Google's secret club met with criticism, doubt

The first rule about Google's partner forum is: You do not talk about Google's partner forum. The search company's upcoming invite-only event--where the ability to attend is dependent on an agreement not to write about the goings-on--elicited some harsh criticism on Monday, and more than a few Web journals expressed skepticism that all 400 invited participants would keep their required vow of silence.


The "customer innovation conference," officially called "Zeitgeist '05: The Google Partner Forum," is scheduled to take place Oct. 25-27 and will feature speeches by senior management of Google, Yahoo and MSN. And it's not just the speaking lineup that's impressive. The list of those invited also includes high-profile members of the press and tech sector.

But unlike any other meeting of great minds, the event is already being met with criticism for its hush-hush nature. The rub is that all participants are barred from publishing articles or writing blogs about what takes place during the conference. Many bloggers have launched attacks on Google for being elitist--a complaint that had many in the tech community up in arms when the O'Reilly Network held its invite-only Foo Camp and even inspired an alternate camp which any interested party was welcome to attend. Others are calling Google executives naive for believing they can invite 400 people--many of whom work for the press or are avid bloggers--and expect them all to keep their lips sealed about what takes place.

There's no doubt there will be brilliant, lively, ground-breaking discussion taking place at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters during the conference. But most of us will likely never know what ideas get passed around.

Blog community response:

"There's something wrong and dirty about this. They benefit enormously from the open generosity of others. They've made billions of dollars and have concentrated a huge amount of power. How nasty is it then to not share that value with the people who brought them there, the authors of the Internet. "
--Dave Winer's

"There's no way this will stick. Someone will talk. Someone will blog anonymously. I hate to say it but privacy isn't respected in groups of over a few people. There is just too much incentive to break the silence."
--Kevin Burton's Feed Blog

"This will be good, to see if you can keep open discussions among 400 people, some of them bloggers, many of them press, somehow off the record."

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