APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Only the best and the brightest? I call B.S., Google

© October 2009 Anthony Lawrence

I recently read and reviewed Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. One of the things that stood out was Google's tough vetting process for engineers. Supposedly only people at the top of their game need apply.

Google's current www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/lifeatgoogle/englife.html (link dead, sorry) Jobs page for engineers confirms that, saying things like "Our search for the world's best engineers", and that they want people who "Have broad knowledge and expertise" and "world-class programming skills ". No slouches need apply.

I call B.S.

Oh, don't misunderstand: I'm a big fan. I love Gmail, I'm eagerly looking forward to Google Wave and all that. I'm no Google hater.

But if Google has been hiring the best programmers in the world, they sure as heck aren't getting their money's worth.

Let's just look at some recent examples. I use Google Calendar. I love it because I set it to remind me of things I need to do regularly, like dust or wash the floors. Getting an email reminder makes these chores much harder to ignore than a "Honey-Do" list.

Recently, those reminders just stopped. Google's advice on public message boards where other people were complaining of the same thing? Redo your reminders.

Are they kidding? Is reading an XML file to send reminders a difficult programming task? Is there any imaginable reason why this should just stop working AND need end-user intervention to correct? I sure don't think so.

How about Gmail? Gosh, I love Gmail. My wife likes it too, especially Labels. Except suddenly she can't apply Labels directly. She's not the only person with this problem; Google knows all about it, but doesn't yet know how to fix it. Doesn't know how to fix it? World class programmers don't know how to fix this? Wow!

Let's not forget that Gmail crashed hard recently and that there were rumors of cross-site scripting exploits back in April. If true, that's not world-class either.

And then we have my MacBook Pro sleep problem. Like an overactive child, my MacBook doesn't want to go to sleep when I tell it to. The culprit is Google Toolbar in Firefox. With that disabled, I can put my machine to sleep quickly. With it in place, no. Now really, I can't imagine why a toolbar is so badly programmed that it should interfere with my putting my computer to bed, but there it is. World class? I think not.

Or maybe this IS the best we can get. Maybe programming still is so hellishly difficult that even the best and brightest are as befuddled and helpless as the rest of us.

Isn't THAT a scary thought?

Got something to add? Send me email.

(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

-> Only the best and the brightest? I call B.S., Google


Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of iCloud, Fifth Edition

Take Control of iCloud

Take Control of Pages

El Capitan: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of Upgrading to El Capitan

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Thu Oct 8 12:27:27 2009: 7137   Friar

You know what would also be nice on Gmail?

To be able to sort the messages BY NAME.

Like (...um) every OTHER email application on the planet !

Thu Oct 8 12:34:34 2009: 7139   TonyLawrence

Dead right on that one.

I compiled a lost of my Gmail wants back in 2006: (link)

Some of my gripes have been fixed, but certainly not all.

Thu Oct 8 13:40:46 2009: 7142   TonyLawrence

Oh, and STILL no Chrome for Mac OS X...

I guess that's not necessarily a "best and brightest" disqualification, but sheesh - it's been quite a wait!

Thu Oct 8 13:55:40 2009: 7145   BruceGarlock

I sometimes think Google has too many smart people. Sometimes with that mix, not much changes because people constantly think their way is the best (because "Hey, I'm Smart!! -- Google hired me!")

They could also use some "artsy-fartsy" types to spiff up their UI a bit. Keep it simple, but give it a little flare.

Thu Oct 8 14:03:48 2009: 7147   BigDumbDinosaur

You guys can sing Google's praises all you want. I've never found any use for their services (except the search engine). I like my mail setup as it is right now, primarily because I control how it works and what it does or doesn't do. Google might like to think they are hiring top-flight people, but you'd be hard-pressed to convince me as I read all about their constant travails.

Thu Oct 8 14:13:50 2009: 7149   TonyLawrence

I don't think we're singing praises - more like saying the big guy can be quite the bumbling boob :-)

Thu Oct 8 18:05:02 2009: 7153   TonyLawrence

Google has too many smart people

Too many engineers.

