“Small” PR headache for Google ahead…

It’s the small things that will cause your PR teams headaches.

I’m sure someone at Google thought it was OK to copy a page Yahoo did. Details on TechMeme, thanks to getting kicked off by Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny. Maybe even thought the page came from Microsoft. Hint, it didn’t.

It’s at the top of TechMeme. Is on second page of Digg. On first page of TailRank.

But it gets worse. The person doing the copying didn’t even copy the HTML very well. Not good. Especially for a company that prides itself on hiring PhD’s and keeping out idiots. Hey, one got through the hiring process.

But, so far, they are way too slow to react. Matt Cutts, who over the weekend, debunked a bunch of other things, has been silent. The Google Blog is silent too.

Here’s how I would have handled it.

1) Found out who did the page and get them to publicly apologize.
2) Buy the Yahoo team they copied pizza lunch and beer tomorrow. Even better, have a limo show up and take them to a nice steak dinner.
3) If #1 isn’t possible (it might be an outside vendor, I found at Microsoft that often was where stuff like this happened) then have someone like Matt or, even, a VP like Marissa, apologize on behalf of Google.
4) Explain that this isn’t acceptable Google behavior (evil, even) and that steps are being taken to keep it from happening again. Just by saying “that’s evil” will be good enough to tell all Google employees that this kind of thing won’t be tolerated in the future.

It’s the little things that define companies and Google is being defined right in front of us.

For my part? The folks I’ve dealt with at Google are ethical, straight shooters, who wouldn’t dream of copying someone else’s work. This has got to be ripping them up. Tough day ahead for Google PR. It’ll be interesting to see what they do, if anything.

Rex Dixon thinks it’s smart to copy. I can see his point — developers are “inspired” by others all the time. But sheer copying? No. It’s unethical, for one. For two, if you’re going to copy you better add some value. Hint: that means making sure your HTML and images are better than what you’re copying. Not worse.

UPDATED: Google has updated the site in question.

UPDATED 2: Matt Cutts of Google answers back. Note to self: don’t point out someone else is copying if you’re guilty of such transgressions yourself!

Comments

  1. Sad. But i think this was something that slipped out un-intentionally. Someone was designing a page based on Yahoo’s. Started with a spoof that should have slipped out. Still it was a mistake.

    But nothing to worry for google. fanboys were already countering that this was Microsoft’s brilliant under hand tactic to get back at Google.

  2. Sad. But i think this was something that slipped out un-intentionally. Someone was designing a page based on Yahoo’s. Started with a spoof that should have slipped out. Still it was a mistake.

    But nothing to worry for google. fanboys were already countering that this was Microsoft’s brilliant under hand tactic to get back at Google.

  3. Blogger: probably. Or someone thought it was a Microsoft page and it was OK to use as a template.

    But, everyone probably thought this was a “small” story. Problem is that the memes attached to it (that Google’rs can’t do their own code, and even when they steal, can’t do it very well) are pretty serious ones.

  4. Blogger: probably. Or someone thought it was a Microsoft page and it was OK to use as a template.

    But, everyone probably thought this was a “small” story. Problem is that the memes attached to it (that Google’rs can’t do their own code, and even when they steal, can’t do it very well) are pretty serious ones.

  5. Robert@5 Yes. I do know that it wasn’t by google. And i do think it will pass off as funny. But it left a bad taste when i read through.

    Particularly the part about “How to make sure google ignore my requests?” which implies it’s just a matter of mailing ‘press@google.com’ to get Google’s responses. May be in some parallel universe. what do i know!!

  6. Robert@5 Yes. I do know that it wasn’t by google. And i do think it will pass off as funny. But it left a bad taste when i read through.

    Particularly the part about “How to make sure google ignore my requests?” which implies it’s just a matter of mailing ‘press@google.com’ to get Google’s responses. May be in some parallel universe. what do i know!!

  7. Ha! Nice one. It’s not “smart to copy”. It’s smart to copy smartly. :)

    Seriously, when I lack time, I do post a few sentences and link to other articles. When I do have the time, I have cranked out a few more words.

    As far as the ad goes, Google vs Yahoo – Yes, that was blatant, and maybe it was Google saying “Hey, we are #1, what are you going to do?” If nothing else – it makes for great reading on the blogs.

    Rex

  8. Ha! Nice one. It’s not “smart to copy”. It’s smart to copy smartly. :)

    Seriously, when I lack time, I do post a few sentences and link to other articles. When I do have the time, I have cranked out a few more words.

    As far as the ad goes, Google vs Yahoo – Yes, that was blatant, and maybe it was Google saying “Hey, we are #1, what are you going to do?” If nothing else – it makes for great reading on the blogs.

