Genevieve Schaad's presentation on February 11 was an interesting look into the operations of Google. Schaad is a program manager for Google Maps and she gave a broad overview of how policy decisions are made. The guiding vision for Google is "Make the world's information free." With Maps, this means organizing everything important to users onto an easily readable geographical representation. As an overall idea of how Google should be, this seems simple enough, but Schaad showed how much of a grind actually doing this work is. To a giant like Google, some of the most important parts of their projects are the tiniest details. She described the continual changing of information that needs to be displayed and the process of keeping everything accurate. Businesses, contact information, hours, and so forth are all constantly in need of updating. The scale of Google's operations is so massive it's difficult to process.
Although Google is run mainly through user moderation, it requires consistent guidelines to meet user expectations. For example, if people start changing doctors' websites to LinkedIn accounts, she explained that Google might decide to implement a Maps-wide policy of using LinkedIn as the primary websites for doctors. There are also things like the Rio Olympics, which need resources dedicated to making sure everything is displayed correctly. Even things as mundane as the capitalization of place names need to be written into policy.
While this talk was mostly informational, Schaad mentioned a few potential areas of further exploration, such as the implications of using public information for Maps. Obviously public information is use by everyone, but as was brought up during the seminar, when information is organized, it becomes more real and its consequences matter. Since she's a current employee, it would have been surprising if Schaad commented too extensively on these kinds of issues, but it sounded like Google's response is to set policies that avoid potential conflict as much as possible. As we have been doing throughout the Seminar, we can open this conversation to more broad questions, but ultimately, Schaad's presentation was to show a specific aspect of how Google runs.