Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Don't mess with Eric

Tuesday my fellow SJSU management professor Randy Stross gave his talk on his new book, Planet Google. I plan to summarize the talk later in the week, but one snippet stood out.

Another faculty colleague, Iris Quan, asked Randy if researching Google posed any difficulties (given their legendary secrecy). Randy started by saying his previous books helped, but his New York Times column hurt.

Randy recalled the July 2005 story by a CNET reporter that really got Google’s CEO mad. The famous story by staff writer Elinor Mills began

Google CEO Eric Schmidt doesn't reveal much about himself on his home page.

But spending 30 minutes on the Google search engine lets one discover that Schmidt, 50, was worth an estimated $1.5 billion last year. Earlier this year, he pulled in almost $90 million from sales of Google stock and made at least another $50 million selling shares in the past two months as the stock leaped to more than $300 a share.

He and his wife Wendy live in the affluent town of Atherton, Calif., where, at a $10,000-a-plate political fund-raiser five years ago, presidential candidate Al Gore and his wife Tipper danced as Elton John belted out "Bennie and the Jets."

Schmidt has also roamed the desert at the Burning Man art festival in Nevada, and is an avid amateur pilot.

That such detailed personal information is so readily available on public Web sites makes most people uncomfortable. But it's nothing compared with the information Google collects and doesn't make public.
The result? Schmidt dictated that Google blacklist CNET from news coverage, i.e. that no Google employee talk to a CNET employee for a year.

As Stross told the SJSU audience Tuesday:
When this came out, Eric Schmidt was not amused. He felt this was a gross breach of his privacy. (audience laughter) I wrote a column about this, and my editors put the headline “Google Anything, So Long as It's Not Google.” (more laughter).
Randy mentioned that when he finally interviewed Schmidt for the book, Schmidt “mentioned this in the first 30 seconds.”

Still, Randy got cooperation from Google and got the book published. Obviously he learned a lot: I hope to share more of the talk later this week (and it will hopefully be posted online), but the best way to learn is to buy the book (also available on CD and Audible download).

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