Also as someone who never worked at Google but has been a pretty big Google "fanboy" (of the search, Google Apps, Android, etc) his waning enthusiasm for the brand as an employee seems to have taken a very similar dip to my waning enthusiasm for them as a user, though due to personal investment his dip was probably faster and deeper than my own.
I've loved Google in the past precisely because they weren't Apple and they weren't Facebook. It seems increasingly like they are trying to be Apple and Facebook rolled up into one, which (most importantly for me) sucks because I'm not a fan of Apple or Facebook and (most importantly for them) sucks because they aren't a very good Apple nor a very good Facebook, so they're trading in their old fans for the hope of new fans that probably aren't interested anyway.
Larry Page, I am disppoint.
100% agree. Two small decisions that enrage me for some reason:
1. Stealing the "+" operator away from searches
2. Making Google+ a (semi) closed platform - when I see a link on HN and I click through and it wants me to login to my google+ account just to view the article, I rage inside.
I always want better search, and I've always been happy with google. But now (for many little things like the two above examples) I really want someone else to come along and bring me better search. I don't like google anymore.
I could be wrong, but it seems to work for me.
Imagine the name Dan Northern. I search using (without square brackets)
I don't ever want, for that search, to see any results like:
But I do, sometimes. (Using different names, which I'm not giving here to protect a friend who actually does need protection.)
But Google has a handy feedback form, and I report it when it happens, and sometimes it seems to make a difference.
I would freaking love to see some of that feedback.
I absolutely do not understand this frame of mind. Why not just like a company for its products, rather than liking them because they're "not" some other company?
Life is too short to get caught up in the identity politics of corporations. Google is a business, not your buddy.
If you invest time/money in something, you want to have a good feeling about it. I want to know I'm not going to get screwed down the road.
I think of if like a relationship with person. Do you want to be friends/lovers with a thief/liar/cheater?
It's entirely possible to have good feelings about products, value the reputations of brands, and trust companies (or not) without getting caught up in politics. I like Whole Foods because they have really good produce, not because they're "not Safeway".
You don't have to choose sides in a religious war to make product judgments.
In my case for example, I just recently got bit by the fact that iPads are restricted to syncing with only one computer while I was developing an app for it. The iPad on its own is a fine piece of hardware, and is a generally nice product, but this one detail devalued it for me significantly. Can you honestly say this detail is completely detached from the fact that it is an apple product? I wouldn't think so, that move is completely expected from apple; it's part of the locked-down ecosystem you buy into with apple products. I actually like apple's products 'on their own', because they are well made and have attention to detail; however, I will [most likely] never again buy one due to apple's aforementioned politics, which directly affect my experience with their products as a user. Similar thing happened with Samsung/T-mobile and my Vibrant which they never even updated Gingerbread; awesome product on its own, but the service I got with it (part of my 'experience') was poor, and totally determined by the politics behind it.
So while it might be easy to detangle product from company for something as simple as produce, it gets a bit trickier when looking to purchase a longer-term tech product. If you're ok with lock-down, and/or lack of updates, that's great, Apple and Samsung products are totally awesome, they're just not for me.
By buying Apple products I'm, for example, supporting needless patent aggression. I may still choose to buy from them anyway because I find their products so good it's worth the hit, but I don't see any sense in ignoring a company's wider effect upon society - by doing so you're removing any incentive for them to behave positively.
A lot of people love a company X because it's "not Apple" or sometimes "not Facebook". I don't get that. It's doesn't make any sense to me. You like something; in this case a company, because it has/does/stands for/makes certain things. Why do people like X just because it's not, say, Apple. It only tells me you hate something and are picking their competitor because they are not Apple. Doesn't X has merits of it's own to be liked?
- I love Apple for OS X, iOS, iPhone (and somewhat the iPad)
- I love Google for search and Google Apps but not a big fan of Android (Maybe because I always had a Nexus One that didn't let me install more than a couple of apps because of internal storage, had a jittery UI, had to keep killing tasks to preserve battery, poor quality of apps and a not so awesome UX. If I had one of the newer Androids I may not be pissed at it.)
- I'm neutral on Facebook because I never share anything personal on it. I'm using it wrong. But that doesn't mean I love G+ or Orkut or MySpace.
- I like Microsoft for Office and their Exchange server.
To me I seem to have a liking for companies because of their qualities. My question is if anyone knows studies or psychological explanation why people like companies because they are NOT some other company (aka competition of a company they dislike).
That's just shorthand to say I love Google because of many actual reasons including but not limited to these:
I loved Google because they've had a true culture of open APIs and open code as opposed to Apple who does use and contribute to OSS projects, but on a much more limited basis and generally only when it has immediate benefit for themselves.
I loved Google because they haven't had a history of disallowing apps from their app store for goofy reasons (like they compete with their own apps, or they are written in a language Google doesn't like).
I loved Google because I didn't feel like they were overstepping their bounds in deciding how I should use my computers or devices.
I loved Google because I never got the feeling that they were trying to trap me completely inside their own walled garden.
To me, I see this as a cynical smear by Microsoft precisely because it is true and it is genuine.
As a Microsoft employee, I could have my own blog on blogs.msdn.com - but the signup process was more complicated than Posterous, so I don't.
Not enough people think about year 10. You know, that's when you're 10 years old as a company and you've got a lot of huge successes behind you. Kind of like teenagers when they realize that finding a job is suddenly not an 'optional' thing in their lives.
James' rant here reminded me of a similar rant I read (internally) at Sun on its 10 year anniversary. They had published a book all about Sun's first decade, and somehow excised the fact that Sun had built a workstation called the 386i. It emphasized the successes, and papered over the mistakes. The rant was about how Sun, who had kicked DEC in the nuts and had them retreating to the data center, was walking right into that same data center because Microsoft was starting to make PC's as useful as workstations. (there used to be a real distinction there.)
I remember thinking that somehow Sun had gone from bringing technology to the folks who could use it, to being all about being a more impressive Sun Microsystems. Sun's "Google+" moment was the day they announced they were going to merge System V and SunOS.
In my brief time at Google I was exposed to the folks who had become more about 'The Google' and less about doing cool stuff. I saw many of the same things James did, and I hear Marissa's 'call to arms' about Social and said to myself "If she can't say what it is, how can she expect the troops to achieve it?"
If you read the stuff about Mark and Facebook (and I have to believe that at least some of it is true.) the man is on a mission. And his mission was to make a new place in the universe that didn't exist before, he left it to others to figure out how to monetize it. Google did the same with search, make it real, then monetize.
But I think at some point the operating committee at Google looked at monetization of all the things Google has done and if you included search advertising the in the bar graph everything else looked like zero. And you ask yourself "We've got all these smart people doing all these projects and not a single one even comes CLOSE to the income that search advertising does? Give me one good reason I shouldn't just fire all of them?"
The sad thing is that I saw multimillion dollar a year businesses get tossed under the bus because they just didn't move the needle.
Ten years on, ask yourself, "What value do you bring to the table?" if you don't know, that is a big problem.
The new technology isn't perceived as a threat because it is not as good and will never be as good in the old market. It manages to survive in a different new market (because it really can't compete in the old pond). As it improves, it never catches up with the old technology - but it becomes good enough. That is, the old technology has also improved, and is definitely better - but the old market doesn't care for that extra improvement. You can see there are a few things that have to happen for disruption to occur.
