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Former Google CIO Suggests 'Do Dumb Things'

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the not-all-things-are-dumb-in-the-same-way dept.

Businesses 202

itwbennett writes "Speaking at the CA Expo in Sydney, Australia, former Google CIO Douglas Merrill shared some management tips he learned during his tenure at the search giant. At the top of the list: 'Don't be afraid to do dumb things.' Merrill recalls that 'most of the early Google hardware was stolen from trash and as the stuff they stole broke all the time they built a reliable software system. Everyone knew we shouldn't build our own hardware as it was 'dumb', but everyone was wrong. Sometimes being dumb changes the game.' Another pearl of wisdom from Merrill: 'the more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed.'"

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Obama to speak to nation at 9pm. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36877838)

In case you were wondering if and when President Obama would make a prime time speech from the White House to argue his case on the debt ceiling, wonder no more. The White House announced the president is scheduled to speak to the nation at 9 pm eastern time Monday from the East Room.

Earlier Monday, it was reported that the White House had cancelled two planned appearances by the president at campaign fundraisers because of the debt ceiling crisis. Now we know that the president had more in mind than working the phones.

Obama has been using the White House bully pulpit to raise the pressure on congressional Republicans to approve a debt ceiling increase by Aug. 2. He's done news conferences at the White House. And he's used stages beyond the White House. Last week, for instance, he argued for an increase at a town hall-style event in a Washington suburb.

But in the presidential tool kit, there's nothing quite like a prime time address from the White House to underscore the seriousness of a matter and to try and win public support.

House Speaker John Boehner will deliver the Republican rebuttal.

Dumb? (-1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#36878368)

Google says I should do dumb things? Dumb things like accidentally collecting private wifi information around the globe? ZING!!!

Re:Dumb? (-1, Offtopic)

uofitorn (804157) | about 3 years ago | (#36878788)

Dumb is not getting your subluxation problem diagnosed by a fully bonded, insured, and licensed clinical chiropractor.

Hah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36877858)

Well, I feel vindicated at any rate. I've made a life and a career out of doing dumb things.

Re:Hah! (4, Informative)

Sadsfae (242195) | about 3 years ago | (#36877928)

"the more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed."

There is quite a lot of truth to this statement.

Re:Hah! (5, Insightful)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 3 years ago | (#36878068)

Project management is an inverted parabola. Too little and you will fail due to lack of direction and budget, too much and you will smother it.

ah but (2)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#36878424)

if you do too little, you won't know that you failed.

Re:Hah! (1)

NuShrike (561140) | about 3 years ago | (#36878530)

Isn't this also a statement about the Google+ "real name" kerfuffle?

Re:Hah! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#36878602)

aka paralysis by analysis.

Google should know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36877870)

Take Google Plus: Don't Be Evil - Be Racist [google.com] . Read it--If yer not a rich white guy, they don't want you on their service.

Re:Google should know (1)

yincrash (854885) | about 3 years ago | (#36877982)

This is not racist. It is culturally insensitive or culturally ignorant, but it has nothing to do with 'race'.

Re:Google should know (1)

lgarner (694957) | about 3 years ago | (#36878054)

Hehe, AC never fails to amuse. Anything about "Be Racist" in the posts you linked to? Nope, that's your not-too-bright interpretation. Nothing either about being rich, or white, or both. Just made-up inferences.

Nothing at all about Google+ is significant until it's released from testing to production, even if that time never comes. Even then, it's a private service offered by a private company. It may turn out to be a "dumb thing" to require real names as policy, and no doubt will be a "dumb thing" if they can't handle names that are 3-words (or hyphenated, or anything else), but the "dumbest thing" of all is for those who're concerned about this to use the service at all. They can continue using the current offerings.

Re:Google should know (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 3 years ago | (#36878294)

It may turn out to be a "dumb thing" to require real names as policy, and no doubt will be a "dumb thing" if they can't handle names that are 3-words (or hyphenated, or anything else), but the "dumbest thing" of all is for those who're concerned about this to use the service at all. They can continue using the current offerings.

But isn't the point of this story that you are supposed to do dumb things?

Re:Google should know (1)

JordanL (886154) | about 3 years ago | (#36878110)

Racist? Uh... I guess... if you're into hyperbole.

Was that guy really trying to say that Google should let him list his REAL name as "CopyLion" because a larger number of people know him by that "nickname" and thus it is his actual name to most people?

Seems.. silly to me, but I guess it's more culturally acceptable in Hong Kong to be a virtual person? What are the ideas behind "virtual people" anyway? Can Google show that such people are actually people and not groups, amalgamations, fronts or scripts?

