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Google’s Chief Works to Trim a Bloated Ship (nytimes.com)
94 points by zt 1264 days ago | 33 comments



This is off-topic and doesn't address the actual content of the article, but... "Trim a Bloated Ship"? That metaphor could use some work. How does a ship bloat? And wouldn't a bloated ship float pretty well? If you use the common meaning of trim (honestly, how many mariners read the NYT?), isn't cutting bits off a ship a bad thing?

I guess it could be worse. I'll give thanks that Thomas Friedman didn't write it.

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It means it has too much pork. They should trim the fat so they don't have as much red tape. Once they're on track, it'll be full steam ahead and smooth sailing.

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He is certainly shaving the google watermelon, thats for sure!

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At least one. Trimming is also the term we use when adjusting the ballast or cargo so the ship floats differently in the water. Never heard of a bloated ship before.

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"A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."

--George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language", 1946 (emphasis added)

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See also:'trimming sails' as it relates to sailboats.

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Well...a bloated ship won't sail well. Galleons held plenty of cargo but were slow and unwieldy.

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mixing metaphors isn't the end of the world. "bloated" is used metaphorically so often only the "ship" part strikes me as non-literal.

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The risky part is driving people away from Google products and services via uncertainty. Is now the time to put all your eggs into the Google Voice basket? Buy a bunch of Chrome PCs? I understand why they have to do it but it will definitely cause some people to adopt more of a wait-and-see approach.

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This is what Microsoft understands that Google doesn't. Your platform users come first, before anything else. Microsoft assured that their platforms were good because they used their own platforms themselves. For eg. all Microsoft windows software would use the same API's that third-party developers would use.

You look at Google and for them the platform and developers are secondary. API's are not only an afterthought (such as in Google+) but they are something that other people use, not Google.

They kill services and API's because they don't need them and it doesn't effect them - but it does effect the users. I can still run SimCity or Test Drive on Windows 7, which makes me, as a user, confident that Microsoft will never throw me under the bus. This means that if you are an IT manager, you can make multi-million dollar purchasing decisions knowing that the technology will still be around and supported since Microsoft use it themselves.

Google could kill any API, and they have, and it doesn't impact themselves because they don't use these API's themselves, but they are asking developers to.

Google will never become the Microsoft of the web until they start using their own API's and until they start respecting their customers with long-term support.

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Yegge, is that you?

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That's a good point, but I don't think that'll be a significant psychological effect in practice. Terminating less popular services (like Buzz) early in his reign doesn't make me doubt their ability to follow through with products like Google Voice or Chrome PCs. I think it's more likely to have an opposite effect: it shows good judgement.

Things may change and a formally-promising product may start looking grim. At that point this decision may make that product's future seem more uncertain, but I'd expect uncertainty to be dominated more by the product's poor performance/grimness.

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Depends who the alternative is, startups are generally far worse when asking this question.

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The only way to get real focus in a company is to kill projects. It's not pretty and it pisses the people off who were working on those projects. But it is absolutely necessary to get focused and start making a few great things instead of lots of OK things.

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In the short term yes. But once they get past killing all the current cruft we will see fewer products being supported for longer.

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This could mean a lot of potential opportunity for start-ups. If Google is shedding products because they don't fit with their core mission or business requirements, those might be some great areas to get into for different/smaller companies.

In the end, they will probably focus on general purpose products with super large user bases (docs, maps, email, android, social network, offers, payments etc). Around those, will still be a big ecosystem for other companies.

I'm curious if products like SketchUp, Picnik, Desktop and Orkut will also be sunset soon.

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I think SketchUp is too important for getting 3d buildings into Maps. Picnik is being used for photo editing in Google+. Desktop has already been killed. Orkut...No idea. My guess is Orkut will be around in the short term but will get replaced with Google+ in the next couple years.

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"Trimming a bloated ship" made me immediately think of layoffs. Then I read the article, and the tone was quite different, it looks like he's just re-focusing efforts and killing unpopular projects.

IMO, "Me Too" products only make sense if you have the valid hope to be able to offer something better than the existing products. Gmail for example was vastly better than any existing popular browser based email client. Facebook is sufficiently "good" and hard to improve further, so I'm afraid Google will have a hard time coming up with something that will convince people to make the switch.