One of the reasons for Google's 20% was to try to prevent this kind of thing, but it never worked out. Some business types redefine terms, so that "invention" is a new technology (make something), and "innovation" is a new business (people want). Google's made a lot of stuff, but most isn't wanted and didn't create a business. They aren't innovations. Closing down businesses that aren't making enough to move the needle is the classic mistake of disrupted businesses: Christensen suggests setting up separate, autonomous business units (even separate businesses; startups), with limited resources, that will get excited by small wins - because new disruptions start small. (YC is pretty much doing it right...)
However, right now, Google is fighting for its life. At the beginning, facebook didn't seem threatening - or at least not that threatening. Then again, I'm not sure that Google ever could win this fight; social is such a different kind of business. Perhaps the best that google could hope for is to settle back into owning search forever.
My only disappointment is that google didn't manage to transform its internal inventions into innovations. I'm not saying it's easy or that I could do better, it's just that unlike winning social, it seems possible... and who knows what new disruptions might have come from that?
As it is, Google seems closer to Xerox: one fantastic invention/business, invents the future, makes no money from it.
1) "However, right now, Google is fighting for its life."
Any company that is dumping 2 - 3 BILLION dollars into the bank each quarter is not 'fighting for its life.' Google is doing just fine at the moment.
2) "My only disappointment is that google didn't manage to transform its internal inventions into innovations. "
This is a huge thing, and its important to know that it isn't that Google didn't make money, its that Google didn't make enough money.
When I was their 2006- 2010 I saw projects that were nominally making a profit of several million dollars a year get cancelled. That is they were covering the cost of the group working on them and they earned their bit of the advertising pie enough revenue to make money. But it was 'nominal' since at the time Google didn't charge internally anything for using the physical infrastructure which clearly did have a cost associated with it.
So when they started figuring out their costs (which they needed to do if they were going to charge for AppEngine) they got a kind of rude surprise (a nuanced description of that surprise is covered by NDA but suffice it to say they learned new stuff about themselves).
At the time I suggested that rather than penalize folks who were running their product on infrastructure that was ill suited to them, they allow those folks to change the infrastructure, and I might as well have been telling the Church that the Earth revolved around the Sun. That is where Clayton would have said, "Guys, you aren't looking at this like an entrepreneur..."
For Google, this is optimizing its advertising reach and effectiveness. I haven't checked trends, but I'm sure that over time higher margin goods have began advertising online, and the competition for ad ranking has increased, bidding up google's price (they worked that system out well).
Overturning everything, in order to match a competitor, is a sign of something. As facebook figures out how to use its data to sell to people, it can target advertising more effectively than google's approach can.
I think facebook is a threat because you can advertise better the more you know about your audience - google's been gathering personal data, but they aren't in the same league as facebook (and I get the impression they haven't exploited it as effectively as they could). i.e. it's not really a contest between two companies so much as between the approaches they champion. Of course, Google is trying to become a champion of social; so the second issue is whether google can beat facebook at its own game.
Christensen found that incumbents practically never win this. It's because they are not incumbents in this new approach - here, facebook has had years of experience in social, of the technology, of the needs of people, how to address them, what works, what doesn't, and an organizational structure with values shaped over time around improving those issues, and synchronized to the rhythms of that business - and of course, astonishing marketshare and mindshare. Google beating them is like some other company beating Google at search. It's really hard to do, because there are so many advantages that an incumbent can build up over time.
It's different for "sustaining" technologies (which support the same way of doing business, same market, same values) - incumbents almost always win those. For example, if a new way of doing search came along, totally different from PageRank, google would likely still win that: they have habits of customers and advertisers; they have engineers that are great at doing it; and their whole organization is naturally galvanised around any such technology. Everyone involved would be excited about this new technology, because that's what they were hired for. They would probably also try to buy the competitor, paying whatever it took (which wouldn't be that high, since they'd be on the lookout and would catch them early).
2) Thanks for your insight on costing those innovations. Unwillingness to adapt is bad sign (i.e. change infrastructure). It makes sense: google's infrastructure is great. Excellent technically, and a world-beater when applied to Google's way of making money. It might not be valuable for other approaches, other ways to make money in other markets, based on other values.
I don't think Google is fighting for its life; people are not defecting away from search to use Facebook's search or Bing or whatever. Right now, Google+ is something like, "let's see what happens if we build a social component and integrate it with our products". It doesn't seem like much right now and it's certainly not killing Facebook, but that's not the goal; the goal is to have something in case being able to post pictures and "interact with brands" turns out to be important in the future. (Do people like ads? I say no; I avoid them at any cost. But many people like ads and like companies and like products. So we'll see how that goes! Look at the brand Apple has built. That's advertising, my friends.)
It's easier to understand if we look at past events. So let's take Picasa, for example. It was never as popular as Flickr or even SmugMug. Why bother maintaining it when it's clear that Google "lost" to Flickr? The answer is because it could later become relevant. Now that people are running around taking pictures with Google phones, sharing them with GMail and Google+, it's logical to have a Google-owned picture repository. That way, we get total control over the user experience and can make a really integrated product. Take a picture on your phone, instantly share it with your friends from your computer. Pretty neat!
Google Play is similar. People loved iTunes' integrated payment system, music store, book store, movie store, app store, and phones. Google had all the infrastructure for these things (Checkout, Music, Books, YouTube / Video, Android Market, and Android), but not integrated, so people didn't tend to buy Android phones to get apps and content. But, time allowed Google to unify these discrete components into Google Play, and now users have access to something very much like iTunes. It was a very slow incremental thing, which people aren't as excited by as "one more thing" style announcements, but now we have something that's pretty cool and will make Google products more attractive than they were before. It was worth keeping stuff like Checkout and Books alive, even if they were not exactly putting PayPal and Amazon out of business.
So today, Google+ is maybe not the best thing ever. But some day, it might be a useful piece of software to have, and so we have it. Right now, I think it's really great as an internal bulletin board that I can fine-tune to exactly my interests. It may not be as cool as Facebook, but it's still a useful piece of software that was worth writing. (I've never seen an internal bulletin board system that lets me subscribe to certain topics and people, after all.) Rather than ensure that everything we push is an epic success on day one, we're putting it out there for people to try. Some people don't like Google+, some do. I use it as a better Twitter; the interface is nicer, I can write more, and so I use it more than I used any "social" products before Google+. So there's one data point, though I realize I am not the average user. (Facebook never excited me and I didn't have an account. Google+ was interesting enough to entice me into trying social networking.)
Yes, management sounds a lot more excited about Google+ than I do, and that's fine, Google is not my company and I am more practical :) Worst case: G+ is a nice internal tool for Apps customers. Middle case: something that's good to have if we want to play with social ideas. Best case: a new way to use computers that people love. All are good.
(Remember Google Checkout? It was a nice foundation for Google Wallet. So it's worth trying things and having products that may not be the industry leader, because you can always improve them!)
Personally, I'm working on a new product at Google that will make computers do something that they've never done before, something that many people have wanted for a long time. I have no idea how it will ever make money, but we're doing it anyway because people will like it. And no, this is not some rogue 20% project. :)
So to summarize; I'm not upset with Google for creating products that are not overnight successes. Yes, social is where your friends are, and everyone is on Facebook today. Clearly Google+ isn't enough to get people to abandon their friends for a while. But it's worth continuing to develop, because it will only get better with time. I don't think that means the end of Google :)
By the way, I use G+ and like it more than facebook, but I also think that there is only one serious way for Google to differentiate it enough from Facebook to make it a compelling alternative in the long run: Make G+ the open alternative to Facebook; ie, make it THE platform on which other websites, services etc. want to build their social features, without being afraid that by doing so they'll contribute to the construction of a walled garden that, in the end, could destroy the (free) internet as we know it.
