summer movie fun… Google & “the Internship”

theinternship03.jpghi all. have been looking fwd to this movie “the Internship” after hearing about it at the beginning of the summer. a comedy about Google with vince vaughn? sign me up! he’s been in some very funny movies over the years. and then owen wilson too.

many scenes shot on the google campus with real google employees.

many others shot at georgia tech with students as extras. [Georgia tech now home of two of my favorite CS leading authorities and near-celebrity bloggers, Lipton & Fortnow, the latter now chairman of the CS dept, more about them in another blog.]

havent seen it yet. am trying to convince my geek friends via an email thread to go even as I write this. one looked it up on rotten tomatoes, saw/reported a 35% score and said “lets watch it on dvd instead”. I said “hey, a movie like this doesnt come along very often. Im gonna go see it anyway”. one geek [going to his 1st Drupal conference in Boulder this wknd] replies, “sorry, ever since Conan the Barbarian, Ive learned to trust that site.”

alas this film apparently fails my big expectation, that it would put some real buzz on computer science the same way that The Social Network did a few years ago [a very impressive feat]. maybe they should have hired Sorkin the screenwriter and Mezrich the author [both brilliant writers in an age where celebrity writers have become somewhat more rare].

as the MIT review says:

Although Larry Page claimed that Google became involved with the film because computer science has a marketing problem, it’s hard to imagine this film making anyone excited about computer science or software development.

nevertheless, despite all the snarky/jaded eyerolling by reviewers and filmgoers, I am sure that some CS buzz has been injected into the zeitgeist by this movie. but wait! arent the main characters basically playing geek poseurs?!

ok, yeah, but two supercool topnotch highpaid movie stars playing CS geek aspirants/wannabes? yeah I think its a bit of a milestone and/or gamechanger! I guess CS geeks now have an aura of unattainable finesse that even hollywood acknowledges!

as far as how good the movie is, who are you gonna believe? legions of haughty professional film critics … or larry page himself? he gave the movie a thumbs-up on (where else!) Google+ after seeing a preview.

”Had a lot of fun hanging out with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and the whole team last night and watching the Google inspired movie The Internship!” he wrote, encouraging people to see it.

its being called a feel-good Google commercial by some.

“The reason we got involved in that is because computer science has a marketing problem,” Page said last month during an appearance at a Google conference for programmers in San Francisco. “We are the nerdy curmudgeons.”

has the movie changed some of that? I think so. people wont admit it directly. but it plays on the mass subconscious ala Jung. we have a new archetype. the definition and reality of Geek has been transmogrified for the better.

* * *

did you know theres a glossy magazine at the newsstands entitled Geek? hey, this stuff must be for real. its printed on very high quality paper! that stuff is expensive and lots of other magazines have been going out of business the last few years! [and—gasp—I suspect the paper is even better quality than my other favorite 2-decade old geek-extraordinaire magazine, just now celebrating its anniversary, Wired.]

While meeting with Google’s real-life interns, Levy also hailed a company ethos that has become known as “Googleyness.” When asked at the Google screening how he defines that term, Levy said: “It’s all the things that make you a complete person beyond being smart.”

hey, that reminds me of what they called “people skills” when I was in college and years later became codified into the theory of Emotional Intelligence. great stuff! after two decades in the industry I can indeed attest to its paramount signficance, and surely anyone in other fields (such as academia) could also.

but it seems a highly emotionally intelligent geek might tend to stop being a geek because of it! is that verging on an oxymoron? it reminds me of a book about tantra by Valerie Brooks I like a lot where she says “ultimately, tantra negates even itself”! or—maybe emotional acuity is just another area that can be subjected to geek mastery?

there are a few reality tv shows over the last few years that seem to pursue that angle! how about the one with silicon valley geeks working diligently with dating coaches? and the beautiful silicon valley geek love “concierge” featured in the biggest UK online tabloid?

“geeks are definitely the new rock stars”?!

the beautiful/glamorous/talented female show host “sarahs guide to dating geeks”?!

the money quote from an article about the bravo show interviewing hosts Austin & Way:

But they both concur on this point: Guys in Silicon Valley are some of the smartest in the world.

“The hottest guys in the world may not be in Silicon Valley,” Austin says. “But the smartest guys are and brains turn me on.”

