Dear Larry Page: Negativity is not always a bad thing

Dear Larry Page: Negativity is not always a bad thing

Summary: One message that Larry Page dished out at the Google I/O keynote address dealt with negativity in the tech world. My response to Page is that this is not always a bad thing.

TOPICS: Mobility, Google

The marathon keynote address given by Google at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco covered a lot of ground. One important message given by Larry Page in the long speech dealt with negativity, and how counter-productive that is to innovation. He stated that the tech press in particular is too often negative (from ZDNet's sister site CNET):

Every story I read about Google is us versus some other company or some stupid thing ... Being negative is not how we make progress.

Larry Page CNET
(Image: James Martin/CNET)

I feel your pain, Mr Page, but my take on it is a little different. I'm sure that from your position, hearing criticism of your company and products is like a kick in the shin, but it's vital that a big company like Google take it for the valuable asset it can be.

Over the years, I've come to understand that I usually learn more from those with views that differ from my own than I do from those who agree with me.

I agree with you that the tech press can be brutal, but as a member, I can assure you that criticism offered of your products can be leveraged to help make those products better. If a critic offers feedback on a product or platform of yours that is reasonable and presented respectfully, then take it to heart and see if there's something worth addressing in future iterations of your products.

When I write articles about shortcomings I see in your products, including the recent one about Android updates, it's because I want you to fix them. I believe pointing them out gives you some positive, er, negative, feedback to help you make your product(s) better. Don't feel bad, I write positive articles about your stuff, too.

This doesn't just apply to what you read in the tech press; it's especially important when such negativity comes from your customers. If a customer takes the time to inform Google about a feature of a product they don't like, odds are they just want you to make it better from their point of view. That opinion may not reflect the majority, but if stated with respect and sound logic, it isn't a negative thing at all; it's valuable feedback.

I understand that negativity presented with disrespect and without solid reasoning behind it is exactly the type of negative feedback that you don't like. You shouldn't, either. There is plenty of that on the web; I experience it every day. That type of mindless drivel should be ignored.

Some of the negativity you refer to can be eye opening, leading to a way forward to improved products. Over the years, I've come to understand that I regularly learn more from those with views that differ from my own than I do from those who agree with me. It's a big part of what expands my outlook on mobile technology.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that positive feedback is always the best thing you can hear. Positive feedback makes us feel good about things, and there's nothing wrong with that. But strictly getting positive feedback doesn't push us to make change when that is the best way forward. Think of the company head who surrounds himself/herself with "yes men", those advisors who always agree with everything the chief says. That's a recipe for disaster and doesn't keep driving the company forward, nor make its products better.

Once again, don't discard negative feedback, especially critical comments about your products, if it is given respectfully and with sound explanation. I believe that many who give it do so with a genuine desire to make your good products even better. This writer can assure you that's his only agenda behind articles critical of your (or any company's) products. Mobile tech products are very personal in nature, and some of us want them to be as good as they can be. If that requires negativity, then so be it. Please take it in the spirit in which it is offered, and that's to make you as good as you can be.

Topics: Mobility, Google

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  • With that being said...

    ... When the Hell will Google fix Google Earth for Windows? When can Google finally get to coding it with modern standards?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Google Maps

      Judging from the keynote, I bet they're planning to merge Maps and Earth within the Web. Let's see.
    • To Google, everthing on Windows

      is a second class citizen. I am still waiting for the Google Sync application for Google Apps for Government for Outlook 2013. I do not expect it to ever get done as Google prefers to fight with Microsoft rather than work with them.
  • he seemed to focus

    On the industry practice of always pitting one company or product against another. Google isn't MS. Android isn't ios. The Surface isnt the iPad. Instead of focusing on what companies could do to mimic their competitors, perhaps the focus should be on what they could do to set themselves apart from their competitors. The best tech comes from companies that separate themselves from the herd. (A lot of horrific tech has also come from companies trying to separate themselves from the herd but that goes against the point I am trying to make)
    • Isn't that what companies like MS are already doing?

      "Instead of focusing on what companies could do to mimic their competitors, perhaps the focus should be on what they could do to set themselves apart from their competitors"

      And yet we hear that MS using a totally different UI to iOS and Android is a mistake (look at the sales, they say), that it should look more LIKE iOS and Android.

      In the end, will that difference hurt them, as opposed to mimicking their competitors?
      William Farrel
      • Yes, but...

