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Google's First Employee Departs 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the ajusting-the-seniority-list dept.
redletterdave writes "Craig Silverstein, the first employee hired by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, will leave the search giant for Khan Academy, an online education portal based in Mountain View, Calif. Silverstein had been with Google shortly after it first launched in the garage of Susan Wojcicki, a friend of both Page and Brin, in September 1998. He had helped Brin and Page develop infrastructure when Google was just a Stanford grad school project, but when he officially joined the company, Silverstein became its technology director. The Khan Academy, where Silverstein is heading next, is a not-for-profit organization that aspires to change the education industry by providing free 'world-class education to anyone anywhere.' Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is an enormous fan of the service, telling CNN that he uses it with his kids."
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Google's First Employee Departs

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  • KHAN!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:54AM (#38993591)

    Obligatory.

  • Great run, Craig (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:57AM (#38993605)

    Craig is good egg who walks the walk. Not hungry for power, glory or money, he already has enough of all that. The original Google do-gooder. I sincerely hope that his shoes do not prove too big to fill.

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:05AM (#38993847)

      Craig is good egg who walks the walk. Not hungry for power, glory or money, he already has enough of all that. The original Google do-gooder. I sincerely hope that his shoes do not prove too big to fill.

      He was part of a force that changed the internet. Now's he's joining Kahn to help change the world of education (except now he has a lot more clout and a lot more resources). Let's hope he can have a significant impact.

      • Re:Great run, Craig (Score:5, Interesting)

        by justforgetme (1814588) on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:27AM (#38994199) Homepage

        Well, it is obvious that education at the moment is going through a very creative phase,
        a lot of attention is being directed to the distributed model the KHAN academy made
        popular; I'm very curious to see how the rise of distributed learning will change the
        world of knowledge and accreditation. Could be that the 3k year old paradigm of the
        classroom will be obsolete (or dramatically changed) by the end of the decade.

        • by peter303 (12292) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:32AM (#38994693)
          Khan uses the oldest educational technique in the book- the demonstration lecture. Its just packaged better. First someone who clearly explains it. Second in a right-length chunk of a few minutes, not a forced 60 minutes. And on demand, anywhere, not on a schedule at a certain location. And almost free, after it is done the first couple of times.

          People have been trying a half century to properly use television and computers in education. This seems to be one of the better results.
          • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday February 10, 2012 @01:47PM (#38997625) Homepage

            The recent Wired article about Khan Academy [wired.com] makes me think there's a bit more to it than that.

            Apparently actual classrooms are using it in an "inverted" model, where students watch the lectures at home and then do work in class. That way the students are already prepared to understand the classroom assignments, and if they need help the teacher is there for them.

            Would be interesting to see if this model works for every subject and with every lecturer, or if there's something particularly good about Khan's lessons.

            • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday February 10, 2012 @02:14PM (#38997917)
              Apparently my 2nd year calculus professor believed in this model. He assigned sections to read from the textbook and exercises to do as homework. Homework was collected at the beginning of class and then he lectured on the topics covered in those sections. He wanted us to be "prepared and qualified" to listen to his lecture. He announced this approach on day 1 of class, half the students immediately dropped his class and signed up with a different professor. Too bad, I did better in 2nd year calculus than I did in 1st. He made us work hard and we enjoyed greater success as a result.
            • by DaleSwanson (910098) on Friday February 10, 2012 @02:20PM (#38997981)

              Would be interesting to see if this model works for every subject and with every lecturer, or if there's something particularly good about Khan's lessons.

              I'd definitely argue that a large portion of the success is due to Khan's teaching ability. There are plenty of other videos on youtube explaining the same concepts, but Khan's are the best I've found.

              I think there are several factors that make Khan great at what he's doing. To begin, he's a very smart guy, a MIT grad electrical engineer. While there are plenty of equally intelligent people in the world, not many of them are teaching K-12. On the other hand, he isn't arrogant or condescending, which tends to be off-putting to someone trying to learn something. Instead, he often makes it clear that he doesn't know everything. Then, there is his obvious passion about the subjects. Just watch some of the videos, and it becomes clear he is truly amazed by this stuff. This inspires the person watching to want to understand the material so they can also be amazed. He is also rather amusing, casual, and informal in his presentation, without wasting too much time or coming off as desperate to make the student laugh.

