Unfriendly: Google Blocking Ex-Employee’s "Social Circles" Book (Oh Yeah, He Now Works At Facebook)

We’ve written about Paul Adams a few times now. As a refresher, he’s the guy who used to work at Google on user experience and made a popular presentation that suggested how Google could go after Facebook in the social space — namely, friend groups. That, of course, ended up happening with Google+. But before that project was complete, Adams jumped ship to, where else, Facebook. After the recent launch of G+, he stated that seeing it was a bit like “bumping into an ex-girlfriend“. Yes, that guy.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of interest recently in Adams given his history and he took some time today to write a blog post to clear some things up. Why he left Google, what he does at Facebook — it’s good stuff. But the real meat is one little nugget of information he drops: Google is blocking him from releasing a book he wrote about his social research called, what else, Social Circles. And Adams is not happy about this at all.

Specifically, Adams says he received permission in June 2010 from Google to publish Social Circles. As he notes the content, title, and cover (circles!) all existed before the Emerald Sea project (Google+). But after word of the project started leaking out that summer, Google rescinded their permission and asked Adams to wait to publish until Google+ launched. Adams understood, and was perfectly fine with that. But now that G+ is out there, he says Google is still blocking him from publishing the book, and he doesn’t know why.

To make matters worse, Google won’t even respond to his emails on the topic. “The book contains no proprietary information, it is based almost entirely on research from 3rd parties (mostly universities) and any Google research referenced is already in the public domain,” he writes.

Then he takes his shot:

“The industry needed this book. You might say I’m trying to organize some of the worlds information and make it universally accessible :) The irony that Google is blocking this endeavor is not lost on me.”

Google and Facebook have long been in the midst of a war of words (and data) over open access to information. Now Google is apparently blocking a Facebook employee from publishing a book he wrote. Interesting.

But rather than wait for Google’s permission, Adams is hard at work on a new book, called Grouped, which will be out in a few months, he says.

As for working at Google and Facebook, Adams uses the post to vent his frustrations with Google’s bureaucracy and politics when he left. He declines to go into more detail, but points to this harsh post also by a former Googler who worked on Emerald Sea. Adams goes on to say:

“Google is an engineering company, and as a researcher or designer, it’s very difficult to have your voice heard at a strategic level. Ultimately I felt that although my research formed a cornerstone of the Google social strategy, and I had correctly predicted how other products in the market would play out, I wasn’t being listened to when it came to executing that strategy. My peers listened intently, but persuading the leadership was a losing battle. Google values technology, not social science.”


So going to Facebook was the ultimate revenge, right? Well maybe, but Adams actually does not work on the Groups or Friend Lists teams there. He joined as a researcher, but is now a product manager working on Facebook’s advertising products. ” I love my new job, love Facebook, and have absolutely no regrets about moving. It has been the best career decision I’ve made,” he says.