Thursday, April 05, 2007

Search this

Didja notice the WSJ article today about's new marketing campaign in the UK, and the resulting fallout? The campaign is less about them and more an attempt to play up fears of Big Brother Google controlling information channels on the internet.

Time out - right now a tall Argentinian is standing IN my cubicle, conversing loudly with his dad and brother over the cube walls. I find this rather aggressively rude, breathtakingly audacious. Who does that - like, ever? Ever, in the history of the universe, who walks into another person's workspace in such a way? In Argentina they do, I guess. He walks out, then back in, out and in again, now he's standing there and listening. My personal space is being violated. I am not a confrontational person, so haven't said anything yet. And don't know what I would - he's the son of the owner and founder. Perhaps a "no trespassing" sign. Better use the caps lock - unleash the fury!

Okay, about I find their attempts at a sort of weird mainstream-guerilla-counterculture hybrid that doesn't build or promote or even really mention their OWN brand to be exceedingly curious, but not as curious as this:

"The online criticism (of the campaign) hasn't been the company's only problem. Soon after the ads appeared, bloggers noticed that searching for the word "Google" on pulled up this comment: "Don't be a droid - use different sources of information" next to a drawing of a man on puppet strings and a link to's anti-google web site. Mr Lanzone says the link was put up by overzealous staff, and was quickly removed to avoid any doubt about the impartiality of the site's searches."

Nothing like exploiting the channels of information you control to decry just that sort of exploitation.

More to the point, I love how they gloss over it: "oh, no big deal; some of our staffers got a little carried away and manipulated our search engine to suit their proclivities." Like it's no big deal, like it happens all the time. If quality of information is a positive good for and its users and exploitation a hiss and byword, wouldn't this bring down a sort of holocaust on the marketing hacks that tampered with search results? Instead it's a little faux-pas that's fixed and forgotten.

The subversive part of me wonders what sorts of search results I'd like to manipulate. Imagine! What would you like a searcher to see when they query Sanjaya, erectile dysfunction, or the Hawley-Smoot Tarrif?

But there are economic concerns at stake. No secret that a search engine will show results its creator designates. And this leads to a question worth pondering: what are the economic, societal, and investment consequences of the information atmosphere that is being shaped in the electronic age? Where the power to promote and restrict certain information rests in the hands of a relative few?

The utopian vision of the internet and unfettered communication offered the idea that people would be able to communicate with pretty much whomever they pleased. Are the many and various channels many and various enough to overwhelm any effort to restrict? Do people care enough to find what they WANT to find? Or are they happy with whatever pops up on their yahoo! home page? And what are the consequences of THAT? Have you noticed the rolling-up and consolidation of promotional power in the various media? Disney promotes its films on ABC. Yahoo pumps up its media partners with "news" stories on its main page. The same names are seen wherever you look, it seems. Britney, Paris, and Xtina, yay!

Monday, March 26, 2007


I am watching a nature show about winged migration. A bird with a broken wing is being stalked and attacked by sand crabs on a sea shore. Now there is a pulsating, shifting pile of crabs atop the bird, eating it. ! What a fascinating series of images! There are many archetypal rivalries in the natural world - lions and gazelles, sperm whales and giant squids, dogs and mailmen, gerbils and fax machines. I could never have imagined that birds and crabs would share a place among them. The crabs have a strange, darting attack that would be hard to take seriously - they walk sideways, so they are leading their attack not with mandibles or claws, but with their quick, slender legs. Imagine being confronted by a mugger who pranced towards you sideways, not even looking at you.

I am sad that they didn't show the takedown - the moment where the quick, darting advances of the crabs offered an opening and they pulled down their prey. How did they do it? They can't advance and attack at the same time, so they'd need a rather immobile prey, wouldn't they? I suppose the crabs have been doing such things for a long time, so they have probably figured it out.

Another bird has just speared a large fish with its sharp bill. It cannot swallow it because the fish is still impaled on its lower jaw. Now it's figured it out. I have decided that birds are cool. I have long had an affinity for penguins, but will now extend this affinity to other species as well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Masters in History from the University of Wikipedia

Its weaknesses aside, one of my favorite things to do is query I like to read about things (concepts, objects, etc) that are often used but rarely considered - the neglected patches of our mental or cultural landscapes, if you will. Like what's the difference between an assasination and a murder. We all know they're different, but how?

I also love how pages are linked to each other. Such a bother in book form, it's a breeze on the internet, and I often swing, Tarzan-like, from page to page, and end up learning something awesome about something I'd never even thought to examine when I opened my browser.

Like, when was the fairy tale Cinderella first told? I have no idea. Turns out it is a few hundred years old - IN ENGLISH. There is a Chinese tale, hundreds of years older, from which Cinderella's original teller seems to have borrowed liberally.

I strongly encourage you read about it. On wikipedia, of course!

Mice turning into footmen is strange enough, I suppose, but the olde-time Chinese take on the story is outright bizarre. The wicked stepmother eats Cinderella's mother, for example.

Wait, what?

You heard me. And the ending is breathtaking. To me the elevation of the heroine and the corresponding abasement of the wickeds is an edifying denoument. It wouldn't have struck me as karmically necessary to crush them with stones.