It’s the small things at Google that impress

I visited the Googleplex for the third time yesterday. I’m still thinking through what I learned that was different from prior trips. More later (they didn’t have me sign an NDA, so I can share whatever I learned with you, although one conversation with a friend who works there started out with me asking what he was working on and he answered “that’s sorta confidential.” Heheh, Google still does like keeping quiet about what’s coming next). 

But I was even more impressed this visit than last because of the small things that they do on their campus. One is that the lobby in building 41 had these hanging slivers of frosted glass. You’re looking at one of them. On the glass were Google searches that constantly scrolled up (each word is displayed only for a few seconds as it scrolls up). I hear this is a randomly-selected set of searches with “naughty” searches pulled out.

It’s these small things that makes Google cool. Not to mention the organic food market in the courtyard. The snack bars that are every few yards. The cafeteria that has — by far — the best food of any large company I’ve been in, and it’s all free.

But beyond that, every interaction I had with Googlers this time was different than the last time I was on campus. They seemed more humble. More comfortable. More inquisitive. And, when I gave them chances to say “you’re an idiot” they didn’t take it (and I gave them many opportunities). This is a different Google than I was used to. And it’s the small things that I noticed.

One other small thing I noticed? A lot more blog listening behavior. Carl Sjogreen, who runs the Google Calendar team, told me that the first thing he does every morning is do this search on Google’s Blogsearch service: “Google Calendar.” He says he answers everyone’s questions, even if you’re a kid in another country with only four readers.

Bing. Small things. They are gonna prove to be dramatically important over time.

Comments

  1. “Bing. Small things. They are gonna prove to be dramatically important over time.”

    This last sentence could have been taken from a famous book:

    “The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”

  2. “Bing. Small things. They are gonna prove to be dramatically important over time.”

    This last sentence could have been taken from a famous book:

    “The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”

  3. I dunno, I’ve blogged about a lot of Google issues and I have yet to see action on most of them. To my knowledge only one thing was listened to and I can’t even be sure about that as the issue bothered many other people.

    Then again, I met Eric Schmidt at SES and I gave him my card. I had a recent blog post predicting that Google Video would move to the front page soon. The next day it happened! Coincidence? I don’t know.

    I do know David Krane asked me to e-mail him some information that we discussed and he has not responded in any way.

    Additionally, I recently sent 30 old fashioned real letters to senior people at Google and only 2 got any sort of reply. None addressed the issue in the letter.

    I’d like to believe you’re right, but I just don’t see it yet.

  4. I dunno, I’ve blogged about a lot of Google issues and I have yet to see action on most of them. To my knowledge only one thing was listened to and I can’t even be sure about that as the issue bothered many other people.

    Then again, I met Eric Schmidt at SES and I gave him my card. I had a recent blog post predicting that Google Video would move to the front page soon. The next day it happened! Coincidence? I don’t know.

    I do know David Krane asked me to e-mail him some information that we discussed and he has not responded in any way.

    Additionally, I recently sent 30 old fashioned real letters to senior people at Google and only 2 got any sort of reply. None addressed the issue in the letter.

    I’d like to believe you’re right, but I just don’t see it yet.

  5. David, do you want to do a master blog post pointing to your blog posts where you wanted Google to do something better, and I’ll pass that link around within Google? I saw that your site has a Google category and I could pass that on, but it sounds like you might want to make a few specific points..

  6. David: I’m not answering my email, either. When you’re a senior guy you just get so much flow there’s no way to keep up with it.

    And, yeah, not everyone listens. But we gotta start somewhere and it’s good to see that SOME parts of the company are listening.

  7. David, do you want to do a master blog post pointing to your blog posts where you wanted Google to do something better, and I’ll pass that link around within Google? I saw that your site has a Google category and I could pass that on, but it sounds like you might want to make a few specific points..

  8. David: I’m not answering my email, either. When you’re a senior guy you just get so much flow there’s no way to keep up with it.

    And, yeah, not everyone listens. But we gotta start somewhere and it’s good to see that SOME parts of the company are listening.

  9. Matt – thank you for chiming in! Please send me your e-mail to (myfirstname.lastname@gmail.com) and I’ll do that this weekend and I’ll put together everything in one post send you the link, good?

    Robert – I don’t expect every senior person to respond directly! I expect the senior people to delegate responsibility to those who can – to not get one serious reponse out of the thirty is kinda weak. That is one of the problems I’ve seen at conferences I go to many Google people do not have enough power delegated to them to satify customer issues – especially involving B2B issues. You alluded to secrecy in your post, it creates a lack of transparency.

