Who Was Behind The Google Mocality Shenanigans? [Updated]

This is an update from yesterday’s big huge story of Google fraud against Mocality here in Kenya. Please read the article to learn what happened.

At the end of the day, Google issued a statement which read:

“We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.” – Nelson Mattos

However you think about it, this is wrong. Terribly wrong. It is unacceptable for Google or anyone else to do this. Mocality should definitely press for legal remedies. However, as much as this is wrong, it is also stupid.

Google is a huge organisation. Surely what they stand to gain from doing this in Kenya is pocket change compared to their other earnings, right? Why risk so much PR damage for such little relative gain? This makes me feel that this was not ‘sanctioned’ at the highest levels of Google. It makes me feel that this was done at the ‘Kenyan’ level i.e. at Google Kenya. Of course it does not make it okay in any way, but it makes more sense than trying to think of why Larry Page (Google CEO) would agree to such a stupid plan in the grand scheme of things.

The ‘web directory’ industry in Kenya is very competitive right now (think of Nsoko, Craigslist, Mocality, and the tens and tens of other competitors) so of course what Mocality has managed to do is impressive and rightly so. Clearly, when Google set up KBO someone at Google was put in charge of this project and given the ‘orders’ to grow it aggressively.

Rumors flying about seem to suggest that Google hired an Indian company, iridium Interactive (they have since denied having any part in this), to help in the job of growing the KBO initiative. My guess is that iridium Interactive and possibly one or two people at Google Kenya:

  • Saw Mocality as a big competitor OR
  • Saw Mocality as an easy way to get people to use KBO (i.e. steal from the Mocality database) OR
  • All the above

So what did they do? They set up what they thought was a clever plan to use Mocality’s large database to their advantage: they started contacting the businesses listed by Mocality and offering them free websites via KBO. Makes sense, in a way, because most of the businesses listed at Mocality have no website. Here’s what one of the businesses contacted in this fradulent way had to say:

“OMG!!!!! We received a call on the office line (the one listed on Mocality) from India stating that they were offering website services. I think the guy on phone was Deepak or something (it sounded almost like a scam) the guy said he was from Google Kenya blah blah, we refused the offer as we already have a site. Then few days ago I was just searching our page when I stumbled upon our site on .kbo.co.ke site…I mailed them n told them to take it down! aaaaaaaarg!!!!!!” – Lucia

So, well, the ‘Google’ guys contacted this business and offered to move them to KBO. This initial contact is important because at this point you can offer to sell a domain name to the business (because just building a website with KBO is free). So after the business declined this offer, the ‘Google’ guys went ahead and built them a site on KBO anyway. From this, it seems that the goals of the Google fraud were:

  1. To get as many businesses on KBO as possible. This was the main goal.
  2. To sell domain names to businesses which get on KBO (if possible). I believe this is why ‘Google’ did not just go ahead and build the businesses KBO sites without first contacting them and trying to sell the additional optional domain name.

So who is to blame? Google is. But I think that this ‘fraud’ was not sanctioned by the whole of Google. To me, it seems that iridium Interactive (they have since denied having any part in this) and some Google Kenya employees thought this scheme up as a clever (they thought) way to build up their new service quickly. It is sad that the whole of Google now has to deal with the mess of a few greedy individuals.

What do you think of all this?

Comment from iridium Interactive:

Dear Sir/ Madam
In the context of the latest conversations regarding the Scraping & Calling operations done on Mocality’s databse by Google, Iridium Interactive officially & categorically denies any involvement in these operations. Any allegations/ rumors indicating our involvement are baseless, false and grossly misinterpreted.

Juliet Gateri
Business Manager

Google Being Evil in Kenya

Today we hear the sad sad story of how Google is apparently behind a nefarious plot to steal business away from mocality.co.ke. 🙁

For those that do not know, Mocality is one of Kenya’s largest business directories with over 170,000 verified businesses in its database. it has been in Kenya for a number of years.

Late last year, Google launched the “KBO” initiative to get Kenyan businesses online by offering them ‘free’ websites built on Google technology.

Clearly, Google had seen and concluded that Mocality is one of their biggest competitors as far as KBO goes. So what did they do? They hired/sponsored/authorized a team of people to systematically go through Mocality’s database and call each business listed therein. The caller then pretended that Google was in partnership with Mocality and asked the business to move to KBO. So, in effect, Google was lying to these businesses to get them to move from Mocality to KBO.

I’m sorry…. what? I thought Google’s mantra was “don’t be evil”?. I guess they thought they would not be caught since we are in, you know, Kenya.

Read more about this here: GOOGLE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? 🙁

Nelson Mattos, Google’s Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets, writes:

We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.

