Tag Archive for Google

Google employee: our employees are too smart, ruining Google

When you think of working for Google, you think of sitting on a yoga mats and munching on an organic salad while your coworker cartwheels by to drop off a memo.

they even have foosball!

It seems like heaven while you’re drinking two-day-old coffee at your incredibly uncomfortable gray particleboard desk where your boss just dumped a stack of files that need to be done by the end of the day, right?

According to Avery Pennarun, a Google Fiber engineer, it may not be as great as you think.

Pennarun begins by bragging how smart Google employees are. For any smarter-than-average kid who has had to go through public school, this may seem like a blessing.

But when you get that many smart people in one place—it’s a recipe for disaster.

Pennarun says:

Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.

Oddly, the smarter someone is, the more confident they will feel in explaining something well past its ability to be explained. Which is frustrating enough if you’re the parent of a smart child who tries to explain everything, and really frustrating if you have an employee that won’t accept blame.

For example: what happens when a project doesn’t work? Google has their share of failures, from Google+ (social network nobody used) to Google Wave (real-time project editing nobody used).

this gives me anxiety just to look at.  also, it’s in swedish

Pennarun explains:

It’s a setup that makes it very easy to describe all your successes (project not canceled) in terms of your team’s greatness, and all your failures (project canceled) in terms of other people’s capriciousness. End users and profitability, for example, rarely enter into it. This project isn’t supposed to be profitable; we benefit whenever people spend more time online. This project doesn’t need to be profitable; we can use it to get more user data. Users are unhappy, but that’s just because they’re change averse. And so on.

Bottom line: according to Google engineers, it’s your damn fault you’re not using their brilliant new product because their brilliant new product is perfect unlike you, flawed human, who simply won’t CHANGE.

Which is ironic, because the types of employees that work at Google, according to Pennarun, are the ones who have the most trouble with change:

If you know all the constraints and weights – with perfect precision – then you can use logic to find the perfect answer. But when you don’t, which is always, there’s a pretty good chance your logic will lead you very, very far astray.
Most people find this out pretty early on in life, because their logic is imperfect and fails them often. But really, really smart computer geek types may not ever find it out. They start off living in a bubble, they isolate themselves because socializing is unpleasant, and, if they get a good job straight out of school, they may never need to leave that bubble. To such people, it may appear that logic actually works, and that they are themselves logical creatures.

Think about it. You go to school. You quietly rise to the top of the class. You prefer working by yourself to working with others. You only have yourself to blame for failure. But you don’t fail because you’re smart and can generally work through whatever comes your way. You’re in your early 20s, you’re out of college, and you’ve never left your tiny island of solitude where the real world doesn’t exist. And now you work at a place with other people who had that exact same upbringing. Your average user is not one of your coworkers across the “campus” from you. It’s a mom in Omaha looking up recipes. It’s a coach in Sheffield looking up the latest World Cup score. It’s an elderly man in Mexico City trying to see what all this fuss is about online. These people don’t care much about a new social network or real-time work-edit program. And you can’t rationalize them away by saying “well, the old man will die soon, the coach isn’t educated enough to use our product and at least we got the mom’s data when she signed up for a Google+ nobody uses”.

Pennarun calls this a curse:

What I have learned, working here, is that smart, successful people are cursed. The curse is confidence. It’s confidence that comes from a lifetime of success after real success, an objectively great job, working at an objectively great company, making a measurably great salary, building products that get millions of users. You must be smart. In fact, you are smart. You can prove it.

Confidence, and eventually arrogance, eventually collides with reality. And the results aren’t pretty.

Ironically, one of the biggest social problems currently reported at work is lack of confidence, also known as Impostor Syndrome. People with confidence try to help people fix their Impostor Syndrome, under the theory that they are in fact as smart as people say they are, and they just need to accept it.

To a really smart person, everything you do is an extension of yourself. A normal person who makes a stupid choice is more likely to admit, “you know what? I failed. I will try something else”. A smart person is more likely to say that everything they did is right and you’re wrong—because their intelligence is validated only by what they do. They grew up knowing they were smart and being told they were smart. Failure is not an option.

