Category Archives: Google

Management Improvement Carnival #127

photo of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

Photo of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde by John Hunter.

The Curious Cat Management blog carnival highlights recent management blog posts 3 times each month. The posts generally focus on the areas I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Guide since 1996 (Deming, agile software development, systems thinking, lean manufacturing, customer focus…).

  • Jim Womack, lean blog podcast #116 – Great, as you would expect. Includes a great explanation of the problems that have made adopting lean ideas in medicine, which somewhat counter-intuitively includes the reluctance to use the scientific method/pdsa to examine results.
  • What Larry Page really needs to do to return Google to its startup roots – “If your company has to have ‘No meetings Thursday’ then you’re doing it wrong. How about ‘No meetings except for Thursday’… Having to launch a simple service in multiple datacenters around the world, and having to deal with near-weekly datacenter maintenance shutdowns is unacceptable for an agile startup. Startups need to focus on product, not process and infrastructure.”
  • Don’t forget what it’s like to be 10 by Richard G Russell – Your job isn’t telling them what to do. 80% of your job is understanding what your team does, and what they need to accomplish their job; then helping them do it.
  • Relationship between Process and Innovation by Jeffrey Phillips – “Let’s distinguish between effective processes that accelerate innovation and those failed processes that either weren’t meant to accelerate innovation or weren’t the right processes for innovative ideas to begin with.” [Curious cat 2007 post: Process Improvement and Innovation
  • Surfacing Problems Daily by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “When it comes to building a problem-solving culture, one of the most important traits is being able to surface problems quickly and face them honestly.”
  • How to start a movement in your company – by David Choe – “So, here I am to tell the tale and advocate for good leadership, clear vision, constancy of purpose, and true empowerment.”
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Is Google Failing Too Often?

I think Google is extremely successful, but they do seem to consistently have problems adding to their portfolio. They did a great job with gmail. Android has been very successful. Google Maps is great. They did well building YouTube. Chrome is very nice. Automatic translation is very nice (as is the integration with Chrome).

But so many things just don’t go anywhere. I can’t understand why they can’t take something like Google checkout and make it much more successful (there is money even Google cares about waiting for success in this area). Grand Central was great – Google Voice has not built that the way I would hope. Google has an endless stream of very small companies they buy and then the service dies.

It has been long enough now that I am starting to feel more comfortable saying Google is not doing a good job of creating and building new products. There are a few successes. And having failures isn’t a huge deal – taking risks is wise. But they just seem to be succeeding far to little, especially when you look at the talent and resources they have. Of course, some will say the resources they have is a problem. I really think it is more along the lines I see you mentioning above – they have become too rigid in development. I actually support more standardization than maybe people want (there can be big benefits) but I believe you need to then allow for exceptions. It seems to me Google doesn’t allow enough. It is tempting for managers to want to duplicate the same style that has made adwords and search successful. That might not be the answer for every project though.

They also seem to be driving away to many people with a rigid adherence to proving every little thing. Now I think some of this is a significant part of Google’s success. The trick is not to throw out all such efforts, but to find ways to gain the benefits without crushing innovative people’s will to continue.

I continue to own stock in Google and believe the future is very promising. Google does far more right than they do wrong, but they have room to improve.

Related: Why Google can’t build InstagramObservations of a New GooglerGreat Marissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationGoogle: Ten Golden RulesEric Schmidt on Management at Google
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Net Neutrality, Policy, Economics and Intelligent Engineering

I believe net neutrality should be championed to prevent decay of the usability of the internet. It seems to me internet connectivity is a natural monopoly that economic theory says should be a regulated monopoly. Smart countries have invested in providing much better internet connectivity that the USA has at much lower prices. Now in the USA we have companies that seek to control internet connectivity and then use that monopolistic control to favor higher margin efforts. So force those that have resources available on the internet to pay or the ISP threatens to degrade the connectivity to their resources.

chart showing internet connectivity speed (USA 18th)

The investment in equipment and fiber that allows internet connectivity has to be paid for. If those regulated ISPs wanted to set bandwidth use pricing that is fine with me. If we decided it is best to have one low price say $30 a month for access at a similar perforance of 10 other countries (Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, United Kingdom…) and then charge extra for individuals those that use more than some amount fine. But I think it should not be tied to whether you use service that haven’t paid the ISP money to be favored. The USA is currently 18th and slowed down, while others continue to speed up.

