: New: Book Report: I'm Feeling Lucky

It's anecdotes and interviews about Google's early history by Doug Edwards, an early employee. (Is this a good time to repeat that my opinions are mine? They're mine. I speak for myself. I don't speak for my employers. My opinions are probably not your opinions, either. At least, I don't think they are when I read the comments I get on this blog.) It's interesting in general, and also gives a hint of what it's like to deal with Larry Page as CEO.

An interesting tidbit:

The biggest question was which programming language to use. Craig [Silverstein] wanted to use C. Urs [Hölzle] preferred C++. Urs prevailed, but agreed to restrict Google coders "from using the bad parts of C++."

This was back in 1999. C++ was still a pretty clunky language. (Yes, I know, language partisans would say it's still clunky nowadays. I suppose I agree with them, but think that most languages are worse.) How would have the quality of Google engineers' lives been better if Urs hadn't prevailed? What if Google had stuck with C for a few more years, waited to start using C++ until, say, 2002? Or carved out a "layer" of C for our low-level APIs...? What if? What if? Sorry, was I obviously fantasizing?

Craig also remembers arguing with Larry Page. Craig, the careful engineer, wanted to fix something the Right Way. Page, the impatient entrepreneur, wanted the quick-and-dirty patch.

"Then it will be really fragile, and I guarantee the time will come when it breaks and will be harder to fix," Craig warned. But, of course, Larry won and Craig patched the system instead of replacing it. "I was wrong," Craig said later. "It never ended up being a problem again, and as far as I know, we're still using that same technique to deal with it."

So that's a good thing to remember if you find yourself, say, starting to agonize over some technical decision made back in 1999: maybe it won't be a disaster after all.

Doug wrote the "Not the usual yada yada" disclosure text. He wrote the Ten Things we have Found to be True. Some of the best things Google did used his words.

This book was pretty interesting. Since I'm a technical boy, in an ideal world I'd be reading memoirs of more technical ex-Googlers than non-technical. (It was good to see Mike Bland writing about the Testing Grouplet, for example.) But it was interesting to hear the story of this guy who defined so much of Google's voice, its character.

Tags: book programming

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