    Rex

  9. Now the Google PR hack will send out a cute reply and everyone will go gaga about its PR machine and how un-evil it is. And what’s up with M$? It allows Google to piggyback on IE7 or is it the other way around?

  10. Now the Google PR hack will send out a cute reply and everyone will go gaga about its PR machine and how un-evil it is. And what’s up with M$? It allows Google to piggyback on IE7 or is it the other way around?

  11. Ha ha…
    The biggest winner in this holiday reason is Microsoft IE Team!

    It shows even Google is catching up the trend on browser version upgrade.

    Yahoooo! The entire SV pick up the news that IE team is coming in town soon. And Yahoo top brain will be moderating the “Browser War: Episode II Attacks of the DOMs”.

    Merry X’mas Microsoft! Nice piece on the Vista Economic Impact PR.

  12. Ha ha…
    The biggest winner in this holiday reason is Microsoft IE Team!

    It shows even Google is catching up the trend on browser version upgrade.

    Yahoooo! The entire SV pick up the news that IE team is coming in town soon. And Yahoo top brain will be moderating the “Browser War: Episode II Attacks of the DOMs”.

    Merry X’mas Microsoft! Nice piece on the Vista Economic Impact PR.

  13. [...] A bad marketing day is the corporate form a personal bad hair day, except that it’s usually more tragic than funny. Google and Sony both had a really bad marketing day today. First up we have the largely snafu-free Google blatantly ripping off one of Yahoo’s page designs. I originally thought this wasn’t going to be that big of a story, but as Scoble points out, it’s Google’s poor response that is the real story (expect major Google grovelling sometime later this week). Scoble’s advice (involving buying a Yahoo team pizza and beers) is stunningly spot on, especially since Google’s following this creative good advice would be newsworthy all by itself. As Scoble says “it’s the little things that define companies and Google is being defined right in front of us.” Why is it that Scoble knows what to do and Google’s press people do not? The other snafu of the day is Sony’s pathetic attempt to market the PSP through a fake fan site. Gosh, when will Sony learn? It might have turned out okay if the attempt hadn’t been totally lacking in creativity and anything even in the same vicinity as “cool”. [...]

  14. Wow, what incredibly bad advice.

    Follow Scobble – Have story end up on front page of WSJ

    Do Nothing – Have story limited to the digg crowd

    Why make this into a major issue, when no one but the blog’s knows or cares right now?

  15. Wow, what incredibly bad advice.

    Follow Scobble – Have story end up on front page of WSJ

    Do Nothing – Have story limited to the digg crowd

    Why make this into a major issue, when no one but the blog’s knows or cares right now?

  16. Robert,

    You are cheap. If you think that after stealing it’s fine to settle for pizza to drive in limo – you are wrong.

    Just like you have protected Microsoft RSS team then stolen image was replaced with Goatse – you are now protecting Google.

    I remember how you have reacted then somebody reposted content of your blog. I think you even put large blame on innocent programmer that day. So – stealing is good as long as somebody does not steal from you ?

    Copyrights exists for some reason – and it’s not to break them – but follow.

  17. Robert,

    You are cheap. If you think that after stealing it’s fine to settle for pizza to drive in limo – you are wrong.

    Just like you have protected Microsoft RSS team then stolen image was replaced with Goatse – you are now protecting Google.

    I remember how you have reacted then somebody reposted content of your blog. I think you even put large blame on innocent programmer that day. So – stealing is good as long as somebody does not steal from you ?

    Copyrights exists for some reason – and it’s not to break them – but follow.

  18. TAG: I don’t care that my content was copied. I cared that that guy’s software trackbacked to every post (and everything I linked to) which was a real nuisance. My stuff is copied all over the place.

    But, that is a separate point anyway. I am pretty sure I made the point above that it’s evil to just wholesale copy someone else’s work. Did you not see that?

  19. TAG: I don’t care that my content was copied. I cared that that guy’s software trackbacked to every post (and everything I linked to) which was a real nuisance. My stuff is copied all over the place.

    But, that is a separate point anyway. I am pretty sure I made the point above that it’s evil to just wholesale copy someone else’s work. Did you not see that?

  20. PRoales: many a story has ended up on the front page of the WSJ WITHOUT having a PR team react. Why look like an asshole? Why let a competitor define you in the marketplace? Especially one that has done stuff just as bad?

  21. PRoales: many a story has ended up on the front page of the WSJ WITHOUT having a PR team react. Why look like an asshole? Why let a competitor define you in the marketplace? Especially one that has done stuff just as bad?

