I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 (Douglas Edwards) – Morceaux choisis

in Bouquins / Books

Afin de mieux comprendre la philosophie de Google, je me suis offert “I’m Feeling Lucky”, un livre écrit par un ancien employé de Google, Douglas Edwards. Les livres sur Google sont nombreux, mais celui-ci a la particularité d’offrir un oeil vraiment interne sur la vie quotidienne, les prises de décision, et les problèmes rencontrés par Google dans son évolution. Douglas Edwards était l’un des premiers membres de l’équipe Marketing de Google, et s’est très vite imposé comme “la voix de Google”. Il est dans une position bien particulière, et d’autant plus adaptée pour parler du fonctionnement de Google. En effet, chez Google les ingénieurs sont les rois, et les marketeux doivent se battre pour leurs idées, les argumenter avec l’élement clé chez Google, les données.

Douglas Edwards avait cependant un poste clé, et a pu prendre part à de nombreux projets puisqu’il était celui qui devait définir et valider le ton employé. Ce livre nous donne donc une superbe vue sur ce monde de données qu’est Google, sur les relations et le travail au quotidien, sur le fonctionnement des meetings, les prises de décision, les crises traversées, et les événements importants qui ont fait du petit Google ce géant qu’on connait aujourd’hui.

Je ne peux donc que vous conseiller de vous jeter sur ce bouquin si vous êtes intéressés par Internet. Que vous aimiez ou pas Google, c’est un must ! Voici donc quelques morceaux que j’ai notés lors de ma lecture. On y découvre des principes fondamentaux de Google, des employés de la première heure comme Marissa Mayer, Matt Cutts, et d’autres… Bonne lecture !

I'm Feeling Lucky book cover

Morceaux choisis

“The equivalent of the Italian Renaissance, happening right in our backyard.” The region was rife with emerging e-Medicis and dot-Botticellis crafting new businesses from nothing but bits and big ideas.

Page 4

“Brand is what’s left over when you stop moving forward,” was a sentiment engineer Matt Cutts heard expressed in a meeting with Larry and Sergey. It was only when a product stopped working better than the competition that branding became a factor. By then you’d already lost. For a long time, Larry refused to even use the B-word—because “branding” implied that technology alone was insufficient for success.

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Larry made my apostasy clear. “If we can’t win on quality,” he said quietly, “we shouldn’t win at all.”

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It was always function over form.

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We shouldn’t do things the way we had in the past. We shouldn’t copy other companies.

Page 50

Pure-hearted geeks flee the hellish realm of product-driven companies, where soul-sucking suits shuffle after profits instead of perfection.

Page 53

Doerr’s corporate growth regimen comprised a system for setting goals and measuring progress that he called Objectives and Key Results or OKRs.

Page 54

“Objectives,” Doerr instructed Larry and Sergey, “should be significant and communicate action. They state what you want to accomplish, while key results detail how you will accomplish those goals.”

Page 54

WHAT DID IT feel like—the experience of coming to work at Google when it was fewer than sixty people? Let me give you a few impressions. Before I started at Google, I had never said any of the following on the job: “Yes, I see the eight shelves of programming books. Where do we keep the dictionaries? No, I can’t just print out the words as I look them up online.” “Is it a good idea to have all those bikes leaning against the fire door?” “Sorry. I was aiming for Salar. Did I get the printer? Super soakers are really inaccurate at more than five feet.” “Who do I ask if I have questions about Windows? No one? Really?” “Wow, Larry. Who trashed your office? Well, it’s just that … uh, never mind.” “Wouldn’t it be easier to buy rollerblade wheels that are already assembled?” “Is there any way to set the sauna for more than half an hour?” “Is it okay to go into the women’s locker room to steal some towels?” “Oh, sorry. Didn’t realize anyone was napping in here.” “See, you knock down more garbage cans if you bounce the ball instead of just rolling it straight at them.” “It’s in the area behind the coffee-can pyramid, right across from where the Big Wheel is usually parked.” “I tried to book ninety minutes, but the schedule was full. So I only got an hour. Could you focus on legs and feet? I think I pulled something running this morning.”

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“There is no better way to get to know someone,” George Salah, a regular participant, believed. “To have their true colors come out, play sports with them. You get to see how aggressive they are, if they’re ruthless or not, if they’re capable of giving a hundred and ten percent.”

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Google’s obsession with metrics was forcing me to take stock of my own capabilities. What did I bring to the table? What were my limits? How did I compare? Insecurity was a game all Googlers could play, especially about intellectual inferiority.

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“Google hires really bright, insecure people and then applies sufficient pressure that no matter how hard they work, they’re never able to consider themselves successful. Look at all the kids in my group who work absurd hours and still feel they’re not keeping up with everyone else.”

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Many of my overcaffeinated twenty-something colleagues had relocated from outside the Bay Area. They had no local friends, no attachments, no relatives, and often no TVs to distract them. They had Google.

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Google’s official office dress code was “You must wear clothes.”

Page 86

Sergey’s perspective on “launch first, iterate later,” was nothing if not consistent. “I don’t think we should have any meetings about a project like this,” he said, “or any group emails except the one to users announcing the launch. Having everyone involved in every issue is not a good use of anyone’s time.”

Page 93

Almost no one talked about money at Google. It was an easy topic to avoid because nobody at the company had money to speak of. There may have been one or two people who left other startups with spending cash, but if they were rich enough to retire, they hid it well. What we did have was wealth potential.

