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The Decline of '20% Time' at Google

Soulskill posted 1 year,14 days | from the focusing-on-the-bottom-line dept.

Google 198

One of the things Google is known for is giving their employees so-called '20% time' — that is, the freedom to use a fifth of their working hours to pursue their own projects. Many of these projects have directly improved Google's existing products, and some have spawned new products entirely. An article at Quartz on Friday made that claim that 20% time was all but dead at Google, largely due to interference from upper management. Some Google engineers responded, and said that it has essentially turned into 120% time — they're still free to undertake their own projects, but they typically need their whole normal work week to meet productivity goals. "What 20% time really means is that you- as a Google eng- have access to, and can use, Google’s compute infrastructure to experiment and build new systems. The infrastructure, and the associated software tools, can be leveraged in 20% time to make an eng far more productive than they normally would be." An article at Ars makes the case that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because Google has enough good products that simply need iteration now, making the more innovative 20% time less useful. "Google wasn’t hurting for successful products when it started to tout its 20 percent time: off the backs of its pre-IPO services, it earned a market cap of over $23 billion. But if it was a company that wanted to grow and diversify beyond products that were either related to search or derivative of what already existed, it needed more ideas, better ideas, as quickly as possible. Hence, liberal use of 20 percent time made a lot of sense. Now, Google is not only an enormous company of nearly 45,000 employees with a market cap twelve times that of its first IPO ($286 billion), it has a lot of big products that it wants to make work. More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great."

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Object lesson (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596097)

The stock market kills companies.

Re: Object lesson (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596175)

So true!

Re: Object lesson (1)

Cryacin (657549) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597083)

This comes down to the discovery that ideas are an expense. Until the execution of the idea has been implemented, an idea just burns money. Ideas are plenty, especially in Google since for quite some time now, there has been a surplus generated by financial and cultural encouragement.

Google has realised that now it needs to focus in on execution rather than get more expenses. It is the unfortunate reality of making a profit, rather than an endless and inefficient reinvestment cycle.

Re:Object lesson (1)

EvanED (569694) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596189)

It's not the stock market: it's size.

Re:Object lesson from the stock market (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596275)

More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great.

But GOOG isn't being priced by the stock market as a company that is just going to refine its existing set of ideas; it's priced as a company that is going to "grow and diversify beyond [existing] products."

Did you notice what happened to AAPL when the market decided that Apple is only going to make its existing ideas great instead of continuing to diversify beyond existing products? Nearly cut their company value in half ... and Google simply isn't as cash-rich as Apple is which means they depend more on external money supplies.

Re:Object lesson from the stock market (1)

demachina (71715) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596889)

AAPL was elevated to stratospheric heights because of a bubble in their stock. Every hedge fund on the planet was buying it because the price was going up and the price was going up because every hedge fund on the planet was buying it. Its not really useful to compare to a time its stock was at stratospheric heights due to speculators.

On the other hand since Jobs died they do seem to be completely sucking. Hiring Kevin Lynch from Adobe was the most vivid illustration of that I can think of. I wager Jobs would have instantly fired anyone dumb enough to hire that guy.

Its probably an interesting question if those same hedge funds are pushing GOOG to heights greater than it deserves. Android is doing well but its a has a weird business model.

Re:Object lesson from the stock market (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597135)

I'm sorry but Apple deserves what they get as Jobs knew for a decade his time was running out but right up almost to the bitter end he refused to groom his replacement and make sure the company would continue down the path he set. You read the emails and other behind the scenes stuff and its really hard to get the impression all that Jobs cared about was Jobs and that the company tanking when he died would just boost his legend that much more which was fine by him.

As for Google they need to remember who was ruling the roost when they started, Altavista and Yahoo...where are they now? Altavista is gone and Yahoo is a shell of its former self. Google NEEDS all those bright young people cooking up new products on their dime as that is what lets them stay ahead of the game and in tech if you sit on ass and just ride on existing products it really don't take long for the hot new thing to come out and steal your thunder. Remember folks once upon a time Yahoo and MSFT were kings and Apple had Michael Dell telling them to give the money to the shareholders and give up as they had NO chance to recover, in tech you innovate or you sit on ass and if you ain't doing one you are probably doing the other.

Re:Object lesson (-1, Troll)

dreamchaser (49529) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596279)

No, it's not size. It's being publicly traded. There are laws and rules that require publicly traded companies to maximize stockholder profit. Google went public, and thus now they can't have the same culture they once did. It's pretty simple.

Re:Object lesson (5, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596459)

There are laws and rules that require publicly traded companies to maximize stockholder profit.

No [truthonthemarket.com] no [latimes.com] no [wikipedia.org] no [yahoo.com] !

It's not really true. It's not completely false to talk about the need of public companies to take into consideration , but there are significant problems with the argument most of the time you see someone trot out that line. Shareholder wealth maximization is a consideration, but is by far need not be be-all, end-all goal from a legal perspective. This is particularly true in this scenario of 20% time, because if the board thought that 20% time was a good thing to have from the company's perspective, they would be completely allowed to implement it.

"While the duty to maximize shareholder value may be a useful shorthand for a corporate manager to think about how to act on a day to day basis, this is not legally required or enforceable. The only constraint on board decision making is a pair of duties â" the âoeduty of careâ and the âoeduty of loyalty.â The duty of care requires boards to be well informed and to make deliberate decisions after careful consideration of the issues. Importantly, board members are entitled to rely on experts and corporate officers for their information, can easily comply with duty of care obligations by spending shareholder money on lawyers and process, and, in any event, are routinely indemnified against damages for any breaches of this duty. The duty of loyalty self evidently requires board members to put the interests of the corporation ahead of their own personal interest."

"But if shareholder value thinking is counterproductive, how did it become so prevalent? Non-experts often assume the approach is rooted in law, and that public companies are legally required to maximize profits and shareholder returns. This is pure myth. Thanks to a legal doctrine called the business judgment rule, corporate directors who refrain from using corporate funds to line their own pockets remain legally free to pursue almost any other objective, including providing secure jobs to employees, quality products for consumers and research and tax revenues to benefit society."

