Google is not as great as some people think. Sure, their third quarter results were incredible, but thats not all that counts at a big software company like Google; code base and code infrastructure are huge. You need to have good code and good ways to interact with that code. The latter is a big concern for Steve Yegge, an outspoken Google engineer who mistakenly posted a long rant about some of Google’s issues. It was extremely interesting, refreshingly honest, and is exactly what Google needs.
Yegge recognized that Google had systematic problems that needed to be addressed. These problems stemmed from the way they created new products and how they structured their code and, the longer these problems went unaddressed, the more costly they become. Yegge talks about his experience at Amazon.com and how difficult it was to move all their code to a service based architecture (as mandated by Jeff Bezos) but how rewarding it was in the end; allowing Amazon to create their groundbreaking Amazon Web Services. I did an internship at Amazon this summer and experienced first hand how beneficial service oriented architecture can be. Facebook and Microsoft take advantage of this as well, allowing for all the great Facebook applications and it is the reason so many businesses choose Microsoft. Yegge recognized this and decided it was important enough to speak up, no matter the ramifications, “the problem we face is pretty huge, because it will take a dramatic cultural change in order for us to start catching up.”
Yegge wasn’t the first person to “tell it like it is.” This summer, over at Research In Motion (the guys who make Blackberry), an anonymous employee recognized some big problems with they way RIM runs and wrote an open letter to the company. It was very similar to Yegge’s rant in that it was brutally honest and called for big systematic changes. I think this kind of large-scale, call to action is hugely important at any company and especially technology companies where fast-paced work can leave little time for reflection and analysis. Sam Walton might disagree with what these employee’s did, since his first rule of building a business is “Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anyone else.” However, I think more than anything, that these employees did want their company to succeed, and thats why they said these things (making them public might have been the wrong choice, but the idea was there). In the end, I hope more employees speak their mind when they have concerns about their company.