Google is already the biggest winner with the free internet, so, defending that model would be in its best interest. Trying to beat Facebook at its own game, on the other hand, doesn't make so much sense to me. By winning over third parties, on the contrary, they could make it so diffuse and useful that even "common users" will see a real reason to use it.
Google used to be about the open web, but with Chrome. Experiments and now the way they built G+ (need a Google account to view shared photo link?!), it is clear they have fallen in line with the walled garden "a little evil is OK" contingent.
> people are not defecting away from search to use Facebook's search or Bing or whatever.
You are perhaps missing the point a little.
It doesn't matter what people are doing, it's what advertisers are doing. The fact that everyone still uses Google search won't be worth much if advertisers are only interested in putting ads on Facebook.... Google would be running an expensive, but popular, charity.
I don't think the day like that will come, but it is clear that Google's revenue can be threatened from things like Facebook which don't directly compete with their products.
I think iPhone vs. Android is a good analogy. Google is never going to kill Apple and Apple is never going to kill Google. Google provides a phone platform for two groups: people who want the cheapest smartphone, and people who want the most freedom to customize their phone. Apple provides a phone platform for people willing to spend a good amount of money on a phone that works perfectly without tweaking. Android will never satisfy John Gruber. Apple will never satisfy Jon Rockway. So there are two platforms and they happily coexist.
Heck, Google won't even let me remove Facebook and Twitter from my unlocked Nexus One!
Facebook might become more profitable at some point, yes, but google's revenue was not threatened if they kept their spot as search engine and innovator.
This notion is laughable. The notion that Facebook will look into the minds of my friends and determine the answers I am searching for is also laughable.
The fact is that the only ads I have ever (deliberately) clicked on IN MY LIFE are ads on Google, because they were the only ads that were 1) relevant and 2) timely. Facebook is nowhere near getting #1 and hasn't a chance in hell of getting #2.
I've clicked many, many more ads on FB than I ever have on Google.
Because G+ exists it makes Facebook a competitor. Can I easily share my auto uploaded pics with my Facebook friends? Not at all.
Can I change where I upload my pics to? (Ie : not picasa) not at all.
Picasa is about lock in. Not about user experience.
I understand your frustration, and I too would like some kind of API to let us better control auto-upload. But "lock in" seems a bit of a stretch. You're asking to go out of their way, again, to better support competitors. When there's already a lot of support for them in place.
I think you understood the meaning behind my point, but I'd argue that they shouldn't even be in that space in the first place.
The very first thing that any photo-storage/sharing site should be looking at, after the service itself is working, is social sharing and interaction. Google are restricting the interaction on their platform (understandably, I might add) because they have built a competitor to Facebook.
that is what I have a problem with.
I am not saying Facebook is better, but you can't say Google is better, either.
There are 2 things I've wanted for a long time:
A search engine for stuff in my house, so that I never have to sift through drawers for hours ever again.
A cheap robot for cleaning dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the house. The current solutions are expensive and don't work very well.
I hope you're working on one of them.
I think we have these, right: dishwashers and washing machines. The problem is emptying the dishwasher and folding clothes. (I live in New York so I drop off laundry before work and pick it up after work, cleaned and folded, for about $9 a week. Yay.)
Oh, I got bitten by this before by Google. I was a heavy Google Notebooks user which used it until the last days. They stopped supporting it some time ago and now will be shut "anytime soon".
The problem I see with a lot of the 20% projects (labs, or microsoft Garage) is that all of them are wasted business opportunities stalled by the corporate aspects of the companies. When a new technology is created on the side (such as say, Wave), there should be a way to create semi-independent "startups" which tries to make bring the technology to the market on its own (making it mature,etc). Later, if it is good, Google (or Microsoft) could then buy it and integrate it to their stack.
Similar for Market/Play. I will never buy a POP culture book or video from Play, so stop flooding me with ads for them when I want to look for apps.
I predict that Google will win this fight and lose every fight thereafter. That seemed to be the pattern with Microsoft.
Funny nobody mentioned until now, but from what I've read, that's what happened to Yahoo. Apparently years ago they were so successful with the ads on their "portal" that not much more could matter. Maybe somebody has good links at hand? The similarities seem to be really big.
Because "we" (if I was a Googler) need to make the next big wave, or at least catch it. Search won't be the biggest thing forever.
Is there a reason you shouldn't be asking yourself that after every year you spent at a company?
But once you get to the top of that mountain, you really need to think long and hard about the next mountain you are going to go for. I've always been a big fan of a 1yr, 3yr, 5yr planning system where every year you think about those three time frames, yet as a core value perspective you need a different scale to think about things. Ten years seems to be a reasonable tech scale.
From where I'm sitting Google has been pretty rough on independent developers recently.
I think their lack of caring (or understanding?) indy devs is best summed up by the Google+ API. Read-only is understandable as they get off their feet, but you can't even get a user's profile stream (you can only fetch profiles one by one).
Now that the Buzz API is shut down I have yet to find a way to "share" anything programmatically on Google. How can you be social without a share API?
p.s. IMHO Google is going to lose in the email space soon as well, times are mature to beat it in simple ways, only protection they have in this space is that there is a big "optimization" part in email that is anti-spam and they are good at it.
G+ is a worse Facebook (and not in the worse is better sense).
Gmail is getting slow and the recent changes haven't been for the better. In fact it's hurt usability for common users for the (dubious) benefit of "power" users.
The unified google interface is rather crappy. I don't know which which i have to click/hover/etc to get to my account settings.
The only thing that, for me, would cause Google to "lose in the email space soon" would be the exact thing you say they are good at: anti-spam. I've started getting more spam on gmail recently but it's now only 5 or so emails a week out of thousands. Think about how good that is and then ask the question, "If it was 0, would that inspire people to go through all of the hassle to switch emails?" I'd guess that the answer for most folks would be, "Meh - 5 spam messages a week for a free email service is fine. I'd rather not change."
"I couldn’t even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, “social isn’t a product,” she told me after I gave her a demo, “social is people and the people are on Facebook.”"
Additionally, MySpace killed itself by pursuing the wrong objectives. Facebook didn't kill MySpace, MySpace killed MySpace.
Thing is, class divisions are a fact of life. If your goal is to pursue a more just society, it's worth trying to minimize them (though even then, you need to acknowledge them before you can do anything productive). But if your goal is to get maximal user uptake for your new social network, it's worth exploiting them. They aren't going away, and if you don't, someone else will.
A lot of Web startups have actually had the byproduct of significantly lowering class divisions, eg. Google gives important information to people who would not otherwise have had it, Twitter lets people organize who would otherwise have been divided & conquered by oppressive regimes. But to get there, they need users, and one powerful way to get users is to be seen as a status symbol that makes one cooler than their peers.
MySpace's ad deal with Google encouraged a site design that was anti-user. Facebook developed their own ad platform that allowed them to extract value from data that only Facebook has and that third-party networks couldn't get value from because it's so specific (like where you went to university).
But as much as the movies would have you believe Facebook won on "coolness", it won on old-fashioned better product decisions.
Once Facebook understood the appeal the site had to the general population, they realized that it would be better for them to create an ecosystem where network effects were optimized for the decentralized user base as a whole rather than the centralized subnetworks that made the site take off in the first place. At each step, they focused on what worked for the users at the time.
Google+, on the other hand, really did deliberately start out as an exclusive network, largely for people in the tech world, and it hoped to quickly transform into something with universal appeal. You can draw your own conclusions about how well that worked.
Google+ is only cool for geeks, if even that. I'm not sure what to do with Google+. The technical folks I work with aren't sure. The non-technical people barely know it exists.
