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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Persimmons, Not Parsiomony 
30th-Nov-2009 10:58 pm
red succulent
My favorite Google perk so far? There were two baskets of fresh persimmons in the cafeteria for lunch. Not only are you never more than 150 feet away from free food, it's succulent tasty free food.

Okay, so fresh persimmons might be more of a California perk than a specifically Google perk. I saw a guy yesterday with two persimmons in a bag, so I'd planned to go on a persimmon hunt anyway. But the copious free food illustrates Google's understanding of software engineers. Eating is part of programming.

Eating is also how humans bond.[1] So by having cafeterias and micro-kitchens all over campus, Google can foster natural communication in a community of significant size. At my previous job, I remember a lot of important decisions and designs that happened in the kitchen rather than in a meeting room.

Google firmly believes in open access within the organization -- by default, all documents employees create are visible to anyone else in the company. But with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and they rely on employees not to share that information with the outside world. So while I'd love to tell you how many people make it all the way from application to offer and the impressive size of Google's aggregate storage, those are things that competitors would love to know, so they'll have to remain private.[3] There's a strong history of public blogs talking about experiences at Google, so I'll still be able to share my perspectives and insights on things at a high level, and Google relies on word of mouth to get their message out. It's just that I need to make sure my "That's awesome!" response passes through a "Who can I share the awe with?" filter. I didn't have a problem with this at my last job, but information about Google is a lot more exciting than information about government record keeping.

[1] I think Steven Pinker's How The Mind Works quotes Dear Abby (or Emily Post?) about dating. It goes something like "A date should feature entertainment, food, and company. As time goes on, more and more company can replace entertainment, but food must always be present." I'd like to find the original quote, but my copy of HTMW is in storage and my several web searches had no luck.[2] Anybody have a proper cite? Update: Thanks to dr_tectonic for citing Miss Manners:
There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection IS the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.

[2] The irony of failing in my first web search task after joining Google is not lost on me.

[3] There's probably also some degree of law and sausages at play. It's easy to abstractly be in favor of open communication, but sometimes you're better off not knowing.
1st-Dec-2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
It's actually a Miss Manners quote.

2nd-Dec-2009 02:10 am (UTC)
But the copious free food illustrates Google's understanding of software engineers. Eating is part of programming.

It also illustrates an economic principle: the more money you have, the more things come free to you.
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