The Meanings of Googliness
Post from August 12, 2013 (↻ December 24, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
The following post discusses the concept of googliness. It does not imply every Googler embodied googliness.
The words “googley” and “googliness” (sometimes also spelled “googly” and “googleyness”) are not to be found in common language. They are almost magical words however. Even at Google, where they’ve been coined, it’s not clear to everyone what these words mean though. And that’s no surprise: You don’t get a handout with a description, and googliness has indeed more than one meaning.
Figure: One of the many things that makes Google fun.
Here’s my own interpretation of what it means to be googley. What qualifies me to give one? Apart from having worked at Google for more than five years, I got to work with a few extraordinarily googley people who’ve been at Google for many more years, some of who paid special attention to teaching their protégés googliness. In my career at Google I too have then tried to inspire googliness, mostly by leading by example. Whether I succeeded (my personality can interfere with my intentions) is on others to judge, but I’ll give myself the credit of working much on it. The idea of googliness made me love Google, and made me love going to work.
Doing the right thing. That obviously includes not doing anything that harms someone else, or that puts somebody at a disadvantage.
Striving for excellence. Mediocrity is not googley. At Google, unsurprisingly, you find the desire for excellence right at the core, reflected by the goal to “do one thing really, really well.”
Keeping an eye on the goals. Googliness means being focused, and striking a balance between short-term and long-term objectives.
Being proactive. Google’s Code of Conduct says “if something is broken, fix it.” But being proactive also means anticipating moves ahead of time so to take action preemptively. And, of course, being proactive also applies to the business itself—how can we go further, what can we do to get there? Seen from another angle, then, what being proactive doesn’t mean is waiting (beyond reason) for others to make something happen.
Going the extra mile. This is mostly found in the detail. It’s my favorite googley skill. Take the following example: Someone emails you for a project change. Such updates may normally be filed through a request management system. One response: asking the requester to file the request through said system. Another, more googley response: filing the request himself, and sending the requester a status update at the earliest convenience. The difference this makes is huge, yet it’s easily overlooked.
Doing something nice for others, with no strings attached. Being googley means thinking about and doing something for others, and not necessarily expecting something in return.
Being friendly and approachable. Google is famous for being friendly and open; it’s googley to be friendly and open. This account dates back before my time but I believe Googlers were at some point explicitly encouraged to just join co-workers they didn’t know for lunch, to talk to and get to know them. That certainly rings googley. Similarly, the most successful managers at Google maintain “open door” policies; it’s googley to be that approachable.
Valuing users and colleagues. It’s googley (and something Google “knows to be true”) to put the user first, and similarly to help a co-worker. It’s not googley to let either down.
Rewarding great performance. Hard work, though not listed here, is googley. But hard work, and good work as mentioned, should also be rewarded. Rewards can (and do at Google) take many forms: endorsing notes to managers, kudos, shout-outs in meetings, monetary rewards, &c.
Being humble, and letting go of the ego (at least sometimes). It’s okay to talk about achievements, but it’s not googley to boast (which can be a fine line). Being googley means thinking of the users, the company, the team, and then oneself. That’s accompanied by the belief that everything else, including rewards and promotions, will follow.
Being transparent, honest, and fair. Non-transparency, dishonesty, unfairness, also secrecy are inherently ungoogley.
Having a sense of humor. It’s not googley to oppose play. (Notice the number of and great efforts behind Google’s hoaxes, jokes, and easter eggs in this regard.)
As you can see, there’s a lot to being googley. And you can tell why the idea of googliness is so wonderful: We notice when people are being googley, and we always wish the others who aren’t were, at least a little.
Any Googlers seeing this, please help correct or add to this!
I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead—currently manager for Developer Experience at LivePerson—and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!
You just described what a person working on or for the web should be.
On August 13, 2013, 17:02 CEST, GQB said:
With all due respect, I’m keeping this link to include to reply to anyone accusing Apple afficianados of being caught up in delusion.
I will, however, refrain from using the obvious term ‘Google fanboi’.
But really dude? On what planet is the biggest invader of privacy in the history of the planet ‘not evil’?
On August 13, 2013, 17:24 CEST, N.B. said:
This is a joke (has to be), don’t take it too seriously.
On August 13, 2013, 17:33 CEST, Anonymous said:
I think some of these are attributes which are signs of very good employees and coworkers. However, having worked at a large company and having heard stories from Googlers, as well as having known a few who are not very bright, I am willing to bet that in practice this illusion is shattered pretty quickly by the presence of folks who do not share these values.
On August 13, 2013, 18:33 CEST, gargravarr said:
You can’t run a business without putting others at a disadvantage. If you truly believe Google lives by this, then you’ve really drunk the Kool-Aid.
On August 13, 2013, 18:55 CEST, Charlie Bing said:
Well, the Ten things we know to be true and the Code of Conduct that you link to make no mention of “goggly” or any of the other “magical” words you mention. On the other hand, Wikipedia has a perfectly good definition of the word
But like other have said, this is just sappy bs, really. It is not more specifically googly than it is GMish or Exxoniness: if companies want to do well they have to have some decent standards and ethics. Despite its vaunted “do no evil” mantra, I am not at all sure Google is quite there yet. Even if it is a nice place to work.
