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Google Puts the Brakes On Saving the World 179

Posted by kdawson
from the taking-a-little-longer dept.
An anonymous reader sends along a sharp and snarky article that takes Google to task for taking longer than expected to award $10M in its competition to find and fund world-bettering ideas. The submitter comments, "After using its tenth birthday as occasion to solicit philanthropic ideas from Web users through its Project 10^100, Google appears to have backed off from its commitment to provide $10 million in funding to the winner. While the company was supposed to reveal the Project 10^100 winner in February, Google has since delayed the vote once and now suspended it indefinitely, due to the overwhelming response — Google says it received 150,000 entries. A Google spokeswoman wouldn't commit to a new date, saying only it would be delayed 'for a while longer.' She further apologized for the company's 'over optimistic assumptions about how quickly we could analyze all the ideas that we've received.'"
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Google Puts the Brakes On Saving the World

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  • Hype (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:06PM (#27837643)
    It doesn't really sound like they're copping out. It just sounds more like 150,000 projects is a whole lot more than they expected to get. They didn't plan on dedicating the resources necessary to get through that many submissions in a reasonable amount of time. Now they're delaying it... or you know, just assume that Google is horribly evil. Whichever.
    • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:22PM (#27837903) Homepage

      I don't know what's taking them so long...my idea to replace inefficient jet-fuel-burning airliners with giant gliders and slingshots was so clearly superior to any other ideas they could have received, I don't understand why I haven't received my check yet.

      • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

        by Mendoksou (1480261) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:30PM (#27838003)
        Hmph! 21026 of my 25826 ideas were easily better than this! Seriously, what's with all you people spamming bad ideas like that at them? All your doing is making them take longer sifting through my ideas to tell me which one of them won.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Niris (1443675)
          I'm obviously going to win with my idea to feed the people from overpopulated countries to starving people. Gets rid of world hunger and overpopulation! :D If you want to be even more evil, tweak it so you're feeding obese people from overpopulated countries to starving people to get rid of three major problems with one stone! Hell, less people may mean less global warming, too. And pirates!

          Wait, people across the world are people too? LIES!
          • tweak it so you're feeding obese people from overpopulated countries to starving people

            That's not very nice! Obese people are very fattening. You need to feed them vegetarians, if you're going to be humanitarian.

          • I'm obviously going to win with my idea to feed the people from overpopulated countries to starving people. Gets rid of world hunger and overpopulation!

            I'm afraid there's prior art...A Modest Proposal [art-bin.com]

      • Re:Hype (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:36PM (#27838101) Journal
        I'm glad to see you've revised your plan to include gliders.

        Have you addressed the acceleration problems mentioned in this post [slashdot.org] by Gnick the last time your idea was discussed?

        That'd have to be a mighty long and soft slingshot band.
        • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

          by eln (21727) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:45PM (#27838233) Homepage

          Working out little details like that will happen after we get the funding.

          I'm glad to see you've been following my work. You don't happen to be a venture capitalist, do you?

          • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

            by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @06:26PM (#27838957)
            I'm a venture capitalist from Nigeria. Now if you'll just be kindly sending me your plans for your new transportation system along with a $1,000 processing fee we will begin the process of funding your project. Get back to me quickly! there are many projects we're interested in an only a limited number can be funded.
            • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

              by BluBrick (1924) <blubrick@gmSLACKWAREail.com minus distro> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:48PM (#27841189) Homepage

              I'm a venture capitalist from Nigeria. Now if you'll just be kindly sending me your plans for your new transportation system along with a $1,000 processing fee we will begin the process of funding your project. Get back to me quickly! there are many projects we're interested in an only a limited number can be funded.

              You have used contractions properly. You have made no spelling errors. Except for one word (beginning your final sentence), you have used capitalization appropriately. You have used correct grammar throughout your message. Your punctuation is sensible. And, if that were not sufficient, you have not even given a feasible-sounding fake name.

              YOUR A DESGRACE TOO THE NIGERIAN SPAMMERS GUILD!!!


              Walter M'Boti-Wakele,
              Membership Secretary, NSG

        • That'd have to be a mighty long and soft slingshot band.

          And rubber loses its elasticity after only a few cycles. Early Spring ballistas used rawhide for repeatable performance. I'd suggest you use rawhide to propel the gliders and find some way to gear it down. As a side effect, the meat content of your average sausage will improve when the idea is widely adopted.

