I love Google, I use it all day every day. And that's what's starting to worry me.
There's a great quote from Stalin that a friend told me: "Quantity has a quality all it's own."
People make a great deal about how smart the gang at Google is, and I'm not taking anything away from that, but it's becoming clear that it's the quantity of users they have that are contributing to the quality of the product. That is, if it wasn't for all the people using it, we wouldn't have search results that are as good as they are.
Here's Google's Marissa Mayer, the legendary head of user experience in an interview with Infoworld:
You may have heard about our [directory assistance] 1-800-GOOG-411 service. Whether or not free-411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model ... that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.
The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. ... So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we're trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy.
She goes on to say essentially the same thing about search results, and about much of what Google does.
It's great that Google is learning from all the activity they have, it really is. But here I am watching Google expanding in to one new area after another -- the latest being a version of Wikipedia that has a real and I think admirable business plan behind it.
It all has me starting to wonder if there will be more and more quotes from Stalin that apply to Google.