Friday, 16 May 2008

David vs. Googleith

While Facebook gets slammed for being:

"irredeemably evil. It's hell-bent not on changing the world, but on dominating it: on playing the cheesy, lame, thoroughly obsolete games of competitive strategy."

Google's brand continues to allow it to play Google the good. Google of the people. Google that doesn't do evil. Google doesn't play evil games of old like blocking out its competitors in order to maintain sustainable competitive advantage.

Or does it?

Let's go back to the Map Asia conference August 2007 and the talk given by Michael Jones Chief Technologist of Google's Earth, Maps, and Local Search efforts.

After his keynote, my brother Jeffrey who owns a mapping company in Cambodia called Aruna Technology that does work with Government agencies in Cambodia, Laos and China on poverty reduction and natural resource management programs, had the following exchange with Mr. Jones (paraphrased below):

Jeffrey Q: "We all know Google’s motto do no evil - how do you reconcile this with exclusive agreements with SPOTImage that prevent other people from using spot imagery as part of their web mapping. I work with Gov't agencies to do poverty reduction programs and it would be helpful if we could use this satellite imagery instead of derived or vector maps"

Mr Jones answered by saying that it was not the intention of Google's exclusive agreement. Rather their intention was to CIRCUMVENT the one company which he said he wouldn't name but which he also said everyone would know (duh - and no it wasn't facebook), who had vowed to destroy them.

He went on to say that he was sure for the type of applications Jeff was referring to there could be an exception, and he would be speak directly to SPOTImage to see what he could do. He invited Jeffrey to discuss it with him after the keynote, at which time he promised to look into it and passed on his card.

Since that time, Jeff has attempted to be in touch at least ten times, through multiple channels of communications (email, vm, web-forms) all with no reply. No comment. No nothing.

So while we are all screaming at the evil of Facebook and the terrible things they do to the People's company, we might well remind ourselves of this small David vs. Googaleith story and try to wade through all the technology blog media hype.

ps. thanks to Peter for the post title

Update: Jeff noted in the comments that he has been contacted by Mr. Jones via email (I was kindly cc:d). I'll update the post again once they have come to a resolution on the issue at hand.


umair said...

hey leigh,

i think that's a very insightful post.

google is far from perfect - but i think what's different, so far, at least, about google, is that it mostly plays these games to end them - viz, the explanation for the exclusivity agreement michael gave you.

that said, michael not being in touch ain't exactly a good sign...!!

Leigh said...

Couldn't agree more with your 'cost of evil far outweighs the benefits' statement in your post Umair....

It's important that companies like Google remember that as well. Particularly if you set your brand up to be on that higher pulpit, than you will be scrutinized and fall harder than had you not set up that expectation in the first place (ala Martha Stewart, Dove, Miley Cirus et. al).

David Himel said...

funny on a smaller scale, google has been working with libraries to digitize out of copy right books. Im not sure to what point because I was reading some 19th century tanning books one day, and the next the pdfs were no longer available, and guess cant contact google about cant ask google about really google is like god, you can pray and pray and if you are self dillusional, maybe one day you will get a miracle. Hmmm....oh mighty google please allow me a lowly pleebe access to your vast database of public information so that I may too one day be edumacated!!!

Mark said...

Hate to be pedantic here, but shouldn't it be Googleiath?

It will be up to someone doing an advanced degree in business philosophy, I suppose, to truly answer the question of whether a corporation truly has the capacity to do no evil - or good for that matter.

Individuals doing good or evil is reasonably understandable - but the act of an individual, I would suggest, is not the act of the organization as a distinct entity.

Too philosophical on a Sunday morning for my own good...

Jeffrey said...

Amazing is the power of the blogosphere - I was contacted by Michael Jones today who was apologetic about not getting back to me and offered to take the issue up again.

Quite impressive really when you consider the size of their organization and the tiny mote of dust we are by comparison.

Hopefully we'll be able to carry the issue forward and get our waiver. I guess I should start a blog, seems a more effective form of communication when dealing with people who are in clouds of information and therefore very difficult to reach...

Leigh said...

@David As always Dave very colourful comment. I have no idea what's going on with the digital library. Something to look into.

@Mark You have a point about the spelling. As for the other point - I don't believe the original policy that is blocking out its competitor can be termed an individual decision.

@Jeff What a sisterly pleasure to be able to say I told you so. :)

photogrammetry services said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeffrey said...

Forgot to update this one - basically, after (finally) being contacted by Michael Jones, I reminded him about what he'd said and our situation and he said he'd definitely investigate and remained sure he could do something about it. This naturally turned into the same thing as before where I'd hear nothing for several weeks, send him a reminder, receive nothing, then do it again.

Finally, after about a year of this nonsense, I received a formal e-mail from our regional SPOT distributor, informing me that SPOT policy doesn't allow use of the imagery over the internet due to an exclusive arrangement that they have. Which is basically where I started this quest.

Essentially, it was the same old runaround. In my opinion, they had no intention of doing anything about it, their sole interest was in ensuring that they didn't have anything negative out there publicly. They only responded when they picked up the negative information about Google on your blog. And they didn't even have the courtesy to respond to me directly when they finally decided to come clean.

So, surprise surprise, Google is just like every other multinational out there, the only thing that matters is the bottom line.

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