologists have names for these behaviors (as do some lawyers) but for the purpose of this discussion I will simply note that when a person is underutilized and unhappy in a job, they tend to find ways to compensate and self-reward. Those “ways” are often at company expense, and this “cheating” mentality exists across the whole spectrum from worker through management and company behavior towards customers. One can even “see” how it could be extended to explain the nearly billion dollar pay of some CEOs, and the million dollar salaries of CEOs of so-called non-profit organizations. I think it stems from a lack of respect for education.

Of course “fixing our education system” is not a wholesale solution. I, personally, think our education system needs to be scrapped. I acknowledge however that I am not a qualified expert on fixing large dysfunctional systems.

But fixing “the education issue” is a solution. Fix education. Individual education, group education, societal education. Respect for enlightenment (and the process of “education”) is key to fixing the problems.

Perhaps the first step is to defend your own right to knowledge and enlightenment, an activity which will earn you access to “education”. You have a right to not be misinformed. You have a right to learn the truth (about whatever). You have a right (and perhaps a responsibility) to continually learn.

If you think about it (if you can.. meaning if you have any time to think, have any environment free from distractions such that you can think, have any way to defer the demands of everyday life such that you can freely “think”) then you may see that many of today’s “problem issues” stem from the failure of all of us to get educated and stay informed (educated):

We take too many prescription drugs
We drink to much alcohol
We take on too much risk in our leisure activities, or not enough (what happened to the middle ground?)
We “hate” too quickly
We “love” too little
We are “alone” too much, and our “community time” is too stressful/unfulfilling
We are either not busy or too busy (e.g. underemployed or overworked)
We have little peace and are becoming entrained by ambient noise – which brings us back to the top of this list

When there are no jobs, there is pain and trouble. But the solution is not “more jobs”. The lack of jobs is a symptom of the real problem, as is most of the above. The problem is what medical doctors commonly call “a failure to thrive”, in this case applied to the human spirit and humanity.

As individuals we thrive when we can fulfill our personal destinies, which were at one time the product of our unique personal combination of genetics, physical and mental abilities, and personalities, nurtured in a development environment (family, friends, society). But once we started to impose constraints, and developed them into a system of control, empowered by surveillance and authority, we started to kill “education”. Where our ultimate life paths were once determined by our individual natures, supported and influenced by our surroundings, our life paths today are determined by our ability to break free of constraints, “cheat”, or settle for a selection of entitlements within reach (using coping skills like alcohol and drugs to manage our internal discontent).

It wouldn’t seem so bad if we were “happy” with that, but clearly we are not. And whether or not we acknowledge it, when it comes to humanity, defined as “thriving in life as a human”, the status quo is not sustainable.

Education. Awareness. Enlightenment. Information. Knowledge. Satisfaction. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. Humanity.

Google Stifles Innovation, starts Strangling Itself

I’ve long claimed that Google’s efforts to regulate Internet publishing for it’s own commercial gain stifles innovation. I started this blog 2007 when it became clear that I needed to raise my profile as an SEO or get quietly destroyed via what could fairly be defined as anti-competitive practices. Google was getting big and powerful and had already shown many of us it would be playing hardball with any one who threatened to make money off it’s activities. That despite a managed public “do no evil” image.

Towards the end of 2007 it was clear how Google would lead, set up, and knock down SEO. Google has now completed most of that strategy. A careful analysis of the SEO world today would reveal an almost meaningless press, few if any actionable SEO guides coming out of citizen media (seo blogs), a virtual army of propagandists (some willing, many unwilling) spewing the “just make good content” junk, and more confusion than ever about what SEO is and whether or not it works, is safe, is spam, etc.

Those same actors who call SEO “spam” and proclaim a new age of content marketing based solely on a prayer that Google will reward creative content with traffic, previously helped push SEO under ground starting around 2009, where it had been and where I would have stayed had I not been forced to start blogging in 2007. Why would a sane, knowledgable, experienced tactical practitioner share actionable insights with a community of takers, who are also willing to bow to the competitor (Google) at first sign of the Almighty G being displeased?

Now, Google is larger and bolder than ever. And stifling innovation more than ever. As I casually watch the various stories of Google doing this or that, it’s pretty clear that Google feels threatened. Why? Bazillions is not enough? No, it’s not. Pride and avarice… pride and avarice. The difference today is that Google seems willing to be the bad guy, in order to secure and protect it’s control over the Internet Billions. It doesn’t seem to care that people don’t trust it, or dislike it.

In “Google yanks Adblock Plus from Google Play, Surprising Nobody“, Venturebeat reported that Google had dropped the super-popular ad blocking plugin from the downloads area developers are required to use to reach consumers. Google cited a policy violation related to conflict with Google’s commercial interests. That was the reason for the “Surprising Nobody” part from VentureBeat’s editors. But it did surprise some – those who believed Google’s promise to be open and encourage innovation. Clearly, innovation (even very, very popular innovation) is not allowed if it blocks Google from making money.

But that’s not all, folks. The ad blocking plugins have continued despite Google’s attempts to stop them. There are more of them now, and more options, and they are more popular. But the biggest one… the one that Google attempted to stifle back in March, now quietly allows Google’s ads to get through the blocker. Where it used to offer users the option of blocking Google’s ads, it now whitelists them, while still offering the users options for blocking other companies’ ads.

While the SEOs might immediately think Google’s threat of deindexing from Google search or exclusion from the Google Play download store would have been enough of a threat to cause such a reversal by the ad blocking plugin publisher, we now know it was cash. Google reportedly paid AdBlock Plus to whitelist Google’s ads. Some have estimated the saving for Google to be upwards of $800 million dollars.

Innovation? No longer relevant. Good for users? Not if it isn’t also Good for Google. And thus begins the decline of Google, in measurable ways.

We SEOs working the front lines of competitive publishing have always known that Google needs us in order to remain viable as a search engine. Now we know Google doesn’t need to remain viable as a search engine. Google search has been decaying for some time now, and will continue to decline in quality as Google manipulates publishing for advertising-driven commercial gain. It simply doesn’t matter, right now, for Google.

Public respect? Also doesn’t seem to matter so much. Cash is king. So “best for users” is no longer relevant. And I predict, as Google continues to learn that cash matters more than respect, and that users without choices really don’t need to be catered to (especially if you have the power to stifle innovation and corrupt talented disrupters), Google will strangle itself.

I’ll leave the “how” for homework, but historically it has something to do with moral bankruptcy, man’s search for meaning, the purpose of life and the man’s need for freedom/tolerance for abuse.

We can see it happening internally… Google is big and full of smart people. Some are moving towards hardware, some towards global initiatives, some towards other areas. But just as the Borg will be evil externally to protect it’s advertising cash, the organization can be expected to behave badly internally, when the ad-driven cash flow is disturbed. I think they know this… but don’t know what to do about it.

Which reminds me… sacred cows make the best hamburgers.

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