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December 04, 2005|By TROY MCCULLOUGH

Doug Edwards and Ron Garret are feeling lucky.

The two ex-Google employees' new blog, Xooglers - xooglers.blogspot.com - has become an instant hit among those who are eager for a rare look under the hood of one of the hottest companies on the planet.

Edwards, a former marketing director, and Garret, the former lead engineer on Google's AdWords project, share insider stories about the company's trademark eccentricity, marvel over the sheer brainpower among the work force and express frustrations typical of ex-employees no longer entirely star-struck by their former employer. The result is an intelligent, thoughtful and entertaining blog that's quickly becoming a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in what makes this company tick.

In one of his first posts, Edwards recalls a moment from his initial interview with Sergey Brin, Google's legendary co-founder, and Cindy McCaffrey, then Google's vice president of marketing, where the discussion veered from the standard line of questioning:

"`I'm going to give you five minutes,' [Brin] told me. `When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don't already know.' He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy. `He's very curious about everything,' she told me. `You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it's something you really understand well.'

"I reached for a piece of scrap paper as my mind raced. What complicated thing did I know well enough to describe to Sergey? Diaper-changing didn't seem appropriate ... The process for getting one's wife to go see the Matrix instead of a chick flick was probably too complex, even for him. I thought about explaining how newspapers are printed, but decided to go with the general theory of marketing. Fortunately, it was fresh in my mind, because I'd only learned it recently."

Edwards' impromptu marketing dissertation was apparently impressive enough to pass Brin's test.

"I found out later that he asked almost everyone to do this, so if a candidate wasn't hired, at least it wasn't a total waste of his time," Edwards writes.

Garret - a former robotics and artificial intelligence researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab with a Ph.D. in computer science - considered himself a little behind the Google curve.

"At Google, if I were to rate people on general smartness I would have put myself in the bottom 25%," he writes. "It was pretty much the first time in my life that I found myself not at the top of the intellectual pecking order. It was not an easy adjustment for me."

In a similar vein, Edwards describes Google's preoccupation with his college grade-point average - which he hadn't thought about since he graduated from Brown in 1981.

"Even after I had an offer on the table, the HR people kept pestering me for a college transcript and my S.A.T. scores," he writes. "It was a classic Google moment. Your S.A.T. score was the measure of your intellectual capability; your GPA represented the numerical summary of your ability to execute on that potential. Your value to Google could be plotted using those two data points. Sergey's desire to reduce every decision to an equation would cause me a fair amount of frustration in the years to come."

Apparently for Google, luck has nothing to do with it.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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