They aren't content any more with just letting their search algorithms turn up the tech blogs first before all the other blogs* and letting tech CEOs, in symbiosis with tech media, set the political agenda.
No, Google isn't content just to lobby quietly in Washington, with actually less of a budget than some other Big IT and of course the hated Hollywood and record companies.
Now they have to make getting into politics a product, a destination page. Hence the Take Action page, where you can see that stark, warning-road-signs graphics that are favoured both to sooth overstimulated coders on the autism spectrum and the average goof on the Internet who needs things dirt simple to understand them.
In January, Google first sicced "the Internet" -- 7 million people -- that they could reach, using their dominance in search and as a beloved geek company -- to get 7 million people to sign a petition. Wow, that's democracy in action! (Except, as I point out, it had a lot of help through the seasoned cadres of Mitch Kapor's anti-copyright operations, Electronic Frontier Foundation and a new front group made up of old operatives fighting the music industry's copyright, Fight for the Future). The campaign was misleadingly and mischieviously named "Fight Against Piracy, Not Liberty," although in the end there was...nothing to fight the piracy. Nothing at all. The bill never got to the floor to be debated. And some other vague, supposedly Silicon-Valley supported bill on the "Open Internet" never got any attention at all. That was deliberate. There was never any liberty threatened; now we're stuck with two things instead of one: 1) piracy 2) the awesome (as in, scary) power of Google to whiplash the Internet, including through service blackouts, such as Wikipedia executed, and boycotts, such as was made against Go Daddy, to get its political way.
Is this a good thing for the country? No, not in my view, as it undermines the institution of Congress -- it begins impossible to rationally discuss a bill with limited powers to enable legitimate law-enforcement against piracy in a climate where there is a tsunami of screaming insanity from geeks gone wild (because their beloved piracy was taken away from them -- piracy that they have elevated to a business model, for Google.)
So now Google, fresh from the kill, has moved on to other topics -- although perhaps it is fearing its might, because what's offered to "take action" on is something utterly anodyne and toothless and obscure.:
You stood together to stop something. Today, let’s start a conversation about the future of the web and what makes it awesome.
Because it’s about more than wires and chips, politicians and companies. It’s about how you use the web every day, to make differences big and small.
So now, instead of petitioning Congress to stop a debate about a bill (instead of petitioning your congress person to take one side or the other in the debate -- difference) -- you are just to have...a conversation.
What is that conversation, in a series of silly G+ hangouts, to be about? Awesomeness? How's that?
Well, click on the graphic they supply and read it closer.
It's actually a little PR infographic puff piece about how the Internet supposedly "creates jobs".
"We create jobs," says the jaunty little green graphic with trees.
Supposedly the US economy is driven by the web; supposedly the smart phone industry has created 466,000 jobs since 2007 (!); and there are more than 3.6 million jobs created by the Internet since 1996.
Google might be good at search; it's terrible at politics and propaganda because it tells such whopping lies.
If these things Google's agitprop center is telling in fact were true, we wouldn't have a recession. 466,000 jobs since 2007 with apps?! Really, guys? Where the hell did they pull that out of, their asses?
Ap jobs? I didn't have to take long searching in Google of course to find the replication of this statistic in USA Today, "according to an analysis released Tuesday by technology trade group TechNet.
Do they mean all engineers who have designed apps and maybe made $17 from their apps? Or do they mean engineers who have actually earned living wages from those apps? Most engineers making apps lose money, and don't make money; many of them don't even charge for the apps and don't have a business model.
What is TechNet?
Oh, and see how they constructed the numbers:
The estimate counts 311,000 jobs at companies making the apps and another 155,000 at local merchants who have expanded their payrolls in an economic ripple effect caused by increased spending at their businesses.
That second part really seems bogus, because local businesses having a Groupon windfall, as TechCrunch is quick to report, over and over again, sometimes end up regretting their windfall because it leads to not being able to serve their original customer base, which then deserts them, leaving them worse off. I'm really skeptical of the numbers used to calculate "economic ripple effect." A candy store next to a start-up might make a little money. Then what happens when the start-up fails?
But there's a lot of irrational exhuberance here:
"This is a telescope into what the future looks like," said Michael Mandel, the economist hired by TechNet to put together the report. "This is one part of the economy that is actually expanding and hiring. Once you point people in that direction, they can realign their compass pretty quickly."
Who is Dr. Michael Mandel and what is TechNet? And can we trust a tech company in Silicon Valley to really tell us the truth about this, and not massage it tremendously?
