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So, you all (hopefully) saw my photos yesterday; if you didn't, you may have seen the media coverage about my employer, Google Australia, installing 2 monorail carriages in our new office space yesterday (e.g. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/google-installs-monorail-carriages-in-its-office-20131009-2v7fl.html)

Now! For those of you who don't know, confession (and story!) time: this was my fault.

At Google, we have (like most large companies do) an internal ticketing system for keeping track of jobs for our building management team ('Facilities', or 'REWS'). This system is usually populated with requests like, you know, 'the door on level X isn't working properly' or 'the pinball machine isn't working' or 'you know what would be awesome? An electric keyboard. We don't have one, can you buy us one please?' or whatever (all real, recent examples, which all got 'fixed').

Sometimes, though, this ticket system is abused by idiots* trying to be funny.

One such example of this was at the start of this year, when one particular idiot† submitted a ticket into this system pointing out that the NSW and Sydney governments had finally announced their long-anticipated plan to remove and scrap Sydney's defunct, expensive-but-useless monorail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Monorail — a classic 'white elephant'). At the time, Google Australia had spread from one office building in Pyrmont to two, and there were rumours of a third coming soon, so this idiot suggested that maybe Google should buy the monorail and install it between the three buildings in a loop, because we're lazy and besides how cool would it be to have a monorail.

Everyone had a chuckle at this lame joke, and then that was it, until a particularly awesome member of our Facilities team, Alecia, replied to the ticket, giving an hilarious and clever feasibility study as to why purchasing the monorail would be a bad plan (and yes, it did include the phrase "more of a Shelbyville idea"). This reply (which I wish I could share with you, but if nothing else it's filled with Google in-jokes and wouldn't make sense to you all) elevated my stupid facilities ticket into legendary status, where it did the rounds of Google and after about a week I think the whole company had seen it.

Joke dies down, everyone's happy. Until about 3 months ago.

About 3 months ago, Alecia sent me an IM saying "Are you free for a meeting now? And by meeting, I mean 'road trip'." Naturally, I was. I arrived at Alecia's desk (Alecia: "I love that I say 'road trip' and you just turn up without asking what it is."), and we head off. Eventually I ask what we're actually doing, and another colleague who was in on the plan tells me: "Monorail shopping!"

Sure enough, Alecia takes us out to a junkyard near the airport, and we all help choose which two monorail carriages we want to purchase and install as meeting rooms in One Darling Island, our new workspace in Sydney (the aforementioned rumoured third building).

Eventually, this brings us to what happened yesterday. After an months of Herculean logistics (and, I'm quite sure, horrifying expense; the SMH article linked above estimates the costs of the installation at $250,000, though I have no idea if that's accurate), yesterday our 2 monorail carriages were brought to the office, and very carefully (I heard tell that the '20cm of clearance' figure in the SMH article was actually an OVER-estimate) lifted into place, where they will become 3 meeting rooms (each carriage will be its own room, and then there will be another casual meeting area at the back)‡. HOW COOL IS THAT??!?

Anyway, check out the linked article - the timelapse footage isn't brilliant, but it will give you an idea of the logistics involved (we actually took some footage of our own, hopefully I can share that with you soon).

So: next time I tell you (as I regularly do) that working at Google is like working at Wonka's Chocolate Factory: remember, I once made a stupid joke about buying a monorail, and MY COMPANY DID IT FOR ME. I bet not many of you can say that§.


* generally, me.
† specifically, me.
‡ you, all being nerds, will be delighted to know that the meeting rooms are to be named "Brockway", "Ogdenville", and "North Haverbrook".
§ my guess: zero.
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This is wonderful  +Paul Cowan !!
I love how the idea played out :)  I know that that Google is into recycling, what better way to follow through! lol
Brilliant!
ps.. love the vid :)
 
Well if I didn't want to work at Google before, I do now! Haha.
 