Re:Google should know (2)

victorhooi (830021) | about 3 years ago | (#36878464)

heya,

Well, I started reading the top and it sounded reasonable (terrible English aside)...lol....

But then I got to the gist of it. The guy wants Google (and Google Plus) to list his real name as "CopyLion". Like, seriously?

Ok, I know HK's have zany names (one of my best friend's is called "Alpha"), but really? *shakes heads*.

I mean, my name is "Victor" - that's an anglicisation we picked up. My Chinese name is "XiaoKang", which is rendered as my middle name in English. Whenever anybody asks for my name, I give it the same as it's written on my birth certificate, or passport. I'm not going to try and inject something weird like Victor "THE AWESOMENESS" Hooi is my real name...

All of these whiney HK people have real names, jeez. Just render them as PinYin, as I did, and put that as your real name.

This CopyLion dude even gives us an example himeself (or herself) - CHAN, Tai Man . There you go - his name is "Tai Man Chan". Problem solved.

It's funny how they're trying to fly the OH NOES YOUR RACIST!!! flag to try to sneak in using nicknames, and get around rules...lol.

Cheers,
Victor

In what way did it change the game (3, Insightful)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 3 years ago | (#36877872)

is he saying that if the hardware he made was, say, 20% more power hungry and 10% more expensive it would have rendered Google's business idea unworkable. I'm not sure I buy it. Maybe it allowed him to scale up with less capital, but I think a 20% slower google would still have won hearts and minds during the period it was being created.

Re:In what way did it change the game (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 years ago | (#36878490)

I don't know, seems reasonable to me. Profit margins can be pretty slim and it does not take much to go from making a cent per user to losing a cent per user and no business is built on losing money.

Re:In what way did it change the game (1)

guspasho (941623) | about 3 years ago | (#36878532)

No business is built on losing money AND no business grows as large and as quickly as Google has by running a slim profit margin.

Re:In what way did it change the game (3, Informative)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 years ago | (#36878716)

Many huge businesses run on tiny profit margins. if you do enough business then it compensates and google does a ton of business.

And thus are huge percentage increases. 20% more cost to operate the hardware and 10% more to build? That would of turned a healthy profit margin into a non existent one (don't forget we are talking about the beginning of Google so I doubt that they had so many employees to make hardware cost insignificant).

here's the relevant word: pragmatism (2)

nevurthls (1167963) | about 3 years ago | (#36878658)

pragmatism, that's what it was. Look up the definition. Although saying 'be pragmatic' is not as quotable as saying be dumb' and meaning be pragmatic.

Re:In what way did it change the game (5, Insightful)

YojimboJango (978350) | about 3 years ago | (#36879088)

If you're not buying that how about buying reading lessons.

He's saying that getting cheap crappy hardware that failed all the time forced them to write software with a high tolerance for failure. A little between the lines and he's saying that if they didn't go through the hardship of failing hardware they would've never written something that could fail over to other machines. I can imagine that a system that fails over to a new server quickly would also be highly scalable with a little tweaking.

That 'dumb decision' to not invest in reliable hardware indirectly helped them build a highly scalable search system that became their whole companies foundation. Over management and strict adherence to known process would have produced a Google search that would've required a massive rewrite to their (at the time only) product right when they were getting off the ground.

TLDR: If you're big enough to hire a consultant that tells you to, "Think outside the box", you're probably too big to think outside the box.

It meant that the hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879218)

was shitty and had to design their software around it, and the software is what made them successful today. If they had bought reliable hardware, they wouldn't have had to implement what they did, and the rest is history

Re:In what way did it change the game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879772)

is he saying that if the hardware he made was, say, 20% more power hungry and 10% more expensive it would have rendered Google's business idea unworkable. I'm not sure I buy it. Maybe it allowed him to scale up with less capital, but I think a 20% slower google would still have won hearts and minds during the period it was being created.

Or maybe it set the status quo which dictated that they need be as efficient and resourceful as possible. I would think the overall mindset and atmosphere of the company may be one of the most realistic motivators you could have, and seeing that the company you're working for being that mindful of their spending and limited resources would actually be quite humbling in favor of a focus on the business' livelihood.

Translation (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36877898)

*you* go do dumb things. We don't like competition. Always be wary of free advice from rich people, they like the view from the top, *alone*.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878816)

Insightful is -1 now?

Yea, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36877920)

Tell that to the Project Managers when their boss asks them 'So, what did you do this month to earn your check?' Software development is broken, almost by definition.

