free html hit counter Updated: Goodness. - John Battelle's Search Blog

Updated: Goodness.

By - April 23, 2007

Sometimes, sounding arrogant isn’t intentional. It’s just in the bloodstream, or it’s casually tossed off without thinking how it might sound. Read this excerpt from a very interesting Merc story on Google’s internal communications regarding stock options:

Google is proud of the innovative products it regularly releases to the public, from the ever-more-targeted Internet search results to an automatic Web-based airport-ride finder.

But the coolest stuff is often reserved for Google employees. And they’re about to get access to a killer tool, otherwise known as the “supersecret Google is about to buy Yahoo” alert.

Technically, this is an e-mail that informs all 12,230-plus Googlers that the in-house market for transferable stock options has been shut down.

In reality, it means something really, really big is about to happen to the company that could affect the stock price.

“For example, if Google decides it wants to buy Yahoo, that’s a really big deal,” said David Sobota, Google’s senior corporate counsel. “We wouldn’t want to disclose that to the world the first time Eric Schmidt comes to a handshake agreement with Terry Semel about it, because that could disrupt the negotiation process.

Read that last quote again. “”For example, if Google decides it wants to buy Yahoo,”….

I can’t imagine how that sounds in the halls over at Yahoo. Youch.

Update: A source at Google set me straight on the context here: the line was delivered in an internal meeting at Google, the transcript of which had to be filed with the SEC. I thought it was a quote from the counsel to the reporter at the Merc, which would have sounded arrogant. In an internal meeting, it came across as a funny joke, a silly example to help employees understand the program described. Still, it wasn’t “if Yahoo buys us,” now, was it?!

More from Google’s Steve Langdon in Communications:

Hey John. I thought I’d share a bit of context about your recent post. The TSO program ( we launched is complicated. To help employees understand how it works and how it affects them, we held internal meetings to answer questions. One of the things we wanted to explain in those sessions is why the program might occasionally shut down. To help explain what kinds of things would suspend the program, the attorney offered an imaginary illustration that would be easily understood — it was intended to be humorous and the audience clearly understood that it was made tongue in cheek. (If the transcript was able to record the laughter in the room prompted by this illustration, this would be clear to anyone.) The audience was internal. These are not public meetings. Because of SEC regulations, however, we are required to file transcripts of these sessions and that’s where this comes from. I think you’ve read far too much into this imaginary illustration that was offered as a way to help explain a complex program.

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4 thoughts on “Updated: Goodness.

  1. xertroyt says:

    How long ago did Google jump the shark? Sheesh.

  2. Steve Flinn says:

    I imagine it sounds pretty darn good about now . . .

  3. Evan says:

    It seems like the right way to handle this would be to schedule TSO shutdowns on a regular basis, and to arrange it so material events only occur during regularly scheduled shutdowns.

    This is analogous to the manner in which public company executives often arrange to have stock sold automatically, to avoid questions about timing of sales.

  4. dumbfounder says:

    The thing is, they may have jumped the shark, but they are still in air and waving to us as they continue to soar higher and higher.