The 2008 ITIF Broadband Rankings show the USA in 15th place, out of 30 OECD countries, for broadband adoption, speed and price. In 2001 the USA was in 4th place.

If ISPs don’t want to be in the business they should be in – providing internet connectivity. Fine, get out of that business and go into the business they want to be in. But don’t try to take control of a natural monopoly and then use that control to extort money from those that rely on the natural monopoly.

Google accused of YouTube ‘free ride’

Some of Europe’s leading telecoms groups are squaring up for a fight with Google over what they claim is the free ride enjoyed by the technology company’s YouTube video-sharing service. Telefónica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom all said Google should start paying them for carrying bandwidth-hungry content such as YouTube video over their networks.

I can understand why they would think that way. But isn’t it equally valid to say hey those that pay you for internet connectivity really want to use YouTube. If you need to make more investments in your infrastructure to support your customers use, then do so and raise the prices. I completely disagree with the ISP negotiating what content users can see. But if that were to happen why couldn’t Google instead of paying say, hey your customers really want YouTube – if you don’t pay us we won’t let you deliver it to your customers?

Net Neutrality: This is serious by Tim Berners-Lee

When I invented the Web, I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA.

Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can’t photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.

Let’s see whether the United States is capable as acting according to its important values, or whether it is, as so many people are saying, run by the misguided short-term interested of large corporations.

I hope that Congress can protect net neutrality, so I can continue to innovate in the internet space. I want to see the explosion of innovations happening out there on the Web, so diverse and so exciting, continue unabated.

Google’s Traffic Is Giant, Which Is Why It Should be Your ISP
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Observations of a New Googler

Some interesting thoughts from a new Google engineer, Things I’ve learned at Google so far

I would describe Google’s culture as “creative chaos”. There was some confusion about where I was supposed to be when I started. This resulted in the following phone call, “Hello?”, “Hello Ben, this is Conner (that’s my new manager), where are you?” “Mountain View.” “Why are you there?” “Because this is where the recruiter said to go.” “Good answer! Nice of them to tell me. Enjoy your week!” This caused me to ask an experienced Googler, “Is it always this chaotic?” The response I got was, “Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?” That response sums up a lot about Google’s culture. If you’re unable to enjoy that kind of environment, then Google isn’t the place for you.

Paul Buchheit was a software engineer at Google. He didn’t need permission to write something like gmail. Corporate culture says that if you need something like that, you just go ahead and do it. In fact this is enshrined as an official corporate policy – engineers get 20% of their time to do with pretty much as they please, and are judged in part on how they use that time. I found a speech claiming that over half of Google’s applications started as a 20% project. (I’m surprised that the figure is so low.) To get a sense of how much stuff people just do, visit Google Labs. No corporate decision. No central planning.

Sick day policy. Don’t show up when you’re sick and tell people why you’re not showing up. Note what’s missing. There is no limit to how much sick time you get if you need it.

I think he overestimates the lack of central planning, still it is another interesting view of Google.

Related: Eric Schmidt on Management at GoogleGoogle: Ten Golden RulesThe Myth of the Genius Programmer

Eric Schmidt on Google in 2010 and the Economy

CEO Eric Schmidt Reveals ‘Centerpiece’ Of Google’s 2010 Strategy, speaking at the White House jobs summit.

Google is definitely hiring. “We’re hiring a couple thousand people over the next year,” he said.

