Google Factory Tour Recap

So Google's first Google Factory Tour has ended. Overall, I'd say it was a great success on the PR front -- at least if you weren't that familiar with Google. One reporter I corresponded with told me that seemed the case for plenty there, many of whom were overseas reporters. For them, Google trotted out real live people doing interesting things. While it was very stage managed, kudos for the plentiful Q&A periods that let some good questions (and sometimes answers) get out.

Gary and I watched and instant messaged each other throughout the night, offering each other commentary on what was being said. If the tour repeats (or when Yahoo and gang inevitably decide to do the same), we might do some live alternative commentary for everyone as a sort of Pop-Up Video or Mystery Science Theater 3000-type of thing.

Most of what was said was old ground for us -- and will be for many of our readers. But here are the highlights I found interesting. Before diving in, a reminder. A webcast of the event is here. You can also view all the slides at once here. Be aware it's a big page, not for the broadband challenged.

  • Schmidt & Brin Do Q&A: Near the end was a long period where Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Google cofounder Sergey Brin answered questions. Andy Beal of Search Engine Lowdown diligently blogged live coverage of some of the answers. I think it's worthwhile for anyone interested in Google to watch the webcast of this. I'm also hoping Google will make an actual transcript available.
  • Google: We Are French: I especially liked Eric Schmidt getting a little riled over the suggestion that France and all "continental Europe" are viewing Google as a dark force in the wake of print. He pushed back especially on Google supposedly favoring English language books, asking for proof Google said they would do this or are actually doing so. Sergey Brin scored the real goal, however, pointing out that about half the Google Print team is French.
  • Google Goes Portal: Yes, Google launched a personalized home page, essentially making it official that it is a portal. News from us on that here: Google Launches Personalized Home Page. Reaction from across the web here: Reactions To My Google Personalized Home Page.
  • Google's Master Plan: Google's come under accusations of not having some master plan, which in part it helps to perpetuate. Just see yesterday's post about Google engineers being encouraged to run "rampant" and "wander around," according to Google's Schmidt.

    Still, Google's been pushing back on the idea that it's not focused enough. One slide was used to illustrated Google's view that all this creative activity happens in the non-core stuff they do. The core search+ads effort still takes up apparently 70 percent of the engineering time. And more to the point, that's work all done according to some master plan, Google says.

    You see this push back again in today's post from Google on the launch of its new personal home page.

    Does Google have a strategy, or are we just a bunch of mad computer scientists running around building whatever we want? Today this question gets an answer: we've launched our personalized homepage via Google Labs. It's part of a strategic initiative we refer to as 'fusion' to bring together Google functionality, and content from across the web, in useful ways.

  • Google & Endless Betas: John Battelle reports on Google repeating what they've been saying recently -- expect products to start coming out of beta and perhaps stop seeming to be endless. He also has Eric Schmidt commenting that the Google mission isn't just web search. It's about organizing information anywhere.
  • Lesson On Web Accelerator: Again from Andy, comments from Google on having learned products perhaps need to be more aggressively tested internally, before releases. However, Google also says that some things you don't find out, until they are released. Oh, and some site owners got blamed again for problems in not knowing how to set up their servers. I hope the fix isn't some idea that everyone will magically solve that problem. Not gonna happen.
  • Click Fraud: From Andy, Google saying it is pro-active in trying and stop click fraud and yes, we will look around to see if a refund given one advertiser means others are entitled to the same.
  • Google Employee Heroes: Frankly, this started off with Gary and I rolling our eyes, a slide on the amount of food eaten by engineers. Sort of funny, but who cares? And why just the engineers? Are they the only people of any import at Google? Do any of those ad people who earn all the money eat? If so, how much chicken?

    Fortunately from a PR angle, things picked up with a rundown on various people behind the scenes that create and improve Google products. Matt Cutts, who is known to readers for his many comments over the years on webmaster issues, got highlighted as one of the heroes. In the end, it served well to put a human face on an increasingly growing and dominant company. Andy's got a rundown on slides here.
  • Ads, Ads, Ads: A big chunk of time was spent on how wonderful it is that Google has devised a way to monetize the entire web. Seriously. And that organizes the world's information how? OK, I know -- it funds it. But the backslapping of how clever Google was figuring out how to make all the world is its billboard felt, I dunno, a little dirty to my ears. But it was honest, I suppose.
  • Google & Privacy: It was raised, addressed but this new article on the subject also out the same day goes into more depth: Google CEO defends privacy policies. In short, Google doesn't reveal stuff not already public and wants to safeguard information. If I spot something more in depth detailing what else was said, I'll update.
  • Mash Ups With Google Maps: Everyone's mixing everything with Google Maps from crime stats to apartment rentals (hey, put both of those together!). Google said they want to make that easier, so people don't have to hack it. Ah, but what about those who license the maps to Google. Are they cool about that? There wasn't a clear answer -- Google just hopes it won't be an issue. SiliconBeat has comments on that.
  • Google Earth: We already knew earlier that Google's Keyhole software had been given upgrade maps. Soon, the software itself will be upgrade and gain a new name, Google Earth. And better maps will come to Google Maps, as well. Postscript: More from eWeek here.
  • Google Translations: Apparently the company has been greatly increasing its abilities in this area, including having just won what was said to be some important award in the area. Key takeaway was that if it really could do good automatic translations, it makes information even more accessible to everyone, given we all speak different languages. Postscript: Google Blogoscoped has more on this here.

Some Related Material:

  • CNET's Charles Cooper in Growing pains at Google? comes away finding the event a pure PR snowjob and thinks Google needs to open up even more to win the hearts and minds of journalists. Cooper also looks at Google's continued success and wonders when it will tumble, like every other tech company does. Oh, it will tumble -- but can we please, please stop having people call it a tech company? Geez, CNET even just had a story out with Schmidt himself saying they're an information company, not a tech company. Google's not a tech company, folks! What's the main product, the breadwinner? It's ads.
  • Google Hones Cutting Edge from The Street is a very nice read and balanced roundup of the day. But another story, A Walk Through the Google Search Factory, by the same author shows where Cooper is wrong about the PR impact.

    "Others outlined in relatively deeper detail how Google has leveraged its superior search algorithms in ways that are beginning to transform how advertisers connect with customers on the Internet," the story says.

    Actually, what was outlined was how Google has leveraged WHAT IT BELIEVES is its superior search algorithms. But have enough people tell you something as if it is a fact, rather than their opinion, and slips like this come through, from me, from other experienced journalists and even more likely from those newer to Google.
  • Ten Things I Didn't Know About Google from PC World has Harry McCracken commenting on what his eyes were opened to.