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Google Wants You To Be Its Unpaid Muse 227

Posted by timothy
from the voluntary-grindstone-for-nose-skinning dept.
theodp writes "So where do you turn to for great ideas when tough times force you to abort your engineers' brainchildren? If you're Google, reports Nicholas Carlson, you simply outsource brainstorming to your users. Google's launched a new Google Product Ideas blog as well as a Product Ideas for Google Mobile site where users can submit feature and product ideas and vote on others. So what's in it for you if you come up with Google's next billion-dollar-idea? 'If you post an idea or suggestion and we put it into action, we may give you a shout out on our Product Ideas blog,' explains Google, 'but we won't be compensating users for their ideas.' Lucky thing don't-be-evil Googlers don't have to live up to the IEEE Code of Ethics, or they might have to credit properly the contributions of others." So what's wrong with a shout out among consenting adults?
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Google Wants You To Be Its Unpaid Muse

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  • by phayes (202222) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:15AM (#26298917) Homepage
    Don't contribute to their ideabox. It's not like Google is forcing people to contribute. Why is that too difficult for the article submitter to understand?
    • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:32AM (#26298987) Homepage
      This is ridiculous. Should /. have paid the guy who submitted this? What about me for all the moderation I have done? Should my company pay people who fill in customer satisfaction surveys?

      I am really getting tired of this /. "google really is evil" meme. I mean, jeez, here we're jumping on them for doing standard market research. When they do something that really is evil (like when Microsoft killed netscape), that will be news.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        hey, I wouldn't mind getting paid for my ideas. If you put a significant amount of work into something that's going to get somebody else paid, I don't think it's that wrong to expect some compensation. On the flip side, if you know you aren't going to be paid then you know that your compensation is strictly just getting props. If that bothers you, it's not their fault. If this ideabox doesn't work out then they may start paying people for their ideas.

        Supply and Demand - The Supply is huge, the demand nearly

      • we're jumping on them for doing standard market research.

        Actually, I think we're jumping on them for being a multi-billion dollar company cynically taking miserly advantage of the naive Web 2.0/UGC culture. The next logical step would be for them to reward the really, really clever and marketable ideas with limited edition Google Logo pins and official membership cards in the Google Youth. Or maybe the "Google Yooth." Yeah, I like that...

        I'd suggest such a club as a money-making idea to Google directly i

        • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:40PM (#26300655) Homepage
          This is nothing new. It's essentially a suggestion box which companies have been using for ages. None of them ever paid you for your ideas.

          Secondly you don't what they'll actually do to compensate you. My guess is they would do more than you think but saying so ensure you'll get every moron and their family suggesting anything and everything and it will turn into a legal mess.

          It's same reason developers won't take unsolicited ideas from people. Most good ideas will be thought up by more than one person. So if Google were to pay for ideas and Person A gets picked but Person B gave a very similar suggestion then he'll get pissed off and want his compensation.

          Or, you suggest something which, it just happens that Google has been working on for 6 months already. They don't give you the money because it's already 80% done. They release it you get hacked off and sue them.

          As it is if they forget to give a shout out to someone with a similar suggestion what's the worse that happens, they list their name too?

          You can almost certainly guarantee that if you really do have a load of good ideas they'll want to do something to make sure they stay with them and no other company and you could end up with a job there or something.

          But the odds are still likely that most suggestions will have been suggested by hundreds, if not thousands of others so it becomes more of a voting system on what people want rather than you giving them the holy grail of internet business.
      • There is a difference. If you had moderation you didn't have to do it, you contribution of moderating or not has a minimal affect on slashdot as a whole, so the value of your contribution is rather small (financially).
        Also most sites who takes user input for a product goes into a queue and the most requested features gets put in. The way that Google is doing it is an open brainstorming session where all peoples ideas goes out and everyone can see them. Creating a situation where reading and Idea ca

      • I think if you were able to block the Redmond area from posting on Slashdot then they would disappear.
    • OR (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      patent the idea, and then submit it to Google's box while you work on the idea.
      • I'm sure that their lawyers have worked something up so that when you submit an idea, you give up your legal right to that idea.
      • by blueg3 (192743)

        I'm sure Google lawyers haven't thought to search patents and applications for submitted ideas before the company pays to implement them.

        Also, most ideas that you would put in suggestion boxes aren't sufficient to patent.

    • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:52AM (#26299147) Journal

      Or, do. I would LOVE if every service provider gave me a place to voice my opinion on how they can improve their service without me having to have the expertise to actually execute the idea.

      An idea is just that: an idea. It's not a product, it's not a service, it's not even the result of a great deal of work. There are a lot of things I'd like to see companies do that I can't begin to make money off of, but I think they could and I would benefit from them. I don't care if they profit off my ideas, my gain is that they are doing what I want.

      Leave it to Slashdot users to find a way to negatively spin it when a company goes to great lengths to give their consumers a voice.

      • Now you're cookin! Ideas, man!

        Wouldn't it be cool if Google earned a Googol pennies...

        Wasn't there a guy in a Russian novel Nikolai Googol?

        You could do it for breakfast! I'm Googol for GooglePuffs!

        I have no idea how any of that can make money. But they're ideas!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Manfre (631065)

        Or, do. I would LOVE if every service provider gave me a place to voice my opinion on how they can improve their service without me having to have the expertise to actually execute the idea.

        Most companies have customer support forums, email address and phone numbers. They have been receiving "opinions" on how they should do their job for a long time.

    • Love your sig. Very funny, but it carries some inaccurate implications and ignores some realities.

      In reality, wolves are always deciding what to have for lunch, and if they're looking at a sheep, s/he is not alone but part of a flock. It's not democracy because even if the entire flock votes against the wolves, there's no guarantee that one of them won't be taken. If the sheep really did wander off alone from the flock into the wolves' clutches, the sheep has effectively voted with the wolves, by prox
    • by blhack (921171)

      Why is that too difficult for the article submitter to understand?

      For the same reason that they can't understand that this is as much you outsourcing your work to google as it is google outsourcing their work to you.

      How many people could seriously code an idea they had all the way from drunk drawings on the back of a coaster to full-scale deployment?

      Google is offering to give them a service that they want, of course they're going to profit from it if it is good. If you had the skill set to do it yourself, you would.

  • The Gift Economy.* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ostracus (1354233) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:16AM (#26298919) Journal

    "So what's wrong with a shout out among consenting adults? "

    For those who envision the domination of a gift economy. Now's your chance to make it happen. First software, now ideas.

    *Aka "ideas want to be free".

    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:37AM (#26299015)

      "So what's wrong with a shout out among consenting adults? "

      For those who envision the domination of a gift economy. Now's your chance to make it happen. First software, now ideas.

      *Aka "ideas want to be free".

      I think I preferred the old economy where we sold our skills to billion dollar companies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb (229885)

      ah, but at least with software the GPL forces derived products to still be free, if you gift an idea to Google, they get to keep it as if it was theirs all along.

      I wonder if the T&C of the product idea site says you have to cede copyright and any patents to them?

      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        You can't restrict people from having the same ideas as yourself. Your comparison is horribly inaccurate.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Mr. Slippery (47854)

          You can't restrict people from having the same ideas as yourself.

          No, but you can stop them from using those ideas. That's what a patent is for.

      • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
        What if someone other than the submitter already owns the patent or copyright (assuming the idea is copyrightable or patentable)
      • And when 2,000 other people suggest the same thing then why do you deserve the copyright and patent?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by afxgrin (208686)

      Too bad not everyone plays their fair part in the gift economy. Instead, there's a very high likelihood, that Google can just take the ideas that are submitted, and implement them without providing any reward to the submitter.

      Even if there's some EULA/Contract/legal stuff that Google provides at first, good luck taking them to court and winning against this multi-billion dollar corporation.

      There's also the problem of providing relevant ideas. In a public forum listing ideas, there maybe many very good one

      • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:24AM (#26299423)

        All too often, we are brought up on the perspective that the "killer" idea is more important than the execution. It's like some type of get-rich-quick scheme for thinkers. This is one area where the patent system used to work, only granting patents on working models are specific implementations - nowadays it's the "killer idea" which some corp or troll patents, sits on it, and waits for someone else to do the work. Truly novel or killer ideas are uncommon - great execution is more important. I would say that Apple's iPods and iPhone are a testament to this. Not one super novel idea in itself, but a slew of good compromises and vision to see it through. Good execution.

        I don't think society progresses far when people hoarde their ideas in the mistaken beliefs that it's all gold (rather than the 99.999% fool's gold that they are) or actually more novel than it really is and not collaborating with anyone. I would look to Paul Erdos as the ultimate example of intellectual collaboration.

