This has been popping up a lot lately at Google.cn, Google’s new search engine for China:


You don’t understand? I don’t either but I’m told that it basically means “these results are censored” and it is the disclaimer for Google as they post results that have been modified according to specs provided by the Government of China.

I have not been as critical as most of Google’s decision to censor results for several reasons. The best have been articulated by Bill Gates at Microsoft. Gates echoes many of the sentiments expressed in this official post by Google about Google Censorship:

Andrew McLaughlin, senior policy counsel for Google notes China’s
… embrace of a market economy and its lifting of 400 million people out of poverty …

China critics give these accomplishments short shrift. Life comes before liberty, and to enjoy both you must have adequate living conditions. It’s not clear to me that it’s our right or our job to tell China how to meet the needs of the world’s largest population.

McLaughlin continues:
But how is that full access most likely to be achieved? We are convinced that the Internet, and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google, will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world. Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.

I’m not as optimistic as Google about the future of censorship in China but I’m also tired of hearing the shrill commentary implying that we’ve “perfected” free speech here in the USA. “All the free speech money can buy” is hardly a perfect model for a free and open democracy.

Sure, a thoughful speaker has the right to challenge or discuss any political point of view, but even the finest and most intelligent debates are (usually) lost in the din of “news” about celebrity crimes and propaganda by the celebrity spokespeople for the mindless.

Luckily the internet is a far more powerful distributive mechanism than most reckon and the spread of information will flow past most of the roadblocks very quickly. This is happening in the USA thanks to websites and blogs that challenge conventional wisdom and the abundant commercial forms of speech that effectivly censor debate and it’s starting to happen in China as people learn to beat the filters and access the “free and open” global internet. China will soon see that censorship will likely have the unintended consequence of focusing attention on the very topics they seek to hide.

The eyes of the dot com storms

When you are involved with something on a regular basis – in my case internet publishing and marketing stuff – it’s hard to determine the extent to which THE world revolves around this stuff as opposed to just YOUR world.

These days it sure feels like I’m a small part of the global storm – now a hurricane – which is growing in intensity, sweeping away old business models like so much straw, and reshaping the way Governments, business, and most importantly people grow, thrive, and sometimes fail in this brave new Xth wave world. Hey – I coined Toffler and Huxley in the same sentence!

Davos’ theme this year is creativity and (naturally?) the top idea about the theme came from Google’s Marissa Mayer. More about that later…

One little eye of one of the big hurricanes usually called “Web 2.0” is the mashup camp coming in February. I’m very excited about it because I agree with many who suggest that mashups represent a significant new trend in online activity. Blogs and mashups are putting users and small time programmers back in control in powerful and unexpected ways.

Most importantly big online programming behemoths – especially Yahoo and Amazon but also Google and MSN, are facilitating the mashup frenzy with increasingly robust APIs. These often involve mixing maps and other data, but in the case of Amazon they are pretty much releasing the search engine application itself which should lead to a flurry of rich search mashup applications.

Who’s going to mashup camp? Yahoo’s top blogger JZ will be there, as will MSN’s top blogger Scoble and many others from Google, Yahoo, MSN, media. But most important may be the unknown little geeks working away in their garage on the next big idea. Giving away the prize for the best mashup will be no less than the president of Sun Microsystems Jonathan Schwartz.

The big guys understand that the little guys are making a big difference. I’m cool with that.


Google just can’t seem to keep out of the big spotlight whether you are talking stocks, global economy, politics from Davos, DOJ subpoenas, and most currently censorship of content at Google.cn, the chinese edition of Google.

Regarding China Google censorship:

What intrigues me is that there is no doubt that the triumverate who rules Google -founders Brin and Page and CEO Schmidt, are excellent guys and their intentions are in line with what most would consider legitimate, in fact lofty, global goals.

To think otherwise is simply to fail to pay attention to the way Page and Brin designed the site and the company, how Google got big, and how it has stayed a global leader. Google’s top blog informal “spokesengineer” Matt Cutt’s follows the general tendency of Google to be very introspective and even posts addresses of sites critical of Google.