  10. Matt – thank you for chiming in! Please send me your e-mail to (myfirstname.lastname@gmail.com) and I’ll do that this weekend and I’ll put together everything in one post send you the link, good?

    Robert – I don’t expect every senior person to respond directly! I expect the senior people to delegate responsibility to those who can – to not get one serious reponse out of the thirty is kinda weak. That is one of the problems I’ve seen at conferences I go to many Google people do not have enough power delegated to them to satify customer issues – especially involving B2B issues. You alluded to secrecy in your post, it creates a lack of transparency.

  11. “Small is the new big” seems to be the big trend, similar to “God is in the details.” I wonder if companies will begin making this sort a thing part of customer service: checking the blogs each day like Carl Sjogreen does in order to respond to customer issues. So many companies do everything they can to downplay the need to help customers, I don’t think many companies will be searching out more problems to help solve. Of course, to your point, they should. I wonder how long Carl spends on this each day. That is adding a potentially huge task to not just respond, but then track an issue until completed.

  12. “Small is the new big” seems to be the big trend, similar to “God is in the details.” I wonder if companies will begin making this sort a thing part of customer service: checking the blogs each day like Carl Sjogreen does in order to respond to customer issues. So many companies do everything they can to downplay the need to help customers, I don’t think many companies will be searching out more problems to help solve. Of course, to your point, they should. I wonder how long Carl spends on this each day. That is adding a potentially huge task to not just respond, but then track an issue until completed.

  13. Hey man,
    Is this a news ? This search queries display in lobby, traffic graph from all over Earth and Moon, food and a lot of other cool things was in Google for a years.

    Give us something new !

  14. Hey man,
    Is this a news ? This search queries display in lobby, traffic graph from all over Earth and Moon, food and a lot of other cool things was in Google for a years.

    Give us something new !

  15. Were snacks and meals not free at MS? And I was under the impression that MS cafeterias were quite high quality, but there’s yet another level? Or is it just variety?

  16. Were snacks and meals not free at MS? And I was under the impression that MS cafeterias were quite high quality, but there’s yet another level? Or is it just variety?

  17. The search scrollbar has been there for a long time. I remember reading about it on Xooglers a while ago.

    Robert – regarding the perception change by the Googlers, did you feel that this was because of an acknowledged increase in competition?

  18. The search scrollbar has been there for a long time. I remember reading about it on Xooglers a while ago.

    Robert – regarding the perception change by the Googlers, did you feel that this was because of an acknowledged increase in competition?

  19. Hello Robert: I am a rookie blogger. I finally checked out your site after seeing it on several blogrolls. I like your style. I’ll keep reading.
    Have a good one!

  20. Hello Robert: I am a rookie blogger. I finally checked out your site after seeing it on several blogrolls. I like your style. I’ll keep reading.
    Have a good one!

  21. Phil, I’m not sure. It’s just anecdotal anyway. Either way it’s a good trend and one that should be encouraged.

    Rick: no, meals at MS are not free. And the selection of food isn’t even close.

  22. Phil, I’m not sure. It’s just anecdotal anyway. Either way it’s a good trend and one that should be encouraged.

    Rick: no, meals at MS are not free. And the selection of food isn’t even close.

  23. [...] Almost everyone in the industry who’s had a chance to interact one on one with a Googler in the past 6 months has probably noticed that it "feels" different from the interactions of the past 3 years. Robert Scoble did a good job describing it with regard to his recent visit to the ‘plex: [...]

  24. I’m wondering if Mark Jen would have joined Google now, if they wouldn’t have terminated him him so quickly. Perhaps times are a changing? His blog could have evolved into a friendly face to Google. I don’t know any friendlier face that Google could have than Mark =)… except maybe you Robert =) heh heh…

    I leave with a quote from Mark:
    “i think blogging is the next big thing on the internet. the web gave people revolutionary access to information; email and instant messaging disrupted the way people communicate with each other; blogging empowers everyone to create new information and connect in a community.”

  25. I’m wondering if Mark Jen would have joined Google now, if they wouldn’t have terminated him him so quickly. Perhaps times are a changing? His blog could have evolved into a friendly face to Google. I don’t know any friendlier face that Google could have than Mark =)… except maybe you Robert =) heh heh…

    I leave with a quote from Mark:
    “i think blogging is the next big thing on the internet. the web gave people revolutionary access to information; email and instant messaging disrupted the way people communicate with each other; blogging empowers everyone to create new information and connect in a community.”

