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…).

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
Continue reading

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
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading