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.

84 thoughts on “It’s the small things at Google that impress

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Pingback: Preoccupations
  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. “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.

  7. “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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 …

  11. 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 …

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. “…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?

  15. “…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?

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