Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/20/google_shrinks_plates/

Podgy Googlers get shrunken plates

Data lords put staff on subliminal diet

By Cade Metz

Posted in Bootnotes, 20th September 2010 00:00 GMT

In a calculated effort to halt the expansion of its staff, Google has shrunk the size of its plates.

The data-obsessed search colossus recently ran a study that showed its employees would eat less if it gave them smaller plates. So it gave them smaller plates. Google's on-campus eateries are inordinately famous for serving unlimited amounts of free and extremely tasty victuals, and this led to what you might call a hefty problem.

New hires have been known to lament the addition of the "Google fifteen" somewhere around the waist line. And we can only imagine the lamentations of the older hires.

On a recent visit behind the walls of the Googleplex, we were alerted to the shrunken plates by a member of the company's staff. And we witnessed the plates first hand. We even ate off them. But when we revealed our inclination to discuss the shrunken plates in the pages of The Register, the Google staff member promptly retracted claims that the plates had been shrunk in an effort to curb overindulgence.

The first rule of Google club is: you do not talk about Google club.

But in shock fashion, Google open source guru Chris DiBona has broken ranks, confirming that the plates were shrunk after the company ran a study proving that employees were less likely to gorge themselves if they couldn't fit as much on their dishes. Not that you would expect anything less from a company that believes it knows when an employee will jump ship before the employee knows. "[Our human resources algorithm helps Google] get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave," said human resource head Laszlo Bock.

Google's oh-so-successful search and online ad platforms shun subjective human judgment in favor of unfettered data analysis (most of the time). And the company believes this model can be applied to, well, everything. "All [existing subjective] models are wrong," Google research director Peter Norvig has said, "and increasingly you can succeed without them."

The question, Chris DiBona says, is whether the company has shrunk the plates enough. Except for the rim around the edge, he explains, the old plates were no larger. "What were people doing before?" DiBona said during the farewell episode of John C. Dvorak's Cranky Geeks, due online this week. "Stacking up food on the rim?"

And so, it's unclear whether Google has solved its chunky engineer problem. But don't tell anyone. ®