But without giving away any trade secrets (which the ex-Googlers absolutely refused to do) these chance encounters have opened my eyes a bit to how things actually function inside the Googleplex. It’s different, really different.
Google isn’t organized like any tech company I’ve ever worked in, that’s for sure. Peer review seems to be at the heart of nearly everything. Yes, there are executives doing whatever it is that executives do up in the Eric/Larry/Sergeysphere, but down where the bits meet the bus most decisions seem to be reached through a combination of peer review-driven concensus and literal popularity polls.
The heart of Google is code and all code there is peer reviewed TO DEATH. ...... But peer review at Google goes way beyond looking at the code. Hiring requires peer review. Promotion requires peer review. Presumably even firing requires peer review, though I didn’t have anyone actually tell me that. All the technical workers at Google are involved in peer review activities a LOT of the time — up to 20 percent, in fact.
Someone at Google is buying companies, I’m sure, and those decisions have to take place at an upper management level where checks are written, even at Google. What I find really interesting is what happens after the products are acquired. Who works on them and what features get changed or modified? That, too, is apparently up to the engineers.
Peer2Peer is not the only attempt to bridge the gap between free material and cheap education. The online University of the People, founded by Shai Reshef, who made his fortune in for-profit education, signed up its first class this fall -- 300 students from nearly 100 countries. While it has yet to get accreditation, the not-for-profit plans to offer bachelor's degrees in business and computer science using open courseware and volunteer faculty; fees would add up to about $4,000 for a full four-year degree.
President Barack Obama has directed $100 billion in stimulus money to education at all levels, and he recently appointed a prominent advocate of open education to be undersecretary of education (Martha Kanter, who helped launch the 100-member Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources and the Community College Open Textbook Project). Meanwhile, outfits such as Flat World and Knewton are attracting venture funding (see "5 Startups to Watch"). The Carnegie Foundation's Casserly is helping existing open-courseware projects generate metrics that demonstrate their value to universities. "We need to figure out the models for this stuff," she says. "If it were easy, it wouldn't be such a fun challenge."
The transformation of education may happen faster than we realize. However futuristic it may seem, what we're living through is an echo of the university's earliest history. Universitas doesn't mean campus, or class, or a particular body of knowledge; it means the guild, the group of people united in scholarship. The university as we know it was born around AD 1100, when communities formed in Bologna, Italy; Oxford, England; and Paris around a scarce, precious information technology: the handwritten book. Illuminated manuscripts of the period show a professor at a podium lecturing from a revered volume while rows of students sit with paper and quill -- the same basic format that most classes take 1,000 years later.
Today, we've gone from scarcity of knowledge to unimaginable abundance. It's only natural that these new, rapidly evolving information technologies would convene new communities of scholars, both inside and outside existing institutions. The string-quartet model of education is no longer sustainable. The university of the future can't be far away.
Profit rose to $1.07 billion from $733.3 million a year earlier, while sales rose 57 percent to $4.23 billion.
When Google reported second quarter results in July, its expenses were higher than analysts had expected, in part because the company continued to hire aggressively. The results sent Google shares on a short-lived downward slide. At the time, Mr. Schmidt promised to watch Google’s hiring pace. But Google’s hiring accelerated in the most recent quarter, as the company added 2,130 workers, to end the period with 15,916 employees.