August 23, 2011

Once In a Lifetime, Same As It Ever Was

A four-day gap here is not without precedent, but something I don't like to do. Even with my announcement on Thursday of joining Google to help the growing Google+ project, I promised you this blog wasn't going anywhere, and that remains true. But I took a few days off, to help the family over the weekend, to spend time with good friends Sunday, and yes, to get started in Mountain View officially yesterday. Every day that goes by without my posting, I feel guilty, but that's due to my own expectations, rather than those you've put on me.

Joining Google is an interesting wrinkle, lightly put, for someone who has covered tech more or less objectively the past five years, with my own personal biases mixed in. In 2006, when I started the blog, I intentionally steered a wide berth around my work at BlueArc, making sure not to talk about the storage industry, our partners, my colleagues, and our customers. The last thing I wanted to do was lose my job over saying something out of line. (See: Getting Dooced) I'd bet most people who read my blog through 2009, when I left, didn't even know I worked there, and that helped keep my blog focused on Web services and away from hardware for the most part.

In 2008, I took the first step toward impacting companies I wrote about, when I took an advisory role with ReadBurner. I remember that was somewhat controversial, especially from outspoken bloggers like Allen Stern, who claimed I might be unfair in the way I covered similar companies or potential competitors. I tried to be fair, but kept offering help to more startups. By early 2009, this gray area was expanded when I left BlueArc and started Paladin, the consulting firm, where I helped enterprise companies like Emulex and HP, but also smaller companies like Kosmix and my6sense. No doubt working with each company made me think about their services a bit more than if I were completely uninvolved, but while I may have helped their press outreach, I still tried to be fair. When I took a more official role with my6sense this time last year, again this line of bias was tested. I told you my opinions on the market, but still covered news from companies like Zite, Flipboard, The Cadmus and others, considered to be competitors.

But yes, joining Google is different. I've gone from steering far away from what I write about to basically being in the bullseye of what I cover. During the interview process, which I underwent with the same rigor as any other Google candidate, I was asked what would happen to the blog. Responding, I said I welcomed the new challenge, even if the path forward was not obvious. To turn my back on a major outlet for communication and a platform for ideas and interesting companies doesn't help me, and probably wouldn't help Google either for me to go dark. Posting is just a matter of available time and priority.

News of the announcement Thursday was received fairly well from practically everywhere I saw a reaction, to which I am grateful and humbled, to be honest. Sarah Perez of TechCrunch wrote a great story which didn't just post the news, but explained some of my own personal journey to where I am now. Frederic Lardinois of SiliconFilter took another approach, leaving me with one of my favorite quotes:
"In many ways, Gray’s career so far is probably closely aligned with one that many bloggers dream about. Start a blog, quit your day job, make a name for yourself and get hired by Google to do the stuff you already enjoy doing."
I thought that was awesome. I promise you that wasn't the goal when I got started with blogging, but I am glad that others found value in what I was doing. Matt Cutts of Google, one of the most respected guys at the company, said he was "super, crazy happy" I was joining, adding, "he's pretty much a model for how people should engage online. Louis was Googley way before he decided to come work with us. :)" So that was very cool and given my respect for Matt's insight, absolutely appreciated. Others were even more ambitious.

Despite all this, the last thing I want to do is talk all about Google all the time. After all, who wants to take their work home constantly. The last few days have been very interesting, as the Google+ community members have made many requests, be it to fix bugs, to take on challenging decisions, and if you heard them say it, pretty much recode the entire project in my spare time. Suffice it to say I'm but one non-coding guy who has barely escaped orientation, so yes, I hear you, and I love the feedback, but it will take some time.

What I also don't want to do is bore you with reports on the basics you've already come to know about Google. Everyone knows the perks that are there for employees. Everyone knows about the opportunity to work on big projects and make big bets. So just like you get bored with Twitter employees tweeting about how much they love Twitter... I won't do that. But I will iterate that among the best things I do like so far in my short time at Google is the historical resources available, including candid discussions with company leaders on hard topics. This additional knowledge will help me as an employee, and help my views when reading external content, but won't help me as a blogger, as it's all confidential - and should be. They trust me to honor their intellectual property, and I will. Having access to the data is a privilege.

So what you have heard about Google is true - some of it great, some of it messy. While the chance to make serious impact on Google+ may be "Once in a Lifetime"... as the Talking Heads sang, "Same as It Ever Was." More non-Googley posts soon. Promise.

Relevant disclosures are outlined on the Disclosures Page.