"[Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company] is frequently cited as support for the idea that "corporate law requires boards of directors to maximize shareholder wealth." The following articles attempt to refute that interpretation. ... In that context, the Dodge decision is viewed as a mixed result for both sides of the dispute. Ford was denied the ability to arbitrarily undermine the profitability of the firm, and thereby eliminate future dividends. Under the upheld business judgment rule, however, Ford was given considerable leeway via control of his board about what investments he could make. That left him with considerable influence over dividends, but not as complete control as he wished."

"Many of us have heard that corporations are legally required to maximize shareholder value. Guess what, they are not. The law in the United States does not require management to maximize shareholder value (except under rare circumstances such as when the company gets put up for sale). This may surprise you because you've also probably also heard that shareholders own the corporation. That's not true either."

And finally, to make things ever more interesting [innov8social.com] :

"In case law speak, judicial commentary articulating an opinion and not decisive to the case is known as "dicta" and is not binding in the court of law. The comments that have made Dodge v. Ford the single-most known case for defining a corporation's duty to maximize shareholder growth...comes in, well, dicta."

Re:Object lesson (2)

davester666 (731373) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596537)

It's just how the whole stock market/analyst reports/etc are reported/portrayed in North America.

Meet the numbers that a bunch of random guys have made up as to how much you "should" have sold this quarter, or your stock price drops because a bunch of hedge funds have decided that the random guys know more about running your business than you do.

Thank you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596551)

I too see that line of "laws require publicly traded companies to maximize stockholder profit" every so often. It is such a lazy argument that makes no sense, that it is hard to see how people accept it to repeat it in these discussions.

Sadly, we'll see it again in a month in a discussion about Microsoft or Nintendo or IBM. :(

Re:Object lesson (3, Insightful)

mattmarlowe (694498) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596827)

Your refutal of the maxime shareholder profit argument may be technically correct, but it's probably simplistic....whenever an officer of a company makes a decision that can be questioned as not maximizing profit, he is opening himself up to the possibility of a shareholder lawsuit. If the officer is the CEO, the risks are even greater.

So guess what happens...the ceo is advised by his lawyer how to behave, the ceo advises his subordinate managers how to behave, and the a new culture trickles down...

No one is to blame but the system here.

Re:Object lesson or going public (0)

Ellie K (1804464) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596461)

Public companies have a lot of latitude in fulfilling their fiduciary interests to shareholders. Look at what bank CEO's (and Larry Ellison of Oracle) are paid now. Are they really worth a salary that is over 1000 times that of the average employee? Maybe they are sometimes, but certainly not when they are running the business into the ground with layoff's, bad decisions and huge losses.

IF QZ is correct- they probably are, as I've read this elsewhere- that the 20% time had ended, then it is Google management's decision. It isn't motivated by fiduciary interests to shareholders. Google could justify why it is necessary for their employees to have that 20% time. Maybe it really is necessary. I've read that Google employees have been leaving at a higher rates than in the past. But I'm not sure, can't remember sources for that.

Re:Object lesson (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596995)

If it was a legal mandate to maximize shareholder profit then Apple wouldn't have been allowed to leave that giant pile of cash sitting around doing nothing while Jobs was alive. According to your theory they would have had to buy a bunch of startups or pay it all out as dividends. Now they are doing that, but only because activist investors were able to bully Cook into it in a way they couldn't with Jobs.

Re:Object lesson (3, Funny)

alen (225700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596211)

so why did google go public if its so bad?
why couldn't there be a geek charity fund to raise $5 billion or so to give out to the original employees to cash out their hard work?

Re:Object lesson (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596413)

Because money is tempting. Imagine this, there is a LOT of money (use your own definition of LOT) being dangled in front of you with the promise to not take any direct influence in your decisions. Hey, as long as I hold 50%+1 of the company I call the shots, right?

It usually doesn't take long to realize that those 50-1% hold a LOT of power over you when they can afford losing them and you cannot.

Re:Object lesson (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596939)

so why did google go public if its so bad?

Because they handed out stock options left and right, and ended up with enough people holding enough vested options that the rules said they had to go public. But even, they pulled a fast one - the GOOG traded on the market are lower class shares... with no dividend, ownership, or voting rights. All of higher class shares with all those rights are held by a very small number of people - early Google insiders, investors, and VC's.

Re:Object lesson (4, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596447)

Shareholders want to turn as much profit as they can in as short a time frame as can be done.

Going public is a great way to slowly kill a good company. Many shareholders don't care where the company is in 10 years; they care about their dollar in one year. When the stocks start on a permanent trend downwards, those shareholders sell and move to the next company that has potential in the near term.

Re:Object lesson (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596665)

Many shareholders don't care where the company is in 10 years; they care about their dollar in one year.

If only it were that long term. At best most shareholders care only about where the stock is next quarter. Some only care where it is next week. Some not even that long.

Re:Object lesson (1)

rolfwind (528248) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597159)

But those shareholders don't have real power compared to the long term invested who vote and the big players in the long terms.

Re:Object lesson (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596463)

There are two things wrong with what the article states. The first, is that it goes on and on about how Google just doesn't do it anymore. Which is a clear example of circular reasoning: "We don't need it anymore because we aren't doing it anymore."

The second thing is the last part of OP's post:

"More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great."

This is a nonsensical statement. You don't "make an idea great". It either is or isn't. You can make a plan or a business great, but ideas, by definition, stand on their own, or not.

In fact Google is rather infamous for taking lots of pretty good ideas and driving them into the ground... perhaps for precisely the reason that they were trying to follow some misguided notion of "making the ideas better".

All in all, it sounds rather like an apologia for a company that has grown more like a cancer than a weed, and is now more of an evil Frankenstein's monster than it is a Jolly Green Giant.

Re:Object lesson (2)

siride (974284) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596517)

I think the phrase "make a good idea great" means to implement it effectively and come up with closely related good ideas so that the net result of the original good idea is beyond what a baseline, minimal implementation would effect.