              About the style of the videos, 10 minutes works very well. It's just enough time to cover one small concept. Plus it has the huge benefit of the 'just one more' effect. Similar to games that lead to 'just one more turn' and then it's 4am (Civilization), it's much easy to watch just a few more 10 minute videos than to start watching 40 or 60 minute video lectures.

            • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday February 10, 2012 @03:53PM (#38999245)
              I've never liked that model. I had a teacher (high school calculus in fact) whose classroom time consisted of sitting at the desk while the kids were doing assigned problems (reading material at home). Anyone with a problem could ask for help, and *maybe* that problem would get solved on the board.

              It was the most boring and uninspiring approach to mathematics I'd ever been part of. A class should do the opposite: it should be lively, and bring something new to the kids minds right then and there, to keep them interested and to make them think of the possibilities. At the end, the kid should be energized with new knowledge.

              I believe pre-reading material before class is a strategic mistake. It's like reading the end of a mystery novel before the beginning. When you already know who the killer is, the story becomes flat and not very interesting. The same is true if you first read the cool new knowledge in a book chapter before the teacher gives it to you, *again*. It drains a lot of the fun (education-wise) out of the school time. A better system is to read the chapters *after* the class that covered it, if necessary.

      • by Xeranar (2029624) on Friday February 10, 2012 @03:43PM (#38999077)

        Khan Academy is a tool of very wealthy people who understand very little about education. It's telling that their leadership is almost exclusively stem types with nary a psychologist in sight. I wish him luck but the education system doesn't need his kind of overhaul in the western world.

    • by XrayJunkie (2437814) on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:29AM (#38994209)
      I envy him for this and hope that in a few (hundred) years I can do something similar.
  • by dropadrop (1057046) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:57AM (#38993607)
    Good move, khan academy is really nice, but could use a lot of improvements on general usability.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:03AM (#38993615)

    I'm guessing he has enough money to last him several lifetimes by now. Good to see people that will work for non-profit at that point.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:14AM (#38993651) Homepage

    "Change the education industry"? That's a strange choice of words, considering Khan Academy coursework is free and so is K-12 education in America. Should we even be thinking of educating our children as an industry?

    • by sourcerror (1718066) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:29AM (#38993723)

      Khan Academy doesn't stop at K-12. There's plenty of college level material there.

    • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:31AM (#38993733)
      Considering the about of money and people wrapped up in it, I think it's fair to say it's an industry. You don't want the education "product" to be treated as one size fits all. And of course you don't want drone teachers - but the whole support system to get the best education could benefit from lessons learned from other industries. The administration staff in all the school I've dealt with so far have been awful.
      • by datavirtue (1104259) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:21AM (#38994617)

        In matters of dealing with staff and teachers they act like a business, but in all other pursuits, every bit of efficiency derived from a business model goes flying out the windows. This is because their money keeps coming no matter what. They can be epic failures, make all kinds of bumbling mistakes, do an over-all horrible job, waste a bunch of money over and over again, only to be rewarded with many more years of funding and really good paychecks. Gee, wonder why improvement and positive change takes soooooo long and is resisted at every turn? You have people running the show who have NEVER held a job! Kids who went to school, kept going to school, couldn't find work, went to school again, became teachers, then moved into administration where they duly camp out for the next thirty to forty years. Hasn't anyone been paying attention? No. they have no idea, no freaking clue whatsoever how to run an organization properly or deal with subordinates. On top of this, they have a PhD that clouds their mind into thinking they are some awesome contributor to society.

        Oh! You have a PhD!? What research projects are you involved in? Uh...um..... Have you taken any classes lately or engaged in professional development or modern management training? Uh...um..... Where did you work before getting into college administration? Uh....um....

