I spent most of yesterday working on the book, talking to folks at Yahoo, Google, and with Paul Saffo. I met with Terry Winnograd, who was Larry Page’s professor at Stanford, worked with Larry and Sergey early in the project, and is still on Google’s technical advisory board (scroll down). While I was there I ran into Yossi Vardi, who is always a joy to see. The man is always beaming, and this was no exception, he was touring Google’s new building with Sergey and telling enthusiastic stories about Sergey’s recent trip to Israel (Yossi of course played host). In any case, internationalization is clearly a theme at Google. The company recently announced a new R&D center in India. I asked David Krane (Director of CC) why, and he said he company can’t expect everyone to come here, and there’s a lot of talent in Bangalore. Makes sense.
Terry is an energetic man, he was a founding member of CPSR and has done a lot of work on natural language and HCI (human computer interface). He recently took a sebbatical from Stanford to work at Google full time, and is now moving back into the academic life. I won’t go into all we discussed (gotta save something for the book!) but it was a good meeting, and I heard some funny tales of the early days, among other things.
At Yahoo I met with Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo’s Editor in Chief. She’s been there almost since the beginning, and we had a robust and lengthy conversation about the role of editorial in search, the role of the directory at Yahoo (very interesting) and challenges ahead for the industry and the company. I really enjoyed Ninj, as she is known. She’s only 32, but has spent nearly 9 years thinking about this stuff as EIC at Yahoo. Prior to that, she worked on Doug Lenat’s CYC project, which for those of you unfamiliar with it was a very brave, arguably foolish, and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to solve AI’s “brittleness” problem. CYCorp still exists, applying some of its early work to corporate data issues.
Lastly, I spent the early evening with Paul Saffo, who is a walking idea machine. Paul is something of a metaphor graffiti artist – he could earn a living tagging metaphors across anything that catches his fancy – wait a minute, that *is* how he makes a living. He came up with a few really good ones as it relates to the Database of Intentions and various other Big Ideas in my book. Hint: Think Middle Ages.