Thursday, August 24, 2006

Inside the Googleplex

What goes on inside the Googleplex? The 'Googleplex' is the name for Google's headquarters, in which some pretty smart people produce some pretty sharp stuff -- and seem to have a great time doing it if this seven-minute video is any indication. (Looks like they're looking for staff.)

And BBC Radio have an audio peek inside the place -- it's a little longer, but being radio of course you don't get any pictures. (But you smart people have alrady worked that out, right.)

The open and creative nature of the Google workplace and of Google's success seems to be attributed by most commentators to the characters and personalities of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin -- and guess what: they're Montessori graduates. Asked in a TV interview about the reason for their success, they told interviewer Barbara Walters "it was their going to Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests."

Find a Montessori school here, and set your own kids on the path to success.

LINKS: Sneak a peek inside Google - Mod Mom
Inside the world of Google - BBC Radio
Montessori graduates Larry page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos - The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
NZ Montessori schools - Montessori Association of New Zealand

RELATED:
Geek Stuff, Education

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13 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

guess what: they're Montessori graduates. Asked in a TV interview about the reason for their success, they told interviewer Barbara Walters "it was their going to Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests."

Peter, given that you generally seem to be a strong supporter of the scientific method, I find your statement of evidence about Montessori schools a bit surprising. There is not a single piece of information that tells me that their success is due to their Montessori schooling. I have no problem with Montessori schools, but that evidence is as convincing to me as the evidence I have seen for Bach flower remedies.

8/24/2006 10:54:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"I find your statement of evidence about Montessori schools a bit surprising."

What I said Andrew was to tell you what they said. They're successful. They attribute a large part of that success to their Montessori schooling. That's what I reported.

If you have an argument with what they said then take it up with Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I'm sure they'll be happy to listen to your objections.

8/24/2006 11:19:00 am  
Blogger Andrew said...

You said:
The open and creative nature of the Google workplace and of Google's success seems to be attributed by most commentators to the characters and personalities of Google founders Larry Bage and Sergey Brin -- and guess what: they're Montessori graduates.

You also said:
Find a Montessori school here, and set your own kids on the path to success.

Your implication was clearly:

Here are some successful individuals, they went to Montessori, send your kids to Montessori to be successful.

I believe you are being disingenuous if you say that was never your point.

8/24/2006 12:38:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Perhaps you should read what I said Andrew. You began by saying "There is not a single piece of information that tells me that their success is due to their Montessori schooling."

I repeated to you the information related by Larry and Sergey themselves that they attributed their success to their Montessori education.

I suggested that if parents want to take advantage of Montesori education for their own children they should.

What is your problem with that? I don't deny at all what I said.

If it's "disingenous," then hang me, but to me you're having an argument with yourself, not with me.

8/24/2006 01:57:00 pm  
Blogger Sean said...

No matter where they got their drive (and I don't doubt them when they say it came from their early schooling), they were also fortunate to be living in a country that values drive. You can go to Montessori schools around the world - but you'd need to immigrate to America to make the most of it.

8/24/2006 05:43:00 pm  
Blogger Andrew said...

Have you ever in your life admitted you're wrong?

I have come to the realisation it is pointless to try and have a discussion with you.

I give up, one less reader.

8/24/2006 06:41:00 pm  
Anonymous ruth said...

Peter, Eric Watson and Graeme Hart left school at 15.I have my doubts about the benefit of formal education.

I for one am well aware of the education of the Google two - interestingly Sean Coombs- aka P Diddy or whatever he calls himself these days- was also Montessori educated and he is another hugely successful 'brand'.

Also Montessori needs to be regulated to protect it- not all regulation is bad you know. Take the current finance coy debacle for example. Ppl need to know exactly what they are buying into, be it education or investment.

8/24/2006 10:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I am not entirely sure whether Brin & Page comment to Barbara Walters was just mention a brief description of their past.

