Sergey Brin sort of has your back but maybe not right now

“I think at some point it is appropriate to stand up for your principles, and if more companies, governments, organizations, individuals did that, I do think the world would be a better place.” — Google co-founder Sergey Brin on the company’s decision to stop censoring Chinese search results.

It’s that kind of moral determination that helped Chamberlin get Hitler to sign the Munich Accords.

Buzzword bingo face-off: iPad vs. Google Buzz

What’s the best jargon generator, Google Buzz or iPad?

Nobody actually knows what impact either of these technologies will have, but everybody still wants to say something about them. Here’s a totally unscientific sampling from a bunch of blogs highlighting the best jargon describing each of them.

The iPad is being called a game changer, a new platform, a multipurpose e-reader, and an enterprise opportunity especially now that it has greenlighted VOIP. (That last was actually in a headline.) It also has accessibility out-of-the-box.

Can we all agree on a single use for the box and what is outside it? Did accessibility out-of-the-box come from thinking outside of the box? Which box are we using here and what was in it to begin with? Do cereal or shoes have accessibility out-of-the-box?

The best iPad-related jargon sentence: “Apple may well have zeroed in on the inflection point for a new piece of consumer technology.”

Despite the iPad buzz, Google’s new Buzz wins the jargon prize based on a single blog post from Poynter’s Will Sullivan. This is one of the most astounding single-sentence paragraphs I have ever read:

Based on the YouTube video explanation, Buzz is kind of a Facebook-foursquare-Twitter-FriendFeed competitor, but could be much more than the sum of the Google products they’re integrating with it, including Google Profiles, Google Gmail (its Contact list gets integrated automatically), Google Picasa photos (it can also incorporate feeds from other multimedia tools such as Flickr and YouTube) …

Read the rest and increase my page view count by clicking here and going to my blog at EmediaVitals.

Google learns how to say alligator tears in Chinese

Google has “threatened” to pull out of China because – SURPRISE – the government was using Goog to get info on dissidents.

NAHHH? Really? Next you’ll tell me that Mark McGwire was using steroids.

Google … said that the company had discovered massive cyber attacks against itself and numerous other foreign companies that it said emanated from China. It prompted quick response from human rights advocates, who praised Google’s statement, and from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Google’s allegations "raise very serious concerns and questions." "We look to the Chinese government for an explanation," Mrs. Clinton said on a visit to Hawaii. "The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy."*

Apparently The Googsters draw some sort of distinction between oppression via hacking and oppression via cooperating with government censorship. (See Google continues to be on cutting edge of hypocrisy theory for more on this. “At this point, it would take a mashup of Wittgenstein, Quantum mechanics and LSD to make sense of Google’s various explanations for what it will and won’t censor and why.”)

Not only is Google threatening to take its business and go home but the company took the “too little, too late” step of ending censorship on its Chinese search site. Previously the company 404’d searches on topics like Taiwan or the Tiananmen Square massacre. Were I a more cynical person (it could happen) I’d find it mightily convenient that Google is threatening to leave a nation where it is running a very distant second. I’d also call this threat a great PR move that generated a lot of attention in China. Fortunately I am not that cynical. (Thankfully others are: see this brilliant analysis from TechCrunch “Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country?”)

*While La Clinton is a diplomat and has to say things like this raises “very serious concerns and questions,” it is difficult to see my government get so worked about this when it has remained silent on little things like state-sponsored murder and torture. What seems to be different this time is that money is involved.

See related links:

Twitter valued at $1 Billion say people with a vested interest in Twitter

Hysterical story in today’s journal headlined: Twitter’s Value Is Set at $1 Billion

The lede:

Twitter Inc. is nearing a deal for as much as $100 million in new funding that would buy the fast-growing Internet-messaging company more time to figure out its business model, according to people familiar with the situation.

But the punch line comes in the 3rd graph:

The investors are valuing Twitter – which has yet to generate more than a trickle of revenues – at more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That’s more than triple the valuation Twitter received during its last round of capital raising in February, underscoring how quickly the company has grown.

twitter_fail_whale So let me see if I understand, the companies who are giving $100M to Twitter say Twitter is worth more than 10 times that amount. Hmmm. Well they are certainly an unbiased source.

By the way, CollateralDamage.biz is worth more than $10 million so you should want to buy it while the price is still this low, say people familiar with my bank account.

