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Showing posts from April, 2011

Quick book review: In The Plex

I finished "In The Plex" by Steven Levy over the weekend.
I wasn't expecting to try to read the book, but a comment from a long-time Googler that Steven Levy "probably knows more about Google and its history than almost any Googler" was enough to get me interested.
I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Even controlling for the fact that its the most recent book on Google, I do think its the best book ever written about the company (and there have been a bunch!)
I read a couple just before I was going to join the company nearly four years ago, and I'd assumed that my time here and my general curiosity and pokiness (I know - not a word) meant that I knew a lot about the company, its history and a lot of our businesses but I learned a lot reading Levy's book - what helps make it extremely readable are the anecdotes and the details - little nuggets like why Scott Hassan re-wrote the crawler in Python; how Eric Veach thought about the ads system, the dynamics…

What's in store for the stores? Or how will all these App stores evolve?

Last week pictures of Microsoft's coming App Store leaked. The line that stood out for me in this TechCrunch commentary was It looks almost as if Microsoft is ripping off Google ripping off Apple The commentary is both accurate and a little unfair. On the surface, the claims seems valid. You could probably throw the Amazon App Store for Android into the mix as well. The stores have similar elements. A rotating, image-rich banner on the top to promote new/notable/preferred/interesting apps.Lists and modules to show the right slices of apps - a mix of curated and generated collectionsIndividual detailed pages for the apps.The ability to dive into categories Most have reviews and ratingsSome support evangelizing/sharing (i.e. tweet/share on facebook etc.) The differences right now are mostly cosmetic (icon design, font sizes, banner designs, graphic elements, consistency with existing products etc.)
The comparison that keeps coming to my mind is the similarity to stores in the real worl…

Instrinsic and Extrinsic motivators- or how to screw up a good employee

I recently had two nearly identical chats with a couple of engineers I'd worked with in the past, and remember a similar chat with a colleague a year or so ago.... Him: "I had a conversation with my manager about my bonus the other day. It was a bad talk." Me: "Why?" Him: "As long as I have enough for food and rent I don't really care as much about how much I make. I just want to work on something I like - But he kept trying to tell me that the bonus was important. I felt awkward." Substitute "bonus" for "salary" or "promotion" and I've come to realize how often this conversation takes place.



I like the break-up above between "Extrinsic" and "Intrinsic" needs.
Why this happens: As a manager or a management team, the direct "extrinsic" reward is the most natural thing to focus on to reward an employee - getting a bonus/promotion/increase takes effort on your part and feels like something real…

A couple of Jack Dorsey talks - the next Steve Jobs?

A couple of weeks before Jack Dorsey came back to Twitter, a friend im-ed me a link of a talk Dorsey had given at Stanford earlier in the year.
The line before the link to that talk was "He is the next Steve Jobs." Ever the skeptic, I responded with "Hmmm....really? I'll be sure to check the video out." I did early next week.

I was particularly curious, because for months I'd admired both the execution of and the product design at Square, the company Dorsey had founded; and I'd loved his Golden Gate talk (embedded below.)





There's a lot of interesting things he said there, but the part that really resonated for me was the point he made about building something beautiful: The idea of "Let's build the Golden Gate bridge. Something memorable and you can be proud of - not some crappy bridge that may work but no one remembers or drives on" - particularly since as he says, so many people are ok with building crappy bridges. How can anyone that b…