So it's probably too early to tell if teens will use google+.
I think it's a mistake to blame this on ads though. I don't believe that the G+ crusade is being driving by advertising (though I'm sure it looks that way to people who assume that everything is about ads).
Because as far as I know, every service that isn't about being so great people would pay for it is about advertising and nothing else.
Erick Schmidt once said something like "we only want facebook to open their data so people can search for it, failing that, we'll find other ways to get it". It was clear from that day, that they were building a facebook competitor. Not because they were looking for new ways to spam people with ads (that's an overly simplistic generalization). But because they found it important to keep their existing business relevant. Independent of which monetization they were using. Even if google search was a paid premium, they would need social anyway. It's clearly not "about the ads".
Social signals are less valuable than search terms. Search terms very often lead to a direct purchase. Social is just another avenue, like TV, to build brand awareness. It's very valuable, but it's not search-valuable.
The competition was already doing this, Google was threatened. Bing had a deal with Facebook. Users were already using Facebook to look for information instead of Google. They tried to outsource social to facebook and twitter. That proved an unideal strategy. Social was too important for their business to rely on the good will of another company. Social is the future of search. Google saw this coming a mile away and got into social before they could become irrelevant.
Social is the future of search, this fact is independent of advertising. Even if Google had a different business model for their search engine. They would still need social. They didn't get into social because of ads, they did because search needs it.
Says who? The fact is that arguably the most hardcore googlers are here on HN, and I would imagine that most of us don't care for, and even dislike, social search.
That's not enough to prove that social isn't the future of search, but it's enough to think twice about it.
I think you are wrong. I don't think Google "spam[s] people with ads". I found myself and most friends to like Google because they have been exact opposite what was before, such as Altavista: one huge Las Vegas Board, where you were forced to see ads totally irrelevant (spam).
Most GOOG revenue comes from the front page search engine. You search for something. Therefore, you ask to be "spammed".
It's about your identity.
Google has said outright that their plan is to become an identity company. Google already knows everyone's identity (or have at least put extraordinary amounts of effort into probabilistic matching it). They're not going to stand by and let Facebook and Twitter own the login authentication process the same way Google currently owns the website analytics process.
Any user can create a context-specific throwaway identity on the net, and Gmail used to be an easy way to do that. But the identity that's very difficult to throw away is the one you've built connections with in a social network.
This is why they're hell-bent on pushing G+, banning pseudonyms, requiring mobile phone numbers, and merging user tracking data across all of their properties.
Google went from a technology company (with the goal of collecting and making available all the world's information) to a social media company (with the goal of collecting information on the unwashed masses). Google has gone from cool to dirty and I think we'll see more Googlers leaving the company as they slowly discover that fact.
Like the early days of the web, everybody can see that it will be very important going forward, but the business models it will support aren't fully clear yet. So it's a mad land grab at the moment in the hope it will monetize or be commercially leveragable somehow down the road.
For example, a Facebook valuation of $100B? More than $100 per active user? Come on. No matter how well you can target them, how many banner ads are these people going to click?
Facebook wasn't created for advertising so much as advertising was the logical way to profit from having that many people use your product.
Google certainly is motivated to compete with Facebook for that advertising revenue but their real motivation is just the user base which I'm sure they already have they just haven't been able to convert them to social users.
How many users do you think Google has? I'm not talking about Google+, I'm talking about Google products, in general, including search.
That's a rather bold claim. How many of those users see, much less click on those ads? I know for all my family (of which roughly half use FB), no one sees ads because I've disabled them. How many of those 750M are active accounts that represent real people?
Fact is, we don't know and it's their revenue that shows us... and they're far far behind Google in that respect.
What disappoints me is how much it has failed. I used to love Google products, but lately...not so much.
Too bad, really. The new Google is obnoxious in a "why-are-you-doing-this?", Facebook kind of way.
I think they will learn to their cost that trust doesn't grow back.
Google Plus Me should mean I can find anything of mine via the search bar. If I want to find a file on my computer, I should be able to search for it using google.com instead of spotlight. I should be able to do this even if I'm not on my normal machine.
It's not just desktop files. If I want to show my dad pictures of my trip to Cabo, I shouldn't have to log into Facebook, find the always moving Photos app button, find the album, find the picture.
I should be able to search 'My cabo pictures' in Google.
The omnibar should really become omnipotent. That would be compelling, cool, futuristic must-have UX. That's what Google Plus Me means to me.
Someday I may want to look up the stage Nietzsche's syphilis advanced to without that following me around as part of my advertising profile.
'People who enjoyed "Human all too Human" also bought Doxycycline 200 mg tablets' - that sort of stuff creeps me out.
Whether they're correct or not is still up for debate. Dropbox are doing pretty well.
Oh, yes they want. They also want to be your computer.
(Methinks that it would be vastly improved if they got simply got rid of the big clunky desktop widget engine. Possibly even got rid of the search box and just let you use a web view -- as you described above.)
But since Google would probably want to know the content of your documents to better target ads, the omnibar would eventually, probably, become the nightmare you speak of.
When Google started killing the "cool" stuff, I perceived (rightly or wrongly) the writing on the wall as far as attracting and retaining top talent. And they lost my semi-hesitant... "devotion". I wanted to believe they really did care about e.g. next generation energy sources, at a time when even our lame-ass federal government can't get its act together on that front. And Earth, Maps, various API's (Translate, for example), and the like produced fundamental changes in various environments and endeavors, both professional and hobbyist.
Now, sliding into "corporate", lame-ass Google. So sad. Perhaps inevitable; nonetheless, if so, then "just another".
P.S. As I reflect a bit more, I still have more respect for them than e.g. Facebook (manipulation) or Microsoft (domineering, monopolistic, and (perhaps resultantly) now fumbling senior management). But I fear the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction.
And yeah, this is just one random guy's observation. I guess I've added it because in the past Googlers (and "Google") seem to have occasionally observed and perhaps absorbed some of the collection sentiment expressed on HN.
There are plenty of colas that are +1 better then Coke but to take away Coke's base you'd need to be Coke+100.
The obvious solution is to stop trying to make a FB clone and do something else to get your ad demographics. I think they should stick with their core advantages and innovate in the vein of their own Adsense product:
(1) Users sign up with Google and volunteer their demographics.
(2) While signed in, Google tailors searches to them.
(3) Google gives the user a tiny percentage of the increased ad revenue. It's peanuts for most people so make it Google Play credit.
(4) If you're not signed in everything is anonymous.
Test run the whole thing on a smaller scale with Android users that already have Google accounts and (for many) credit card info on file.
Nielson families give up a lot of personal data about their viewing habits. This is rewarded with free cable, internet and cell phone service, heck they may even be paid. Even people that just take an hourlong phone survey about tv or radio are rewarded with $50+ checks. The reason market research companies pay this is because the data is extremely valuable to them and their clients. Obviously every web company wants to get that data "for free" like they do now but the giant tracking databases and all the personnel behind that certainly aren't free and create an adversarial relationship that can dilute your brand.
If Google makes X on untargeted ads and X+Y on targeted ads then it comes out ahead by offering Y/10 of that money to the user somehow.
Yeah it's peanuts so you make it Google Play credit. For some people maybe it's only one song a month, for others it might be one movie a quarter.
We all know Jobs was enough of a mastermind to pull it off; but was he that malicious?
After all, this is the guy who believed every computer with a switching power supply was ripping off the Apple II. http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power...
People at google say "don't be evil", you cant run business without being evil, google in its early days tried being the least possible evil, but as Shakespeare said: "lowliness is young ambitions ladder".
