Nice to see Steve Lacey again, he’s at Google now

One of the nicest developers I ever met at Microsoft, Steve Lacey, surprised me recently when he said he was working at Google. Great to see him today. He, like almost everyone at Google, refuses to tell me what he’s working on.

It’s gotta be cool, though. After all, he was an important developer on Flight Simulator. Why leave a job like that if you aren’t going to be working on something cool?

Oh, while we’re talking about Google, might as well talk about Kevin Laws’ rant over on VentureBeat: The Google Myth goes “pop.”

Kevin misses what Google is doing.

They are building moats around those two businesses that Google has proven successful.

By investing in everything else, Google’s search engine has gotten business defensibility. Microsoft and Yahoo have largely matched Google’s search quality. But they aren’t gonna steal search traffic (or, more importantly, advertising dollars) from Google because of the investment in other things.

Also, what gets rewarded by the stock market? Existing market share or growth?

Quick, who had most market share in 1977? IBM and DEC, right? Did that really matter? No.

What matters is how fast each service is growing.

I guarantee you that Google Talk doesn’t just have 44,000 users anymore. Those numbers are old. Makes for nice stories, but won’t hold up in the end.

He ends up wondering if Google can hold onto its workers. I predict that Google not only is holding onto its workers, but is getting a lot more out of each worker than most other companies.

I’ve never met such enthusiastic employees. Oh, and I did interview the chef today. He says he tells all his chef friends that he has the best job in the world. This company is — by far — the most interest to watch from a business perspective.

Part of the reason for that is they are breaking lots of rules.

And some of these weird experiments will pay off. Just stick around and see.

32 thoughts on “Nice to see Steve Lacey again, he’s at Google now

  1. Scoble: Remember how MSN Beat ICQ? ICQ had more features. But MSN had a simpler, cleaner, interface.

    Damn and here I was thinking MSN beat ICQ because they bundled the product into 400 million copies of Windows and integrated it into Hotmail.

    I like Google Talk and would use it more if more people I knew used it. It’s a good example of Metsalfe’s Law in action.

    I ROLFd when I read your comment about Lacey not telling you what he’s doing. I was in an email discussion with him recently and I asked him if Google was coming out with a free Flight Sim (which for those who don’t know was Steve’s main product at Microsoft for a gazillion years). He didn’t reply and I thought he was just behind on email until I read your post.

    cheers
    Cameron Reilly
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  2. Scoble: Remember how MSN Beat ICQ? ICQ had more features. But MSN had a simpler, cleaner, interface.

    Damn and here I was thinking MSN beat ICQ because they bundled the product into 400 million copies of Windows and integrated it into Hotmail.

    I like Google Talk and would use it more if more people I knew used it. It’s a good example of Metsalfe’s Law in action.

    I ROLFd when I read your comment about Lacey not telling you what he’s doing. I was in an email discussion with him recently and I asked him if Google was coming out with a free Flight Sim (which for those who don’t know was Steve’s main product at Microsoft for a gazillion years). He didn’t reply and I thought he was just behind on email until I read your post.

    cheers
    Cameron Reilly
    CEO, The Podcast Network
    GET PODCASTS: http://www.thepodcastnetwork.com
    BLOG: http://www.cameronreilly.com
    EMAIL: cameron@thepodcastnetwork.com
    MOBILE: +61 400455334
    US CELL: +1 310 9900666
    SKYPE: cameronreilly

  3. I hope you’ll introduce yourself to me sometime.

    Deal. Half my best friends don’t agree with me, and sometimes I am not even sure I agree with me. And even Jefferson did get along with Adams, eventually.

  4. I hope you’ll introduce yourself to me sometime.

    Deal. Half my best friends don’t agree with me, and sometimes I am not even sure I agree with me. And even Jefferson did get along with Adams, eventually.

  5. LayZ, since my role is Webmaster-focused, I tend to go to Webmaster conferences and mingle a lot with Webmasters. I do a lot of informal evangelizing / listening in other circles, though, including with musicians, dancers, scientists, lawyers, salespeople, etc.

