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Does Google Need An Ombudsman?


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#1 bwelford

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 12:34 PM

Michael Gray has occasional beefs with Google, as many do. In a recent post he finds that Google’s Two Tiered Internet World Sinks to a New Low.

The problem is that Google by now has an almost monopolistic hold on the search market. It seems unlikely that Yahoo or even more MSN/Live will break that hold. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is a government body that acts to prevent the excesses that such a dominance might allow. However it probably would catch only flagrant cases.

Undoubtedly there are a lot of good people working for Google. Even if the Do No Evil motto seems a little hollow, in general their hearts are in the right place. However they are Google employees and must accept whatever is Google policy. If not they must resign or presumably would be let go.

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton said. That sometimes is a subconscious process and works independently of the individual's goodwill. Google is now highly vulnerable to this possibility. Given that Google has sometimes a crushing effect on website owners whose livelihood depends on the Internet, it could be something they wish to guard against.

On the Michael Gray post, I left a comment that perhaps Google might consider appointing an ombudsman. This is someone who can act impartially to try to ensure equity. Michael seemed to like the thought. Do you think something needs to be done? Would an ombudsman help?

#2 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 12:49 PM

ombudsman A man who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or students and an institution or organization.


We are certainly all consumers of Google's products, so it's entirely reasonable to have an ombudsman to take on the responsibility of resolving complaints. (Or, given the scope, an entire department...)

However, I have serious doubts that it would work. First of all, the whole concept of "fair" as applied to the internet and search is extremely difficult to ascertain. Is it "fair" for your life's work to be crushed when a wealthier competitor with an inferior product finally improves their website? No, not really. But if they created a kick-donkey website and leveraged their business contacts to get it where they wanted it to be, then they've done exactly what they were supposed to: conducted business.

The capitalist system is not based on "fair."

Second, I have to question whether at least the US populace would accept the judgements of an impartial ombudsman. The US is filled with active litigators looking for a case --- I think having an extra-judicial decision making process simply wouldn't be accepted. Many people, I'm confident, would accuse the ombudsman of lacking impartiality and take the case to court regardless.

I can't help but think that it would be largely a symbolic gesture.

#3 swainzy

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 12:56 PM

At that above link, Hawaii SEO says, regarding G's release of your keywords:

I assume the goal is to motivate people to purchase more ads because they can now see how close the competition is and what geographic markets they are focusing on.
“Ah-ha! – All their business is coming from Texas! – We should geo-target Texas with more ads”
Or…
“Oh-Crap! Now our competition knows that we have been focusing on Texas! – So much for staying under the radar.”


Basically that is spot on. Because people, G is about larger profits.

Having an ombudsman might not do it as G needs to manipulate their SEO rules by continually coming up with new paths to lead webmasters down so they can ultimately increase their bottom line. I'm on the outside, not being a web dev but it looks to me like G jerks webmasters all over the place.

#4 iamlost

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 01:49 PM

Unlike, apparently, the various complainants I have read the various Google ToS, privacy, et al policies. I have even had my law-type-person explain their scope and likely legal constrainsts. I have thought about possible data mining possibilities and even discussed them with a few like minded individuals. And on the rare occassion one of us raised a concern the silence was deafening.

This latest 'service' has been seen coming for well over a year by some and for even longer by a few. Which is why I use few Google services, and those in a careful circumscribed manner, and certainly never G-Analytics. Usage of each services grants Google specific usage rights of that data. This is not a surprise. Or should not.

It was and is your - all you who use such services - choice.
If you did not read or failed to understand the consequences, look in a mirror, and do better next time.

RTFM.
Think about what you read.
Understand that to which you agree.

Google doesn't need an ombudsman, webdevs need to grow up.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 01:55 PM

Interesting topic, Barry :lol:

In the Local Search world, the need for Google to be accessible and accountable is especially apparent. Mike Blumenthal blogs about this a lot. Google has employed a couple of people to be Maps Guides, but frankly, they are not nearly enough to deal with the vast ocean of problems local business owners face because of bugs and spam in Maps. Google needs an entire, 24 hour staff devoted just to handling all of the trouble local business owners are having with this entity to which Google has given such top billing in recent times with their highly visible 10-pack results.

