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A Google Employee Confesses
      Author:Michael Hickins     Source: http://cn.wsj.com     Release Time:7/20/2011 9:07:32 AM     View Times:6806
Douglas Edwards joined Google Inc. in 1999 as employee No. 59, and lived through some of its early developmental steps, including the creation of the Google Doodle and Gmail. Something of an outsider in a culture dominated by engineers, Mr. Edwards helped the company develop what he calls 'a human voice,' and stayed through the company's eventual IPO.

He left in 2005, and after writing about his experiences on his blog, Xooglers, he decided it was time to write a book. The result is 'I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which came out this week.

'It took me a long time to realize that I had to write the book,' Mr. Edwards said in an interview at The Wall Street Journal offices. 'Every time I [go] online, I see Google's logo. Every time I open the newspaper, I read about Google. Every time I turn on the TV, Google Google Google. I'm thinking, all these stories in my head.'

Excerpts:

WSJ: What are you most proud of -- the fact that you wrote the line, 'Not the Usual Yada Yada,' or that AdWords is named after you?

Mr. Edwards: Boy, that's a tough call. I think I'm proudest of the fact that I helped give Google a human voice. The yada yada thing carried a lot of importance to me because it really said that we're going to set a tone for how we communicate with users that's going to be unlike other companies. Everybody else buried all the ugly details in the end-user license agreement and I said, we're not going to do that. I was really proud that the company supported that because it wasn't immediately evident that just because I had written it, we would do it. But they supported that and they allowed me to put that language on the site.

WSJ: In the history of Google there have been several halting attempts at doing a social network, whether it's a collaboration like with Wave or with Buzz, and now there's Google+. What's the impetus for Google to get into that space?

Mr. Edwards: My sense of it is, it's not because they enjoy warm and fuzzy social interaction and they think oh, this would be a really wonderful way to bring our friends together and build a social circle. They look at it and say, 'the information created in social networks is extremely important and valuable. If we don't have access to that information, Google will be less valuable as an information source.' So, I think they take a much more calculated view of the value of the data they cannot get if they do not have a social network that is widely used.

WSJ: How much do you think Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin take privacy to heart? Is it something they recognize the market demands, or is it something they feel is right in the 'do no evil' way?

Mr. Edwards: I came to think of it this way: Google doesn't have enough irrational people working there, and the rest of the world doesn't have enough rational people occupying it. So, Google needs more irrational people, I think, so that they'll better understand how people react to things like targeting ads in Gmail. They look at it and they understand that there's no privacy violation because no person ever looks at your email; it's all machine-scanned, it's all dealt with anonymously. So, it's not like your privacy's being invaded . . . .

WSJ: When Eric Schmidt was hired to be CEO, the joke was the need for adult supervision. Do you think they did need that adult supervision?

Mr. Edwards: I'm pretty sure they didn't think they needed it. I think Eric added value, certainly as an employee of the company, things became more transparent. He was better at communicating what was going on, what our goals were, and keeping the employees marching along with the leaders. Whereas they would just march straight ahead and expect that at some point you would figure out you were supposed to be following them. So, he certainly added a layer of -- if you want to call it the UI -- the user interface. Eric was a good UI. He was a more user-friendly UI than what you would have gotten just from Larry and Sergey.

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