    We’ve had official Google reps at Blogher and advertising/marketing conferences and other non-exclusively-techie conferences as well.

    Lastly, we do a substantial number of focus groups around the world that include a *very* diverse sampling of folks.

    We may talk a lot with geeks (unsurprisingly because geeks seem to seek out Googlers to chat with :P), but we make a concerted effort — professionally, socially, and otherwise — to learn from non-geeks as well.

  6. LayZ, since my role is Webmaster-focused, I tend to go to Webmaster conferences and mingle a lot with Webmasters. I do a lot of informal evangelizing / listening in other circles, though, including with musicians, dancers, scientists, lawyers, salespeople, etc.

    We’ve had official Google reps at Blogher and advertising/marketing conferences and other non-exclusively-techie conferences as well.

    Lastly, we do a substantial number of focus groups around the world that include a *very* diverse sampling of folks.

    We may talk a lot with geeks (unsurprisingly because geeks seem to seek out Googlers to chat with :P), but we make a concerted effort — professionally, socially, and otherwise — to learn from non-geeks as well.

  7. @11 You talk to other geeks or those in the tech field. At least that’s what you seem to be saying. (I would classify webmasters in the broad “geek” category) So, even though you do it outside of the echo chamber, I think Chris’ point remains.

    Are these conferences you say you attend non-tech related conferences. How may, shall we say, “man on th e street” conversations has Google engaged in?

  8. @11 You talk to other geeks or those in the tech field. At least that’s what you seem to be saying. (I would classify webmasters in the broad “geek” category) So, even though you do it outside of the echo chamber, I think Chris’ point remains.

    Are these conferences you say you attend non-tech related conferences. How may, shall we say, “man on th e street” conversations has Google engaged in?

  9. Chris Coulter wrote:
    > they [Googlers/Google?] don’t engage with anyone outside the tribes.

    Hey Chris,

    Not quite sure what you mean. Lots of us Googlers are quite active in the tech world (and outside), well beyond the confines of our comfy Googleplex. In my first seven months here at Google, I’ve already enjoyed chatting with fellow geeks and non-geeks in London, Dublin, Boston, the Bay Area, and soon… Las Vegas and Chicago.

    Sure, I travel more than most Googlers, but *every* conference I’ve attended has had a plethora of Googlers… speaking, listening, chatting with folks in bars well into the night.

    My boss has chatted up folks at arts-and-crafts shows. I’ve talked about Google and search at a government-Webmasters conference. My colleagues and I manage the only Webmaster forum run by *any* major search engine that I know of. And we also voraciously read (and often post in) blogs all over the place.

    If that’s a lack of engagement, then I think you and I have different ideas of engagement ;-). Personally and professionally, I’m proud of and thankful for the value that my boss AND my company place on conversations (again, with geeks *and* non-geeks).

    I hope you’ll introduce yourself to me sometime. I may disagree with you a lot (at least here on Scoble’s blog :P) but I have no doubt that we’d have a pretty interesting chat.

  10. Chris Coulter wrote:
    > they [Googlers/Google?] don’t engage with anyone outside the tribes.

    Hey Chris,

    Not quite sure what you mean. Lots of us Googlers are quite active in the tech world (and outside), well beyond the confines of our comfy Googleplex. In my first seven months here at Google, I’ve already enjoyed chatting with fellow geeks and non-geeks in London, Dublin, Boston, the Bay Area, and soon… Las Vegas and Chicago.

    Sure, I travel more than most Googlers, but *every* conference I’ve attended has had a plethora of Googlers… speaking, listening, chatting with folks in bars well into the night.

    My boss has chatted up folks at arts-and-crafts shows. I’ve talked about Google and search at a government-Webmasters conference. My colleagues and I manage the only Webmaster forum run by *any* major search engine that I know of. And we also voraciously read (and often post in) blogs all over the place.

    If that’s a lack of engagement, then I think you and I have different ideas of engagement ;-). Personally and professionally, I’m proud of and thankful for the value that my boss AND my company place on conversations (again, with geeks *and* non-geeks).

    I hope you’ll introduce yourself to me sometime. I may disagree with you a lot (at least here on Scoble’s blog :P) but I have no doubt that we’d have a pretty interesting chat.

