Friday, February 19, 2010

Google has Aspergers

The geek world has been debating whether Google's Buzz debacle arose from incompetence or malevolence. Did Google think they were doing something genuinely delightful, or is Buzz simple a cynical emulation of Facebook's "be evil" strategy?

I've been learning to the cynical and evil explanation, but a comment by Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, has changed my mind ...

...talking to phone industry executives at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Schmidt said that nobody had been harmed by Buzz and that the problems were merely the result of poor communication...
This is an outrageous statement. Schmidt cannot know that nobody was harmed, either directly through the bonding of Buzz streams to public profiles or indirectly through inevitable misunderstanding. Even if he were omniscient, since many people have felt harm, it's a stupid thing for a CEO to say.

So why does this make me feel that Google is more incompetent than evil?

Because in my experience someone who says something that's obviously wrong most often believes what they are saying.

Which brings me to my corporate diagnosis. We can do that now that our courts have decided that corporations are people. I am a physician after all.

Google has Asperger(s) syndrome. For Google, people are an slippery and elusive concept. It explains a lot.

PS. I don't care what the DSM V says about Aspergers, it's a useful concept.

Update 2/22/2010: I think the person responsible for Buzz is also responsible for the obstinate Gmail message thread-by-subject-line model. Same sort of stubborn certainty.

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