Google asks the Internet for N-words — what could possibly go wrong?

What’s worse than asking the Internet at large to name your product? Telling them it has to start with N. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the stupefying magnitude of Google’s naiveté here.

I mean, right off the bat, asking the Internet for help with naming something is a losing proposal. Just ask Boaty McBoatface. Accountability is in short supply online, so as we’ve seen again and again, any poll or user-reliant measure without very strict controls is almost guaranteed to be gamed or spoiled if it attracts any attention whatsoever.

Asking the Internet to name the thing would have been worthy of derision as folly, but the alphabetical restriction elevates this folly to the sublime — the quixotic.

It’s heartwarming, really, to think that somewhere in this decadent and dissipated age, there is an entire room of people who thought asking the Internet for words that start with N was a good idea. God bless all ye pure-hearted fools!

But seriously, this really does argue that at some high level, Google’s team is totally oblivious to certain things. For all the talk about diversity, it says a lot that in none of the meetings in which crowdsourcing an N-word was discussed did someone say “You’ve got to be kidding me. We’ll have to hire full-time moderators to keep one word out of the running.”

That, or they were not listened to, or did not feel comfortable objecting. None of these situations speaks well of the process that resulted in this absurd campaign. I mean, it’s not really that big a deal, but come on.


At least it’s not broadcasting name suggestions live. In fact, if you look at the FAQ, the whole thing is “for entertainment purposes only.” So Google has just commissioned the largest list of variations on racial slurs ever compiled for, really, no reason at all.

My humble request: Someone at Google, please secretly record the post-mortem meeting on this boondoggle. Send to