So we now know it takes about 10 years to forget the lessons of a bubble burst. Remember the .com bubble?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Companies with no way to generate actual money were suddenly worth absurd amounts because … well … because. As far as I can tell Twitter’s business model is to be bought by Google. To date Twitter has proven to be a very popular supplementary application. People use Twitter and all there other methods of communicating. It isn’t supplanting either email or blogs AND (this is big) it is NOT popular with the teens to 20s demographic, which means it doesn’t have a future.

UPDATE!

This just got added to the WSJ site:

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)–Micro-blogging service Twitter Inc. said Friday it had closed a "significant round of funding," a deal that will give the wildly-popular startup more time to develop a business model.” Twtter said investors included Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price (TROW), Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Benchmark Capital.

There’s gotta be a pony in there somewhere, right guys? Hey, anyone seen my Kozmo.com messenger bag?

Kozmo!

Let the Munich, er, moral, er, Beijing Games begin!

Today is the start of the most odiferous Olympics since the widely boycotted Moscow games of 1980. It is difficult to catalog the extent of the Chinese government’s horrors — even just since Tienanmen Square — so allow me to quote someone else:

China’s well-documented and continuing abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms, stemming both from the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for basic freedoms. Reported abuses have included arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, worker rights, and coercive birth limitation.

And this wording is the cleaned up and diplomatic version put forth by the US State Department, an organization not generally known for its willingness to call major trading partners to task on these issues. Thankfully Mr. Bush has undercut even these slight words of criticism (as well as his own tepid comments on the subject) by attending the games.

The most fascinating thing to watch will unfortunately not be in the athletic sphere but the contortions performed by the sponsors and the media to play up allegedly idealistic goals of the games while minimizing the facts on the ground.

You can get an idea of the depth and seriousness of the journalism I am expecting by this selection of headlines from today’s USAToday:

It’s a fascinating moment when sites like OhGizmo are doing better coverage than the MSM: Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee Bans “Professional Camera Equipment” For Non-Press Visitors. It’s not a big story, but it is an indicative one and one which is based on that oh so difficult task of actually examining the record.
Also there was this one which mostly got covered by the MSM as a crackdown on prostitutes:
I should temper this rant slightly, a few MSM stories of note:

Huzzah to our dear, dear irony-free friends at Google for this inspiring post on their official blog:

I’m happy to present the 2008 Summer Games on Google, a site that features a number of our products to help you stay updated on Summer Games happenings. And it’s available in 66 countries and 31 languages, from Australia to Uruguay, and from Arabic to Vietnamese. We collaborated with a data provider to make it easy …

Given the circumstances “collaborated” is definitely not the word you want to use. How about “worked with”?

Well, since these are supposed to be a particularly environmentally friendly games (don’t breathe the air), I will reuse and recycle something written earlier under the headline Spielberg declines to help the Munich, er, Beijing Olympics

Coverage of the games is going to be fascinating to watch. Sports journalists are generally not the hardest hitting reporters and I suspect their employers won’t have much interest in covering what is actually happening in the world’s largest economy.

It would be nice to think that marketers have any concern about ill-will coming from supporting the games this year. It would be nice and it would be wrong. There will be no ill-will because consumers won’t care. Certainly here in the US these will just be another Olympics in an exotic locale. There will be no news to rival Hitler declining to shake Jesse Owens’ hand. Instead their will be pomp and circumstance and more of our collective denial. Thanks to Mr. Spielberg’s decision, though, Beijing will have to look elsewhere for an overly sentimental ending.

Graphic via ClaudiAx.net.

My favorite April Fools: Discovery of flying penguins

By Monty Python’s Terry Jones, no less!

A couple of other favorites:

Google continues to be on cutting edge of hypocrisy theory

“At Google, we have a bias in favor of people’s right to free expression. Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does not appear on the Web. That’s for elected governments and courts to decide.” — Google Director for Israel Meir Brand on why the company they would not censor anti-Semitism from their search results for Israeli searchers.

At this point, it would take a mashup of Wittgenstein, Quantum mechanics and LSD to make sense of Google’s various explanations for what it will and won’t censor and why. The fact that the first sentence is entirely contradicted by the third sentence does not appear to have bothered the speaker one bit.

Google in China, for instance, has censored itself to satisfy authorities in Beijing, restricting searcher access to “sensitive topics” like Taiwan and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre. In Germany and Austria, Google removes Nazi content in order to comply with national censorship laws.