But something is out of whack when they are fighting the DOJ’s mundane request for search data yet caving to the Chinese Government’s censorship requirements.

I do think onliners generally make way too much of censorship, which we ALL practice in many forms in many contexts. A dirty joke would be fine at a football party, yet it would be an abusive act if told by the same person in a kindergarten class. If a teacher was fired for telling their kindergarten class dirty jokes most would have no objection. This is a form of censorship and it’s perfectly legitimate.

Political censorship is anathema to democracy and Americans are rightly very protective of free speech, especially in the political context. But it’s hardly absent here. American right and left wing seem determined to brand their opponents as treasonous or deserving of impeachment or worse.

It’s an effort to shout down or chill debate and it, too, can be a form of censorship, especially when those who control the means of speech have hidden agendas. Fox News spouts even the most mindless conservative tripe while giving short shrift to intelligent liberal points of view. Fox’s Roger Ailes claim they are just helping to “balance” a “liberal media” but this is fodder for the mindless. Any clear thinker would agree that *Fox censors liberals*. That said, pretty much all media outlets censor Nazis, KKK, Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Jihad, and many other points of view for many reasons.

So, where is the high road? I sure don’t think Google’s found it, but that may just means they are in good company with the rest of us.

My Four Things

I’ve been “tagged” by uberBlogger YahooMeister Jeremy Zawodny to share “My four things”:

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:

  1. Short order breakfast cook
  2. Grad Student Researcher, Southern Oregon University
  3. Webmaster/Online Marketing
  4. Travel Internet Publisher Guy

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  1. 2001 A Space Odyssey
  2. Lord of the Rings I
  3. Hero
  4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Four TV shows I love to watch:

  1. Charlie Rose
  2. American Experience
  3. NOVA
  4. Boston Legal

Four places I’ve been on vacation:

  1. Kilauea
  2. Mount Katahdin, Maine
  3. Chartres
  4. Westminster Abbey

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. Shrimp Scampi
  2. Steak and Potatoes
  3. Chow Mein
  4. Imitation Tupperware

Four websites I visit daily:

  1. Matt Cutts
  2. John Battelle
  3. Jeremy Zawodny
  4. Google

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. 2506 A.D.
  2. Nanjing, China
  3. Indigo Girls Concert
  4. Half Dome, Yosemite

Four bloggers I am tagging. I’m skeptical they’ll play BUT there are always unforeseen consequences to stopping chain-like viral memetic things. If Jeremy Z can share the mundane details that reflect on one’s greater world view… so can … you.

  1. Matt Cutts
  2. Amr Awadallah
  3. Dave Naylor
  4. Rob Spooner

Brief flickers ‘o fame

On Tuesday I thought I was going to get quoted in none other than the Wall Street Journal, but the online story doesn’t mention me at all. What am I going to tell my parents NOW!?

They still seem to wonder how I make a living online and I sure could have used the credibility boost from WSJ.

I’d been interviewed about my take on del.icio.us and digg.com and social networking and tagging in general because I’d blogged about how I thought they were cool, and then after using them thought they were overrated. Jessica Vascellaro of WSJ found me on technorati.

But this is some consolation – a few weeks ago I ordered a copy of David Vise’s “The Google Story”. I was checking out the pictures and there was Matt Cutts talking to a group at SES. Looking closer I could see…. me among the listeners.

Guess I’ll just be living in the shadow of fame.

The Demise of Tech TV, or why China is the next global tech powerhouse….

There used to be a neat show on cable called “Tech TV”, which catered to geeks of all ages and discussed computer news, hardware and software items of interest to computer people, and more.

The show’s been effectively replaced, or perhaps cancelled in favor of, shows about computer gaming. This is interesting and reflects the growing challenges of a computer generation that is more interested in simulated chain saw massacres than programming and technology.