But the ambitions of MS were clear from start and they did not even care about what was evil, they wanted their supremacy all over. By joining MS you have come to a place that is more evil, more evil than putting ads or compromising slightly on privacy of users, look at the open source initiatives that Google takes, agreed google labs has been shut down, app engine prices have gone high they have dedicated some of their focus working on Social Networks, but which company would not want to have a chunk and share in what is hot.
By the way, what do you see on MS being done, even they are wannabe in their approach. free 90 days trial for azure and the sun will rise from west if they offer anything that is not free/freemium. The point i want to make here is
When you talk about privacy, i am sure you would curse facebook for privacy, won't you. The only reason that compelled you to leave google, was you did not get a project that you would like to work on, more geeky, irrespective of what the company gave you, you should have tried paying it back by being proactive in your efforts and pointing out the errors. I respect google for what it has built, i am sure the amount of effort it has put, the horizons that it has opened the initiatives it has brought remains unsurpassed, yes there is a tinge of evil air that currently surrounds it, but again as you mentioned Google learns from its mistakes, and rectifies them.
By joining MS you have done more bad than good, probably you will be given some hardcore engineering project, but you could have got them as google as well, with some efforts.
I disagree that G+ is an Ads play. It's a play for staying relevant on the internet. When you think about it, Facebook is a closed system. They want CNN to post articles into the CNN FB stream. They want people to read those articles on the CNN page (yes, this currently links to outside FB... that will change). They want to do this so that you never have to leave FB, and in fact if you look at the user behavior of 13-17 year olds you will see disturbing trends that this is the case.
Facebook is a danger to a free and open internet by becoming the de-facto internet. I concede that this is a stretch, but it is within their power to do so and from my understanding is how their strategy is lined up.
TL;DR: G+ is only about Ads in the way that Google needs users to serve Ads to and there is a threat that all users of the internet only go to Facebook and nowhere else.
People say this all the time without any justification. As far as I know, all content within Facebook that has no privacy restrictions can be viewed without being a Facebook user. Facebook has an API that can be used to both read and write.
Facebook is stingy with phone numbers and email addresses, which is a significant failing in my opinion. Other than that, I can't imagine a more open social network that allows users to control who can see their content.
Maybe the third time will stick?
Edit: Looking at other responses about his history I doubt it, it sounds like he previously worked in DevDiv (my home), not OSD (the home of Bing).
Microsoft just wants you to want their product. Google wants to know everything about you so they can sell you to advertisers.
More and more, to all companies, especially tech companies, we are commodities to be sold.
The conventional wisdom is that people leave big companies to form startups. If he did that, Whittaker wouldn't be able to do anything that he wants to do- startups do not have the resources for large-scale "big thinking" and idea testing. They have a laser sharp focus on one thing. It sounds like Whittaker has no interest in that.
He used to work for the Developer Division, was Architect for "Visual Studio Team System – Test Edition", and Chair of the "Quality and Testing Experts Community at Microsoft", so going to MS isn't such a stretch.
Microsoft is also not afraid to fail or try random things, which makes it much like the "old Google" in this blog post.
My belief is that Microsoft will improve, but I would not go there because they already have their technology goals right. (I would go to Microsoft as an intrapreneur trying to fix their technology/innovation story).
 If I have my James Whittaker's straight, he worked at Microsoft before going to Google. If I don't, he probably didn't.
I think you mistook Google Labs with Google Research, Google Labs was sort of a playground for engineers more than a research division. Google Research is as serious as an academic division is inside a big company.
I'm not in any way affiliated with any of both, though I know people who interned/work at both. In fact I would take Microsoft Research over Google Research if I had to choose a "favorite" one... but I'm just clearing a common misconception with the Google Labs closure and people thinking Google closed their entire research division.
Alive, yes. Kicking?
I figured out what was bothering me about the comparison between Google Research and MS Research in light of the shutdown of Google Labs. The Google Research site is essentially a bibliography for academics, Microsoft Research site has papers, blogs, and downloads -- in true Microsoft tradition, it is a BLOB not an RDBMS table.
Microsoft Research is clearly reflects a hacker culture, Google's reflects a culture where the idea that labs are not necessary to research holds sway. Google Research reflects an approach more akin to the social science of sociology, than physics.
Google has made accessing the world's information transformatively faster and easier. Facebook has made blogging more pervasive and closed.
I've got to disagree with you there. Blogging in general refers to longer-form posts than the average status update field on Facebook is comfortable for.
If you're going the angle I think you are, you could make the same argument of Twitter.
But Facebook is in a completly different category than Twitter.
Tweets are encouraged to be public. You don't need to fill in a form a agree to EULA to follow a link.
Anyone can compete with Google because the information they are indexing is public. Last “App” I did for Facebook required me to give them my cel phone number to access the information the user consent in giving.
As long as all the users are on one identity and sharing platform you can develop all the open social APIs you want but it's totally pointless. We need at least a duopoly and angry users wanting to share with people not on their platform for any kind of standards to emerge.
You're thinking ad money, ad money, ad money. And Microsoft and others are quite happy to feed that theory with there substantial PR budgets and lack of ethics. But I don't think that's what's on Larry's mind. I might not agree with his strategy, or particularly like Google+, but I think if you study the man you would come to the same conclusion.
At first blush, Facebook's got a stronger foothold in "identity, data, and a sharing protocol". At second blush, they still make less revenue/profit than Google, which in turns makes less revenue/profit than Apple. And it's hard to see how that will change without flying up into the stratosphere talking about ungrounded abstractions.
Facebook gets more buzz and is considered hotter shit because it's newer. It doesn't mean anything.
What does mean something is that Facebook can provide targeted advertising, and obviously an amalgam of Facebook and Google could provide the most targeted advertising. For instance, if I googled something about online dating but my Google+ account said I was married, the CPC/CPM on Adwords for my search should be different than if my Google+ account said I was single. If Google has any business sense, Google+ is about targeted SERPs and targeted advertising, it's not about vague abstractions that may or may not have anything to do with turning a profit.
Simply put, Google stopped investing in it's future through building entrepreneurship in its engineering ranks. This is bad for Google's future growth prospects, full stop. They've drawn a line in the sand "we're about ads, not technology innovation!" and that is where the company will slowly age and die.
Google is no longer about where it's going, but about how it ages.
He worked at Google but didn't realize that all that innovation, be it GMail, Android, Chrome, Search, Maps, Google Car, etc was paid for by ads?
I think "Google+ is a dud," has less to do with whether social is broken, but rather with human perception and branding.
Much the way Google owned the category search in peoples minds, Facebook owns the category social in peoples minds.
Google made two fundamental mistakes.
1. Using their brand that stands for Search on something else. The human mind is like wet cement, once a brand owns a category, that impressions is almost impossible to change. (Ever try to change someones mind from his political philosophies? almost impossible).
2. Building a product in a category that is already owned by another brand without positioning themselves opposite it.
This is classic... Burger King will never take over Mcdonalds market share because they are trying to convince people that they are better. Since the category is owned already, they need to claim, "We are different"
When it comes to branding, its all about human perception. Like the authors daughter said, "Facebook is where the people are." Even if that statement weren't true, the perception is ingrained in peoples minds.
A good example of competing with an established brand is Coke vs. Pepsi... coke was the real thing, original coca cola, so pepsi came out and said were for the new generation. Why be old when you can be young and fresh.
Avis didnt say we are better than hertz, they said, sine we are number 2, we try harder.
Dominoes didn't say we have better pizza than pizza hut, they said, we will get it to you faster.
Listerine didnt say we taste better than scope, they said, "the taste you hate twice a day."
This is branding 101.
A brand can only stand for One Thing. (a brand that stands for everything, stands for nothing.)
If google wants to compete in the social game... They either need to create a niche of social like twitter, foursquare, and pinterest did, or they need to use a new brand name, and position themselves opposite facebook, not claim they are better...
Big executives always talk about convergence, but the Human perception just doesn't work that way. When you combine two things, people assume you are compromising on quality on both sides.
When you separate things, people assume you do that one thing much better than everyone else...
Google owned the search brand because that was all they did, Search. The new ways of trying to get into other businesses like Paul Graham said," is a chink in their armor."
Just my two cents.
However I think G+ did in fact differentiate itself at the start. They made a big play out of how circles were there so that you weren't sharing things publicly all the time. But the nymwars hit and it went horribly wrong at that point. You can't sell a message that you're the champion of people's privacy and then kick them off your network for not revealing their identity to you. They basically lost all credibility as being differentiated from Facebook and became just "the same" as Facebook but worse because none of your friends were there.
Nobody believes what you claim about yourself, but they believe what others say about you. This is why PR is such an important element of building a strong brand.
I actually think what a company claims about itself is tremendously important, but not because people believe it, rather because it influences how people frame their ideas. It's like the public are viewing you through a magnifying lens and what you can influence is where the lens points. What is actually seen through the lens is then what you really do.
So claiming something about yourself that is authentically true and then behaving genuinely in accordance with that is quite powerful. But you can't fake it, you have to really do it. Claiming G+ is about privacy and then doing things like forcing real names and public profiles is extremely harmful (and not just to G+, but the whole Google brand).
Google has to figure out the good things that are really true about themselves and then talk about those. If they can't think of anything then they have to really take a serious think about where the company is heading.
It just wasn't good enough. I've had people tell me that they go to G+ to escape from the madness that people apparently post on facebook. This 'madness', as the person quoted, was simply the fact that people post more personalised messages on facebook. I've yet to see that when it comes to G+, (and to be honest, the only reason I still visit is because of the HN circle).
So I guess you're right that branding is a part of it, but not big enough. Google thought compartmentalising everything with circles would be the answer, but is it really? People complain about facebook's privacy all the time, and yet, when G+ came with better options, they didn't just up and left.
I suspect your perception highly influenced your experience. On that note, I also suspect that had Google done a decent job branding, it wouldn't have been an either/or choice... They would have convinced you that facebook is for personal entertainment but G+ is a utility for managing information and relationships... they would have talked to your existing beliefs about facebook and explained why you need them for a different reason, or why their solution makes facebook obsolete. By trying to win you over with " a better product" they didn't stand a chance in the battle for your mind.
For what it's worth, Apple's Jon Ive completely disagrees with you:
"...most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear new - I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us - a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. "
Now that Apple's winning, of course they want to try to convince you that different is bad, because different is the threat to their business. They don't want someone coming along and doing to them what they did to Microsoft and Dell.
What ends up happening is more often than not, they fail, fold, and move on.
Just as a note: since we have less history with Internet Brands, there are different rules, rhymes, and reasons why certain things work.
Bad UX was forgivable a few years ago, but that is no longer the case. Google has not figured it out yet, but with the web maturing, I am glad that they are trying to evolve to be a more UX focused company.
Google's recent UI changes are about branding, not UX.
If you look into the reasoning for many of the cluttered items, you will see things like "doing X would make it more readable/useful/etc for the general population".
Perhaps I am just an optimist. My fingers are crossed.
Google clearly has empireitis and that alone is causing them to grow into something that the google of, say, 2000 would look on and despise. But aside from that the incentives of being an ad focused company are harmful to what used to be google's core values.
The problem with any ad-focused company is that your users aren't your customers. Your customers are the ad companies, and your users are your product. There's less reason to make a product that people love passionately, deeply, and value greatly. There's only a reason to make a product that people use frequently. This is a subtle but hugely impactful distinction. It's the difference between a newspaper full of hard-hitting investigative journalism married to solid, thoughtful analysis and an run of the mill tabloid rag. When all that matters is how many eyeballs are looking at ads then it makes the most financial sense to maximize that at the cost of everything else.
Google revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-02-24/tech/29964449...
Microsoft revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-02-10/tech/29961217...
Apple revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-04-21/tech/29988935...
I know which company I would want to work for if I was interested in the opportunity to work on and be passionate about a variety of different projects.
It also boggles my mind that the Apple chart is pre iPad...I would love to see what that chart looks like now.
Whittaker reminded me of one of my over enthusiastic handwaving lecturers, very short on substance. Compare and contrast the articles written by Misko (Hevery) and Whittaker. I don't think his departure is a manifestation or representation of anything at Google, and I think it's telling he returned to MS.
In this regard, Microsoft's culture actually does a very good job of encouraging its employees to blog from the inside - I've never felt quite the level of direct engineer access and communication working on Google platforms as I have on MS platforms, even in cases where Google's platforms are actually superior. (Chalk it up to Google groups being a little opaque and Google product blogs being run by product managers.)
I can understand that he felt the need to leave because something changed for him and his attitude towards his employer. But I seem to remember the big statement someone made not too long ago that Google+ was the future of the company and if you didn't like it you were welcome to leave. I suppose he took their advice.
As for any meaning or message one could get out of this about the future of Google, Facebook or even Microsoft; I see very little substance. It's one guy explaining to anyone who wishes to know why he left Google. That's it, let's not make more of this than what it is.
My point; it's part of the process. Google's grown up. Do I like it? No.
The problem with larger technology companies is that technology don't give a s*. And it's fast. Things iterate quickly. That's just how automation and computers work.
A company with so much money, and still no idea what to do with it. Here's a hint, use all that brainpower you waste optimizing advertising machines and make something that solves a problem that many people face using technology? maybe seek to reach out to a new audience? maybe quit sucking on the corporate tit that thinks advertising works in its current form? It's barely working for fb and thats because they dont care about user privacy (facebook actually sounds like a legal phishing company for advertisers, and i rather be shot than to put any of their API's on any site i create). Whatever, sheeps will be sheeps. And google isn't immune it seems.
Google has an immense amount of talent "under its roof". Unfortunately, there's a necrotic layer of useless and counterproductive middle management coming up with a series of "innovations" that each have made the company worse. For a few examples:
* 20% time is dead. It requires managerial approval. More on that later.
* Until recently, people were hired "between levels" on the engineering ladder (which is generally a disaster at Google; see this: http://piaw.blogspot.com/2010/04/promotion-systems.html) and then about 2/3 of them were "downslotted" to a lower level. It didn't affect their pay, but it blocked future raises, was a career kiss-of-death, and generally shat all over morale. What's amazing to me is that no one ever said, before this bit of syphilitic idiocy could reach implementation, "This is a terrible idea and you need to stop abusing cough syrup on the job." Fucking California culture, man. In New York, terrible ideas cause buildings to fall down kill people and so we refuse to tolerate them. Unfortunately, Google's executives seemed to lack the insight to recognize an obviously horrible idea as horrible. (Downslotting was abolished last year, but I'm astonished that such idiocy got in the door in the first place.)
* Engineers (not just managers) literally drop everything for 1-2 weeks each year to write "Perf" (for themselves and peers). The high-stakes performance review process is just that important.
* Google is resistant to any change that might improve engineer productivity beyond the rather plodding rate it has now. C++ and Java are the real house languages; Scala's not even on the table. Python is listed as a house language so Google can still hire people but it's rarely used and nearly deprecated in production.
