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April Fool’s Day, retrospectively

I’m afraid I completely missed April Fool’s Day this year—I didn’t go online to read the British papers, which always come up with great stories, and I didn’t write a story for our own newsletter either, as I have the last couple of years. My favorite was the one for 2005, below, because some people believed it and wrote to me for the link (amongst them were some prominent human-computer interaction people, too). The 2006 piece is about China, so I’m including it here. You’ll see that both were Google-related. I heard a kid saying the other day that people weren’t so big on Google any more, and maybe my lack of inspiration is related to this. But maybe it’s that I was thinking about other things this year.

Apologies, by the way, to the smattering of people who have told me they look forward to our monthly newsletters. The relaunch with a new blog-based design is well underway, and really just needs some of my attention in order to be finalized. It will be much simpler to produce but, like many wonderful new media inventions, puts more of the work in the hands of the creator. I love the independence but sometimes it’d be nice just to pass things like this off to someone else.

You might think that I’ve goofed with my years here, but I’m trying out the numbering system used by the Long Now Foundation, “The Long Now Foundation uses five digit dates, the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years.” Now there’s thinking about the future.

Google China as Trailblazer (2006)

We were delighted to read that Google, like the French school system, has decided to make Chinese its second language. After its fumbling start with Google China (in the U.S., with people protesting Google’s caving to censorship, and in China, with the government indignant because Google announced the censorship on its homepage), the company has realized that if you can’t beat ’em, at least learn to speak their language. All Google employees are to be enrolled in Google Chinese University (or Goo-da). Corporate representatives also see graphic design opportunities in using Chinese characters on all its homepages (104 languages/dialects and counting), and claim that this effort to walk in Chinese moccasins will improve its public profile and bring it closer to achieving its newly redefined mission, “To organize 1.3 billion customers.”

Google Gets Personal (2005)

Did you know that Google will write personalized letters for you? A new program uses artificial intelligence and a special emotive interface called Dave to compose all those difficult documents that we all put off. It’s especially good at thank you letters and heartfelt apologies. By using online shopping data, the history of your Google searches, and metadata about individuals, Dave can come up with just the right words, with individualized responses in your own writing style (complete with your usual grammatical errors and spelling mistakes) for anyone at all, from the woman your widowed father is dating to a friend whose 40th birthday party you forgot.

This remarkable new system, yet another breakthrough from Google, takes all the stress out of relationships (which are just too complicated anyway). Dave will respond to your friends for you, using emotive analysis and a unique psychoanalytic profiling protocol, leaving you free to read a book or go for a walk, or on another date, guilt-free. You only need to check the message threads when you feel like it. Dave will carry on your relationships for as long as you choose. Visit DaveWrite.

(Note: this service in its highly confidential pre-beta version was called HALWrite.)

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