Barack Obama, one of the top Democrat candidates for President in next year’s election, visited Google yesterday and talked about his technology industry platform, among other things. Here’s video of his speech:
Obama unveiled his “Innovation Agenda”, his set of principles related to the tech industry that would shape his policy if he became President. You can read them in depth here, but the bullet points are:
Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Information through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets
Protect the Openness of the Internet
Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment - Obama will create Public Media 2.0, a sort of PBS for the internet age
To ensure that powerful databases containing information on Americans that are necessary tools in the fight against terrorism are not misused for other purposes, Barack Obama supports restrictions on how information may be used and technology safeguards to verify how the information has actually been used.
Obama supports updating surveillance laws and ensuring that law enforcement investigations and intelligence-gathering relating to U.S. citizens are done only under the rule of law.
Make government data available online in universally accessible formats
Establishing pilot programs to open up government decision-making and involve the public in the work of agencies, not simply by soliciting opinions, but by tapping into the vast and distributed expertise of the American citizenry
Requiring his appointees who lead Executive Branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public
Restoring the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials.
Lifting the veil from secret deals in Washington with a web site, a search engine, and other web tools that enable citizens easily to track online federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts with government officials.
Giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days before signing any non-emergency legislation.
Bringing democracy and policy deliberations directly to the people by requiring his Cabinet officials to have periodic national online town hall meetings to answer questions and discuss issues before their agencies.
Employing technologies, including blogs, wikis and social networking tools, to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decision-making.
Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Redefine “broadband” in government policy as speeds considerably larger than the current 200kbps
Unleashing the Wireless Spectrum: Obama will confront the entrenched Washington interests that have kept our public airwaves from being maximized for the public’s interest.
Barack Obama believes that America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access, and Obama believes we can get true broadband to every community in America.
Lower Health Care Costs by Investing in Electronic Information Technology Systems
Double federal science and research funding for clean energy projects
Invest in the development of the next generation of biofuels
Invest in a digital smart energy grid.
Upgrade Education to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century
Obama also believes that we must strengthen math and science education
ensure that we can retain and grow high-paying jobs in fast-growing sectors in the sciences and technology rather than exporting those jobs to lower cost labor markets abroad
Modernize Public Safety Networks
doubling federal funding for basic research
Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent
improvement in our visa programs
We should allow immigrants who earn their degrees in the U.S. to stay, work, and become Americans over time.
Promote American Businesses Abroad
Barack Obama believes we need a business and regulatory landscape in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can thrive, start-ups can launch, and all enterprises can compete effectively while investors and consumers are protected against bad actors that cross the line.
Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad and at Home
Reports have revealed that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have struck up a deal that lets them use a NASA runway conveniently close to Google’s headquarters as their own personal landing strip. The deal has Page and Brin paying $1.3 million annually, plus fees for parking and gas, as well as allowing NASA to use the Googlejet 747 or other Google planes to move around equipment, scientists, or conduct high altitude research.
An unnamed former Google employee, who worked previously at Microsoft, then a startup that was bought by Google, then left Google for Microsoft, is sending around an email inside Microsoft’s corporate network giving insight to Google’s corporate culture. It’s a relatively balanced portrayal, but it wouldn’t make a lot of more mature career-oriented people work at Google, and it offers some good suggestions of changes Microsoft should make.
These kids don’t have a life yet so they spend all of their time at work. Google provides nearly everything these people need from clothes (new T-shirts are placed in bins for people to grab *twice* a week!) to food – three, free, all-you-can-eat meals a day. Plus on-site health care, dental care, laundry service, gym, etc.
“20% is your benefit and your responsibility.”
In other words, it’s your job to carve out 20% of your work week for a project. If you don’t carve out the time, you don’t get it. Your project needs to be tacitly approved by your manager. Whatever it is, is owned by Google. If you’re organized, you can “save up” your 20% and use it all at once. It’s not unheard of for people to have months and months of “20% time” saved up.
Most people don’t actually have a 20% project. Most managers won’t remind you to start one.
Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts. This philosophy shows through in their office arrangements which in Mountain View are all over the map. There are glass-walled offices, there are open-space areas, there are cubicles, there are people who’s desks are literally in hallways because there’s no room anywhere else. There are even buildings that experiment with no pre-defined workspaces or workstations – cogs (err, people?) just take one of the available machines and desks when they get to work.
In terms of employees per square-foot, every Microsoft Building 9-sized office is a triple at Google.
Google doesn’t seem to think that private offices are valuable for technical staff. They’re wrong.
here is no career development plan from individual contributor to manager. Basically if you get good reviews, you get more money and a fancier title (“Senior Software Engineer II”) but that’s about it.
That single benefit gets people to work earlier because hot breakfast is served only until 8:30. And since dinner isn’t served until 6:00 or 6:30 the people with a home-life tend to skip it.