        The problem is that ideas that seem good are plenty. It's like blades of grass. The problem is getting yours to stick out, so that the corporation actually picks your and pours their resources into executing it. I would imagine it's a good feeling if something actually came out of it.

        *Note, I'm talking ideas, not some specific design.

      • (AntiMeme)

        They're not taking it, they're copying the idea. After all, you can do something with your idea yourself. It's not like they physically vacuum the idea out of your head, unless someone invents the (generic brand) mind-sifter.

        After all, if your idea wasn't any good to you, why when they take their resources to do it should you bother to get paid?

        How about the publicity? Wouldn't "Google implemented my idea" be worth something?

        Oh right. These are business ideas, not songs.

        (/AntiMeme)

  • by Peaker (72084) <gnupeakerNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:17AM (#26298925) Homepage

    How could this be illegitimate, if it does not intend to hide or mislead Google's intentions?

  • by matt4077 (581118) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:18AM (#26298933) Homepage
    Why shouldn't they ask for ideas from users? It's part of any business relationship that both sides profit. Since I rarely click on ads, I've probably gotten more use out of google products than they got in return. If I had a good idea, I'd have no problem to let them know. At the least, their products get better and I get to use the cool new feature. Most of the ideas are probably worthless to individuals anyway, since they might only be a feature, not a product.

    Plus, all the ideas are out in the open for everyone to see, so any competitor is free to implement them as well.
    • by u38cg (607297)
      Quite agree. I suspect you'll find that Google already gets a large number of people contacting them suggesting they do this or that. Having a centralised place where they can employ a guy to sift the wheat from the chaff seems a sensible next step.
  • It also (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camcorder (759720) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:21AM (#26298937)
    ...makes you unpaid advertisers.
    • Kind of like ppl paying MS for a new version of windows beta and then debugging it for them while telling others what they think of it?
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The difference here being that with Microsoft you have to pay, but then you don't have anything nice to say about it. Whereas Google is free, and mostly doesn't suck.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:22AM (#26298945)

    Other people create the articles, we create the original content that draw people to this site. People love having a soapbox where they think others will listen to their ideas. So I don't understand the tone of the summary.

    OTOH, years ago, people working at Nintendo (USA) told me that when they recieved letters, they put them in the trash as soon as it became apparent it was an "idea" letter for a game. They didn't want the liability. How is google going to curb this aspect?

    • by Sen.NullProcPntr (855073) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:39AM (#26299043)

      OTOH, years ago, people working at Nintendo (USA) told me that when they recieved letters, they put them in the trash as soon as it became apparent it was an "idea" letter for a game. They didn't want the liability. How is google going to curb this aspect?

      The letters to Nintendo were unsolicited. Google requires you to agree to their TOS [google.com] before you can post an idea.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Psycizo (776693)
        For the TL;DR people:

        11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

        • From the TOS link at the bottom of this page:

          With respect to text or data entered into and stored by publicly-accessible site features such as forums, comments and bug trackers ("SourceForge Public Content"), the submitting user retains ownership of such SourceForge Public Content; with respect to publicly-available statistical content which is generated by the site to monitor and display content activity, such content is owned by SourceForge. In each such case, the submitting user grants SourceForge the
    • by afxgrin (208686)

      They have billions of dollars, random letter writers typically don't. That's how.

  • by wyoung76 (764124) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:32AM (#26298991)
    Most people I know (myself included) have a lot of ideas, both good and bad, but have no idea or resources to make the idea into a marketable and/or profitable idea. The fact that your idea could be made real by anyone else and accessible worldwide is pretty much its own thing to brag about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xugumad (39311)

      Not to mention, just being credited with coming up with Google's next big thing is enough to almost certainly land you a well paid job for life somewhere.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rastl (955935)

        Not to mention, just being credited with coming up with Google's next big thing is enough to almost certainly land you a well paid job for life somewhere.

        Yeah, good luck with that one on your resume.

        "I came up with the idea for Google's 'Whatchawhoozit' module that has revolutionized the industry. Um, they didn't give me any credit for it or anything but trust me I did submit it through their idea portal."

