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Rosenberg Speaks

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Mike Swift, who does a great job covering Google for the San Jose Mercury News, sits down with departing Sr. VP Jonathan Rosenberg for an interview. (I’m pleased that IN THE PLEX found its way into the conversation, about a story involving something Larry’s mom said to Rosenberg.)

Swift got Rosenberg to discuss the book he’s writing with Eric Schmidt.

The truth is it’s really my notes of all the management meetings I’ve been in with Eric, Larry and Sergey (Brin, co-founder of Google). So the proper title for that book really is, sort of, Jonathan Rosenberg playing Alexis de Tocqueville in Google internal management meetings. Somewhere, each of those rules is either my rule, Eric’s rule, Larry’s rule, Sergey’s rule or some other leader on the Google management team. Eric and I have been doing some internal seminars where we have been teaching this set of rules to Google employees, mostly managers. We are harvesting narratives and stories from them, so that we can build more narratives and stories into the book. What we would like to do is produce our version of the rules of management that we developed out of working at Google.

And here I thought I did the de Tocqueville thing at Google! Plenty of room for more! I’m especially eager to hear the kind of stuff that goes on at the meetings they wouldn’t let me get near.

1 Comment

  • Hello Mr. Levy:

    Thanks so much for your great work. I’ve been recommending “Hackers …” for decades now. You absolutely captured the really important thing, that the philosophies of the various players, including the corporations is THE determining predictive factor in how they will behave now and in the future, with very rare exceptions. The corporate character of Apple and MicroSoft is now essentially what it was in 1983.

    Reason I’m writing now. I’ve also repeatedly suggested that someone ought to pick up where you left off. Those coders from Atari that split after the idiot from Warner took over didn’t just disappear. They found each other around the Amiga project. And therein lies a real tale. I’ve been trying to convince Douglas Rushkoff , author of the brilliant “Life, Inc.” to take on the job of picking up the threads from “Hackers,” as he is the reigning expert in uncovering the underlying and inherent evil that drives the corporate model. He’s also VERY computer literate. I think that it is crucial that this happens ASAP, regardless of who does it.

    BP and now the Japanese nuclear disasters are not accidents in any way, shape or form. It is the corporate philosophy plus the legal ecosystem that drives these scenarios of corporate irresponsibility, making such events logically inevitable. And, it is going to get worse. And, in fact, it already has, but invisibly to all but a few hundred people who have actually followed the trails.

    For example, as you may know, the Amiga, with a full real-time, multi-threaded, multi-tasking, 32-bit OS outsold the Mac two to one for most of a decade, with around nine million users worldwide. Not only was it twenty years ahead of the PC (5~10 for the Mac) in every significant respect – and cheaper by far to boot – but it also spawned spin-offs such as the NewTek Video Toaster, which revolutionized CG in Hollywood. It introduced Kreuger’s VideoPlace to the masses in ’86, allowing the user to directly control the computer via the video input – like the Sony I-Toy or Kinect, only 25 years earlier. The Amiga supported full color printing two years before the Mac, and its desktop publishing software was doing text flowing into artibrary shapes and paths in 1990.

    Yet, the really interesting thing, while used Amiga systems sell on E-Bay today for as much or more than they did new, and people are actually USING 20-year-old Amigas in video production as I write, is that the Amiga has effectively gone down Orwell’s memory hole. I’ve seen retrospectives in major PC magazines that listed the Arari 800, the original Mac, the Apple II, and 30 other major computers, without ever mentioning the existence of the Amiga. Similarly, most computer books covering similar material may devote a whole paragraph or a single sentence to a machine that forced every other manufacturer to play catch-up.

    I’ve been into computers as a programmer, user, and journalist, covering cutting edge digital stuff, for about as long as you have, getting my start in 1970 on an IBM 360. And, I’ve watched as the groundwork that you laid played itself out. Like the Warner takeover of Atari, and the subsequent takeover by Jack Tramiel, and then his attempt to first steal and then sabotage the Amiga, the ongoing digital age is a f***ing jungle, in which it is not the best products that make it, but the products backed by the most treacherous marketing and delivery and best coded to make competing standards unusable.

    (As in MicroSoft’s destruction of JAVA, or their introduction of a “free” browser, which of course undercut NetScape’s ongoing R&D, leaving us with browsers today that are barely better than those of the late ’90′s, or a hundred other examples I could list without breaking a sweat.)

    Would you possibly consider a joint project with Rushkoff?

    Just a thought. Please think about it…

    Thanks again

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