what google learned about creating effective teams – live blogging from qcon

What Google learned about Creating Effective Teams
Speaker: Matt Sakaguchi
See the list of all blog posts from the conference

In software, we hire the best people, put them together and hope for the best. In sports, we focus on positions and teamwork.

Google was in NY Times for Quest to Make Effective teams

Matt talked about his path to Google. He was a police officer for 7 years until he got injured and physically couldn’t do it anymore. He then worked in retail. Then Matt upgraded the network to be faster and liked tech. THe CEO would “just randomly come and scream at people”. Had to leave toxic environment so went to Sony has manager of security guards 5am-2pm shift. Keep showing up; keep grinding; something will happen. Recognized as being underutiized and asked to look at operations to detect theft. Did that for a few stores. Still not making much money but doing something useful.

Recognized as being good at solving “weird problems” so Sony sent him to teams weird problems and fixing them. Had 27 people under him and an admin. Then moved to Walmart managing system admins and engineers. Got to learn basics of UNIX. First time managing engineers. Then BEA -> Oracle and Nexttag managing websites. At Postini, got to build a team. Postini got acquired by Google.

“snuck in the back door of Google, but still at Google”

Diagonsed with cancer. Greatful because helped realize what is important. Passionate about making work better. “We spend a lot of time at work we spend a lot of time in teams.”

Think about

  1. What kind of team are you on?
  2. What kind of teammate are you?
  3. What kind of learder are you?

On average

  1. 8.8 hours working
  2. 7.8 hours sleeping
  3. 1.2 hours caring for others

Diversity problems result in people not being able to be whole self at work (gender, race, orientation). Shouldn’t have to pause who you are for 8 hours.

With police, “if you aren’t scared, you aren’t human”. Good application to speaking and other “scary” things.

Everything is measured at Google. Even the placement of the tea/water/red bull/coffee. Example: moved M&Ms away from coffee machine, then hid it and then replaced with 100 calorie packs and measured reduction in calories.

Best teams

  1. Effectiveness – means results to executives, ownership/vision/goals to team leads and team culture for team members
  2. Tried to find algorithm for perfect team. Looked at dependendabiity of team, structure, extoversion, manageable worklowad, # of top performaers, tenure, co-location, impact of work, averge eel of team members ,consensus-drriven team, psychological safety, etc
  3. Most important five from most important to least importantL
    • psychological safety – knowing it is safe to make mistakes. Ok to take personal risks. Ok to bring up concerns. Know will be respectful open discussion
    • Dependency: can depend on teammates to do their part
    • Structure and clarity – enough to know what doing
    • Meaning – is work meaningful to you
    • Impact -is work important

Want a championship team, not an all star team.How a team works matters more than who’s on the team.

Components of psychological safety

  • Voice – am I heard. Are people just nodding or actually listening with respect
  • Trust – can I say anything without it being repeated?
  • Inclusion – not just inviting all people to the party, but making sure everyone has a good time

Set tone for psychological safety

  • Frame work as a series of learning problems; not execution problems – don’t just want to grind away DOn’t learn much in a performance environment because always on
  • Model curiosity and ask more questions. If team sees you ask “dumb” questions, everyone learns the answer and that ok to ask questions.
  • Admin your own failliblity. “Here’s my plan; tell me what’s wrong with it”


  • If team too negative, first question must be “how can we make this work”. Helps change mindset.
  • If you are the leader, try not to speak much if not running meeting. Putting your opinion out there too soon makes it harder for more introverted folks to state theirs
  • What are the top 3 things you enjoy doing outside of work. Make sure to spend time doing those things. Helps appreciate life. Do not cheat yourself

“The road to someday leads to a place called nowhere”

Fun talk to start the day! Matt is a great story teller. He had the Mac “machine name” screensaver in the background.When he showed the stats, I like how he just put them on the screen in silence rather than reading them. It really called attention to them.

live blogging – web 2.0 thursday keynotes

See table of contents for full list of web 2.0 expo posts

Last day of keynotes. I will clean up this post and add an index tonight.

Opening Remarks Brady Forrest (O’Reilly Media, Inc.), Sarah Milstein (TechWeb)

8/9 speakers today live in NY – shows web 2.0 has good NY presence (and that people who have to travel home prefer not to speak last day)