It turns out TechNet is "the bipartisan policy and political network of technology CEOs that promotes the growth of the innovation economy." Uh-oh, it's just a lobbying group made up of the very companies that want to try to claim that they are supplying jobs so that the public, which is beginning to suspect that the Internet kills jobs instead of creates them, won't backlash. That's all.
I understand why the tech blogosphere and professional tech media cut and paste the press releases from this group. But why does the mainstream media do that? We are likely to see the number "466,00 jobs created by apps" until the heat-death of the sun. Why? Because the executive council of TechNet, the lobbying group which sponsored this study (PR piece), is made up of Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and the heads of Cisco and the other leading tech companies and investors. They all have jobs. Do we?
Michael Mandel, a hired researcher for this tech industry lobbying group, explains some more about how he did this study.
Strangely, he only talks about the job creators coming out of the last recession, in the 1990s, in a study he did (not surprisingly) for the Progressive Policy Institute, which is also a lobbying group, not an independent academic institution (not that we'd be likely to find one anyway, given the fact that institutions like Stanford University are in the pocket of the IT industry totally, financially and ideologically). He never talks about the jobs the Internet killed off, in media and related support industries, and doesn't then give us the net of jobs created by new tech against jobs lost.
He's counting as an "app job" jobs in companies like Apple or Microsoft that began to turn to involvement with apps -- jobs that might have existed any way, as we don't see elsewhere that there was this big job hiring spree at these notoriously miserly companies that horde their reserves jealously:
This total includes jobs at ‘pure’ app ﬁrms such as Zynga, a San Francisco-based maker of Facebook game apps that went public in December 2011. App Economy employment also includes app-related jobs at large companies such as Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT&T, as well as app ‘infrastructure’ jobs at core ﬁrms such as Google, Apple, and Facebook
Zynga? How many employees does Zynga, the Farmville people have? Some 3,000, as of November 2011. The famed CEO Mark Pinkus got only a 46% approval rating after a "negative" (i.e. truthful) New York Times story about the toll on the talent -- as we know full well from watching Linden Lab and other virtual world and MMORPG companies, the geek companies are ruthless collective farms using Stakhanovite methods on their staff:
As the discord increases, the situation may jeopardize the company’s ability to retain top talent at a time when Silicon Valley start-ups are fiercely jockeying for the best executives and engineers. It could also hamper deal-making, a critical growth engine for Zynga, which has spent about $119 million on acquisitions in the last two years.
Note how the story speaks of "data-driven" work -- this is a feature of Google management as well, as I'm learning from reading I'm Feeling Lucky by Employee No. 56. Big data, from government and industry, is the latest fad -- O'Reilly is having a big conference on it.
If Zynga made $828.9 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2011, couldn't it hire more staff and wear out staff with long hours less? Well, that's now how these tech companies work.
Read more for the ugly story of how Pinkus bought out MyMiniLife, the company that made the backbone of Farmville, and exploited them, making a respected project manager walked out. I didn't realize that there was some other small company behind the giant Farmville of Zynga, did you?
Electronic Arts suffered two lawsuits from burned-out exploited game programmers and settled for $15 million -- that was something I don't recall reading on Scott Jenkin's Broken Toys although it must be there somewhere. Wow! When are the exploited users going to get their day in court lol?
Zynga is responding by changing conditions, Google-wise:
Zynga has made efforts to change its ways. The company has added data centers and expanded teams to ease the burden on its engineers. It is also encouraging managers to schedule a bigger buffer between project phases and to give teams the week off before a game’s debut. Zynga — which offers employee perks like acupuncture, Friday happy hours and a cafeteria with organic food — is also spending millions on focus groups and other initiatives to strengthen its manager training programs.
But I don't think they can fix the essential asshole culture at the root of all these companies, which they attribute to their very success. Some day we will read books analyzing how this culture they thought led to success was like the lead in the Romans' cups and led to the downfall of their empire.
They can't have hired THAT many engineers because as of March 2012, the number of employees was only at 2916.
I had a table of all the major companies from Google to Twitter to Facebook and all their employees which I tried to paste into this blog and it crashed. You can easily make your own job by search. It can be a hard number to find for some of these companies. Google is notorious for burying the figure. Go here, if you finally figure it out past the Ask.com returns, but you won't get the answer, as they tell you that "the headcount can be found on the financial tables" -- but I'll be damned if I can pick it out, can you? Oh! Go down to the lower-left hand corner, find "Who We Are" (something most companies put on their home page very visibly, but they don't), click on that, and find this slogan: "There are more than 30,000 Googlers behind the tools that you use every day." Gee, that's odd -- and sneaky!
