Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Google

Jan.
19th

After routing SOPA, Web giants must protect creators

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

America saw political history made Wednesday. Think colonial Minutemen decimating formidable redcoats – but firing from the Web, not fences and trees.

The British army in this case was a powerful alliance of film makers, music labels, media companies and artists – creators and copyright-holders whose films, recordings, software and products have been getting plundered or counterfeited by Internet pirates.

They had the lobbyists; they had the money.

The colonials were such Internet upstarts as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, and countless Web enterprises that depend on user uploads and links.
The creators desperately wanted Congress to approve the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, a measure that would have made it far easier for them – too easy – to threaten even websites unintentionally linked to thieves. Lawmakers looked all but certain to send the president a version of SOPA or its Senate cousin, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

No bills so well-greased may have been smacked down so quickly. SOPA and PIPA were demolished by an online onslaught that culminated Wednesday when popular websites staged blackouts and Google steered its users to condemnations of the legislation.

Some of the bills’ most fervent supporters suddenly discovered reasons to back down: “Not ready for prime time,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch – one of PIPA’s original cosponsors.
The clash demonstrated the muscle and reach of the Web’s new giants – and their power to push around the old media giants of Hollywood, music and publishing. And now, Congress itself.
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Feb.
26th

A small victory against the info-parasites of the Web

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There are horses on the Web, and there are ticks. Google last week made life a little harder for the ticks.

The world-dominant search engine announced Thursday that it had overhauled its algorithm – the way it processes queries – to brush more of the parasites out of its search results. This is a small victory in a much larger war.

People who use Google – and that means the vast majority of people online – have been plagued by junk websites that muscle their way ahead of genuinely informative ones.

Search for a doctor, and you may wind up on an ad-saturated site that merely scraped the doctor’s name off some other site – and doesn’t tell you anything you need to know. Hit after hit provides similar results. If you’re lucky, somewhere far down the list is the actual website of the clinic.

Results like that get frustrating in a hurry. Nor are they accidental. Large, highly profitable companies exist solely to game Google’s algorithm and place content-free, auto-generated pages at the top of the hit parade.

Demand Media, for example, has struck it rich tricking Google into putting eHow and similarly skimpy sites on the first page of a search.

But even Demand Media looks good compared to outfits that assemble text almost at random to generate as many key words as possible. Your search terms lead you to the site and there’s nothing real there – except advertising.
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March
25th

Google vs. China

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The issues behind Google’s decision to stop censoring its own search engine in China are perfectly encapsulated in the Chinese government’s response to it.

Here are some of the instructions – as translated by the Washington Post – the government handed down to Chinese Web forum managers this week in reaction to Google’s move:

• It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic.

• All Web sites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the party, state, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.

• All Web sites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy.

• Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google- related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

For all of China’s economic dynamism and modern trappings, it remains ruled by a dictatorship terrified of independent political thoughts and the means of communicating them. Google co-founder Sergey Brin – who pushed for the company’s new policy – was dead on when he cited the “earmarks of totalitarianism” in a regime that still perpetuates the cult of Mao Zedong.

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Feb.
11th

Hey, Google, look at us!

I wasn’t the only one who saw a light bulb go on Tuesday night when I read online that Google plans to  set up pilot projects to demonstrate that it can provide ultrafast Internet service currently unavailable commercially in the U.S.

Why not Tacoma? I thought. Tacoma was — and is — a leader in establishing a municipally owned fiber-optic network that enables citywide broadband Internet access.  We might be a perfect candidate for Google’s scheme. I emailed Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Click! Network spokeswoman Diane Lachel to plant a bug in their ears.

They were way ahead of me.  Strickland said she had sent a note over to Tacoma Power, which operates Click!, when she heard the Google news. Lachel said conversations were already underway about whether and how the city should respond.

If we go for it, we’ll have plenty of competition.

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Feb.
4th

Hey, no fair

Occasionally I google my own name. I know it’s a sign of vanity, but I also want to see what friends and enemies are going to see when they google me.

The Law of the Web is that if you don’t want the world to know your business, don’t put it online. I always figured the law couldn’t be applied retroactively to things you did before Al Gore invented the Internet. (Isn’t there something in the Constitution about ex post facto prosecution?) But I’m now discovering that some of my ancient, distinctly pedestrian, cub-reporter stuff – like this

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Nov.
24th

Google Search: palin obamacare prejean fox rogue ‘death panels’

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Page views, traffic, unique visitors – that’s the name of the game on the Web. The point is to hook people looking for what you’ve got by making sure their Google searches make a beeline to your site.

You’ve got to jump on what’s hot. Work the search terms du jour into your posts, your headlines, your tags. And here’s an idea: Work all the sizzling terms into a single post.

We’ll give this a try. Google tracks the most popular key words and lists them on various indexes. We discover there that “sarah palin” seems to be a big draw. There’s plain old “sarah palin,” “sarah palin newsweek cover,” “sarah palin sexist newsweek editor,” “sarah palin nice legs,” “sarah palin going rogue,” “next president you betcha,” “sarah palin liberals will jump off bridges” and many other permutations of the unusually strong palin brand.

Let’s make our fundamental marketing strategy clear here: Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin.

Another big one is “glenn beck.” In fact, those two words bring up more than 9 million hits on Google. And “glenn beck” is joined at the hip with “fox news,” which is another hot pair. It makes sense, then, that a post that combined “glenn beck,” “fox news” and “sarah palin” – as we just did – would bring a drove of their fans and foes this way, though we’re certain they’ll feel duped when they get here.
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