ZM downloaded an odd movie a couple of weeks ago, and we watched it with the Gui’s.
None of us bought into the argument of the movie. My comment was, this felt like a movie made by Google people, because it is so single-minded about being scientific, worshiping logic. Gui’s comment was, this made the same mistake that economists made about economy, both assumed people are rational beings, while in reality people are not rational at all.
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
Later, there is a followup article “Apple Is a Design Company With Engineers; Google Is an Engineering Company With Designers“.
This is, I believe, why Google’s products (many of which are great and innovative—I remain a devoted Gmail fan, for example) will always fall short of achieving the emotional connection that people feel to an iPhone. There’s no one with real power there who has a good sense of what makes a product beautiful or when it feels “electric.” You can’t quantify that sort of thing through study or harness collective brainpower to coerce it—someone just has to know it when they see it.
I couldn’t make up my mind whose side to take.
Both methods have its merits, obviously, both companies are super successful. From the outside, one would think Apple would be more human more interesting and cooler. But if you ask me which company I would rather work for, i would have to say, Google.
Because being emotional and human has its drawbacks. Rationality and data-worship has the advantage of all democracy, sure, it is not as glamorous and couldn’t put up jaw dropping performance as a dictatorship or authoritarian government (think 2008 Olympic opening ceremony), but it has its nicety and peacefulness. It is reliable, reasonable, and repeatable.
But what i couldn’t decide is which method produces better product. Or whether Google’s obsession with consensus means death by committee, or the grave for creativity?
i can’t think of evidence of either. Just like what Doug Bowman said in his original farewell message. “I can’t fault Google for this reliance on data. And I can’t exactly point to financial failure or a shrinking number of users to prove it has done anything wrong.” Sure, Google’s product couldn’t “achieving the emotional connection that people feel to an iPhone”, but the appeal of Google’s product is its utility, its usefulness. A lot more people needs tools that work than the tool that looks cool, right?
but it sure is nice to look cool too…
——Update an hour later—-
Started reading Doug Bowman’s twitter. It is the best twitter stream i’ve ever seen. suddenly i understood why i had been so against twitter before. The many @blahblah reply drives me nuts. It made twitter stream completely unreadable, for person who is not that “blahblah”. One thing i like about Blog was the fact you could browse back and read about a person’s way of thinking, views, and interests, like a novel or a collection of essays. Twitter sprinkled with all these random @blah reply always broke that continuity. And the fact i care about author A’s thoughts doesn’t mean i would care for all of her friends’ thinking too… But Doug’s twitter has very few such interruption, which made his twitter stream enjoyable to read.
saw this from him, and i think i start to lean toward his side.
# Argh! Visual design by committee NEVER works; you end up with mediocrity every time. When will my colleagues learn this?5:07 PM Oct 17th, 2008 from twitterrific
A recent experience at work, trying to put together a presentation by committee also had the same effect. design by committee is similar to doing things follow a process, guarantees mediocrity. but what about teamwork? and when everyone pitches in, result is always better than my doing it on my own?!
——Update six hours later—–
Was talking to Gui about this over dinner. She has read the original farewell msg, but she didn’t see the other one about Apple versus Google. When i told her my thoughts on democracy versus dictatorship. She laughed, “what democracy? isn’t the difference between Apple and Google really just the difference between the founders? Steve Jobs versus Larry and Sergey?”