I would say , that Google were just lucky. When they developed their 'PageRank' algorithm, which is the workhorse of the Google search engine, there was a similar algorithm published at the time in 1998 called 'HITS' (hypertext-induced topic selection) by Prof. John Kleinberg. HITS is the algorithm now used by search engine vendor as AskJeeves. 'PageRank' was used at Stanford Campus by Page&Brin and the word of mouth spread thru the campus about this robust search tool. It spread to other Universities, and on and on into the general public, and then GOOGLE as we know today was born. There were some individual backers that were keen to take a risk at the time and back this supposed 'Montessori' duo. The duo, kept rising and now they are at the top of the world. It is widely discussed in the search engine community (a misnomer as such community comprises of different disciplines - machine learning, scientific computing, Linear Algebra, Data mining, Artificial Intelligence, Information Retrieval) that if Prof. Kleinberg seeked seed capital from investors at the time to develop a commercial application using the HITS algorithm, Google would not be so dominated as today. Another algorithm that was published by Prof. Lempel and Prof. Moran not long after 'PageRank' & 'HITS' came out is 'SALSA' (Stochastic Approach for Link Structure Analysis). SALSA combines the features of PageRank & HITS.

So, I would like to link the Montessori school with the success of Brin & Page. I would say that they were accident to be there. I am not knocking Brin & Page, I do admire their success, which makes everyone in the IT circle want to emulate, including myself, but HITS & SALSA were reported to outperform Google at the time. I am sure Google has evolved their 'PageRank' since then. Had Kleinberg , Lempel & Moran pursued the same commercial vision as Brin & Page, we wouldn't see a dominant Google today. I think that Brin & Page are true entrepreneurs, where their discovery of the 'PageRank' is not to be ranked the same as Einstein discovery of 'General Theory of Relativity'.

Last but interesting. The main theoretical formulations behind all those search algorithms mentioned above could be traced back to Einstein in a paper he published in 1905 called 'Brownian Motion' (random walk) a 'Markov Monte Carlo' process. This is the same year that the great man published his other 2 well-known papers in 'Special Relativity' & 'Photo-electric effect' where he won a Nobel Prize for the latter in 1921. Brownian Motion is a dominant topic taught in fluid dynamics & statistical mechanics in physics. PageRank is modelled of how links are pointed from page to page and how a user might navigate from this page to the next one in a purely random walk (or in a Brownian motion manner). Linear algebra is then used to solved for the top-rank solutions of the transition probability matrix that a user might want to walk (navigate) in a random fashion manner from page i to page j . Perhaps if Einstein is still alive today, he would be amazed that his 'Brownian Motion' paper has been adopted by Economics Nobel prize winners Prof. Scholes & Prof. Merton for their discovery of the 'Black-Scholes' model , which is the modelling of stock price options where price do follow a Brownian motion. Also he would be fascinated with Page & Brin discovery of PageRank, which the model is based on Brownian Motions & Random Walk. Markov-Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) is a more general form of Brownian Motion.

You can observe Brownian motion at home. Brownian motion is responsible for diffusion in fluids. An example of this is if you put a drop of ink into a glass of water, then after a while you noticed that whole glass is coloured homogenously. If no brownian motion takes place then the ink drop at all time, would stay still on the spot of where it was dropped at . Diffusion by Brownian motion is achieved whether the drop of ink was placed at the bottom of the glass or from the surface. This is because ink molecules with their interaction with the fluid particles cause the ink to go for a random walk in all-possible directions in the container (the glass). Given enough time, they would have traversed all possible paths.

"Authority rankings from HITS, PageRank, and SALSA: Existence, Uniqueness, and Effect of Initialization"
http://www.math.hmc.edu/~ward/paperpdfs/hitsheaderbw6Jan05.pdf

"Brownian motion"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownian_motion

"Markov Chain"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markov_chain

8/25/2006 09:33:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Falafulu Fisi said...
[So, I would like to link the Montessori school with the success of Brin & Page. ]

I missed something in the above comment, so the correction is shown below.

"So, I would NOT like to link the Montessori school with the success of Brin & Page."

8/25/2006 09:39:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Andrew, you said: "Have you ever in your life admitted you're wrong? I have come to the realisation it is pointless to try and have a discussion with you. I give up, one less reader."


Well, I'm sorry you feel that way Andrew. Don't you think it's rather intemperate based only on a discussion in which we seemed to be talking at cross purposes? What exactly were you hoping for from your comments?

8/25/2006 11:32:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

FF, you said: [An awful lot.] I think I need to educate you in the value of brevity. :-)

But nothing you say suggests what they said about the contribution of MOntessori education to their success is wrong.

Equally, the success of a company such as Google or Microsoft has as much to do with its codes and programmes as it has to do with its marketing and entrepreneurial flair -- as I'm sure you're only too aware.