        I think I need a mail order PhD too!!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:47AM (#38993785)

      I have property tax bills that say otherwise. K-12 education in America is anything but free.

      Like most taxes in America it's unfair, racially biased, and (usually) badly managed.

      Just because you don't write a tuition check to the school for K-12 doesn't make it free. It's far from free.

      • Re:Free??? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:13AM (#38993879)

        And your alternative is what?

        Don't just complain and whine about unfair taxes, tell me what you would propose that would be better for education. Keep in mind that you have a diverse population of children ranging from very well off to homeless. I would hope you want every child to have some education, because you would believe that an educated nation is a strong nation.

        Please, provide a workable plan to educate our youth that does not include some social sharing of cost. Here at /. you'd get some great feed back and perhaps it can be presented to the President for consideration.

        • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot.garyolson@org> on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:50AM (#38994345) Journal
          Present to the President??!! I don't think so. The property taxes are paid to the state and local tax boards and school districts. The President can never change education for the better at the K-12 level; only lower the lowest common denominator to drag all students down to an even lower level.

          Real change in education happens best at the local level.
          • Re:Free??? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by timeOday (582209) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:12AM (#38995791)
            Not true. In the 1960s, the federal government was instrumental in breaking up the apartheid public education system of the South.

            And please, do not say, "what good did it do?" Compared to 50 or 100 years ago, Americans are far better educated. The decline we perceive is mainly a factor of 1) relative comparisons to the rest of the world and 2) the inclusion of a higher percentage of the population in modern testing. There were no good old days.

        • Re:Free??? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by rec9140 (732463) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:08AM (#38994499) Homepage

          "Don't just complain and whine about unfair taxes, tell me what you would propose that would be better for education. Keep in mind that you have a diverse population of children ranging from very well off to homeless. I would hope you want every child to have some education, because you would believe that an educated nation is a strong nation."

          You have the RIGHT to an educaton.

          You have the RIGHT to PAY for that education.

          You do NOT have the right to free education.

          "I would hope you want every child to have some education,"

          Sure, BUT you best be prepared to PAY FOR IT! I've heard all this "education nation is a strong nation." Education is good, its just not a free ride that has no cost. Good schools cost $$$$. I went to one of the top 2 HS in my state, and the property taxes for the school were 3-4x that of the neighboring districts. Hiring, your not even in the running unless you had or were in a Masters program. There were more Doctorates teaching everything from Kindergarten to AP Calculus, than most of the surrounding districts had in total COMBINED. Getting a job at this district was like hitting the lotto jackpot, they got the top of the top of the top of the top of teaching canidates be it fresh from school or other districts. and they paid very well, top of the list for the area. People purchased homes in this area, just so they could send their deliquents to this district. And homes were not cheap, and still are not cheap, even for homes 30-40 years old. Simply because of the schools.

          Why should *I* pay to educate YOUR CHILD? ? Rule #1, don't tell me about the benefit to soceity mumbo jumbo. You chose to have a child, YOU PAY for their needs, and that includes education! What you want me to pay for your food too! The whole process is totally un-American in the way it taxes everyone child or not, I would expect something like this in some Socialist or Communist country.

          Can't afford the tuition to the local district, parochial, or private, then home school.

          School districts should work the same as private and parochial. If the budget for the school is $x, and there are y students,then $x/y =$tuition. Period.

          What happens when the community has no kids to go to the local district. Shutdown.

          What happens as the number children decreases, cuts in staff, pay, building closures, sell buildings, tuition increases. What about sports.. you want to be in x sports, this is the fee, same goes for cheerleaders, pantherettes, majorettes, band, choir, glee club, Key Club, etc..

          The area I am talking about, has NO BUSINESS base for taxes, its 95% homes, there are few office building complexes, and a few business that existed before the community plan was changed, there are no business districts. The main road through the area is 4 lanes, major north south artery, and when you get to this community the businesses that lined the road in the previous community, instantly disappear, and don't reappear till you get to the next community. Its done intentionally, by design. Its strictly a residential community.

          Having kids has repercussions, and COSTS. None of which should I bear, when I chose not to have kids.

