Google has decided to shut down Google Answers. In my personal opinion, this was the right call. Products from years ago often need overhauls and rewrites or else the underlying code grows stagnant, and the Answers code launched in 2002. And even if a product runs with very little resources, it’s still a tiny bit of a distraction. Greg Linden said it best: “Old products never die, but they should. To innovate, it is not enough to love creation. We must also love destruction.”
By the way, I had the honor of mentoring Lexi on her very first starter project years ago (even before she tackled Google Answers). I can’t tell you what it was, but to this day I still point other Googlers to it as a model to learn from. One of Google’s biggest strengths is the same as Soylent Green: it’s the people. Except not in a creepy foodstuff kind of way. More in a “the right person at the right time can change the course of a company” kind of way.
I remember back when Google was a couple hundred people and maybe one hundred engineers, I walked around the building late one night and just counted what I call “diamonds in the rough”–people who I believed could tilt a company from failure to success by their own efforts. Things like the ability to conceive of a completely different search architecture that would clearly outperform the best-of-industry standard. At the time, I counted 11 people out of the hundred engineers, which to my mind is an incredibly high number (remember, these are people that a start-up may only need 1-2 of). I still can’t believe the critical mass you can get when you can attract a high caliber of people. As Paul Graham puts it, “Smart people will go wherever other smart people are.”.
Okay, as I’m writing this it’s late and I’m still in Omaha, except I’m an uncle (uncle-in-law?) now, and I’m starting to wander. Why don’t I stop here?