Google, Dodgeball, and Evil

1 03 2010

“Don’t Be Evil” – The mantra of Google has come into play in many of their business decisions. They have tried to sew this message into their fabric of which the company operates upon, and keep it in mind when expanding their business with new projects in different directions. However, one question in Ken Auletta’s book Googled got me thinking. The question asks what is evil and what happens if Google doesn’t see something as evil, but someone else does, or vice versa? Essentially, how and why does Google determine what is evil?

Auletta’s book offers a fairly detailed history of the Google company, as well as semi-biographies on the owners and founders. This helped the audience get to know the brains, and take a look into why certain decisions were made, and perhaps a better understanding of what they think of as “evil.” But in doing some research for a case study on a new technology for another class, I found an example of something involving Google, and that I would generally consider “evil,” or at least “not entirely ethical.”

Google has been dappling in the social networking arena, recently launching Buzz. But this is not their first attempt either. In 2005, Google experimented with mobile GPS-based social networks. Dodgeball was a company founded in 2000 by Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert that combined real-time status updates like Twitter, social friends and lists like Facebook, user generated tips and reviews for establishments like Yelp, and a GPS tracker to share all this information.

Google “acquired” Dodgeball in 2005 and brought the founders along with the project. However, just two years later, the Crowley and Rainert left Google, dissatisfied with the direction Dodgeball was headed, and the lack of time dedicated to the project. Dodgeball failed to catch on and grow, and in January 2009, Google announced that it would be dropping the project and discontinuing the Dodgeball service. The very next month, Google released Google Latitude, a mobile GPS social network very similar to Dodgeball that runs as an add-on to Google Maps. Undeterred, Crowley revealed Foursquare in March 2009. Foursquare began to grow, and now almost a year later, the social network boasts over almost 275,000 members internationally, and continues to grow.

So where does Google and their Evil mantra come in? Personally, I find it a little suspicious that Google would drop a project because it was not successful, but then release a similar project less than a month later. Perhaps Google drove the Dodgeball founders away as a strategy, chose to drive Dodgeball into the ground, and then start their own project. Perhaps the low success rate was not because it didn’t catch on with the public, but rather purposefully not marketed right. Perhaps.

But conspiracy theory or not, the actions of Google leave me asking “Are you sure that wasn’t evil?” There was no revealed history about disputes or discrepancies between Dodgeball and Google, so it is unclear why Dodgeball never took off, or why Google chose to invest more effort in a similar side project.

Could a company like Google become so large that it has the possibility to absorb other smaller companies, and then choose to expand on them, terminate them, or make it their own idea? If so, Google (or said company) could regulate its competition, provide less options, and further expand their own business. Sounds kinda evil to me.


Stats in motion

5 10 2009

I think the main problems in working with statistics and numbers (at least in modern times) are they are static (boring), outdated (irrelevant), and aesthetically challenged (also boring). So naturally Google is one of the first to step up and provide new options for beating Statistical Boring Syndrome (SBS).

Enter Google and their new Motion Charts. It starts with a basic spreadsheet, the most plain and dry material ever created. You can create one available from Google Docs, or just copy and paste your numbers in. Then adding a motion chart gadget, your numbers can come to life.

With pre set designs and set ups, Google will turn your boring pie chart into an aesthetically pleasing and colorful representation. But then, watch out! Your pie chart can morph into a linear graph, bar graph – bubbles move, colors change, date sets alternate… you make it come to life.

Also, you can update the chart through the Google Doc (anywhere you have Internet access) and your information can stay relevant and updated. With formal polls and surveys you may see in newspapers or on the news, once they are published, they never change. That is, until a few months later when the poll is updated and republished… but who wants to sit around and wait for that?

I plan on posting my own example when it is complete (so, look for it by Wednesday). I want to show the population growth of online virtual worlds and communities. This included social networks like Facebook and MySpace, online games like World of Warcraft, and other virtual environment where users are more free to determine the use, like Second Life. Regardless of the program intent or user action, virtual communities are on a steady increase over the past few years.

Now, you may or may not have read that previous paragraph, but I guarantee that a moving, changing, colorful graph would have gained much more attention than some text on a background. Reading lists and written out statistics is pretty lame and sometimes hard to comprehend. Visuals are where it’s at, and visuals that move are even better.

Revolutionizing the graph and chart industry… Google’s most recent accomplishment. My only hope is that next they tackle interactive textbooks that read themselves to me. Or a robot that will write my papers. The future is getting less boring every moment. Ha, maybe I’ll make a motion graph about how progressively less boring Google makes the Internet and our lives.