Monday, January 01, 2007

My God, people, calm down!

Seriously. The blogosphere seems to delight in freaking out about things that are really, really not that important. I guess it's no surprise, given the blogosphere's relative youth, that it occasionally acts like a big ol' adolescent...creating drama where there really isn't that much!

The latest drama: over Google's year-end "Zeitgeist" list.

First: what is "zeitgeist"? Well, according to Wikipedia and, it basically means: "The Spirit of the Time."

Trying to capture the zeitgeist of a particular time means trying to capture what is unique and specific about that time.

Every year Google posts its year-end "Zeitgeist." Here is the 2006 Zeitgeist.

They don't explain much at that page about how the Zeitgeist is compiled, other than to say: "To compile these year-end lists and graphs, we compared frequent queries this year against 2005 to see what sorts of things were top of mind. ."

They expand on the explanation a bit more here on their corporate blog. And here.

Now, some folks are all upset that Google, well, actually I'm not sure exactly what they're so upset about. Liz Gannes over at GigaOM calls for "transparency and accuracy", saying the list means "next to nothing."

Um, sure, what made anyone think it was supposed to mean something? It's a fun year-end list, folks. it's not particularly actionable. It's only 10 words/phrases, without even numbers attached to it. What on earth were you planning to do with this list that is now hampered by the discovery about how they've compiled it?

More than that: I happen to like their explanation of what they're trying to accomplish just fine. I happen to agree that seeing that "dictionary" "maps" and "ebay" were still among the top 10 search terms every year would be interesting to no one. And it certainly would not reflect the year's "zeitgeist."

I mean, how dare they use a pretentious word and try to adhere to its actual pretentious meaning??!!

Google is the current whipping boy of the blogosphere and digerati, that's for sure. But this brouhaha really doesn't make sense to me.

What am I missing?

People are just looking for a reason to knock Google. Understandable, as their dominant market position is of concern. However, this is hardly the thing to complain about, as it is only a bit of year-end fun.

If someone else had done it, people would be saying:
- That is a bit of fun
- It is sort of interesting
- Why did company xxx have to do this, Google should have done it.

In fact, Google does this think all the time, but they normally just put it under the title "top searches". Perhaps people object to the use of a pretentious term (that maybe they don't understand). Oh well, in a week it will all be forgotten.
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