Meanwhile, Yahoo — no slouch itself when it comes to splitting linguistic atoms — has decided they’d rather pay than fight. The company settled out of court yesterday with the families of two journalists jailed by after Yahoo gave the Chinese government information about the two men. In Yahoo’s defense — and this ain’t saying much — the company never claimed either that A) You can make money without doing evil or B) Democracy on the web works.

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Headline of the Day: How Google Can Take the High Road on Privacy

Mr. Orwell! Mr. Orwell! Call for Mr. Orwell!

orwellMeanwhile Google played their hand brilliantly. They unveiled OpenSocial taking the “open” high ground and a lot of wind out of Facebook’s sails (to mix some metaphors!). And with Facebook aligned with the old Evil Empire Microsoft, Google has a chance to recover their “Do not be evil” aura.

If they also take the high road on privacy, they will blow the competition out of the water. They can do this because they can afford to; and their competition cannot afford to. They don’t need to amass lots of information about me to serve relevant ads to me. As long as I keep on searching, Google knows my intentions. Sure they could offer something even more powerful if they track and synthesize all my searches in the last 3 months, but at what cost in terms of spooking and alienating me? For what marginal extra value to an advertiser?

So Google could back the “Do Not Track” legislation and comit to more rigorous restrictions on search history.

I’m guessing the high road doesn’t go into China where “Do Not Track” legislation means you’ve been disappeared.

Or, as my good friends at They Might Be Giants, put it:

We’re in a road movie to Berlin
Can’t drive out the way you drove in
So sneak out this glass of bourbon
And we’ll go

We were once so close to Heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned

This was all written before I came across the following column by Duncan Riley at TechCrunch: “Yahoo in China: An Unfair Attack”

For those who missed it, in short Yahoo was attacked by both sides of politics for complying with a request under Chinese law, in China, to provide information on a political dissident.

The rhetoric was raw; San Mateo Democrat Chairman Tom Lantos called Yahoo moral pygmies, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., compared Yahoo’s cooperation with the Chinese government to companies that cooperated with Nazi Germany during World War II.

When it comes to China there are very few who will come to the defense of those who deal with the Chinese Government.

Yahoo’s actions might have been in part wrong morally, but legally they have done nothing wrong, and in a global economy this is even more true.

Mr. Riley misses the one point he might have scored here: That a US congressperson using the phrase “moral pygmy” is the height (and depth) of irony. Congress will take no actions to inhibit the flow of goods and money to China. That is what makes them collectively corrupt, even if individually some may be honest.

Unfortunately Mr. Riley’s statement that although Yahoo! was “in part morally wrong” the company was legally obligated to comply turns an interesting contrarian argument into logical nonsense.

How do we define degrees of moral wrongness?

This isn’t exactly a case of the poor man stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. This is a multinational company placing its profit margin ahead of a person’s life. You can argue that Yahoo has a fiduciary duty to its stockholders not to harm its relationship with the Chinese government. True. This is why companies are run by people. People are supposed to have a sense of proportion and discretion.

Let’s make no doubt that Yahoo’s actions were legally correct — well except for the law that the company appears to have broken here in the US.

That left-wing publication, the Wall Street Journal, reports on what must have been a fascinating meeting between Yahoo’s CEO and general counsel and the wives of two dissidents jailed because of the company’s disclosures.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Messrs. Yang and Callahan met privately with Ms. Gao and Ms. Yu in a room in the offices of the House Committee. According to Ms. Gao, the two apologized profusely for the company’s role in the jailing of Messrs. Shi and Wang, and pledged to put pressure on the Chinese government to release them.

They also discussed a court case in which the women are suing the company, accusing it of breaking several laws, including one which prohibits U.S. companies from assisting in the commission of torture and other human rights abuses in other countries.

So Yahoo was in an impossible situation. No matter what it did it would be breaking someone’s law. Mr. Riley, which law would you have chosen to follow?

I would like to suggest some reading for Mr. Riley. No, not Amnesty International’s report, that would be too easy. How about the State Department’s?

The State Department’s 2006 China human rights and religious freedom reports noted China’s well-documented and continuing abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms, stemming both from the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for basic freedoms. Reported abuses have included arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, worker rights, and coercive birth limitation.

Then perhaps Mr. Riley could read up on one of my favorite law-breakers: Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s consul to Lithuania during World War II. Mr. Sugihara became a criminal when he did not follow orders from his government and issued transit visas to escaping Jews. Mr. Sugihara was totally wrong legally. Yep.

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