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The questions and responses in this forum refer to the Preface and Chapters 1-3 (3-65) in Auletta's Googled. For reference, the Essay Sequence assignment. Discussion leaders will post their Keywords by March 18. Commentaries — Group 4 commentary — will be posted within a week after the class presentation on March 22.

Chapter 1 Questions

Note: As Chapter 1 is introductory, the following questions are meant to provoke new thoughts and discussions. As you answer: please feel free to branch out, use examples, contradict, explain your thought process, pose new challenges, etc.

1.

In the first chapter, Auletta outlines Google as a company: the mindset of its employees and founders, its initial goals and overall vision, their methods of incorporating unique technologies, and so on. Accordingly, Auletta illustrates that one key aspect of the corporation is its ability to measure (or predict) the profitability of their advertising using an incredibly direct digital system. This system, which operates entirely online, auctions advertising space and links directly between the customer and Google without any interpersonal relations. As Auletta puts it, within these auctions “there were no ad reps, no negotiations, and no relationships.” Or more simply: absolutely no middle man.

Initially, the efficiency of this process is impressive; but as you consider and read further, Auletta illustrates the effects Google and their ever-expanding digital systems have had on the advertising and marketing industries (not to mention countless others): loss of jobs, loss of revenue in numerous fields, the creation of super-companies (companies joining or over-expanding in an effort to sustain themselves), etc. In your opinion, is all this change and sacrifice worth it if it means creating a more efficient and transparent system? How do you think companies like Google will continue to change business and marketing as we know it? As industries continue to change, digitize, and conform, do you believe that unemployment will continue to rise and, if so, how do you think we’ll compensate?

2.

Page 9: “For Googlers, as they often refer to themselves, Karmazin’s deference to tradition was anathema; they questioned everything. Mayer said the Google founders always asked, “Why does this have to be the way it is? Why can’t you ‘fuck with the magic?’”

Do you feel Google, in this way especially, is the corporate and digital representation of our generations shift to “cyberculture?” (Or rather, to provoke your thought process: Is our desire to question everything, remain permanently connected, strive for efficiency and accessibility, and morph the way things work to fit a newer, faster, more digital way of life personified in the way Google does business? Does our generation just want to “fuck with” everyone’s magic to achieve bigger, better, faster?) Please expand.

Chapter 2 Questions

1.

Innovation is a term heard frequently in the technology community. Bill Gates says, "I fear someone in a garage who is devising something completely new." Auletta claims that Gates new that "innovation was usually the enemy of established companies."

Innovation, though, is something that most companies strive for in order to have a leg up on the competition. The term innovate means to change something that is established, typically by introducing something new to it. This would mean that Bill Gates is innovating with each new version of Windows that is released.

Since innovation is such a key part of the computer and technology world in order to make advancements, why are people like Brin and Page such a threat to Bill Gates? Likewise, in what way are their innovations a threat and is there anyway for established companies like Microsoft to combat them? Do you think there are new innovations to come that are going to be bigger than the Internet and Google that will affect these established companies?

2.

At the end of the chapter, Auletta quotes Brin saying, "Search really does have a potential to really change things forever. It can play a really important role in people's lives, determining what information they get to look at and that's an important thing to do for the world."

We see how Google has affected our lives and the information we receive every day. What effect do you think search engines like Google have had on you? Have they made you more apt to seek out information on a topic or no? Do you think that by shaping what results we get Google is controlling our sources of information or better enabling us to find the most useful sources? Please expand.

Responses

My friends and I have access to pretty much all of the world's knowledge so there are very few questions that we cannot answer….This is a very powerful and useful tool that we all now have access to, but I'm not totally convinced that this is a good thing. If all the knowledge we need is stored on our phones and computers, where is the need to actually keep any of that in our heads?…. As humans become more and more conjoined to machines, the failure of our technology might lead to the failure of our species.
-Jared Putman

… the more information is simplified and compacted, there becomes more room for error. These errors can then lead to incorrect assumptions based on that information and that has a lot of power to change the way we deal with and interact with the world around us….There has always existed a type of control over the information we can receive….The responsibility to find the best sources of information still rests with each individual and has not become embodied in Google.
-Megan Mercer

…even though Yahoo! is my home page, I always perform my searches via my Google search bar. It's become an unconscious act to me: Question pops into head—>Google.
-Lorelle Stephanski

Chapter 3 Questions

1.

Auletta comments on the vast expansion of Google over a short period of time, growing from only 10,000 searches per day to over 500,000 in a year. Although this exponential growth was a positive sign of future success, Google needed a way to generate revenue, and was one of the first companies to utilize blogging to reach out to potential investors. Today, blogging has become one of the most popular sources of documenting and learning information on the internet, though no one would have imagined the evolution of the blog to match that of Google. What are some of your most commonly accessed blogs? Do you currently keep a consistent blog on any given subject? Would you consider Twitter and Facebook to be a type of blog? More importantly, how do you think blogs will expand in the future? Will they become the most utilized form of opinion writing, or have they already taken that title? How might a company utilize a blog to attract potential employees and customers?

