The Old Google

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  1. #1
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    Default The Old Google

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    I don't really care how nice a place Google was to work at, but it doesn't surprise me one bit that behind the serious shifts in product priorities, from the death of Google labs to the button pogrom to the emphasis of MTP over drive mode et al, came after a serious shift in Google's internal focus. I liked the old Google better too.

    The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

    Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didnít feel like one. Google was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers.

    Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background. Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founderís awards, peer bonuses and 20% time. Our advertising revenue gave us the headroom to think, innovate and create. Forums like App Engine, Google Labs and open source served as staging grounds for our inventions. The fact that all this was paid for by a cash machine stuffed full of advertising loot was lost on most of us. Maybe the engineers who actually worked on ads felt it, but the rest of us were convinced that Google was a technology company first and foremost; a company that hired smart people and placed a big bet on their ability to innovate.

    From this innovation machine came strategically important products like Gmail and Chrome, products that were the result of entrepreneurship at the lowest levels of the company. Of course, such runaway innovative spirit creates some duds, and Google has had their share of those, but Google has always known how to fail fast and learn from it.

    In such an environment you donít have to be part of some executiveís inner circle to succeed. You donít have to get lucky and land on a sexy project to have a great career. Anyone with ideas or the skills to contribute could get involved. I had any number of opportunities to leave Google during this period, but it was hard to imagine a better place to work.

    But that was then, as the saying goes, and this is now.
    The old system certainly had its faults. As I recall, Android development was somewhat haphazard, decentralized and not pushing towards a singular goal in the old days. Adding focus to development was not without its own costs, and given a choice between the two...

    Betas could be short lived and killed, but recall back in the old days, current users were frequently allowed to continue using dead products for extended and generous periods before they were truly killed off. The beta label, too, gave you notice that experimental products were not certain.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Great read Mi An, and precisely why I don't have any Google accounts anymore, they have become very quickly, easily the most invasive software company I've experienced, and I don't like it one bit, very interesting hearing an insiders viewpoint revolving around the same concerns and dislikes

  3. #3
    hal
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    Very insightful, Mi An. I understand it is quite relevant to yourself cause you are an IT pro, am I right?

    Very insightful as well, it is Whittaker's perspective of Google vs. Facebook. But, even though I'm not an IT pro myself, and that I've never worked for Google, I'm gonna dare a side opinion of what's happening at Google, and I think that Whittaker's opinion is quite biased due to his own involvement in Google+. I don't think that the big picture of what's going on in Google is totally due to this Facebook affair. I think it goes quite beyond. What I think, in a nutshell, is that Googe is turning into a mainstream corporation.

    Google is not about web browsing. It's not about advertising. Google is a utility, and it's a commodity. To the point where the verb googling is as easily understood as a verb dating 300 years. Google has been identified, from the inside and from the outside, as a corporation made out of innovation. But I think that such a perspective is only due to the very nature of its products and the historical moment in which it's happening. I bet that Ford, Bentley or Benz were also considered as core innovative corporations when the internal combustion engine was "the tech of the day". Cause you know, switching to stagecoaches with no horses in front, well that mustabeen a mind bummer

    A corporation based in products so new, that for any practical case they didn't even exist as such before they were invented right on the spot, that they weren't even considered in a dictionary, is a corporation very suitable to guide its own mindset, and (very important) the latter especially not because innovation shall be all in this corporation, but mostly because there's nobody else to tell you whether you're doing right or wrong. But after that, when said products are accepted into a market, there is a stage in which they become manufactures, of sorts, if you know what I mean. And then there's gotta be a sizable portion of the corporation working "in the industry", not in the innovation.

    There's nobody else to tell you whether you're doing right or wrong. It is my personal opinion that this is where several of the Google's failures have an explanation. It's very easy to say that Google Wave was a bad product, but if any professional programmer had received such a project in his hands (with the funding that Google usually puts up front), would he have said "I'm out"? Google Wave didn't have a bad focus, but a bad execution. And next, somewhere along the line, an innovative idea has to promise revenue, and eventually accomplish. Or it's gonna die, and it's not different in any other industry.