Until they reach a crisis where their intelligence is challenged. Then—their whole world just breaks. “Maybe I’m not as smart as everyone says I am?” they wonder. “Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe I’m a phony, working here around all these smart people, pretending to be smart!” That’s Impostor Syndrome.

Screenshot 2014-07-07 09.12.59

you can tell who this affects just by seeing the second result on Google

Impostor Syndrome, or lack of confidence, may be the key to making companies like Google (lots of smart people unwilling to accept blame or admit fault working in one place):

Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t hear that voice.

The 20th century was won on a combination of intelligence, improvisation, and guts. One failed without the other. World War II, for example, was won with brilliant military leadership willing to improvise along with “the Greatest Generation” of hardworking soldiers who gave it all. On the contrary, our smartest minds got us into Vietnam, and while we had valiant soldiers, we were unwilling to improvise or stomach the war at home.

When you look at Google, it’s like one big experiment. At few points in history has that much IQ been concentrated in one place for peaceful ends. The result is a constant struggle for a group of smart people to understand the real world.

Screenshot 2014-07-07 09.14.50

for instance, letters aren’t that big in the real world

Makes that gray office desk with the stack of files you should be working on instead of reading this seem a lot better in comparison.

too smart

Should Google force you to use your real name?

Is it inevitable?

Google may not force people to use their real names now, but it hasn’t had the best track record with this stuff. When it launched Google+ back in 2011, the company made the hugely controversial decision to prevent people from using pseudonyms, a rule it was forced to relax some time afterward.

More recently, Google introduced Google+ login buttons, which people use to sign up for services using their Google+ accounts. Late last year, Google also tied users’ Google Play reviews to their Google+ accounts, preventing them from anonymously reviewing apps.

The two features seem like they targeting different things, but they both tie into one word: trust. By enforcing a system wherein everyone is using their real names, Google says it can more effectively assure users that they’re dealing with real, legitimate, trustworthy people (and websites).

Vint Cerf, a senior Google executive known as a “father of the Internet” thinks it is a bad idea:

When Google+ launched in 2011, its requirement that users display their real names alarmed activists who accused the Web giant of abandoning its “Don’t be evil” corporate mantra to pursue growing rival Facebook. The world’s most popular social network has been the most aggressive in enforcing its policy, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg once equating keeping multiple identities with “a lack of integrity.”

In one instance in 2011, Facebook suspended British author Salman Rushdie’s account and, after reviewing his passport, changed his Facebook identity to “Ahmed Rushdie.” The company relented after Rushdie played up the row on Twitter, but it has stood by its policy as a general matter.

“This real name culture leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users, and we firmly believe that the use of authentic identity helps people get the most value out of the site,” Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens said.

Due to its easy integration, many online messaging boards or third-party apps — like music-streaming service Vevo.com, for instance — increasingly require users to log in with their Facebook credentials. Last week, Google introduced a similar Google+ log-in service for third-party sites.

In response to public outcry, Google in 2012 began allowing nicknames and pseudonyms for a fraction of Google+’s 500 million users, and has since reiterated that it would encourage – but not require – Gmail and YouTube users to sign in with Google+.

Self-Driving Google Car allegedly cuts off Matt Drudge

“Robot jerk cut me off… Chased it into parking lot.” Tweeted the internet news editor.

A bloody murder caught on Google Maps? Not so fast…

Does this image on Google Maps image show a murderer dumping a body? This location in the city of Almere, Holland appears to show the bloody trail of a body being drug to the end of a pier.

Analysis suggests that no…all signs say it’s just 2 people with their pet that went for a swim in the water.

The “blood” isn’t blood at all, but rather the discoloration illusion the wood pier takes on when wet.

Zooming out further on Google Earth also reveals other people nearby, while zooming further in shows the trail of the discoloration consistent with a dog walking in and out of the water, then too and from its owner where as if the trail was the leaking blood from a body about to be dumped, the travel pattern would make no sense. Sorry to ruin this one for the internet, but… it’s a dog, not a Dead.

