Dear Larry Page: Negativity is not always a bad thing

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

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.

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