      • dammit, my nuclear powered hydroponic hemp farm (that cures world hunger on the side), simply cant compete with giant slingshots :(

        don't suppose anybody got a few billion dollars to lend me? I think i need about three fiddy!

      • by stfvon007 (632997)

        My proposed "vasectomies for food" program is clearly superior to this. In overpopulated countries people get a free vasectomy, and they get food to eat. Those who don't get a vasectomy are on their own. Women instead of getting a vasectomy will get dental implants in a certain part of their body to ensure anyone they copulate with never reproduces again. This will simultaneously reduce hunger, overpopulation, and rape in third world countries.

      • Glider? Like the slingshot though!
    • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:31PM (#27838015) Journal

      Now they're delaying it... or you know, just assume that Google is horribly evil. Whichever.

      Thanks for offering the choice. I'm gonna assume they're horribly evil.

      See, the truth of the matter is that Google is now assembling a database of all the possible ways the world could be saved. Meanwhile, they have a crack team of evil underlords working to make sure that Google has appropriate counter-strategies to the the world-saving methods with the highest PageRanks.

      This way, when Googol the Destroyer is summoned from the Plane of Infernal Terrors to wreak the End of Days upon the world, no measly humans will be able to execute a plan to thwart him.

      Mwua-ha-ha-ha.

      Humanity's only hope will be that the eminent rival sorcerors, Gatus and Joba, will overcome their mutual disdain in order to devise an artifact of true power, the One True Operating System with Built-in Global Web Search, that will condemn Googol to return to the Plane of Infernal Terrors. Unfortunately, the roving druid Stallmanx has thrown a wrench into the works by turning the hearts and minds of lesser sorcerors (and hedge wizards) against Gatus and Joba, and so our heroes must overcome the animosity of their lesser brethren before they can fulfill their quest.

      Will Gatus and Joba succeed? Will we ever find out what wonders lie beneath the surface of Stallmanx's Beard of Druidic Prowess? Will Googol succeed in bringing about the End of Days via the Rite of a Million Targeted Ads?

      Tune in to next week's broadcast of "Googol the Destroyer"!

      • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:57PM (#27838461)

        The previous post has been removed due to copyright violation by The Church of Scientology.

      • by pwnies (1034518) *
        Someone please write this. I would buy this book.
      • Will Googol succeed in bringing about the End of Days via the Rite of a Million Targeted Ads?

        Now, why did I just think of AC Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God"?

      • by Kagura (843695)

        Now they're delaying it... or you know, just assume that Google is horribly evil. Whichever.

        Thanks for offering the choice. I'm gonna assume they're horribly evil. See, the truth of the matter is that Google is now assembling a database of all the possible ways the world could be saved. Meanwhile, they have a crack team of evil underlords working to make sure that Google has appropriate counter-strategies to the the world-saving methods with the highest PageRanks. This way, when Googol the Destroyer is summoned from the Plane of Infernal Terrors to wreak the End of Days upon the world, no measly humans will be able to execute a plan to thwart him. Mwua-ha-ha-ha. Humanity's only hope will be that the eminent rival sorcerors, Gatus and Joba, will overcome their mutual disdain in order to devise an artifact of true power, the One True Operating System with Built-in Global Web Search, that will condemn Googol to return to the Plane of Infernal Terrors. Unfortunately, the roving druid Stallmanx has thrown a wrench into the works by turning the hearts and minds of lesser sorcerors (and hedge wizards) against Gatus and Joba, and so our heroes must overcome the animosity of their lesser brethren before they can fulfill their quest. Will Gatus and Joba succeed? Will we ever find out what wonders lie beneath the surface of Stallmanx's Beard of Druidic Prowess? Will Googol succeed in bringing about the End of Days via the Rite of a Million Targeted Ads? Tune in to next week's broadcast of "Googol the Destroyer"!

        Mod this guy overrated, because it lowers his score without impacting his karma... then mod him informative to boost his karma.

    • by earlymon (1116185)

      It doesn't really sound like they're copping out. It just sounds more like 150,000 projects is a whole lot more than they expected to get.

      I agree, they don't sound like they're copping out.

      They do, however, sound completely fucking stoopid.

      A legitimate offer for US$10MM put on the internet, by a company with deep pockets, and the requirement for payout to this demographic is: a good idea to make the world better.

      How did they not expect well in excess of 150k applications?

