free html hit counter January 2007 - Page 6 of 7 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Whatever Happened to that Google Cargo Container Idea?

By - January 10, 2007


It was killed by “conservative managers” says an ex-Googler in this Chronicle article from earlier in the week.

The piece tracks familiar territory of rich early employees getting the itch to go do something else.

Extremely wealthy from stock options that soared in value, 100 of Google’s first 300 workers have quietly resigned to go to law school, help poor shopkeepers get loans or simply to live the good life. Although hardly a mass exodus, the numbers are adding up, scattering what some employees considered their second families.

For Google, the departures present a new hurdle. Enticing as many old-timers to stay as possible is a priority because, with each farewell party, a piece of the company’s institutional knowledge and culture is lost.

Or, perhaps, the Google culture was changing and the newly rich old timers were unhappy about it, the piece intones. Will Whitted, an engineer who worked on the much-rumored server cargo boxes, said this of Google:

“I loved it and hated it,” Whitted said of his time there.

Whitted, who helped design several generations of Google’s servers, said the company was increasingly bogged down by its size. Conservatism was creeping in.

One of the ideas he championed was to build portable data centers in cargo containers, a project Google tested in its headquarters parking lot. But managers were too timid to pack in enough servers, so the experiment was not cost-effective and was ultimately canceled, he said.

“Instead of inspiration-based design, it became fear-based design,” Whitted said.

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Catching Up

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A lot happens when you’re gone for over a week. Here’s what seemed important that I missed, with commentary:

Apple does what everyone thought it’d do. But thanks to FCC etc., the damn thing isn’t available till June. Please, spare me, is my initial take. I’ll buy one when it’s been around at least a year. The AppleTV, though, I may buy if it can do Tivo for me…

Yahoo bought MyBlogLog. You woulda known this if you read Toby’s post here. After all, he is the guy who makes the calls over there. Yahoo also announced Go 2.0 / oneSearch, and a deal with the iPhone. Mobile is certainly heating up. Are we at my prediction 13 yet? No, but we’re gettting there.

The Journal pointed out how lame online measurement is, and how different the year end roundups were from each of the major search engines. Tell me about it.

We lost Garry Betty, CEO of Earthlink. He was a great guy and the industry is poorer for this loss.

Google pulled its tips feature. Seems it has replaced it with top AdWords sponsored links instead.

Many blogs started claiming that Web 2’s bubble was bursting, one week after I predicted the mainstream media would do the same. We all know that the mainstream media gets its ideas from blogs, so….watch out! My take: With thousands of startups in this space, many are bound to peter out, die, or fail spectacularly. Wouldn’t be an ecology without that.

Lots of people started talking about Stickam.

Richard does a search 2.0 poll.

More on Google’s health thinking. Oh, and Google shipped a new version of Blogger right before Xmas. Oh, and Google wants you to help them model the whole earth. OK?

More when I can post more…

Well, That Was Too Short

By - January 09, 2007

Funny thing, vacations. You take a week off to sit on the beach, and by day six, you realize you need another week.

Anyway, I’m back, but it might be a slow re-entry. Bear with me, folks. Much is afoot in this new year.

AdWords API Debacle

By - January 08, 2007

Picture 1-42VentureBeat has a nice editorial surmising the impact of Google’s controversial decision from April to begin charging a licensing fee for use of its AdWords API this month:

Just trying to understand the API pricing in a specific business situation is a challenge, as is clear from seeing the Google price sheet. The billing appears as a large, non itemized bill.

The structure of the API fees will also significantly impact several areas of the software industry. Since API cost scales with frequency of access, there are very negative implications to companies who would like to use Google data in a real time web analytics platform. Given that Google offers a free low end analytics tool, could this be a hint that Google will be targeting higher end web analytics in the future?

Venture investors would need to be aware of how open Google will be with APIs going forward. Any startup that is working on a mashup that would take information from Google via an API would have an increased level of risk. (What if Google begins to charge for the spreadsheet API, or the maps API?) Just this week, it appears that Google is removing new access to its SOAP search API as well.

'Web 2.0', Wikipedia's Most Cited Term of 2006

By - January 04, 2007

Picture 5-14From O’Reilly:

Jen Pahlka of CMP, our co-producer on the Web 2.0 Conference, just sent a pointer to an Advertising Age article noting that Web 2.0 was the most cited Wikipedia article of the year, beating out such pop-culture topics as Steve Irwin, Mark Foley, and Snakes on a Plane, as well as other tech topics like blog, Ajax, and RSS.

And I have to say, the Wikipedia article on Web 2.0 is indeed pretty darn good, so I just incremented that link count by one… (But do still read my own What is Web 2.0? 🙂

Despite all the debate about whether the name is or is not useful, which seems to crop up with some regularity in comments on this blog, it has indeed captured something important about the zeitgeist of the time.

Deriving Talent, Algorithmically

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How will Google scale its massive hiring ramp-up while maintaining its famously intricate screening process for ‘Googley’ employees? With an algorithm of course.

After months of interviewing their employees to decipher trends in personality and interests that mark Googlers, Google has ‘derived’ a complex hiring questionnaire. Google will begin using the surveys with all applicants this month. NYT (selections):

The questions range from the age when applicants first got excited about computers to whether they have ever tutored or ever established a nonprofit organization. The answers are fed into a series of formulas created by Google’s mathematicians that calculate a score — from zero to 100 — meant to predict how well a person will fit into its chaotic and competitive culture.

Until now, head hunters said, Google largely turned up its nose at engineers who had less than a 3.7 grade-point average… And it often would take two months to consider candidates, submitting them to more than half a dozen interviews. Unfortunately, most of the academic research suggests that the factors Google has put the most weight on — grades and interviews — are not an especially reliable way of hiring good people…

Last summer, Google asked every employee who had been working at the company for at least five months to fill out a 300-question survey.

Some questions were factual: What programming languages are you familiar with? What Internet mailing lists do you subscribe to? Some looked for behavior: Is your work space messy or neat? And some looked at personality: Are you an extrovert or an introvert? And some fell into no traditional category in the human resources world: What magazines do you subscribe to? What pets do you have?

“We wanted to cast a very wide net,” Mr. Bock said. “It is not unusual to walk the halls here and bump into dogs. Maybe people who own dogs have some personality trait that is useful.” [Plot spoiler: dog owning isn’t the magic glue holding Google together.]…

The data from this initial survey was then compared with 25 separate measures of each employee’s performance. Again there were traditional yardsticks — the employee’s reviews, both by supervisors and peers, and their compensation — and some oddball ones.

Indeed, there was no single factor that seemed to find the top workers for every single job title. (And pet ownership did not seem to be a useful predictor of anything.) But Dr. Carlisle was able to create several surveys that he believed would help find candidates in several areas — engineering, sales, finance, and human resources.

Speech-to-Text Search on YouTube

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Picture 1-40PodZinger announces users can now search keywords within the YouTube database. Via SplashCast:

Speech-to-text video and audio search engine Podzinger just announced this afternoon that users can now search inside YouTube videos with a tab on the front page of Podzinger. The functionality appears to have been added in late December but I haven’t seen any blog coverage of it yet…

How’s the quality? I did a search for Starbucks and Podzinger found 120 results so far – compared to 3,000+ on YouTube searching text. Those results are interesting though, including one video uploaded today of a man driving a motorcycle through Taiwan at night, past a place that reminds him of Starbucks. He says the name of the coffee chain at the 3:46 mark in the video, Podzinger shows us. That is very impressive!

The official PodZinger blog post.