Google Tells Everyone: We Are Human

June 2, 2008

Techmeme has a link to the New York Times’ story “The Human Hands behind the Google Money Machine”. There’s also a link to the useful commentary by Henry Blodget, Silicon Valley Insider. By the time you read this, the comments and analyses of Google’s summer openness will be one of day’s key stories.

Last week there were the interviews and postings about Google I/O conference for developers. The best summary I’ve seen is by CNet. Stephen Shankland’s “We’re All Guinea Pigs in Google’s Search Experiment” and his “Google Spotlights Data Center Inner Workings.” Anand Rajaraman provided a technically-significant scoop about Google’s reluctance to rely exclusively on autonomous software. My post is here. The Datawocky piece is here. (I’ve heard that some Googlers call the Google infrastructure “the borg”.)

The flow of information is useful. As I thought about stream of information, I forced myself to step back and ask, “Why now?” Google has never been particularly forthcoming, and its public-facing representatives “run the game plan”. If you haven’t heard that phrase, it means, “Stick to the script.” At conferences, I’ve watched Googlers thrust into a presentation at the last minute struggle through the script.

Here are my thoughts about this new direction:

  1. The Google sees an opportunity to position itself a thoughtful leader. The emphasis on people shifts the discussion from monitoring clicks and algorithms to people who think about the implications of technology and market needs.
  2. The messages focus on what Google is doing. The examples say to me, “Hey, guys, we’re doing these things now.” For a competitor, the positioning of activities as actions based on what’s in place may be chilling. It begs the question, “What’s next?”
  3. Google is maturing, and its management is confident that messages for users, developers, advertisers, and competitors will increase Google’s presence in the market.

What do you think is behind this new transparency? It’s visible in Eric Schmidt’s remarks about mobile advertising , reported by Seeking Alpha, and his earlier comment in the U.K. Telegraph that Google’s founders have grown up. You can read this story here. and enjoy its now-obligatory picture of Messrs. Brin and Page lounging on some of Google’s signature fluffy furniture.

My take is that Google’s management is not behaving in a spontaneous manner. Just as a series of steps makes an algorithm work, this flood of information has my radar oscilloscope flickering. I think the mathematical logic so prized at Google is at work. I’m watching for signs of a big event in the Googlesphere. Semantic Web? Data management? Major buyout close to completion? Maybe.

Controlled transparency is a signal, not an end in itself.

Stephen Arnold, June 2, 2008


3 Responses to “Google Tells Everyone: We Are Human”

  1. Adam Lasnik on June 4th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Hey Stephen,

    There are many good reasons for transparency. For instance, I work with many folks here at Google on webmaster outreach. Connecting with and being more open with those webmasters creating great sites helps everyone… those webmasters (who can make even more accessible, successful sites), users (who enjoy the improved content and tools), and Google (which also benefits from outstanding content on the web).

    This isn’t something new. I think people are just noticing more. During my entire tenure here at Google, the teams I work with have been dedicated to sharing increasing amounts of information, especially actionable info… and I’m confident it will pay off for everyone in the long term.

    Anyway, Stephen, thanks for the interesting blog note. It’s quite cool to see folks’ (articulate) take on how we as Google and Googlers communicate and work with others. 🙂

  2. Stephen E. Arnold on June 4th, 2008 6:35 pm

    You’re writing a person who wears bunny rabbit ears. Googlers aren’t supposed to do that. A skeptical honk from the Beyond Search mascot is warranted.

    Thanks for your comment, but I have no way of knowing if you are a Googler, a Xoogler, a pretend Googler, or a legal Googler working in the off-campus trailers one mile from Messrs. Brin’s and Page’s office.

    Stephen Arnold, June 4, 2008

  3. Adaptive Search : Beyond Search on June 9th, 2008 8:07 am

    […] is that in the short essay I wrote about Peter Norvig’s conversation with Anand Rajaraman here, Dr. Norvig–now on a Google leave of absence–emphasized Google’s view of […]

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