Google advocate spreads the word
It's Michael T Jones' job to talk about Google's philosophy: a philosophy that politicians and business leaders around the world are slowly coming to grips with.
As Google's "Chief Technology Advocate", Jones presented his thoughts as a keynote speaker at the Project Revolution social media conference at AUT University in Auckland today.
A fast-talking, high-minded business leader in his own right, Jones was chief technology officer of software developer Keyhole Corporation when it was acquired by Google to bring Google Maps and then Google Earth to fruition.
Jones is now an expert in explaining new and complicated ideas with everyday analogies through his many chats with some of the world's most powerful, but tech illiterate, people.
He wouldn't mention any names but said they came to Google for advice on many issues, including how to handle internet-based dissent in their own countries.
"In general they're very good people, I'm actually pleasantly surprised by the level of discourse," said Jones.
"They want to do the right thing; they're frightened and don't want to admit it publicly, but they want to do the right thing."
Their questions aren't aimed at stopping the internet or throttling Twitter or Facebook, but at understanding the best way to get their own message across, said Jones.
Google wasn't there to answer the questions outright, but he said leaders looked to the company as an "expert witness" in the internet field.
"What have you seen? What are your intentions? How do you handle these cases? If I came to you and said 'that guy is a political dissident, don't let him be on Blogger', would you turn his account off for example?
"And we'd say no, but that if a judge comes to us and tells us to stop him because he's posting names of sexual assault victims then we will."
Eventually he poses the question of what a leader would want their legacy to be: "Do you want to be the [Mikhail] Gorbachev or do you want to be the [Syrian president Bashar al-]Assad?"
As for business leaders, Jones' message is not surprisingly based on Google's main revenue stream: advertising.
In anticipation of a meeting with Trade Me later this week, Jones said he believed targeted advertising on Trade Me listing pages "made sense".
"If I were to buy a motorcycle on Trade Me and there was an ad that said 'Michael's Motorcycle Tune Up service: get your motorcycle in shape for a hundred dollars', that'd be a good place for that ad, that is relevant."
He said un-targeted advertising was "the visual equivalent of spam", and that companies needed to be able to provide relevant information to consumers who are more likely to buy their products.
"That kind of hyperlocal advertising based on where you are or what you're interested in; it's really advertising catering just to you and I believe it's the future, not just for Google."
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