Re:Object lesson (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596729)

"I think the phrase "make a good idea great" means to implement it effectively and come up with closely related good ideas so that the net result of the original good idea is beyond what a baseline, minimal implementation would effect."

It might. But part of my point is that Google just hasn't shown itself to be any damned good at that. Out of maybe 100 "good ideas" that Google has had its hands on over the last 20 years or so (if I sat down with pencil and paper and some old blog posts, I might find that many... that we have known about), it has managed to take maybe 2 or maybe 3 good ideas and run with them. The rest it squandered or actively killed off.

And those 2 or 3 are already about as developed as they will get. In fact, people are actually rebelling against them now: user-tracking for "targeted ads", abuse of search data, corporate lock-in of supposedly "open" products... etc. Hell, Google has already Googlified Google Glass too much, to the point that I predict it will be dead in the water. People are about to start using Augmented Reality on their phones in earnest, and don't need to wear it on their heads, with Google services being pushed into their eyes and ears all the time.

Re:Object lesson (1)

siride (974284) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596757)

I was only picking that one part of your post, since I'm linguistically minded. I don't disagree with any of what you say and it's saddened me that Google has squandered so many great opportunities.

Re:Object lesson (1)

rolfwind (528248) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597237)

Just to nitpick but Google is only 15 years old, not twenty.

I would agree about other ideas being mature. Gmail was/used to be great in it's simplicity (just like google search was) but they keep adding bells and whistle and stupid shit. I wish I could have both back minus the added bullshit.

Re:Object lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596743)

"More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great."

Considering Google shutters many of its publicly-available products without much notice and certainly little recourse by the users the quoted statement is code-worded corporate-speak for "you engineers need to generate more revenue for the Google".

Re:Object lesson (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596577)

Addendum: soul-sucking PHBs ruin everything.

Re:Object lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596705)

Time to sell Google stock. They will look back and say they peaked in 2013, and wonder why.

Re:Object lesson (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596891)

Well duh! Just look at MSFT, Ballmer has been shooting the company in the face for the past few years because the Wall Street pundits keep screaming "Apple mobile synergy wharrgarbl" and has blown something like 40 billion in the process while the stock stays flat. The simple fact is that Wall Street is completely broken [youtube.com] thanks to the massive bubble the government has been blowing since the 80s and until that bursts the stock market is worthless as an indicator of value, its just got too much money chasing too few stocks, hell its more like Vegas than investing anymore.

As for why killing 20% time is retarded, they never hear of Yahoo? or MySpace? Once upon a time like Google they were the top of the heap but then they sat on ass and didn't prepare for the future and when the next new thing came out they were completely blindsided and went down the toilet pretty damned quickly. What is hot today does NOT guarantee you are gonna be hot tomorrow and with the Internet there is ZERO loyalty, again see MySpace. Having all that R&D kept new ideas and products in the pipelines which is the lifeblood of tech and if they don't watch it some little upstart will come along with the next new thing and they can join Altavista and AOL on the "Hey you remember when?" pile.

Re:Object lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596987)

Big companies don't do innovation well, except in terms of what Apple did with unifying a small fragmented marketplace behind one product. (Arguably, that's the same thing IBM did with the PC in 1980). While Wall Street's emphasis on quarterly results is a factor, I suspect the main reason is that it's hard to make an aircraft carrier maneuver like a 25 foot sailboat.

So what these companies do instead is buy startups that are geared towards innovation. That's what IBM and Oracle have spent the last 15 years (at least) doing, and it's also how Google has acquired a lot of its most successful products, excluding search.

Some counterexamples: Bell Labs and Xerox Parc in the '70s. How well did that turn out for their respective corporate parents?

Re:Object lesson (1)

lightknight (213164) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597179)

Actually, the lesson should be that stock prices, and fluctuations thereof, should be taken with a grain of salt; and that while Wall St. is very good at supplying capital, and demanding results, it knows jack shit about actually running a company.

Let me put it to you this way: are your new business leaders telling you to cut back on buffers / redundant systems for your company? Are these the same people responsible for Wall St. having to resort to 'circuit breakers' and transaction processing (do overs), because the people using those systems are so...unsteady at times...that rollbacks of an entire day's worth of fricking trading is needed because of a miskey? While individual companies are cutting back on redundant systems (essentially buffers : insurance against mistakes, and costly ones at that), Wall St. itself is multiplying and adding to its own systems to counter that very same kind of damage. If you were the CEO of a company, and were told by some 'tea leaf' readers (prophets of the marketplace) that "you need to do the opposite of what they are, in actual fact, doing, to please the market," what would you do? If you're a non-thinking entity, then you'd follow their directions, and watch your company crumble in a few years; if you're a thinking entity, you'd already know whether your level of proofing against catastrophe was comfortable enough or not...as well as how comfortable you are with your fortune on the line if it fails.

Do more for less (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596153)

Isn't that what the MBAs and metric gurus teach?

Once again the Excel numbers make the day and if there is a hidden cost or an opportunity cost then it doesn't exist according to the CPA

Re:Do more for less (5, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596185)

What that often translates into is: do stuff we aren't paying you for. Why can't the staff handle their own secretarial needs? Why can't they clean up their own workspace, get their own supplies from storage, install their own software etc etc. We take what was before someone elses full time job and just tack it on to everyone else's day but don't reduce the productivity expectations to compensate.

Re:Do more for less (4, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596261)

What is productivity? How do you define productivity?

My point is you can work for gmail and do your metrics to hit your spam filtering code. But, what if the next big idea is there that can generate more revenue. Would it then be wise to work on better spam filtering for your gmail users or would it make more sense to fund something that no one has done yet and that Microsoft or Apple will invent and then patent the shit out of instead?

That was my point. I have worked at companies where they are were sooo process oriented that we just put out fires and no one could ever call out sick or go on vacation or the whole operation would shutdown.