    This is the second account I learn about, of somebody that leaves Google cause it's not anymore what it used to be. The first one is here. In both cases, I see the notion that "it stopped being fun". I'm gonna put totally aside the situation of people that don't enjoy the blessing of a stable job and therefore would accept one at Google even if it wasn't fun. These two accounts on subject are from people who obviously don't have issues finding yet another job.

    The nature of a large company like Google is such that they reward consistent, focused performance in one area. This sounds good on the surface, but if you're a hacker at heart like me, it's really the death knell for your career. It means that staking out a territory and defending it is far more important than doing what it takes to get a project to its goal. It means that working on Search, APIs, UI, performance, scalability and getting each one of those pieces across the line by any means necessary is actually bad for your career.
    This quote encompasses much of what supports what I think about Google becoming a mainstream corporation. Big corporations nurture a monographic resume and agenda on the employee. Salespeople enter being salespeople and retire being salespeople, and so on along the other departments. Territorialism pours out not just from the competitive atmosphere, but also from the assumed pride of doing something somewhere and "being the one in charge" (putting hierarchy aside, cause this is one of the prime features of the corporate ideology). I have worked in major corporations, such as those in automotive industry. I totally deprecate the PR lingo that prevails in big corporations, where the norm is not to make things happen, but to carefully cover the self footsteps just in case something goes wrong. In my earlier years, I learned to appreciate the straight-to-the-point speech of my drill instructors at boot camp when I did my time in the Army, of my field coaches back in my days playing football, of ambulance personnel and firemen when I was an EMT, and of the commoner personnel such as production and unskilled laboring hand in the industries I've worked. In all those examples, well I'm speaking of people with not very good manners, so they couldn't hide their intentions with manners The PR lingo can get anybody fed-up if it gets above productivity, which is a usual case in the big corporate life, and the more stairs you climb into it, the worse it gets. You know why do Microsoft and HP people cheerfully announce that they use email more than what they use the phone? Remember the old "memo", those mid-Letter size pamphlets that cluttered our desks with information supposedly relevant enough to be put on paper? Well, they never left, they only moved to emails. Big corporations endeavour email cause then communications can be put on evidence. Memos are written more on the interest of protecting the sender, than on informing the receiver. Pure CYA policy.

    Google is essentially evolving into a more mainstream corporation where the business-as-usual will overpose innovation. And it may seem bad to those who saw it from the inside as a corporation that mainly said thank-you to any contribution with increased figures in the paycheck, and with a policy of 20% of laboring time dedicated to think and rethink problems. But there will be a point where Google will be as mainstream as Chrysler, or Sony, or Coca-Cola. Besides, people from yet other industries are invariably getting into corporations such as Google, and they will carry along the good and the bad things of the big companies of other industries.
    Last edited by hal; 03-15-2012 at 04:38 AM.
    "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda. "Nothing is neither wear-proof, nor fail-proof, least fool-proof." - HAL. "Indeed, fool-proof inventions have been attempted, but don't work, fools are pretty witty ones." - Murphy's Law. "Even worse than a traitor, is a dumb@$$ with initiative." - Gral. Santa Ana
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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Thanks, Mi An. A really interesting read. It was in another thread that I pointed out that I sensed a real shift with the introduction of Google+ and not one that I liked. While this is another case of something that typically happens to corporations as they get bigger, what is most disappointing is that one had the feeling that Google could have succeeded at being something different. A corporation that found ways to make information profitable so that everyone could use it, rather than a company that made *your* information profitable so that everyone *else* could use it, complete with a requirement to let them stalk you.

    The worst part it, there's no place else to go. Everyone else wants to do it too. It's only a matter of time until Apple wants a piece of it too.

    I've always felt like Facebook hijacked the internet. Now I find out they hijacked Google too.

    I still have a Google account for my Android phone, but it has no real data. Nonetheless, I'm sure they will continue to stalk me.
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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Quote Originally Posted by Hook View Post
    The worst part it, there's no place else to go. Everyone else wants to do it too. It's only a matter of time until Apple wants a piece of it too.
    They did feel like a port in a storm for a while there. My hope going forward is that the Android product is salvaged by CM and MIUI and others.

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    Default Re: The Old Google

    I think Hook is right. It's the guiding imperative these days to SN and advertise. Everyone wants to (or is forced to) do it.

