When I decided to write my book, What Would Google Do?, I also decided that I did not want access to Google.
I had a few reasons. First, I didn’t want the company line but instead wanted to reverse-engineer Google’s success from a distance, trying to figure out what made it successful and how those insights could be used by other companies or institutions. That skill could be applied to other companies one admires, like Amazon or craigslist. I hoped the discipline would also yield a broader worldview than just Google’s on the internet age.
Second, the book would necessarily be admiring of Google and so I didn’t want any suggestion that my admiration came from any relationships in or favors from the company.
I’m glad I made the decision. A couple of bloggers just assumed that I had such inside access. I set them straight and I’m grateful that they each corrected the misimpression.
For the record, I’ve met various Google executives and mentioned that I was writing the book but asked for no information or access and received none. Until I finished the book, I even refused to join an industry-group meeting inside Google’s New York offices because I didn’t want to sign the required (and irritating) NDA. I did later go to a meeting at Google on an unrelated topic (I had son Jake with me and knew he’d like to see inside). For a column I wrote in the Guardian on the antitrust inquiry into the Google-Yahoo deal — after writing a blog post on the topic — a Google exec contacted me. I did use some valuable insights from comments on this blog written by Bob Wyman, who works for Google; that exchange is fully in the open. That’s the sum of my Google contact.