  • Her company doesn’t need an office. Work out of apartments, coffee shops, hotel lobbies and client sites.
  • No set business models. Can decide how want to make money.
  • What you are passionate about is always high on your job spec. Know what like to do and under what conditions (time, location, people). If you can design a job like that, it doesn’t feel like work. This makes you more competative and cost effective. This is the opposite of the 4 hour work week because assumes work is something is to be suffered.
  • She is a great speaker. Lots of passion and energy. Uses her whole body to make points and shows it is her essence.
What Computers Can Learn From Popsicle Sticks Nora Abousteit (BurdaStyle.com)
  • “The power of making”.
  • Key phrases: Passing on a skill. Sharing an experience. Reality escape. Original opem source movement. making tranformed he web. New companies exploded with tagging and web 2.0. Making grew online but decreased in the physical world.
  • Maker Faire got a slide – 100K makers gather
  • And i was wrong earlier in the week. Notes are rare but not unheard of at a keynote.
  • However, they were less obvious for this speaker.
  • New normal is personal tech progresses much faster thean enterprise tech
  • IT experts are no longer just in IT. Put training wheels on users.
  • Allow users to express how work best
  • Security inherently makes personal/enterprise tech different. Different risk levels and models. Goal: secure consumer tech
  • Google’s computing cost is such a driver that they put data centers near cheap electricity.
  • Cloud provides benefit if give ps you access to economy of scale.
  • IT needs to focus on differentiating company rather than logistics/operations
  • I haven’t heard the word crowdsourcing in a while.
  • Combining new tech and old/popular is more compelling because draws on what people liked the first time.
  • his project was having people recreate 15 seconds of video recreating the movie but funnier. He showed a minute of video. It was weird seeing the scene/characters change every 15 seconds butnot disconcerting.
  • Community sourcing because people working on shared goal. And ok that was lot of work for little rewarded.
  • First time online only production won an emmy
  • Starwarsuncut.com
Crowdsourcing the Brooklyn Museum Shelley Bernstein (Brooklyn Museum)
  • Improve user experience in the real world – signs, seats, readable labels, friendly floor staff, allow photos (not all shows, still trying to get artists to agree)
  • Visitors improve by leaving electonic comments to post on web and email to curators
  • Collection online with tagging and comments, give people cred for contributions
  • Book: Blink – split second decisions are powerful
  • Made activity online to see which like better and ask questions about it online.
  • Learned: some works universal, limiting time made complex images more favored, people liked images with labels/description/context
  • Common sense is implicit human intelligencd for navigating concrete everudat situations. We follow a ton of rules just to choose clothes and get to work without thinking about it.
  • The problem is using common sense for comolicated situations like politics.
  • We match “obvious” by choosing facts that match provided answer.
  • “everything is obvious once you know the answer”
  • Post hoc “explanations” are really stories. Tell us what happened, but not why. We are tempted to generalize the stories to make predictions.
  • In complex systems, history never really repeats in subtle but important ways.
  • policy, stategy and marketing can benefit from this now because we can measure social things.
  • Book: everything is obvious once you know the answer
How Are Brands Using Facebook Right Now? Michael Lazerow (Buddy Media)
  • Half of facebook users log in every day. More facebook likes/comments than google searches per month
  • 31% of all ad impressions in US are on Facebook – wow
  • What next: businesses reorg around people/connections
  • Must offer something of value – coupon, discount content, access

What’s next?

  • car as an app? Car knows where you are and when stop. [four square like]. [NYers don’t have cars. Phones are more universal here]
  • Ask friends for advice from dressing room before buy clothes

This is “social commerce”

A New Dimension for Google Maps Brian McClendon And Evan Parker (Google)
  • google Earth downloaded 1 bikkion times as of last week
  • Google maps – first map site to use ajax
  • On android, uses open gl to make 3d maps
  • Today announcing 3d maps on desktop without a plugin
  • Click try it now in bottom left corner
  • Now every line of frame in every frame drawn with gl
  • Smooth zooming
  • Labels fade in and out smoothly as zoom
  • See 3d skyscrapers as zoom in and move around – cool!
  • Showed zooming into collesium in rome – really does look like seeing from a plane
  • If keep zooming in switches to street view
  • Showed the High Line park in 3d
  • Works in chrome and firefox 8 beta. More coming
The Internet Baratunde Thurston (The Onion)
  • He wrote a book based on a stray thought that became a meme on twitter (#howtobeblack)
  • #livewriting let people watch while wrote the end and went better than expected
  • And nice to end with humor

running chromium os on the mac on virtualbox

Now that the Chromebook is out and I’ve speculated about the target audience, I wanted to give running the Google OS a shot.  The closest I know that you can get is running Chronium OS which is the open source version.

The VM

This is the first time I needed a virtual machine on my mac.  I decided to start with VirtualBox since it is free for personal use.  It met my needs, so I’m done.  I should try Fusion at some point, but I didn’t need it for this.  I started by downloading the 82MB download for VirtualBox.

Setting up the VM

Since the “versioned” copy only provides a VM Ware and USB stick image, I tried following the instructions to convert the USB image to a vgi virtualbox file.  (The USB download is 324 MB.)  Launching the VM that way just gave me a black screen.

Next I tried getting the nightly snapshot build for VirtualBox from the “vanilla” site.  That worked well and I got the Chromium login screen.

I created the VM both times. using 512 MB RAM and Linux Ubuntu 32 bit.

Taking a screenshot

The only thing that that wasn’t obvious in VirtualBox was how to take a screenshot.   Thanks to this Techmix post, I learned you need to press left command to return the keyboard to the host mac and then use the right command key (with shift + 4) to grab a screenshot and have it sent to the desktop of the host mac.  And you have to do this every time because the keyboard focus returns to the VM every time you command+tab back to it.