Project management (2)

br00tus (528477) | about 3 years ago | (#36877926)

I think most project managers are a waste as well. In a small company it is unneeded. I'm more circumspect to say whether or not they're needed in a big company, but they certainly seem less needed in small, closely connected groups. If you have a big, long project, with people from different divisions doing different things, then yes, a project manager can be helpful. On a small project, with a few people, who work closely already on a variety of things, project managers just tend to get in the way. I don't know how many projects I've been brought into at the last minute because someone quit or whatever, and the PM points to my place on the timeline - I'm already two weeks late in finishing whatever is supposed to be done on the day I'm brought into the project. It's just completely pointless aside from those large collaborations that cross across many people in many different groups at a company.

Re:Project management (4, Insightful)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 3 years ago | (#36878094)

BAD project management gets in the way... a project manager is suppose to get obstacles out of the way of the talent and provide resources where needed... not crack the whip because they are idiots.

Re:Project management (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | about 3 years ago | (#36878188)

BAD project management gets in the way... a project manager is suppose to get obstacles out of the way of the talent and provide resources where needed... not crack the whip because they are idiots.

Another thing that kills project is bad management. A good project manager can't be effective if bad management gets in the way.

Re:Project management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878746)

Project Management:

"We need you to give us a timeframe for our GANTT chart so we can set start and end dates for the project."

Um, ok, what exactly is the project? Do we actually have a definition of what we're trying to accomplish?

"No, but we need to tell us how long it'll take you to write this thing we haven't even defined what we want yet."

Re:Project management (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 3 years ago | (#36878292)

If that's the case, then I've never met a GOOD project manager. Generally the project managers I've worked with seem to think their jobs are to slow me down. I had one tell me it was because when I completed my work too soon it would make the project estimates look bad. Then he proceeded to load me down with process, Quality Assurance and configuration management reports. All of which were turfed when the project managers were rotated because one took a "promotion".

I agree some management in the planning stage is good. Too much in the development and testing phases just puts the fire out and kills the project.

Were you the one... (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about 3 years ago | (#36879062)

that made the initial time estimates? If so then you were making the estimates (yours in particular) look bad and unreliable. If it was someone else making the estimates for you work then that is about as big of a WTF as you can get. I've been at places where the engineers are given estimates created by someone else. It never works out.

Re:Project management (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | about 3 years ago | (#36879398)

Oh, yeah - nothing makes you look more incompetent than having your project be ahead of schedule.

Re:Project management (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 3 years ago | (#36879566)

Oh, yeah - nothing makes you look more incompetent than having your project be ahead of schedule.

I take it you've never worked in the Government sector? On time/under budget is the last thing you want because next year's budget will be cut.

Re:Project management (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878168)

My pm is most valuable in the budget forecasting stage. A good pm helps me manage expectations for cost and time. Good pms are not just micromanagers. They can help you give an educated guess to your funders of how much a project will cost.

Re:Project management (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878196)

rubbish...

Sorry someone will end up doing the job of the project manager. Seen it happen dozens of times.

Get a real one and you see what was missing...

Get a myopic dick and they can grind things to a halt.

Re:Project management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878308)

Sorry someone will end up doing the job of the project manager.

Who's the project manager for the Linux kernel? Linus Torvalds, who is also the technical lead and chief architect, and who (not incidentally) founded the project and wrote most of the early code.

Who's the project manager for evolution of C++ as a programming language? Bjarne Stroustrup.

Who's the project manager for Product X at Big Software Co.? Somebody who doesn't know dick about programming, but took a course in SQL once. What they do is remind everyone, every day, that everything they do has to be organized within the efforts of an organization of a hundred or more people, just on the front side (pre-release). So whatever agility the organization used to have, is gone as these bossy PM's love to spell out why the rules and schedule have to be inflexible as they are. They'll throw the 0's in your face... 9 figures revenue recognition depends on this project shipping on that date, etc.

Re:Project management (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878450)

Dude, you way overestimate the PMs ability at a large company. At IBM most of the PMs I deal with don't know the difference between Firefox and IE, cannot figure out how to use tabs in a browser and get confused if given details of work being done. But hey, they got certified and trained on MS Project.

I'm a little bit confused... (1)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#36878484)

Are you saying you have Linus representing the Good; Bjarne representing the Bad; and a faceless dud in the middle?

I get what your saying about C++, but it seems a bit harsh to Bjarne; he had lots of help making that mess.

Re:I'm a little bit confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878538)

Bjarne has the same relation to C++ as Linus does to Linux. Founder, chief architect, technical lead, project manager. I decided not to repeat the whole refrain.

Stroustrup's dedication and skill as project manager is a big reason that C++ has maintained relevance and market share for over two decades. By contrast, Objective C waned and almost disappeared, had it not been for Apple.

Re:I'm a little bit confused... (1)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#36879152)

Do you ever get the feeling that an airplane passed just over your head, but no matter where you look, its not there?

