This is certainly a loss for Google, but the guy was there for 16 years, so it's probably just time for a change. I will cross my fingers hoping something cool comes next....
So one day I was stumped in how to make this signal useful and Amit suggested, hey why don't you take the square root. I was like, why a square root, it doesn't make much sense, nothing is getting squared ever, and he went up to the whiteboard and just drew a square-root-ish-wiggle-arc-shape and said look you just want something that looks like this. Square root, log, whatever.
I was like, oh... am I allowed to write code that doesn't make any sense? I thought I wasn't supposed to do that. And he was just like, well, just don't worry about it, you are overthinking it, you can take all the square roots you want, multiply by 2 if it helps, add 5, whatever, just make things work and we can make it make sense later.
At that point I realized that real world software engineering was much different than research had been, and also that this was going to be way more fun.
A few years later I did a PhD in Information Retrieval doing the same kind of things, like it was an art and always exploring new metrics and ideas. I do miss those days, but it is hard to find remote work in this area (IR/NLP)..
LOL. I can TOTALLY hear his voice in my head.
"Here's how you solve it: the angle of the pendulum from vertical is sin(x), which will always be small, so substitute x..."
"Wait, you can't do that! sin(x) isn't equal to x."
"For the purposes of this problem set it is..."
I had a lot of trouble with this when I first started physics. I was used to thinking of mathematics as Platonic Truth, the eternal mysteries of the universe rendered absolute. But it's not - it's just a model, and it's a model that we use because in most cases it approximates reality pretty well. Contrary to the advice of many primary-school math teachers, sometimes it only matters whether you get the right answer rather than whether your reasoning makes any sense.
A quick glance through it made me think there's a lot of tricks that are commonplace at Google but not mentioned in the text, but I'm not sure how many of them are proprietary, so I think it's safer for me not to mention them. TF-IDF, however, has a whole Wikipedia article about it:
This would make sense to me if the announcement included what he was doing next.
Often "retiring for personal reasons" is code for something they wouldn't want to put in a press release. Especially when the retiree is less than 50 years old.
I can understand his opposition, Google search results have been monotonically declining in quality recently in my opinion.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is a polite way to sweep him out of the way. It's pretty much a golden parachute if so.
This is of course all speculation and hearsay based on what I heard about him a few months ago.
Ah, the heady carefree spendthrift days of the dot-com boom, when employers provided parts of walls!
> Singhal loathed how, when his team was ready to roll out a change, Mayer would insist it pass through her UI review—a process that could take weeks.
> [I]n 2010, Larry Page decided that Google was moving too slowly. He wanted the whole company to move as fast as its Android and Chrome divisions.
> One impetus for this decision was a memo from a longtime Googler named Urs Hölzle. It reminded everyone that social networks, and Facebook in particular, had become a dominant force on the Internet. It said that Google was nearly blind to all the knowledge stored on Facebook. Hölzle pleaded with his colleagues to focus on social media, or else the company could be swept away in an oncoming wave.
> Page took the memo to heart, and put Vic Gundotra in charge of developing a social network for Google. The project was code-named Emerald Sea, after a Japanese painting in which a boat is about to be wiped out by a huge wave. Gundotra’s team built a prototype in a hundred days.
> The speed impressed Page. He realized that one thing Android, Chrome, and the Emerald Sea project had in common was that each had a single person in charge. He wondered if it was time to put one person in charge of search.
> Gundotra, suddenly vested with influence thanks to the Emerald Sea project, made it known that he did not like working with Mayer. With all her reviews and processes, she slowed things down too much.
> Page thought about the future of Google and its past. To him, the strength of the company was that it developed machines that could learn what humans wanted and then provide it to them. He believed that Singhal better understood how to make the technology that powered those machines. Page believed that made Singhal more capable of pushing Google products to their technological limits…He summoned Mayer into a one-on-one meeting and told her she was done working on Google search.
Emerald Sea didn't have anything close to a prototype that could ship in 100 days. At best, there were a few technology demos from individual engineers. Urs sent his memo in March 2010; Emerald Sea launched as Google+ in June 2011, with the +1 button (done by David Byttow, who later attained infamy as the founder of Secret) launching a couple months earlier.
Vic had few if any dealings with Marissa. She was moved to Geo in Oct 2010; at the time, Emerald Sea was a few scattered tech demos. The push to integrate G+ into everything Google didn't really start until after G+ launched in June 2011.
Larry was impressed by speed, but I think that his exemplars were much more Android and Chrome than Emerald Sea.
Mayer and Singhal had a very confused reporting relationship - basically, the engineers reported up to Singhal and the PMs reported up to Mayer. I wasn't close enough to them to know how well they got along personally, only that they both had very strong opinions and a lot of experience to back them up. It did make for some very slow product decisions as PMs had to get both of them to sign off on a change.
I'll admit that I generally dislike these books that construct a simple narrative out of anecdotes out of years of time, so I'm mostly responding because it's disappointing that this is the only top comment right now.
And (assuming it's true), believe it or not he's not the first person to resent someone bringing their expertise to bear on their baby, regardless of merit.
