Credit where overdue

Putting a bolder face on Google is a New York Times piece about which Reshma Kumar at WebGuild says Marissa Mayer’s Attempt To Put a Bolder Face on Google Falls Flat. One paragraph:

  Google is too busy being drunk on its own cool-aid and telling the same boring stories they’ve been pedaling for the last dozen years over and over again. Maybe some people outside the Valley still buy all this holier than thou start-up slop but it’s become tired. The company is no longer a start-up and these stories are no longer relevant. According to the article, in reviewing resumes she looks at GPAs and SATs and expresses concern over someone getting a C in a course “That’s troubling to me,” Ms. Mayer says. “Good students are good at all things.” However, despite the public facade of hiring only A students, Google has many C and D students in its midst.

I doubt I’d call a positive Times piece “falling flat”; but Reshma’s slam isn’t what caught my eye. It’s this stuff about grade point averages. I’d bet that some of Google’s best employees had bad grades in school. If I worked for Google, I’d be one of them. What I did in school has approximately zero relevance to everything I’ve done since. I’d guess that the same is true for lots of other people who have found the professional world a more productive one than the academic. (Or, in my case, have found the academic world far more friendly after 40 years away from it.)

But that’s not what made me want to write this post. Instead it was to give props to Cindy McCaffrey, Marissa Mayer’s predecessor at Google. Cindy ran corporate marketing at Google from the late 90s through the IPO in 2004. As it says here, Cindy’s approach was low-key. Long on substance and short on flash. More importantly, she was geek-friendly. In the early days, when Google was still getting its act together, I would occasionally send a note to Cindy suggesting that her inside geeks at Google needed to talk with outside geeks who were either having problems, or had some good ideas that Google could use. And good stuff would follow. This wasn’t “corporate communications” of the usual sort, but it was helpful all around. Reading these two stories reminded me of that.


  1. Sheila Lennon’s avatar

    I blogged Sunday about 3 women — an obit for Antoinette K-Doe (Ernie’s widow), poet Eleanor Lerman’s re-entrya nd rock-country singer Lucinda Williams’ house.

    Then I read the Mayer piece, but the only part that registered much was,

    “You have to try and make words less human and more a piece of the machinery.” — Marissa Mayer

    Added that, ignoring that this turns the post into an SAT question.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Sheila.

    In this post I pulled some of my own punches, for the simple reason that I don’t know Marissa Mayer, while I do know people who also know her and like her a lot.

    I knew Cindy McCaffrey, who was terrific, and used the two linked pieces as an excuse to post a much-belated appreciation for Cindy.

    Meanwhile, I found that very line you quoted appalling. That said, I’m still willing to cut Mayer some slack. For now.

  3. Sheila Lennon’s avatar

    Doc, I hope Cindy’s having a great time being free.

    I don’t know any of them, of course, so this is wordplay for me.

    That quote seems to pivot — Microsoft’s “My Documents, My Photos” etc. seemed infantilizing. “They’re just photos,” I’d mentally yell at them. “What if they’re not mine?”

    In Google land, maybe that’s what “human” means.

    Up and Down elevator buttons are part of the machine.

    I get that.

    In that group of women doing very human things with words, Melissa’s quote turned the post into “Which one does not belong in this group?”

    But maybe she will….

    I imagine Cindy painting and writing and back to the garden… but we’ve lived long enough to know that lives have a mind of their own.

  4. Mike Warot’s avatar

    I think that it’s good to keep the personal touch OUT of computer programs… so I’m in agreement with Miss Mayers. Google’s search engine is an ENGINE… not a person… the controls should be as brief and efficient and impersonal as possible.

    Can you imagine an elevator which asks “where do you want to go today?”

    As for the “my photos” thing… yes… what if they aren’t mine? With DRM I’m not allowed to own anything anyway…. (a pet peeve).

  5. Sheila Lennon’s avatar

    Photos are, no adjectives required.

    The word thing — reporters assign stories to categories to mapwords that put them on assorted indexes.

    Corrections — where every mea culpa goes — is a choice in the dropdown list of mapwords. Because it lacked context, that word’s index ended up full of prison stories.

    Machine fail.

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