And looking at the White House summit he said, “The basic message today is that with small business – which is the primary source of jobs – we need to figure out the loan problem. The banks aren’t really lending to them and anything that the government can do to accelerate that, needs to happen right now.”

“Cloud computing is the centerpiece of our strategy. It’s a new model. You basically put all your information on servers and you have fast networks and lots of different kinds of personal computers and mobile phones that can use the applications… it’s a powerful model and it’s where the industry is going. It is the centerpiece of our 2010 strategy.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster today said in a note, that by 2016, 78% of Google’s revenue will still be from search. Schmidt agreed.

“My guess is that advertising and search ads will be the lion’s share of our business for quite a long time,” he said. “The reason is, it’s such a large part of our business and it continues to grow quite well.”

I continue to own Google and have it in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.

Related: Google Exceeded Planned Spending on PersonnelEric Schmidt on Management at GoogleMeeting Like GoogleGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

YouTube Uses Multivariate Experiment To Improve Sign-ups 15%

Google does a great job of using statistical and engineering principles to improve. It is amazing how slow we are to adopt new ideas but because we are it provides big advantages to companies like Google that use concepts like design of experiments, experimenting quickly and often… while others don’t. Look Inside a 1,024 Recipe Multivariate Experiment

A few weeks ago, we ran one of the largest multivariate experiments ever: a 1,024 recipe experiment on 100% of our US-English homepage. Utilizing Google Website Optimizer, we made small changes to three sections on our homepage (see below), with the goal of increasing the number of people who signed up for an account. The results were impressive: the new page performed 15.7% better than the original, resulting in thousands more sign-ups and personalized views to the homepage every day.

While we could have hypothesized which elements result in greater conversions (for example, the color red is more eye-catching), multivariate testing reveals and proves the combinatorial impact of different configurations. Running tests like this also help guide our design process: instead of relying on our own ideas and intuition, you have a big part in steering us in the right direction. In fact, we plan on incorporating many of these elements in future evolutions of our homepage.

via: @hexawiseMy brother has created a software application to provide much better test coverage with far fewer tests using the same factorial designed experiments ideas my father worked with decades ago (and yet still far to few people use).

Related: Combinatorial Testing for SoftwareStatistics for ExperimentersGoogle’s Website Optimizer allows for multivariate testing of your website.Using Design of Experiments

The Myth of the Genius Programmer

Nice talk on fear of looking foolish. The speakers discuss the idea that visibility is good. Don’t hide. Make everything visible and the benefit from many people’s ideas. The talk focuses on software development but is true for any work.

“criticism is not evil” – Very true. “At Google we are not allowed to submit code until there is code review.” At the bottom line they are repeating Deming’s ideas: improve the system – people are not the problem, bad systems are the problem. Iterate quickly.

Related: 10x Productivity Difference in Software DevelopmentThe Software Engineering Manager’s LamentRespect for People, Understanding Psychology

Google Innovates Again with Google Wave

Google Wave is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. They are developing this as an open access project. The creative team is lead by the creators for Google Maps (brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen). A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. You really have to watch to understand what it is.

This is a long webcast (1 hour and 20 minutes) and likely will be best only for those interested in internet technology solutions. But it also provides useful insight into how Google is managing the creation of new tools. But the ideas are not explicit (the demo was meant to present the new product Google Wave, not explain the thought behind producing useful technology solutions), so you have to think about how what they are doing can apply in other situations.

For software developer readers they also highly recommended the Google Web Development Kit, which they used heavily on this project. They also have a very cool context sensitive spell checker that can highlight misspelled words that are another dictionary word but not right in the context used (about 44:30 in the webcast). And they discuss using Wave to manage bug tracking and manage information about dealing with bugs (@ 1 hour 4 min point).

