Sunday, December 04, 2005


How Google banned the whole France one day

Ron Garret shares his memories on how much power and responsibility was (and is?) given to the technical engineers at Google. It looks like guys there worry more about not doing something useful, than about the occasionally doing something bad. Well, over-analyzing consequences can take hell a lot of time, while the potential error can just be fixed. I wonder if France will agree..
Ray took unauthorized automated queries very personally. If he could figure out the spammer's email address, he would send a terse cease and desist warning to them. If he couldn't, he might block their IP address from accessing Google altogether. In an extreme case, he might request that a spammer's ISP kick them off of their service. And, if the ISP wasn't responsive enough, he might block all of the ISP's other IP addresses, too. That's how Ray turned off access to Google for most of France one day. It got the ISP’s attention, all the more so because it happened to be one of Google’s larger customers at the time.

One engineer holding that kind of power speaks to the assumptions inherent in Google’s culture. 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.
Google emphasized acting over deciding.

Of all the elements of “big-company thinking” I had to unlearn, that was one of the hardest. I constantly sought reassurance that I was empowered to move to the next step, only to be asked, “Why haven’t you done that already?”

The upside of this philosophy is that Google did many things quickly, most of which turned out to be positive. The downside is that Google sometimes did things with unforeseen effects and individuals occasionally misinterpreted exactly how much power they possessed. The tradeoff appears to have been worth it.
Original post by the ex-googler Ron Garret

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