* Managers have free rein to fuck over an employee in Perf if they believe him to be "distracted" or at risk of future distraction by 20% time, even if that employee's performance is otherwise strong. This doesn't make Google any worse or any different from more traditionally managed companies. It does deprive them of the right to market 20% time as a perk without being called out as liars.
* Last summer, it was announced that every employee had to have a 3-word "mission statement" that managers could change, and a 63-word quarterly summaries of their work. This was the infamous "7/20" all-hands in which the deprecation of 20%-time was announced.
* HR ignores severe ethical lapses by influential managers, including a person who was outright proven to be using low performance scores and PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans, which stop transfers) to block transfers.
To make it clear, Google still has some really great people and could turn itself around if it just fired most of the middle layers. The company still has an incredible number of immensely talented engineers of whom I think quite highly, but the company is so horribly managed that I see nothing but a cold, miserable twilight in its future.
Your comment is a case in point. Anyone familiar with your story (at Google and, as you know, there are many of us who are) knows how totally skewed your perception is.
Many people (including me) tried to offer you constructive advice. Without getting into specifics I think it's fair to say that any problems you had were pretty much entirely of your own making.
Regarding a few specifics:
- You mischaracterize the slotting process, which is now largely gone anyway (and you should know this so I'm not sure why you're bring it up as if it were a present problem);
- I can't speak for how much time managers spend on Perf but managing their people and the careers of those people is kinda their job. As for engineers, it depends on how much feedback you need to do. One engineer I know how to do >20 feedbacks and this took him a couple of days. Generally speaking, the more you have to do it, the quicker you are (at each one);
The fact that performance is peer-driven is overall a good thing. It means your relationship with your peers matters and this isn't just an arbitrary managerial decision. I see you still don't get that.
Google isn't perfect. Then again, nothing is. But it's pretty great. Or, rather, it can be. You get as much out of it as you put in. See something that needs fixing? Then fix it. It's certainly not a place for those that simply like to sit back and complain.
Speak for yourself, would you? I'm myself a victim, unfortunately. I never even knew my Perf when I was with the company, only discovered it accidentally after I left. The process is very broken for me. Thanks @michaelochurch, I now know better about what had happened.
I agree that many cases are different but the HR process is broken at Google, and it happens to be broken in a way unique to how Google set things up, but the effect is the same at other companies where reviews are a beauty contest.
I'm sorry to hear that you feel your time at Google is the worst experience for you, but your story just doesn't make sense. How can you submit a ticket after you left? Were you in eng? Did you not see mchurch's delusional rants and all the people that came out trying to help him? If anything, the support, advice given to mchurch is exactly why Google is a pretty awesome place to work.
I submitted a ticket from outside as an alumnus. It is a fact. Credit to Google for setting this up. That being said, if there is anyone gets delusional, it is you.
I'm an engineer and used to work for Sun Microsystems. It was awesome. So I have pretty good idea about what it takes and what to expect working for a good silicon valley company in general, including Google. It just didn't apply to what happened to me in Google.
Saying you didn't explore your personal profile or look at the perf website and then complaining that you never knew your performance scores is like saying you never visited your calendar page and being upset about not knowing your meeting schedule.
It sounds like you may have had issues with poor management, but the fact that you didn't know your performance scores has nothing to do with mchurch's fictional manager retaliation, nor is it common for managers to blackmail their reports with poor perf scores over differences of opinion the way he alleges.
Please, at least read what you reply to.
"Please, at least read what you reply to."
Why isn't this guy getting down-voted? Personal attacks and a sorry attitude shouldn't be tolerated on HN.
How come? Your interpretation of what I said amuses me, sir. And the way you do it, quoting single sentence without context, seriously?
I'm familiar with michaelochurch's story (at least as much as your average Googler is, I assume) and I second what cletus is saying here.
Why did you get defensive in the end ("google isn't perfect..." = "water is wet", no, really)?
I said that they got rid of it, but I think the fact that such an obviously bad idea could get in the door in the first place is symptomatic of out-of-touch managers, and the same people are still there-- just coming up with new bad ideas (like the 3 word mission statements) that will linger around for 5 years.
The fact that performance is peer-driven is overall a good thing. It means your relationship with your peers matters and this isn't just an arbitrary managerial decision.
In theory, this would be true. In practice at Google, manager-as-SPOF is as much in force as it is in any other company. Actually, I think it's more the case at Google than at most places, because managers can unilaterally block transfers and because HR does nothing about abuse-of-process issues.
What Perf does is that it gives more reasons to deny promotions, not more avenues toward success. Managers can block promotions, and so can influential peers. So, in some cases, can trigger-happy idiots who abuse the unsolicited feedback feature (which does nothing but breed distrust, especially with the "manager-only feedback" feature, which is, at best, a quarter-step up from "XXX is a slut" gossip in fraternity bathrooms).
See something that needs fixing? Then fix it.
If you try to fix managerial, cultural, or product problems you just make enemies of the people who are invested in bad ideas and stupid decisions. It's really not worth doing.
I'm glad that Perf at Google involves peer reviews, and that colleagues can volunteer to contribute to your review packet. I found the 3-word mission statement to be a fun thing. (For outsiders: this is just a text field on your intranet profile page where you can make up a slogan that concisely describes your goals.) It's about the same as being at liberty to make up your own job title for your business cards. People get very creative with it.
I came to Google as part of a medium-sized acquisition and I've seen HR solve complex problems (we brought some baggage with us that they had to deal with), and seen managers' managers overrule their attempts to block transfers. Problems were not solved overnight, but they were definitely solved. People worked hard and got promoted. Things work pretty well from my point of view. I've experienced my fair share of frustrations at Google, but I have also found that the company is full of people who are trying to make employees successful and happy.
The successful path requires that you employ patience, humility, and hard work in equal measure. If you can do that, you can thrive.
If you come in with a giant ego, pick fights with everyone you encounter, and ignore advice, obviously you're not going to succeed. When Yoda says "Your weapons, you will not need them", LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE. He is the Jedi master and you are the padawan; if you cannot recognize that, forever will the Dark Side control your destiny. :)
A lot of Googlers are reacting as if I attacked them. I didn't. Not in the least (unless they personally made some of the moronic decisions I listed). And Google is, despite the attempts of many influential and powerful people to destroy it, still a great company. I found most individual Googlers are really great people, but I think the danger of having the wrong people make decisions that affect thousands of people cannot be understated.
Wrong. The problem with Google started with the new CEO. The decision to focus on Facebook, the Motorola acquisition, Google+, integration across all Google products and services,etc. these are not mid-level management decisions. These are decisions made by Larry Page.
The problem is with the CEO.
Google sells YOUR personal information that you do NOT want to share to advertisers.
According to Google, this is not true. https://www.google.com/search?q=Google+does+not+share+person...
There's probably ample evidence to support your claim, but linking to search results doesn't seem all that helpful. (If Google is still personalizing web searches or if someone has blocked a domain from their results we could be looking at different lists.)
You understand. The industrie washes your brain to only see the positive side effects and don't think about the negative ones.
Google+ is a new product. Don't make a judgement so early. It is getting better everyday.
You were only there for 6 months in 2011. That hardly makes you an authority on what happened in 2009-2011, or about how the company is managed. Perhaps it's time to consider the possibility that the problem was more with yourself than with Google.