Google actually pays less salary than Microsoft.
Google’s health insurance is actually not nearly as good as Microsoft’s.
Google has no facility for career growth.
I encourage reading the comments, which contain a number of angy Microsoft employees, unhappy this was published externally. It’s not so much that the email is embarassing for Microsoft (it isn’t), but that the violation of internal privacy scares many employees.
UPDATE: The Microsoft email was written by a Microsoft recruiter based on a conversation with a Microsoft employee. The employee formerly started Phatbits, a widget engine Google acquired a year and a half ago. That makes the employee likely Mike Harrington, Darrin Massena, or Jonathan Sposato, whoever currently works at Microsoft. Read more at Mary Jo Foley’s blog.
A popular Google employee, Vanessa Fox, has left the building. Fox, who was a frequent conference speaker and enjoyed a high profile while working on the Webmaster Central team, leaves the Goog for the confines of Zillow, a real estate startup that has been enjoying some healthy buzz. Fox, who was popular among the SEO community, leaves Google with one less voice towards its most vocal constituency, and she will be missed.
Question: Why are SEOs so much more vocal than all the other people who have to work with/against Google? Even AdWords advertisers, AdSense publishers and mashup developers don’t push for as many answers from Google and create mini-celebrities out of Google conference speakers. If everyone was like the SEO community, Joel Webber would have legions of fans, or something.
The Official Google Blog has an interest post today about U.S. immigration laws, saying that the “artificially low cap” on H-1B visas, which allow foreign workers to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis, is hurting Google and the tech economy as a whole.
Congress, terrified of the evil scourge of illegal immigrants (who, you know, jump fences and use boats, often not visas), allows only 65,000 H-1B visas per year. Now, you may think that 65,000 should be more than enough, but Google’s got a stat that explains the problem: In the first two days of this year’s filing period, 133,000 applications were filed. Yeah, so the system is basically screwed out of helping qualified professionals seek U.S. jobs, and as a result Google says it has prevented 70 qualified people from getting their visas and working at Google.
If a multi-billion dollar technology company is complaining about not being able to get skilled workers in the country (I mean, it’s not like these people are going to work in the meatpacking district), then the system isn’t working right for the economy. The politicians are so scared of illegal immigrants, they can’t even do something to exempt companies with highly skilled workers. How about more visas for higher paying jobs, since the type of person you’re worried about doesn’t usually make a lot of money?
Anyway, here’s a video Google just uploaded of VP of People Operations (is that what Google calls HR?) Laszlo Bock talking before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration:
By the way, it’s worth clicking on the video to check out the new YouTube embeddable player. It contains a Mac OS Dock ripoff line of icons of related videos for you to choose from, as well as the ability to click anywhere in the progress bar to start playing from there. Cool stuff.
The latest video in Google’s Authors@Google series features Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chairman and chairman of the Hillary Clinton Campaign, who spoke Monday at the Googleplex talking about his recent book.
ZDNet has a (difficult to follow) blog post in which Rebecca Donatelli at the Google-sponsored Personal Democracy Forum two weeks ago laid out the stats on John McCain’s paid search Google AdWords campaigns. Turns out McCain, a major Republican Presidential hopeful for 2008, is raking it in by catching the eye of potential donators through AdWords ads alongside Google search results. For every one dollar spent on Google ads, McCain is averaging four dollars in donations.
Now that’s some great results! I wonder how the other candidates are doing with Google ads, and if any of them are running backwards, internet-stupid campaigns devoid of search advertising. McCain obviously sees what can be accomplished through Google, though he may have gotten a personal lesson when he gave his talk at Google last month. In fact, maybe Google is inviting all these presidential candidates to speak at the Googleplex just so they can get them set up with AdWords accounts!
Meetup, the site that lets you organize groups of people with similar interests, has posted a funny comparison of their corporate culture with Google’s (on Google Docs, no less!). It compares everything from company goals (organizing information versus organizing people), headquarters (Mountain View, California vs. New York City) and even toilets (electronic Rear Cleansing via touchpad vs. - uh - a regular toilet).
Of course, their main argument is one that just stings:
At Google, a few Googlers wish they were at a fast-growing company where they can personally still make a huge difference.
At Meetup, some Meetuppers wish we had a toilet like the Googleplex.
Over and over, they hammer home that Googlers are cogs, that there isn’t much of a difference that they can make, that Google wants their employees to only interact with other Googlers and never leave the campus. To some extent, every point is true, but there are plenty of Googlers for whom life at Google is great, and at least some that are innovating and changing the world. Then again, if the sad truths are true for thousands of Googlers, is that just the way reality works, or is it a problem?