Just imagine having your business listed with a completely irrelevant phone number, with someone else's address. Imagine all of your user reviews disappearing over night, with no explanation. And imagine having no way to contact Google to demand that they stop misrepresenting your business in their hugely visible entity.

It's a mess.

An ombudsman is a good idea, but I think a full time customer service department is really the only solution to a situation like this.
Miriam

#6 bwelford

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 01:56 PM

Oh really, iamlost. Being big doesn't give you a licence to do anything you please. There can be a thing called public pressure. That's the beauty of the Internet. If enough of us get together, nothing can stop us.

#7 swainzy

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 02:04 PM

Very good points on local maps, Miriam.

Just imagine having your business listed with a completely irrelevant phone number, with someone else's address. Imagine all of your user reviews disappearing over night, with no explanation. And imagine having no way to contact Google to demand that they stop misrepresenting your business in their hugely visible entity.
It's a mess.


It's more than a mess, it's a nightmare for some. Being "out of control" feels awful.
I came to Cre8 because I was in the #1 position for my search terms and overnight was gone from sight. That cost me a lot of money but worse yet was the feeling of helplessness and no immediate recourse. Believe me, I did nothing to cause that dissappearance. No breaking any rules, no black hat, just G changing algos.

#8 BillSlawski

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 06:13 PM

The traffic estimates that Google shows in this new layer to google trends sound like the traffic estimates described in a patent application that I wrote about previously:

Google at the Crime Scene: Profiling Websites, Estimating Traffic, and Combating Click Fraud
http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=574

I'm not sure that the "trends" show are all that accurate measures unless you give away a lot of data to Google through Google Analytics, Google Optimizer, Adsense, etc.

Using those sources of information for a site enables Google to create a profile based upon actual data. Not using those services means that Google makes a lot of guesses based upon a profile built by looking at sites that they think are similar to yours. How accurate are they? I'm not sure that they are very accurate at all.

#9 iamlost

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 06:46 PM

Being big doesn't give you a licence to do anything you please.

That is not what I said. What I said was that Google is using information that they have been given the right to use. That this usage is such a widespread surprise shows a shocking lack of professional business behaviour: not reading or understanding what usage rights one is providing in return for a 'free' service is, at the very least, foolish.

That some of us have, in the past, mentioned similar possibilities and been ridiculed as 'Google haters' or 'fear mongerers' or 'you must have something to hide' has, quite frankly, made this current contretemps a bit of a quilty pleasure. You know, that childish, 'nah, nah, I was right and you all were wrong' sort of gratification.

I have a simple question: what is Google doing that is contrary to their agreements (ToS, privacy, etc.) for use of their products, applications, and services?

There can be a thing called public pressure. That's the beauty of the Internet. If enough of us get together, nothing can stop us.

Maybe.
In this instance you need (1) more people that are agrieved than see value in the service, (2) some proof of wrongdoing rather than a legal behaviour, and (3) sufficient media coverage to exhibit pressure.

While there is fury it is limited to a vocal minority, who have provided no proof of illicit activity or contravention of agreements, and without a smoking gun insufficient media attention to pressure anything beyond the SEO blogosphere where many are actually happy with the new data.

#10 iamlost

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 07:12 PM

And imagine having no way to contact Google to demand that they stop misrepresenting your business in their hugely visible entity.

One of the fun bits of Web2.0 is this throw out an alpha application, call it beta, and correct while, hopefully, you grow.

Google has always behaved this way but the results are more noticeable in Local/Maps because the algo problems are so blatently obvious. An address is either right, or not, for instance. The same problems exist in general search and in image search but are more obscured. Very few returns actually have the 'best' results (probably to allow more viable AdWords solutions), as most people will tolerate some minimal reply. This is not true with Local.

Google can not do the editorial oversite of the old YellowPages - which did make mistakes, which lasted for a year - they simply do not have either the number or the type of staff necessary. Add in their algo-centric business model and things are likely to continue to muddle along.