As the internet continues to become a source of profit for technologically savvy entrepreneurs, how would you define profit? The dictionary defines it as "the monetary surplus left to a producer or employer after deducting wages, rent, cost of raw materials, etc." How would you define it? Does it necessarily have to refer to a monetary gain?


Responses to Chapter 1:

I got the feeling from the reading that Ken Auletta does not consider Google’s system to be ‘efficient and transparent.’ Well, efficient, perhaps, but certainly not transparent. Google prides themselves on their search algorithm, which has become a highly coveted ‘trade secret.’ No one outside of the company knows just how the company operates, how it spends its money, or how their systems function on even a basic level. Auletta painted Larry Page as a small-minded, patronizing CEO, focused only on the computer science aspects of the company, and refusing to acknowledge employees who think differently than he does.

The discussion of the salaries and benefits of the higher-ups at Google baffled me: how are they all billionaires if their annual salaries are $1 each? It seems to me that something crucial is missing in Google’s public disclosure of their profit and expenditures. Although I personally rely greatly on the services of Google in my everyday life and find the search engine to be a huge asset, after reading the first chapter of this book, I began to feel differently. Auletta paints Google as a corporate bully, destroying jobs and stealing the work of countless individuals. It doesn’t seem that there is any alternative to this change, though, so I think that unemployment will continue to rise, but I don’t know how those without jobs will compensate.
—Katie Collins

We tend to get this sentiment a lot throughout history. This reminds me a lot of an old movie called "Other Peoples Money", starring Danny Devito. He plays a character dubbed Larry the Liquidator who buys up companies and guts them for profit. At the end of the film, he has to deliver a speech to convince the shareholders (who all hate what he stands for, by the way) to sell the company. This is a transcript of his speech:

This company is dead. I didn't kill it. Don't blame me. It was dead when I got here. It's too late for prayers. For even if the prayers were answered and a miracle occurred … and the yen did this and the dollar did that … and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead. You know why? Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence.
We're dead, all right. We're just not broke. And do you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.

You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now, how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business, and this business is dead. Let's have the intelligence. Let's have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future…

…I'm not your best friend. I'm your only friend.

I don't make anything? I'm making you money.
And lest we forget, that's the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You want to make money. You don't care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines! You wanna make money!
I'm the only friend you've got. I'm making you money. Take the money. Invest it somewhere else. Maybe … maybe you'll get lucky, and it'll be used productively. And if it is, you'll create new jobs and provide a service for the economy and, God forbid, even make a few bucks for yourselves.

Sorry, that's a hell of a block quote, but the point is clear. The industry is changing. We can bitch and complain about how this isn't good for people; because, they won't be able to find jobs. The people that have jobs adapt. They create a new vision of how to survive in the market place. It doesn't matter if you want to band together to fight it, because as long as some people choose to innovate instead of dig their heels in, those people will make more money. It's a law of nature. It's capitalism.

You could make the best damn buggy whip on the planet, but you just don't see those around anymore. The best/worst part? Nobody seems to miss them.
-Gordon Ligon

In the wake of a complete breakdown of the internet "bubble" in the early 2000s, Google emerged as one of the few internet companies which made any profit all. Throughout the decade the company has made hundreds of billions of dollars, and introduced countless innovations. What surprised me about this first chapter was the author's tone. For a company like Google, whose motto is "don't be evil", it is strange to hear someone blame the company for something like loss of jobs.

What the author made no mention of however, is the countless people who make money on their own websites through Google's adsense technology. Countless websites use the technology, which means that countless website owners are getting checks from google. In a way, these people might be considered employees of google.

-Elliott Ditman

Chapter 2, question 2:

Firstly, I've realized that "google" has become a verb. Of course, the invention of this term (used as a verb) occurred when Google started getting more widely used. When people take a service that a company provides and defines an action based on that service, that is indicative of sweeping influence on society.

For many, Google has become a source of information regarding all things. They certainly don't provide all this information, but because of Google, we have it. Google has become a technological and informative god for those searching for answers.

For me, I see www.google.com as a convenience. I need to find something and Google acts as my detective or even bounty hunter. The Google search bar sits on the upper right hand corner of mine and I use it everyday. I use it to check my spelling when I don't have a dictionary on hand; I use it to settle arguments; I use it to find popular opinion.

Does it bother me that Google is the hub that everyone goes to? Not that much. People who need a service will inevitably go to a service provider who does it best. Google does it best, so everyone goes to them, so they make money.

— Mike Yi

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