On the Road with Googlers

Newsweek's Steven Levy tags along as new Googlers learn about the world. It sounds like a great program….

Newsweek’s Steven Levy tags along as new Googlers learn about the world. It sounds like a great program.

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

4 thoughts on “On the Road with Googlers”

  1. The article is too superficial as most of the Google features on the Times have been. What type of leaders are they being groomed to be, if it is a given they are leaving the company in a few years.

    Are they political leaders, entrepreneurs, future CEOs????

    And what does leadership have to do with academic record – or whether one graduated from a top school?

    Human behavior is much more complex than that.

  2. This article clearly shows how far removed Google’s algorithmic approach to information retrieval is from the “real world”. When Google was about to open it’s office in Zurich, I emailed Urs H├Âlzle to ask what kind of expertise they were looking for — and the answer was plain and simple: computational engineers.

    Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s advisor, Terry Winograd, understood the world quite differently than plain & simple algorithms. Indeed, Professor Winograd had decades of experience in the field of computational linguistics (and I too studied his work in painstaking detail ­čśë — see, for example, a short interview, in which he describes how information retrieval has very little to do with computer engineering: http://www.designinginteractions.com/interviews/TerryWinograd (note that Mr. Winograd was not only an academic advisor to Page & Brin, but was also an “executive” advisor at Google, Inc. [at least in earlier years])

    Google is doing “too little, too late” to come to terms with how humans actually think and navigate to find information. Steve Ballmer’s remark that Google is a “one trick pony” rings decidedly true, and they have indeed aggravated this problem by focusing to much on computer engineering and too little on “how humans work”. Going globe-trotting with engineers might help a little bit, but I doubt it will help very much, because human / “natural” language is (as Prof. Winograd ably explicates) very complex (and in some crucial respects also constantly changing). It is simply naive to think that an understanding of it can be attained through a simple process of “osmosis” — by sending computer engineers into culture they know little/nothing about for a week or two.

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