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What I find interesting here is that Benson is essentially using his employer as a reputation guarantor.

I guess depending on the company's HR that could fall either way of

a) This is great, we're getting nice PR

b) Mr Benson, we need to have a quiet word about what it is you do here and what Google is not in the business of.

Really interesting.

edit: I assumed this is part of his job. I just find the publishing of the result along with Google's name interesting.

If/when I evaluate software for a solution as part of my job, I wouldnt dream of publishing my findings and referencing my employer - but I like what Benson has done.

Actually this post explains why he's doing that: https://plus.google.com/+BensonLeung/posts/LH4PPgVrKVN

It kind of makes sense: he worked on products that use USB-C (Pixel laptops), but if the market is littered with bad cables USB-C will have a bad image which will be bad for the products he worked on.

So what he's doing is in the interest in his employer, and for the benefit of the products he worked on. He's not doing completely unrelated stuff, like reviewing routers while claiming "I work for Google so I know how shit works!"

Additionally he's preventing Pixel owners (Google customers) from buying bad cables on Amazon then blaming Google because the laptop doesn't charge. So it really looks like he's doing his job.

If only there were some way for google to get high quality usb-c cables to customers! Like not charging $13 plus shipping for a 1m cable (a ridiculous profit margin), and keeping them in stock. Or hell, throwing 5 of them in with everything they sell that uses usb-c. I mean, that would have to cost dollars. Whole dollars, on a $500 phone!


The fact that the market is full of low-cost USB-C cables that aren't reliable may suggest that the cables cost $13 because it's actually a $13 problem to get it right. ;)

It's probably not. It's just no one is buying USB-C cables yet. Once they are common and produced at massive scale, the price will drop considerably.

Oh they are produced on a massive scale, and they are cheap - in Shenzhen, it's easier to find them now than the ordinary ones. Every other vendor has them stacked up to the roof.

Nah, it just suggests that nobody cares.

The ones on Amazon are all $15-$20 and even monoprice is $10

Since Google isn't the manufacturer they are not making a ridiculous profit margin.

Whole dollars on a $500 phone is more likely to be Google's entire profit margin, though. The profit margins on phones is razor thin unless you're Apple.

Just because monoprice sells them for $10 one at a time, I don't think that tells you much about the cost to put more than one in phone package you're already handling when you buy millions at a time.

Monoprice also has volume pricing and it's also $10/ea even when you're buying 50+. The simple fact is nobody that makes cables is selling them for cheap currently. The volume isn't there yet, and they still need to recoup costs from spinning up a new production line and a new SKU and all that.

And LOL @ the idea that Google sells millions of phones.

Some USB C cables are actively marked. I.e. they have a chip in them that says "I support power delivery" and so on. It can also be used to create Apple-style authenticated cables which is a bit shit.

Anyway if these cables contain such chips $13 seems reasonable.

Manufacturers got to lengths to squeeze pennies out of the Bill of Materials (BOM) in products like these. I remember listening to some conversations and being blown away at the tiny savings here and there, and our product was over $100.

But so what? Why is google selling phones -- to promote android and google as a brand, or to make money? If it's to make money, fine, then eek every penny out of that BOM. But they claim it's the former, and cheap cables are apparently a brand image problem, so they should solve it by not cheaping out on the large investment they've already made.

Google promotes Android by selling the device near cost. Even if they're not making money, they aren't going to sell devices at a loss (-$5 times a hundred million devices is real money), which means the only way to increase the manufacturing cost is to increase the sale price.

When it's only a dollar or so you might expect the customer to want to pay the extra dollar in exchange for the benefit, but in practice the device is going to be priced at a threshold like $499 and the psychological difference between $499 and $500 would measurably drive down sales.

But the bigger problem is that this is hardly the only facet of a device you could improve by making it cost a tiny bit more. Add them up and it would add $100 or more to the price of the device. So you can't have them all, but decide against any one in particular and everyone wants to know why you're cheaping out over a buck.

I understand the rationale, but isn't the current s.o.p. to ship a good cable with the product?

"if the market is littered with bad cables USB-C will have a bad image which will be bad for the products he worked on."

I don't buy this tail wagging the dog argument. Sorry.

I don't see why shipping a good cable with the product makes a difference. My house is full of USB chargers, because I want to be able to charge multiple devices several places in the living room as well as our bedrooms. Then there's the portable battery packs etc.

One cable per device is insufficient for a lot of us.

Then you create a list of recommended cables. You don't bury that data in amazon reviews - if that's the intended purpose of releasing this information

They do have a list of recommended cables -- the ones that they sell. Regardless, that doesn't mean that the Google Store is the first place people go to get a "standard" cable, especially as it isn't necessarily the cheapest.

To many, a cable is a cable is a cable, and preventing someone from buying a commodity part that might damage their phone is a good objective, no matter how it's done.