Re:Project management (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#36878288)

I think most project managers are a waste as well. In a small company it is unneeded. I'm more circumspect to say whether or not they're needed in a big company, but they certainly seem less needed in small, closely connected groups.

I argue that you need project management all the time, only the amount of it varies in depending the size of the project. I tend to agree, however, that if you do project management in excess of what's needed, almost all the time is a failure guarantee.

In short, when doing it the proper way, project management is related with the "cost of prevention", thus:
a. you may skip the prevention and, if lucky enough, you may succeed; but...
b. ... if you are excessively cautious, nobody is going to get you back the time and effort you spend in being prepared.

Of course, if you do PM in a wrong way, then the effort is wasted from the very beginning; no matter how small is the impact, it's still a waste.

Re:Project management (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 3 years ago | (#36879584)

you may skip the prevention and, if lucky enough, you may succeed;

That sure worked out well for BP

Re:Project management (1)

alvinrod (889928) | about 3 years ago | (#36878304)

It really depends on what amount of management needs to be done and wether or not developers will use sane project management practices themselves. In smaller groups, things will generally work well assuming that group of developers in that group is well disciplined and are able to identify what needs to be done. Once the group size increases, so does the communication overhead, while the contribution of any one person decreases. At that point you need someone looking at the big picture and providing some guidance.

Project management is only a tool, and like most tools it can misused and produce horrible results. In my own opinion, anyone who's been put into the position of project management should be able to jump in and provide help in area that they're overseeing. If they're not capable of doing it themselves, they'll only have a flawed conception of the problem, diminishing their ability to make good management decisions.

Re:Project management (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878376)

I think most project managers are a waste as well. In a small company it is unneeded.

My job is a fucking endless nightmare because of people who think like you. :(

Still, in all fairness, I would (and do :/) take no project management at all over bad project management. Bad PM isn't just catastrophic, it's an extinction-level dinosaur-killing asteroid of fail.

Re:Project management (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#36878668)

Often the problem is when these plans are made, time lines are too optimistic to get it under budget. Then the timelines are used as a whip to judge people success or failure.
They work better if you can have blanks. And the project managers job is about keeping the project going and all the requirements are met.

Re:Project management (1)

sirnobicus (1595021) | about 3 years ago | (#36879630)

A good PM is invaluable. A bad PM just adds needless overheads. I have had both. Even on little projects, PMs can be a great resource. Their main task is to keep the project on track, and stop all the crap getting to the people who are actually doing the work.

Sorry, but Google is no role model (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#36877946)

Google succeeded because it was at the right time at the right place. Nothing else. Yes, there were other search engines before it, but Google set a standard and ran with it. Try the same approach in the same field of business today and you will fail. Invariably. Likewise with the next EBay, the next Amazon, the next Facebook. No, they were not the first. But they were amongst the first and they were there and "the best" at just the right time when the service they offered suddenly got popular.

That's all that is to their success. Nothing more, nothing less. Just pure luck. You might also say good timing, but I kinda doubt anyone can actually predict so accurately when which service hits the sweet spot. If he could, most of these services would be in one hand. Why? Because that person/organization would have hit the sweet spots more often than anyone else. Duh.

I wouldn't take any advice from any of those "successful" companies. They didn't do anything right where everyone else was too stupid. They were just lucky to be the one that were lucky enough to be the one being at the right place at the right time with the right product.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

TafBang (1971954) | about 3 years ago | (#36877976)

How can you say it was the right time. Google's so innovative and the most popular thing on the web today. Google made life more efficient and knowledge easier to obtain. You're too stupid.... There was and is no wrong time for a service like Google.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#36878074)

Create a search engine now and make it popular enough to have a two digit percentage share of the market. Hell, even MS with its position to cram Bing down every throat is struggling with it.

Did we need a good search engine? Sure we did. And Google is about the best engine there is, at least in my opinion. It certainly wasn't when it started. And if you started a search service today with the quality Google had in 98, you'd be laughed off and forgotten before you're done launching the product. This is what I mean with a "wrong time". It's over. Doing as Google did when it started will not be successful. That's what I mean with learning from them being not really a smart idea. What they did worked. Then. It probably won't work today anymore, at least in this business. It could work of course. If you just happen to be the company that hits the Next Big Thing at just the right time.

And that's what I mean with luck. If Google launched a year earlier or later, they would not have succeeded most likely. Not because or despite their strategy, but because their strategy doesn't matter as much as they (and it seems not only them) think. Having the right product at the right time matters. And that's something I seriously doubt that it could be predicted. Else, as stated, we'd see a lot more of the "key services" on the internet that are cash cows, from auction houses to internet phone to retail, would be in that one hand of that person or group who can predict the market well enough to launch their products at those "right" times.