Google is Evil (by its given definition)

Gizmodo has an extensive writeup titled The Case Against Google. In one of the sections it asks (and answers), “What is evil?”.

Starting with Josh McHugh’s January 2003 story about Google as a launchingpad, the article says “It identifies all the major problems Google faced then, which are still, largely, the problems it faces today. But it does something else, too. It pins the company down on what, exactly, evil is.” So what is it?:

Google’s code of conduct can be boiled down to a mere three words: Don’t be evil.
Very Star Wars. But what does it mean?
“Evil,” says Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “is what Sergey says is evil.”
As a private company, Google has one master: users. As a public company, there are shareholders to worry about. And more than happy users, shareholders want ever-greater profits.

If Brin’s code of good and evil permits the company to negotiate with sovereign governments and allows for some legal meddling from unpopular religions, there is no wiggle room—no gray area whatsoever—when it comes to those who attempt to subvert the power of Google to their own commercial ends. One thing Brin is sure of: On the side of evil lies trickery.

I ask Brin to imagine, for a moment, running his company’s evil twin, a sort of anti-Google. “We would be doing things like having advertising that wasn’t marked as being paid for. Stuff that violates the trust of the users,” he says, describing a site that sounds not unlike the pay-for-placement search site Overture. “Say someone came looking for breast cancer information and didn’t know that some listings were paid for with money from drug companies. We’d be endangering people’s health.”

The highlighted passages are then responded to.

In the past year—and especially the past six months—Google has unquestionably and to an unprecedented extent violated its users’ trust. And of course the great irony is that the subversion of Google’s power, the ultimate trickery, came not from an external force, but Google itself.

Mat Honan, the author of the piece, says that Google has spent much of 2011 and 2012 getting called out for all kinds of nasty brutish behavior. Here are a few “small but telling”, as Honan puts it, examples of that trickery:

How Steve Jobs viewed his competition

In addition to Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Google’s Larry Page, the tapes reveal what Jobs thought about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.

Jobs tells Isaacson: “You know we talk about social networks in the plural but I don’t see anybody other than Facebook out there. It’s just Facebook – they’re dominating this. I admire Mark Zuckerberg. I only know him a little bit, but I admire him for not selling out. For wanting to make a company. I admire that a lot.”

Google Maps Camera Cars

Friendly Google Mapper:

NotsoFriendly Google Mapper:

A Google Maps tricycle navigates the streets of Croatia:

Google even pins itself in real life:

Expert Alleges Google’s “Totolitarian” Efforts

An article in the Washington Times is by Scott Cleland who wrote the book, Search and Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.

Google Inc.’s “Don’t Be Evil” slogan is seductive but misleading. It is the lowest business ethics standard ever devised, excusing everything Google does short of evil. Google isn’t evil – but neither is it ethical.

While perceptions of the world’s erstwhile No. 1 brand remain exceptionally strong, Google’s ethical blind spots regarding privacy and property rights are beginning to erode the public’s trust and eventually could threaten the company’s market domination. Anyone who follows Google closely knows that the company is a serial scandal machine. One of the world’s most powerful companies, with its vainglorious mission to “organize the world’s information,” has proved itself to be unethical, shockingly political and untrustworthy.

Cleland gives some examples of how Google has violated privacy rights:

Google’s privacy record is shameful. In 2004, Google sparked a privacy outcry by scanning Gmail users’ private emails for advertising keywords. The next year, Google Earth put sites, including the White House’s roof and a Trident submarine base, on public display; a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade terrorist group said he was thrilled. In 2006, Google refused to comply with a California privacy law. Two years later, Street View exposed people’s homes and license plates to anyone who cared to look; a member of the British Parliament described the service as “invading our privacy on an industrial scale.” In 2009, Google began tracking the books people searched (via Google Books) and visitors to WhiteHouse.gov. Last year, Google Buzz exposed users’ private email lists to the public while Google’s Street View cars were caught eavesdropping on millions of users’ wireless networks. No wonder Privacy International cited Google for its “entrenched hostility to privacy.” But it’s easy to understand why Google has no respect for privacy. Just consider Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s own words: “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”