There are potential methods of accuracy redress - others have various solutions - so likely things will improve over time. It is surprising that no one is shooting at this vulnerability - and G is quite vulnerable in local. Unfortunately the other players are all big and even slower than G.

An ombudsman is unlikely because:
* it would publicise problems in a manner more likely to picked up by MSM.
* it would aggregate problems in a more visible fashion.
* there would need to be one for each Google service (or be overwhelmed) and given powers that Google seems to hold close.
* it would portray the great algo as less capable than myth would like.
* it (if it were effective) be contrary to that which is Google. :ph34r:

#11 projectphp

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 07:38 PM

Being big doesn't give you a licence to do anything you please. There can be a thing called public pressure. That's the beauty of the Internet. If enough of us get together, nothing can stop us.

With all due respect, Barry, I think you got the sentiment right, but the execution wrong.

Sentiment: we need to limit big companies abilitiy to manipulate XYZ..
Good Execution: Write blogs, complain, b***h, moan, cause negative PR, make the company respond and fix the issue.
Bad execution: Make a public service position (that the public we pay for) that takes away rights from a single business in isolation.

Anything that is applied in one direction is bad. With Google, everyone applies rules to them that they'd be horrified to find in reverse. Imagine an ombudsmen for your bsuiness, that had rules that applied to no one other buisiness. Is that right? Why do we even need that? Why are existing laws inadequate? Monopoly laws exist, why aren't they applied? My guess is because everyuthign Googtel do is above board, and I am with iamlost, except I would goa step further and say people power to EDUCATE on teh topic is vital.

Starting a campaign to STOP people using Google's various "evil" offerrings, or ones that are dicey or not perhaps in the best interst of all is possibly a very GOOD idea. That is a movement, if well thought out and reasonned, that I would support.

"Google's ToS reviewed by a lawyer: What it means to you".
"Why Google Analytics is a bad deal - even at the price of air".

But the whole concept of adding bureaucracy is something I don't agree with at all.

People power to affect change through Public Relations: YES. People power to add a layer of bureaucracy: NO.

<edit>Seriously? B i t c h is swear filtered? We are tough here!</edit>

#12 bwelford

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 08:27 PM

Perhaps I didn't make my suggestion clear, Michael. This Ombudsman would be someone that Google funded to act as a corporate conscience, someone or some department as Joe suggested, that would take up the cause of those who felt that Google, perhaps inadvertently was mistreating them. I didn't ever think the Government should get in on this.

Why would they do that? Iamlost has clearly spelled out the reasons why they might be inclined to not do this. However that's the old style PR way of handling adverse publicity events. Keep your head down. Pretend it's not happening. The opposition doesn't have the funds to make much news. So wait it out. That used to be a credible plan before the Internet. Although even then, the more successful companies realized that it was better to be proactive and make positive news about your actions rather than just be ostrich-like.

The thing is that big companies automatically have many strikes against them. We know that they can credibly use FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to intimidate the opposition. They can use all the powers of the law right up to the Supreme Court if they wish. They have a great deal of power, if they choose to use it. However using that power does not make you many friends. It may take a little more effort to figure out how to conduct your affairs in such a way that most people are happy. But it's worth it.

Google at the moment is using the algorithm defense. Do not blame us. It's just the way the algorithm works out today: we'll probably make it better some time soon. Read the small print, which you have accepted. We have done nothing illegal. That was OK when it was just two guys running their business out of the garage. For a major corporation it just does not build trust.

In some ways it's similar to the problems online banking is suffering at the moment. If you read the small print, you will find you are on the hook if your bank card is used fraudently in some surprising situations. However if the banks practiced what their small print allows, the public uproar would be devastating. Banks cannot afford to lose the public trust.

The Local Search problems are one way in which dissatisfactions with Google can begin to reverberate. Slapping Beta on everything and pointing to the small print is not going to get them very far.

#13 projectphp

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 10:06 PM

... Joe suggested, that would take up the cause of those who felt that Google, perhaps inadvertently was mistreating them

At a cost to whom? The complainant? Everyone?

However that's the old style PR way of handling adverse publicity events. Keep your head down. Pretend it's not happening.

