Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Calling The Oval Office

A direct line to the Oval Office? Apparently, it’s possible.

Keeping his promise of running an open and more responsive White House, President Obama on Tuesday invited the public to use a new feature on called ‘Open for Questions’ to ask him economy-related questions and vote on other submitted questions.

“We’re going to take advantage of the Internet to to bring all of you to the White House to talk about the economy,” says President Obama in a video, now available on You Tube. On March 26, in a special “community-moderated online town hall,” the president will answer “some of the most popular questions.” The event will also be streamed live on on

It will be interesting to watch the President and his new media team attempt to follow through on their promises of a more wired White House.

Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post says: “Expect a herd of organized (and unorganized) Web users to stampede and make it a highly trafficked political hub over the next 48 hours.”

At the time of writing this post, 8,664 people had submitted 9,387 questions and cast 322,284 votes. The most popular question so far?

“As a student, who like so many others works full time and attends school full time, only to break even at the end of the month. What is the government doing to make higher education more affordable for lower and middle class families?
— James, Bloomington, Indiana

According to Techcrunch, the White House will use Google Moderator to determine which questions President Obama should answer on Thursday.

While the “experiment” is definitely a welcome move towards transparency and accountability, it does raise concerns about how questions will finally be selected and the possibility that this kind of voting system may allow the weakest questions to  rise to the top.

There’s no doubt, however, if used effectively, this is a great way to engage the online community.  This is an opportunity for us to ask some tough and relevant questions.

Let’s hope we get more than just old boilerplate in return.

Help! Google is reading my mind…


Back in May 2007, when Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt said “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask  questions such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ people freaked out. The very idea was scary.  They didn’t want Google having that kind of control over their lives.

But that got me thinking. Wasn’t this the plan all along? John Battelle had talked about it extensively only his blog, referring to is as the ‘database of intentions’ — four years before Schmidt made that statement. The collective history of Web searches, according to Battelle, was:

“a place holder for the intentions of humankind — a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends. Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward. This artifact can tell us extraordinary things about who we are and what we want as a culture. And it has the potential to be abused in equally extraordinary fashion.”

He had been right.

Google, slowly but steadily, had begun working on predicting the future.

So at what point did this seemingly absurd idea become something uncomfortably real?

Google had tiptoed into our lives and seamlessly integrated itself with our daily routine. Almost our confidante, we give up personal information without a thought to how it may be used in the future. Like the way we volunteer to let Google use our web histories while using iGoogle. Ever wonder how those camera ads miraculously appear on Gmail minutes after you send an e-mail to your friend announcing your intentions to to buy one?

Like David Weinberger says:“There is an inverse relationship between trust and control.” The more we trust Google with our information, the less control we have over how they decide to use it. Imagine what hungry marketers – eager for a glimpse into the consumer’s mind – will  give to glean this kind of information from Google.

“It’s the connection to marketing that turns the database of intentions from a curiosity into a real economic phenomenon.,” writes David Leonhardt in an NY Times article. And that’s where things can get ugly.

The question is: Will Google give in?

If only there was a search for that…

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