  26. I was at Google the day before and I remember that when you sign in you fill out the form then sign that you’ve read the NDA. So I think that you’re signature is executing their standard NDA. If you didn’t sign in then I think that you’re clear :-)

  27. I was at Google the day before and I remember that when you sign in you fill out the form then sign that you’ve read the NDA. So I think that you’re signature is executing their standard NDA. If you didn’t sign in then I think that you’re clear :-)

  28. I still have my Google visitor pass and pictures of their HDTV that had a visual representation of the volume of searches that were occurring. I couldn’t take a picture of their whiteboards, but reading the notes was awesome. Cool place!

    Doug

  29. I still have my Google visitor pass and pictures of their HDTV that had a visual representation of the volume of searches that were occurring. I couldn’t take a picture of their whiteboards, but reading the notes was awesome. Cool place!

    Doug

  30. Al: it works just fine with IE 7 here. It warns you it won’t work, but if you click “cancel” instead of “OK” then it’ll let you into the calendar and it seems to work just fine.

  31. Al: it works just fine with IE 7 here. It warns you it won’t work, but if you click “cancel” instead of “OK” then it’ll let you into the calendar and it seems to work just fine.

  32. Good point, I felt the same thing on my last visit as well. The company has matured in many ways, I think being held accountable to the stock market may have helped.

  33. Good point, I felt the same thing on my last visit as well. The company has matured in many ways, I think being held accountable to the stock market may have helped.

  34. “…every morning is do this search on Google’s Blogsearch service: “Google Calendar.” ”
    heh..why doesn’t he just subscribe to the RSS feed that blogsearch generates?

  35. “…every morning is do this search on Google’s Blogsearch service: “Google Calendar.” ”
    heh..why doesn’t he just subscribe to the RSS feed that blogsearch generates?

  36. um, this is a non post post. I had to read the article twice to see if i missed any information. Turns out there wasnt any. I guess my expectations were too high, or you are recovering from jet lag.

  37. um, this is a non post post. I had to read the article twice to see if i missed any information. Turns out there wasnt any. I guess my expectations were too high, or you are recovering from jet lag.

  38. Scoble’s defacto approval

    Blogging for profit and fun.
    I’ve been doing this for a long time. Years? Seems like it, but it’s only been 18 months of serious effort at doing exactly what Scoble praises Carl Sjogreen (he runs the Google Calendar team) for doing.
    Carl …

  39. yes, we love all the best and free things google provide … but some times i feel that it is “not so good” that “so many good things” are just held under one brand …

  40. yes, we love all the best and free things google provide … but some times i feel that it is “not so good” that “so many good things” are just held under one brand …

  41. I must say, I’m not such a fan of Google. They more or less stole $60,000 from my company…

    They aren’t the friendly giant they’d like you to believe.

  42. I must say, I’m not such a fan of Google. They more or less stole $60,000 from my company…

    They aren’t the friendly giant they’d like you to believe.

  43. “They aren’t the friendly giant they’d like you to believe.”

    Well they are in business. On the face of it, it sounds like ‘just business’ from a sour grapes point of view.

    Just saying.

  44. “They aren’t the friendly giant they’d like you to believe.”

    Well they are in business. On the face of it, it sounds like ‘just business’ from a sour grapes point of view.

    Just saying.

  45. Trucex: if you’re gonna say something like that, at least link to a post where you give the details. Every company will have its disgruntled partners, customers, and former employees. Even the best ones.

    And, on the other hand, while you say Google cost you money I can name hundreds of entrepreneurs who say that Google brings them their customers and paychecks today in far greater numbers than $60,000.

  46. Trucex: if you’re gonna say something like that, at least link to a post where you give the details. Every company will have its disgruntled partners, customers, and former employees. Even the best ones.

    And, on the other hand, while you say Google cost you money I can name hundreds of entrepreneurs who say that Google brings them their customers and paychecks today in far greater numbers than $60,000.

  47. [...] Robert Scoble has paid another visit to the Google campus. And he was impressed…For example, every interaction I had with Googlers this time was different than the last time I was on campus. They seemed more humble. More comfortable. More inquisitive. And, when I gave them chances to say “you’re an idiot” they didn’t take it (and I gave them many opportunities). This is a different Google than I was used to. And it’s the small things that I noticed. [...]