On August 13, 2013, 21:24 CEST, come on said:
What a load of crap. Google acts like Microsoft did in the 90s, with the added fun of making money on peoples privacy. Naw they don’t put ANYONE at a disadvantage. /s
On August 13, 2013, 21:48 CEST, Richard said:
My Mac has a built-in dictionary, so I double-clicked on “googly” and then right-clicked on the selection, choosing the option to Look Up “googly”.
I’m still not quite sure whether the definition that popped up fits better with number 6 on your list, or number 8, or number 11, or… Anyway, here’s what it said:
“a ball bowled with a deceptive bounce.”
On August 13, 2013, 23:59 CEST, Paul Nash said:
“Googly” is a cricketing term for a ball that looks innocuous and then bounces up at the batsman.
Being philistines who fling the ball at each other in both baseball and football, this is no dount a foreign concept 😊
“Mediocrity is not googley.”
Then what explains Feedburner? Oh, sorry. Feedburner is far less than mediocre. Take a look at the Help Group, overrun with spam and genuine pleas for help with stats gone amok.
I’m not sure Google itself would pass muster as “googley” by that definition.
On August 14, 2013, 1:43 CEST, MGL said:
To torture a bard:
“The best laid plan
Of mice and man
gang aft agoo-agley…”
On August 14, 2013, 2:55 CEST, Selfish said:
“Do one thing and do it well” is a fairly good way of describing everything Google should be, but isn’t.
On August 14, 2013, 7:36 CEST, Darwin said:
Google is the epitome of lying evil scumbagery.
On August 14, 2013, 8:40 CEST, vox populi said:
The worst thing here is that companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft made products that became so prevalent that they thought the number of people using them must be a reflection of trust in the brand.
Well, it is not. The money Google and Facebook do doesn’t come from the many people using search or Gmail or creating friend lists, pages, and events. It comes from advertisers who appreciate that at this point in time a lot of people are at one point.
But technology evolves. Just like Microsoft could not leverage dominance in desktop operating systems to mobile, Facebook and your precious Google will sooner or later find out that the only thing keeping people using their products and services is lack of equivalent alternative in terms of quality and price.
I don’t know your background or what it is you do at Google, but your lack of familiarity with American business history is showing. There are very few brands that lasted for decades, and far fewer that managed to do so without continuous innovation and pegging their income on a single product or service. The oil industry comes to mind. None of the characteristics of those other companies is present today in Google, Facebook, or Microsoft.
That said, as a human, your time horizon is significantly shorter than that of a corporation. So enjoy the ride while it lasts. 😉
On August 14, 2013, 14:17 CEST, Lisa said:
She’s an idiot. Begging 4 attention from others hostess success. That’s her to the core .playb
On August 14, 2013, 16:47 CEST, Engineer said:
I can’t tell if this post is being ironic, but outside the googolplex, I can promise you this: None of your points line up with the way google treats other people and companies.
In fact, take the opposite of each one and that represents how google has treated me.
This is why I look forward to the day that google loses the patent lawsuits it started (By suing Apple when they announced the iPhone) and if justice is served, ends up as a wholely owned subsidiary of Apple (because there’s no way they could afford treble damages.)
Google stole the iPhone and deserves to be destroyed, and that’s just the beginning of their criminal and hostile behavior.
Perception is reality, so they say, and the perception of many seems to be that Google invades your privacy.
While the list above is perhaps a little naive, and you could probably make the same argument about Google as a whole, what Google do *really* well is sell advertising & make money from it.
How they do this however, is both complex, interesting and incredibly ballsy, (chutzpah!) in that they just let the computer do it with no human intervention. As the following wired article/feature shows you wired.com/culture/…
If the NSA or a fisa court send somebody a request for information, and tell you cant tell anyone else that you’re doing it. Then that’s the law. Everyone has to comply. Google do at least list the number of requests they get. It’s not much, but it is at least an attempt at transparency, as far as they are able to take it.
As for Apple fanboys, (I’m a fan of both, they both make great products) proclaiming that Google “stole” the iphone and thus should be destroyed.
What do they say to the Jobs quote about “good artists copy, great artists steal” youtube.com/watch?v=…
Not to mention the fact that Jobs/Apple stole the ideas of the windowed interface and the mouse, etc. used in the Lisa & Macintosh from Xerox PARC: youtube.com/watch?v=…
Still, why should people read history eh? If you want dubious behavior on the playing field don’t look up googly, look up bodyline: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
On August 15, 2013, 18:41 CEST, Drew said:
Thank you for explaining.
Could you explain other word from Google corporate newspeak?
For example, to which nouns I have to add g- at the beginning and to which nouns I should not to make me sound Gooogley?
For example, why do you say gBus, gMug, gRestroom, but not gMouse or gComputer or even gDatacenter? What are grammatical rules of gNewspeak?
On August 28, 2013, 21:30 CEST, Edward said:
Not to mention the fact that Jobs/Apple stole the ideas of the windowed interface and the mouse, etc. used in the Lisa & Macintosh from Xerox PARC. Still, why should people read history eh?
Hi Mr. parrot, here is some history for you:
Apple licensed the technology and hired several engineers on the team. Xerox got the idea from Douglas Engelbart. They didn’t steal or copy, they adapted. The ideas for the GUI had been around for a while, for example, it was talked about in Jef Raskin thesis, who worked both in Apple and Xerox before Jobs visit. See for example
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