There's a severe problem I've noted with the answers to How can a company implement a "20% time" program like Google's?

Most of the answers, especially the highly upvoted ones, basically amount to "A poorly managed company couldn't handle this because of X", where X is totally irrelevant to 20% time as Google has implemented it. These answers are basically based on the premise that management is too dysfunctional for 20% time to even exist effectively and they assume truly bizarre time-tracking TPS nonsense that would, theoretically, ruin this idea.

To convert this problem to another domain, this is sort of like asking "in RSA, how can I compute φ(n) if I have p and q" and getting answers to the effect of "I dunno lol that's a lot of math"

The question wasn't asking "How can I incompetently implement 20% time". It was asking how it could do it effectively. Why are all the answers useless discouragement? I find it very concerning if this site is unable to answer questions about unconventional management styles.

When is "no, you can't do that" an acceptable answer? I really don't feel that applies to this question, and it basically creates an environment where any unconventional management topic is going to get answers like "No, my manager wouldn't do that..." which are useless noise.

  • 2
    @jcmeloni well it's good to see ONE useful answer there :)
    – Rarity
    Apr 21, 2012 at 16:23
  • 1
    Please bear in mind that the question has gone through many iterations and is now quite different to what I asked. Apr 22, 2012 at 10:18

4 Answers 4


I think this question answers itself: If you don't know, or all you can think of us why it wouldn't work for YOUR company, hold your tongue (keyboard).
Answers should be as comprehensive as possible, and should focus on how to solve the problem posed in the question. If you can't contribute something meaningful toward that end (or your contribution is just rephrasing what others have said) then it's Not an Answer.

When is "No, you can't do that." an acceptable answer? When you absolutely can't (or shouldn't) do something (because it's unethical, illegal, or just plain stupid and likely to cost you your career.
I'm a big believer that "No" can be the right answer, but the situations where that is true are relatively few and far between.

  • Exactly. There are times where "I don't know" is the only truthful answer to give.
    – Tangurena
    Apr 22, 2012 at 0:22
  • Well if your "answer" is I don't know that's really a comment. If your answer is No that's still an answer -- maybe not the one the person wanted, but satisfaction is not guaranteed :)
    – voretaq7
    Apr 23, 2012 at 0:15

I wrote one of those answers, but to defend it I would like to note that on the day most of the answers were written the question was reopened, and the question was edited 4 times. Also note the three answers submitted in the past 24 hours were submitted after the most recent edit. When the question is constantly

I based my answer on one of the comments to the original question from jcmeloni:

I voted to close, but I think retooling the question around uses of 20% time in general could be helpful (IOW, I know more than a few places not-Google that do or aspire to 20% time, with great success, and lessons-learned ready to share).

  • 1
    Yeah, I saw the original question was much different, sort of a big mess which is why questions should be closed, improved, then reopened in that order. Nothing personal, just an issue I thought worth bringing up
    – Rarity
    Apr 22, 2012 at 0:43

This question is horrible subjective.

It boils down to: Please tell me your dream way that you can see your company implement someone else's plan.

That is very very very bad.

From an answer to "How does google do it?" Someone could make their own plan. But as posted this question is an example of how this SE can go badly wrong. If we promote questions calling for speculation we are liable to find our site shut down for really poor quality.

  • 1
    I don't think this question turned out too badly, though it went through a number of iterations that resulted in some less than stellar answers. We now have a question about a program a lot of companies talkabout implementing, with two great answers that provide insight into how to make it work (one is even from a company actually doing it). Seems like a good result to me...
    – voretaq7
    Apr 24, 2012 at 0:41

As written orgininally the question could only be answered by a senior google manager.

I edited to broaden ask the reader to speculate how it could be implemented base on the readers experience. This edit was immediately removed and the 'Google manager only' wording restored, because 'speculate' is a forbidden word around here.

As of this writing, someone else edited the question to ask for speculation, but doesn't use the forbidden word.

With the current wording I think it's a valid question, and provides a lot of insight in to how real 'Office Space' type management is in a lot of software shops.

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    No there is plenty of information on how google does this on the web if someone is willing to take time to do the research. Apr 23, 2012 at 14:33
  • Chad, why didn't you restore the OP's original question and tell him to do this research instead of asking here? Apr 24, 2012 at 15:35
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    Because that is what this QA is for. If you do not want to do the research then do not do the research. Someone else either will or won't. The question must be a good question from the start. That is just how SE works. If we allow bad questions then this SE is liable to be closed because of a signal to noise ratio issue. Right now we have far too much noise. Apr 24, 2012 at 16:33

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