          • Re:Free??? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Hatta (162192) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:50AM (#38994883) Journal

            You can either help pay for the lower classes to be educated, or you can deal with the consequences of having large numbers of uneducated unemployable people, and all the social problems that come with that. Which do you really think is better for you?

            I choose not to have kids either. But I understand that I'm going to be a lot better off if the youth I have to deal with in the future are in school and not on the streets. If I send them to school now, I can live off of their tax dollars later. If I don't send them to school now, I'll be paying for their incarceration into the foreseeable future.

            Investing in the society in which you live is a rational self-interested decision.

            • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:23AM (#38995967)
              +9000 Insightful. It's never cheaper when you pay reactively rather than proactively.

              It may not be fair that your neighbor has 5 kids, but taking care of that problem as a society is another (complicated) issue. Having the children turn to crime or starve is not an acceptable solution for me. But continuing to allow people to irresponsibly breed is also not working. Parents are now children themselves, and having 2 parents (of any sex) is a luxury most children do not have. Even with 2 parents, many cannot afford to feed the mouths they have created.

              Could the government insist that everyone receiving welfare funds be either sterilized or on birth control? That would be a tough fight. Could the government *reduce* funding for each new child rather than increase it? Another tough fight.

              I'd love to hear a solution that considers where we are headed and how it can be changed... the current system is broken and rewards those who breed irresponsibly by placing the burden on those of us who are careful and intelligent. The movie "Idiocracy" comes to mind.
              • Re:Free??? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Hatta (162192) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:03PM (#38996497) Journal

                But continuing to allow people to irresponsibly breed is also not working.

                The birth rate in most developed countries is decreasing. Not because of any policy mandate, but because the people choose it. We need to figure out what they're doing and copy it.

                What they're doing is educating their people, and providing opportunities for them. Educated people have fewer children. Moderately well off people have fewer children.

                What we're doing in the US is the exact opposite. We're cutting education, we're expanding economic opportunities for the rich and not the lower classes. And when 30 years of ever increasing inequality bear fruit in social problems, conservatives will blame the very people they refused to help.

          • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:11AM (#38995103)

            (Disclaimer, I have no children)
            "Why should *I* pay to educate YOUR CHILD? "

            Because you don't want my child coming up to you one night and beating the crap out of you for your wallet so he or she can feed their drug habit.
            because you don't want my child costing you more when they grow up and continuing the cycle of limited work options due to lack of education.

            There are people that exist in this world that do not have money. They cannot afford to pay for private education, they cannot afford to pay for healthcare, they cannot afford to live on the money they receive from their below minimum wage job. What do you do with these people. They exist today. They are right there in the poorest section of a city or town. They live in shacks, tunnels, abandoned homes.

            Do you suggest we just let them die? Provide no help, no assistance, just let them starve to death? They exist NOW, today, and they eat, and breath, and live.

            Perhaps you suggest we round up the poor, the least able to afford anything and put them in a camp. Who pays for the camp?
            Perhaps you suggest we round up the poor, those with no education, because they could not afford it and ship them off to third world hell holes to work as indentured slaves.
            Perhaps you feel we should sterilize the poor so they stop having children and stop being a burden on your society.

            You seem like one of these people that looks at a homeless person and says "get a job" like they are plentiful and hiring someone who wears a skull cap of tinfoil.

            As Hatta comments, you help pay for the poor so you do not deal with them rising up and killing you. To put it another way, the more unbalanced a structure, the easier it is to tear down. That is why I accept paying to educate other people's children even when I have none.

          • by Shoe Puppet (1557239) on Friday February 10, 2012 @04:51PM (#39000117)

            You have the RIGHT to an educaton.

            You have the RIGHT to PAY for that education.

            You do NOT have the right to free education.

            Poor people have the right to education. Poor people are not able to pay for education. Therefore, poor people -- at least -- have the right to free education. QED.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Friday February 10, 2012 @02:49PM (#38998331) Journal

          i would give you 50 examples of varying degrees of workable schools but the DOE kinda screwed that up so we only have once chance of finding the right way of doing something.

