Monday, August 1, 2011

Note to Google: Here's what I think about you

For the past couple of days, phone researchers from Ipsos have been calling me. They want to know if I'll do a 20-minute phone survey in which they'll gather my thoughts and impressions about Google. Something about them wanting to survey "leading opinion formers." Calls the accuracy of their research into question, since I've been pretty busy in the past month or so writing more about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools than online and digital stuff. I was so busy that, both times the Ipsos researchers called, I had to put them off because I was busy with a story. I've probably missed my chance to tell Google honchos what I think of them. So, I'll just tell you what I would have told them.

  • I'm liking Google+, but who has time for another social network? Keep integrating it with Gmail and search, and you might worm your way deeper into my digital life.

  • Yes, your search rocks. (But you already know that). A colleague cleaning up her desk the other day went, "Hey, I still have a phone book." I actually laughed. Now I look over at the least-used corner of my desk and see I still have one too -- from 2002.

  • The +1 button, your answer to Facebook's "like" button, isn't necessarily wowing me, especially when it comes to search. I'm so used to typing a search out and expecting the magic Google algorithm to produce the best results that I don't look to see if any of my friends are agreeing with the algorithm by +1-ing pages. Maybe +1 will gain more clout as Google+ pulls more socialization throughout Google's digital ecology.

  • Whatever happened with Google Hotpot, the Yelp-style business review project that was supposed to target some 40,000 Charlotte small businesses? Several business owners called me after this story saying they hadn't been able to get in touch with Google for follow-up. I've seen few Hotpot stickers in the windows of local businesses. Was this a success and you guys are just keeping it low-key, or did it flop?

  • And lastly, don't forget your own motto: "Don't Be Evil." It's hard for people not to fear the ambitions of a company whose market capitalization of nearly $200 billion dwarfs the gross domestic product of your average third-world nation. No matter how kind or humanitarian or noble you guys think you are, the rest of us will always have one eyebrow cocked, suspecting you secretly lust for world domination. (Might this sudden interest in what we think have anything to do with the growing interest of government regulators in your dominance of the search market?). Accept the fact that you don't get to be the quirky "good guys" anymore. Overcompensate. Give tons to charity. Launch a massive college scholarship program to train the next generation of digital engineers. Steer clear of anything that even remotely hints at privacy violations or unfairly stomping smaller competitors. And just realize even all that still won't be enough to ward off every attack. As Wilt Chamberlain so aptly put it: "Nobody roots for Goliath."
That's what I think, for what it's worth. What are you thinking of Google these days?