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Well obviously they where hoping for as many applications as possible, what did not work quite so well was general public interests. No stream of news stories, an absence of tens of thousands of articles on blog sites, tech magazines reported the initial offer then it all died off and even this extension of time to the scheme is treated more as a ho hum to be joked about.

        So never am effective marketing scheme, oh my, you must love the googly woogly it is going to save the planet and, all those evil thing

    • I'd rather Google spend the time to carefully consider all submissions, instead of just selecting some motherhood ideas and round-filing the rest. In fact they've said that each winning idea may draw on many separate entries to crowd-source the optimal way to implement it..

      But it's true that if any organization can devote resources to getting these examined in a timely fashion, it's Google.

      • by Eivind (15695)

        It depends, now doesn't it?

        It's not worth it to spend $10 million to decide who will get $10million, and if you spend an hour each one 150K applications, you need 80 employees full-time for a year, which will cost you pretty close to that, when you include benefits, taxes etc.

        I guess a lot of the suggestions are very similar, or very crappy, so can be dealt with quickly though, so should be realistic to give this a reasonable review with substantially less resurces, still it's going to require atleast a man

        • by Mandrel (765308)

          It depends, now doesn't it?

          It's not worth it to spend $10 million to decide who will get $10million, and if you spend an hour each one 150K applications, you need 80 employees full-time for a year, which will cost you pretty close to that, when you include benefits, taxes etc.

          I guess a lot of the suggestions are very similar, or very crappy, so can be dealt with quickly though, so should be realistic to give this a reasonable review with substantially less resurces, still it's going to require atleast a man-year or two.

          I actually submitted two ideas, and you had to start with a max-150-character title, then a max-150-word summary. So they should be able to do a lot better than a one-hour average.

          I think a year to assess them would be OK. Unless of course one idea happened to be a swine flu cure, an Italian earthquake predictor, or a financial meltdown circuit breaker.

    • Re:Hype (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rary (566291) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @07:33PM (#27839707)

      It just sounds more like 150,000 projects is a whole lot more than they expected to get.

      Now if only they could find someone who's really adept at searching through large quantities of documents and ranking the relevant results....

    • Indexing the world's knowledge is easy, they're doing that. Indexing the worlds ideas may be a little more difficult.

      I hope that they get through it all. And that my idea wins, of course.

    • As much as I am wary of Google's data mining shit, there does seem to be a flood of anti-Google articles recently, if you use your imagination you can almost visualize the hand of Redmond pulling the strings. That said, they are delaying it, not abandoning it. The advantage they have here is that by keeping that $10m in the bank a bit longer they can make some more interest from it before paying it out. Having an overload of applications does seem feasible to me, and a realistic excuse / reason to delay too
    • by sorak (246725)

      It doesn't really sound like they're copping out. It just sounds more like 150,000 projects is a whole lot more than they expected to get. They didn't plan on dedicating the resources necessary to get through that many submissions in a reasonable amount of time.

      If only they had some way of searching and sorting through large amounts of data...

    • by Bombula (670389)
      Maybe they should put the review of the 150,000 ideas out to the public as well? They'd probably get a lot of interesting (and some useful) feedback. Crowd-sourcing the review would probably make sure that the best ideas did indeed percolate to the top. They might also attract other sources of funding too. Not sure why Google is playing this all so close to the chest if the goal is to save the world. Seems like they only want to save the world so long as they control the process and get the credit. Hm
  • Pay for submission (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Twinbee (767046) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:06PM (#27837649) Homepage

    Make each entry cost $5-10 or whatever to enter. That would encourage only the cream to surface, whilst also giving Google incentive to actually finish the project.

    • Except that it would also hamper the ability of people in the 3rd world to submit their proposals.
  • by Cormophyte (1318065) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:07PM (#27837665)

    It's a lot of money, and a lot of submissions. It takes a long time to judge based on how much "good" the proposal can accomplish.

  • Just throw them all onto a website, the the google-bot crawl them, then just search for "Best entry". First result wins!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by davester666 (731373)

      Why even bother with entries? Just google for "best world bettering idea".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AaxelB (1034884)

        Why even bother with entries? Just google for "best world bettering idea".

        Hey, it worked! It only returned one result [google.com], so I know it must be true. So, google says the best world bettering idea is:

        Re: (Score:2, Funny). by davester666 (731373). Why even bother with entries? Just google for "best world bettering idea". ...

        Dude, you totally called it!

