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There’s always something to howl about

Google discovers what computing is actually for: “In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

Across all products is important. Across all devices is vital.

Drudge and the privacy geeks are going typically apeshit, but Google is playing my tune:

“If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services,” Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering wrote in a blog post.

How might that work?

For instance, a user who has watched YouTube videos of the Washington Wizards might suddenly see basketball ticket ads appear in his or her Gmail accounts.

That person may also be reminded of a business trip to Washington on Google Calendar and asked whether he or she wants to notify friends who live in the area, information Google would cull from online contacts or its social network Google+.

Hell, yeah! Those are the kinds of jobs I want from Sarah, your software secretary, but I can show you a very cool Constance the Connector connection here, as well.

How about I start a music service that seeks to sell you music that you will probably like and don’t already own. “Don’t already own” is an easy database from iTunes or whatever. But “will probably like” requires analysis — algorithm as art — and that’s what makes my business model work. To you-as-end-user, it feels like I know you, like we’re high-school buddies whose friendship is built around grooving to the same tunes.

How could I do that? Let me see your YouTube history, not just what you picked but how many times your replayed particular songs. Let me see your Amazon.com shopping history — especially the things you come back to again and again but don’t buy. I don’t need to know you. You already know you better than anyone else ever could.

That’s what we’re actually talking about, you collecting facts about yourself for future reference. Like a bad comic, Google can make anything sound dirty, but there is nothing wrong with you getting more of what you want — better, faster and cheaper.

Do you understand? Your fears, assuming they are real, are misplaced. The U.S. Government now has the lawful authority to assassinate you at will in your home with a Predator Drone. Google just wants to help you find a more effective hemorrhoid cream.

So: I’ve got the formula for the all-time perfect one-size-fits-you-and-you-alone internet radio station. How do I get the data?

Here’s a way of thinking of Constance, purely as software: She is an extensible database of extensible databases. YouTube or other music or video services might elect to create databases of your uses of their software, making that data available to other software services. If your Constance profile contained your YouTube history and your Amazon shopping history, a music service like mine might pull that data in order to program your radio station. But Amazon.com might pull my software’s database of your interaction with it, too, in order to try to figure out what music to suggest to you.

Having the software and hardware you use make your usage and performance data available to Constance — and hence to other software services — will promote the optimization of your software experiences everywhere you go. Instead of data distributed across hundreds of sites, apps and devices, Constance becomes a unitary, unified user-profile available to enhance your user-experience anywhere.

Google can deliver some of that experience across its own software services. But Constance can be seen as a central piece in an entirely new way of thinking about the end-user experience of computers — which by now means with everything electronic.

You’ve heard this all your life, uttered as a profundity by some smug asshole whose job it was to stunt your growth: “Computers do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.”

Here’s the news: That’s 100% entirely wrong — or it will be very soon.

 
Our story so far: Lately, I have been tap-dancing around an idea for a new kind of computer-user operating paradigm. I haven’t explicated the central thesis yet, but it should be easy enough to infer from the essays I’ve written so far:

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  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Teri Lussier January 25th, 2012 3:02 pm

      ” “In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” (Alma Whitten) said.”

      Oh yay. Thanks for handling all that for me G, while I go sell a house.

    2. Dario Barba January 26th, 2012 4:15 pm

      Thank you Google.

    3. Karen Rice January 28th, 2012 6:39 am

      Well my issue with it is this – when I do a google search I do not want the results to be based on what Google “thinks” I want. My online activity can border on the bizarre when it comes to the weird things I look up and search out on YouTube. Google has no way of knowing what I want when I want it so I don’t think they should really try to figure that out and send me search results based on what it THINKS I want.

    4. Greg Swann January 28th, 2012 6:54 am

      > when I do a google search I do not want the results to be based on what Google “thinks” I want

      When has this not been the case? Before and after any algorithm change, Google is still and always sending you the results its algorithm “thinks” you want. If you want search results that omit your personal information, all you have to do is log out of Google. Even then, though, your results are going to be tailored to details G can infer about you — your location, for example. I think all of these things are features, not bugs, but Your Mileage May Vary.

    5. Jim Klein January 28th, 2012 8:56 am

      In theory, I’m with Greg. In practice, I’m with Karen. So far, it reminds me very much of KMart, a case with which I’m familiar. Over the decades, KMart had a great business model with terrific pricing and terrific marketing. But there was always one huge problem…far too often, the stores didn’t stock what the customer wanted. IOW they just never grasped the exact desires of their demographic. Over time, the customers stopped coming because they lacked confidence that they would find what they wanted.

      Even now, I’m discovering the same feeling with Google. As Karen implies, it’s still too tough for a computer to figure out what a searcher really wants. Any way you cut it, it’s a gamble on the provider’s part that that the more complex algorithm will do a better job of satisfying the user than the simpler algorithm. Personally, I think that’s a very open question.

    6. Teri Lussier January 28th, 2012 9:04 am

      I read the changes as G trying to improve on the chances that they can get it right. And if they don’t, it’s Google. There’s from a gazillion to infinite other pages available to you for your searching pleasure, unlike Kmart which has limited stock.

    7. Jim Klein January 28th, 2012 3:38 pm

      “I read the changes as G trying to improve on the chances that they can get it right.”

      Sure, and no doubt they’re thinking right along with what Greg writes…eminently sensible, all of it.

      The thing is, if business were just about being the best, then every Bloodhound would be super-wealthy. In reality it’s about fulfilling what the customer wants, the best.

      I’m not making a prediction here, Teri; I hope they can instantiate just what Greg envisions. But in the end, if it’s not what Karen and I want, it fails. They’ve already got a HUGE problem with the privacy thing. It’s not about who’s right or wrong–we know enough to have this issue down pat–it’s about what the customer believes is right or wrong.

    8. Don Reedy January 28th, 2012 5:53 pm

      ” The U.S. Government now has the lawful authority to assassinate you at will in your home with a Predator Drone. Google just wants to help you find a more effective hemorrhoid cream.”

      There’s a big part of me that laughed out loud at this very profound observation. But as always happens here, the hounds stepped in to add another layer to the laughter track.

      Here’s what I say…and how I (and of course Greg and you guys) write. We write with the abandon of those who always knew, always know, that what we do not hide will never harm us. We write as though we are naked. We write as though the world can hear us; even our grumblings and hissy fits. We write without fear.

      So when the Google Wizard reaches out magically to “hear” what I’m thinking, I don’t so much flinch as ponder how narrow and fearful we humans really are.

      “You’ve heard this all your life, uttered as a profundity by some smug asshole whose job it was to stunt your growth: “Computers do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.”

      Here’s the news: That’s 100% entirely wrong — or it will be very soon.”

      Sorry humans. You missed it. Greg’s right…or will be very soon.

    9. Jonathan Blackwell February 25th, 2012 11:56 pm

      They are making it impossible to get search results. They also do their best to give shit info on site stats.

      20%+ “not provided” on my results over 8 sites. Providing better search results? Ok

    10. Danielle Gonzales February 26th, 2012 12:00 pm

      Leave it to Google. Ever notice how you do a Google search just once on a completely random product you were getting basic info for and the next few weeks all of your ad-space is plastered with that product? Thanks for the post. Always gives me good stuff to chew over in my mind.