Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling text ads, or do you want a chance to change the world?

Google Buzz was the topic of the week. I woke up on Wednesday, logged into Gmail, and there was Buzz, with a message from my Googler buddy, Gavin. I tried replying with a comment to his Buzz, and it made me realize I had something called a "Google Profile" and that I had to make it public to comment. Taking a look at what was in my profile, I decided commenting wasn't worth exposing my profile. By Wednesday evening, a lot of other folks had figured this out, too.

Buzz and its privacy settings are not what this post is about, though. Google was forefront in my mind this week. I use Google services for everything: searching, navigating, reading, writing, calculating, emailing, chatting, blogging, scheduling, and organizing. For this, I pay nothing. I only trade a bit of my privacy. Frankly, it's a fair trade. As long as I can keep the big G from exposing my contacts to each other, I'm happy. I probably spent 50-60 hours talking to Google servers this week, maybe 70-80.

What pays the bills at the GooglePlex are those funny yellow text ads you see in search results. Ever click on them? Me neither. I guess some people do, though. When they do, the advertiser gets charged a penny. Get enough monkeys clicking on enough links to build up enough pennies, and you get a wildly profitable public company that can lash together dozens of data centers into the world's largest supercomputer and hire the world's most effective computer scientists (the ones who peg the needle on "smart, gets things done").

The thing I noticed this past week, though, is that all these Google services I use are... beta, or, maybe 1.0. Google Docs table of contents don't let you exclude sections that come before the TOC, footnotes can't be styled separately from your body text, your spreadsheets must be organized just-so in order to get useful labels in charts and graphs, Buzz annoyingly makes my lizard brain click on it just because some person I don't know has commented on a buzz I haven't commented on (even Facebook isn't this demanding). Still, these are extremely useful products. I groan every time I have to fire up Word or Excel on my Mac.

If I were an engineer working on these products, I'd feel satisfied, mostly. I'd be providing pretty good products to people, and doing so in an aesthetically pleasing way, technologically, all HTML/CSS/JavaScript goodness, no win32 calls in sight. But, and it's probably just the way I'm wired, I'd feel a bit unfulfilled. I'd look at my paycheck, laptop, cube, sushi-filled cafeteria, massage chair, cooler filled with those $5 Naked fruit juice bottles, copper-plated espresso machine, and wifi-equipped commuter van, and I'd know that I hadn't paid for them. The smart folks working on text ads had. They're the major leaguers in the organization.

And then I'd think, huh, I don't want to be them, either, even if I were that smart. Sure, I'd get to work for Peter Norvig and Udi Manber, and they'd be nice about how they were a thousand times smarter than me and they'd still offer to fill my brain as much as possible. They'd let me run my Sawzall programs on a thousand-node cluster. I'd get to ask Rob Pike a question at a tech talk. That'd be sweet. But despite all these powerful lures... I'd be selling text ads to monkeys.

It could very well be that I'm rationalizing, and that I'd be happy as a clam if I could make it through the seven walls of Google's HR process (talk about defense-in-depth). I dunno. It's worth thinking about.

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