I mean, why deliberately go and launch at the wrong time? Too early and nobody will care for it while you waste your money and energy. Too late and someone will already be there to gobble up users with you struggling to convince them that your service is better. You have to hit when that critical moment is upon us.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 3 years ago | (#36878342)

And if you started a search service today with the quality Google had in 98, you'd be laughed off and forgotten before you're done launching the product.

Really? I'd prefer the quality of search results it had back then ...

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (2)

Aydsman (718016) | about 3 years ago | (#36879544)

And if you started a search service today with the quality Google had in 98, you'd be laughed off and forgotten before you're done launching the product.

Really? I'd prefer the quality of search results it had back then ...

You'd prefer the quality of results from back then, however if a new service was built with a similar quality algorithm as Google's from 1998 you'd not get those results. This is what I think Opportunist was meaning.

Since Google launched they've had to constantly tweak their service as websites change (either intentionally gaming the system or simply for new trends). Anyone building a new search engine would need to build to the current standard at least with all those tweaks and changes in order to get the same quality.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | about 3 years ago | (#36878506)

Yeah exactly success is nothing but luck. Is that maybe your reason why you deserve the fruits without putting in the labor? I've certainly read that cute little hypothesis here often enough.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 3 years ago | (#36878590)

"Yeah exactly success is nothing but luck"

No. What he says is that luck is what makes the difference. A lot of people come with good ideas, hard word and even enough capital but only a few success. What's the difference between the ones and the others?

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

AaronW (33736) | about 3 years ago | (#36878570)

Back when Google first came out it gained popularity due to the quality of its results compared with Alta Vista and others. The others couldn't hold a candle to Google with their page rank algorithm.

The other thing that made Google so popular was that the other search engines were completely cluttered with animated ads all over the place whereas Google just had a simple clean interface.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878010)

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
- Seneca
        Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC - 65 AD)

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | about 3 years ago | (#36879598)

Some people have a lot of opportunities and chances to eventually be prepared for one of them. Other people have spent their whole lives preparing and never had an opportunity.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 3 years ago | (#36878076)

Google succeeded because it was at the right time at the right place. Nothing else.

No, it was not "Nothing else." Google got it right (or close enough to right). Taking advice from Google would be a mistake because they are already dominant in the industry where there advice is most applicable. However, listening to how they chose to go against the "received wisdom" of business might help you to see how it might pay you to go against the "received wisdom" in your industry and be more successful.
Treating the pronouncements from a successful businessman from a different industry (probably even from the same industry) as "from on high", is foolish. Unfortunately, all too many people do so anyway. On the other hand if one looks at what they say about why they succeeded carefully can reveal insights that can lead to success.
Ultimately, I agree with you that many people give the statements by the guys from Google, or Jeff Bezos from Amazon, or many others too much credence. On the other hand, your post goes too far the other way in dismissing the wisdom to be gleaned from what these guys say (the key being the word glean:to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit.).

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

JordanL (886154) | about 3 years ago | (#36878138)

And this is a great example of why you are not a multi-billionaire or successful CIO suggesting people do dumb things: successful business people are at the right place at the right time because they decide to make that time NOW. Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon... for them it was the right time because they put a lot of effort into making it the right time.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878582)

Facebook: Zuckerburg stole everything Facebook is from another site. As a very early user of both, his site was inferior. He got lucky, but also had an advantage because he had no morals and was willing to lie, cheat, and take advantage of people.

Google: Google was the first in a new generation of search engines. It was basically a PhD paper that launched a billion-dollar enterprise. Everything they've done since then, with the arguable exception of adwords, has been mediocre -- much like Microsoft with Windows/Office, it's a huge business riding on one innovation followed by market capture.

I don't know the history of the other two as well, but I recall reading an article about a study a while back that analyzed hugely successful people. The one thing they all had in spades? Fantastic luck. If I had to guess, I'm betting second place is lack of morals bordering on sociopathy.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878184)

Sorry, no, there were plenty of search companies before Google. AltaVista was my favorite, but Yahoo's search wasn't bad. Then I tried Google, and it blew them all away with the simplicity and cleanliness of the interface and the quality of their search results.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 3 years ago | (#36878244)

No, Google succeeded because they did search with a far better algorithm than anything else out there at the time. It came into being several years after the first search engines, and was up against several established players, such as Yahoo. They also made one very smart marketing move, which is still with them today: The front page of Google was a simple search box, whereas the front page of their competitors was loaded with widgets and paid ads. In the days of 56k modems, that meant you could load Google faster and search faster.

Facebook, too, also was up against an established competitor in MySpace. They won out by providing a service that was (at the time) less bloated, more private, and less ad-driven than MySpace (and then proceeded to make it more bloated, less private, and more ad-driven, but that's another story).