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Larry’s Rules of Order: Don’t delegate: Do everything you can yourself to make things go faster. Don’t get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else. Don’t be a bureaucrat. Ideas are more important than age. Just because someone is junior doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and cooperation. The worst thing you can do is stop someone from doing something by saying, “No. Period.” If you say no, you have to help them find a better way to get it done.

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Products we weren’t launching and deals we weren’t doing threatened our economic stability far more than any single line item in the budget. We were falling behind even as we leapt ahead. Success was spilling through our fingers. This was Sergey’s rallying cry to redouble our efforts.

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Engineers never stop asking “Why?” until they get an answer they consider demonstrably, provably, irrefutably true. As Craig Silverstein explained it to me, “It’s not an engineering personality to keep quiet when you feel things are going wrong … and being intimidated by people is not very productive.”

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A focus that detected subatomic flaws, an inability to ignore inconvenient truths, and an obdurate unwillingness to cede my position until completely overrun.

Page 146

Matt again took the initiative to address a problem others didn’t immediately see. He went to PR manager David Krane. “So … while I’m compiling,” he asked Krane, “would it be okay if I stopped by this forum and debunked misconceptions?” Krane reported to Cindy, and Cindy had read the Cluetrain Manifesto—a guide advocating that companies speak directly and plainly to the public instead of engaging in Velveeta-smooth, committee-processed, content-lite corporate blandishments. Cindy had made sure everyone else in marketing read it as well. Krane gave Matt carte blanche to speak freely on the company’s behalf, without running his posts by PR. “GoogleGuy” was born. Matt’s nom de plume became an authoritative voice in the webmaster community and a trusted source of information from inside Google.

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Individuals were considered capable of weighing the effects of their actions and presumed to have the best interests of the company (and Google’s users) at heart. We were encouraged to act on those interests without hesitation. Spend time doing, not deciding.

Page 152

I learned that obvious solutions are not the only ones and “safe” choices aren’t always good choices.

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Focus on the user and all else will follow. It’s best to do one thing really, really well. Fast is better than slow. Open is better than closed. Democracy on the web works. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. You can make money without doing evil. There’s always more information out there. The need for information crosses all borders. You don’t need a suit to be serious. Great just isn’t good enough.

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Another core value, one I hadn’t listed: “Underpromise and overdeliver.”

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We abhorred vaporware. Though recently Google has preannounced products and even whole industries it intends to revolutionize, in its early days the company kept launches secret and downplayed features. We wanted people to discover some things on their own.

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“Underpromise and overdeliver” became as important a mantra to us as “Don’t be evil.”

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Larry wanted Google to be “a force for good,” which meant we would never conduct marketing stunts like sweepstakes, coupons, and contests, which only worked because people were stupid. Preying on people’s stupidity, Larry declared, was evil.

Page 290

We should be known for making stuff that people can use, he said, not just for providing information. Information is too restrictive. In fact, we shouldn’t be defined by a category, but by the fact that our products work—the way you know an Apple product will look nice and a Sony product will work better but cost more. We’re a technology company. A Google product will work better.

Page 291

The day after the deal went live, John Bauer added code that boldfaced the keyword a user had searched for when it appeared in an ad, making it obvious that the ad was relevant. That single improvement increased clickthrough rates by four hundred percent. One engineer. One change. Four hundred percent.

Page 304

The issue, according to most engineers I spoke with, was orkut’s inability to scale to handle the influx of traffic from an audience the size of Google’s, a task it had never been designed to do. Paul Bucheit, the creator of Gmail, disagreed. The real reason was “Google’s tech snobbery getting in the way of its success.” Paul said orkut “was taking off. Lots of people signed up. And then it got really slow.” But that was a problem other social networks had experienced as well—MySpace and even Facebook ran into capacity issues almost from the beginning. The difference, according to Paul, was that those services jumped in and did whatever it took to make things work. Facebook was just a bunch of college kids. It had no brilliant coders like Jeff Dean or Sanjay Ghemawat. And the final

Page 365

Because orkut had been written using Microsoft tools, Google’s engineers deemed it “not scalable.” “They turned their noses up at it and they didn’t make the thing work. They just let it die.

Page 365

To launch a radically new product from an established company, Paul asserted, you needed someone who not only believed in it but also was able to make the organization “do the right stuff.”

Page 365

A company like Procter and Gamble, which viewed its business from the outside looking in, searching the market for gaps between consumer desires and the products addressing them. Google looked at the world from the inside out. Engineers made products to their own specifications, not those of the consumers who would use them. If our technology found acceptance in the marketplace, great. If not, the technology was not inherently less worthy of being built.

Page 368

The day after Figueroa’s announcement, I headed to Washington, DC. The trip had nothing to do with Gmail. My mother’s sister had passed away and I was going to her funeral. It was an emotional experience for me during an already stressful time. As I stood graveside, all the pressure that had been building within me found an acceptable release. I found myself crying uncontrollably when I dropped a handful of dirt onto my aunt’s coffin as it was lowered into the ground. I hugged my mother and sister for what seemed like a very long time. With all that had been happening, I had not had a chance to breathe, let alone process the events bombarding me. I knew the avalanche of new problems back home was accelerating in my absence.

Page 372

I quit because I didn’t like the idea I might have to sell something I didn’t believe in.

Page 389

After Google, I find myself impatient with the way the world works. Why is it so hard to schedule a recording on my DVR? Why aren’t all the signal lights synched to keep traffic flowing at optimum speed? Why, if I punch in my account number when I call customer service, do I have to give it to them again when I get a live person? These are all solvable problems.

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Smart people, motivated to make things better, can do almost anything.

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