The Stomach of the Beast

November 14, 2008

You probably think that Google’s motto is “don’t be evil”. However, an inside source has explained to me that their true underlying philosophy is “No employee shall be more than 150 feet from food”. Seriously. Last night I saw the astonishing evidence for myself, and verified that this policy has been rigorously implemented.

Ex-AstroGridder John Taylor was stolen from us by Google some while back. He works at Google Pittsburgh under Andrew Moore, but is currently on a two week stint at Mountain View. He invited my family for dinner at the Google Campus. So last night me, girlfriend, and two out of four progeny trooped up to Charleston Road and spent several hours eating, playing volleyball, scribbling on whiteboards, touring round various wacky work areas, and admiring Stan the T-Rex. There are many different cafes with various catering styles, and snack stations at strategic intervals. At one of these there was actually a vending machine that required money, but this was only because it contained the unhealthiest snacks. The price is calculated per gram of unsaturated fat. Before you conclude that nobody at Google does any work, I should point out that at 7p.m. there were plenty of folk carrying their dinner trays back to their offices … Guess the system works.

They do also seem keen on democracy or at the very least its appearance. As we walked through building 42 on the way to John’s temporary station, there was a ring of small shared offices around the open plan area. John pointed at one of these. It had four names on the door. One of these was Vint Cerf. Yes. Vint Cerf, Father of the Internet. Desk in pokey shared office. Vint Cerf. Vint Cerf. A little further along the same row another office had just one name : Eric Schmidt. Yes folks, Google CEO. Office the size of two broom cupboards side by side. Random location. Wow. Is this just for show ? Really, he has an underground suite with a tank of pirnahas, a direct tunnel to the Lear jet, and a red phone labelled “White House” ??? John didn’t know.

John also gave me a demo of the pilot of the product from his 20% project. It worked. And it was dead cool. But I can’t tell you or I would have to kill you.