As it happens, a proper Montessori education places great value on this all-round aspect of learning. :-)

8/25/2006 11:35:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Ruth you said, "Eric Watson and Graeme Hart left school at 15.I have my doubts about the benefit of formal education."

Oh, me too. Given that so many of NZ's richest people left school at fifteen and did an apprenticeship, the evidence seems to be pretty clear that having kids who wag school is less of a worry than kids who do everything without question, and never display any spirit at all. At least the kid wagging school is showing some character, and with schools as they are he's probably not missing out on much either. ;^)

Anyway, on this subject I recall Bob Jones's commenting on Ron Brierley's success: he said Brierly had managed to shake off the hindrance of a good education quite nicely.

8/25/2006 11:40:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I think that Page & Brin are very concerned at the moment about Microsoft. WHY? The giant has just awoken. Never anyone to underestimate Bill Gates, he is also late to the party (search engines), but most of the time come on top to dominate a particular software technology as has been shown in the past. Gates is late to the Gaming software and he is taking a direct challenge at the dominance of Sony by pushing hard his XBox software. Now, his new mission is Search Engines and he has declared that openly in recent times that he is going to take Google head on. It is war, as we know it. This will be good for the consumers, as prices for placed advertisements ,etc, will come down. Judging from what I have seen in numerous computing journals, the number of publications & papers that have come out of Microsoft Research Centre has increased probably ten-fold over the last 5 years or so. This means that Bill means business, and it is a clear warning to competitors (Google, Yahoo, and anyone else) to not feel complacent about their late coming to the party. Bill Gates has been portrayed as a follower in computing technology and not a leading innovator, however the game has changed and now, I see that he is a leading innovator. Microsoft Research Centre (MRC) does co-operate with researchers from other tertiary institutions and they do co-publish their work in computing peer review journals and made available to the public. Their proprietary work, is based on those publicly available papers, but are internal only to their product developments, that is they are not being published. When you see an algorithm that has been published by MRC, you can infer that there must be a deeper robust version of the algorithm that is not published because it is propriety and used only for product development. Regarding Google research, I have not seen any research from them being published. I am not sure if is their policy or not, but their internal research work is cutting edge & robust. I have seen both sides, Google & Microsoft expanding their R&D efforts. Google has been reported to be trying to establish an R&D facility in China and Microsoft has already done so. The number of publications coming out from Microsoft Research Centre China is huge and I think that Bill Gates definitely knows the available intellectual human resources in computing field to set-up an R&D facility there.

I have seen one publication (see link at the end) from Microsoft China R&D, which their paper described an algorithm that has outperformed the current 'PageRank' algorithm used by Google & Yahoo and also the 'HITS' algorithm used by AskJeeves. You can see the result of the benchmark on page 7 of the paper. The thing about scientific claims is that it can be verifiable and that means that any software developer (or vendor) can implement the algorithm described in the Microsoft paper and benchmark against Google, Yahoo or AskJeeves. The benchmark test described in their paper definitely shows the superiority of Microsoft algorithm in terms of precision compared to current 'PageRank' & 'HITS'. Precision is defined as the ratio of number of pages returned that is relevant to the query term to the number of total pages retrieved. Example, you can query the phrase ‘bank and money’ , then the engine retrieves pages that contain, say: ‘river bank’, ‘bank manager’, ‘the plane went into a steep bank’. There are total of 3 pages retrieved and only one is relevant. The precision is 33%. Only the page that contains ‘bank manager’ is relevant to the query terms ‘bank and money’ , because they have similar or same concepts as to mean a financial institution such as a bank , which has definitely a manager and their business involve currency or money , etc . The result ‘river-bank’ is irrelevant as it has no concept of a manager or money .Now, this is the version of the algorithm that Microsoft is publishing, but what about the version that is refined & perfected to be used internally for product development? We can only infer what they are upto. Microsoft has taken the search engine algorithm to a new level and no one should be surprised that Page & Brin are very concern for future of Google as the incumbent dominant player in search engine. Well I think , they should be. Whether Microsoft has deployed their algorithm for commercial use at this stage is unknown. The Microsoft paper (China R&D Centre) can be freely downloaded from link shown. The abstract of the paper is given, however the full paper in PDF (574 Kb) format can be downloaded as well:

"Block-level Link Analysis"
http://research.microsoft.com/research/pubs/view.aspx?tr_id=754

So, Page & Brin, watch out for Bill who is after your seats.

8/26/2006 10:49:00 am  

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