To whoever finds this,
I am writing this on toilet paper from a dungeon that I’m guessing is located in Google’s nether regions.
The sign on the door says “Cell 13“.
All I’ve had to eat the past few days were a couple of bamboo shoots and leaves accompanied by a lovingly handwritten note inscribed, “Who’s the master baiter now, Lobster Boy?”
How did I get here? Last thing I remember was emailing Pandas and Lobsters to Posterous 96 hours ago, then leaving the SayNow office with my intrepid sidekick Troutgirl. Next thing I knew, I was dragged off the street with a bag over my head as I yelled, “Help me, intrepid sidekick Troutgirl!” She angrily rifled back, “Who are you calling sidekick?! YOU are MY sidekick…” as I got pushed into a van and carried away…
And now I wonder. Was it my message — that Google applications are for people who want to hit-it-and-quit-it, but social applications are for people who’d rather stay-and-play — that landed me in incarceration? Or did I offend them with style, not substance?
Also sitting in the dungeon is the Old Spice Guy,
Paul Adams furiously scribbles notes whenever I talk with Orkut or Isaiah. Orkut hasn’t said a thing to me, and frankly I’m intimidated by Isaiah. I offered him some of my bamboo but apparently he won’t eat carbs.
Paul won’t talk with me directly. He’s shy. I keep telling him to read jwz’s “Groupware Bad” rant but all he does is scribble it down in his notebook. Since he’s writing anyway, I make sure to speak in lots of metaphors and new-age speak, like these words of Stephen Covey: “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” Whenever I say something like that he looks at me like a side dish he didn’t order.
Since he’s writing furiously, I try to talk more slowly. “Do you think Google has become much too insular? When muskoxen feel threatened, they face outward in a ring. Google is a circle of yaks, facing inward. Which is understandable, given the $30 billion pile of gold buried beneath the campus, which itself explains why rainbows always end at the Googleplex. No rainbow can compare with the dozen years Google has spent developing The Thinking Machine, which is why Google believes nothing is impossible when you apply Google’s Glorious Hive Mind to it. Not even… social applications!” He raises an eyebrow.
I go on. “You could ask The Thinking Machine anything in the world. Why is the sky blue? What is the twelfth dimension that Foursquare has somehow magically tapped into? Wtf is a Quora, and why should Google care?? What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything???” He raises the other eyebrow.
I go on. “I’m guessing you care about social networks because they are drawing the attention of advertisers. Seven years ago Google was processing 200 million searches a day, but now Twitter is processing 800 million searches a day on less money than Google spends on food (and fewer total employees than Google hired last month!). Since April, Facebook has jumped from 100 million mobile users to 150 million mobile users, led by Xoogler Erick Tseng…”
This finally incents Paul to speak. “You know we put a microchip implant in all Xooglers before they leave so we can track their progress in the wild…” And then he stops himself because he knows that I can do the math that on the Facebook side, Sheryl, Elliott, and Bret & Paul are Xooglers, and on the Twitter side, so are Ev, Biz, Dick, and Jason. I chuckle to myself thinking that Dennis might have hatched his Foursquare scheme while sitting in this very prison cell.
I goad Paul, “This is good, Paul. Let it out. I know you want the answer to something, so let me anticipate that and tell you that whales are the answer.”
This is more than he can stand. He screams at me, “You speak only in maddening metaphors!!! Well you’re a prisoner, and WHERE ARE YOUR WEAK LINKS NOW??? And by the way, we’re working on an algorithm to crack your metaphorical codes, so don’t be too smug… We do, after all, have The Thinking Machine.”
At that moment, who should peer at me from a dark corner that I thought was unoccupied? None other than the very first Facebook friend himself, Mark Zuckerberg.
“Google wants to be my friend,” says Mark. I give an astonished look to Paul.
Paul admits, “We actually perfected the Zuckerbot last year. No one inside Facebook actually knows that it’s not the real Mark running their company anymore.”
That wipes the smile off my face, so I try to reason with Paul to let Mark go. “Look, I know that Google is worried because Facebook is shrinking the good part of the Web. But you’re going about this all wrong. Instead of taking a defensive posture like muskoxen, or trying to make bad Facebook copies like Buzz, you should give up on lobster traps and put your faith in the strengths of the Web itself.“
I don’t think Paul was listening to me because at this point he’s writing furiously… “Google — and everyone else — needs to stop letting Facebook set the terms of social, because social has never actually been about the power of STRONG ties, nor about a FIXED identity. One of the reasons Buzz tweaks people out so badly is that they attached it to the very very most fixed part of your online identity, which is your actual email account. The number of non-Googlers I know who use Buzz rounds to zero.”
Paul’s hand was cramping but I can’t stop yakking…
“Paul, I know you’re biased against Facebook. About the anecdote that begins your 200+ slide deck… There’s a woman with some homosexual friends in LA, and she comments on their pictures in the bars they go to together. Meanwhile, she’s teaching 10-year-olds how to swim. And the 10-year-olds somehow have access to her Facebook account. But she doesn’t realize until she’s talking with the anthropologist that the 10-year-olds who shouldn’t be using Facebook can see the comments she made on the pictures of her friends at the gay clubs.
“THIS IS THE SCENARIO YOU’RE IS CONCERNED ABOUT!?!?!?!?
“Skeptic Geek looks at those 200 slides and concludes, If Google Me were indeed under development, looks like it will be a network designed for close ties — family and close friends — which is how Facebook initially started.
“It is SUCH a misconception that Facebook initially started for family and close friends.
“WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!
“It started for schoolmates to MEET each other. LITERALLY THE FACE BOOK:
- Cute girl or dude in my dorm, who are you?
- Who has notes to that math class I slept thru?
- I’m selling a futon on campus, who wants it?
- I wanna join the college glee club; who else is in it?
“It was all about people in that magical liminal moment of American life: the first year of college. Where you could change your identity in a summer. Go from Kitty to Karen, trade your MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron….
I was rolling. “The best Web applications became big because the earliest adopters embraced them passionately. Like Danny DeVito’s penguins-with-bombs in Batman Returns, the earliest adopters are an army of penguins who like to declare, fuck off bear cavalry!“
I continued. “The army-of-penguins love to put a Web application through stress tests, and make sure it’s ready to be spread. One of the differences between a startup and a big company is that a startup has the luxury of being cool at first. NOT having to design for the entire world on day one. Getting to revel in the penguins-with-bombs phase. And then the millionth user phase. And then the 10 millionth user phase. The better Google apps had that kind of rollout… Gmail, Reader. Mind you, Reader has never, ever gotten anyone laid. So you can’t use it as a model. Instead, repeat after me: USER GOOD.”
I was ready to finish. “Google — and everyone else — needs to stop letting Facebook set the terms of social applications, because social has never actually been about the power of STRONG ties, nor about a FIXED identity. Look to the WEAK TIES. Look to IDENTITIES IN CONTEXT.
There’s still so much to be done in helping people meet, have conversations, and hook up. You can do it!!! You do, after all, have The Thinking Machine…“
And with that, Paul tidied up his notes and left the dungeon, and I haven’t seen him since. Mark is taking a power nap, Isaiah is getting his beauty rest, and Orkut still hasn’t said anything. So I’m sending out this beacon.
And so, I tie this note around a rat’s neck so that when it escapes to freedom, it will bring my message to someone who can kiss my Posterous…
P.S. — Pandas poop 40 times a day, and I’m all out of toilet paper…