    • by mcavic (2007672) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:42AM (#38993985)

      Should we even be thinking of educating our children as an industry?

      K-12 education isn't free - it's taxpayer funded. So yes, it's an industry, but healthcare is probably an even bigger industry.

    • by rec9140 (732463) on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:36AM (#38994257) Homepage

      "free and so is K-12 education in America."

      Wrong, K-12 education is NOT FREE.

      You pay a school district tax of some sort, period. Kids or no kids every one has to unjustly pay for something they get no benefit from, and for those that choose to use private and parochial schools they get the privlege to PAY TWICE. Their school tax and tuition. Should be one or the other.

      US education should be soley tuition based. you have a rug rat YOU pay when they sign up, when they graduate HS, you quit paying the school tax.

      No need to reply about a how the education system where every one pays benefits soceity as whole, yadda, yadda, yahdda. I've heard this before, disagree. Thanks.

      Sending kids to school who don't want to be there and disrupt classes requiring they be separated out, expelled, "alternative schools" is just a waste of money.

    • by Johann Lau (1040920) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:40AM (#38995417) Homepage Journal

      Wasn't school education not in the least invented to have standardized workers to use in industry? So no, of course it shouldn't be that way, but maybe that's what it started out as, and is supposed to be, if it wasn't for teachers who genuinely love people and teaching, and pupils who love to be subversive and challenge their teachers. Who knows what we would have without those two factors... probably people with moustaches and top hats implanting steam powered chips into the brains of starving people in blue overalls.

      Don't get me wrong though, my kudos to all good teachers, *because* so many teachers suck so very badly, and because the houses they have to work in are basically coated in evil slime (whatever that is lol) more often than not. Have a nice day and never give up.

  • by FairAndHateful (2522378) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:14AM (#38993653)
    Almost 14 years with a start up? I thought the new model was to resume build and jump, the sooner, the better. Maybe it's different for people who get in that early.
  • by BucketOfLard (928627) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:39AM (#38993967)
    What jumped out at me was that BillG says he uses the Khan videos WITH his kids. Kudos on the parenting, Bill.
  • by kiehlster (844523) on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:15AM (#38994129) Homepage
    Where he will teach super-human reasoning courses like "LMGTFY 101" and "Your Way With Eels 510".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @08:19AM (#38994147)

    I thought it was a one-man show.

  • Brain drain (Score:4, Interesting)

    by laffer1 (701823) <luke@GAUSSfoolis ... m minus math_god> on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:04AM (#38994453) Homepage Journal

    This guy is leaving for a good cause and all, but I've noticed a pattern of Google employees leaving lately. Even newer recruits don't seem to stay long. I wonder if they've taken the fun out of working there? Obviously, something has changed. It can't be the computing problems, because they still have huge challenges.

  • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:04AM (#38994461)
    Obviously rats leaving a syncing ship :)
  • by LS (57954) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:42AM (#38994775) Homepage

    I got an interview with Google in 1999, and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Craig. He never mentioned to me that he was the 1st employee at the time.

    I do remember what he asked me. I was interviewing for the job of initializing their QA department. He asked me how I would look for problems in an indexer that stored MILLIONS (ha) of pages. I had to ask what exactly an indexer was.

    On the way out, I spent too much time flirting with the hot red head they had at the front desk, and Larry walked by and saw what I was doing. I don't think that's why I didn't get the job though.

    DAMMMMMNN I wish I got that job!!!!!!!!

  • by pipingguy (566974) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:58AM (#38994957) Homepage
    I like it!
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:31AM (#38996083) Journal
    Eric Schmidt was screaming, furious at the news one of the oldest Google employees was leaving, "F**king Salman Khan is a f**king pussy. I'm going to f**king bury that guy! I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to f**king kill Khan Academy!"

    Authorities were later called to Google HQ to dislodge a chair from the windshield of Sergey Brinn's Ferrari out in the parking lot, and a glass company was immediately called in to repair the window.

That does not compute.

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