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June 30 2011


Hanging Out with Sergey Brin on Google+

The smartest, most compelling feature on Google+ might be the video chat “Hangouts.” I popped in my first one yesterday and Google co-founder Sergey Brin was one of the other 9 folks in the room. He was asking about what folks thought of the service so far and wanted to try it out for himself. Good for him.

For anyone who has used corporate video conferencing, the Hangouts will have a familiar feel, where the camera shifts from person to person based on who is talking (the loudest!). Neither Twitter nor Facebook have anything like this. Google+ could differentiate itself easily and quickly by making itself the destination for social video experiences. Group video chat is a fantastic feature and could easily evolve in many ways.

So far the Google+ implementation seems to work very smoothly. Once nice feature is you can play YouTube videos in the video chat. I’d love to see a recording feature built-in and a few other things, but most importantly, it seems to work seamlessly.

So far Google+ is off to a good start, far better than Google’s previous efforts, Google Wave and Google Buzz.

The interest has been so tremendous that Vic Gundotra, Google’s social media boss, said late last night, ”We’ve shut down invite mechanism for the night. Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest!”

(Once they open up invites again, I’m happy to invite you if you are interested — please leave your email in the comments below and I will do my best!)

In the meantime, for a more detailed look at some of the other features, I’d recommend these reviews from Search Engine Land and ReadWriteWeb (which, by the way, deserves huge kudos for breaking the news of Circles three months ago).

Here is my Google Profile – if you are already on Google+ you can add me to your Circles by clicking here.


January 22 2010


Google Go-Founder Sergey Brin Concedes Lack of "Emotional Intelligence" says The New Yorker's Ken Auletta

While Google continues to show extraordinary growth and profitability, there could be a number of threats and stumbling blocks ahead, says the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, author of the best-selling book Googled: The End of the World as We Know it."

In this interview, Auletta tells me that Google's biggest potential threats are Facebook and other sites which offer "vertical search." 

A big fault could lie in a company run by engineers who lack the "emotional intelligence" needed to navigate an increasingly complex world of government intervention and public perception.  In this interview Auletta says that co-founder Sergey Brin conceded in an interview with him that management lacks emotional intelligence.

A partial transcript of the interview is below.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer

Editor's Note:  Our apologies about the buzz on the audio.  

Video Transcript from 2 min. 50 sec.

Andy Plesser: So let's talk about potentially the weaknesses. You talk about in the book, towards the end, about the potential weakness of privacy, over reliance perhaps on computer based search on the PC.  What do you see as potentially their Achilles' heels? How could they fail?

Ken Auletta: Well I think they can fail in a number of ways. One, I mean I interviewed Bill Gates in 1998. I began the second chapter with this story, and I said, "Mr. Gates, what do you worry about in the future?" And I thought he would say "Apple" or "Sun Microsystems" or "Oracle" or some competitor, and instead what he said to me was, "I'll tell you what I worry about. I worry about someone in a garage inventing something I've never thought about, a new technology."

Well in 1998, in a garage, was the new technology being invented. It was the Google guys inventing search and that has become Microsoft's worst nightmare. The question then becomes, in 2010, is there a comparable technology in a garage somewhere that's being invented that could upset and upend Google.

One possibility is what's called vertical search and the idea that, for instance, Facebook, which now has 350 million worldwide users. I mean think about how efficient it is to do a search if I'm looking for a camera and I post something for my Facebook friends, "Hey, I'm thinking about this Sony or Samsung or some other camera. Have any of you used it?" and I get back twelve responses from people I know who have real experience, that's much more trustworthy and much more efficient than doing a Google search for that camera and getting 10,000 responses from strangers. So that's something they have to worry about.

They have to worry about governments. I mean all over the world. They're in brawl with China today, they're in brawl with the U.S. government over privacy issues and concentration of power issues and copyright issues. And they're in brawl with the government in France and all over the world on a variety of issues. So they've got to worry about government, which is the 800 lb. gorilla that can smack you down.

And that gets to a third concern. Engineers are not...often lack emotional intelligence. I certainly saw this at Google, in fact, at one point Sergey Brin, when I pressed him on it, he acknowledged "we lack emotional intelligence." They don't know how to gauge things they can't measure. An engineer can measure things. How do you measure fear? That people are afraid of Google's power? Or how do you measure politics in Washington? So they've been slow to respond to those concerns, and they may be slow as well to respond to public concerns about their size, as Microsoft was a decade ago. So that becomes a real potential threat to them.

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