Don't they already do a good job of new skool PR with Google Groups, a blog on practically every topic and, ultimately, by engaging with the web on the web's terms, in blogs, conferences and other places?

or a major corporation it just does not build trust.

And yet, consistently, Google are voted one of, if not the, most trusted brands. Something doesn't fit between the perception, and the perception of the perception (metaperception if you will :( ).

Also, are we trying to help Google solve their problems, or are we trying to solve our own?

I read Michael Gray's article, and it is full of demands (stop this... stop that...) but not very full of reasons why]. Why should Google stop? Because we care about their business? Because we care about our business? Because we care about freedom, transparency and privacy? Why? What is the core perspective on this? Surely it isn't "just because"?

Choose a perspective, and then we can discuss, but these unstated perspective, unfocussed arguments are easy to pick apart, and ultimately unconvincing to any one, specific entity, be that me, you, Google or a government.

Most importantly, the arguments offer no compelling reason to Google to change. That is what is missing here. One can't change others by arguing what is best for oneself. One has to convince someone from their perspective.

How is that done? By offerring sticks or carrots. Don't X or we will have to Y. If you do A we will reward you with B. That sort of thing.

Blogging without a call to action, or call to arms as it is colloquially known, is pointless, If anyone wants change, find a way to organise and force change, don't just yell!

#14 bwelford

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 10:32 PM

Also, are we trying to help Google solve their problems, or are we trying to solve our own?

You have hit the nail on the head, Michael. If Google is product-driven, like Microsoft, then it does not have any problems. They make the best products they can (well Beta versions) and most of them come free. How rude of all you guys out there to look gift horses in the mouth.

On the other hand if they are customer-centric, then they will want to be sure that all the customers are really satisfied. They will learn from those who are less than satisfied. Slowly, oh so very slowly, they are now accepting more inputs. They may even allow comments on blogs sometime or other. They will know that they are getting there when people like Miriam do not have to write the kind of post that appears earlier in this thread.

#15 projectphp

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:19 AM

ALL the customers Barry :(

I am not entirely sure that your post matches with the general sentiment Barry, for a few reasons.

Firstly, there is the gap between incompetence / short of brilliance and evil intent. I am happy to discuss mistakes within a context of best of intentions and good faith, but I doubt some commenter's sincerity when it comes to that, and if not their sincerity, at the very least their approach.

A statement, like that from the linked blog: "Google sees itself as the absolute ruler of the internet and there’s nothing you can do to stop it" is not helping, it is accussing, and accussing in a way that is impossible to eiother prove or disprove.

I'd rather start with an issue, address it in a context of good faith, and resort to emotive language last. I'd also rather push for a change in people, than a change in a faceleess business entity. People need to apply presssure to Google, by countering their biggest asset: their reputation.

Ultimately, Google doesn't matter to me, and my real concern with any iniative is that it improves what I can acheive, not that it helps Google.

#16 bwelford

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:42 AM

ALL the customers Barry :(

Yes, Michael. That's what I said and that's what I meant.

This thread was not started to discuss Michael Gray's post but to discuss whether Google needed to actively seek better feedback from its customers. I agree about trying to get people to change rather than some 'faceless organization'. So what practical steps can we take to try to get the Google Local Search group to address the concerns of Miriam's local business people who are being hurt by Google's performance.

#17 Andrew.Williams

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 06:35 AM

Ok, shall I try and get this discussion back to topic.

Google is sharing everyone's precious secretive data, but their own.

If they think that sharing web stats is a good idea, why don't they share their own stats. That is Evil, that is corruption of power and that is double standards.

Google is based on secrecy, what makes them think that others would love to give away their secrets.

It is appalling, it would have not been if they shared their data as they shared everyone else's.

#18 projectphp

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:27 PM

It is only apalling if no one else can do this. If any/everyone can opt out, it is OK, no?

#19 A.N.Onym

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:46 PM

I think Michael's spot on here. Introducing another layer of corporate legalease won't do anything. You can always start being more vocal about the problems, do something about it (support Gevil.org, for example) and maybe even discuss things with Matt Cutts (he's a bit responsive).