Yes, there are many who like BOTH these things, but forces have converged now that make it unnecessary to know any programming or hardware skills to become an accomplished gamer.
This was NOT the case in the past when the community needed to do more programming, hacking, and hardware modifications to get things going right.

More importantly gaming is more fun and we have a new leisure class that appears not to understand the relationship of work to fun. Exceptions? Of course there are. I think many of the tech elite are doing fine in all respects. HOWEVER who will be the NEW tech elite – the guys who are spending 60 hours per week playing Halo and the rest watching TV? I think things are changing in dangerous ways.

This is more of the stuff discussed in the brilliant “The World is Flat” by Tom Friedman. Noting the seriousness with which Chinese and Indian Engineers take on the challenge of the new global technologies he observes that in China Bill Gates is “Britney Spears”. In America? …. Britney Spears is Britney Spears.

…Ooops, we did it again…

GOOG 2006 = YHOO 1999 ?

I think Google is a great company but I simply don’t get the stock price. Not sure if I’m in good or bad company pretty much agreeing with Henry Blodget on this. He’s the Wall Street insider who can’t give stock advice anymore, but gives some REALLY interesting comments in his new blog.

Interesting to me is the fact the ultimate Google insiders felt that $85 was about the “right number” for the IPO and the fact nothing really fundamental has changed since that time unless I missed something online. Of course they have great earnings from ads as the online ad market swells, but Google knew this would happen even if Wall Street was slow on the uptake of the implication of massively superior ROI from online advertising.

This sure reminds me of the Yahoo bubble of 1999.

Also interesting is the degree to which Yahoo can affect Google’s revenue by manipulating the revenue YAHOO shares from it’s Publisher Network which is in beta now.

What if Yahoo decided to pay out a 100% rev share for 6 months as an incentive for Adsense people to jump the Google ship? Google would see a HUGE drop in revenues. Simply HUGE – Adsense was 43% of total Google revenues for 3rd Quarter of 2005!

If this happened Google profit would not be nearly as strongly affected as revenues because most of this revenue goes back to publishers. 78.5 pecent of the total to be exact, thought the rev share varies among publishers. However I suspect even the savvy street folks don’t really understand where all this money has been coming from, and would be alarmed to see it dry up as suddenly as it appeared.

Yahoo could keep up this pressure for some time since they don’t get nearly as much from their publisher network.

Would it be legal for Yahoo to short Google and then announce this move? I assume the SEC would say “NOT LEGAL” and this would wind up as a complex case of stock price manipulation, but in any case what’s Yahoo going to do with revenue share?

Indications at the conferences and from my read of the company are …… they’ll keep them about the same as Google so both Yahoo and Google can turn a good buck, but seems to me if so Google’s buck is not going to grow fast enough to justify current pricing.

Are blogs bogging down?

Blogging has become the rage both as spectator sport and participatory democracy. Yet problematic is today’s news that the Washington Post has stopped accepting comments at their blog. Why? Too much junk and too much abusive posting.

Challenges facing blogs are many: they include Commercial Challenges (people use them in junky ways to promote commercial stuff such as setting up a blog called “cell-phones-for- sale” with little or not content except ads. Also blog posts are used to promote linking to sites. The widespread use of the nofollow attribute and nofollow aspects to blogging helped reduce this SEO tactic but it’s still going on with affects that appear to vary depending on search engine and blog.

Also a challenge is the Popularity of blogs. Even good bloggers waste a lot of digital ink, and it’s hard to sort through the posts at millions of blogs to get the good stuff. Tools like Digg.com help sort the mess but as noted before leave much to be desired as search tools.

My biggest beef with blogs is the one-sided nature of the blog. Most readers are thoughtful people, and I doubt they’ll continue to put much time into commenting unless a way can be found to raise the prominence of good commentary. But this of course makes the Commercial challenge an even bigger threat to quality and can lead to actions like the Washington Post’s comment ban.