  11. Speaking of Google Talk, it is of pretty poor quality. At least that has been my experience so far, and I have used it quite a bit. The main problem which me (and some folks I know) have encountered with it is of reliability – during a chat session, some chat messages just get “dropped” and don’t get delivered ! Sometimes they don’t get saved to gmail chat history.

    How often this happens: on a daily basis.

    Why do I continue using it: because it is hard to change, and it is just about bearable.

    It is not something I can recommend to anyone anymore.

  12. Speaking of Google Talk, it is of pretty poor quality. At least that has been my experience so far, and I have used it quite a bit. The main problem which me (and some folks I know) have encountered with it is of reliability – during a chat session, some chat messages just get “dropped” and don’t get delivered ! Sometimes they don’t get saved to gmail chat history.

    How often this happens: on a daily basis.

    Why do I continue using it: because it is hard to change, and it is just about bearable.

    It is not something I can recommend to anyone anymore.

  13. And some of these weird experiments will pay off.

    Well so far, only one has worked. Search. And even that’s not pure, as noised-up serious and click-fraudy de jour. And they had to buy way into the video experiment, which will die if they make it too Google Videoish. And their “applications” are toothaches and all other “experiments” are forever beta-styled with nothing much in way of support. Nah, they are like Microsoft, one or two hit cash-cow products with tons of geeky failed projects that they arrogantly push thru, as they are too isolated and incestuously cultic to see otherwise. And like the Manhattan Fashion Mag-Nazi circles, they don’t engage with anyone outside the tribes. Google isn’t a company, it’s a religion.

    But, if history is any guide, oligarchies are not always forever…

  14. And some of these weird experiments will pay off.

    Well so far, only one has worked. Search. And even that’s not pure, as noised-up serious and click-fraudy de jour. And they had to buy way into the video experiment, which will die if they make it too Google Videoish. And their “applications” are toothaches and all other “experiments” are forever beta-styled with nothing much in way of support. Nah, they are like Microsoft, one or two hit cash-cow products with tons of geeky failed projects that they arrogantly push thru, as they are too isolated and incestuously cultic to see otherwise. And like the Manhattan Fashion Mag-Nazi circles, they don’t engage with anyone outside the tribes. Google isn’t a company, it’s a religion.

    But, if history is any guide, oligarchies are not always forever…

  15. Wrong water metaphor perhaps. Instead of motes, think of small ponds gradually expanding to form a lake, and then several lakes expanding to form a sea.

    I was using blogger before Google bought it, and was not impressed by the early results of the acquisition. But now with the latest changes blogger is starting to look like, and interact with the rest of the Google product base. Same goes for Picasa, which I only started using when they added the web interface recently.

    Google doesn’t sell domain names yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them add that soon. With products in the pipeline you almost don’t need anything other than Network Solutions (for the name) and Google for the hosting.

    I have a company web space, e-mail, calendar sharing, mailing list management, and the list of services grows faster than I can keep up.

    Microsoft has a research department that doesn’t come close to IBM’s in doing FUNDAMENTAL research and doesn’t come close to Google in producing new products. I don’t need a 12 button mouse, thanks.

  16. Wrong water metaphor perhaps. Instead of motes, think of small ponds gradually expanding to form a lake, and then several lakes expanding to form a sea.

    I was using blogger before Google bought it, and was not impressed by the early results of the acquisition. But now with the latest changes blogger is starting to look like, and interact with the rest of the Google product base. Same goes for Picasa, which I only started using when they added the web interface recently.

    Google doesn’t sell domain names yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them add that soon. With products in the pipeline you almost don’t need anything other than Network Solutions (for the name) and Google for the hosting.

    I have a company web space, e-mail, calendar sharing, mailing list management, and the list of services grows faster than I can keep up.

    Microsoft has a research department that doesn’t come close to IBM’s in doing FUNDAMENTAL research and doesn’t come close to Google in producing new products. I don’t need a 12 button mouse, thanks.