What G needs is to get back in touch with the people. That's where the movement could go, instead of creating barriers in front of one of the most powerful businesses in the world.

Moreover, Google is just a search engine. As long as you are a visitor, you are fine. If you are a webmaster, you can live without it by building websites as if the search engines didn't exist: that is, create awesome content for the people, get published on other sites, build conversations, etc.

I didn't find an "Opt out" button in the Tools. Anyone?

Edited by A.N.Onym, 24 June 2008 - 10:48 PM.


#20 iamlost

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 11:14 PM

If any/everyone can opt out, it is OK, no?


I didn't find an "Opt out" button in the Tools. Anyone?

The basic webdev opt-out is the ability to allow/disallow spidering, indexing, cacheing of one's sites to varying granularity.

One also has the choice of which, if any, extended services one decides to use - they are opt-in, personal choice - after all. Thus an opt-out button in Tools is redundent - one has already explicitly opted in.

Further, one controls how and to what extent one uses those services.

Thus there is opt-out by explicit opting out of site or pages, plus implicit opting out by never opting in of services/applications/products, and finally masking one's opt-in extent by various shell/proxy usages.

One's Google involvement is one's personal choice.

#21 projectphp

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 11:29 PM

I meant more for the webmaster trends stuff iamlost. If sites can opt out, as well as Google, that'd be cooler.

Google only opting themselves out is baaaad.... unless there is a reason, like the data is a degree of accuracy too good (as in, they know their traffic exactly, and would make comparisons pointless, as every other site is a 15% underestimate).

#22 A.N.Onym

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 11:44 PM

iamlost, what if I want to get traffic from Google, but not allow it share my traffic details?

If Google wants to use my content to display ads nearby, then it should give me a way to keep using it.

Then again, I'd still probably let G use my content, but quit making the extra effort to make my site compliant with G guidelines (the ones about nofollow, for example).

#23 iamlost

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:09 AM

I meant more for the webmaster trends...

Google only opting themselves out is baaaad...

Why?

1. I have never read anything where Google has done other than say they intend to keep their own data confidential.

2. Also, I have never read anything other than Google saying they intend to collect, collate, and share everyone else's data.

I do not like their vision, which is why I utilise few of their offerings and when doing so it is in a careful considered manner. But their vision has always been open and quite clear. Nothing new, no surprises, at all in this latest offering.

Further, as Danny Sullivan notes:

This data IS out there already, not just from Google but from a variety of other tools as I named. Saying that what happens on your web site is "private" is like saying that someone standing on a public street and watches the people who go in and out of a store, logging what they bought, is violating the store's privacy. The store is out in public view -- the data is easily seen and logged.

Mr. Google, Tear Down This Google Trends Wall!


I sometimes giggle (would chortle be more masculine?) reading third party traffic offerings of my sites - they are very very skewed and very very inaccurate - because I do not share, they have to sample, i.e. toolbars, ISP data, and extrapolate.

Those of you who offer up G-Analytics, single AdWords/AdSense accounts, WebmasterCentral, tell Uncle G everything will likely provide a more accurate WebTrends public record. To my competitors, a big thank you.

...what if I want to get traffic from Google, but not allow it share my traffic details?

Not a big problem.
Possibly an [small | medium | big] inconvenience.

Example:
Google knows the traffic it sends.
Google knows a sampling more from those visitors with the G-toolbar.
It is not until you add G-Analytics that they can track all traffic.

Similar constraint considerations exist for every Google service, application, and product. Sometimes you can limit the default scope while gaining the benefits, Sometimes it is an all or nothing choice.

But it is a choice.

#24 Respree

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:50 AM

[A somewhat different perspective]

What would you do if...

...you were served a bad meal at your local restaurant?
...you were treated rudely by your local bank?
...went to your local grocery store only to find prices had tripled?

Most people would sever their relationship with these establishments.

I wonder what makes Google different. Okay, we're really not a customer of theirs, like the examples above. But we use their products. They don't charge us a dime. They send us most of our traffic. Again, they don't charge us a dime. Most people would consider that a pretty good deal.

