October 17, 2007

How to create a bomb

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 12:41 pm by mondhandy

The party at Google’s office in munich was quite nice, actually. It really was the opening party for their office in munich, even though they have been here for two years by now. But only now they seem to have found the appropriate office location to make it official. Mainly, Google seems to be very desperate to find new people to hire, so if you are even remotely interested, you should probably send them an application. Most Googlers I met there seemed very genuine and nice, and enthusiastic about working for Google. The politicians were not that bad, either: they are trained for giving entertaining speeches after all, so they managed to score some laughs. For example (from their speeches), I didn’t know that Google took legal action against being given the status of a category in the german language. Being a category is like being hoover: it used to be a company name, but now you can also just say “hover the floor” instead of “vacuum cleaning”. If Google had become a category, their competition would have been free to call their own search engines “googling”.

The Google office of course looked much nicer than any other office I have seen so far. It was a bit overdone for my taste, though. For lack of a better word, I have to say it felt almost like a kindergarden, or the kids section at IKEA where parents leave their kids to go shopping in peace. There were lava lamps everywhere, walls, chairs and sofas in all sorts of colors, and I even saw a toy Zeppelin hanging in the air. No wonder some people say that Google is working deliberately on the infantilization of it’s employees. On the upside, at least everybody there seems to get two 24” monitors or a 30” monitor. Their help desk guy told me that basically you can walk up to him, tell him what hardware you want, and get it. This contrasts very much with my experience at my last job, where I was two weeks without a computer at first, and we all had to do with insufficient memory on our developer machines. Also, invariably in all other companies I have been to, developers had only crappy 17” monitors to work with – that is so incredibly stupid (compare salary costs to costs of LCD screens) that it is one of the main reasons I can’t bear to work in corporations anymore.

On the downside, the Google office was mostly an open-plan office, which I don’t like very much. I think it is a matter of taste, though. Google seems to think it is beneficial if their employees can talk to each other without delay.  Their location really is perfect, in the very center of munich. Just a few steps to go to the Viktualienmarkt for lunch, for example. I have worked in remote parts of the town where there wasn’t a restaurant around for miles, and you were stuck with the unhealthy food of the canteen. A nice office is definitely a big factor for me when deciding to work for somebody. It is where I would spend most of my time, after all.

At the entrance of the Google office there is a big screen showing the (or some) current searches. Just when we entered, a search for “how to create a bomb” was scrolling by. Ooops… I hope it was just some kid wanting to have fun. When I was a kid I was also fascinated by bombs and explosions, but I was never interested in becoming a terrorist. An older kid from the neighbourhood allegedly knew how to create bombs using sugar and a certain herbicide. As it turned out, that herbicide would not be sold to underage kids, so we never built that bomb.

Another screen at the Google office shows a 3d world map with dots representing the places where people are just using Google. It looked very nice, and another interesting thing was that Africa was still mostly black (as in no dots showing up). Google is aware of that, though – the best bet seems to be some kind of mobile thing to get the people in Africe to become users.

Most interesting for me was to talk about the privacy issues to some Googlers. To my surprise, they told me that privacy is a very big topic inside of Google, and they are well aware of the risks. They really try to drill their employees to treat the data right. As an example, it is not possible for just anybody at Google to browse through random GMail accounts. Also, allegedly they anonymize all data after 18 months. They claimed that Google does not know more about me than I know, which I find hard to believe. But overall, they made me believe that Google really doesn’t want to be evil after all. That doesn’t mean that they are not or won’t be evil, though: the corporation might develop a dynamic of it’s own, against the will of it’s employees.

Now I wonder if I should send an application to Google. I don’t really feel like it, but there is one thing: I always wanted to work in artifical intelligence. If Google would give me a chance to work on that, and I mean really deep and serious stuff, they might be able to tempt me. I am not interested in creating a web interface for some search engine somebody else has developed, though. I am not interested in just being some replaceable cog in a machine, no matter how cool the machine is. Overall I feel very strongly that I don’t want to be employed, except by myself. It is just that the Googlers were trying so hard to find new people that I feel almost obliged to send them my CV, after having enjoyed the free food at their party. Then again, I suppose Google could afford it.

I forgot to mention what the recruiters told me: they are looking for so many people because they feel they need people who know the local culture, so that they can best adapt their services to the needs of that local culture. Therefore they seem to plan many more offices all over the world.  If working for Google is your dream, there seems to be a fair chance to make it a reality these days…

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