Everyone Uses the Internet for a Reason

As the year starts, here is an absolute GEM from DoshDosh:

“It’s the first month of a new year and at this time I’m itching to start new web ventures both for fun and profit. I usually do up a list of possible startup and site ideas and narrow them down into those with the highest potential. But success depends on execution and not just plans so I tend not to be too hung up about having a complete vision of what I want.

A little vagueness won’t hurt. I can always muddle through and change things up in response to market conditions or personal interest. No need to be perfect from the start.

I looked at many websites to study their methods, to learn what made them a success. I started planning what specific niche I wanted to explore and suddenly realized that I was thinking about the whole thing in a roundabout way.

There’s really no need to think hard about having the perfect idea. The foundations of popular and profitable websites/services are deeply related to the basic reasons why people get online and use the internet. Let’s do some reverse engineering from that perspective.

So, why do people worldwide use the internet?

  1. To communicate and socialize
    This is very much a fundamental human need. People like to meet and talk to other people through the internet. They use it to maintain new or existing relationships. They want to communicate ideas and find solidarity with others who share similar interests. So do something which facilitates communication. Hyper-local or cross-border communities, social networks, virtual worlds, apps or services built on existing communication/social protocols and services. Bring human social activities onto the internet grid. Socialize existing web functions, emphasize on connecting people.

  2. To find information, learn new things and be entertained
    The internet is a massive archive of new and old information. It is also a source of pleasure, giving immediate gratification in the form of images, sound and interactivity. As an educational tool, the web is essential for people who are seeking to learn.

    People want to find things online. So help them. Create a system which provides information or filters existing content. Monetize the flow of data. Blogs, training courses, social news, aggregated news, paid membership sites, online journals, one-stop entertainment portals, video, image and game hubs with a specific focus.

  3. To do work, generate income and run a business
    People use the internet to make a living. It is essential to many businesses that want to increase brand exposure or sell a product/service. They also use the web to help them work better. There is a market of webmasters, entrepreneurs and small/big businesses out there who are willing to pay to boost their revenue. Consultancies, design firms, freelancers, enterprise software, business-specific tools/apps and services. Think of ways to help people work smarter and more efficiently online.

And of course, there’s the e-commerce industry and the buying/selling of products. There’s really a lot more specific reasons why people get online. Everyone of them is an idea for a product/service/website. Most likely there’s already someone out there in the same niche doing the same thing. The question is not how many competitors are there but how saturated and fulfilled are each web user’s reasons/needs.

Differentiate by presenting alternate solutions. Or stand on the shoulders of giants and improve existing services/websites even more. Learn to do some clever marketing and you should do fine. Cut your losses early by quitting when you’ve lost the passion or will to work hard. Because one rarely gets profitable or influential without interest or perseverance.”

Juliani’s Adsense Campaign – An Analysis

Juliani advert

Juliani's advert

While surfing the web, I was very intrigued to see a Google Adwords advert of Juliani. As an Internet lover, this excites me! It is good to see that the ‘net has penetrated the country so much to the extent where musicians take out Google Adword ads! Nice, eh?

So I clicked the advert to see what, exactly, Juliani wanted to say. I was a little disappointed to see that the link led to Juliani’s profile on Google+. What does Juliani stand to gain by having his adverts lead people there?

  • He obviously will get his ads out on the big Internet and people will see them
  • People may watch the two music videos on the Google+ profile
  • He might get more fans/followers on Google+ (but keep in mind that relatively few people use Google+ in Kenya)

Now let’s think about this rationally. Was it really effective online marketing to have the adverts lead to a Google+ profile? I would argue that this, in fact, is a big mistake on Juliani’s part. Why? In my opinion, the return on investment is too low to be justifiable.

Think about it. Every single time that advert is clicked, Google charges a certain amount. So when I clicked that advert, Juliani paid Google. Now, Juliani is good at what he does and so he is fairly popular – how many more people clicked the ads? It is very easy for the costs to Juliani to skyrocket.

What is he getting out of it?
Before I saw the link, I already knew about and loved Juliani. I went to his Google+ profile, watched the videos and left. That’s just about as much as you can do. In my opinion, the purpose of marketing is to earn you money – directly or indirectly.

Juliani’s advert should have led to some sort of “call to action” which has a measurable relationship to something that can earn Juliani some money. Where can we buy his music online? When is his next concert, and where can I get a ticket? The sad thing is that Juliani already has a pretty good website which answers these questions. You can even buy his music online right now!

Why not link elsewhere? Is it really prudent to pass up an opportunity to show potentially thousands of people that they can purchase your music online?

Who made the decision to link the advert to Google+? Why not Facebook or Twitter – where I imagine many more Kenyans reside? What is the purpose of Juliani’s own website if not to be the center of his online marketing efforts?