So where’s it all headed? I think both websites and blogs are moving in the direction of serving increasingly specific niches of interest rather than the web at large. The popularity of tech centric sites like Digg.com and Technorati support this, as does the popularity of a very targeted blogs like “breaking search news” over at John Battelle’s place.

More about Privacy, Free Speech, and the oxymoron known as Fox “News”.

More about Privacy, Free Speech, and the oxymoron known as Fox “News”.

I’ve been surprised by how complacent the Religious right has been about online porn, so maybe the battle over censoring porn won’t be coming soon, though I think this DOJ action is the shot over the bow by GW, Gonzales et al.

I’m hoping the online community handles self-censorship better than the movie industry or, far worse, video game industry. I’m not optimistic about it though and expect a lot of chest thumping in the near future as people line up to be for/against “porn”/”free speech” depending on their points of view.

I think there are several interesting forces involved in the coming privacy debate war:

First is the basic freedom of speech, which we value highly in America but pretend to value more than we actually do. Money talks loudly in America as the recent D.C. lobby scandals and huge money politics make clear. Simply prohibiting paid speech obviously won’t work, but money threatens the quality of free speech more than any other factor and far more than any Govt in this country ever will.

Another force at play is the battle between right wing and left wing ideologues. Called the “culture wars” by the conservatives, both right and left claim the high ground on freedom issues and speak mostly to those who can’t think for themselves. Meanwhile the polarization dumbs down many of the issues to a state of irrelevance.

Always ironic is how quickly those of any political persuasion are to “shout down” or even violently repress competing speech. We’ve got right wing entertainer-zealots like Anne Coulter [updated scandalous comments on Donny Deutsch Show] and Sean Hannity dispicably making the case that many forms of criticism of the Govt are “treason”, while their left wing counterparts like Michael Moore pander propagandistic nonsense to the gullible. Both deflect from the spirited and intelligent debates we should be having about many polarizing issues like Iraq, massive Govt overspending, and helping save the developing world from itself.

Other challenges to the quality of free speech in America are the rise of the right-wing commercial propaganda arm of the Govt (aka “Fox News”) and the administration’s policy of reporter “embedding” which has cleverly created a system where reporters will tend to report favorably on the American war effort without any censorship at all. You are hardly going to be overly critical of the guys who are protecting you from untimely death. (yes, this is a simplification – a strong counter-argument is the world class reporting of formerly embedded Kevin Sites).

Although it used to be true that there were more “liberals” than “conservatives” in the media they were far, far, far more objective than the media stars of today who are entertainers before patriots and patriots before journalists. It also appears to me FOX may have reversed the trend leading to a net “conservative” voice in overall American journalism, but more importantly has taken greater strides than any liberal ever dreamed in morphing “journalistic objectivity” into “my country, right or wrong”.

Another significant force in play in the privacy debate is the fact few mainstream folks understand how the internet works and how sophisticated an average 15 year old is about finding online material. If every teacher and mother of a teen in America did a handful of image searches for highly objectionable porn terms you’d see a groundswell of new legislation, but few teachers and even fewer parents have any sense of what’s up online.

It won’t be pretty but it sure will be interesting…

Google and all the free speech money can buy

Scott , over at Matt’s blog, writes:

…I am disgusted by some of the comments above. How can anyone who values freedom and privacy not give their full support to Google for doing what amounts to be a courageous thing? …

I’m struck by how myopic most onliners are about this debate and I replied:

Scott – a thoughtful post but one sided – very odd that you seem to think most of the comments support DOJ’s request – onliners all over the web are very much in favor of Google, though I’d guess that most mainsteam folks and the court will wind up supporting DOJ’s position and will say “what specific privacy right is violated here?”.

The world is complex. You seem to fear Govt abuses more than commercial abuses. My view is that we have far more commercial abuses of info than our (inefficient) Govt could ever dream about. The community has created a very open and virtually uncensored online environment and we better get used to Govt and society at large being threatened by this openness.
———— end Joe comment——-