The funny thing is that not only is this story true, it's actually fairly typical.  Google REWS clearly puts an enormous amount of thought and effort into facilities.  Although my facilities in Mountain are fairly utilitarian, I've seen pictures of places like the Moscow, London and Tel Aviv and they are stunning.  Sometimes I get a little jealous of the Moscow office- the cafe has a direct view across the river of the Kremlin, and the entire office is absurdly nice looking:

http://www.coolpicturegallery.us/2010/12/moscow-new-google-office-new-york.html
 
+Kamal Tailor , point taken. But I am just feeling hard done by and wish other "high tech" industries could be as forward thinking and worker aware as Google. I don't actually hate Google.
 
To put things in a bit more context, I just moved from Melbourne Australia, and the Midwest is shocking in some ways.
 
>I once made a stupid joke about buying a >monorail, and MY COMPANY DID IT FOR ME.

Nope, it didn't. It's bought a couple of carriages of monorail. :)
 
Aw wat! I only just moved to the Zurich office for the ski gondola meeting rooms, clearly I should have stayed in Sydney!
 
What pinball machine do you have in the office?
 
+Chris Smout errr... I don't remember, sorry! I actually don't play pinball. I think in the new building it's a Spiderman machine? Not sure about the old building, there is one over there.

+Chris Chambers will know. Or maybe +Gianni Mariani, I think he's a pinball player too?
 
Whilst it's 'cool' and everything, the extravagance and self-indulgence of all this I find little disgusting, if not childish, especially for this sort of money.  Is this really the sort of gimmick that attracts quality nowadays?  There are many ways the cash could have been better spent, such as a startup investment fund, computer education initiative etc.
 
Nice work. Are there any left? I wonder if I could get Monash to buy one? I think next you should ask for a Sunsphere!
 
+Kamal Tailor +Sam Kelleher *Sam*, appreciate your concerns here however, in addition to providing fun workspaces, Google also invests millions of dollars into advancing technologies, start-ups and humanitarian work to name a few (see references below).

Google REWS prides itself on providing an innovative and creative workspace for it's employees to enjoy and strive for their own successes for themselves and the business.

Personally, I say +1 to the monorail. Wishing I hadn't just left Google Sydney now! 

Keep up the good work, elGoog!

Thanks +Paul Cowan for this gem. PS Have you seen the list of most hilarious guts tickets? Ask Alecia to share or maybe ask Christy, she might know. 

References (just to name a few):
Google Org (including the Crisis Response, Flu Trends, Person Finder [in disaster scenarios] http://www.google.org/
Google Giving - intl grants - http://www.google.com/giving/
Google Grants - grants to non-profit organisations www.google.com.au/intl/en/grants/
Google Ventures - http://www.googleventures.com/
 
Well-put, +Siobhan Fehily, thanks!

+Sam Kelleher I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a company that devotes more time and effort to humanitarian, ecological, and societal improvement efforts than Google, I really do. I am honoured to be able to help out sometimes, in a small way, with one of the things Siobhan mentioned (google.org Crisis Response); I would be genuinely impressed if you could find another company (especially an advertising company, ahem) that devotes so many person-hours and so many dollars to humanitarian efforts.
 
Actually +Paul Cowan I can think of several, BP, Shell, P&G, Unilever - All those companies, like Google, go to great lengths to have themselves associated with good causes all the time and spend a lot of $$$ in the process.  I never said Google didn't do this.  I just said that spending at least £150,000 on a single item destined for scrap, to be a tad excessive even by Googles standards.
 
+Paul Cowan  Pretty cool.  How does it look from the inside the monorail-turned-meeting-room?
 
If Google has so much cash on hand, how about reducing what they charge for their services? Talk about Humanitarian - making the end products of all the search engine customers in the world cheaper by reducing advertising costs...
 
Google has a revenue stream from somewhere (i.e. charging people for advertising or otherwise manipulating the search results in their favor). I have no problem with people making a living and charging appropriate amounts for their services to support their own business. However,Google runs a near monopoly, and if they are able to throw money away like this, it's clear they are gouging those customers who pay for Google's services.
 
