For the next month, Kansas’ capital city Topeka (“A Great Place To Live, Work, And Play”) is calling itself “Google, Kansas” because it wants to become one of the Internet behemoth’s fiber-optic broadband test cities. Topeka has even gone so far as to change every reference to itself on its official Web site to a reproduction of the Google logo, a job that must have driven some poor intern crazy for at least a week or so.
The proclamation in which Topeka’s Google’s mayor announces the name change praises Google’s “don’t be evil” philosophy and disdain for suits. (Does this mean the Casual Friday policy is heading out the door for the next 30 days, too? Awesome!) It’s basically a big, wet, sloppy kiss to a company that isn’t always as ideal as the overheated Fast Company profiles claim. And if Topeka really loved Google as much as it claimed, wouldn’t it have changed its official seal as well? Effort counts!
I look forward to 10 years from now, when Topeka’s municipal employees and those people who were in power in Halfway, Ore., 10 years ago sit down for a little chat about the long-lasting effects of sucking up to dot-coms.
Meanwhile, Google is continuing to make even more inroads into peoples’ every waking moment with the acquisition of the “social answers” site Aardvark, in which a person can put forth whatever burning questions might be on their mind and have them answered by other users of the site.
The queries currently on the site’s front page are fairly practical: “Does anyone recommend the show Blue collar TV?”; “Does anyone know where to buy a good british blue kitten in London, England?”; “What is the population of botosani, romania?” In an effort to test the limits of this latest foray into automated crowdsourcing, yesterday I took a more existential tack, wondering about the great feeling of emptiness inside of me. (“Wow, that’s your version of sardonic?” Alex asked me when I told him about this experiment.) I expected to get at least one of the usual “yeah, just kill yourself” responses that queries about these sorts of matters inspire from always-online types. But in an indication that The New Niceness exists outside of Tumblr, if in a limited way, the two answers I got were actually helpful.
OK, so one directed me to “resources from a Christian perspective.” And I was kind of creeped out by the idea that this question was linked to my Gmail account, which is linked to my real name, which is linked to way too much information on the Internet, all of which you can find by using Google’s signature product. It’s hard not to feel like Google’s whole “don’t be evil” posing is sort of laughable, simply because of the company’s ability to seep into every single one of the Internet’s cracks.