  22. I nominate this as the stupidest, most unimportant, overhyped story of the year. WHO. CARES. I want to stop reading about this already. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

  23. I nominate this as the stupidest, most unimportant, overhyped story of the year. WHO. CARES. I want to stop reading about this already. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

  24. Robert I think your first post about this was more enlightened than this one. Google lifted a graphic plus design ideas, which is trivial but bogus behavior.

    Yahoo’s advertising UI copycat behavior would seem to me to be more like “copying” a blog layout or navigation features of other sites as innovation comes along.

    Matt cleverly but unfairly implied this was a debate only about design rather than design and graphic nabbing.

  25. Robert I think your first post about this was more enlightened than this one. Google lifted a graphic plus design ideas, which is trivial but bogus behavior.

    Yahoo’s advertising UI copycat behavior would seem to me to be more like “copying” a blog layout or navigation features of other sites as innovation comes along.

    Matt cleverly but unfairly implied this was a debate only about design rather than design and graphic nabbing.

  26. Scoble: I agree that many stories end up on the front page of the average Americans newspaper without a PR response or push. I dont think this story is one of them. ValleyThink maybe getting seeping in..

    Does Google really look like “an asshole” as you suggest they might if they dont respond? I say no. Online open source culture makes many understand that sharing is good and that sometimes attribution gets forgotten, mistakes happen, evil? no. asshole? no. Mistake yes.

    This does not require a proclamation from Mountain View across all the land, it requires at most some personal phone calls over to Sunnyvale.

    I would expect that Legal and PR are recommending that no formal apology go out as well. Why muddle YouTube implications over something that is limited to a digg story only? Why make this a real story?

    You mention they are letting “a competitor define you in the marketplace?” Are they really? Is Yahoo releasing press attacking Google? Maybe Im missing your point here, if so please let me know.

    Good dialog.

    – PRoales

  27. Scoble: I agree that many stories end up on the front page of the average Americans newspaper without a PR response or push. I dont think this story is one of them. ValleyThink maybe getting seeping in..

    Does Google really look like “an asshole” as you suggest they might if they dont respond? I say no. Online open source culture makes many understand that sharing is good and that sometimes attribution gets forgotten, mistakes happen, evil? no. asshole? no. Mistake yes.

    This does not require a proclamation from Mountain View across all the land, it requires at most some personal phone calls over to Sunnyvale.

    I would expect that Legal and PR are recommending that no formal apology go out as well. Why muddle YouTube implications over something that is limited to a digg story only? Why make this a real story?

    You mention they are letting “a competitor define you in the marketplace?” Are they really? Is Yahoo releasing press attacking Google? Maybe Im missing your point here, if so please let me know.

    Good dialog.

    – PRoales

  28. Who cares?

    Google has more serious issues, as pointed out by this slashdot post:
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=210734&cid=17167052


    Re:Really? Strange that ‘spreadsheet’ would give..
    (Score:3, Insightful)
    by Assmasher (456699) Alter Relationship on Fri Dec 08, ’06 01:15 PM (#17167052)
    (Last Journal: Sat Apr 03, ’04 04:10 PM)

    Their not tight lipped about their criteria, they’re tight lipped about the exact algorithm involved (understandably so), but it still doesn’t explain how they rank #1 for spreadsheet. Seriously.

    Remember when Google released ‘Scholar’? The very next day (this is something other people critical of Google adwords like to mention) somehow, with very few links to this new product, the word ‘scholar’ had Google showing up as #1.

    Yeah, sure they play fair ;)… It’s a fair coincidence that ALL of these words show Google as #1?

    intranet, spreadsheet, documents, calendar, word processor, email, video, instant messenger, blog, photo sharing, online groups, maps, start page, restaurants, dining, and books

    Some? Yes, all? No way. Not spreadsheet, not documents, certainly shouldn’t be for e-mail or instant messenger.”

    ===========
    According to the above, a Google search for any of the terms intranet, spreadsheet, documents, calendar, word processor, email, video, instant messenger, blog, photo sharing, online groups, maps, start page, restaurants, dining, and books, all bring up Google as the number 1 item. The allegation is that Google is rigging its search results to point to itself.

  29. Who cares?

    Google has more serious issues, as pointed out by this slashdot post:
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=210734&cid=17167052


    Re:Really? Strange that ‘spreadsheet’ would give..
    (Score:3, Insightful)
    by Assmasher (456699) Alter Relationship on Fri Dec 08, ’06 01:15 PM (#17167052)
    (Last Journal: Sat Apr 03, ’04 04:10 PM)

    Their not tight lipped about their criteria, they’re tight lipped about the exact algorithm involved (understandably so), but it still doesn’t explain how they rank #1 for spreadsheet. Seriously.

