Thursday, November 15, 2007

Candidates at Google: Barack Obama

Barack Obama added another "first" to his already notable list yesterday: he became the first U.S. presidential candidate -- and, I'm guessing, the first high-level elected official in any country -- to have a ready answer to a standard Google engineering interview question. Asked by Eric Schmidt about "the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers," Sen. Obama replied that "the bubble sort would be the wrong way to go." Though some might view this as shameless pandering to the bucket-sorting community, others will see a bold pragmatism.

Following Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Mike Gravel, Obama became the seventh presidential candidate to visit Google's main campus in Mountain View. Obama got a warm reception from an overflow crowd at Charlie's Cafe, with hundreds of employees watching via live webcast from forty remote locations. Looking out over the sea of t-shirts, Sen. Obama paid tribute to Silicon Valley style: "It's good to see Google is maintaining its strict dress code."

After a screening of his Monday Night Football clip and an introduction by Google's Senior VP David Drummond, Obama unveiled his new policy agenda on technology and innovation. He reaffirmed his support for network neutrality, saying:

The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history. We have to keep it that way.

Obama laid out a detailed package of technology policies designed to strengthen online privacy, increase government openness and transparency, put high-speed broadband within reach of all Americans, improve the delivery government services, drive America's competitiveness, reform our abuse-prone patent system, and free up wireless spectrum for new connectivity and public safety.

As part of his plan, Sen. Obama said he would use the Internet to give citizens better visibility into, and greater participation in, the workings of their government:

I’ll put government data online in universally accessible formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions in real time, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made, and let you comment on legislation before it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting 21st century standards, I’ll appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.

After Obama finished his speech, Eric Schmidt joined him on stage for a "fireside chat" (except without the crackling fire). After a particularly open-ended first question ("What is it that you're going to do that's exceptional?"), Obama looked out and asked, "Is this the kind of interview that you guys went through?" (The answer is "yes," except we went through eight of them, and they focused more on how to sort 32-bit integers and less on how to counter the threat of global terrorism).

During the discussion, Obama made the case for his ability to bring Americans together, take on special interests, and bring new credibility to foreign relations. In about thirty minutes he covered a lot of ground: Iraq, Guantanamo, international relations and diplomacy, globalization, education, health care, college loans, Social Security, and race. Googler Ethan Beard asked Obama about fears that he lacks experience; he started his response by noting that Google founders "Larry and Sergey didn't have a lot of experience starting a Fortune 100 company."

The final question of the day was about political reform -- how to fix a broken system of political and government? Sen. Obama observed that the more people know, the more lawmakers and officials can be held accountable. He talked about his "Google for Government" bill, now law, to create a searchable database for every dollar of federal spending. He said, "If you give people good information, they will make good decisions."

Here's the complete video of Senator Obama's fireside chat:

Senator Obama also sat for an interview with YouTube's Steve Grove, with the questions posed by the YouTube community:


JoeDuck said...

Good Technological/political ideas Senator Obama!

Did you get a free Googley lunch?

Felix Sargent said...

So where exactly is this "google-like" federal search engine? Is there a time line for it? I'd love to check it out.

J-Marsh said...

Barack Obama didn't seem to answer the question posed by Eric Schmidt, rather, he proposed a method about how not to do it. That's like if someone asked you what's the answer to 2+2, and the person responded, "We'll it's not 5." Just a thought.

Although, it is notable that he had an answer.

Shawn said...


That's the point! 2+2 is an equation. It's a problem with a definite answer. The question posed by Schmidt was like asking for the answer to an inequality: there are multiple answers. Finding the most efficient way to sorting a million 32-bit integers is nearly impossible.

Hannah said...

Good stuff, Google. Thanks for taking the time to do these interviews and spread them in a format that we can all use. This is information accessibility taken to a new, human level.

Zorra said...

When will you be inviting Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich? My friends and I would like to see more of him. Thank you!

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double8gent said...

U.S.Presidential Candidate Barack Obama I'm asking you to recieve Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Ron Paul from Texas just to have a conversation about what they know about what this country is. It's always been about a place where righteousness could flourish but if the constitution is not made the Supreme Law it will continue to develope into a concentration camp with check points from cradle to grave. Continuing the parade of Manchurian Candidates for the calloused Bankers is the game and I couldn't ask you to die for an idea. That isn't a burden I'll try place on you alone. The law is all there is and if our laws were made right expediently regardless beginning with only Congress coining money would galvanize the kindred spirit necessary to free us. In the big picture I more that suspect that the N.W.O is fulfilling it role in the judgment for the many unrighteous democratic rather than republic laws passed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lynch pin is the money bag or it's all just a movie that's almost over.

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Chus said...

This is what I think: Jill Greenberg

Polly said...

The Polls Show That Reaganism Is Not Dead

flo said...

Obama Cuts Funding To Black Colleges