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Viewpoint: Is Google Growing Too Fast?

Is Google growing too fast to continue producing innovative software while maintaining the quality that's become expected of it?

Neil Smithline's Blog

Is Google growing too fast to continue to produce innovative software while maintaining the quality that has become expected of it? I've had some problems with their alerts and sent in comments and, excluding the automated email replies, have received no response nor has the problem been corrected.

In general I would have to say I'm a fan of Google. I think that they have reached their current status through hard work and clever thinking from the top executives, to the coding monkeys, to the system administrators. Despite having had some problems with them, my most recent posting regarding them was commenting on their ingenuity.

But I've had some problems with their alerts and sent in comments and, excluding the automated email replies, have received no response nor has the problem been corrected.

Being that I have a relative uncommon last name, I actually have an alert for "smithline". When a match is found it is almost always me or one of my family members. Probably not a very useful trick for someone named "John Smith" but it is helpful for me. When it Google finds a new web page match, it sends me an email that looks very similar to a search results page but it just contains the new matches. For example:

Google Web Alert for: smithline

The Mathematics Genealogy Project - Lawren Smithline
Lawren Michael Smithline. Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley 2000 UnitedStates. Dissertation: Slopes of p-Adic Modular Forms ...

Notice that the title tells you what is being searched for (“smithline”), the title of the page that had a match, and an excerpt of the page with the matched string (“smithline”) highlighted. If you are at all familiar to the results of a Google search, (if not what cave have you been in) then this should all seem familiar.

But for the past 6-8 weeks there have been some problems. I contacted Google the 2nd time the the problem occurred. Here is one example of it:

Google News Alert for: smithline

What's behind the sudden poll shift?
Spectator.co.uk (subscription) - UK
Even more deluded was the Smith line that the polls actually reflected his and Labour's popularity. We pointed out that this was nonsense - the polls were ...
See all stories on this topic

You'll notice that “smithline” does not actually appear in the selection (or in the rest of the article if you search). It is some political article referring to the stance taken by a Mr. Smith and is referring to it as the "Smith line". Even wo rse, I received this:

Google News Alert for: smithline

Two hurt in two-car crash on Selwyn Road
Peterborough Examiner - Peterborough,Ontario,Canada
Two people were taken to hospital Thursday after a collision north of the city at Selwyn Road and the 11th Line of Smith, between Bridgenorth and Lakefield. ...
See all stories on this topic

This has both the words “smith” and “line” but they are not next to each other and not even in order. At least they are close to each other in “Line of Smith”. Also, notice that nothing is highlighted. Even the highlighting engine of Google could not figure out what substring the search engine had matched on. But, saving the worst for last,
Google News Alert for: smithline

Family of former coach files suit
Pittsburg Morning Sun - Pittsburg,KS,USA
By Matthew Clark | THE MORNING SUN GIRARD — The family of former Girard High School head football coach Craig Crespino has levied a negligence lawsuit ...
See all stories on this topic

Notice that this excerpt has neither a “smith” nor "“line”. If you go to the article, it does have those words in them but they are not even close to each other as they were in the “Line of Smith”.

Besides these problems, I'm having a terrible problem with another search. One of my children has a chronic condition (minor but annoying - details withheld for privacy reasons). So I have a search for the word “adolescent” and the name of the chronic condition. This search is wholly useless. I've included two of the nine hits I received - the rest were basically the same. I have modified the search results for privacy, removed URLs to the sites to prevent this being an advertisement for them, and removed obscenities for my more genteel readers..

Google Groups Alert for: "redacted for privacy" adolescent

... serpientes sexo gratis spokane washington gay scene nutritional facts for smoked
turkey breast adolescent sexuality arti amish sex vid tenacious d, sex tnt obscenity deleted pet hardcore sex bible books job and sexual molestation federal uniform manifest system escorts gay male.louisiana dog has sex ...
removed to avoid advertisement - Mar 21, 2008 by - 0 message - 0 author

Registry Sex Offender
... slaves n the us racquet club hilton head lady gemini dream transition from
adolescent to adult china rape fantasy free sian resort hollywood florida job
...redacted for privacy ...
removed to avoid advertisement - Mar 21, 2008 by - 0 message - 0 author

Hard to imagine how this is useful...

I'm beginning to wonder if Google is growing too fast to continue to produce innovative software while maintaining the quality that has become expected of them.

More Stories By Neil Smithline

Neil Smithline's main focus has been in optimizing the software life cycle from a product's initial concept through its retirement. This has included tools that affect development, programming techniques, software patterns, development processes, developer training, internal and external. For the past nine years he has directed these efforts almost exclusively to application security. He was the BEA Security Architect for over eight years. In this position Smithline co-designed the security framework for WebLogic Server that is now incorporated into most BEA products and becoming part of many Oracle products. During his tenure at BEA, he had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of customers; helping them develop their security architecture, processes, and strategies.

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