The Washington Post reports that exactly what we were all expecting finally happened: Google founder Sergey Brin married Anne Wojcicki this past weekend in the Bahamas. Congratulations to the newlyweds, who are hopefully zipping around on the Google Jet on the honeymoon of a lifetime. The Post says Brin was the previous most eligible bachelor on the planet, so I guess that makes Larry Page most elegible now (at least until he marries his girlfriend).
Last Friday, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and 2008 Republican presidential frontrunner, visited Google for a talk as part of their Authors@Google series (yeah, he wrote a book). Google CEO Eric Schmidt interviewed him, and a 67-minute video of that event has been uploaded by Google to YouTube:
Such an amazing man. Really, just full of qualities that no other candidate possesses. If only he was a decade younger (and I say that with all seriousness, if you’ve been following the campaigns).
Gotta love Eric Schmidt’s opening question:
How do you determine good ways of sorting 1 million 32-bit integers in two megabytes of RAM?
Anyone who can answer that without thinking, well, do you think they should be President? Maybe a technology adviser to the President, but not the Chief.
Just to note: McCain’s mike didn’t work, so they handed him a handheld mike, and he kept that thing up for almost 70 minutes. McCain’s arms are permanently damaged, courtesy of the North Vietnamese, to the point where he can’t hold them above his head, and he held that mike just below it for over an hour. That’s something I would have found tough!
The Guardian has an article about rich Google employees leaving, and they say a report quoted Google as having as many as 900 millionaires. Considering that Google has 12,238 employees (as of March 31), and had only 6,790 employees a year ago, that’s a pretty significant percentage. Considering all the employees with “F U” money, or at least “take a risk” money, it’s understandable that many of them would want to quit their jobs and maybe try something new.
Luckily, Google isn’t suffering the brain drain as bad as some other companies with high-flying stock have had in the past, like Microsoft (which created 12,000 millionaires). The reason: For many, working at Google is fun. Maybe the ad sales guys don’t have as fun a time, but Google’s engineers have a lot of opportunity to stay at Google, invest their new wealth, and try their hand at some interesting projects. And if that isn’t good enough, just the perks, like free food and fun activities available on campus, make it worth it even if you don’t need the money.
To some employees, who have enough money they don’t need to worry about their actual job, Google may feel like being at college again. And hey, if you create a great product that really takes off, you might get a Founders Award, and find yourself rich all over again.
Blogger Buzz, the official Blog by the Blogger team at Google, ran this screenshot of an interface they were testing that didn’t quite pan out:
See, they’ve announced eight new languages that the Blogger interface is now available in (Nederlands, Türkçe, Dansk, Norsk, Svenska, suomi, Русский, and ภาษาไทย), but the above attempt to translate it into the universal language of love seems to have been a failure.
I’m thinking they just approached the “language of love” issue with the wrong attitude:
If you want more ridiculousness (and the first post of the day should always aspire to stupidity), here’s a video tribute to Googler Niniane Wang, super-prodigy, great coder, and possibly the most attractive woman at the ‘Plex (don’t get started about the guys):
Creepy? Cute? Scary? All of the above? Ding!
Seriously, why would anyone create this? Yeah, lots of bloggers have a (purely professional) crush on Niniane, but most people online are too lazy to put together something like this. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, on with my birthday. Happy birthday to me, I’ll work hard all day…
Birthday Gift Camera Fund stands at anywhere from 20-35% complete, depending on where it ends up. Will Nathan get a camera? Will this birthday have a happy ending? Are Nathan’s readers as broke as he is? Only time will tell…
CNet’s Jessica Dolcourt reports that Google help a Passover seder last week Thursday night at the Mountain View campus for about 100 guests. Sounds like a fun night for all, with kosher for passover delicacies like matzoh almond cake, custom printed Google haggadot, and a four-piece band playing klezmer and Israeli music.
The 100 guests dutifully dunked flat-leaf Italian parsley into salt water, drank four glasses of commemorative kosher wine, and networked.
Servers carried out 11 dishes for the family-style meal, including house-made gefilte (”stuffed”) fish; a Sephardic vegetable rice wrap acknowledging a branch of Spanish-Jewish traditions; and potato “koogle,” a Google-ized take on kugel, the Yiddish word for a type of baked pudding or casserole.
Sounds fun, but it opens so many questions. Like, what the hell where they doing holding a seder on Thursday, when the seder nights were Tuesday and Wednesday? Could be, they held it on a different day so Googlers/Jooglers could hold the regular seder with their families, then just drive into work for the seder the day after. And what, they bought brand new silverware and cleaned the entire area for Passover? And who goes into work on a holiday anyway?
Hmm… Which of my readers attended/hosted a seder this year? How was it?
Finally, in the oddness department, turns out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt may receive only a $1 salary, but his personal security cost the company $532,755. By comparison, protecting Larry Page cost only $36,795. What is Eric so afraid of? Are there really that many threats on his life? Perhaps Page learned kung fu and saved the company half a million dollars? This is very important information…