Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Google books might be evil

~From What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, pages 143:

Publishers treat Google as an enemy for scanning books and making them searchable (though you can't read them all cover-to-cover at Google.com). Instead, publishers should embrace Google and the internet, for now via search and links more readers can discover authors and what they say and develop relationships and perhaps buy their books. Authors can reach the huge audience that never goes into a bookstore. Publishers and authors can find new ways to bring books into the conversation. Books can live longer and spread their messages wider. I don't have the answers to books' challenges. But I know we must be willing to reinvent the form. The internet won't destory books. It will improve them. Take Coelho's advice to publishers and authors: "Don't be afraid."

For some reason, I'm not so comfortable with what Google is doing with books here. Some problems I see:

1) Am I allowed to go into a library or bookstore and just start scanning, copying, and saving books, even if just for my own personal use? Isn't that against copyright? Why should Google get to do it if we all don't get to do it?

2) If I write or publish a book, why should Google make any money off of it? Just because they have the audiences and the search tools? All right, that might not be a bad deal, but again, if Google gets to do it, do we all?


How innovation is made

~From What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, page 113:

In 2008, I joined a seminar on innovation at the World Economic Forum at Davos. It was a highly formatted hour, with the entire room sitting in a circle (making the moderator dizzy). They had us write down the technology we loved most. Then we compared notes with a neighbor and came up with some neat invention out of this mashup. We heard a few cute ideas and then, thank goodness, a scientist in the room put a stop to it. This, he said, is not how innovation is made. Scientists start with a problem and then try to find a solution.

I agree that that is not how innovation is made. But I don't think it necessarily starts with a problem either. I think it starts off with someone saying "Wouldn't it be cool if ..." That might solve a problem, but it might just be something someone thinks would be cool, neat, fun. Then it can solve problems people didn't even know they had as new ways to behave emerge.

That said, "innovation" alone doesn't automatically lead to success, but I suppose that's a different topic. Don't innovate merely for the sake of innovation. Innovate because you think "it'd be cool if..." something.


Mistakes aren't good

~From What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, page 91:

We are ashamed to make mistakes--as well we should be, yes? It's our job to get things right, right? So, when we make mistakes, our instinct is to shrink into a ball and wish them away. Correcting errors, though necessary, is embarrassing.

But the truth about truth is itself counterintuitive: Corrections do not diminish credibility. Corrections enhance credibility. Standing up and admitting your errors makes you more believable; it gives your audience faith that you will right your future wrongs. When companies apologize for bad performance--as JetBlue did after keeping passengers on tarmacs for hours--that tells us that they know their performance wasn't up to their standard, and we have a better idea of the standard we should expect.

Yeah... um... no. I think it's important for individuals to admit mistakes to themselves and get past any personal pride. It can also sound ridiculous when you hear someone who you know was wrong make excuses ("well, what I really meant was blah blah blah" ... "well, I don't know, it wasn't like that for me, blah blah blah" *cough* you know who you are *cough*). But the point isn't to admit mistakes, it's to not make them. If (or when) you make them, it's best to hide them, if you can. If it's already very obvious you made a mistake, the damage to your reputation is already done. Trying to make excuses or not admitting the mistake when it's obvious only damages your reputation further.

However, sometimes whether or not something was a mistake is a subjective thing. Was it a mistake to go to war with Iraq? Some say yes, and then they say that it should be admitted by everybody. Well, no! Some people honestly don't believe that. And when people are arguing over whether or not something was a mistake, admitting it was is a stupid thing to do. If you admit a mistake, your opponents won't say "Well, at least you're honest!" ... no, they say "Aha! Even you admit it, you mistake-making loser!" ... and if you don't admit it, all they can do is continue to disagree with you.

So . . . whether or not it's wise to admit a mistake I believe depends on the circumstances. Do others all agree that you made a mistake? Is there anyone you can effectively blame? Are there any excuses that might work? Do not just let "admitting the mistake" be the first thing you do. The situation and the possible consequences must be considered.

In the more personal realm, unless you know everything, you are definitely wrong about a lot of things. Admitting your incomplete knowledge to yourself is always a good thing. After all, it's usually not admitting your incomplete knowledge to yourself that gets you in to making mistakes in the first place.