So now they've made a business decision that some people don't particular agree with. Do we have a right to tell them how to run their business as they see fit? Do Google owe us anything? I think the answer is no, on both counts. So far, their business practices, whether you agree with them or not, has put them at the top of the mountain. Its hard to argue with their success.

Funny thing is that despite all the criticisms, I don't see anyone collecting their marbles and leaving. Seems we need them much more than they need us.

#25 A.N.Onym

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:58 AM

I think Randall McCarley has banned Google for a while (with no effect on traffic) and then unbanned in some months.

But the matter is this: does Google want to be considered a great company, or it can treat its users as garbage and make money from them? What will happen to such a company? I am not saying they'll go broke - they've had a good start, but still?

Isn't it in the companys best intentions to give people what they want, or not?

#26 bwelford

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 01:22 AM

Well said, Yura.

Perhaps another way of looking at it is to ask the question, In terms of customer service quality, what order would you put Microsoft, Walmart and Google in from Best to Worst? They're all big and all get criticised from time to time.

#27 fisicx

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:16 AM

Reading the thread at it seems to me that most of the complaints come from those whose business depends on google doing the right thing.

But I would suspect that most of googles 'customers' do not have an online business. Most people use google to find out stuff. Usually via a search. They don't give two hoots about your ranking, the accuracy of your listing, the information you give to google or any other aspects of the way they do business. If if they search for surgical stockings and get as decent result that's all the millions of google users care about.

So why would they be interested in an ombudsman?

Google customer service is excellent - they deliver accurate results within seconds of me performing a search.

If your site drops off the google radar, 99% of the people who use google don't care. It's a bit like using the local free adds, you submit and hope that you will appear in the newspaper. If it doesn't then your readers aren't affected. Nowhere in the Google TOS does it say thay you have a right to see your site indexed and listed. If google decides not to list or to ban your site then I'm not sure how an ombudsman is going to help since they have't actually broken the TOS.

#28 bwelford

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 06:13 PM

If you think that it's only their customers as you defined them, fisicx, who matter, then your analysis is correct.

However for their own corporate good, I think Google should not only be thinking about its customers but should think about all of its stakeholders. That I believe is the responsibility of a board of directors for example. It is not just the shareholders who count. Unless all stakeholders feel some satisfaction with the way things go, there may be problems at some time or other.

So if we enlarge the circle to include all stakeholders, who gets included? I think it is important that Google includes its suppliers in that stakeholder circle. By suppliers, I would include all those website owners who allow Google to have the right to display information about their websites including snippets. It's really for its suppliers that I believe Google needs an ombudsman.

#29 projectphp

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 08:37 PM

Reading the thread at it seems to me that most of the complaints come from those whose business depends on google doing the right thing.

??? I don't get what that means?

Google customer service is excellent - they deliver accurate results within seconds of me performing a search.

Ever tried to get a listing that somneone else submitted back on Google local? Complain about said listing?

What about the peeps that use Gapps? They get good customer service?

I think your post fisicx is limitted by scope. There are LOTS of Google customers, and generalised statements are going to hit an innaccurate average, where different areas with different complaints are glossed over by oither areas where there is great service.

An Ombudsman is, IMHO, a completely wasted level of beauracracy, however I think that the concept that customer service is just search related is false.

The biggest issue is how poorly thopught out Google is as a whole. I think Google do a great job in a very limitted context for a specific subset of Internet Users, with various blogs etc, but with each new product they launch, customer service has been poor, precisely because they are so algorithm-centric, and not customer service centric.

Most people would consider that a pretty good deal.

And *I* personally do, in a great many cases. However, many good deals turn sour. If I offer you X for les than anyone else can sell it, put them out of business, what then? A good deal is not permanent, any more than a bad deal is.

Worse still, the bad deal is not only not immediate, but a consequence of a very, very, very good deal. That is the iussue here, and why we have monoply protection.

But that is, IMHO, a cop out, and public accoutability, as Barry suggested through raising a voice, is important. If people realise the consequences of one comapny, no matter how well intentioned, holding all the freely offerred data, and some possible scenarios of said data access, then if we end up in an Orwellian world, at least we went there knowingly!

