I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to work at Google. I learned more than I thought I would. I’ll miss the free food. I’ll miss the occasional massage. I’ll miss the authors, politicians, and celebrities that come to speak or perform. I’ll miss early chances to play with cool toys before they’re released to the public. Most of all, I’ll miss working with the incredibly smart and talented people I got to know there. But I won’t miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data.— Douglas Bowman, Goodbye, Google, March 2009
I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of this type of stuff recently. Just yesterday, while watching NBA playoff commentary, someone stated that future Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had something like a 1 in 4 chance of success in the NFL. Charles Barkeley replied that sometimes you gotta forget about stats and just go, or something to that effect. Oddly enough, I agree.
UPDATE: Kevin Fox, (formerly) senior user experience design lead at Google, responded to Bowman’s post: “I don’t think Google had to be a bad fit for you, but that you were put in to the wrong role.” [Thanks, David]
Been enjoying your site for the last couple of weeks – figured I’d drop a note. It’s an interesting debate I guess this quest for data and the possible arguments against it – I’ve noticed a lot of talk about the aggregation of data in the past few months, and am working with some guys that are gathering data from various sources with the intention of packaging it in a more manageable form.
anyway – aside from the debate I’ve noticed in some of your comments section, I for one enjoy the “graphs” I imagine that people are more likely to react in a positive light when they see something that is personally relevant – I quite like just pondering – which usually leads me to some set of thoughts I may not have had earlier.
I don’t think it’s very complete to just post Bowman’s immediate response to leaving. Doug posted a link to Kevin Fox’s response (http://fury.com/2009/03/google-design-the-kids-are-alright/) and, with what limited information we have to go on, I tend to agree with Fox’s assessment.
It’s not necessarily that analytics and UX can’t live together at Google, or in general, but rather Bowman was being placed in a rather poor situation having to fight with engineering instead of work together on designs and those fights it sounds like analytics were being used like cudgels to resolve arguments as opposed to being a useful tool.
Kind of reminds me of the situation you got into with some of the commenters over at Gelman’s blog — the specialized technical crowd was misunderstanding the purpose, and hence usefulness, of many the visualizations you’ve posted.
@David – thanks, i missed that response. I’ve updated the post to include a link.