The good employees left and they had to bring in H1B1 because they were cheaper and would have no quram working 65 hours a week just to remain employed. Work 40 hours a week you were fired for being lazy. No improvements and no say were allowed outside of the directors as we had no time to do anything else. We just put out fires and worked 120% to keep our jobs. That might have worked for the previous CEO to gain his bonus but the company is losing over a 1 billion a year now!

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596309)

Productivity is easy to measure: it's the amount of profit made per hour of effort put in to obtain that profit.

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596335)

Productivity is easy to measure: it's the amount of profit made per hour of effort put in to obtain that profit.

Well gmail today makes money.

It did not when it was a side project. Productivity is about stats and the side stuff takes longer to produce the revenue than the accounting version which is by quarter. You can trip on the quarters to grab the pennies so to speak with your formal definition as you can't tell what makes money doesn't automatically make it a cost center.

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596455)

Productivity is easy to measure: it's the amount of profit made per hour of effort put in to obtain that profit.

That works for products that are entirely made by a single person. If two people are involved, that way of measuring tells you their combined productivity, but it doesn't tell you how to divide that productivity to each of them individually. The only place where productivity measuring is a real thing is in big companies, yet your suggestion only works in 1-man companies.

Re:Do more for less (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596641)

Productivity sadly is usually defined as percentage of time where the employee has their ass in their seat doing the job that matches their job description. This is due to in my mind (I have a MMSci degree so am pretty close to being a pointheaded bastard myself) MBA schools obsession with metrics. It works fine when you are building identical widgets and you can clearly see that Bob's 67 a day is much better than Carl's 52. But it falls on its ass when it comes to measuring innovation projects. That guy picking his nose for 7.5hrs a day might get more done in the other 30min then the rest of the department does all day because ideas don't generally come on demand or require a fixed amount of "effort" to come to from person to person (or even just the randomness of an individual). But that won't stop the MBA from coming in and saying clearly the nose picker has to go because he only works 30min a day and our network graph shows that he isn't the best connected node.

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44597185)

Productivity metrics will show the nose picker as the right man for the job.

If the others can't do as good then they need to be fired. Metrics insure accountability which is lacking today in the workplace. Studies show workers waste up to 30% of their time on the internet and potty breaks on company time!

I do well by "less is more"... apk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596349)

See subject-line, & the link below next (I'm no mere MBA):

http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4085051&cid=44564519 [slashdot.org]

* Doing more with less = Good Engineering!

And, it works, better than any of its "competitors" for the same things they do, & more, yet with less (a single file)...

APK

P.S.=> "The premise is, quite simple: Take something designed by nature & reprogram it to make it work FOR the body, rather than against it..." - Dr. Alice Krippen "I AM LEGEND"...

... apk

Re:Do more for less (1)

Tough Love (215404) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596351)

It's a good thing. Google has already defeated Microsoft and Apple, and now is a monopolist itself. Google will eventually need to be defeated itself, so it is fortunate for all of us that that is already happening as it evolves into a less attractive place to work. Giant trees grow in the forest so that less successful trees die in their shade, but eventually rot from inside and fall so that young trees can grow to their full height.

OK astromods, have at. But it's nothing less than the truth.

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596383)

I don't know. Do you have an MBA?
Can you tell us what the MBAs teach?
Are you a CPA, can you tell us what CPAs do?

Please, lets hear some more detail.

I've got more... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596583)

I have an actual Bachelor's of Science in Business (w/ MIS concentration) to go with CS degree work (90'120 cr. hrs done for Bachelor's there too & way, Way, WAY Past the 60 cr. Associates) - I can tell you that by combining BOTH disciplines I was doing things MBA's couldn't - or, face it: I wouldn't be there doing it FOR them!

* In MIS coding you use business logic constantly via formulas that're proven, applicable, & that when applied are practicle, useful, & actually do work!

(Things like Shortest Path/Route for Logistics firms for instance - 80/20 rules, ROI, & many more come to mind as well... list goes on).

APK

P.S.=> So, as a single example thereof, I can answer "NO! I am better than that" by far as having more skills overall, Per 1 of my film heros Chieng "The Master of Sinanju"...

... apk

Re: Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596691)

I have an MBA, and can tell you what they teach: "Maximize shareholder's value"
This the ultimate purpose that supersedes all other considerations. This is also the main reason all companies are run into the ground as soon as the founder leaves (my observation, was not part of a course)

Re:Do more for less (1)

Ellie K (1804464) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596513)

Isn't that what the MBAs and metric gurus teach? Once again the Excel numbers make the day and if there is a hidden cost or an opportunity cost then it doesn't exist according to the CPA

Metric gurus teach that. MBAs who have a clue do not.

If a company is in terrible financial condition, losing money, making unreliable products etc. THEN it is time for the Excel spreadsheets and CPA's to say, "Look, you can make payroll for another x weeks, but if you don't turn things around, fast, you'll need to dismiss staff, sell company assets and equipment to survive." In that scenario, the 20% time to work on projects needs to end, temporarily, until the company is more solvent.. Google is far from being in that situation though.

Re:Do more for less (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596765)

Isn't that what the MBAs and metric gurus teach?

Once again the Excel numbers make the day and if there is a hidden cost or an opportunity cost then it doesn't exist according to the CPA

Metrics are fine if you choose the one metric than matters. Sadly the Microsoft Excel jockeys bury their heads in spreadsheets ignoring the consequences on employee morale.

innovator's dilemma in action (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596163)

Now that they got a product they want to stop looking for new ones. When people move on from android to something else, when browser vendors have a way to search the web without relying on Google and friends etc Google will have no replacement products.

R&D isn't something that is ever done. You can't just say: we have a product now so lets cut the expense of the engineering department. Your competitors are always looking to leapfrog you or make your entire business obsolete. That is why you hire smart people and pay them to keep thinking.

Re:innovator's dilemma in action (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596217)

Now that they got a product they want to stop looking for new ones. When people move on from android to something else, when browser vendors have a way to search the web without relying on Google and friends etc Google will have no replacement products.