They also have trouble telling us how many employees there are at each location. Is that because we'd find out that they don't really supply many jobs when they come into a community -- to help the Internet take jobs away?
Only 30,000 employees? For a company whose net worth is $190 billion (or $290 billion?), and which took in $10 billion last year?
Eric Schmidt, the CEO, is worth $6 billion; Larry Page and Sergey Brin are each worth more than $16 billion.
Why do those OWS 99% freaks never look at these people, who have taken away so many jobs, adding little, from companies that don't pay their taxes in the US, shielding their revenue in tax havens overseas?
Even if you took all the companies in social media together, they don't make up even a quarter of a million -- 250,000 -- jobs. Any dying auto industry giant like GM has more employees even now than they have all taken together. That's the reality. That's what has to be looked at, not studies commissioned by the people trying to avoid this news getting out.
Google's choice to make its agitprop for the month of April to be "starting a conversation" about how "the Internet creates jobs" including "466,000 jobs" isn't accidental, and is driven by the realization that the most powerful argument that the sponsors of SOPA had against these Internet bandits is that they were destroying jobs and killing revenue and harming our country. Which indeed they -- and their whipsawed millions of geeks -- are doing. Billions are lost overseas to piracy; we all see the devastation left from the Internet copying machines. There is no way we can believe in this more than 3 million jobs created by the Internet when that many were destroyed at least; there is no way that the app engineers are going to save the economy. If this were true, California itself wouldn't be suffering.
In my neighbourhood, I see the shuttered Borders and Blockbusters megastores, losing hundreds of jobs and related commerce in the area. I see the cafes that used to exist in the niche around these big stores gone. I see the smaller independent book stores and video stores and record stores gone. I see other small service stores shuttered. In their places are empty stores that go months -- years -- without being rented. The owners drive up the rents then to compensate and drive out even the most basic of services like dry-cleaners or copy and stationery stores (still needed, even in the era of the Internet). I've watched all of these businesses and their jobs get wiped clean out of just my area of 20 blocks -- not to mention the widening doom of all the newspaper, media, music and related jobs sucked out of the town by the Internet.
In their place, I see maybe one app engineer sitting in the Dunkin Donuts who lost his way en route to Union Square Ventures -- VC capitalists for the new businesses like Four Square that are "supposed to create jobs". They don't. They create them for a few; they enable only a few to get rich. There are only about 70 employees at Four Square! That's all! This notion that "apps" are creating jobs -- and creating spillover effects for the economy -- is an optical illusion induced by seeing a few overflowing bars around Union Square.
Why are the Marxist Leninists taking over Union Square focusing on old money like banks and Wall Street, when it is the new money that is harming the economy?
So I look at this obscene deal of $1 billion for Facebook to buy Instagram -- which has a grand total of 11 employees, probably some of whom will get axed after this buy-out. The deal is now being investigated by the FCC. Good!
I don't believe in the Schumpeterism and social Darwinism of "creative destruction" simply because I always see it wielded by people who want to destroy other people's jobs, and leave their own unthreatened.
I'm not a socialist. I believe in capitalism. I think what Big IT does is more like communism than capitalism, however -- state capitalism for the giant corporation and a class of oligarchs, infliction of communism on everyone else, exploiting free labour (the open source movement), exploiting the free content uploaded by its billions of users, and not creating ways for people to make a living online, but destroying them with their own "California business model." No wonder the social media giants find it convenient to support Occupy Wall Street and get people's attention distracted to banks and old companies instead of themselves.
I don't think the government has to "make jobs," although it can help in some areas. I think capitalism will do the job creation in a free market. But that's not what we have here with oligarchs who horde their revenue and don't give to charity and don't hire sufficient help even for their own projects, let alone customer service representatives. There is a balance; capitalism can have a human face. It doesn't with Silicon Valley.
*Tech blogs show up first and have the highest traffic of all blogs, despite their niche. That's a natural outgrowth of weblogging being something that originated in webmasters' mundane reports on what they were doing on a website, which morphed into opinion statements, and then gradually bled out into the "blog" phenomenon for all of us. The tech blogs got there first and thus have the higher rankings; social media recommends them more than others (liberal outlets like Huffington are then recommended next).