* * *

Google now has some or maybe more of the status/cachet that Microsoft had years ago. I remember the buzz at the time about Microsoft’s free drinks in their cafeteria from over two decades ago. Google now outdoes them [as semiaccurately portrayed and parodied in the movie] with a gourmet chef, laundry service, and massages. and what else am I missing?

yeah Ive wanted to work at Google ever since they started out but they dont have a really close office to where I work. I can remember somewhat vividly attempting to pitch my startup to an ex CEO of mapquest in the late 1990s. I had a long list of companies that were making tons of bucks on the internet. I mentioned a scrappy startup to him called Google which had a very novel & innovative way of indexing the web based on highly mathematical algorithms. at the time Yahoo was pretty much unstoppable and even he had not heard much about Google.

I also recall in the mid 2000s when their stock seemed unstoppable and a developer I was working with was invested with them and tracking their spiralling stock price frequently. he commented on it like the way other people commented on the weather.

what new can be said about google? not much because so much has been said. for me they are one of the most innovative companies on the planet. now, Im not a adulator of any corporations esp as Ive gotten older and worked in many [the image starts to wear off under the drudgery of the day-to-day grind], but if I had to pick one to adulate, it would be google. they do have a distinctly different style.

google has an intense software engineering culture. they’re all about data, about quantifying ideas with numbers. google pioneered highly efficient data centers before anyone else imagined it was possible. I recall in the early 2000s when datacenters were considered something somewhat exotic practiced by new internet startups. google is a bit fanatic about their datacenters. justifiably so. its a large part of their multibilliondollar secret sauce.

and how many billions has ballmer blown on Bing (sounds like a limerick!) in attempting to catch up with Google?

people forget how fragile Google was for the early part of the 2000s. they had not invented adwords which almost singlehandedly put the company not merely in the black but pushed it into money-machine territory. even though Google had world-changing technology, it took a marketing breakthrough by some master salesman executive [not an engineer!] to “monetize it”. this juxtaposition is similar to the Jobs-Wozniack dichotomy.

* * *

around the mid 2000s I finally decided to put my bets on Java and dived into the language and fulltime Java positions. so it was with great dismay I heard about the Oracle lawsuit over Java a few years ago. thankfully it was resolved fairly quickly and basically entirely in Google’s favor. open source lives. the lawsuit sparked FUD (fear, uncertainty, dread) similar to the SCO Unix lawsuit from the mid 2000s. a major chilling/dampening effect on the enthusiasm over open source.

I remember in early 2000s when open source was considered somewhat untouchable in corporations. it wasnt on the radar. there was strong resistance. some of it was justified.

I also remember well the release of the Iphone and Android. I realized that this was a replay of the PC revolution where Android was like the IBM clones. Android got a later start but its momentum is unstoppable. the Iphone moved into minority share of the market within the last 2years. its like the power of parallel processing, applied to capitalism. just as there were many IBM clone makers all competing with each other, the licensing of Android means many separate corprations compete in parallel. its not just Apple vs Android, its Apple vs Capitalism. capitalism does work in some ways. on good days its a “race”, on bad days its a “race to the bottom”.

how about that multibilliondollar lawsuit between Samsung and Apple? google was not really at risk or involved, but in a way it was really all about Android.

another key milestone for google was the invention of the App Engine just a few years ago to compete with Amazons Elastic Compute Cloud, ECC.

an amazingly breakthrough recent project for google is the Deep Learning neural network applied to youtube videos, pioneered by Andrew Ng. this is such a gamechanging big deal that Im going to devote an entirely separate post to it.

Google basically has the self-driving car at this point, a stunning thought! its science fiction realized. the idea was basically unthinkable just 2 decades ago—if you’d asked me at the time, Id have been a bit skeptical it would be possible in my own lifetime. they’re just treading very cautiously in rolling it out because its not clear how to monetize this in the easiest way, and at this point the liability nightmares are unimaginable.

so, Google is not one to rest on its laurels. its still a young company but it continues to innovate like crazy. its a rare company that seems to have the extremely potent combination of both innovation and software engineering in its very blood, its core DNA. we’re likely to see many more amazing breakthroughs from them in upcoming years.

a. internship

b. google

c. wilson

d. vaughn

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