    • by owlnation (858981)

      Just throw them all onto a website, the the google-bot crawl them, then just search for "Best entry". First result wins!

      Right, so will that be the wikipedia entry, the wikianswers entry (same as wikipedia entry), or the link-farm entry (same as the wikipedia entry)? Those are the three that are in the top results from every search I perform.

  • by thhamm (764787)
    Google appears to have backed off from its commitment to provide $10 million in funding to the winner. chicken.
  • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:11PM (#27837731)

    The deadline for submissions was October 20, 2008

    Well, that's it, then. In November the Savior was elected, so no need for further ideas or awards. It's all in good hands now, thank you. Let's go back to Oprah.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bloopie (991306)

      In November the Savior was elected

      Huh? Didn't you know she and McCain lost? She can try again in 2012, if God tells her to.

    • Tony Blair and George Bush had a special relationship. I guess the relationship between Gordon Brown and Barack Obama will be a saviour relationship [youtube.com].

      Really, with all the world-saving being done by our world leaders, Google can afford to take it easy for a bit.

  • The Bird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:16PM (#27837811)

    Am I the only one who is amazed at the amount of times someone sticks the boot into Google for doing something constructive?

    When was the last time Microsoft (or any other large company) did anything like this? NEVER?? You'd be right.

    So some smart ass anonymous coward takes it on themself to bag Google because Google couldn't predict the number of entries they would receive for something that had NEVER been done before.

    AC

    • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @06:15PM (#27838783)

      Not to be an apologist, just stating facts...

      Interestingly, Bill Gates solicited submissions similar to the ones the Google contest was intended to solicit, back in the mid 1990s, prior to completing his book "The Road Ahead". This was right around the time he founded "the William H. Gates Foundation", which was later renamed to "the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation".

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundation [wikipedia.org]

      He did this with an initial $94 million stock gift.

      Now, while he's technically not identical to Microsoft... he's probably close enough.

      -- Terry

      • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also targets their solicitation a bit more. For example, they run ads in Science describing the funding available.
    • Am I the only one who is amazed at the amount of times someone sticks the boot into Google for doing something constructive?

      Had they actually done something constructive - you'd have a point. What they've done is reneged on their promise to do something constructive in February and replaced it with a promise to something constructive someday, maybe. (Or maybe you missed the part where they no longer promise a date to do something constructive.)

    • Re:The Bird (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @07:40PM (#27839799)

      Am I the only one who is amazed at the amount of times someone sticks the boot into Google for doing something constructive?

      When was the last time Microsoft (or any other large company) did anything like this? NEVER?? You'd be right.

      Well, yesterday Bill Gates (who I think we can still equate with MS) gave away $8.1 million for medical research based on unconventional submissions (and open to the public). So the answer to your question isn't "never." It's "yesterday, and very very often." That's remarkably similar to what Google is trying to do here for the first time, but the main difference is that Bill Gates has given away something like $30 BILLION by now and he actually succeeded in finding a way to sort through submissions and get the money to the people who had ideas. If he stops now and Google hands out their prize tomorrow, and then they continue at this pace, they'll catch up to him in the year 32009. Yeah, Google is amazing and MS hates everyone.

  • Low expectations... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Itninja (937614) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:20PM (#27837869) Homepage
    This phenomenon recently happened at work. We are a non-profit attached to the State education system. We have less than 125 employees, but most of us get paid okay (for a non-profit) and have great benefits (because of the government association). However, it's not exactly Google or Microsoft; certainly not the sexiest place to work. Usually it takes weeks to get enough resumes when a new job is posted. But the HR folks did not account for rabid nature of current job seekers. They posted a new job opening on Craigslist and within three days had 15000 applicants. They eventually had to pull the opening while they waded through all the resumes...

    It was really quite crippling for them.
    • Rabid? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sybert42 (1309493) *

      If you needed work, I don't think you would consider yourself "rabid". They are doing what they have to do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rorschach1 (174480)

      I posted a Craigslist job listing (in an area with no Craigslist region of its own and relatively little local usage of the adjoining regions) for a 10-15 hour per week packing and shipping job at a buck an hour over minimum wage and had 75 resumes in 3 days, with most of those applicants willing to commute 15 miles or more for 2-3 hours of work a day!

      As it turned out, just having 75 applicants doesn't mean it's easy to find someone who will actually show up on time, follow simple directions, and actually r

  • Headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:26PM (#27837945)

    Hmm . . . I looked at the headline and thought, "Oh Noes, G00gle iz teh 33-vil!"