R&D isn't something that is ever done. You can't just say: we have a product now so lets cut the expense of the engineering department. Your competitors are always looking to leapfrog you or make your entire business obsolete. That is why you hire smart people and pay them to keep thinking.

More like the MBAs dilemma here.

The problem is traditionally the upper management guys were all engineers and scientists as the MBA program was to teach business skills to non business majors so they could lead companies.

Today, these institutions are led by cost accountants and Wall Street Financial gurus. The emphasis now is on quarterly profits and crazy ways to get there like firing all the good employees and replacing them with Chinese and cheaper Indian counterparts. Selling your assets which make you money (like AMD) etc and kissing up with Icahn and others and busting unions to reach these numbers.

All the while ignoring the opportunity costs such as good employees who have the power to gain another job will simply leave when it turns into this or when your competitors like Intel can make faster chips because they can use .22 nm dies and you are screwed with .38nm because you sold your assets for you bonus remember?

We see it with health insurance too. The doctors need to call the CPAs at the insurance companies for treatment. The CPAs also were the ones who blew up the Deep Water Horizon too and made engineering decisions so they can appease Wall Street and the CEO for his bonus.

Until this changes I do not know what the solution is other than to stay private or have several investors but not HFT computers and cost accountants make your critical business decisions. Google is heading down this route and will decline as emphasis is now on cost cutting and keeping what you have. My guess is within 5 to 10 years it will be an Indian company and will outsource cheaper employees or bring H1B1 visas in and devalue their talent to keep the share price going up. Meanwhile Bing will take over or a more agile competitor?

We will see

Re: Not quite innovator's dilemma (1)

Ellie K (1804464) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596581)

At some companies, the management is exactly how you described (Eric Schmidt is like that, from what I can tell). But Google is not like other companies in terms of management. They even had Schmidt step down, so that Larry Page could be CEO again. Larry Page and Sergey Brin know that cost cutting at the expense of design and research is unwise. Well, they should. They did, in the past.. Maybe they are too distant now.

Re: innovator's dilemma in action (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596247)

You don't need new products if you have a social component to your existing products. Why do you think Gooogle + is such a big deal?

WORK HARDER PROLE SLAVES! (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596167)

CIA/GOOGLE needs more profits!

Re:WORK HARDER PROLE SLAVES! (1)

Igarden2 (916096) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596297)

"Business is a good game lots of competition and a minimum of rules.
You keep score with money."
Nolan Bushnell

bad thing for who? (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596169)

An article at Ars makes the case that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because Google has enough good products that simply need iteration now, making the more innovative 20% time less useful.

A change from a work environment where you can spend 20% of your time experimenting with new ideas you have, and 80% working on the "regular" mainline products, to one where you're expected to spend at least 100% of a regular workweek iterating on the "regular" products, seems like a bad thing from the perspective of the engineer at least. Ars seems to be arguing that it's not necessarily a bad thing for Google's stockholders, which is a pretty different question.

Re:bad thing for who? (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596267)

...seems like a bad thing from the perspective of the engineer at least. Ars seems to be arguing that it's not necessarily a bad thing for Google's stockholders, which is a pretty different question.

Same thing I came in here to say. Ars' argument seems about as on-target as saying, "Warrantless NSA surveillance of all Americans' Internet activity isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the NSA wants to know what you read."

Re:bad thing for who? (1)

Tough Love (215404) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596385)

Obviously, the correct response for engineers is to do exactly what is required during working hours and nothing more. If there are great ideas, work them out on your own time, cash your earn out units and start a business with some like minded escapees. The MBAs get what they deserve.

Re:bad thing for who? (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596697)

Then there is the possibility of the "pieces of flair" (from Office Space) dilemma. As in your manager saying "I see you put the minimum number of hours of work here at Google. See Tommy over there? He puts in an extra 15% of work time on special projects. I can't tell you to work for free, but look how enthusiastic Tommy is about his job".

You become torn between working for free on something that could make Google money or going home at a decent hour. Your decision could cause you to suffer financially by being passed over for promotions by people who did innovative work for free.

Re:bad thing for who? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596573)

A change from a work environment where you can spend 20% of your time experimenting with new ideas you have, and 80% working on the "regular" mainline products, to one where you're expected to spend at least 100% of a regular workweek iterating on the "regular" products, seems like a bad thing from the perspective of the engineer at least. Ars seems to be arguing that it's not necessarily a bad thing for Google's stockholders, which is a pretty different question.

What? That Google is moving from innovation towards stagnation? If people are not being paid to innovate most of them are sure as hell not going to do it for free on their own time when they can spend that same time with their families. Google will become a stagnant empire that lives off it's established products just like Microsoft did until the world changes on them and somebody more innovative creeps up on them and steals their thunder.

40,000 seemingly moronic people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596203)

That can't seem to make the simplest of services work correctly, look nice, or make something profitable.
iGoogle was a perfectly simple product, needed a little love, but it was functional.
It could also easily have been made profitable. Nuked for tablet-crap and extensions.
How can you take a company seriously that can't even ADVERTISE their own products well? AN ADVERTISING COMPANY AT THAT.
Google Maps, the content for my town is OLDER THAN GOOGLE MAPS. That crap is from my CHILDHOOD. I can see the big wooden house out the back of the garden I was in. The town I live in has changed considerably. Entire buildings gone, entire sections of town added, entire streets knocked down and replaced, entire flats imploded and replaced. Both of the schools I went to are gone. What use is that? Even Bing Maps of all things is more up to date. That is just sad.

Sure, for the 20%-if-you-are-lucky people that will bother to look out for apps and extensions that are useful to them or even know the features to search for, they will be happy, but they are also the ones that will likely use your services less in the first place, especially with the whole spying crap going on recently.
Even people that use RSS feed sites probably don't know what an RSS feed is for the most part. This is why they exist. Descriptions for a lot of extensions are absolutely atrocious at times.
People are lazy. People GOOGLE for Facebook for crying out loud. What makes you think they even know about extensions. A lot of people think Google is their web browser!