    Hal, I think I have to disagree a bit. I read that complete blog post yesterday and what I got from it was that Google, used to being the tech darling, was VERY upset at being usurped in the public eye by Facebook. It's not like Google wasn't making money and creating innovation; but everything became about SN and even more pinpointed advertising. Google's methods operated more in the background, while FB was literally in your face. I think it gets down to ego, and Sergey Brin in particular decided to focus almost entirely on pushing G+ to the forefront and making it the sun around which Google was supposed to revolve. I don't think it was a good decision.

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    Default Re: The Old Google

    In reality, what is being referred to as "the old Google" is more properly the "young Google". Immature, looking for its way, trying to understand itself.

    Now is the time for "old Google". It is becoming more set in its ways, has more focus. Maybe he just doesn't like that, but it happens to and with every corporation - eventually. It's exciting to be on the bleeding edge. When the realization hits that the corporation is now commonplace, and settled into a particular mode of operation, even innovation is commonplace.

    Also, he is clearly associating himself with Microsoft, so there is an undoubted change in loyalties.

    None of this is bad, it's just the way it is.
    I feel more like I do now than I did when I got here.

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  8. #8
    hal
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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Quote Originally Posted by Varjak View Post
    Hal, I think I have to disagree a bit. I read that complete blog post yesterday and what I got from it was that Google, used to being the tech darling, was VERY upset at being usurped in the public eye by Facebook. It's not like Google wasn't making money and creating innovation; but everything became about SN and even more pinpointed advertising. Google's methods operated more in the background, while FB was literally in your face. I think it gets down to ego, and Sergey Brin in particular decided to focus almost entirely on pushing G+ to the forefront and making it the sun around which Google was supposed to revolve. I don't think it was a good decision.
    Yes, I understand that part, but I think that the SN side of Google's issues is just part of a bigger picture. Of course Google is angered by Facebook's first place in many fronts, especially when people use Google to view Facebook results and metrics. While Google's attempt on SN has been poor. Whittaker's involvement in Google+ gives foundings to speak likewise, but my point here, however I must be miscarrying the discussion (again ), is that Google is evolving to yet another form of corporation.

    Google's core business is advertising and marketing, and I do agree that Google's focus is that of a vacuum cleaner trying to grab as much as possible, with no clear marksmanship (which is the model for mass media), while Facebook has achieved a solid model based on targeted marketing (a model likely to be achieved on social media). What makes the difference, is which of them attracts more and better customers interested in advertising.

    Anyway, what I posted has to do with much more than that. Google is losing the esprit of innovation, and that's a part of a corporation going mainstream, getting commonplace. It doesn't mean that Google will stop innovating, but it means that such a concept will stop working as the core sparkplug on the corporate life over there. It has to happen when a company faces that innovation has been done and now business as usual has to be sustained. And has to be sustainable. Many of the persons that pioneered into many aspects of what we now call the digital era, were lured by things like obsessions, fun, innovation, and kickstarted a whole new world of things done all by digital means. If many of these pioneers see now the corporations that offsprung after their initial efforts, pretty much they'd say that's what they were running away from in the first place

    I think that this recent article by Ed Hardy about Larry Page adds up to what I'm saying. But of course, feel free to dismiss my opinions if you people feel that the discussion is being miscarried
    Last edited by hal; 03-15-2012 at 07:00 PM.
    "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda. "Nothing is neither wear-proof, nor fail-proof, least fool-proof." - HAL. "Indeed, fool-proof inventions have been attempted, but don't work, fools are pretty witty ones." - Murphy's Law. "Even worse than a traitor, is a dumb@$$ with initiative." - Gral. Santa Ana
    Link: Palm resets

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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Quote Originally Posted by hal View Post
    I think that this recent article about Larry Page adds up to what I'm saying. But of course, feel free to dismiss my opinions if you people feel that the discussion is being miscarried
    You're doing fine. It's good to have some debate.

  10. #10
    hal
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    Default Re: The Old Google

    Quote Originally Posted by Mi An View Post
    You're doing fine. It's good to have some debate.

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    "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda. "Nothing is neither wear-proof, nor fail-proof, least fool-proof." - HAL. "Indeed, fool-proof inventions have been attempted, but don't work, fools are pretty witty ones." - Murphy's Law. "Even worse than a traitor, is a dumb@$$ with initiative." - Gral. Santa Ana
    Link: Palm resets

 

 

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