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by Tony Chang

All opinions on this site are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Creative Commons Attribution License

20% time

Mar 19, 2005, 12:03am EST



Since I stopped reading slashdot a couple years ago, I never see articles until after comments are frozen. Anyway, back in January there was an article about Independent Developer Projects in the Workpace, aka Google’s 20% time and how one might implement it in other companies. I’m pretty dubious how successful it would be in other companies.

One of the reasons it works so well at Google is because there’s a lot of data. If you want access to the whole web, you can get it even if you don’t work in search. I’m not sure the same applies at other companies, including other companies in search. Does the MS Office team has access to MSN Search data? Would they care if they did?

There’s also lots of shared infrastructure making it relatively easy to process all that data.

Additionally, there are lots of smart people that you can work with or at least get feedback from on your 20% project. It’s the combination of these things that make 20% time a meaningful concept at Google.

Walter at Mar 20, 2005, 02:36am EST

Does the MS Office team has access to MSN Search data? Would they care if they did?

While I can’t address this specific question, as I don’t work in Office, I do work on the MSN Messenger team. Within the company we have access to data from any team. If it’s not on the intranet, we can e-mail someone from the team or even pop over to their office for a chat. Certainly information management is a challenge in a company with something like 50,000 employees. The quality of team intranet sites varies greatly - so one can’t always find specifically what one’s looking for simply through an intranet search. But the low-tech solutions like e-mail and phone calls work pretty well. Cheers.

tony at Mar 20, 2005, 03:47am EST

Hi Walter, thanks for the reply. It sounds like that at MS the idea of 20% time would also work well because the same key elements are there: information sharing, smart and motivated employees, and common infrastructure (I’m assuming that exists).

Also, even with ~3,000 employees, information management is a challenge.