But really, Google has made terrible decisions recently. They didn't need to nuke the thing in the first place, they could have just cut it down to a smaller allocation of time like 5%. Do-it-in-your-own-time just ruins any point of ever wanting to work at Google in the first place since they are just another company now.
Google were a very research-heavy company and it gave them absolutely glorious products. Now that they have essentially killed most of that, all it has resulted in is stagnation. The software world is constantly changing. The WEB is constantly changing. 20% time was the one thing keeping Google ahead of everyone else. Now they are just the same or even lesser than everyone else.
Having to use Bing Maps is terrible, Google. Please, save me. That flickering shit is atrocious on Bing Maps, why isn't that shit fixed Microsoft, that could cause seizures in some people!

Eliminating 20% time not the answer (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596205)

Encourage employees to use the 20% time to Innovate within the existing projects; for example, by finding ways to make them better or lower their costs.

The value of people doing more than their jobs doesn't go away --- they just need to be more focused, in exactly, what those 20% projects are.

It's also only fair that the benefit of their 20% projects get included in their productivity. If an employee uses their intellectual resources to do something particularly innovative, they should be given an opportunity to reduce their required working hours by 50% with a net increase in pay and benefits, or an opportunity to move from "20% time" to "40% time" working on their own projects.

That is: the value delivered via the employee's hard work should be shared with the employee fairly. When the employee delivers more value than the average employee; they should be given back more opportunity.

On the other hand: if their 20% time doesn't win over management with a benefit within a year, perhaps they should get 15% time instead, from then on, until they can do better.

Re:Eliminating 20% time not the answer (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596301)

Chrome and gmail never would have become a reality with that mindset.

Today they bring in so much money and I would not be surprised than their search engine. Without a gmail address it would be hard to find out peoples' habbits on their phones and Yahoo and Microsoft would be having this level of access to customer data that Google could never dream of without these 2 products.

Given that both Chrome and GMail were (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596423)

... "stolen" from already established open source projects that were started and developed BY OTHERS, I have no idea what you rant.

Maybe people should learn how Google is the king of stealing code from open source projects and then claiming that they developed something.

Re:Given that both Chrome and GMail were (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596847)

What in gods name are you going on about?

Chromium? Webkit?
Something else entirely that is locked deep within your mind?

If the former, you are a moron. Chromium IS Google.
If latter, that is why Blink now exists because Webkit is terrible and not good for anything parallel.
If the real latter, lolidunno

Re:Eliminating 20% time not the answer (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596479)

chrome and gmail are huge, used by lots of people and feed the main business

even though i loved reader, most people had no idea what it was or what RSS is

Re:Eliminating 20% time not the answer (2)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596509)

Chrome and gmail never would have become a reality with that mindset.

Why not? A minimum of 1% of any profit that would not exist without Gmail every year should be reserved for the folks who did meaningful work on it using their 20% time; even if they are no longer Google staff.

That sort of incentive structure would make efforts by employees to develop products like Chrome and Gmail a practical certainty.

Re:Eliminating 20% time not the answer (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597245)

Chrome and gmail never would have become a reality with that mindset.

Why not? A minimum of 1% of any profit that would not exist without Gmail every year should be reserved for the folks who did meaningful work on it using their 20% time; even if they are no longer Google staff.

That sort of incentive structure would make efforts by employees to develop products like Chrome and Gmail a practical certainty.

No because they are busy just keeping afloat and putting out fires to match the MBA's metrics. If you spend time developing Chrome or Gmail then you get a poor performance review of your work on Google Gears/Search/etc and get shown the door.

The 20% time is what created those 2 products. R&D is always considered a cost center with these types and it is so frustrating. If Apple had this attitude shareholder value would be much lower as they would still only sell Macs today.

After all working on the IPad is ruining the MBA's metrics for selling macs the cash cow right? New product develop was started from that 20% and even if only 1% were made into Chrome and Gmail the resulting money made more than made up for the 99% and is what is raising the shareprice to what it is today.

Without a doubt the next big thing needs to be purchased now as Google is not allowed to innovate. I work with these clients with this thinking and it always is a dead end employment and company wise.

Re:Eliminating 20% time not the answer (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,14 days | (#44597047)

Encourage employees to use the 20% time to Innovate within the existing projects; for example, by finding ways to make them better or lower their costs.

And what you end up with is the 'hell in a handbasket' so many Google products are in. Endless tinkering and "innovation", but no clear direction and rarely are they 'better'.

blame steve jobs (2, Interesting)

alen (225700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596231)

a few months before he died he had dinner with sergey to mentor him. he said you have too much crap that no one cares about and google needs to focus on what brings in the cash. that's when they started their purge of anything that doesn't make money

same with facebook steve. he had dinner with him as well to tell him what he thought was wrong with facebook

Re:blame steve jobs (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596347)

a few months before he died he had dinner with sergey to mentor him.

Considering that they're competitors, I find this hard to believe.

Re:blame steve jobs (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596393)

nope its true, there were some news articles about it at the time
successful people mentor lots of other people they believe in, even if they work for competitor. steve jobs was mentored by a guy who worked for HP

Re:blame steve jobs (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596655)

Yeah, the H in HP. And it was before Steve worked for anyone.

Re:blame steve jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596897)

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs regularly caught up with each other despite the very crazy competition between the 2 companies, as well as the fallout that happened all those years ago.

Business is business. It knows no logical boundaries.
Businesses deal with each other all the time even if they are competition.
Whether it is patent sharing or simply being "Nice". (Hey, enjoy your FREE discount - Microsoft to PC manufacturers. Yesss. Yesssss.)

As dick-ish as Steve Jobs was, he was damned good at what he did. Probably one of the better marketers that has lived, in fact.
If you were on your way out, fuck it, may as well tell everyone else what you think of them and what they need to do.
If anything, it would just serve to have something to laugh about on your deathbed.
Just make sure you are really dying.