        Alternatively, "I came up with the idea for Google's 'Whatchawhoozit' module that has revolutionized the industry. If you go into Help, About, Credits, Contributers, North America, Submitters and increase the font you'll see me. Right there! Yes, I'm th

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:36AM (#26299013)
    Not to carp, but as far as I know none of the Ennead ever got paid. Of course, had they existed in the days of the RIAA, Euterpe,Polyhymnia and probably Terpsichore would have been served with writs pronto. This would have been a Good Thing, because Zeus had a thoroughgoing way of dealing with people who pissed off his relatives. But I digress...

    As I keep telling our sales people, there is something of a gulf between having an idea and actually implementing it. Also, an invention is supposed to solve a problem, not just to state it. I may think it is a good idea to find a way of checking the extent to which bears poo in the woods, but when someone patents the improved device and process for facilitating mensuration and analysis of the sylvan/urban mass ratio of ursine faeces, I really shouldn't expect to profit.

    • by westlake (615356)
      Not to carp, but as far as I know none of the Ennead ever got paid.

      This is naive at best - and disingenuous at worst. Greek drama was framed within the context of a religious festival. But it was also a competitive exhibition for the playwrights and the winner did not go home empty-handed.

      • If you think I'm naive - well, consider:

        First, I was commenting on the "unpaid muse". The Muses, the ennead, were daughters of Zeus and so, of course, they didn't get paid. Which was the basis of my (feeble) joke, but was making the serious point that the original idea (inspiration) was attributed to them, while human beings did all the work.
        Second, your point about drama, even if correct, is badly made because I did not include the Muse of Drama in my list, as I was making a joke about the RIAA. My point

  • Before I make a comment on this article, you're going to have to compensate me. Or did you think you could steal people's time for some free comments?
  • Apples to Apples (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BecomingLumberg (949374) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:46AM (#26299091)
    If this was a report about Ubuntu brainstorm, pretty much the same thing, it would be a glowing review? Why can a for profit company not employ the same techniques?
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:49AM (#26299639) Journal

      Probably due to perception of result.

      When Canonical/Ubuntu takes an idea and runs with it, odds are good that everyone benefits, and the results are freely shared without any real encumbrance or price.

      When a for-profit company takes an idea and runs with it, odds are better than good that everyone will have to pay for the privilege of reaping the benefits, and a patent or two will prevent anyone else from implementing it for at least the next 25 years.

      Not that I'm taking sides (after all, Google's idea-gathering is voluntary), but that's how it usually shakes out.

      /P

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LandDolphin (1202876)
        Hmm.. I use a fair amount of Google products and I cannot recall paying for one of them.
        • Hmm.. I use a fair amount of Google products and I cannot recall paying for one of them.

          You cannot recall all the ads thrown up on the screen? You've been paying Google from the start.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LandDolphin (1202876)
            Funny, I checked my wallet and bank account and no where do I see those adds taking money out. Hmm, maybe the advertisers pay for those adds so that I can use those services for free. I'll have to call them and verify this outlandish claim.
            • Funny, I checked my wallet and bank account and no where do I see those adds taking money out. Hmm, maybe the advertisers pay for those adds so that I can use those services for free. I'll have to call them and verify this outlandish claim.

              Ads are taking up your time, bandwidth, resources etc. Also, Google is profiting from your use of its products. To put it another way: Remove the ads and you have a faster/more streamlined experience. Compare a Google search to a Wikipedia search, for example.

              Google and its products are not free.

              • if Google profits or not, does not mean it costs me anything.

                As far as Adds go, they exist all over, regardless if I'm using a Google Product or not. Poeple "steal" that from me all of the time, at least using a Google product I'm getting something for it.

                Having to look at an Add does not equal having to pay for something. An exception to that might be if you regularly get paid ot look at Adds I guess.
      • by mgiuca (1040724)

        Quite so! Arguably, this is the whole point of a NFP organisation - you gain a lot more community support when you declare that you aren't personally benefiting from their help.

        Would Wikipedia be anywhere near what it is today if it was run by a For-Profit?

  • Isn't this the same as Dell's Idea Storm and Ubuntu's Brain Storm?

  • Garbage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:49AM (#26299117) Homepage Journal

    The article mentions that Google won't be compensating submitters, then quotes like holy writ the IEEE code of conduct which mentions crediting them.

    Last time I looked, those words weren't synonyms.

