I’m with Google

A Kansas startup named Kozoru has been making big claims about how it’s going to revolutionize internet searching for about a year now, while also bouncing between putative business models. At the Web 2.0 conference in October, the company’s founder, John Flowers, told reporters that the company was shifting from “a web-based question-answer search engine” to one geared for “to instant messaging and mobile devices.” He also mentioned that he “hopes to sell the technology to an as-yet-undiscovered business partner.”

Then, in early December, Flowers, who describes himself as “Futurist, Strategist, Technologist, Visionary & Polymath,” wrote a rambling, self-indulgent “life meditation” on his blog about the failure of others to grasp the brilliance of Kozoru technology. A meeting with Apple earlier this year, for instance, ended like this: “We showed how we can answer questions against the Apple KB [Knowledge Base] and we were carefully and silently ushered out of the room at great haste, with little or no return phone calls … When I think back about what we did wrong, I am presented with the very real possibility we did nothing wrong technically, but that our solution – because it would replace an entire team of language and search experts (all using Verity to index their content) – was considered frightening to this team of people.” He goes on to talk about a more recent meeting with Google: “Everything we saw and heard and felt seemed like we were getting along great with everyone there. Everything, that is, until three weeks ago when – without warning – they stopped responding to e-mails or returning phone calls.”

Now Flowers has a new post, called “Banned by Google,” that’s attracting attention and sympathy. He says that “out of nowhere” Google has banned Kozoru “from using their system to show them how you make search better.” He implies that Google is seeking to squash his technology because it would deliver “more authoritative, more relevant and better” results than Google’s engine but that Google “couldn’t decide how or if [the] results were able to be monetized — after all, less results means less space for ads and so forth.”

I think I’ve proven that I’m able to think the worst about Google when necessary. But I’m going to draw the line here. If I were Google, I wouldn’t return this guy’s calls either. A crank is a crank.

12 thoughts on “I’m with Google

  1. Greg Linden

    There was an article in the Johnson County Sun in July 2004

    that certainly didn’t raise my confidence in Kozoru or its technology. Here’s some excerpts from the article:

    The fundamental paradox, as Flowers puts it, is that computers are really good with math but really bad with language. Flowers struggled with this dilemma through a stint working for Microsoft

    “Then I gave up, frankly. January 2003, I said the heck with it. Technology was no longer interesting to me, and the really hard problem that I wanted to solve is unsolvable,” Flowers said.

    Flowers, who holds degrees in English and philosophy, spent the next few months writing books and screenplays … In February of this year, Flowers came up with an answer and came back to the states to put it to work.

    After translating more than 980,000 words in the English language into codes of ones and zeroes, Kozoru’s first objective will be to establish a knowledge base. To do this they will first turn to the most objective source for language information, the dictionary. After establishing that system, they will incorporate the most objective source for historical information, the encyclopedia.

    Flowers said he hopes to have the initial Kozoru prototype developed in the next nine to 12 months.

  2. S

    “If I were Google, I wouldn’t return this guy’s calls either. A crank is a crank.”

    Too right. Still, I figure this is going to help reinforce the whole “Google is so evil” message that I really do think is growing stronger. He may be a crank, but there’s a lot of (slightly questionable) people out there who won’t see it that way.

  3. Lone Ronin

    I actually agree with much of what you are saying here, except for the part about me being a ‘crank’ — which seems a bit unfounded (I don’t think I even know you enough for you to ascribe this word to me).

    If you go back over the last several “Life Meditation” posts, I do talk a lot about how I like Google, I only say I wish they’d call back.

    I’m not some new person who has never been through an acquisition before. This is my 4th real company and I’ve had two reasonable exits. I’ve personally never dealt with the behavior I’m seeing from Google (i.e. being adored and then ignored).

    Interestingly enough, they did call back today and we had a good conversation. They are not upset or angry with my posts and the person I spoke with (Megan) seemed to appreciate my position, even if she didn’t agree with my open source way of sharing it with the readers of my blog.

    P.S. All blogs are self-indulgent, even yours. Duh.

    And, by the way, I love the Google Ads on your site. :)

  4. Peter Fasillo

    I’m not disagreeing but how did you determine that he is a crank? Did you ask Google what their concern is, if so, what did they say? Your post got prominant linkage in a few places, so your writing is being considered somewhat important, since you attack this person on such a personal way, you should explain your reasoning.