> In October 2010, it was made official. Mayer was removed from the top of Google’s search organization and put in charge of Google Maps and other “local” products.
> Technically, this was a lateral move, if not a promotion, because Mayer retained her vice-president title and she was, at the same time, given a seat on Google’s operating committee—then-CEO Eric Schmidt’s round table of top executives from the company.
> In reality, it was a demotion. Mayer was no longer in charge of what Google’s most important product looked like or how it worked. At Google, there was search, which generates nearly all of the company’s revenues and profits, and then there was everything else. Running Google search, Mayer was managing the most important product at the world’s most important Internet company. Running Google Maps, she was not.
I have a lot of childhood memories of my dad in the car messing around in the dark with physical maps only to find a torn page or inaccuracies, heh.
...But I also found Google Maps to be excruciating and effectively unusable on a mobile phone when I first tried it. I don't think I've actually tried using Google Maps on a phone since their last redesign. Perhaps that's what happened, they just switched from a design that was usable on a computer to a design that was usable on a phone, but I'd already given up on the phone experience so I didn't notice.
The value of any such improvements to end users was drastically magnified by the availability of Maps on mobile devices with GPS. And that shift required many advances to occur independently of Google - Apple and the Android OEMs played a key role.
> “We’re going to have to pick somebody here,” he told Page.
The feud was with Singhal. Page only picked the winner. I'd recommend you just read the book (the quotes are from chapter 6).
Many of the other folks in the OC are super-long-timers and would've been around when Mayer and Page were an item, adding to the awkwardness.
> One time, an APM brought a product to [Mayer] for review and she told him, “This page is too busy. What you need to do is look at every font on the page, every font size. And every time you see a new color or a new font size, you add up a point. I want this page below five points.”
> The comment about “five points” ended up in the meeting notes, and then it became a rule. No pages with more than five points.
> Another rule was: Design a product for the “98 percent use” case. For Mayer, the best example of a product that followed this rule was the Xerox copy machine. It could do all kinds of fancy things: staple, collate, copy, and fax. But if you walked up to one and pressed the giant green button, the right thing just happened. Mayer believed on every good product there should be a big button like that for the 98 percent use case, where if the user clicks it or taps it, they get a delightful, fluid, simple experience.
> During a product review, Mayer would count the number of keystrokes it took to get every job done. Too many, and it was back to work.
This is all good, but hereis the thing that many designers with great responsibilty doesn't seem to get: As much as there is one big button/search field etc, DON'T REMOVE advanced options for advanced users. Example: For a long time Google Maps on Android it would be impossible to look up a route from anywhere but where you were now. It was not only streamlined to start with current location but rather neutered so you couldn't. To add insult to injury it used to work fine before someone started their UX work :-/
I almost lost my mind trying to do this exact thing.
Or you can use Google maps and get screwed. Guess it works better if you're in the US.
I think Mayer's rule implies that. If you remove the feature entirely, you aren't designing for the 98% case, you're designing for the 100% case because the remaining 2% case is gone.
I interpret "design for the 98% case" to mean "focus on that, but don't eliminate the other 2%".
IMHO, it is so important to factor in the simple fact that ,by definition, 1/2 of the population is below average in intelligence...it's statistically so...
Thus, it rarely (comparatively) enters the mind of those in the left tail of a normal distribution that what they see before them should be easily "tweaked" to meet their precise needs...simplicity suffices...
Those seeking expediency feel the same...simplicity suffices...
Technically, half are at or below median, not mean. As an example, if I have a sequence with 11 values, 1 to 10 and 100. Mean is 15.5, which 9 of the 10 samples fall under. Median, however, is 6.
>Technically, half are at or below median, not mean.<
My use was colloquial, not technical, thus I think the use of "average" appropriately serves to illustrate my point...
If you are into statistics, and want to provide a similar example with sample size n=320 million(approximately), I'd be interested in taking a look at it...
Giving you an up-vote for tenacity...!
1 to 319,000,000 and 1 googol...
But actually, you could make the argument that intelligence is likely normally distributed, so the median and the mean should be close enough to make your statement accurate.
Thanks for helping keep me on my toes, my friend...we're all here to espouse views and defend them...sling ideas around...spirited debate...that's the beauty of this forum...
Palm once had a tap counter that had the rule: 'If any task on the Palm Pilot takes more than three taps of the stylus, it's too long, and it has to be redesigned.'
When did that change? I hadn't been there for so many years that I don't even know any more.
A questionable assertion.
The aggregation of those likes is more useful but at the individual user level it's a terrible signal. Especially since the entire social structure of the network is geared toward getting you to click like whether you actually like it or now.
This is along with local city news and news from friends and family that is all on facebook. e.g. One of my colleague's (and friend) kid was in ER last weekend so on Monday during standup I was able to tell the rest of the folks that he was out due to family emergency without getting an email from him...
In my local area NextDoor is replacing FB completely for any local recommendations, news, Alerts.
I.e. it'll never happen for you if you're home watching TV.
It's also necessary to be able to recognize opportunities when they come your way. I know I've missed many. My dad would say that most people don't recognize opportunities because they come disguised as hard work.
