EJM Designs Limited Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Technology & Politics: Ur Doin it Wrong

In the past few years, and specifically the past few months, technology and those with public voices have not merged quite as well as some of us who work in tech think they should.

The Recent Past

Let's hit a couple popular examples of what we're talking about:

Series of Tubes

Classic, Senator Ted Stevens of AK:

(this was an official argument against Net Neutrality)


The origin of a meme in how politicians understand tech:

Net Neutrality

Aside from the above joy from Sen. Stevens, we've got more on Net Neutrality. In the last few months the American public has been bombarded by radio talk show hosts that have horribly mishandled the reality of the situation. I keep this blog away from politics as often as possible, but when people are not only misinformed but blatantly lying about how technology affects our lives, I get a little fired up (equal opportunity coming 2 sections down).

For the record, Net Neutrality is what we have. Now. Net Neutrality means that as a user, no matter what ISP you're using, internet access to websites - all websites - is equal. As fast as Google or Ebay or YouTube can send, you can receive (as long as you're not - God forbid! - still using dial-up).

But Telecom companies are trying to push the end of Net Neutrality. What if, for instance, Time Warner Cable changed its policy? What if they said "We're purposefully reducing the speed of all internet data transmission by 25%. BUT, if your company wants to write us a big, fat check, we'll let your traffic come through unimpeded."

So Net Neutrality exists now, Telecom companies want it to go away so they can make more money, and somehow it's being twisted into what I've heard on certain talk radio stations: "Net neutrality is going to be passed in Congress to limit your access to websites and control what you see on the internet." And that's not just getting confused or not understanding; it is a deliberately misleading LIE.

Here's a quick video primer on Net Neutrality:

Net Neutrality is a great example of how people are not just misunderstanding technology, but they're misrepresenting technology to those who haven't had the education or haven't done the research. Again: stating that Net Neutrality is a control mechanism is a LIE. The lack of control is the definition of the "neutrality."

Limbaugh on Adwords

You may have seen my post last month on how Rush Limbaugh was twisting the story of Goldmann Sachs and saying that they were controlling Google by purchasing ads on the words.

This is BS. And as an example of concept, I spent a couple hundred dollars purchasing those words to point to that blog post. And my ads were #1 most of the time.

Google Adwords is a very sophisticated system of bidding on keywords or phrases that are linked to ads you create. Anyone with a credit card can choose words, create ads, and have your ad show up at the top of the sponsored results. It does not mean that someone is "buying Google."

Olbermann on Adwords BP

To keep it even in the political spectrum, Keith Olbermann jumped on the same absurd train as Rush Limbaugh to make the claim a couple weeks ago that BP was purchasing the Google search engine.

No, Keith. They are buying Adwords. And anyone can do it. Check out my note above or hire someone who knows something about social media.

And an even worse betrayal of technology on that segment of Olbermann's Countdown was one of his interviewees stating that when they searched for "oil spill," they saw a bunch of stuff on BP. That man said "BP has purchased the algorithm of Google."

I'll allow a minute for you to stare dumbfounded or stop laughing hysterically.

BP is on top of organic searches because they've had years and years to build up relevant content about oil. Simple as that. The Google algorithm is more well protected than the recipe for Coca-Cola or Bush's Baked Beans (argh, save that two-timing talking dog...). Selling "the algorighm of Google" would be akin to selling your own child into slavery. And it's absurd to even suggest such a thing. And if it would ever occur to Google to betray the trust of its dedicated users and fans and "help" someone out, it wouldn't be a pollution-tainted, multi-billion dollar, non-sustainable-energy corporation.

Finally Starbucks is doing Wifi Free

I heard this in passing on a financial radio show last week. The implication was that you always had to pay for Wifi at Starbucks. Actually, if you have one of their rechargeable cards, register it, and have used it in the last 30 days, you get 2 free hours of Wifi every single day.

It wasn't a completely inaccurate statement; you do have to make a purchase in the last 30 days to get the wifi free. However, the inherent ignorance of the statement paired with the speaker's snide commentary made him sound like an uninformed tool. Which, at that moment, he was.

In today's 24-hour media cycle, there are an unfortunate abundance of people who are willing to speak on things that they - and their researchers - know nothing about, especially as it pertains to technology. And they sound silly at best, stupid at most, and lying at worst.

My advice: Hire someone who has a clue; otherwise, you're undermining your own positions. And there are many of us watching. And we will call you out.

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