We are the World

Its a blog on Emerging Technologies, Music, Film reviews. Have to name this blog as "We are the world" as that particular song is one of my all time favourite written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sung by Multi-artist group of Dianna ross, Ray charles,Steve wonder,etc.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Google...at last best place for programmers

Philip Greenspun's Weblog
The engineering staff at Google threw a big party for Silicon Valley nerds last Thursday night, complete with band and Cinco de Mayo-themed food and drink. The last time I visited was so long ago that Segways were still cool (Google still has a few but today they gather dust in a corner). Google has grown up to employ over 3000 people and occupies a campus built for Silicon Graphics (SGI; kids: this was a Unix workstation company that bloomed in the late 1980s and faded as Sun grew). The center is built around a volleyball court and an endless pool, complete with lifeguard until 9 pm. The company provides all of the fun things that profitable companies can provide, e.g., haircuts, massages, day care for kids, free meals, etc.

Larry Page, one of the founders, gave an inspiring talk about what a great time this is to be an engineer. He recalled how at one point Google had five employees and two million customers. Outside of Internet applications it is tough to imagine where that would be possible. Page also talked about the enjoyment of launching something, getting feedback from users, and refining the service on the fly. The Google speakers made a persuasive case that there is no better place to be a programmer. No startup company is going to have a 5000-machine cluster available to launch a new service or a guaranteed first day audience of 100 million people. Financially it might also make much more sense to work at Google as opposed to a startup. For teams of engineers who create a lot of value for Google the company is able to hand out $millions or tens of $millions in bonuses, to be shared among a group of 5-10 programmers. That is admittedly a small percentage of the new advertising reveue that Google earns from a new service but it is in absolute terms more than someone is likely to make creating the same service at a startup, where hardly anyone is likely to find out about it and use it.

One of the anecdotes that Page related was about an experienced Silicon Valley executive who told him, several years ago, "in the long run, every company is led by either marketing or sales; you just have to choose which it is going to be in Google's case." This prophecy does indeed seem to be true for the big tech companies. Microsoft never does anything because an engineer thinks it is fun or cool; they wait for the marketing department to notice a new product from a competitor and then go to work. Oracle seems to be led by their sales organization. They add features if customers are telling the sales people "this is what I need to make it worth buying the next release." Google remains an engineering-led company. They launch Google Maps with satellite imagery because they can.

As I wandered through the party and through the offices I kept noticing more and more familiar faces and the names of former students whom I remembered as among the smartest and nicest. They will, of course, need all of those smart people if they are to deliver on their long-term goals. Doing search right will eventually require machine understanding of natural language, i.e., full artificial intelligence.


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