  48. Google and the Human (/Social/Cultural)

    John Naughton’s just posted on something I’ve been turning over in my mind, too — Google growing up?: Robert Scoble has paid another visit to the Google campus. And he was impressed … For example, … every interaction I had

  49. [...] Almost everyone in the industry who’s had a chance to interact one on one with a Googler in the past 6 months has probably noticed that it "feels" different from the interactions of the past 3 years. Robert Scoble did a good job describing it with regard to his recent visit to the ‘plex: …every interaction I had with Googlers this time was different than the last time I was on campus. They seemed more humble. More comfortable. More inquisitive. And, when I gave them chances to say “you’re an idiot” they didn’t take it (and I gave them many opportunities). This is a different Google than I was used to. And it’s the small things that I noticed. [...]

  50. I’d love to give you the nitty-gritty on it, but my attorney advises against it saying it might hurt the case.

    My point is really that they say “Do no evil” but that isn’t neccesarily their standpoint when it comes to money.

    I can honestly say that even before this event, I didn’t like Google’s search results. Anytime I use Google I end up creating queries that include subtracting words that are all over spam pages in the Google index, or subtracting words that Google thinks are related to my query. I think it was Sergey who has said numerous times over the last couple years that he isn’t happy with the search results.

    Oh, and Yahoo’s new maps blow Google’s away. The satellite/aerial images line up and match perfectly in Yahoo, whereas Google’s have distinct separating lines where photos where taken on different days and don’t line up properly. The Yahoo map search interface is much more impressive as well.

    And I really can’t say I want to start writing my reports on Writely, doing my financial charts on Google Spreadsheet, or keeping track of my life on Google Calendar. By the time Google gets Orkut out for the general population it will be post-social-networking boom and it won’t go anywhere. Honestly, I just don’t see many great things coming out of Google anymore.

    I’m just one person though…everybody is going to see what they see based on their own experiences and expectations. That’s why they still are who they are.

  51. I’d love to give you the nitty-gritty on it, but my attorney advises against it saying it might hurt the case.

    My point is really that they say “Do no evil” but that isn’t neccesarily their standpoint when it comes to money.

    I can honestly say that even before this event, I didn’t like Google’s search results. Anytime I use Google I end up creating queries that include subtracting words that are all over spam pages in the Google index, or subtracting words that Google thinks are related to my query. I think it was Sergey who has said numerous times over the last couple years that he isn’t happy with the search results.

    Oh, and Yahoo’s new maps blow Google’s away. The satellite/aerial images line up and match perfectly in Yahoo, whereas Google’s have distinct separating lines where photos where taken on different days and don’t line up properly. The Yahoo map search interface is much more impressive as well.

    And I really can’t say I want to start writing my reports on Writely, doing my financial charts on Google Spreadsheet, or keeping track of my life on Google Calendar. By the time Google gets Orkut out for the general population it will be post-social-networking boom and it won’t go anywhere. Honestly, I just don’t see many great things coming out of Google anymore.

    I’m just one person though…everybody is going to see what they see based on their own experiences and expectations. That’s why they still are who they are.

  52. [...] A Scobleizer questo giro non hanno fatto firmare NDA di alcun tipo quindi, come leggiamo dal suo ultimo post davvero minimalista ci saranno parecchie cose da raccontare. Si parta con quelle piccole cose che sembrano stupide ma che per certi versi ti fanno rimanere sorpresso e impressionato. Nel GooglePlex big Scobleizer (big perchè?) ha trovato un enorme vetro grigio dove scorrono le ultime ricerche effettuate sul loro motore e visualizzate in uno scrolling eterno ad ogni secondo. Dannatamente cool. Il cibo è gratis (e questo il tizio del blog sembra averlo gradito) e si mangia bene nei piccoli bar parecchio vicini tra loro. Ma questo è meno cool. [...]

  53. [...] I believe that it probably would be less challenging for someone like Google to support CalDAV than for Microsoft, just because they don’t have all that legacy to pull behind them. But so far, Google has not committed to supporting CalDAV. I recently for the first time met Carl Sjogreen who runs Google Calendar and I asked him if they were going to join CalConnect and support CalDAV, and he was noncommittal. So, they have a lot of different things on their plate and won’t get around to all of them, but I think that would be the ultimate leverage on Microsoft — for Google to embrace it. … [...]