Company is using predictions program to take advantage of worker opinions
SAN DIEGO --Will Google open its Russian office on schedule? Will Gmail users use search more? How many Gmail users will the company accumulate by the end of 2007? Will Harriet Meyers be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice?

These are but some of the questions that Google has asked its employees over the past two-and-a-half years as part of an effort to track the opinions of its employees. In that time, more than 1,500 employees have bet on the outcome of 280 such questions as part of the corporate predictions program.

The purpose of the effort, which lets employees make bets using fake "Google money," is to determine employee opinions on questions like how much demand there will be for a future Google product or how the company will perform during a period of time, said Bo Cowgill, Google project manager. Employees with the most successful betting results are awarded t-shirts or checks, Cowgill said during the O'Reilly ETech 2008 conference here today.

Betting records are not shared among employees, though management has access to the bets of individual employees.

"The reason we did it was to try to get better information about what our employees thought," he said. "If you let people bet on things anonymously, they will tell you what they really believe. This is a conversation that is happening without politics. Nobody has any incentive to try to kiss up or fudge the numbers."

Because Cowgill and the others running the market know who is betting and how - Google has mapped out the GPS coordinates of every employee's desk worldwide - they are able to analyze the predictions of individual employees to find out what factors make a bettor successful.
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