Personalisation part 2

In this era of mashups, open source, web 2.0, delivered on the pervasive smart device[1], we sometimes forget to ask why is it all there? Are services and systems like Facebook, Twitter, Google maps, Spydus, Koha, etc provided as an altruistic service for consumers and companies or is there something else going on. Before going any further I should declare my interest.  I am a salaried employee of Civica, an Organisation that makes money (in part to pay my salary) by selling stuff to libraries. 

There are many who create and produce as a labour of love or as an intellectual pastime and there many who create and produce as part of a commercial enterprise.  Thomas Chatterton didn’t write his poems to make money; however Blake did write ‘The Tyger’ to pay his bills, Richard Stallman wrote the guts of what we now call Linux as part of his crusade for freedom – free as in speech not beer[2].  Google gives away tools to the consumer so they can charge for advertisements.  Civica sells Spydus to libraries and Rovio sells Angry Birds to consumers [3]

Many mashups use some form of mapping service as launching point for the mashup[4].  For example, with Spydus borrower counts per suburb are useful

Spydus mapping mashup showing borrowers

So does Google provide their mapping service free of charge? Well yes and no, the use of the mapping service is not charged for however every use of Google services provides a little extra information to Google that can and is used to target advertisements to the consumer.

Google revenue is derived, in the main, by consumers clicking on Google advertisements. Every time a Google ad is clicked Google get their revenue[5], Google absolutely want as many as possible to use Google services because that is how they attract the consumer to will click on the ad which will cause the advertiser to pay their dollars to Google.

Why does Civica charge for software and services?  This is how Civica makes money to pay staff, including me, and to provide a return to our owners.[6]

The Google model relies on getting very precise consumer data to allow the sophisticated advertisement and search result personalisation to work.  Google do not make a secret of this[7], but not every user of a website that uses mapping mashups or utilises Google Analytics for website analysis may realise that every click will personalise their search and advertising experience.

About Nigel

Product Executive Director, Civica Library & Learning
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5 Responses to Personalisation part 2

  1. Nina Antosz says:

    “Altruistic service for consumers” does not exist, all web applications are design to get profit. Poets, writers, artists also write for profit otherwise they would not take a part in commercial advertising. Thomas Moore “Utopia” is still an utopia, but that doesn’t mean that they/we should not generate revenue. Sometimes the prospect of earning big bucks brings excellent ideas.

    • Nigel says:

      Nina, you have hit the nail on the head here. The trick is to follow the money trail. Sometimes it is obvious, sometime it isn’t. There is however a blurring between pet projects and activities done for commercial gain. Sometimes the pet project turns out to be of general interest and turn commercial (Berners-Lee’s web for example) sometimes it still remains a curiosity (human genome visualisations such as

  2. Nina Antosz says:

    Always it be a grey are, small projects are useful and serve a small audience but often they lead to a big break, you are right it can be unpredictable. They saying that now with the new technologies we are living in transition times, I think that people always lived in transition times, maybe we just expose to very fast emerging technologies and sometimes we have a problem to adjust. I think I get a bit out of the subject.
    Anyway, it is true the money trial might be misleading sometimes, but only sometimes.

  3. Andy says:

    Hungry Beast the other night carried a quote (in relation to Facebook but I think it applies universally to these “free” services, including Google)

    “If you are not the customer, you are the product”.

  4. Pingback: {Library:/hack/} | Civica Library & Learning Blog

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