The thing is, Google were stupid and listened to him and turned them in to Yet Another Company.
Google Research, Labs and all that fun stuff made that company what it was.
Google won't be relevant in the same time it took them to become relevant, if not earlier. They just unmade themselves.
Sure they have Android, but that is about all they will have.
You can't just kill off that amount of research and expect to be relevant in such a dynamic industry.
Clocks ticking. Maybe they will reverse it in a few years when they realize.

Re:blame steve jobs (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596361)

Yep.

It is a good thing Steve Jobs only focused on what was making money. Selling iMacs, and not investing in ipods, iphones, ipads, or itunes. That would get in the way of the metric of iMacs sold per hour otherwise!

Re:blame steve jobs (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596421)

every product apple makes turns a profit on day 1. if it doesn't, apple kills it fairly fast.

Re:blame steve jobs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596367)

a few months before he died he had dinner with sergey to mentor him. he said you have too much crap that no one cares about and google needs to focus on what brings in the cash. that's when they started their purge of anything that doesn't make money

same with facebook steve. he had dinner with him as well to tell him what he thought was wrong with facebook

It is absolutely amazing how half the people on this forum have managed to convince themselves that every single thing that is wrong with the tech industry is also, somehow, Steve Jobs' fault.

Re:blame steve jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596645)

Whether or not Google's strategy is a problem I'm not sure. It is true that Steve Jobs gave Larry and Sergey this advice though, it's been written about often and is in Isaacson's biography on Jobs. It's stated that he felt a duty to give advice to the next generation of tech leaders. They seem to have taken this advice quite seriously as evidenced by the numerous projects that have been shuttered.

Re:blame steve jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596869)

And it's even more amazing that they might be right!

Expected Progression. (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596271)

Everyone in a position of being judged wants to show that they're productive compared to others. Without a strong force to oppose the progression towards everyone doing everything they can to look busy, the trend in every business is to force everyone towards a saturation point of perceived effort.

That tends to include things like more time filling out checklists, more time in more kinds of meetings, "peter principle"-style promotions, increasingly redundant cross-checks with everyone your work touches, and inevitable legacy management of previous projects.

Many of those projects, of course, will be created with the goal of reducing the overhead of other things, and some will succeed - but the culture always seems to still shift towards everyone at least acting busy so they can focus on what they see as more important with the discretionary time they have.

It's the nature of perspective - people will always see things slightly differently, have different priorities, and compromises will be made in any cooperation in order to make something that serves the shared needs. The more "important" perspectives you bring in over time, the more difficult it tends to become to optimize the shared collaboration, and the more time is needed to find a working compromise. And everyone becomes busy just to work through the ever-growing details.

Ryan Fenton

20% time at other jobs (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596291)

In most other jobs 20% time would be better described as, "Use 20% of your time to come up with ways the company can make more money off of you". It is interesting how at Google it takes on a different meaning.

Attack of the MBAs (4, Interesting)

anvilmark (259376) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596319)

The more MBAs in your organization the less innovation you will have.
They don't think in terms of success through better (or more diverse) products, only in squeezing maximum efficiency from everything - Marx would applaud them.

I doubt the reports... (2, Interesting)

dkegel (904729) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596387)

The original report of "For many employees, it has become too difficult to take time off from their day jobs to work on independent projects." can be explained well like this: people who are below average productivity in their team can't spare the time to work on 20% projects.

I don't think this is a harsh thing; it's just a fact of life.

By the way, the Google version of stack ranking (if I recall correctly from my time there) is something like "If you're a manager, and there's a guy on the team who isn't being very productive, make sure he knows about the problem, so he can do something about it."

Also not a harsh thing.

Google doesn't want to become a Cisco, where all the good ideas come from buying up little companies. I suspect that people of above average productivity at Google still have plenty of freedom to try experiments 20% time.

What has changed a bit is that since the mantra of the company became "Features, not products", those 20% experiments are almost always going to involve adding features or other improvements to existing products, not wholly new products.

And that's ok, too. There is a whole lot of room to add features and make things better under the hood.

Re:I doubt the reports... (2)

hibiki_r (649814) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596545)

Depends on management: You can easily swamp the most productive developers just fine by just assigning them more tasks than to everyone else. Whether you have extra time for side projects or not comes down to how much sandbagging you do. I've seen extremely good developers that, when facing a project they were uninterested in, would hand completely spurious estimates that make sure they don't work for more than 4 hours a week on their official project, and spend the rest of the time on other things. I've also seen expectations go up in such a way as to make sure no good code could come out of a team. On either case, the end result comes down to politics. Some people have enough political capital to ignore their project. Other times, entire teams leave in a matter of 6 months.

Skill as a developer is only really relevant to a developer's ability to do unofficial work in the sense that in some places, skill quickly translates into political capital.

Re:I doubt the reports... (2)

dkegel (904729) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596709)

Are you talking about Google, or some other company? I don't remember anything like that going on at Google when I was there. The managers I observed were quite levelheaded and didn't assign too much work. The only real impatience I saw was when one product had too much latency visible to the end user. That resulted in a whole lot of impatience... and a new level of vigilence against latency creep. But that was a good thing.

Re:I doubt the reports... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44597227)

I suspect that people of above average productivity at Google still have plenty of freedom to try experiments 20% time.

What if the people who are best at pounding out lines of code aren't the best at coming up with innovative ideas or products? That seems quite possible, given that the two things are only tangentially related.

Congrats Google! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596399)

You are now IBM.

Ah America (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596403)

Work harder for less. It's the American Way.

Back when I started working as engineer for (5, Insightful)

mark_reh (2015546) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596503)

Motorola in 1981 they used to say "work smarter, not harder", we got comp time off for overtime worked, etc. After a while it became "work harder", and the comp time off went away, and overtime was expected with no compensation. A little while later it became "work!", followed by "work, goddamit!" where you were viewed unfavorably if you used company time to take a leak.

The bean counters always win...