Very cool stuff. The super easy blog interaction is great. And the user experience with notification and collaborative editing seems excellent. The playback feature to view changes seems good though that is still an area I worry about on heavily collaborative work. Hopefully they let you see like all change x person made, search changes…

Related: Eric Schmidt on Management at GoogleJoel Spolsky Webcast on Creating Social Web ResourcesGreat Marissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management PracticesAmazon Innovation

Google’s Innovative Use of Economics

Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability

Google depends on economic principles to hone what has become the search engine of choice for more than 60 percent of all Internet surfers, and the company uses auction theory to grease the skids of its own operations. All these calculations require an army of math geeks, algorithms of Ramanujanian complexity, and a sales force more comfortable with whiteboard markers than fairway irons.

Varian tried to understand the process better by applying game theory. “I think I was the first person to do that,” he says. After just a few weeks at Google, he went back to Schmidt. “It’s amazing!” Varian said. “You’ve managed to design an auction perfectly.” To Schmidt, who had been at Google barely a year, this was an incredible relief. “Remember, this was when the company had 200 employees and no cash,” he says. “All of a sudden we realized we were in the auction business.”

Google even uses auctions for internal operations, like allocating servers among its various business units. Since moving a product’s storage and computation to a new data center is disruptive, engineers often put it off. “I suggested we run an auction similar to what the airlines do when they oversell a flight. They keep offering bigger vouchers until enough customers give up their seats,” Varian says. “In our case, we offer more machines in exchange for moving to new servers. One group might do it for 50 new ones, another for 100, and another won’t move unless we give them 300. So we give them to the lowest bidder—they get their extra capacity, and we get computation shifted to the new data center.”

Google continues to make bold moves putting faith in their ability to find innovative solutions that others reject as impossible. It is a challenging but interesting path to success, for them, at least.

Related: Google Should Stay True to Their Management PracticesGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an AlgorithmThe Google Way: Give Engineers RoomGoogle Website OptimizerGoogle: Experiment Quickly and Oftenposts on innovation in management

Google Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

I believe in Google’s past, present and future. They have shown a great ability to ignore the short term focus that dominates (and kills success) of so many companies today. I am happy to invest in Google for the long term.

This current reaction to the economic crisis, is one of many times Google can be seen to be making significant changes to adapt based on market conditions and the results of their experiments and experiences. Google’s management in general and the 3 leaders continue to practice a management style based on an engineering perspective while so many others practice the style Scott Adams has pilloried in the pointy haired boss.

The thought and execution of Page, Brin and Schmidt (and others: Marissa Mayer) is at a different level than that of most other executives. Skepticism is wise. But I believe Google continues to have exceptional execution and focus on long term innovation.

The biggest risk I see, for them, is they become too focused on the short term and lose their ability to take advantage of the great opportunities available by focusing on long term success. Google is in a position where they are not forced to abandon long term plans due to cash flow problems. The only decision for Google should be whether something makes long term sense or not. If they are recalibrating and deciding they were being too lax in certain areas (without long term justification) then I am fine with changes. If though they are reacting to short term market conditions that is a big mistake.

Google Gears Down for Tougher Times

He says the company is “not going to give” an engineer 20 people to work with on certain experimental projects anymore. “When the cycle comes back,” he says, “we will be able to fund his brilliant vision.”

Bad idea, short term thinking. Don’t drive business practices based on short term earning releases. If the idea is not worth 20 people long term fine, don’t do it. If it is, do it. The lack of cash that would force many companies to abandon promising efforts is not an issue for Google. They have plenty of cash and are generating much more every day.

To better predict revenue, the company implemented quotas for ad-sales representatives and tied the pay of more employees to performance

Bad idea; quotas are a sign of management abdicating responsibility. Quotas are destructive to success. Pay for performance focuses employees on meeting targets instead of the best interests of the company. Quotas are destructive to constancy of purpose.
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Eric Schmidt on Management at Google

   
Eric Schmidt speaks at the Management Lab Summit on May 29, 2008 in Half Moon Bay, California. Conversation with Professor Gary Hamel.

