May 19, 2013

Attack of the Google Snarkers

I hadn't planned on writing anything about this, but watching the continuing stream of obnoxious snarking -- both in blogs and some mainstream media -- following Larry Page's appearance at the end of Wednesday's "Google I/O" keynote, my irritation level has risen to the point where some comment seems apropos.

Let's get the disclaimer out of the way. I've never met Larry. I am currently consulting to Google. Everything I say here represents my thoughts only, and any blame for them should be attributed to me alone. OK, let's move on.

Regular readers know that I am not a fan of snark in general. In fact, snarky comments are one of the easiest ways to get bounced from my Google+ threads. As far as I'm concerned, they're almost always cheap shots aimed at minimizing real issues, to try get a quick "gee, ain't I clever" laugh. Some folks love that stuff. That's their choice, of course. Personally, I feel they usually detract from serious and useful discussion.

I dare say I wasn't the only one surprised when Larry walked on stage Wednesday. There was no obvious reason why he had to do that, not to mention his extended Q&A with the audience.

In the wake of this, we've seen pundits and writers attempting to characterize his remarks in a variety of snarky ways. I'm not going to provide those venues with link juice here.

And in fact, that kind of snarking is painfully representative of the kinds of attitudes that have driven our political system into toxic paralysis, making it so difficult for so many creative people to ponder the big questions, to consider the tough "what ifs?," without being mercilessly attacked by the champions of the status quo.

My interpretation of Larry's remarks is that he wasn't revealing a specific business plan, he was exploring a *philosophy* bigger than the limitations and constraints that encumber us today -- not just at the nexus of government vs. technology but in many other ways as well.

It is *incredibly* important that such thinking be encouraged, not attacked or ridiculed.

To ponder what could be achieved with different legal constraints than exist today is both valid and valuable, because we don't live in a static world at all -- much as some people would prefer as little change as possible.

Well within the lifetimes of many of you reading this, it was *illicit* to plug your own equipment -- even the simplest of phones -- into a telephone line. This seems inconceivable today, but imagine if nobody back then had pondered the question of what might be accomplished if we could legally hook our own data and other devices to the telephone network. Very likely, the Internet as we know it today might not exist at all.

Google is large and influential, and there are many venues for reasoned discussion about Google-related issues.

But snarking -- especially aimed at an individual like Larry who voluntarily chose to share some personal and philosophical thoughts very much worth pondering -- yes, especially the snarking we've heard over the last few days, is counterproductive, disgraceful, and -- to the detriment of us all -- very much calculated to discourage honest consideration of our complex and mutable futures.

The purveyors of such poison should not only be shunned, but should be utterly ashamed of themselves.


Posted by Lauren at May 19, 2013 08:56 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
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