Friday, December 02, 2005

Google musings (and worries)

Here's my Friday quotation posting from the internal blog at work. It's about Google.

First of all, from Karen Schneider, an answer to the question "what is Google?" She says: "the world's largest brain in a jar."

Second, a post from Xooglers, which is a group blog by some folks who used to work for Google. The post comes from "Doug (nee Xoogler)" and it concerns how to speak Googlese (or should that be Google-ese?).

And because that last post had so many words, here’s a shorter one about, well, words.

A few key phrases to know if you ever attend a meeting in the GooglePlex:

Engineers are always talking about things being orthogonal to each other. The first time I heard the term, I thought it meant something like “11-sided.” It doesn’t. I’ve read the definition many times. I still don’t really get it, which didn’t stop me from casually dropping it into conversations with engineers. “Oh, yeah, that press release is totally orthogonal to the ads we’re running on Yahoo.”

Cruft is bad. Like the stuff that grows under ungroomed toenails. Like barnacles on a speed boat. It usually refers to old code or dead links on a web page, but it can be applied to any unwanted material that accumulates anywhere. The men’s locker room in the Googleplex was filled with cruft, much of it unwashed and hockey-related.

When engineers don’t want to say “the customary” or “the usual” way of doing something, they talk about the canonical example, which is pretty much the same thing, but conveys a more exalted sense of correctness to the practice in question. The canonical way to avoid spending an hour in traffic is to come to work at noon.

It means impossible. Since no engineer is going to admit something is impossible, they use this word instead. When an engineer says something is “non-trivial,” it’s the equivalent of an airline pilot calmly telling you that you might encounter “just a bit of turbulence” as he flies you into a cat 5 hurricane.

This all-purpose word is not a word at all. It’s the sound of an engineer clearing his or her throat before beginning to speak. The first week I worked at Google, it seemed like some sort of linguistic virus had infected all the technical staff. Every sentence in every conversation began, “So…” So… I eventually got used to it.

Here is an image to illustrate some growing worries about Google:

And, finally, here, from Stephen Abrams, vice president of Sirsi - the library automation company - a list of current Google products, so far as it's possible to tell:
Just what does Google have?

I thought that I would try to make a list of Google's products. Hmmmm. Seems they're averaging a new product introduction about every two weeks since they came out of their quiet period after the IPO. Some on this list are fully-formed products, some are beta and some are tools and features. It's a pretty interesting list.

1. Blogger
2. Froogle (and Froogle Mobile)
3. GMail (or Google Mail)
4. Google AdSense
5. Google Alerts
6. Google Analytics
7. Google Answers
8. Google Base
9. Google Blog Search
10. Google Book Search (formerly Google print)
11. Google Catalogs
12. Google Code
13. Google College Life
14. Google Compute
15. Google Deskbar
16. Google Desktop
17. Google Directory
18. Google Earth
19. Google Firefox Extensions
20. Google Glossary
21. Google Groups
22. Google Homepage
23. Google Image Search
24. Google Labs
25. Google Language Tools
26. Google Local
27. Google Maps
28. Google Mobile
29. Google Movie Showtimes
30. Google News
31. Google Personalized Search
32. Google Personalized Webpage
33. Google Reader
34. Google Ridefinder
35. Google Scholar
36. Google Send to Phone
37. Google Sitemap
38. Google SMS
39. Google Special Searches
40. Google Suggest
41. Google Talk
42. Google Toolbar
43. Google University Search
44. Google Video and Google Video Upload
45. Google Web Accelerator
46. Google Web Search
47. Hello
48. Picasa
49. Google Moon

Anyway, they're about to hit 50 on my list. I haven't included the worldwide stuff either - language or ownership stakes. This is a picture of the future but it's more like an unassembled mosaic. The mosaic tiles are there, they're on the floor and we don't know what the picture will look like when it's done. Howver, something is emerging from the fog of creativity and innovation here. Add in Google's interest in providing free wireless to San Francisco and their investment in broadband access through the electrical wires and you get an inkling of an intereting future direction.


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