    Then I read the summary. Actually, with 150,000 entries, it looks perfectly legitimate that they are delaying or suspending the vote. I thought, "Hmm, which editor would write a misleading, sensationalistic headline like that?"

    Well, I guessed correctly: The same genius that comes up with such diamonds as "Bill Would Declare Your Blog a Weapon" [slashdot.org]. Is anyone surprised?

    • by rhizome (115711)

      which brings up an apparent curious slashdot bug: i removed kdawson from the authors in my profile, yet the stories still show up in RSS.

  • Arent they google? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002)
    Why don't they use their data sorting skills to organize all the ideas in a wiki or some such and have them meta moderated to find out what the most popular is?
  • Like this:

    Search: awesome amazing bestest -hamsters -"youth participation" -yahoo

      - Alaska Jack

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:50PM (#27838319) Homepage

    To advertise a "skill contest" and not pay off on the scheduled date is usually a violation of the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act. [ftc.gov] Not good, Google.

    • Nah. I went and read TFA at the FTC and my interpretation is that the "skill contest" really applies to schemes where you are provided Puzzles or Tests initially which are easy, then subsequent ones remain at a level of easiness till the last ones are unfeasibily difficult. During this time the coumpany has been making offers or promotions.

      "Failing" the last tests nullifies the promise of benefits.
  • Hey, come on guys! We can't fault them for this. The project is only in beta!

  • The Google Geo Challenge [google.org] was also supposed to announce grants in January or February. They sent an email in March saying they were delayed due to overwhelming response, and nothing since.

    Google grants seem quite popular! But better communication would be appreciated.

  • Pick me! (Score:5, Funny)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @06:01PM (#27838539) Journal
    I hope they pick my idea: hold a competition to provide $9 million to someone with the best idea on how to help the world.
  • Dear Google,

    Maybe you should take a lesson from the corporate litigation world where they have to review millions of documents hunting for evidence -- cluster related documents together to boost efficiency and improve consistency of review. If you don't have your own technology, try Clustify ;-) </slashvertisement>

  • The Google Way (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why don't they just identify one of the entries as a Beta Winner? Then they can prolong the actual decision indefinitely.

  • Google goes out of their way of doing something nice and "people" kick them in the groin repetedly. The people feels a lot like astroturfers trying to portrait Google in a bad manner. I suspect its very irritating for some unnamed companies with goodwill down in the slimepit that a successful company like Google can be liked by their users.

    It would be nice of the editors would stop posting crap articles like this whos only purpouse is badmouthing, straight from the competition. Its a different kind of FUD b

    • So how much did they buy YOU for?

      Bottom line:
      Google made promises.
      Google didn't deliver.
      The negative press now won't even come close to the positive press they got when they announced the project.

      Net gain for Google, and they don't actually ever have to do anything.

      • by sabernet (751826)

        Except there's no evidence the situation is in any way other than what they said: an overwhelming number of entries.

        Bottom line:
        _________________________________________

        Google did something nice(for PR reasons or not)

        Google made promises

        Google got surprised

        Google hasn't yet announced anything

        People like you and kdawson jump to conclusions because "Hey, look, they ARE evil!" posts, similar to inflammatory Fox News reports, generates publicity for yourself.

  • ... by using goats to mow the lawn. That'd save the world, wouldn't it?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fun fact: If it took an average of 20 minutes to review each entry, it would take 50000 hours for a single person to go through all of them. That's 6250 days, or a little over 17 years.

  • Google should just let the people vote between all
    150000 ideas and then select the best 5 ideas from top 100.

    It is in situation like this the wisdom of the crowd is useful.

  • Seems like if you gave the problem to some of your engineers they could come up with an automated way of finding the best entries.

    THINK ABOUT IT MAN!

  • Clearly you did not think of a search interface that would allow the Internet Public to go through 150,000 submissions efficiently without hitting the Google I'm Feeling Lucky barrier as I call it, where if you don't get on the top page you are nobody.

    Now you are in trouble and maybe being forced to disclose ahead of time some neat multi-dimensional collaborative interface that isn't out of alpha let alone beta yet, which could be a competitive disadvantage.

    Here's what I recommend:
    - Take a random sampling a

  • Surely if they did the initial filtering using squirrels they could get the list down to a more manageable size. They must be able to transfer a few from other projects.

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