LOL when did this turn from a 'hey that monorail carriage would make an awesome meeting room, sure why not' to 'lets all complain about having to spend money on advertising our business wah-wah-woo/Google has too much money'.

Turn away from here, keyboard warriors - 4chan is calling.

Instead, go do something productive like diverting your attention to voting on school childrens' entries for the Doodle 4 Google completiton :) http://www.google.com.au/doodle4google/vote.html

 
 
Well I never said I was unhappy that Google, a company being dragged through the courts worldwide for monopoly abuse and privacy violations should not make any money from selling the contents of peoples emails, I'll leave that to the European Commission!

I just said that it was vulgar that in a time of worldwide economic pinch for self righteous employees to declare that because their company had played a small part in charity work (with a big PR campaign to make sure everyone knows about it) they nominate to give themselves a pat on the back, that they feel entitled enough to deserve (above all the other luxuries they already have) to decide that their apparent humanitarian effort was enough, and justified them to get a clapped out old train just to sit in the office and play trainsets?

I had previously wondered if Google was just a bunch of nobodys having a vacuous barbie party on the backs of the success of a dozen genius engineers, I guess now we all know.
 
Blocked a certain person, because I have better things to do with my time. Up to and including scratching the little itchy spot inside my ear.
 
Apologies for going off-topic, and for possibly "risking" Godwinning this thread. ;)

For anyone reading this, on Google+, everyone has access to moderation tools. In particular, both the right and ability to delete comments below posts they make, as well as to block specific people from commenting in the future. It is even possible to completely disable comments by unapproved people in the first place, though that's kind of sad and discourages engagement.

Some people like permitting anyone and everyone to comment. Thinking back to pre-FB years, I know some bloggers tried this too. Many bloggers, including bloggers that originally wished to stay entirely open to comments by anyone, discovered that in order to foster a good community of commenters, the use of moderation tools was in fact necessary. So it goes, this is the internet.

I don't personally consider moderation of a comment thread to be censorship, even when it involves deleting some comments. This is a case of deciding who you're interested in having a conversation with, or what a conversation is about. For that matter, I don't consider entirely disabling comments by strangers to be censorship either. Consider the big picture: anyone that's blocked from a comment thread can still go write their own posts or post their own views.

With regards to free speech, there are usually some necessary limitations (unless you take a "free speech fundamentalist" approach): typically hate speech or death threats are considered bad enough that they're worth banning, without considering it a violation of free speech. ("Risky" example: Nazi propaganda in Germany is banned).

I'm actually a little uncertain as to the exact limits of what one can get away with on G+. Can one get away with slander? Practically, yes usually, if it's small scale. And if it were a large scale slander campaign? I'm not sure, I guess I should go read the Terms of Service again. Consider a hate speech example: a year or so ago I was in a thread debating veganism, where one participant engaged in hate speech, including racial and homophobic slurs. A couple of participants in the thread flagged his comments, and he got blocked site wide, as this was a terms of service violation. Blocked for a little while anyway: it would seem in such cases you're permitted to clean up your act and get back your account.

Enough of that. ;) I certainly understand that the frustration of having your comments deleted can cause an emotional reaction. Related to the emotional reaction I have when I accidentally lose a comment I just spent a long time writing. That said, if this comment is too far off topic, and way too long, you're very welcome to delete it +Paul Cowan.

And that's all I have to say about that.
 
Not to detract from the awesomeness, but from a purely utilitarian point of view it's probably not excessively expensive from a recruitment point of view :-) I know I'd prefer monorail carriages to a few billboards.
 
I remember I was living in Sydders way back in 1989-1990. We worked out how to catch the monorail for free. I think we used to do a version of the 'London Underground" pub crawl on the monorail and I may have been sick in a carriage once!. I kinda hope its not one of the ones you bought.
Cool idea, I must pop in next time i'm in Oz/Sydney!
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