Last week Google announced the release of a new project known as the search wiki. This represents another step where google shows complete disregard for their users, ignoring what they want, and instead forcing them to participate in what can only be described as a plan that was never fully thought out and was ill conceived at best.
Allow me to make an analogy to prove my point … imagine all of your friends told you about this great restaurant in town, where they serve the most amazing steak dinner … eventually you decide to visit for dinner one night …
YOU: Yes I’d like the steak dinner special … cooked medium well please
Waiter: Excellent choice … and can I tell you we’ve made it better … it now comes with a side order of live cobra heart!
YOU: excuse me what did you say was the side dish?
Waiter: A live cobra heart sir … you know it’s a rare delicacy in many countries.
YOU: … umm you know I’m not sure I’d like that … can I have some mashed potatoes or green beans instead?
Waiter: No sir I’m afraid not our chefs are very well trained and they’ve decided this is what makes the meal better, so no substitutions.
YOU: … aaaa ok then … you know what lets just skip the side dish, I’ll just have the steak by itself, all of my friends tell me it’s really the best in town.
Waiter: I’m sorry sir if you want the steak you HAVE to have the cobra heart on your dish, there are simply no exceptions …
So now you have the choice do you want the steak dish so much that you are willing to go through having a live cobra heart on the same plate. Sure you can try and remove it and put it in your napkin, or relocate it to your bread plate, but there’s no avoiding that there will be a live beating cobra heart when the waiter brings your plate to the table.
What does this have to do with Google’s search wiki? Well much like the unaccommodating waiter, Google forgot to give you a way to opt out of the search wiki project. Log into any of the google account services like Gmail, Adsense, Adwords, Google reader, Google Calender, Webmaster Central or Google Analytics and there is the search wiki, just like that still pulsating purplish cobra heart. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it or don’t want it Google engineers and executives have decided they know what’s best for you.
Am I exaggerating for dramatic effect, maybe slightly … but how about something without a flair for the sensational, how about something that is truly offensive, like porn URL’s shown where children could see them …
Ok most kids under 10 won’t be looking for Techcrunch, but that’s just an example of what could go wrong, once the spammers turn the botnets loose, how long do you think it will be before they start invading Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers listings?
Why would children be logged into google services in the first place? I’m teaching my kids how to use online calenders to enter family events so they are shared. So the very real possibility now exists that google’s bad idea will introduce porn onto the family computer, and since there is no opt out, my options are limited, get rid of google services or pray they don’t ever click anything. Dear google please excuse me if I’m not thrilled or thankful that you introduced this problem into my life.
To be honest there are other options, for one I could install a greasemonkey Stylish script that will hide all of search wiki. For me that’s kind of like walking around with sunglasses indoors because the maintenance guy put extra bright light bulbs in your office, it’s a band-aid solution that masks the real problem.
Google has a dominant lead in the search market, in some sectors it approaches near monopolistic levels. The fact that google is unchallenged by its closest rivals gives them some breathing room to have the bad combination of ego and recklessness, and have no fear of repercussions.
Google has history of forcing UI changes on people and not giving them a way to opt out. Previously personalized search was only available to logged in users who hadn’t opted out of the service. Then Google made the decision to serve personalized search to everyone logged in or not. Now the only way out is to use the &PWS=0 parameter on all of your searches. If you use firefox you can use the mycroft unpersonalized SERP plugin. This is all well and good for SEO’s and computer geeks but man on the street … sorry pal you’re SOL, google is giving you the shaft like it or not.
Is this just another example of typical graywolf google bashing … nope Danny Sullivan noted the omission of an off switch, as did Michael Arrington of techcrunch. Of course most techno blogging fan boys fell in line, like the sheep they are praising it as cool or innovative. Except when it mysteriously went AWOL for a few hours Saturday night, then people were a little more honest.
So what’s the right thing to do here? Figure out how long it will take to get an opt out solution in place, if it’s more than a few days, pull the project till they can get their ducks in row. It’s better to admit you made a mistake and have a little egg on your face while you fix it, than to walk around like an arrogant pompous ass in denial that you did anything wrong. People know the difference …
Next Google can stop pushing out changes that don’t have an off switch. If they want everyone else to follow the “do what’s best for users” mantra they should follow their own advice, instead of just paying it lip service. Lead by setting an example, not by preaching from the pulpit.
So what’s with the beating cobra heart reference, where did it come from, and did I make it up just to be sensational? No actually it is a rare and prized delicacy in some parts of the world. I learned about it watching the quintessential New Yorker Tony Bourdain, on the Travel Channel program No Reservations. Tony visits India Vietnam and orders a cobra heart. The wait staff kills the cobra right in front of him cuts out the heart and serves it still beating in a dish for him to eat. Watch if you dare.