People absolutely do not "literally drop everything for 1-2 weeks" for perf. That's just ridiculous. People complain about it, but it's more like a few hours of work, not a week. Moreover, the Google perf system is hands down the most amazingly great employee performance review system I've ever seen. Okay, my worldly experience only goes so far, but I sat in on calibration meetings and promotion committee meetings and so on, and I was absolutely shocked at how fair and objective people were. I'm sure there are cases of abuse or where it goes wrong - there are in any such system - but your examples of eg. using low performance scores to prevent transfers ought to be hard to achieve; the system gives such high weight to peer reviews that a crazy manager should be shown as crazy in fairly short order. At least in the group where I sat in these meetings (Commerce) this was absolutely the case.
I have mixed feelings about Google. But your accusations here are mostly misguided IMHO.
The depressing part is that Google is so far ahead of everyone else that they can fuck up a lot of things and still be the best place to work by light years. (They even pay better than the investment banks now!)
I haven't done a Perf cycle yet, but the only problem I foresee is that nobody really knows what my job title is supposed to do. That hasn't stopped my coworkers from being promoted, though, so I can roll with it :)
I personally think "managerial approval" is just for 3 things:
1) If someone decides to do something wrong/illegal as 20% project, the manager should've caught this (so this 'approval' is really a 'we reserve the right to blame the manager if things go wrong') ;)
2) People probably want their 20% project (and progress therewith) to be factored into their perf, as such, their managers need to know about it.
3) So that people don't pick clearly fraudulent 20% projects (such as 'my 20% project is to stay at home and watch TV')
Google is developing Go precisely to improve engineer productivity, so this claim is rather suspect.
Java is unproductive when you are a startup with one developer, but it works rather well at Google. Each change has to be manually code reviewed before submission anyway, so you aren't saving much time by using Python instead of Java. Agreeing on one language means that it's easy to switch teams; if you did Haskell and another team used OCaml, it would be hard to switch. If you both use Java, though, the barrier to moving is smaller and that means you can switch projects without losing productivity. And that's a good thing.
(Remember: Java at Google is not the same as Java at Bank of America. The toolchain is better, the libraries are better, the culture is better, and the codebase is better. There's really very little I hate about Google-style Java, and that's after hating Java with a passion for about 10 years.)
That's 1. A trivial number, if not a trivial system.
Of course, I'm a mere contractor, I don't see the bigger picture, and all. But I _hope_ that on the language front things are not as grim.
Google's stance on Scala may have changed in the past few months as the language becomes more mature.
GOOG profits are still growing, and they still control online search which I think will remain a huge cash cow for a long time.
Honestly, I've worked both on Wall Street and at Google. Individual people at Google are nicer, but the careerism and mentality (among people who want to move up) are nearly identical.
Like cletus mentioned, many people reached out to offer you constructive advice. You ignored everyone, thought yourself superior to everyone.
I bet you were just waiting to be the first to comment, no? You did well...not only did you throw Google under the bus, you also threw California under the bus. Learn to have a little class.
Speaking purely as an outsider, you and cletus' comment prove his statement. You both clearly have an agenda, and the tone of your comments only lend credence to the stories.
As for the "California" thingy, he can't tell anything wrong about any state?
Furthermore, in general, it's a bad idea not to make yourself look like a total ass in public; it's a career limiting move in most companies, but in a company where it is truly the case that your peers have a lot more to do with your getting promoted than what your manager might have to say, it really, Really is a bad idea.
Hopefully everyone would agree that this is good advice....
And if you join a company and someone more senior than you with ACTUAL accomplishments and that is respected in and outside of the company tries to take you under his wings and guide you through the corporate landscape, don't dismiss their actual accomplishments as "irrelevant" at the same time boasting about your success in a product for a "niche market that doesn't exist"
And if you join a company, you should not claim expertise in something unless you are an ACTUAL expert and have the knowledge, experience, and accomplishments to back that up. Saying that you're a T7-9 visionary doesn't make you a T7-9 visionary!
And if you join a company, don't dismiss your fellow colleagues and make a fool of yourself because even if you don't work with them now at the current company, you may encounter them again in the future.
I'm not speaking to any specific incident. Just general advice that any new junior employee to any company should follow.
For people skeptical of the other replies here, the reputation of OP is pretty well known... it has almost become a shibboleth of the people that were around during his tenure.
I'm really disturbed by this. I'm not a stranger to being the smartest person in the room - it happens from time to time - but, while interviewing at Google (I did it a couple times), I was always amazed with my interviewers, who were, with no exceptions, exceedingly smart people.
Any rip on a state with 50 million people in it is somewhat in jest. Anyway, there are a lot of great things about "California culture". When applied to technology, an open-minded and experimental "Let's try it" mentality is great. Necessary, even. When applied to management without enough attention paid to the fact that some of the people posing ideas have bad intentions, some awful ideas get into implementation and it damages companies. It hurts people. So more conservatism in selecting what to implement is in order, and discussing ideas that might be harmful (with thousands of people) until they've been explored is a bad idea.
The problem with Google is that it's got the conservative New York culture technically (I mean, even Scala isn't allowed) and the California culture with respect to hare-brained managerial ideas like downslotting-- the exact opposite of how things should be.
Put it this way: technological and managerial innovation are utterly different. If you do a tech demo and it's slightly rough around the edges, that's fine. You're awesome for having the courage to put yourself out there. If you're putting forward suggestions that are going to affect the way thousands of people work, the traditionally sloppy (for tech, I mean "sloppy" in a positive sense) tech demo is not how you should be communicating.
If management was easy, we could all read a book about how to manage a company and then all do it optimally. Since that's not the case, experiments are necessary, and I admire the attitude that leaves them open to things that might not work. I disagree that it was "obvious" that the downslotting mechanism would not work - or rather, that it was obviously worse than any other alternative, because once you have the "not performing as expected" problem, all your options suck.
And BTW, I'm in New York :)
These levels are a convenient fiction. Performance is way too context-dependent to believe that there's some "platonic" level for each engineer. This (http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/the-trajector...) is the best model I could come up with for the software engineer trajectory, and even it has a 0.2 to 0.4 point (out of 3.0) swing for most individuals based on technology choices, interpersonal topologies, motivational flux, etc.
What you mean is "some people don't work out". Right. So there are people you "manage out" (that is, try to get them to find another job and fire them after ~6 months if they don't get the hint and you absolutely have to) and there are people you work with to bring them up to speed, or to figure out what's blocking them. Typical management stuff. What doesn't work is to keep people around but at a lower level than they were promised in the hiring process. That just creates a class of miserable, shafted people who hate their jobs and the company they work for.
By the way, a lot of the idiots on this subthread think I'm airing personal gripes. I joined after slotting. I'm just pointing out what kinds of ridiculous results come from an out-of-touch management culture. What drove me insane at Google was being at a company where the engineers were so good at their jobs and yet the people making important decisions were so epically bad. The disconnect was shocking. I was watching an awesome company self-destruct in front of me.
Also, on downslotting: careers are sensitive things and once you make one overt move so directly against an employee's interests, you've essentially lost that person. Loyalty is pretty much binary. Once you make a move like that on someone, you now have someone whose full-time interest is career repair, which usually involves getting the fuck out and lining up the next job. If this is what you want, then fine. (If someone really is a bad fit, for that person to begin full-time job searching is the best thing.) That category doesn't encompass most of the company. Downslotting only makes sense as a mechanism for managing people out, and (1) there are better ways of doing that, and (2) you shouldn't be managing out over 50% of new hires.
The real reason for slotting, I think, was to put a better job title in the offer letter than people were actually expected to get, since the upper title is what was used. This works only because of Google's brand: what keeps it from doing major damage is that downslotted people have the Google name on their resumes and can get the fuck out long before they become "problem employees".
I couldn't help but leave an (infographic of my reaction to the outrage re: 20% time.