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Speaking personally as an avid Google+ user, I think that while it's fair to compare the two (Google+ and Facebook) I think they're approaching the same problem from two different angles. Google+ is becoming my source for meaningful posts, I see a lot more worthwhile content on Google+, whereas Facebook has become something I use a lot less because it's filled with the mundane comments of someone's day to day life. I think there's room for both types of posts and with Google+ focusing on the circles and who you share your posts with it allows you to filter out the noise and see what you want to see. Google+ right now, is in its infancy and I think it's unfair to dismiss it completely (you didn't but I often see people here on Hacker News doing so) as the uses of Google+ are still being fleshed out. Right now I would say Google+ is like Twitter without any character limits, but also like Facebook in that it has more of a focus on socializing. It's an evolution of online social networking in my opinion and as its use spreads into more groups of people it starts to really shine. For example, I keep a circle called "Tech People" in it are various people related to technology, some I know personally others notable tech celebs and developers. What I love about this circle is how I can open its stream and see various posts from people like Guido Van Rossum to Tim O'Reilly where they discuss issues in technology, their careers, development, etc. Then at the same time I have a circle dedicated to Art (I didn't want to make it too specific to something like photographers or anythingf) where I can turn to it to see posts on new photos from people like Trey Ratcliff, or interesting music from another user. The point is, Google+ has become a way for me to organize my interests and notable people that share these interests while also allowing me to socialize with my friends from my hometown by keeping a circle for them. Facebook may have groups, but Google+ makes circles a key feature of the network and that's where I think the true distinction lies. Google+ lets you segregate your various connections in life into circles and hinges on this fact, Facebook has groups as an afterthought and that's what I truly think divides the two.

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Fyi, comments that big are hard to read without separating them into paragraphs.

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> “We don’t want to be left with a complicated array of good-but-not-great services.”

Sounds like Steve got his point across.

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As much as we all like Steve, I kinda doubt he was the only one with that insight.

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From the biography:

Page came to Jobs for advice on how to be a good chief executive officer, and while Jobs’ immediate reaction was to say “f-you” to Page, he remembered how HP co-founder Bill Hewlett advised him in his younger days.

“Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It’s now all over the map,” reads the biography’s account of Jobs’ interaction with Page. Later Jobs came to Page with a sharp advising tone, warning Google was making products “that are adequate but not great. They’re turning you into Microsoft.”

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Most people would weight his advice more heavily than equivalent advice from someone else, though.

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Moving from an engineering/technology company to a marketing/product company. It needs to happen, or your companu becomes schizophrenic (like Google has been). But doing so without killing the technology culture is hard (I can't think of any successes changing this late off the top of my head). I hope he succeeds.

I do like Page's focus on "sit down and work it out in person". So much time wasted trying to do that over email.

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Apple somewhat with the transplant of objective-c and next step into apple?

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I thought about Apple, but I'm not sure it fits. The company Apple is today is the company that Jobs kept trying to build for 40 years. Proportional fonts and rounded buttons are the result of products, not technologies.

Had he had a weaker personality and Woz a more assertive personality, then I think Apple would have needed to make that shift.

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Well, I think the transition from the Apple II to the Mac was a little like that.

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Reading this article while I'm reading Stephen Levy's "In the Plex" is interesting. Stephen argues this is all part of Google's nature and that Page and Brin are convinced the "montisorian way" will figure it out one day...

I think he's right in many ways, Google definately doesn't work anything like Apple does, it'll just be interesting how Google comes out the "midlife crisis"

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Excellent point - if Page had a certain amount of power when a triumvirate ruled Google, what has really changed now that he is the sole CEO? Does he suddenly have immense influence now where he had none before?

It sounds just like a nice PR push really.

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In theory it's great since it should result in products that are more complete instead of the continuous stream of promising, but I got bored developing the tedious bits half-assery that has tended to come out of Google.

In practice, for every Buzz that gets rightfully killed, we lose an invaluable resource like Code Search.

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And why the half-assery that is google docs? That is something that with nothing but hard slog-work could be awesome... but it's like an awkard notepad.exe + features.

So far, the only thing they have succeeded in is search. Analytics is the best free analytics service out there that I know, with an interface like spaghetti. Adwords? Ugh... it's hideously banal to work with. Rant over.

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Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

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