Sunday, December 26, 2004

brewster and molly go to google

Here's a post from Molly Davis at the Internet Archive about a visit to 1999, otherwise known as Google, where Brewster (Kahle) was giving a speech about the Archive's book scanning work. A fun read.

We just had a great time at Google. Smart people are walking around
happy and filled with google kool-aide, we got to hang out with the
founders, the company seems alive, and there are more toys to play with
than you can imagine. Brewster and I thought it would be fun if I
wrote about our experiences there:

Brewster and I drove to the Google complex this morning. It is in the
south bay, and the collection of buildings are a testament to dot com
architecture- sort of squat with pokey "fun" (and soon to be dated)
bits sticking out of them. As we drove in, we waved to the security
guard who was sitting in front of a row of red, yellow, and blue
primary safety cones with "google" on them. We parked near building 41,
where Brewster was to give his speech later, and then walked around
looking for building 47. Several people on electric scooters smiled at
us as they zoomed by. We found the building, across the street and down
a bit and walked into the lobby. We signed in on the computer that
asked our name, company and city, followed by the NDA screen. Brewster,
having not agreed to the NDA before, said "hit the escape key" and out
printed my name tag, with a black bar that said NDA DECLINED on it.

We settled into the lobby to wait for Alex and looked around. There
were modest brightly colored waiting chairs, a funny couch, a festive
christmas tree, lava lamps in google's primary colors, a refrigerator
filled with Naked Juice, and in the corner, a massage chair. Brewster
jumped into the chair and started pushing buttons and I got myself a
juice. Above the receptionist was a screen that scrolled search
enquires, and I laughed at some of them and their various misspellings
("how to hack" "free e-cards" "lara croft" "cleavage"). Brewster asked
the receptionist if people coming for an interview used the chair. The
receptionist said no, they but they looked like they wanted to.

Alex came and fetched us and we wandered around a cubicle forest
looking for an impromptu meeting room. We passed the massage room, a
place to get free electronic office stuff, a coffee bar, and a wall of
bins of nuts and candy (complete with the little metal shovels) on the
way. After that discussion, we were led to a different building to eat
lunch at the cafeteria.

The cafeteria was large and sunny with ridiculously high end food that
was all free. There different cuisines of food at each station
(Mexican, Italian, Asian, Vegetarian, etc) with daily specials at each.
I had a fancy pizza with roasted eggplant and real mozzarella, and
others had salmon and calzones (served on red, blue and yellow plates
*grin*). Everyone getting lunch was about 30 years old or younger and
most were wearing some sort of google schwag. I asked Tara if she got
tired of the food and she said yes, but felt guilty about it since it
was so great (and so free).

At lunch we talked to various legal and bizdev people who had worked on
getting libraries to agree to have their stuff scanned. Brewster told
stories about Corbis that made them think for a moment, but mainly the
employees of google think they are a good company and aren't worried
about some evil future where they don't have money or are consumed with
greed. They think they are like us and are high on their successes. It
was fun to hear them talk.

During lunch, I got a Jones rootbeer and twisted off the cap. Inside
the cap said "Contact those who share your interest in a project". I
showed it to everyone and we laughed and agreed it was appropriate.

We walked to yet another building where Brewster was to give his talk.
I went to the restroom, and immediately noticed the heated toilet seats
(ooh!) and buttons you could push to activate various washings and
dryings of various private parts (eek!). About 50 people came out to
listen to Brewster's "can we, shall we, may we, will we?" speech. One
unfortunate engineer asked why we would want to bother archiving the
web, and everyone said not to pay attention to him, his job was to deal
with spam (and perhaps he needed a new project!). Everyone seemed to be
very interested and inspired by the Archive and Brewster and crowded
around after to ask questions. Even Larry and Sergey stopped by to

Afterwards, we were led to Larry and Sergey's office to say goodbye,
and we passed 3 electric scooters that said "I'm feeling lucky(TM)" on
them leaning against a wall. Their shared office was unassuming, and
Larry was slouched on a couch while Sergey was jiggling in yet another
massage chair. Two significantly older gentlemen were also in the
office, apparently in a senior engineering meeting. The screensaver on
one computer flicked photos of various google events with smiling
people. Larry and Sergey really seemed to like the Archive and respect
what we are doing and want to figure out how to work together. We left
with high hopes.

On the way out, we waved as we passed the security guards and the silly
colored safety cones and came back from what felt like 1999 to San
Maybe we should inject some primary colors and toys around our place. I
certainly vote for free fancy food every day!