Google: Fraying Comes with Graying

September 28, 2022

At a conference last week, I had to work hard to avoid getting annoyed at 20 somethings: Fiddling with mobiles, looking bored, and tapping on laptops. I stayed on course.

Not at the Google apparently. “Google CEO Pichai Tells Employees Not to ‘Equate Fun with Money’ in Heated All-Hands Meeting.” I have zero idea if this news story is spot on, nor do I care. The factoids might be disinformation bought and paid for by a disgruntled lobbying or a person unhappy with Google’s objective search results spiel.

But the write up is entertaining and it is suggestive, at least to me.

First, I chuckled at the “heated” all hands meeting. I have heard that in the Brin Page do no evil era, meetings were often fun. Heck, I have reasonably accurate information about Mr. Brin’s arriving at a meeting with Sumner Redstone. Mr. Brin exuded fun because he had been roller blading and arrived with skates on and fruit bootin garb. Mr. Redstone was not amused too much. If the write up’s headline reflects reality and not a quest for clicks, “heated” does not refer to sweaty wizards. Heated means angry, annoyed, maybe out of control? Huh, not cool.

Second, I spotted this comment in the write up:

Pichai admitted that it’s not just the economy that’s caused challenges at Google but also an expanding bureaucracy at Google.

High school science club management appears to fall short of what’s needed to make the Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind entity walk like a neurological digital dinosaur should. Wobblies and poor coordination do not send positive signals to big time Wall Street wolves.

Third, this compensation point resonated with me:

Pichai dodged employee questions asking about cost-cutting executive compensation. Pichai brought in total pay last year of $6.3 million, while other top executives made more than $28 million.

Is “dodged” the right word? Probably not, but to a wizard manager getting plastered with the word “dodged” is not positive PR. But, hey, this is the outfit which fired Dr. Timnit Gebru for pointing out one type of error association with Google’s smart software. Does that lack of intelligence extend to the managing humanoids at the Google? What about Google’s compensation plan for leadership versus a young programmer working on single sign on? Good question maybe?

Fourth, I found this passage thought provoking:

“I’m a bit concerned that you think what we’ve done is what you would define as aggressive cost saving,” he said. “I think it’s important we don’t get disconnected. You need to take a long-term view through conditions like this.” He added that the company is “still investing in long-term projects like quantum computing,” and said that at times of uncertainty, it’s important “to be smart, to be frugal, to be scrappy, to be more efficient.”

I think this illustrates what I would call a disconnect between the life in carpet land and the programmer-eat-marketer environment of the Foosball table. Disconnects? Is Android fragmented? Does Google have what it takes to catch up with Amazon and Microsoft in cloud space?

Has AGYD solved death? I know that Google may be looking a bit like a senior citizen struggling with the reality of arteriosclerosis. Will walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs be on display at the next big time all hands meeting?

That would be a significant signal in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2022

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