Herding Cats at Google

From an Information Week article about Google:

“Lots of small, short-lived projects mean traditional project management software based on task lists isn’t right for Google. For one thing, techies aren’t very good at cataloging how they spend their hours. What they are good at, it turns out, is writing up a few short sentences or snippets about what they do each day. Those get compiled in a database along with periodic updates from project leaders about a team’s deliverables.”

(That link is from page 4 of 5, fyi.)

What’s more important to a non-consulting / hourly billing company – (A) tracking the number of hours employees work or (B) tracking the actual work done?

Hmm, let’s see:

  • (A) Tracking the number of hours worked doesn’t necessarily tell you how much work was done. It may give you a hint, but what if you’re having a day like Joel sometimes has?
  • (B) Tracking the actual accomplishments tells you exactly how much work was done. You know where the project stands relative to its milestones.

From a “how is the project doing” point of view, option B seems to make a lot more sense. Getting Things Done is what makes money. More hours will probably lead to more work being done, but why use a second order measurement when the first order measurement is available?

Plenty of people who are smarter and more eloquent than me* have discussed why you can’t just measure “techies” by the number of hours they work. I’m glad Google is doing something better. Meow.

* I’m not even smart enough to know if “me” or “I” is the right word there.

Online calendar Kiko sold on Ebay

As you may have heard, the online calendar site Kiko was sold on Ebay (edit June 11, 2007: auction has been aged off of eBay) for $258,100. Kiko authors Richard White and Justin Kan blogged about why they sold Kiko (click their names for their posts), Richard explains more here.

From the first of Richard’s links:

“I am actually proud of this exit strategy in a way. While it’s not the one we envisioned going into things, I still think we are doing our best to satisfy the two most important stakeholders in Kiko: our investors and our users. We do care about our investors’ money and instead of just burning through the rest of the piggy bank trying to get our groove back we are trying to recoup their investment (we stand to gain little from the auction). We have also put in place both iCal export and account deletion so our users can take their data with them over to another calendar service if they so choose (or stick with Kiko while we find an acquirer).”

I don’t know how their investors will feel about this sale, and who exactly gets the proceeds from Ebay, but it does seem like this was better than just “burning through the rest of the piggy bank.”

I am very impressed by their attitude to their customers: let them take their data with them and/or delete their account. You can’t ask for much more from a free service. I suppose they could have open sourced it or donated it to someone, but I bet Kiko would languish and die if they did that. Hopefully making someone pay a non-trivial amount for it will help it survive, since the purchaser spent good money on it. Of course Google Calendar has a lot of momentum due to their sheer Google-ness, but there may be a space yet for Kiko.

Dharmesh Shah of onstartups.com comments on Kiko – he says:

“I just wish all that talent had been spent doing something that was almost as fun and cool – but would have actually created something of value.”

While Kiko didn’t skyrocket to a multibillion-dollar-Web-2.0-Google-is-jealous-and-O’Reilly-writes-a-bunch-of-books-about-them type of success, I don’t think you can say they didn’t create something of value. Their users apparently thought there was some value there, even if they delete their accounts today. And the Kiko developers probably learned a ton from doing it – there’s a huge amount of value there, even if its final incarnation isn’t Kiko itself.