OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG) Episode 6

Hello, dear readers. I’ve got just one item to review today, but it actually gave me a lot of food for thought that I’ll be focusing on more than the review itself. The book is What Would Google Do?, by Jeff Jarvis (of Buzzmachine.com and City University of New York,) and it raises a lot of great points about the ways the internet (and Google) have changed the way organizations work.

In What Would Google Do, Jeff Jarvis takes a look at not only the ways that Google has changed the world already (information flow and advertising chief among them), but at all the ways its principles could be applied to change the world for the better. Just imagine what would’ve happened, Jarvis argues, if Wall Street had etched “Don’t Be Evil” into the granite of their building’s entrances and acted according to that principle. Telecom companies, cable companies, insurance companies, PR companies! The list goes on, and Jarvis provides interesting glimpses into possible futures for each of these industries (and more.) As Google grows ever-larger and more Skynet-like, many of his less likely predictions (Google Power & Light, Google University) may yet come to pass. It might sound scary at first, but when you think about a company other than Google doing the same thing, that’s where the real fear comes in.

As mentioned above, here are a few notes I took while reading…

Regarding the Google business model (specifically, “Listen to your customers”) it seems like there is vast grassroots/viral/what-have-you potential for a movement to change the way women’s clothes are designed, packaged and sold. Why exactly do we as a society cling to an archaic “size” system that isn’t even consistent within one line of one brand at one store, let alone an entire brand at one store, let alone one brand across multiple stores, let alone universally. No woman I know, when asked the question “can you easily find clothes that fit you?” has answered in the affirmative. It seems like the manufacturers might as well not bother printing sizes at all, and people might have the same success rate finding clothes that fit them when guessing based on rough estimation. With a universal size system, however, power would be put back in the hands of the consumers. Suddenly it would actually be reasonable to buy clothes online without trying them in the store. Also, with a more detailed size system that doesn’t try to cram every body type into a single-number numeric scale, fits could be adjusted according to the wealth of body type information that users could voluntarily provide. I mean, fer cripes’ sake, men’s pants have two size elements and men’s shirts often have three size elements, and we’re far less varied in body type than women! As with Google, more accurate and well-organized information helps everybody win.

The counter-argument to this, I suppose, would be that fashion is a vital source of emotional and psychological manipulation. There are entire industries dedicated to helping women force themselves into a shape that they’re not naturally meant to have, and people see this as a good thing. Women don’t want clothes that fit them to be easily accessible, because then they won’t have the incentive they need to lose weight. And they certainly won’t keep buying more clothes in a never-ending attempt to simultaneously keep up with fashion trends and wear things that fit comfortably. But hey, Google doesn’t stop to think of all the industries it “destroys” with each of its successive revolutions. After all, it’s only a matter of time until someone takes advantage of the opportunity.

Jarvis refers to Craigslist as the ugliest, most simple site on the web (other than Google’s homepage). I wonder if someone out there has created a bookmarklet to “skin” the Craigslist page, making it slightly more aesthetically pleasing without interfering with its functionality.

Apparently all Google teams think long and hard before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less-important feature. This is a great way to approach problems, and I think we should all do more of it in our lives. If a new piece of technology catches your eye, stop and ask yourself whether or not it will make life less complicated or more complicated.

The more I read about, well, anything in the factual world, the more I think that the problem (and the huge opportunity for someone smarter than me) with Web2.0 is filtering. I don’t trust the Blogosphere (and the Twittersphere, even less so) because it lacks the filtering system of traditional media. Google’s analytics will never completely replace expert knowledge and analysis because the human brain can be an unparalleled filter. Twitter’s biggest drawback, which is only now being addressed, is a lack of user-controlled filter tools. The “list” feature is a huge step in the right direction, but I’d like to see more along that line. Despite the “Long Tail” phenomenon made possible by internet distribution, the top 100 songs on iTunes account for something like 90% of sales because popularity is its only filter (If you want people to notice you, you have to be popular enough to show up in a featured spot on iTunes. A Catch-22 if ever there was one.) If I were a web2.0 or web3.0 (or webCandle+Lemon) entrepreneur, I’d look to filtering (both by credible experts and by the users themselves) as the next big thing. EXAMPLE: I can’t find a comprehensive list of podcasts by genre on iTunes. This fact CONFUSES and INFURIATES me! Especially since their search technology really doesn’t lend itself to subject searches. For that matter, neither does Netflix’s. How is it that libraries have that kind of power, while these web giants don’t?

I am a luddite in that I like editors. Editors turned On the Road from a stream-of-consciousness story written on one long roll of paper without punctuation into something I could actually read without getting a headache. Editors are, I’ll argue, print media’s competitive advantage (well, them and fact-checkers.) Sure, some bloggers actually research their materials and check their facts before publishing, but unless they’re hugely popular, no one will bother to correct them if they’re wrong. And for those who aren’t held under close scrutiny, is it any surprise that they don’t go out of their way to see if the things they’re saying aren’t factual, even though they seem true and work so well for the point they’re trying to make? Editors and fact-checkers make a site worthy of not just my interest, but my trust. To steal a word from Stephen Colbert, editors and fact-checkers are the last line of defense against Wikiality.

Well, that’s all the notes I have. Please feel free to point out any perspectives I might have forgotten, or reasons why I’m completely off-base. Without you, I’ll just go on thinking these things.

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One Response

  1. […] OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG) Episode 6 […]

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