From where I sit (which, unfortunately, is in front of a screen too much of the time), I’ve come to believe there are two Googles. For this post, I’ll call them Lucy Google and Pigpen Google. Lucy Google is neat and orderly and rarely leaves home without her hair being perfectly combed and her dress neatly pressed. Lucy Google is confident (some people call it smug) and can even be fun. Pigpen Google is never quite put together — and doesn’t seem to care.
Lucy Google is all about helping me find stuff. In the old days, Lucy Google just helped me find a website or factoid I was looking for. Today, I depend on her to provide me all sorts of information and directions, like how to get from place to place in New York on the subway. When you’re dazed and confused, and you don’t know where to turn, Lucy Google will provide you the guidance you need and, more often than not, she’ll point you in the correct direction.
Pigpen Google, on the other hand, seems confused, himself, about the direction he’s headed, much less the direction you’d like to go.
I love Lucy Google. I put up with Pigpen Google.
Why I love Lucy Google:
Lucy Google works every time I type something into a query box and click “search.” No “fail-whales,” error-messages, or pulling the football away when I’m trying to kick-off. Lucy Google doesn’t crash or spin or disappear. Because Lucy Google gives me the opportunity to track such things, I know that since 2005, I have made 35,129 searches — with no error messages. Oh, and Lucy Google is not evil.
Why I put up with Pigpen Google:
Pigpen Google crashes all the time. But I put up with Pigpen Google because he allows me to appreciate that big companies run by people who are all supposed to be geniuses are capable of making half-baked decisions, and often create some really clumsy, crappy stuff. But then, that’s not always a bad thing.
A few days ago, WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg wrote an essay about product development titled, “1.0 is the Loneliest Number.” In it, he advocates that it’s better to ship an imperfect product than never ship. While Matt does not quote him, he captures the essence of Voltaire’s famous line, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” (“The better (or best) is the enemy of the good.” Or, in the Nike translation: Just do it.)
Pigpen Google projects often (very often) disappear into dust. But sometimes they turn into Google Maps.
The moral of this story: My company recently transitioned into Google Apps, a paid, business version of G-Mail, Docs, etc. By most measures, Google Apps is (are?) clunky, half-baked and pure pig-pen. Yet, when compared to the “cloud-based” alternatives (which I compared, a lot), you realize these products are heading towards Lucy status, so you start quoting Voltaire.
Unintentional moral of this story: Facebook e-mail is not going to kill G-Mail. Heck, Facebook e-mail isn’t even in the same comic strip.