A lot of people think that social media is the end all be all. No! It is not about getting more fans/followers. It is about placing your self/business in a position where you can easily and conveniently communicate and engage with your market so as to further your goals. As a business, the centre of all your online activities should never be on twitter or facebook, it should be on your own website. Social media is meant to engage with and funnel people to your website.

What should have Juliani done?
He should have created a custom landing page on his own website where those people who clicked ont he advert would be directed to. On this custom page, people would:

  • be given information on who Juliani is
  • be given the opportunity to follow Juliani on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (it makes no sense to limit their interaction to only one network)
  • be given the opportunity to buy Juliani’s music online
  • be showed where to keep up to date on Juliani and his upcoming events

I would go as far as saying that right now Juliani is needlessly losing money!

The American Government is Trying to Ruin the Internet … and Can Affect us in KENYA!!

In case you haven’t heard, PIPA (PROTECT Intellectual Property Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) are bills working their way through the US Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. They both propose giving the USA government the power to censor web sites in much the same way that China, North Korea, and Iran censor web sites today. [Read more to learn more]

Why is this important to Kenya? Sadly, many of the companies that “control” the Internet are based in the USA. This means that the above pieces of legislation will affect these companies and they, in turn, will affect everyone in the world directly or indirectly.

The US also controls the top-level domains (.com .net), so websites on those domains would be affected. .com and .net are administered by Verisign which does come under control of US laws.

Some of our favorite websites (google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, twitter.com etc) are at the risk of being shut down if these bills go through.

Please watch the video below to learn more:

Here’s an infographic that explains it all:

Behind SOPA: What It Means for Business and Innovation
Via: Business Insurance Blog

Here’s an extremely detailed article that describes the dangers of these horrible American bills: The Definitive Post On Why SOPA And Protect IP Are Bad, Bad Ideas

What can you do to help stop this?
Sadly, as Kenyans, there is little that we can do. Basically, you need to spread awareness about this. Let everyone you know who cares about the Internet know about this impending doom. America needs to know that they are trying to fuck up the Internet for everyone.

If you can call/write to the American embassy to voice your opinion it might help.

Sadly, those who can help directly are American citizens who must contact their congressmen/women to fight this.

StarCraft 2 Taking Root in Kenya

Something exciting: the most professional-looking and run StarCraft 2 tournaments in Kenya just came to a close, the Safari Cup #3.

We take this opportunity to all the players and the organisers of that tournament. Kudos to them all. We hope that everyone who took part had a lot of great fun.

For those who have no clue what StarCraft is:

StarCraft is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The first game of the StarCraft series was released for Microsoft Windows on 31 March 1998. With more than 11 million copies sold worldwide as of February 2009, it is one of the best-selling games for the personal computer in history.

Many of the video game industry’s journalists have praised StarCraft as one of the best and most important video games of all time, and for having raised the bar for developing real-time strategy games. StarCraft’s multiplayer is particularly popular in South Korea, where players and teams participate in professional competitions, earn sponsorships, and compete in televised tournaments.

Right now in the developed world, StarCraft is very very hot and is helping to grow the worldwide competitive computer gaming scene. It has seen the scene grow immensely in the last year, with huge tournaments being held monthly and extremely large corporations taking part as sponsors (think Intel, AMD, Nvidia, CocaCola etc).

This is why I feel that the growth of StarCraft in Kenya is important for several reasons:

  1. It puts Kenya at the forefront amongst ‘developing’ nations. We are among the first of these nations to have professional competitive StarCraft.
  2. Our youth are able to engage in a positive activity that may lead them to earning quite the living (the highest earning players worldwide this year clocked in more than $200,000 and this is only going to rise)
  3. It markets our country: as a tourist destination; and as a tech-savvy place ideal for outsourcing IT services to. Both of these are things that our government is trying very hard to market Kenya as.

I do hope to see StarCraft grow bigger and bigger in the country.

Unrelated interesting fact
The Naivasha Jaza Resort was one of the sponsors of the Safari Cup #3. Through this modest sponsorship, they got unparalleled international exposure and have reported that they got quite a number of international inquiries when the Safari Cup was noticed prominently in the StarCraft community. Is this something that your business may like to experience? Talk to kalongo.com!

Find A Small Problem, Provide A Simple Solution

Here’s the story of a young guy in Mexico who started his own small business immediately after college and has now moved from his bedroom to his own office, bought furniture, computers and has a substantial amount saved up.

He studied mechanical engineering in uni and after graduating, he decided to start a small business since he had some experience building websites. He noticed that small business owners wanted to do online marketing but they had little idea of how to do it. So he started offering a very simple service of charging companies to handle their Google Adsense (Google’s advertising product). In as little as 4 months, he had achieved impressive sales.

Sounds nice and simple, eh? That’s the moral of the story. Sometimes we try to think up these elegant and complex business ideas when all we need to do is find a small problem and provide a simple solution.

Come on, this is something you can do, right now. What are you waiting for?