Overall, I'd rather see an engineering dominated company than one dominated by the usual marketing or accounting. Engineers are (usually) more honest and direct.

However - not every problem can be solved by engineering. A little emotional intelligence can help a lot.

Thu Oct 8 22:55:50 2009: 7155   BrettLegree

I'm not sure that it's too many engineers (well, it might be...) - my feeling is that it's too many cooks spoiling the broth.

I think when they were smaller, many (most?) of the ideas came from Larry and Sergey, or were blessed by them - and also, this was before they were publicly traded.

So... there was time to build a quality product.

Now they're trying to make money for the shareholder, and perhaps have their fingers in too many pies.


I've been using the dev builds of Chrome on OS X and they're not bad, actually. But yeah... poop or get off the pot, people. It's just a freakin' web browser, get it out the door already.


Back to the issue of them having too many engineers, or too many smart people. Another possible problem... if they're hiring "the best and brightest" right out of school, well, that's a problem as far as I'm concerned.

They'd be hiring people with no real world experience (yet). That's a bad thing.

My company does the same thing, sometimes - and you know, I sooner trust someone who's had a few jobs than a new grad.

Sat Oct 10 14:51:03 2009: 7172   anonymous

To innovate is fun. Engineers at google love to innovate.

To fix bugs is boring.

No one goes down in history as the guy that fixed email labels or reminders. They only go down in history as the creator of Wave or Maps or Gmail.

Sat Oct 10 14:56:53 2009: 7173   BrettLegree

"No one goes down in history as the guy that fixed email labels or reminders. They only go down in history as the creator of Wave or Maps or Gmail."

My guess is, no one (other than a geek, a real geek) will remember who created Wave or Maps or Gmail, either.

99.9 percent of people don't know or care. They just want the damned product to work.

Google, however, could go down in history as the company who hires engineers who won't write solid code, or fix code that needs fixing.

I'm an engineer too (not a software engineer, but an engineer).

I get paid to innovate, and I also get paid to fix my mistakes (and those of others), however boring that may be.


Sat Oct 10 15:02:57 2009: 7174   anonymous

to the previous poster saying Chrome wasn't available on Mac

(link dead, sorry)
Recent versions have an issue with the toolbar, but, I've been using it for a few months

Sat Oct 10 17:25:14 2009: 7175   anonymous

ok I guess you've never done any software engineering.

if you think gmail is "parsing some xml file", well, I think you should start writing about excel macros an other power-user stuff.

leave software problems for the experts, thanks.

Sat Oct 10 18:30:55 2009: 7176   BrettLegree

"leave software problems for the experts, thanks."

Hmm - Tony points out a few things that are not quite working with Google's products, at least one of which they say they don't know how to fix.

Perhaps Google should "leave software problems for the experts" as well?

Sun Oct 11 00:35:13 2009: 7177   AnthonyLawrence

ok I guess you've never done any software engineering.

Bzzt. Wrong guess.

I don't know how Google stores Calendar events. It could be a database, it could be XML files - who cares? The POINT is that running through that data to find events that need to happen today isn't tough programming.

If you think it is, then YOU have never done any programming, period.

Sun Oct 11 11:58:27 2009: 7178   TonyLawrence

By the way, they did fix some of these things since I wrote this.

No doubt some (like the jackass who said software engineering should be left to "experts") will think that vindicates Google.

Not really. But my wife is happy her labels work again - though she does add "It took long enough!"

Fri Feb 5 17:34:17 2010: 8035   anonymous


Google has been on the 'getting' end of some nasty hacking by our friends the PRC. In fact Google sees this as so serious that they have requested help from the majestic NSA!!


Fri Feb 5 17:42:21 2010: 8036   TonyLawrence


Well, Google was hacked through an IE flaw. But yes..


Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Printer Friendly Version

The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he, by peddling second rate technology, led them into it in the first place, and continues to do so today. (Douglas Adams)

Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts

This post tagged:




Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode