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August 5, 2007

Searching for Multiple Perspectives

Douglas Merrill, CIO at Google, thinks that "search is the oxygen for the information economy". But it's pretty difficult to find different opinions about a subject and obtain a balanced answer when not everyone gets to tell his story. Google helped small publishers to write their own versions of the truth by launching a contextual advertising network with almost no barriers to entry.

As Eric Schmidt said in a Financial Times article last year, "the democratisation of information has empowered us all as individuals. We no longer have to take what business, the media or indeed politicians say at face value. Where once people waited to be told what the news was, they can now decide what news matters to them, and increasing numbers are actually commenting on events themselves – creating blogs every second of every day."

Search engines don't find the truth, they reflect the most prominent opinions, so it's still difficult to discover unpopular ideas or inconvenient facts. But at least they're more likely to exist on the web.

Finding different opinions about a subject helps you come up with other creative ideas and to innovate. Douglas Merrill explains in an internal Google presentation that his company encourages the exchanges of ideas between people with diverse personalities, tries to find and protect the innovative ideas. The best ideas aren't obvious and imply taking risks. It would be nice if Google applies their expertise in finding innovative ideas to the web and starts to uncover "hidden jems".

Here's "Innovation at Google", a 50 minute presentation that will definitely not bore you.

{ Thank you, TomHTML. }


  1. "

    According to Merrill, who joined the company in 2004 and was previously at Charles Schwab, Price Waterhouse and the RAND Corporation, for Google information is “enlightenment” (not power) and the entire organization is compelled to give “freely and learn from each other,” using “abundant data and computational resources to change the way people learn and work.”

    Merrill listed the following attributes of Google’s development culture:

    - Hire smart people who are nice to work with
    - Flat management structure
    - No silos, open communications
    - Ideas mailing list
    - 20 percent (time spent on personal projects)
    - Small projects
    - Iterative design, constant improvement
    - Server-based deployment (AJAX)
    - Test, don’t guess


    (ZDNet, October 2005)

  2. there's no one in the audience...he's doing a prepared presentation to a camera, and it's reflected in how unengaging it is

  3. Search is not the oxygen for the information economy. Advertising is the oxygen. Search is just the mechanism. Without advertising, how long would the search engines last?

  4. there's no one in the audience...he's doing a prepared presentation to a camera,