If you don't know your stuff, and constantly learn more, they're not going to respect you. No luck about it. You can't even "luck" into a manager position, let alone VP of search.
As it happens, I have. You are correct that there are tons of smart people there (in my less modest moods, I'd take myself as one such datapoint). What of it? That does not contradict, and therefore did not disabuse me of, the observation I noted above.
You might think there's some luck in joining Google in 2001, but that ignores a prior decade spent on information retrieval, which was VERY MUCH NOT a hot CS field -- it was arguably the opposite. It's not luck when you spent huge amounts of time on something you care about, but other people don't care about. And when you happen to join some like-minded people well before they were successful.
There are also plenty of brilliant people who also joined Google in 2001 who never became VP of search. Based on that, I'm saying there is NO possibility that he doesn't have extreme talent. You don't get to the top at Google accidentally.
Extreme success obviously involves both luck and talent, but luck isn't that much of it. Bill Gates got lucky in many ways, but he would have been tremendously successful no matter what. To a lesser degree, I'm sure the same is true of Amit.
If he wasn't viewed as a top student, well that means diddly squat and isn't surprising at all. Contrary to the grandparent, I would NOT expect the top students in the class to become the most successful. People who overoptimize for academic success are generally somewhat obedient... Early engineers who become VPs, founders, and other successful people are not obedient (whatever their other flaws).
This is a really old argument too, which your comment isn't really doing justice.
That's the part that most people call lucky. When the thing you spent a decade working on because you found it personally interesting suddenly becomes the thing everybody else wants.
You could imagine someone choosing information retrieval without any special insight... but those kinds of people usually don't have enough curiosity or motivation to get to the frontier of the field and push the boundary.
When you say "someone got lucky", you are usually undermining their success, by implying that their personal talents and hard work didn't have much to do with it.
It is possible to reverse your argument and say that you are undermining the success of the remaining 99.
I'm sure he had some random events placed in front of him, giving him an unique opportunity. But he executed phenomenally. And we should not discount that. Many have had the same kinds of opportunities and failed to execute.
You can be both prepared and have an opportunity and still fail because of factors outside of your control. Likewise, you could be unprepared, flail your way through a solution, and still manage to be very successful at the very end because the stars aligned. Maybe the market was super ripe, your competitors were going through some rough patches, etc.
Success stories are often carefully crafted with a narrative fallacy. I can think of several very successful companies today that would've been sold a long time ago had it not been for the potential buyer rejecting the deal. Or entrepreneurs who have one success, and then were never able to create a majorly successful big startup after.
I am invited to an interview for the #3 job at Newgle. There's an earthquake the day of my interview and it's postponed. While waiting to be rescheduled, Barry, the co-founder bumps into a great engineer at a cafe and hires him instead. I never interview. Newgle goes onto become the most valuable company in the country. I stay at Oracle as a senior engineer but never do much else.
Where exactly did I fail to prepare here?
The idea is you better be prepared when they start swinging your way. A lot of time the opportunity is there, but the person is just not ready, like there are job opportunities all the time, but a very few people qualify or are can even do the job.
A lot of opportunities open up if you travel some distance with the work on hand. They won't even be visible to you when you start working. They only come to you after you've done some work.
Sometimes opportunities are also 'next steps' to anything you do. David Allen talks about in detail in his GTD book.
Opportunities multiply as they are seized - Sun Tzu
No wonder Larry decided to create Alphabet, stayed out of all the office politics. I would take a bet that Jeff Dean and Urs Holzle will leave in the next year or two.
I was on both Giannandrea's and Singhal's teams at Google (I left last year). Giannandrea doesn't really have an AI or machine learning background (LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johngiannandrea). He was put in charge of machine learning relatively recently, IIRC less than two years ago. Before that he was doing Knowledge Graph - he came into Google through the Metaweb acquisition - and that technology stack really doesn't have much AI or ML in it. Google has tons of good AI people; if it wanted to, it could easily have replaced Singhal with any number of engineers with more AI experience.
I think the IBM's Watson, Wolfram Alpha, Freebase etc were more much visionary than what Google has done in search in the last 10 years. Even Bing's API's are much more useful. The WolframAlpha and Watson kind of NLP queries have been around for almost 6-7 years now. And Google still can't handle most of them. Whats the use of having all the AI experts on the planet?
Search should be its own company split apart from Chrome and Android. The empire defense game distracts from what Search can be,
Congratulations to jg regardless. He's very smart and I'm sure has picked up enough understanding of current AI techniques in the past couple of years. Disclosure: I've known him for 30 years or so..
Feels like a move to to clear the way for AI to drive the algorithm, versus running outboard and afterwards as a tweak/tune cycle.
Edit: Er, okay. It's not curious that an < 50 years of age superstar is suddenly retiring for personal reasons?
Well, to be honest, you still have to tweak and tune your AI model so that it works. Data speaks for itself. You have to run experiments, so the approach they have is going to be the same ANYWAY. AI isn't magical. It may just happen that both sides feel it is time for someone to take a new position. I think that's the better way to put it. But why this new guy not other seniors on the same team? That's a good question.