  17. Robert, no doubt. I’m just too dumb to understand how they serve as moats. A couple of pages of services that nobody is using helps how? MSN and Yahoo are fully moat-a-licious, but people still use Google for search. And Google rakes in the ad dollars. How come? Explain how the so-called Google moats protect them.

  18. Robert, no doubt. I’m just too dumb to understand how they serve as moats. A couple of pages of services that nobody is using helps how? MSN and Yahoo are fully moat-a-licious, but people still use Google for search. And Google rakes in the ad dollars. How come? Explain how the so-called Google moats protect them.

  19. BenN: the simplicity of the UI and feature set of GoogleTalk is EXACTLY why I like it. Remember how MSN Beat ICQ? ICQ had more features. But MSN had a simpler, cleaner, interface.

    Don’t underestimate that.

    Also, you ever think that Google might want its competitors to underestimate it? I do.

    Why did Microsoft ignore Google so long? Because for the first five years of its life Google made no money. It was a failure in Ballmer’s eyes.

    Just like GoogleTalk.

  20. BenN: the simplicity of the UI and feature set of GoogleTalk is EXACTLY why I like it. Remember how MSN Beat ICQ? ICQ had more features. But MSN had a simpler, cleaner, interface.

    Don’t underestimate that.

    Also, you ever think that Google might want its competitors to underestimate it? I do.

    Why did Microsoft ignore Google so long? Because for the first five years of its life Google made no money. It was a failure in Ballmer’s eyes.

    Just like GoogleTalk.

  21. Robert, I don’t get your moats metaphor. IMHO, a great Google moat is getting a search box in the Firefox U-I. (A lesser moat is getting one in Safari.)

    Best insight I’ve seen so far into how many Google “products” miss the mark of serving a customer need was something Seth Godin said when he spoke at Google. Scroll ahead to 42:48 and listen to his discussion of Google Maps. I think it corroborates Kevin’s point.

    BTW. Here’s an irony: notice how useful the Google Video presentation is for referring you to one specific section of a 48-minute video: Scrollbar with a time counter that advances even before the video plays… text transcription under the video window. Very smart. Not just cool, but useful.

    I’m hopeful that there will be a best-of-both worlds outcome in adding some Google features together with YouTube’s established community and viral smarts.

  22. Robert, I don’t get your moats metaphor. IMHO, a great Google moat is getting a search box in the Firefox U-I. (A lesser moat is getting one in Safari.)

    Best insight I’ve seen so far into how many Google “products” miss the mark of serving a customer need was something Seth Godin said when he spoke at Google. Scroll ahead to 42:48 and listen to his discussion of Google Maps. I think it corroborates Kevin’s point.

    BTW. Here’s an irony: notice how useful the Google Video presentation is for referring you to one specific section of a 48-minute video: Scrollbar with a time counter that advances even before the video plays… text transcription under the video window. Very smart. Not just cool, but useful.

    I’m hopeful that there will be a best-of-both worlds outcome in adding some Google features together with YouTube’s established community and viral smarts.

  23. “I guarantee you that Google Talk doesn’t just have 44,000 users anymore. Those numbers are old.”

    You’re right, it’s probably a lot less by now since everyone got bored of Google Talk 10 minutes after it was announced. Without the features of Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger, all Google had was a nice, but boring (sorry, minimalistic) chat program. The stuff added since it’s original announcement hasn’t done much to change that either.

  24. “I guarantee you that Google Talk doesn’t just have 44,000 users anymore. Those numbers are old.”

    You’re right, it’s probably a lot less by now since everyone got bored of Google Talk 10 minutes after it was announced. Without the features of Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger, all Google had was a nice, but boring (sorry, minimalistic) chat program. The stuff added since it’s original announcement hasn’t done much to change that either.

  25. I remember people being envious of the Google workspace and culture back at the turn of century. Nothing much has changed then.

    Don’t knock IBM…they’ve had a good run in the last 3 months. Forget the previous decade, that’s history

  26. I remember people being envious of the Google workspace and culture back at the turn of century. Nothing much has changed then.

    Don’t knock IBM…they’ve had a good run in the last 3 months. Forget the previous decade, that’s history

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