It was as if Google had become an airline, trying to deal with canceled flights at peak season. Steve Gillmor, a longtime Bay Area tech journalist and contributing editor to ZDNet, rather pointedly told a harried Google employee at the media registration desk, "This is not how it's supposed to be done."
The keynote began about 15 minutes late. Vic Gundotra, engineering VP at Google, arrived on stage and apologized. Rather than have those waiting in the lobby miss the keynote entirely, those in charge of the event opted to let the would-be attendees in without badges. At management-level events, where movers and shakers mingle, security concerns preclude that sort of decision; developers apparently can handle self-policing, or perhaps they're just expendable.
And to top it all off, there weren't enough chairs to accommodate those wishing to see the keynote presentation. Google apparently is still getting the hang of developer conferences. It held its first such event in 2006, focused on Google Earth and Maps. Between 250 to 300 people attended. Its first major developer event, attended by about 5,000 around the globe, was held in San Jose, Calif., and nine other cities simultaneously last year.
Such snafus hardly matter much in the long run, but they do suggest that Google's engineering culture has some blind spots. Apple's recent developer events, as befits a company obsessed with image management, have run like clockwork.
Hopefully, next year's event will begin more smoothly. There will almost certainly be a larger crowd.