  5. Nick

    Peter Fasillo and “Lone Ronin” (aka John Flowers): Fair enough. I based the crank charge on three entries on Flowers’s site about his dealings with Google, the two I described and linked to in my post and a third about a particular Google employee, which I found at best patronizing and at worst a little creepy. I also based it on Flowers’s description of himself – or his Lone Ronin alter ego – as “Futurist, Strategist, Technologist, Visionary & Polymath.” Now, since I posted this entry, Flowers has removed the “Futurist, Strategist…” line from his blog, and he has graciously linked back to my blog. So maybe he’s more of an eccentric than a crank. Still, though, his method of doing business seems pretty crank-y, and he shouldn’t be surprised that Google’s keeping him at a distance.

  6. Broward Horne

    I had the same thing happen to my program, MemeMiner. Within 24 hours of posting a link to Slashdot, apparently the load of several hundred users drew Google’s attention to my use of the Dejanews.com url API, and the API was changed to include a re-direct that broke my program.

    I alter my program to match the re-direct, but now Google traps out “excessive usage”.


    I actually don’t care that much, but it would be nice if we could get some honesty out of Google about it.

  7. Peter Fasillo

    We should make up our mind based on data, and factor out your personal opinion of this person you’ve never really met. Maybe we need more visionaries. Maybe his software is worth something, and maybe his explanation, that Google has a disincentive to make a better search is actualy a valid point [I think it is.] Anyway, thanks for having an open mind about this.

  8. Shane Elliott

    Sorry, I find little factual information in this opinion piece that the man you speak of is a “crank.” In fact, when I read this it came out of left field for me. Sure, he seems a bit odd and eccentric, but if what he says is true about his meeting with Google, then they are in the wrong, and you have presented nor hinted at anything that would suggest he’s misled us or is lying about what actually happened with Google.

    I am not going to blindly support him, because I find his original post to be lacking details, but at the same token I’m not sure how you can just label him a crank and side with Google unless you have some of the details that are lacking from the entire story.

  9. Mike Reynols


    Kozoru had something going for them in the beginning, but it looks like a power hungry dictator with too much control has caused a good thing to go sour. It’s a shame too; we all could have found some benefit in what they had to offer.

    What’s more, I seriously doubt that John Flowers reads your stuff on a frequent basis. Mr. Ego (Created his own wikipedia page) probably looked at your stuff a few times and may have even subscribed to your RSS feed, but I have a hard time believing that this guy does anywhere near what he claims to have done. Fabrications on small bits of truth; that’s what I think.

  10. Lone Ronin


    I may be an egomaniac (I’ve been called that and worse before), but at least I don’t program in Java and Delphi or use Windows.

    Seriously, what makes you think I wrote my own Wikipedia entry? The logs show an originating page from IP Address, which ARIN lists as “SBC Internet Services – Southwest SBCIS-SBIS-6BLK” And, even though that is in KCMO (rback1.ksc2mo SBC068093178000031215), I’m in KANSAS, not Missouri. My guess is someone I know wrote it, I do – after all – have actual friends.

    Additionally, I didn’t even see or edit the page until someone showed me the graffiti on it, which I deleted and I decided to add a photo.

    Check the logs: John Flowers History

    And, not to just beat this to death, but how can I destroy a technology I helped create? Even more to the point, why would I?

    You talk about how I claim to do more than I actually have. Perhaps you should learn to use a search engine (like Google) and do a search on me before you incorrectly call me out on something.

    P.S. Comma, dumbass.

  11. Mike Reynols

    Hmmm… I see your post, but all I hear is “cranky”, “cranky”, whine, “cranky”.

    Seriously man. Stop using the entire internet as your personal rant board. It’s plain and simple. You can either spend all your efforts bolstering your ego(which must take hours out of your day), or you can sell a company (which may actually have something worthwhile).

    Which is it gonna be?

  12. Billy

    The link below may help shed some light on Mr. Flowers (hint: Nick likely had it right, in fact, “crank” may be too nice). By the way, word in KC is that Kozoru has gone under. Guess it’s back to Thailand for some more meditation.

    Pitch article

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