Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yes, we're open, but we don't want you to be

I've never authored a political blog, and I'm not currently authoring a religious blog, but this story was so outstanding that I had to find a way to work a business angle into it.

Through a circuitous route that began with a share by Steven Perez (which also led me to a Philip Coupland comment on a Jonah Goldberg book which cited an H.G. Wells statement, I ended up at this account of a 1923 interview of Adolf Hitler by George Sylvester Viereck. And this statement caught my eye:

"Why," [Viereck] asked Hitler, "do you call yourself a National Socialist, since your party programme is the very antithesis of that commonly accredited to socialism?"

"Socialism," he retorted, putting down his cup of tea, pugnaciously, "is the science of dealing with the common weal. Communism is not Socialism. Marxism is not Socialism. The Marxians have stolen the term and confused its meaning. I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists.

"Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal. Marxism has no right to disguise itself as socialism. Socialism, unlike Marxism, does not repudiate private property. Unlike Marxism, it involves no negation of personality, and unlike Marxism, it is patriotic.

"We might have called ourselves the Liberal Party. We chose to call ourselves the National Socialists. We are not internationalists. Our socialism is national. We demand the fulfilment of the just claims of the productive classes by the state on the basis of race solidarity. To us state and race are one."

Basically, Hitler was saying that socialists were not socialists - in effect, redefining the common meaning of the term to a meaning that he preferred.

Now I don't want to go down the Godwin's Law route, but basically ANYONE can take a term and cause it to mean something else. And this isn't a Nazi thing, but just a way in which people (including myself) use words ways to put our best foot forward.

And even if you do use particular words with their proper meaning, just the fact that you use the words in question doesn't necessarily mean that the word is in line with your own goals.

Take the phrase "open standards." Obviously people who happen to be on standards committees happen to be huge champions of the term. But at the same time, there are large companies that also champion the term. Take Oracle, for example. Even before Oracle acquired Sun (thus acquiring Java and MySQL), Oracle strongly emphasized that their products conformed to open standards, thus allowing someone to use an Oracle product in concert with a product from another company that conformed to the same standard.

But just because Oracle talks about open standards doesn't necessarily mean that they necessarily want you to use them. Because for every time that Oracle talks about how it can interact with products from other companies, Oracle also makes the point that it has its own products that can do the same thing (or better things) than the competing products. During my years in product management, Oracle representatives, while talking about how Oracle Database could operate with third party application servers, were always trying to get me to adopt the Oracle Application Server...well, at least until they bought WebLogic; then the reps worked on getting me to use WebLogic.

Now another company that has been associated with open standards is Google. Google is not Microsoft, people would commonly say. Yet Google, either via their own development or via Oracle-like acquisitions, is also madly trying to get you to stay within the Google silo and to stay out of the Facebook silo or another silo. Google Buzz is just the latest example of Google's strategy - every hour you spend in Google Buzz is an hour that you're NOT in Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

When I started the Empoprises series of blogs, I purposely chose to use Google technologies for almost everything associated with the blogs. The blogs themselves were hosted on Blogger. Much of the information in the blogs came from items I found in Google Reader. I used Google Analytics to analyze traffic, Google Adsense to provide the ads, FeedBurner for the feeds, and I wrote some super-secret business plan documents in Google Docs. Until my account was permanently disabled, YouTube was part of my strategy. In fact, when I originally started, the major non-Google items in use were Flickr (a Yahoo property) and the independent services Twitter and FriendFeed.

Today, while Google products are still a prominent part of the Empoprises offering, I'm also doing a lot of stuff in the Facebook silo. The originally independent FriendFeed is now part of Facebook, and Facebook itself has become part of my strategy.

There is some interaction between the Google silo, the Facebook silo, and the properties outside of those silos (most notably Twitter). I can tweet something in Twitter, which then sends it to FriendFeed, which then sends it to both Facebook and Google Buzz, plus (if I choose) to Google Reader. Yet there are some critical barriers between the silos:

  • As of today, things that go into Google Buzz usually can't get out. Sure, you can manually link to a Google Buzz item, but (unless I'm missing something) you can't have things flow out of Google Buzz in the same way that they can flow into Google Buzz. Thus, if you want to join in my Google Buzz conversation, you have to go to Google Buzz itself. Oh, wait, there's one other way - via Gmail (another Google service).

  • In addition to Google Buzz, a lot of conversations get trapped in the individual silos. Facebook conversations stay in Facebook. FriendFeed conversations stay in FriendFeed. This sometimes happens even between services in the same silo. When I post a video link to Facebook and then talk about it, the only thing that reaches FriendFeed is the video link itself.

  • In addition, there's the whole matter of WHEN things will transfer from one silo to another. For example, when I post this item, there may be a lag of a few minutes before it goes to FriendFeed. From there, it will go fairly quickly to Twitter and to my main feed in Facebook. However, I also have an Empoprise-BI room in Facebook - and sometimes it will take hours for the post to show up there. In addition, it often takes hours to get over to Google Buzz. The solution, according to the silo vendors, is to do your stuff right in the silo so that there is no lag.
Now I don't blame Google or Facebook for trying to keep us in their individual silos. After all, you make more money if you keep people in your silo than if you send them off to someone else's silo.

But this just illustrates that just because people use a particular word a lot, that doesn't mean that they particularly MEAN it.
blog comments powered by Disqus