I expect nothing from Google except that they do what is in their best interests. The question is: what is in all of our best interests? I can't answer that, but am extremely sceptical of any world in which many sides are not presented, and where a simple, impermanent and specific perspective is presented.

I loved http://www.robinsloan.com/epic/, but I also am optimisitic it will not happen :(

#30 fisicx

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 04:33 AM

Good points. But it highlighted a important destinction: as the owner of a website I am a supplier but as a user of google's services I am a customer.

This is the point I was trying to highlight. In my supplier role I build a websites that meets google's requirements. Google on their part may decide to index and rank my site. They have however no obligation to do so. In my customer role I can use their free services. If I don't like the results I can go elsewhere. Maybe google aren't customer centric - but where does it say thay have to be so. It's up to the board of Directors to decide how they treat their customers.

As a subset of their customers you may not be satisfied with their service, but the millions who do use google every day are very satisfied.

As a supplier you might be very dissatisifed with their service but where does it say google are obliged to change their business plan to suit you.

So Barry, how would an ombudsman regulate how google treats its suppliers? Do we extend the ombudsmans scope to all search engines, directories, lists and any other site that links to other sites? What happens if I put a link on my site that incorrectly describes your site? What do you do if I list the top 10 suppliers of elephants in Canada and miss you out? The only difference is that google generates it's list automatically and I do mine manually. If you are going to regulate one then you need to regulate everybody who provides an index.

Not trying to defend google - just pointing out that I am both a supplier to google and a customer of their services. For many, the two are mutually exclusive.

#31 bwelford

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 08:13 AM

Perhaps I need to emphasize that my suggestion that Google have an ombudsman was something that I felt would be good for Google. This would be a person (supported by a department) funded by Google but of sufficient moral stature that they were independent of Google. Clearly they could not handle every case of inequity. However even if they only handled the 10 percent of most deserving cases that would be just incredible.

Google does have this supposed motto of Do No Evil. This ombudsman arrangement tries to put some reality into that process.

In some ways it's amusing how successful entrepreneurs operate. You have someone like Bill Gates amassing a huge fortune with Microsoft, using whatever methods he feels appropriate. A number of governments in different countries have at times tried to limit Microsoft's behavior. He is presumably guided by his lawyers as to how close he will sail to whatever might not be deemed illegal.

Once he has wealth greater than many small countries, he then sets up a charitable foundation to do good works with all this wealth. The Google founders are now at the stage where they are following a similar path. I am suggesting that if they allowed some of this motivation to apply in how they run their businesses, they might make even more money.

In some ways it's linked to the whole subject of corporate governance. It's good to see that, with the increased transparency in an Internet world, better corporate behaviour is being encouraged.

#32 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 05:10 PM

Barry, as soon as I started to read the thread I agreed with you, and I have brought up this issue on Cre8asite in the past, but many people were also against this, because customers have free will to accept or deny service from a service provider. However, my rationale has always been that at some point, when a service provider becomes a verb!!, and its services become a staple of modern culture, there should be a watchdog in place in order to prevent the influence of the monopolistic competitor from grossly misusing its power, and in almost all cases this actually benefits the company overall because the general public has a better experience dealing with them and will do even more business with them.

Edited by kulpreet_singh, 26 June 2008 - 05:12 PM.


#33 EGOL

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 07:40 PM

Have you seen the Ad Planner? http://www.seroundta...ves/017517.html

Looks like some very detailed traffic stats are going out to big advertisers. If you have big traffic this should help you make more money - or at least let other people know even more about your traffic.

#34 bwelford

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 08:17 PM

Wow. Big Brother is Watching You. It's beginning to look like 1984 all over again.

#35 glyn

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 10:09 AM

Hi all,

1. Don't ask business to regulate itself, they rarely do it. It needs to come from government

2. Anyone with marketing experience can separate message from substance, and Google stopped impressing me more than 6 years ago. But don't worry, the announcement by ICANN, http://www.icann.org...-26jun08-en.htm, could spell the end of Search Engines anyway. Google's full of travel and tourism spam anyway.

Historians will write up this period making reference to the gold panning days in the wild west.

:)



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