Plenty of other companies have succeeded in marketplaces with established competitors - Ben and Jerry's, for instance, built up from practically nothing in a highly competitive market.

Luck makes a difference, no doubt: I was talking with another CS grad from my alma mater who had turned down a chance to be Google employee #5 because he was heading to a good job in computer graphics and didn't want to risk it all on some crazy start-up. He's done just fine for himself at Pixar, but one coin flip the other way and he might well have had a fortune.

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 3 years ago | (#36878584)

Google succeeded because it was at the right time at the right place. Nothing else.

Except that there were a dozen search engines at the SAME "right" time and place, and none of them had the same success as Google. They won out in search because their search result quality and simplicity at the time blew away everyone else's, and they have continued to be the best in their class.

And they are making massive profits now not because they have "good search", but because they put large *effort* into making their advertising network and tools the best in class, as well.

Luck is usually what other people call success when someone succeeds where they haven't (aka "sour grapes"). Doesn't matter if there was a huge amount of planning and effort put in. Anyone can scale a global network globally to of millions of servers, translate into almost every modern language, have the best email client, mapping software, and other services, etc, if they get lucky..

Re:Sorry, but Google is no role model (1)

jakartus (1287248) | about 3 years ago | (#36878780)

"No one is better at anything than anyone (especially me). They were just lucky and in the right place at the right time. Anyone could have done it, really." Soon to be followed by the reasoning "It isn't fair, we should all have what they do, just luck I say, let us form a committee to redistribute the wealth"

Not the copycat you think they were (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#36879050)

Not luck, a different approach that was far better than the competition. Google's ranking wasn't an entirely new idea - it was very similar to what the science citation index did - but no other search engine at the time even attempted such an approach. They made their own "timing" because search engines had been around for a few years previously and the technology was all there but nobody else had made such a step.

Misleading summary (5, Insightful)

101010_or_0x2A (1001372) | about 3 years ago | (#36877956)

Does anyone here even read the summary together with the article itself and see if it makes sense? He did *not* say "do dumb things". That statement implies that you know its a dumb thing to do and it will not work, yet you do it anyway. In this case you *are* dumb and should be fired. He said "don't be afraid to do dumb things", which has a totally different meaning. It means that you should try approaches that may be non-obvious, but at least you are attempting to solve whatever the problem at hand is in an ingenious way. Sometimes it does not work and you look foolish, but you often get innovative solutions to tough problems.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

syousef (465911) | about 3 years ago | (#36878278)

Does anyone here even read the summary together with the article itself and see if it makes sense? He did *not* say "do dumb things". That statement implies that you know its a dumb thing to do and it will not work, yet you do it anyway. In this case you *are* dumb and should be fired. He said "don't be afraid to do dumb things", which has a totally different meaning.

Actually if you read what you just wrote, it logically implies that you should expect to be fired and not be afraid of it. I don't think you should be giving anyone subtle lessons in logic.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#36878394)

Seriously, guys, read TFA. Here's another example of "dumb" but insightful:

On funding good people, Merrill recommends always "over hiring" and diversity matters.

"Diversity yields better outcomes. Hire someone who annoys you as they are more likely to be diverse and diverse practices are better," he said.

Any MBA graduate will tell you this is dumb, because you aren't trying to minimize the cost and create yourself the pains of constant frictions. Very few will recall that the profit has two components, and the "income" part of it is actually favored by diversification.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 3 years ago | (#36878514)

The problem with these kinds of soundbytes is that you can make them say anything you like.

"Diversity yields better outcomes." WTF does that even mean? Without a definition of "better outcomes", it can be right or wrong. Do you really want an engineering department full of firemen, truckers, painters, sportspeople etc? No, you want an engineering department full of engineers.

"Hire someone who annoys you" Seriously? Do you want to spend the whole day having arguments and being stressed out about stupid shit? Is that really a better way to build products?

There's no insight here, just soundbytes that everyone interprets differently.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

jakartus (1287248) | about 3 years ago | (#36878850)

Well thankfully, Google wasn't run by MBA graduates [time.com]

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879764)

The other way I understand his statement is, "don't be afraid to give a non-textbook answer". I had a business partner who came from the corporate world and learned to operate a certain way. The problem was that he couldn't adapt to the small business world where "doing things the right way" and "working with what we've got" don't always coincide.

The is the wrong lesson all C*Os learn (1)

Sarusa (104047) | about 3 years ago | (#36878034)

Don't do dumb things. Do calculatedly different things that break the conventional wisdom for good reasons. You can do risky things that you think have a good chance of failing but might have huge rewards as long as you know why you're doing it.

