How does Google Do it?

I Drove from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal and back in pursuit of some new business yesterday and listened to the audio book by Jeff Jarvis called “What Would Google Do?”   A fascinating listen, 8 beautiful CD’s of mind stimulating knowledge were lined up like delicious chocolate bars beside me on my passenger seat. Each popped into my Yaris CD with ease and slowly played out its message as I drove thru time and space, leaving me craving, for just one more bite of the Google world.  They made the drive a breeze while allowing for some deep thoughts on two of my favourite subjects: creativity and business. The Author, Jeff Jarvis’ analyses the new rules that created the success of Google, first their rules and then his own. He then sets about “google-izing” all different kinds of industries by applying these rules to them. Lots of great ideas that can and should be applied to all businesses who want to survive the next decade. He continually speaks about the innovation, transparency and openness of Google.

At one point he mentions what Google looks for in employees…people who think differently and solve problems in different ways…Different at Google, however, means in a manner that is “scientifically rational”.  Remember, the Google guys are engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists – geniuses, no doubt, but not artists. I guess that explains why I never got hired by Google when they posted in Toronto. Even though I knew I could create cool versions of the Google word on its homepage and come up with ideas for cool apps the idea of me doing graphics based on passing seasons and different styles, like any good animator.. is just the icing on the cake for Google, the eye candy and way too intuitive … Jarvis says Google does not make any decisions based on “hunches or intuition”, only on what their data reveals. That blows away the energy which surrounds me as a woman and my business -Hidden Ground Inc…and my belief, shared by all great mystics, that the unseen is the most powerful force. Wonder what Larry and Sergey think about the Law of Attraction and Quantum Physics?

Jarvis speaks allot on how the internet is all about relationships and transparency and openness…and it made me think of the female vs. male way of dealing with the world. I remember how, when the internet started up some ten years ago, people spoke about this similarity. Now, we seldom hear about how the internet, if likened to a sex would be decidedly FEMALE.  It appears that it is perceived to be open but scientific, open but rational, thereby falling once again, solidly in the domain of the MALE way of thinking, leaving the six sense of the female locked out! And yet, if anything is open is a female:  that is in our sexual design.

I was reminded again of the lack of good art and design on the web, with the exception, as Jarvis writes of the simplicity of code and the Google interface, which by the way makes it such a wonderful interface, highly valued, but now typically created by an artist but a coder. Craigslist, it is cited, is ugly but efficient. Just like a good piece of conceptual art, eh?  Although it is a bit like comparing a Da Vinci to a Matisse when it comes to Google vs. most other sites, I can see how the modern stripped down sensibility suits the taste of the educated urban user.  It is, Jarvis writes, such a relief over the noise of the sites filled with all unsearchable pictures, video and ‘flashy” things….the clutter of text and image…What can I say?  I love collage and hence, mash ups. No wonder mash-ups were invented by an animator. There is nothing simple about animation.

McLuhan said that is was the invention of the western alphabet which enabled Armies to achieve organized warfare, issuing proclamations and the like. Sure there is beauty to be found in a single line of text, a single character or word, but it is the organization of text that lead to a new kind of war. A beauty with deadly power. I am reminded of the Egyptian goddess of War: Sekhemet.  Jarvis calls it Google Juice: a new currency of text.

Text and pictures are two different languages. Wish that it were that we still lived with the knowledge of hieroglyphics. That was another time, another culture. How quickly we forget that the visual language is a universal language and not one of the languages of the tower of babble. The visual language is not, alas, the language of the web which, should we visual creative types fail to forget, is in its essence – alpha-numerical. On the net TEXT rules. I remember when I first encountered the internet the fabulous virtual worlds that I imagined in my mind – not a line of text in any of them. How obscure and utterly un-organisable I was. Perhaps this explains why I am so slow to tweet, to blog, to converse. I speak an entirely different language. McLuhan says we are post literate, we no longer read we only scan it.

Ironically, the only thing that defies the logic of Google is APPLE. I spy with my little eye an APPLE!  And the apple of my eye is ……

Apple is a closed system ruled by the mad creative genius of one man – Steve Jobs. Jarvis is set straight by someone who tells him that actually Google and Apple are more alike than different. How so he asks? Why because they both share the CREATIVE Factor. That and they would both protect their intellectual property (aka Creative/ IP ) to the death. In the book “The Google Story”  published in 2005 by David Vise he writes ” In the age of the specialization of labor, Google secretly assembles each and every PC in its massive network inside secure facilities that are strictly off limits to outsiders”. Never mind the Algorithms behind the actual Page Rank searches. I have beside me a book that I got in the fall of 1999; ten years ago…which is a collection of emails written by European artists entitled READ ME! one email is on search engines…before Google, remember them? he speaks about AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo…it says

from: Hartmut Winkler Date: Tues 29 Sept, 1998

“Steinberg’s first finding is that providers keep secret the exact algorithm on which their functioning is based. Since the companies in question are private enterprises and the algorithms are part of their productive assets, the competition, has, above all to be kept at a distance: only very general information is disclosed to the public, the details remain in the dark of a black box.”

A Pandora’s box perhaps….and so it goes, just like Apple at its core, Google is a closed system. A secret Garden. Nothing much has changed…. there remains a hidden ground even at Google – even in the pure white light of the brilliant minds of scientific rationalism.

Thinking Outside Pandora's box

Thinking Outside Pandora's box


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