  • “The culture can be thought of as a ship and iterate culture with transparency for what people are doing. And that model scales pretty well.”
  • “I have two jobs, two roles. The first is to make sure every issue that is important is really debated to find, not the common outcome, but the best decision… second thing is to put pressure to make it happen quick.”
  • “it [managing better] starts with listening, it has to do with curiosity
  • “everything has to be based on some fact”
  • “It’s only about the people.” [respect for people is critical, Google really acts as though the people are their most important asset – John].
  • “What is the number 1 goal of the company? It is end user happiness with search. What is the number 2 goal? It’s end user happiness with advertising. What is the number 3 goal? The construction of the Google network of partners to effectuate the first two. What is the number 4 goal? To grow and scale the business… You will eventually get extraordinary returns for your shareholders and maximize advertiser happiness if all those things happen… There are a lot of business executives that get confused on what the goal is and they think that shareholder value is the goal. Shareholder value is a consequence of the goal.”

Related: Eric Schmidt Podcast on Google Innovation and EntrepreneurshipInterview with Google CEO Eric SchmidtInnovation at GoogleGoogle: Experiment Quickly and OftenMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationGoogle Management by Gary HamelLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview Webcast

Lame Move by Google

Google does great things and makes good decisions most often. However a recent move on their part has ended very lamely. As part of what their 10th anniversary celebration they provided a search of the 2001 index (the oldest index they could find to search now). This was extremely cool.

Now if you go to find it so you can try it out you will be disappointed. Search for it on Google you will find a link to Google Search 2001 which gives you a page that says: “The page – www.google.com/search2001.html – does not exist.” Is it amazingly lame that Google took the search down, has it has the first result on searches, and has no explanation on that page of what it was about.

It would be cool for them to leave it up (it was interesting). And I would think they could make a great deal of money showing ads (I can’t remember if they did show ads). But not leaving a page at that address (which was linked to over 95,000 times) explaining what the page did and that it is now offline is very lame. Breaking 95,000 links is bad enough for some pointy haired boss that believes the internet is made up of tubes but for a well run internet company to do that is pitiful.

This move shows Google in a similar light as Gap when managers shut down the Gap’s web site for days (in 2005). Google failed when exiting the video business (DRM issues), then realized their mistake and recovered. The fix for this would take all of 1 hour. Someone just has to put up a page discussing what the page was for and that the search has been discontinued.

But really they should explore if it is better to just make it live – maybe it doesn’t but I would certainly want to look into that option. If not, I would put up some interesting results from the experiment (though if the choice is just a 1 hour solution or nothing then just put up a page in 1 hour) and link to commentary about the search and interesting things people found. This would be an interesting task for an intern, or someone else, and could provide an interesting and popular page. but most importantly at least not breaking 95,000 links (plus all those who go to the page from search results pages) is the minimum Google should do.

Related: web pages should live foreverSearch Share Data Checking the ACSIWays for Google to Improve Continue reading

The Power of Small Teams

The power of small teams by Avi Muchnick

Choose a project that is simple to implement. Don’t try to create a complex suite of applications… Focus on solving a single problem. Philip Kaplan made email more efficient to use by stalling it instead of managing it. Dead simple approach and a great idea.Take the easier approach when possible.

Choose people that can wear multiple hats. Can your designer code? Can your programmer manage a community? Can your marketing guru fund raise? Can one guy do it all?

All documentation should be available via a central location. A wiki can work really well for this purpose. Good documentation lessens the loss from communication failures.

Arrange your workspace in common areas. Segregating your team in different offices is a recipe for lost communication data and with it, a need for additional people. You’d be surprised at how many roles can be shared by multiple people, so long as they have the ability to communicate instantly and unimpeded with each other. Put people between walls, and those shared tasks will need to be managed by additional team members.

Amazon and Google do a lot with small teams and I think they have it right. I have worked on small IT teams for several years now and find it great. Combine with agile management methods small teams allow for great focus (you are naturally guided toward appropriate project sizes instead of huge monster projects), great results and joy in work. I have no desire to work in large teams.

