Vic Gundotra was the guy who hired me at Microsoft and today is in charge of Google’s social strategy. He’s one of the “post reorg” guys who were hand picked by Larry Page.
Also announced last week is that Larry Page is tying Google’s bonus structure to how well they do in social. Turns out that Google has a lot of Facebook envy.
In yesterday’s Gillmor Gang I argue that Google and Facebook have completely different cultures. Google is very much about finding information while Facebook is all about helping people “waste time.” Think about why Zynga, a company that helps us “waste time” playing games built on top of Facebook’s culture instead of Google’s. These cultures are like oil and vinegar and if you force one to be another it could turn bad.
I say that Google should play to its strength when it comes to social. But today I want to give Googler’s some more specific advice about what that means.
Let’s talk first about what it means to “waste time.”
Yesterday I visited Harley Farms. They raise goats and make the best goat cheese in the area. The baby goats are SSSOOO cute! But, let’s stay on track here. While I was picking up some cheese for today’s lunch with my parents (my dad is recovering from a kidney transplant, quite well, thank you very much) I watched two girls pull out their iPhones. One used Red Laser to scan a book in the store. Another checked in with Foursquare.
I realized just what they were doing: wasting time more efficiently!
Google doesn’t get this new behavior. Google’s engineering culture doesn’t quite grok why people would waste time. Why they would update their Facebook profiles for hours every week. Or, even, set “relationship status.” Yeah, they might copy Mark Zuckerberg and put some of those features into whatever social system they will reveal at Google IO, but I don’t think the culture really gets why those things work.
They help us waste time more effectively.
See, wasting time is big business. When I want to REALLY waste time I watch TV. But along came IntoNow, an iPhone app for telling other people what you’re watching (among other things). Yesterday, while using it I saw that Techcrunch writer MG Siegler was watching the Masters. Along with a bunch of other geeks. Hey, time wasters! But, they were wasting time more effectively than I was (I was attempting to be more “Googley” and was attempting to be more productive by being on the Gillmor Gang). I quickly felt that social network FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that the New York Times wrote about this morning.
How else is the new tech world helping me waste time?
Foodspotting helps me get hungry and helps me find better restaurants in which to waste my time. You can follow my time-wasting meals there (latest photo is from Friday afternoon when former Zagat mobile guru Ryan Charles and I wasted time together eating cheese and talking about 3D cameras and his new company — more on that soon).
Foursquare suggests places where my friends are wasting their time (you can see some of the places I’ve wasted time at here). I might join them at, say, the Ritz’ bar if I see one of them check in there.
When I go shopping (the ultimate time waster because it costs money too!) I use ShopKick to get deals whenever I walk into a store.
Shall I go on?
See, what Google needs to do is make the ultimate time waster guide. Of course I want to search. Here’s what I want to search for:
* Show me sushi restaurants around me where my friends are wasting time.
* Show me TV shows that my friends are wasting time watching.
* Bring me games that my friends are wasting time playing.
* Take me on trips where my friends are wasting time.
* Show me products my friends are wasting time buying and using.
* Reveal to me activities my friends are wasting time doing (I live on a golf course, start there!)
* Tell me the best coffee that my friends are wasting time with.
* Take me to the blog that my friends are wasting their time reading right now.
* Say whether my friends are mostly using iOS or Android devices to waste time.
* For those of my friends who are wasting time watching movies right now, which ones are they watching?
* For those of my friends who like Cricket, which teams are they wasting time cheering on?
Can I do any of this on Google now? No.
Why? Because wasting time is big business. We spend billions, if not trillions, wasting time. Just ask the travel industry. Or the gaming industry. Or the movie industry. Or the music industry. Or the skiing industry.
And we want to waste time more productively.
This is where Google should play to its strength. They have the infrastructure to connect us to friends who want to help us waste time better. They still have a few people who will code it up. They still understand the web and mobile than most any other company. They still have those funny cars going around making cool maps (except in Germany).
Google’s bonus should be based on how well its services have helped me waste my time more productively.
So far Google plays a very small role in helping me waste time, when compared to these newer “social” services (and more are coming over the next month).
Why doesn’t Google start grabbing up services that help us waste time? Why, Vic, don’t you start building partnerships with anyone who has information about how we are wasting time? Why not become the ultimate place for us to look for new ways to waste time?
I want to try some new wine next weekend, for instance. I would never go to Google for finding a bottle of wine. My time wasting endeavors are too important to leave to some cold algorithm, after all. So, I think I’ll go ask Gary Vaynerchuk. Why don’t you buy his wine store AND him? Make him the ultimate authority on wasting time more productively?
Speaking of which, did you just see what I did there? I linked to Twitter. That’s a great place to waste time. Why don’t you buy Twitter and save them from their monetization misery? Make Twitter the hub of time wasters everywhere! Add onto that purchase Quora, which is turning into a pretty good place to find places/events/experiences to waste time with. Here’s its answer on how to waste time most productively while visiting Napa, for instance.
Why don’t you hire David Schmidt, who just built a cool map for Foursquare, and have him create all sorts of maps like this using various services that will help us share how we’re wasting time? Which will help us all become more productive at wasting time (better yet, why can’t you show us where all the BBQ-loving people are checking in near us? Oh, yeah, I forgot, Google is all about NOT wasting time, which is why you haven’t yet gotten social).
Anyway, we’ll see you after Google IO and I’ll judge whether you should get your bonus based on whether your social services better help me waste time. So far you aren’t doing very well. I’ve even wasted my time adding hundreds of +1’s into Google, but does that help anyone waste their time more productively? Not with such an unattractive list, that’s for sure! David Schmidt has done more for my time wasting than you have so far and that’s VERY sad.
So, Vic, here’s your bonus. Help us waste time more productively and maybe this bonus will turn into some very real cash from your boss.
UPDATE: Oh, check out what Mike Melanson, writer for ReadWriteWeb blogged on this topic. Culture differences for sure! Finally, one Google team is very good at helping us waste time. Which one? YouTube! Check out my YouTube channel, I help you waste time too! But YouTube’s culture is quite different than that at the rest of Google. Maybe that’s where Google should start its social “time wasting.”
UPDATE2: Boris Mann has a great post about what Google should do “get a story.”