        Just to clarify, MS is diferentiating itself, but while iOS and Android are trying to be smartphone/tablet interfaces, W8 is trying to be a smartphone/tablet interface AND a traditional PC interface. I don't hear much complaining from the smartphone users; it is the PC users who are feeling abused. It is a unique market position, but it has its drawbacks.
  • Evil Google, change now or be doomed.

    Dear Larry,

    Please grow up and behave like a grown man. Being a bunch of cry-babies is not going to improve reputation. Negativity will go away once you learn to work with other companies, respect their IP and stop stealing others technology, and stop creating abusive platforms.

    Google is getting away with en-ethical business practices with political support from various governments, but don't hope that will last forever.
    • yeah, maybe

      in the tech world, "reputation" is only as good as your products and the support you put behind them. This is partly why I work in the tech business and not in the banking and finance industry that I originally dallied with: in tech, there is little room for bullcrap. If your products are not up to snuff, don't expect to be given quarter just because you have a certain "look" or a certain "brand".
      The downside is that sometimes you might take a hit from prejudicial judgements and subjective opinions but those who offer those without final bases, will themselves lose face and suffer the consequences. I have been on both sides of that equation in the public ether.

      I'll take tech anytime, with all the vagaries. I complain because I want the products improved, not because I especially like to hear myself talk.
  • Mr. Kendrick has hit the nail squarely on the head.

    I agree with Mr. Kendrick entirely "There's too much negativity here" is the same ploy sued by political dictators - they want to hear NO criticism or dissent and there is usually a stiff penalty to pay for those who disobey that message and these systems always end up being very weak and/or overthrown. If Mr. Page has no hesitation saying this in public, can you imagine what is said to employees who disagree with the higher-ups at Google behind closed doors. Mr Kendrick is also right that there is constructive criticism and just criticism for the sake of being against something, against anything. However, when a blanket statement about "negativity" is made in this way, usually there is no distinction mentioned as they want all criticism ended regardless of validity or intent. In my opinion, Mr. Page's job should be to separate the wheat from the chaff in this matter and not to stop the flow of potentially important data and information reaching Google decision makers.
    • Google does not provide decent customer service

      So if there is a problem in Google Apps (paid) there is no easy way to report problems and receive fixes or even timelines on when something will be fixed. So most go with the next easiest thing and complain in forums, or then in blog posts. But Mr. Page prefers to ignore any criticism rather than listen and at least review the criticism for opportunities to improve.
      • You forget who Google's customers really are.

        Do you pay anything to use Google's services? No.

        Who is paying for them then? The advertisers.

        I am willing to bet that Google's customer service to their "real" customers is excellent. If an advertiser were to report a problem with an ad, I bet it would be addressed immediately.

        Of course, I could be wrong, this is just my own speculation, but it makes sense to focus your efforts on helping the people who fund your operation.
        • My bad

          I should have read your post a little closer, I missed the (paid) comment. Google should be supporting Google Apps better, but their business model is geared toward catering to the advertisers, so they don't have a lot of experience supporting end users.
  • Google's Hurt Feelings?

    Too darned bad! If they would a) respect privacy; b) not gather personal information; c) not use their "Street View" to spy on private lives; and d) not spit in the faces of governments demanding that they change their ways, MAYBE they would be a company worthy of respect. The good in Google? Android is not bad. I'd give it a solid B. Google Search--unless you are looking to purchase--is still the best search option. Google Ads, Street View, data mining, etc., all detract from the good things. Wait until Glass is mainstream and lawsuits and fights over privacy are rampant. Thanks, Google, for putting the almighty dollar ahead of "Don't Be Evil", since you discovered that evil pays really, really well.
    Iman Oldgeek
  • Rearguard tactics

    Google is not an innovative company. As much as they and Apple try to represent themselves as innovators and MSF as has been of no consequence, it is MSF with it's huge investment in R&D that has focused on evolving what is. Win8 is a product of all that research and an evolutionary vehicle that will make possible the integration necessary to bring so many possibilities to fruition. Win8 and the Intel 4th gen chips will be the cornerstones for everything that up to now has only been theorized.
  • Negativity is not always a bad thing

    Innovation in mobile communication is not easy, particularly if want to meet consumer requirements. Currently mobile communication is in a stage to get matured, the time for big new tech devices is over. Smartphones are far too much complicated to operate, even tablets cannot deliver all services you can get easily on a desktop. Mobile communication has its limits, except a new tech strategy comes up what makes mobile communication more simple and comfortable. Google-Glass or even the iWatch are not the solutions for the future.
    Detlev G. Pinkus, CEO, JSC South Kuban Design Factory, Russia