Related: Team HandbookMeasuring and Managing Performance in OrganizationsKeeping Track of Improvement OpportunitiesCurious Cat Management Articles

Google Knows it is a 2.0 World

You can accomplish a great deal by just talking to people. Google Public Relations:

I did not really expect it, but the next day I got a call from Jeffrey Korn at Google California. He explained that he was the one responsible for building the Google Bookmarks and Google Web History tools. The problem with my extension was something I hadn’t imagined: a scaling problem. Hehe, Google had scaling problems :-).

The gBrain extension creates a lot of bookmarks. Several thousands a month. And the Google bookmarks system was never made with this amount in mind. What made things worse (and I didn’t knew that), the bookmarks are connected to the normal web search. Whenever you use the web search, it checks it against your Google bookmarks. You can easily imagine what problems can come up when you have a several 10 or even 100 thousands of bookmarks…

Jeffery also made a few suggestions how the extension could be changed to make use of their Web history service instead of the bookmarks system. This would avoid the scaling problems. I may consider it some day.

But why am I telling this? Because I’m amazed how Google handled this. Instead of just blocking my extension at their side, or sending me a cease and desist letter they contacted me and asked.

Good for Google. I do find it a bit funny they had a lawyer contact the guy but still Google’s reaction was much better than most companies would be. Companies like Google, Amazon, Lego, New York Times are taking advantage of technology to leverage community efforts to improve the value of their service to customers. This is an important innovation management needs to acknowledge and manage. Or you can be like the poorly managed journal publishers or music industry that are destroying their organizations futures.

Related: Funding Google Gadget DevelopmentInnovative Marketing Podcast (Lego)Innovation at Google

Deming’s 14 Points (for software development)

Deming’s 14 points (for software development) by Jamie Dinkelacker (Geo/Maps Engineering Program Manager at Google Inc. Focus on lean principles and agile practices for software development):

W. Edwards Deming’s work on quality, while widely misinterpreted and misapplied in the USA, was nonetheless a watershed that Japanese companies, especially Toyota, took to heart…
Below are Deming’s 14 points accompanied by commentary related to software development.

Design quality in, don’t use inspection to find errors. Mistake proof the system.

In a fearful environment, workers do not operate in the organization’s best interest; instead their energies are by necessity focused on self-protection.

Mistakes typically come from bad systems not bad workers. Don’t exhort people to work harder or smarter; instead create a more intelligent workflow and system tailored tot he essential nature of software development as human collaboration (not just coordination) such that people can excel.

A good read. Also a good blog on management improvement ideas and software development (though not very active). See my Deming on Management resource where I try to explain what Dr. Deming actually said and meant and dispel some misconceptions.

Related: Dr. Deming’s 14 PointsDeming’s Ideas at Markey’s Audio VisualLean, Toyota and Deming for Software DevelopmentGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

User Happiness with Search Engines

Awhile back I wrote about why I didn’t think the American Customer Satisfaction Index claim that Yahoo beat Google for customer satisfaction was evidence of a broken indicator. Well here is another indicator, but this time it puts Google clearly in 1st place, while Yahoo has been improving: Search Engines: Intense Competition Drives Better User Experiences

In the December 2007 Keynote study, Google makes a clean sweep of first place in all four key index rankings: Overall Customer Experience, Brand Impact, Future Usage Impact, and Customer Satisfaction. Yahoo! takes second place in every category, and Ask.com, MSN, and AOL follow in order. It is almost without precedent in Keynote studies of any industry that the rankings are so rigidly stratified (see Figure One). Typically, there will be some shuffling up or down in one or several of the indices. But in the past two studies, the competitors finished in rank order, straight across the board.

Google still has plenty of room to improve (for one example, their blog search is still very poor). And Yahoo is better than many people realize. But I think Google is still clearly better from my experience and looking at the available data (Google keeps gaining market share for one import piece of data).