But the executive level takeaway seems to be "Hey, I didn't understand why that last thing worked, so why not just do whatever I want with impunity?" See anything Eric Schmidt has ever said, for example. Or Kaz Hirai.

Re:The is the wrong lesson all C*Os learn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878426)

Well, in the macro view if there are lots of companies doing randomly dumb things, something might work and seem brilliant in retrospect.

Excellent advice! (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 3 years ago | (#36878078)

Every single major corporation does dumb things all the time! Incompetence is rampant! That means, logically, if you want to create a major corporation, you need to cultivate a culture of incompetence and stupidity.

I can't hear you! ... Okay, I can hear you now... (5, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | about 3 years ago | (#36878090)

Continuing this line of thought, Merrill said, "Put all your eggs in one basket; Count your chickens before they hatch. Serve some wine before its time, find yourself an itch to scratch."

Re:I can't hear you! ... Okay, I can hear you now. (1)

Tamran (1424955) | about 3 years ago | (#36878264)

Continuing this line of thought, Merrill said, "Put all your eggs in one basket; Count your chickens before they hatch. Serve some wine before its time, find yourself an itch to scratch."

Citation Needed [azlyrics.com]

Project Managament (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878358)

"the more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed.". I know someone that takes that philosophy to the extreme: ie zero project management. And it fails every time.

Re:Project Managament (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | about 3 years ago | (#36879508)

The point is to be flexible - if you are open to learning, to experimenting, then as you work on a project you will discover better goals than the one you originally set out to reach. If you see a better goal along the way than the one you set out to reach, then change the goal. Changing the goal will mean throwing out all your schedules and project planning. But continuing on to the wrong goal just because you have invested a lot of time in a detailed plan for how to get there is dumb.

Thowing mud at walls (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 years ago | (#36878478)

Google is king of search because they do it better than everyone else. Back in the day, when all search engines seemed to do the same thing, Google came along and did it better. Google became famous for providing more relevant results (and they still do) want results. If someone comes along with a better search engine, Google is finished. Therefore, it seems logical that they invest in other ideas to avoid having all their eggs in one basket.

They produced an office suite but it never really caught on. People still like to have software that actually resides on the hard disk.

They bought out a company called Android and made Steve Job sweat. Yet they give it away for free (while Microsoft profits on it!) . I'd like to see how that ROI looks on paper.

Ditto their browser.

They practically put the map-makers out of business with awesome mapping software but like everything else they do, they give it away. Who wouldn't have paid $5 or $10 for Google Maps?

Eventually, they might find some mud that sticks to the walls and who knows, maybe they'll even ask a few bucks for it. Until then, they'll stay plenty busy playing with investors' money (bidding the value of pi, etc.).

Ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878500)

I call this functioning with the benefit of ignorance. Sometimes the reason why something cant or shouldn't be done is either wrong or no longer true. If you are ignorant of all those pesky reasons you can often do that which cant or shouldn't be done.

Wealthy advice (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 years ago | (#36878536)

its funny how the uber wealthy have advice like 'its not about the money', 'take risks' ' you can always start over' 'the economy isn't that bad' etc etc.

Sure, they made it and we didn't, but it does taint their objectiveness to towards the real world.

Re:Wealthy advice (1)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | about 3 years ago | (#36878652)

Or maybe they did some things differently, and that's how they got to BE the uber wealthy? But no, cause and effect can't possibly have any bearing on reality. That would be silly.

Re:Wealthy advice (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 3 years ago | (#36879274)

For every person that does stuff differently and suceeds there are dozens if not hundreds of others that did things differently and lost there shirt, having a good idea even if implemented well is no guarentee of financial success, those that suceeded first attempt like google quite often lack the objectiveness of how difficult the business world can be even with a good idea.

A funny thing happened on the way to the IPO. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36878558)

From TFA:

"Don't be afraid to do dumb things. Larry and Sergey developed a search product called 'Backrub' - don't ask me how they got that - and shortly after that launched Google as part of the Stanford domain. Most of the early Google hardware was stolen from trash and as the stuff they stole broke all the time they built a reliable software system."

So this brings back one of my fondest IT memories. One week in the late 90s, I went down to the bay area for some very expensive naptime my employers referred to as "training." While I was down there I got to visit with a lot of old friends, including one brilliant network engineer who shall remain nameless. He took the lot of us on a tour of the colocation cages of his employer's datacenter, which featured a number of dotcom era luminaries. After oohing and aahing over the very shiny, very expensive servers of Angelfire, eBay, Lycos and others, we came to the end of a long hallway. To our right was a small cage with a single 19" rack in it. It was the ugliest rack you could hope to imagine. Naked motherboards were slotted in every inch, and a massive rat's nest of CAT-5 cables spilling out the front like it had puked up a lunch of yellow spaghetti. You could even see hard loose hard drives sitting on some of the motherboards, using swatches of gray foam as "mounting hardware." It was awesomely horrible. We had to know who was responsible for this monolith of kludge, and of course this was the moment he was waiting for.

