Saturday, August 12


The End Of Google?

Call for Mr Betteridge.  Mr Betteridge to the courtesy phone please.

Unless you've been sleeping peacefully under a rock for the past week - in which case, congratulations - you'll be aware that Google fired an employee.  With over 70,000 employees under the Alphabet umbrella, this is something that must happen every day of the year, but in this case it was handled so ineptly that the resulting chaos resembled a bored teenager setting off a cherry bomb in a nest of crazy ants.

What happened was this: James Damore, a biologist working for Google in some unspecified capacity, disagreed with Google's methods for meeting its diversity quotas and wrote a memo suggesting adjustments to the company's approach.  Damore, being a nerd, evidently forgot that if Rule 1 of Corporate America is CYA, Rule 1a is Don't rock the boat.

The usual suspects leaked this internal memo to the ever-hungry outrage mobs and the mainstream media - if there is any distinction these days - and the relatively dull memo was immediately spun into a latter-day Mein Kampf.  Within a day, the CEO of Google publicly announced the firing of the suddenly inconvenient Damore.

When the CEO of a major public company has to personally address the firing of a single, fairly low-level employee, who has broken no laws nor done anything that - without the leak - anyone outside the company would have even known about, it means that the corporate structure has screwed up, badly.

And the nature and scale of the panic exhibited by Google makes it clear that engineers are no longer running the show.

And that is a huge problem for Google.

We implicitly trust engineers because we know they view the rest of humanity with benign indifference, as long as we don't gum up the works.  Engineers want to build things, and they enjoy seeing the things they build getting put to use.  An engineer-led Google could be trusted implicitly with your email, because they were far more interested in shaving another fifty milliseconds off the response time of the search box than they were in anything you could possibly be mailing back and forth, short of a solution to the Goldbach Conjecture.

The Outrage Mobs, on the other hand, don't care about building things, don't think in fact that anything should be built, but are passionately interested in what you say and what you think and what your motives are.

And if the mobs are gaining power inside Google, as they seem to be, that means there is no longer that implicit trust, that rather, we can expect sooner or later the backlash will take the step from fellow employees to customers.

Which would be utterly disastrous for Google, of course, but as I said, the mobs aren't interested in building things.

Google have so far responded with profound ineptitude to what should really have been a trivial internal problem solved by a chat with HR.  What they do next could save or doom the entire company.

If I were playing the market, I'd go long on Amazon and Microsoft right now.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 08:34 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 I haven't trusted Google in a LONG time. Hell, ever since gmail came out and they explicitly stated they would violate your privacy algorithmically to show ads at you.

The problem is they've got their tentacles intertwined with so much of the internet that they are impossible to avoid. Whether it's the cultural expression like "Google it" or how many websites use the google apis, the most thorough web spiders, the co-opting of the entire history of Usenet into "Google Groups", Android Phones, Chrome, you name it, they've infiltrated everything.

Posted by: Mauser at Sunday, August 13 2017 03:23 AM (TYvUn)

2 This could be the beginning of a preference cascade.  I've seen a LOT of people commenting on blogs--including, for example, ESR's--that they're taking this as an opportunity to divest from Google products:  switching browsers, search engines, email, etc.

Posted by: Rick C at Sunday, August 13 2017 06:07 AM (ITnFO)

3 Yep.  All else aside, it's clear that the company is focused on things other than engineering, and that's all I care about from them.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 13 2017 01:13 PM (PiXy!)

4 Microsoft is no better. I know this because of the 0xB16B00B5 scandal, when an awful excuse for a human, Matthew Garrett, made them fire an unnamed employee. At least they never released his name. But then it was a while ago.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Sunday, August 13 2017 02:30 PM (pjL8P)

5 As for divesting from Google, I've done what I could years ago, when the so-called "doodle" became too obnoxious.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Sunday, August 13 2017 02:31 PM (pjL8P)

6 Microsoft is flawed, but they have kept the company under control.  Google blew it this past week.  Badly.

I used to run my own mail server, even my own DNS server, but using Google was too convenient.  I think it's time to dust them off again.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 13 2017 03:58 PM (PiXy!)

7 I'm thinking, "0xB16B00B5?"  Is that like the F00F bug?

And then - oh.  Yeah.  I do remember that.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 13 2017 04:09 PM (PiXy!)

8 DuckDuckGo has been mentioned as an alternative.

Posted by: muon at Tuesday, August 15 2017 03:59 PM (vMYTH)

9 DuckDuckGo is pretty good.  I turned it off yesterday when I was frantically searching for better information on the differences in automatic serialisation between releases of PHP (it's a complete crapfest), but I don't think Google actually gave me better results.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 15 2017 05:33 PM (PiXy!)

10 The search function is not anywhere near the biggest problem with Google, precisely because you can easily substitute it. But what are you going to do with mail addresses that are stuck in a large number of websites? You want a bored SJW at Google to change passwords for your bank accounts or have your ISP shut down your account? Because you can easily do this and more by having an access to one's e-mail.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Wednesday, August 23 2017 03:59 AM (pjL8P)

11 Yes, email and Android are the really sticky problems here.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 23 2017 04:41 PM (PiXy!)

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Apple pies are delicious. But never mind apple pies. What colour is a green orange?

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