Related: Search Share Data, Checking the ACSIMeeting Like GoogleImprove Google

Prediction Markets with Google Employees

Another interesting experiment from Google: Using Prediction Markets to Track Information Flows: Evidence from Google

In Google’s terminology, a market asks a question (e.g., “how many users will Gmail have?”) that has 2‐5 possible mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive answers (e.g., “Fewer than X users”, “Between X and Y”, and “More than Y”). Each answer corresponds to a security that is worth a unit of currency (called a “Gooble”) if the answer turns out to be correct (and zero otherwise). Trade is conducted via a continuous double auction in each security.

Google’s prediction markets are reasonably efficient, but did exhibit four specific biases: an
overpricing of favorites, short aversion, optimism, and an underpricing of extreme outcomes.

Interesting paper. I would guess most readers of this blog won’t be able to apply prediction markets to there workplace in the short term but never-the-less I find the paper interesting.

Related: Management is PredictionGoogle Experiments Quickly and OftenSecrets of the World’s Best Companies

The Google Way: Give Engineers Room

The Google Way: Give Engineers Room

Google engineers are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. This means that if you have a great idea, you always have time to run with it.

These grouplets have practically no budget, and they have no decision-making authority. What they have is a bunch of people who are committed to an idea and willing to work to convince the rest of the company to adopt it.

Consider the collection of engineers who wanted to promote “agile programming” inside the company. Agile programming is a product development approach that incorporates feedback early and often, and was being done in a few scattered parts of the organization.

The Agile grouplet formed to try to take this idea and spread it throughout the organization. It did so by banding together and reaching out to as many groups as it could to teach the new process. It created “Agile Office Hours” when you could stop by and ask questions about the process. It handed out books and gave internal talks on the topic. It attended staff meetings and created the concept of the “Agile Safari,” in which you could volunteer to work for a time in groups that were using Agile, to see how it ticks.

Related: Google Software EngineeringAgile Software DevelopmentAgile ManagementManaging InnovationLarry Page and Sergey Brin WebcastGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

Search Share Data – Checking the ACSI

Last month, in a long post criticizing the ACSI I took issue with, among other things, the implications being drawn from an ACSI rating. The ACSI rating of Yahoo was higher than that of Google (though statistically insignificantly so). Anyway, here is some new data on search volumes of the leading providers:

Top 5 Search Providers for August 2007, Ranked by Searches (U.S.)

Provider Searches (000) Year over Year Growth Share of Searches
1. Google Search 4,199,495 39.8% 53.6%
2. Yahoo! Search 1,561,903 8.9% 19.9%
3. MSN/Windows Live Search 1,011,398 69.8% 12.9%
4. AOL Search 435,088 32.4% 5.6%
5. Ask.com Search 136,853 0.0% 1.7%

Source: Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Search

So Google grew 39.8% year over year and Yahoo grew 8.9% year over year. Google now has 53.6% of the total searches. Granted this is limited data but it seems to confirm that Google is in fact continuing to increase their lead in search volume. Practically all evidence seems to support this belief – the ACSI seems to be the exception. Which might indicate great insight provided by the ACSI that everyone else is missing. Or it might show ACSI results are doing a poor job of providing a useful measure of customer satisfaction with search engines. I go with the second.

Related: posts on using data effectivelyWebsite DataUnderstanding Dataposts on Google managementCurious Cat Management Improvement Search

Kaizen – Yahoo Mail Style

Yahoo Mail Innovates, Gmail Stagnates

Yahoo Mail has begun rolling out of beta after releasing an onslaught of innovative feature improvements along the way. On the other hand, a whopping three years into their beta release, Gmail remains one of the most popular but stagnant web-based beta email apps around.

To me Yahoo is really continually improving the service, not innovating. Still an interesting exploration of visible improvement.

Related: Kaizen OnlineKaizen definitionInnovation ExamplesGoogle Innovation webcast