Re:Back when I started working as engineer for (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44597243)

Well, what do you expect? Companies must compete in order to make money. So, there is every incentive to push their people as hard as they can. More work = competitive advantage. It's that simple.

That is why we need laws that limit worker hours. Such laws force businesses to compete on an even playing field. One business cannot gain an advantage over another by overworking its people, so no company does.

But tech workers are all salaried and exempt. So, business can push them all they want. And businesses that successfully overwork their employees will get more done in less time, beat their competitors to market, and make more money.

That's just how people do things.

20% time is encouraged, but unpopular (5, Informative)

another_larson (1684820) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596521)

I work for Google. 20% time is unpopular, undertaken by single-digit percentages of engineers. Despite that, the message coming down from management is generally positive.

My sense of the issue is that a lot of engineers are spooking at shadows, worried about their performance reviews if they spend 80% of their time on their teams' main business rather than 100%. The solution to this, as far as I am concerned, is to make sure there is someone who is willing to stand up and say positive things about your project at review time. Since Google has an intricate system of peer review, that should be enough.

And if you can't find _one_ person who thinks your project is a good idea, take some time to figure out what you are hoping to accomplish before continuing.

Cancelled products (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596593)

I expect a disproportionate number of the 20 percent skunk work projects that finally make it into released products (OK, "beta"), are quick to end up on the Google cut list as products that "didn't gain the expected traction with our customers." Easy come, easy go.

Working for tiny companies (1)

32771 (906153) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596607)

My last job was kinda odd this way, they were so frightened of me spending some extra time on my actual project to ensure it works in cases of bad input and to simplify some code that they laid me off. Of course, I was a bit cavalier about ensuring management backing.

I would call this a sign of the times, I currently work for some guy for free because he has an interesting project and yet I still don't want to fool around with stuff that needs doing but isn't highest priority. This is a startup and needs some help so I better show some manners.

But in general I squarely blame net energy decline for it. While it may look to some as if financial mismanagement caused this short term thinking craze that has gripped CEOs and associated ilk, I think it is actually the awareness that we really do have no future for projects mankind doesn't need anyway. If our world is turning into an energy starved wasteland much like the onion suggests:
http://knowyourmeme.com/videos/66081-the-onion [knowyourmeme.com]

then there is really no need for engineers who have a passion for their job and improving their knowledge of highly complex systems that depend on a working industrial society for its continued existence. Ultimately you will be overspecialized in a field that due to its multiple hard dependencies has an increased probability of failure in an environment that is characterized by shortages and sub standard performance because somebody tried to follow the growth paradigm
by eating its own flesh, i.e. abused the trust still existing in society to sell a shoddy, substandard product while the usual drivers for growth like population growth and energy input have become unavailable.

When you need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596609)

An entire workweek (100%) to meet productivity goals you are being unproductive. The development of new projects (hardware or software) cannot be simply crammed into a given timeframe and measured by a performance metric. If you do this you get badly written code and less design time. Engineers need time to take a step back and look at the whole picture, to consider the project as a whole... this can't be easily measured in any significant fashion.

When you don't sharpen the saw... (2)

David Betz (2845597) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596621)

...you ruin projects with a dull blade. Because you cannot learn on the job (nobody should be reading the manual for a gun while in the trenches), the best thing company can do is provide this 20% time so the company can grow qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

Re:When you don't sharpen the saw... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596849)

Equating gun operation by a grunt with software development is the single stupidest analogy ever made.

Re:When you don't sharpen the saw... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596941)

Equating gun operation by a grunt with software development is the single stupidest analogy ever made.

My English is a little rusty, so is the equality here between "gun operation" and "a grunt with software development"? I'd say that's a little insulting to the fine marksmen...

It all makes sense... (3, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596679)

The other day a Google tech recruiter (not a headhunter) contacted me about an interview at Google. This after I turned down a second interview with them seven years ago. Yes, seven years ago. It got me to thinking: Is Google that desperate for qualified employees that they are having to dig that deep into their interview files to find talent? After doing some research, it seems as though they want to interview me for a "technical sales engineering" position or some such thing. Still, this article and the fact that Google is searching their archives for help seems to point to a dwindling supply of technical types in the market.

And since I'm a few years older than Vince Vaughan, I seriously doubt I'd quite fit in anymore. Say what you want about The Internship, but Google's imprimatur [wikipedia.org] was all over it.

The forgotten purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596791)

The thing so many people don't realize is that 20% time was not invented to increase productivity or innovation. It was primarily intended as a mental health initiative to reduce mental fatigue. Certainly, "120% time" would not satisfy that purpose.

I beg your pardon? (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596799)

"because Google has enough good products that simply need iteration now,"

Actually no, Google has many good products that are becoming worse due to fiddling and iteration. Some things should be left ALONE. If you came into my house and fiddled with the layout of the buttons on my microwave, eventually I'm going to break your fingers. This needs to occur to some of the 'fiddlers' at Google right about now.
STOP

Never needed allocated time for "20% time" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596823)

"20% time" is just a minor status perk like "company car" and not something you should put much long term value on.

Somehow, I've never had to justify my every working moment either as a permanent employee or contractor. I've devoted significant time in both positions to things I thought would benefit the money-source without worrying about how to justify it on a timesheet.

So essentially google retroactively downgraded (2)

flayzernax (1060680) | 1 year,14 days | (#44596837)

So essentially google retroactively downgraded the status of a majority of its workforce to mere peons.

Welcome to corporate bureaucracy Engies. Not surprised. You can only have so many "chiefs" and "innovators" on the payroll. They probably overfilled positions or used the title to attract people who were overqualified to apply.

Or the economy is doing so bad that it artificially filled low level positions with people more qualified causing them to be hired at incorrect rates. Because believe it or not people do try to throw you a bone now and then.

Iteration is Cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44596923)

They no longer need those brilliant minds. Now they're going to put the patient on life support and milk the dying body for everything it's worth by moving development from engineers to iterating code monkeys.

In 10 years they'll be around the "Windows ME" stage of Microsoft's decline.

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