  • So tell me, why is listening to your users and customers a bad thing?
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:05AM (#26299239) Journal

    ...with absolutely f*** all to do right now as we only have one real product, search, and we're hesitant to make big changes to it... Please give us the ideas we obviously cannot think up on our own so we can give these guys/gals something to do because bored smart people tend to leave no matter how good the bennies are." ;)

    • by slim (1652)

      we only have one real product, search, and we're hesitant to make big changes to it...

      Well, I'm a regular user of Gmail, Reader, Maps, Docs, Notebook, Desktop Search and probably others I've forgotten.

      Search is often improved - they're often adding new file types and previewers. Just recently it became possible to sort search results in a way that gets remembered next time you do the search.

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        Do you realize how many engineers Google actually has? ;) Google should really create a new product line/direction and become seriously devoted to it. Can you imagine, with the talent Google has, what they could do with Open Office (or build a new platform with the same goal) or if they wanted to obliterate Exchange Server? Unfortunately, this is not (as far as I can tell) Google's goal. Google's goal is search, search infrastructure, and fun little add-ons like gMail, simulations, Google docs, et ceter

        • What a truckload of nonsense.
          Google has quite a few serious products lined up next to search and if you look really hard even you may be able to find them.

        • by slim (1652)

          Can you imagine, with the talent Google has, what they could do with Open Office (or build a new platform with the same goal)

          I think Google would much rather you used Google Docs than Open Office. I would characterise Docs as a 'serious product'. Sure you can't use it offline, but Google works on the assumption you're always online.

          Actually here's Google's interests:

          • Anything that attracts users to see Google Ads
          • Anything that causes users to provide clues for the ad targeting algorithms (search terms, email contents, page contents, doc contents etc.)

          Which reminds me - I didn't include Adsense in the list of Google services I use -

  • The ethics code requires contributions by others to be "properly credited." It by no means requires the contributors to be paid (unless of course pay was promised.) Also, if credit is explicitly not promised (as in this case), failing to credit is not against the code.

    SirWired

  • GASP! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Steauengeglase (512315) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:16AM (#26299329)

    My God, how far can this go? Google has the audacity to listen to its customer and actually use the better ideas?

  • Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KingJ (992358) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:50AM (#26299645) Homepage
    A way to finally contact Google? It's so difficult to get in contact with them normally - even if you're paying them (in the case of AdWords). Perhaps we can finally start talking to real people at Google, or at least have them read some of our grievances.
  • Google wants product and/or feature ideas. So what? That's a long way from actual implemented products. I'm minded of a comment by a published author to one of those fans with an "I've got a story idea, if you'll write it we can split the money 50-50." request: "You have a story idea? So do I. They're easy, I come up with a couple dozen story ideas a day. Actually writing it, spending 8 hours a day for the next 6 months hunkered over a keyboard hammering it into a full story and then into a finished manuscr

  • Meh, did you notice that since firehose, we are getting a lot more ridiculously anti-google stories? It makes sense to criticize google about privacy and stuff, but for example, check out the post about google's christmas bonuses, along with this one...

    On the other hand MS boosters are getting more frequent, huh?

  • I submitted an idea to them a while ago where I proposed that they include exchange rates in Google Calculator. A few weeks later, the feature was there.

    While this is such a simple idea that they've probably gotten hundreds of requests for it, I am grateful that they included it.

    In fact, I never considered that I should be rewarded. They also stated so clearly on the submission page (which I can't find right now). I use the feature frequently, and am glad it is there. It's a benefit for me as well as for Go

  • Google can hardly file a patent for this strategy: certain game and other software developers have been doing this for some time. They release unfinished skeletal software and then rely on the eager-but-clueless users of the product to identify problems and shortcomings and suggest future evolution. The users become unpaid Q&A or R&D staff without ever being the wiser. They don't even get business cards to flash at parties.

  • by Arivia (783328)
    Muses by definition are unpaid. If anything, they might be seduced instead of outrightly raped by the "artists" once or twice. Welcome to feminism, folks!
  • Google, who along with other SV powerhouses tap their next biggest ideas from the universities, Stanford in particular. This move is definitely out in left field.

    .

    Weird? maybe. Expected? likely. My [conspiracy] theory is that the VCs have realized that most of the academic-based ideas really don't reflect what the true public/consumer wants (i.e. ideas that don't make money). Google outsources idea generation to the universities, hands down. Google trying to go free/public ideas is just a focus group app

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

Working...