"Oh. That's Google."

And with that our tour was over.

Another Google example (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 3 years ago | (#36878600)

Talking about Google encouraging people to "Do Dumb Things": their senior VP of engineering condones driving while distracted on a Mercedes advert [youtube.com] .

Translation: it's okay to drive like a moron, we have software that will save your ass.

Selection bias (2, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 3 years ago | (#36878632)

This is like asking a 110-year-old man how he got to live to be so old, him answering that he ate Ho-Hos every day, and then you adding Ho-Hos to your daily diet. Forget correlation != causality. There's not even any correlation here.

Re:Selection bias (1)

517714 (762276) | about 3 years ago | (#36879474)

The 110 year old man would be lying about Ho-Hos since he could only have eaten them for 40% of his life. Likewise you may wish to ignore the advise of someone who believes that the CCD was invented by Kodak or in 1990. CCD was invented by Bell Labs in 1969 and Kodak did use CCDs in a digital camera in 1975 and nobody (as far as I have been able to determine) said either was a bad idea.

I believe that ignoring the conventional wisdom of this ex-CIO is apt advise in this case.

Game Changer Here (2)

stms (1132653) | about 3 years ago | (#36878672)

I'm trying to change the game by making this dumb post. Now mod me +5 Insightful.

Re:Game Changer Here (1)

rubypossum (693765) | about 3 years ago | (#36878798)

If I had mod points I'd do it. Someone get this dear poster a book deal.

i like the second point (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 3 years ago | (#36878698)

I don't know if pulling hardware out of the trash is the only reason to build reliable systems. You could also just make building something that's redundant and reliable your main goal. Of course, I do see how it would be hard to pull that off if you get overbearing project managers just looking to cram one more feature in. So I think his second point is spot on.

Statute of Limitations (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#36878920)

So what's the statute of limitations regarding stealing from the trash? Anyone know?

In the Vaguard Again (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 years ago | (#36878948)

Google CIO:

'Don't be afraid to do dumb things.'

I believe that this yet another area in which I am well ahead of the curve.

Other words of wisdom I was given... (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 3 years ago | (#36878996)

Early on in my engineering career, my first principal engineer I worked for, a Russian scientist who fled the USSR in 1974, told me something that's stuck with me ever since:

.
You never learn from your success, only from your failure. If you succeed, you cannot be sure it wasn't just dumb luck; when you fail, you know there is only one person to blame.

Re:Other words of wisdom I was given... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879268)

A very Russian attitude with some truth to it. Cultivated perhaps by the Tsars to help keep the little people in their place.

An engineer and a scientist walk into a bar... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879388)

If you succeed, you cannot be sure it wasn't just dumb luck

... and that's the difference between an engineer and a scientist.

Or, as a famous computer scientist is quoted as saying, "I can't promise this program works; I have only proven it correct."

Disagree (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 3 years ago | (#36879196)

Another pearl of wisdom from Merrill: 'the more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed.'"

This is very poor advice. More often than not, I have seen poorly managed projects meet with less success. A properly planned project means that you have the cooperation of your customers and all departments involved. A properly planned project is one in which you have the trust and confidence from your customer.

Re:Disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879564)

Agree 100% - the value of project management, generally speaking, describes a bell curve. I work in a shop where there is no formal project planning for IT and it's a total crapshoot whether or not a project succeeds. The most significant failures I can name are all identifiably due to lack of planning or rigor in implementation.

Come to think of it, that bell curve probably skews to the right; I'm sure there's a dropoff point beyond which the process becomes overkill (probably more of an issue at larger places) but I would certainly love to get some of that bureaucracy, knowing the alternative as I do.

Dumb Things: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 3 years ago | (#36879312)

Paul Kelly's song is an anthem to most people's lives.

If I don't do several dumb things before I get my morning coffee, it's an unusual day.

Naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36879334)

Taking extraordinary risks is fine when the stakes are low. If some foolish choice in 1999 had doomed Google to failure the world would not have noticed. Other enterprises can't tolerate this indifference to risk, so lets not pretend it's somehow wrong not to play fast and lose with water supplies, food safety, air traffic, warheads, etc. There are plenty of places where 'dumb things' are not appreciated.

I put my finger in a lightsocket and didn't hurt (2)

retroworks (652802) | about 3 years ago | (#36879494)

Therefore, my advice is, put your finger into a light socket. The fact I did dumb things precedes my luck, so now I can give dumb advice from experience.
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