    Remember when Google released ‘Scholar’? The very next day (this is something other people critical of Google adwords like to mention) somehow, with very few links to this new product, the word ‘scholar’ had Google showing up as #1.

    Yeah, sure they play fair ;)… It’s a fair coincidence that ALL of these words show Google as #1?

    intranet, spreadsheet, documents, calendar, word processor, email, video, instant messenger, blog, photo sharing, online groups, maps, start page, restaurants, dining, and books

    Some? Yes, all? No way. Not spreadsheet, not documents, certainly shouldn’t be for e-mail or instant messenger.”

    ===========
    According to the above, a Google search for any of the terms intranet, spreadsheet, documents, calendar, word processor, email, video, instant messenger, blog, photo sharing, online groups, maps, start page, restaurants, dining, and books, all bring up Google as the number 1 item. The allegation is that Google is rigging its search results to point to itself.

  30. Robert:

    “that it’s evil to just wholesale copy someone else’s work”

    You are spin doctor. You did this during your work at Microsoft by answering to each and any comments in blog or press and you are still doing this.

    Your message was following – it’s fine to steal as long as you pay for pizza. And instead of my question who and why has stole this design – it become – “Bad bad Google. They don’t know that food at Yahoo is not free – why they did not send a pizza to their office ?”.

    This way instead of several million dollars lawsuit – this issue started to sound like after-party discussion who has to pay tips and how much.

  31. Robert:

    “that it’s evil to just wholesale copy someone else’s work”

    You are spin doctor. You did this during your work at Microsoft by answering to each and any comments in blog or press and you are still doing this.

    Your message was following – it’s fine to steal as long as you pay for pizza. And instead of my question who and why has stole this design – it become – “Bad bad Google. They don’t know that food at Yahoo is not free – why they did not send a pizza to their office ?”.

    This way instead of several million dollars lawsuit – this issue started to sound like after-party discussion who has to pay tips and how much.

  32. Stanley:

    Google is based on page rank – probability that visitor will visit random page on Internet. For Google.com domain this probability is 100% ;-)

  33. Stanley:

    Google is based on page rank – probability that visitor will visit random page on Internet. For Google.com domain this probability is 100% ;-)

  34. TAG: >Your message was following – it’s fine to steal as long as you pay for pizza.

    I never said that.

    But, once your company has made a mistake, it’s a good idea to do something nice to the competition you ripped off.

    You call that “spin.” Whatever.

  35. TAG: >Your message was following – it’s fine to steal as long as you pay for pizza.

    I never said that.

    But, once your company has made a mistake, it’s a good idea to do something nice to the competition you ripped off.

    You call that “spin.” Whatever.

  36. Robert:

    Something nice is:
    $1.6 billion – Microsoft vs. Sun
    $225+ million – Intergraph vs. Intel
    and even
    $280+ million – Google vs. Yahoo (over 6,269,361 – Overtune – source of all GOOG money)

    But definitely not a pizza.

  37. Robert:

    Something nice is:
    $1.6 billion – Microsoft vs. Sun
    $225+ million – Intergraph vs. Intel
    and even
    $280+ million – Google vs. Yahoo (over 6,269,361 – Overtune – source of all GOOG money)

    But definitely not a pizza.

  38. TAG: copying a Web page isn’t the same as using monopoly power against competitors or buying a key piece of technology which has been protected by patents.

    Thanks for noticing.

  39. TAG: copying a Web page isn’t the same as using monopoly power against competitors or buying a key piece of technology which has been protected by patents.

    Thanks for noticing.

  40. Hey: WHO CARES?! Its a big wild web and anyway YAHOO COPIED GOOGLE’S WHOLE INTERFACE a couple of years ago; right down to layout and name of links, everything.

  41. Hey: WHO CARES?! Its a big wild web and anyway YAHOO COPIED GOOGLE’S WHOLE INTERFACE a couple of years ago; right down to layout and name of links, everything.

  42. [...] “Small” PR headache for Google ahead… « Scobleizer – Tech Geek Blogger Google re-purposes a Yahoo template for an IE7 promo. Yahoo gets upset, calls Google a big old copycat. Google’s Matt Cutts “apology” sounds more like a “I know you are but what am I?” Next up, Yahoo responds with “I’m rubber, you’re glue…” (tags: google yahoo development funny) [...]

  43. [...] I can only imagine the email strings being fired around Google HQ this evening. New site is below. Robert Scoble, who has lots of experience with PR headaches of this kind while working for Microsoft, gives some advice to Google. [...]