Google: Evil or just overworked?

Summary:According to some pundits, Google has replaced Microsoft as the leading "evil" empire. As long as Google is top dog in the search market, there's little they can do to avoid the sour grapes from competitors, but with a little effort they could satisfy some of their critics and improve their services at the same time.

According to some pundits, Google has replaced Microsoft as the leading "evil" empire. As long as Google is top dog in the search market, there's little they can do to avoid the sour grapes from competitors, but with a little effort they could satisfy some of their critics and improve their services at the same time.

Fredric Paul's article touched off a discussion with some colleagues of mine, who agreed that Google abuses has become careless thanks to its "monopoly" with AdSense by (among other things) callously dropping AdSense participants for alleged click fraud without a reasonable appeals policy. A request for an explanation fell on deaf ears, and my colleague was left with the impression that Google "would have been more likely to work with me," if it weren't in such a strong position.

Google has two problems,  both of which could be solved by opening the doors a bit to its community (as well as a little code.)

The first problem is a technical one -- how to detect and deal with attempted abuse of its AdSense system. Google can't afford rampant click fraud, and apparently the problem is too great to have staffers look over every possible fraud attempt. So, Google looks for fraud in an automated fashion, and that opens the door to false positives.

False positives mean that legitimate participants on AdSense are occasionally booted out of the system, and that leads to the second problem -- ill-will towards Google and AdSense. Couple that with the lack of manpower to handle false positives, and Google being accused of being evil, callous, or monopolistic.

The solution? Google should pick a group of trusted AdSense members to serve as an external advisory council to look over AdSense abuse, suggest policy, and maybe even open up Google's appeals process.

Google's applied the "many eyes" approach to research on image recognition and so forth, it might be a good idea to also apply it to AdSense. Not sure how it would work exactly, but they could have a group of "trusted" AdSense users who could look at the cases where another user has been targeted as an abusive account -- AdSense users overall have a vested interest in keeping the system fair, and Google could harness its community to deal with the manpower issue.

By enlisting its community in dealing with AdSense abuse, Google could not only improve its service and save labor, but also build loyalty with those users and avoid losing AdSense accounts that aren't really attempting to abuse the system.

What do you think? Is Google really "evil," or just overworked? What approach should Google take to solving this?

Update: Updated to better reflect my colleague's position on Google.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Google, Legal

About

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

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