Thursday, June 28, 2007

Interview with a Googler

Have any of my Seattle readers noticed this near Pike's Place Market?

I saw it on my way to work on Monday and have been wondering ever since where it came from. That little triangle has been empty since I got here, and seemingly overnight that sculpture appeared. I'm guessing that they want to plant a little garden there also because the dirt around it is really manure.

Google is like the wizard of Oz: every pretends to know how they operate but no one really knows because no one sees the wizard. However, a Microsoft employee got us as close as most of us are going to get: he interviewed a Microsoft employee who was a recent re-hire from Google. While things definitely sound nice there, he definitely acknowledged that it wasn't an ideal environment. Google kind of radically does away with private offices which follows the philosophy of openness and encouraged teamwork, but I definitely think there are certain people who need private offices and then there are also people who just work better with their own office. While I don't think a cube farm, I think that when you do have to do it you should do it like they do at Amazon: low walls, open spaces (not little faux-doorways). At a certain point though, you need higher walls and you need offices though to be more productive. The worst thing is that they do virtually no career planning. Wow. So you may just get a little more money, but never really a chance for managerial positions. Oh, and their managers seem to manage swarms of employees. That's stupid. I'm sorry, but that makes no sense. Again, I like Amazon's structure: 1PT or 2PT teams with managers and TPPMs, and this works really well. I feel well-supported, my manager is always involved with what we do through daily Scrum meetings, and since our team does sprints our projects are broken up into manageable pieces the end up getting planned out by month and divvied up quite well.

Ok, so I've turned this into a discussion about Amazon, but I just kind of wanted to compare what people perceive as a great place to work as opposed to a lower key workplace like Amazon that has some pretty interest techniques under the hood. It's just a perfect mixture of leaving you to do what you need to do to get your work done (including the ability to come in as late as 10AM) as well as guidance to stay on track and meet your requirements. I just love it. This interview makes it sound like Google has the relaxed atmosphere down, but not the focus, which would explain their plethora of products. Diversity is nice, but many of these products would benefit from better management of what customers would benefit from more and such. While this article is targeted at making Microsoft look better, I don't like the management structure of Microsoft. Too much middle-management. I only have three degrees of separation from SVP of E-Commerce Brian Valentine, who reports to Jeff B, which feels nice. It's comfortable but tight. Google isn't all bad though: free food, free snacks, health care on site, gym on site, barber on site, massages on site, free shirts, 20% projects (which you're fully responsible for, you don't get it if you don't use it), "Tech Spots" to service your hardware, laundry service, etc. Plus, you work with a lot of smart people and get a lot of freedom. Still, it sounds too much like a playground. I have fun at work without all those perks, and that's what I've come to realize is really important. Except for free food, those things really aren't a big deal as long as you love what you do, and I'm loving what I'm doing at Amazon and how I'm being led to do it.

On the bright side, Google Maps has unveiled a feature I've been clamoring for (unofficially) for a very long time: you can modify the routes it gives you. Your screen may glow when you use it for the same time by how awesome it is. I often wish I could modify just a couple of steps in my Google Map directions to see if it'll be shorter or faster, or when I give directions to people with Google Maps I'd like for them to take a shortcut or something but I couldn't until now. Kudos to you, Google!

The big boys of BitTorrent are encouraging supporters to start their own small sites so that it's harder for the MPAA and such to target torrents. The more decentralized it is, the worse their odds are, and the less successful they'll be. Unfortunately, I don't think people readily flock to do something like this, but I personally wish people would also. Not only for illegal content, but also for legal stuff. Why not a torrent site for stuff like video podcasts?

Supposedly, Steve Jobs is giving all his 17,000+ employees brand new iPhones. I know it sounds ludicrous, but he had a closed-doors event for employees only, which was leaked yesterday, and now this comes through as being the big news from the event. Jobs rarely holds such events, so it wouldn't be quite as crazy as it sounds, and he could afford to buy that many iPhones himself and still have a ridiculous amount of money. It would be a good reward for getting the iPhone out so fast and with minimal leakage, but it is unprecedented. I guess we'll know soon enough, he claimed they'll be given out at the end of July when public demand has been met a little. I have a feeling that'll get pushed back if this rumor is true.

The MPAA has come after Peekvid and YouTVPC which legitimize serving up television and other copyrighted video content by pointing to sites in other countries that host the media. The only reason the MPAA has some credence here is that these sites are running ads, which is a bad way to keep a site running in the grey area running. They should've just relied on donations. Now the MPAA may actually have a case, especially since they're actually profiting from copyrighted materials.

My Internet has decided to commit Seppuku, so I'm going to keep my movie news short. Yahoo has the trailer for The Hunting Party. Other than it having Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, I don't know anything about it.

I do know something about Knocked Up though, and Funny or Die has a deleted scene
from it that I wish I could see because that movie was awesome. I also can't see the Magnorium trailer, but it features Natalie Portman so I'm sure my male readership will appreciate it.

The Dark Knight has added to its roster a couple of new cast members for Lieutenant Gordon's family: his wife and son. I guess this is coming from Frank Miller's Year One, but it's been a really long time since I read that so I can't be sure.

And now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. Are you one of those people who is constantly busy with projects, social outings, etc or do you just like to lay low and stay home? Why/why not?
I am, but that's why I do like to lay low on many weekend evenings. I spend so much of my week busy that I like to relax on a Friday night with my girl and/or with a few close friends.

2. Weather you're busy all the time or like to just chill, have you always been that way? How so/how not?
I definitely used to seek out adventure more in the form of frat parties and other assorted seedy college entertainment, but after a couple of years of that you get tired of it and prefer the company of those closest to you instead.

3. Is there something you'd like to change about how you spend your time? If so, what is it? If not, why not? How are things manageable for you?
I'd like to spend more time playing guitar, but I blog too damn much =P

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