Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A personal note: Transitions

 I didn't expect that.

Lock image by Eyeball3000

When I tried to badge into my workplace, into my Google building at 4:30AM last Friday morning, the badge just didn't work.  No click, no dice. It was dark, cold, and very, very quiet.  

Earlier I'd tried to login to Google corporate gmail, but all I was seeing was some very suspicious pages saying "access denied" and that I should login at a site I didn't recognize with a password I didn't know.  Very, very odd. 

So I'd gone into the office to file an incident report using the trusted office network.  When my badge didn't make the door pop open, that's when it hit me: I realized that what looked like a phishing attempt was actually my company telling me that I didn't work there any more.  

Well... that's a surprise. I didn't expect to be locked out without some notification.  

As you've probably heard by now, Google had a massive layoff on Friday, Jan 20, 2023, and I was part of that reduction in force action. 

I really don't have any explanation about why I was laid off.  Somehow, I was determined to be on the CUT side of the team management equation.  So be it.  It's just odd because I would have sworn that I was doing core research work on the intersection of search and the new Large Language Models like ChatGPT. It's really interesting technology that will heavily influence the way search works.

So the real question for us, our little SearchResearch community is this: What now?  

As I've mentioned before, this isn't a Google corporate blog--it's our blog.  I write about search engines, about curiosity, and research.  I also write a lot about Google, but also about other systems and methods of doing search.  I'm not beholden to anybody here. So we're free to continue if it makes sense.  

So.... I'm trying to figure out what I'd like to do next.  What makes sense for me, and what makes sense for SRS.  

As you know, I'm working on another book (running title: "Unanticipated Consequences").  If you remember back to the very first SRS blog post, I pointed out that creating book content was always the goal of SRS--to pull together enough interesting material to write something meaningful.  And we did that with The Joy of Search.  (Coming out in paperback soon!!)

The question for me is this: Do I keep spending the roughly 8 hours/week on SRS, or do I switch to UC (Unanticipated Consequences)?  

Short answer:  For the moment, I'll keep on writing here on SRS. I have a long list of potential Challenges ahead.  I'll do at least 4 or 5 more of the really fun ones, and then we'll figure out what's next.  

So, count on SRS posts for at least the next little bit.  I'll poke my authorial head back up out of the murky SearchResearch depths in a few weeks and chat about what the plan is going forward.  

In the meantime, keep posting all of your great comments and ideas to the blog.  I read absolutely everything y'all write, although I only have time to reply-to a few.  I love the activity, the questing minds, and the conversation.  Let's keep that going!  


Search On!  


  1. I too enjoy the repartee and The Search. And I appreciate your efforts to keep the SRS alive a little longer.

    I guess there is no point complaining to HQ is there ?

    1. Probably not. But what an image... The SRS hordes storming the citadel, carrying torches of search strategies!

  2. Thanks Dr. Russell!

    I am sure new exciting paths will come to you.And also new ways to your Blog.

    Maybe you can post those 5 SRS Challenges separated and not one per week. At least unit you have a clear route to your new journey.

    And, if you decide to close Search research, at least I hope, and wish that you keep in contact in some way with us. You specifically and RR are part of my family.

    I hope Google rehires you, if you want that or at very least that they treat you and many if not all of the 12000 with die respect. It's very sad and frustrating to read how they treated you and many other. One email and that's all? That is no bueno.

    Also, I understand that this moment is very hard for you and keep doing the Challenges hurts too. So let's wait and see. As a famous book on soccer says, never take any decisions on Mondays

    Finally, if you decide to close, change or other to the Blog, the important thing is that you keep enjoying your days. That at the end, is what matters the most

    All my heart with you, Dr. Russell and with those that as you found the layoff without a face or explanation nor were treated as humans. That is the worst part.

  3. I have some thoughts on this which I may post later but, in the meantime, is there anything we can do to facilitate your progress on Unintended Consequences?

  4. Sorry to hear this. Do what you love, and use the opportunity before you're back at the 9-5.
    I'll keep following SRS as long as you're publishing. I
    've learned a ton in my old age...

  5. Long-time subscriber; first-time commenter. Thank you for all of the research tips and practice. This past Thanksgiving, I helped my family to find the potential origin of a multi-generational family recipe. A general web search for the exact ingredients didn't work, but I knew not to give up so easily.

    We were able to find a very nearly equivalent recipe in a local newspaper from 1950, making sense in both time and place. There's just one substitution that makes it differ from our family recipe. It reminded me to try both broad and specific queries, and I was able to introduce some new folks to the Google News Archive!

    More recently, I've had satisfying successes in finding manuals for a lighting fixture and LEGO set (both decades old) and where to buy an exact replacement of a plumbing fixture that I had no paperwork on.

    I assume I'm not the only one who has quietly benefited from your teaching without commenting, so I wanted to thank you.

    I'll continue to follow what you share!

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  7. Wow! As a European, the idea of being laid off like that is just unthinkable!
    You have always been good at noting when non-Google products offer features that Google ones don't, and I hope your new circumstances will give you more freedom to be openly critical of Google.

  8. Long time subscriber and have enjoyed, appreciated and learned so much. Is there anything we can do to keep this blog going.

  9. Well, that (expletive) sucks. It's hard to describe the anticipated benefits that have come from joining the SRS army so many years ago. One of the big ones is remaining curious. Looking forward to where it will lead you.

  10. So sorry to read you were treated like this (along with many other human beings). I hope with your expertise you find some suitable position in no time.