Posting Amazon reviews might not be the optimal way to get me to buy the "right" cables, but it's a pretty effective way at preventing me from buying the wrong ones.

I almost never read a "recommended" list. Far too often it's simply a list of companies that paid to be on said list.

In the extreme, this kind of thing can end up cleaning up the marketplace.

People frequently buy multiple cables for various reasons. For example, I have three microUSB cables for my phone, which only came with one - for charging at my home computer, work computer, and in my laptop bag.

I do the exact same thing. Keeping one at home, one at work, and one in the bag means one less thing to worry about leaving behind/not having when you need it.

Users often desire more than one cable.

My assumption is that he's working on some sort of project where he's buying many cables on Google's dime to test them, then reporting his results on Amazon.

My worry would be the cables that get good reviews being switched out for crappy cables down the line. I've had problems with this for cables and adapters before - I'll re-order from Amazon and get a slightly different product that is not 100% compatible with the old one.

Or pretty much anything on amazon has that happen.

Most recently a "good ol' American made" can opener turned out to be a cheap China counterfeit: https://www.amazon.com/review/R3MJPDPNRM9HXR

I'd be pretty surprised if you couldn't return it.

It's tech support for Nexus customers.

Isn't there some kind of SKU/ISBN-like identifier that you could use to prevent that? Enforcing consistency would be tricky, but there should be certain quantifiable properties, especially when proper specifications are involved, to rate against.

Unfortunately, there is not. Amazon will often group similar unbranded products together under the same ASIN.

(This was a particularly serious issue for Arduino a few years ago, when Amazon started listing genuine Arduino products under the same ASIN as third-party clones: https://blog.arduino.cc/2013/07/10/send-in-the-clones/)

Even large, US-based companies sometimes change stuff without updating the SKU. This was a huge problem back in the day with getting WiFi adapters that worked in Linux - I've seen chipsets changed out without updating the SKU, even as far as chipset brand. If you were lucky, there'd be a hardware revision listed on the product near the serial number, but sometimes not even that. I think this has happened with a lot of the RTL-SDR adapters as well.

As a more dramatic example of companies changing the product without changing the SKU/whatever, the faulty GM ignition switches were changed mid-production (from the bad design) without an update to the product serial number. Confused some of the engineers investigating it at first.

This is very common among Googlers, and it bugs me because so many buy into it without further question, but in every case here, the reviewer also includes a detailed analysis describing how he came to his conclusion, rather than merely implying authority, and his reference to Google seems only to be in his capacity as working on a product team that might explicitly care about quality of accessories in a first generation technology (if USB PD can still be considered in its first-gen phase).

Would not be surprised at all if he expensed every single one of these purchases. He's doing God's work, we shouldn't be complaining here. :)

I'm not complaining at all. I just find it interesting that at one organisation this 'reporting-out' is accepted if not proactively encouraged. A more old school organisation might come down hard on an employee.

Depends on how busy the HR dept is I guess.

This might actually be part of his job. Why would HR have anything to say about it? Engineers do tech conferences as 'employee of XYZ,' how are product reviews any different, assuming they're in context?

Once devices start pulling 100w, doesn't it also become a safety issue?

> If/when I evaluate software for a solution as part of my job, I wouldnt dream of publishing my findings and referencing my employer - but I like what Benson has done.

I think that's the whole point - for Google to chime in on cable quality so that customers know what to buy for their Google devices.

I'm guessing that Google saw that a large percentage of their customer support issues were caused by poor cable quality, and that most of their customers bought their cable from Amazon.

This seems like a way for Google to pre-empt that customer support cost by making sure their customers are buying cables that they know are good.

Most of the time other companies hand-wave their way around this problem by offering 1st-party cables (usually at a fairly high price).

I used to test Xbox 360 network connectivity, during which we'd regularly buy consumer routers, hubs, and switches and ensure compatibility with Xbox 360's network stack. (There were different types of NAT which could cause problems, and some had problems with low MTUs.)

It never occurred to me, or anybody else working in the lab as far as I know, to post the results of our testing on Amazon reviews. We just did the testing.


Seems to me having stuff like this is a good thing... I think a lot of headaches could have been averted had you been able to, or advised to do likewise in posting reviews in common sales channels (Amazon, Newegg, etc).

Might be doing this officially for Google, given the official-sounding tone and the amount of time and money it must take to buy and analyze every adapter/cable on the market.

I'm willing to bet he was assigned to test a variety of cables on the market, and probably to leave the reviews as well.

I find the willingness of Google to put their name of this very interesting. This does not seem to be a "my views are mine alone and not my employer's" thing. I wonder about the ethical and legal aspects of this. What stops Google from bashing Microsoft products this way? What happens if he makes a mistake in testing, and the loss in reputation causes a small company to go out of business?

> What happens if he makes a mistake in testing, and the loss in reputation causes a small company to go out of business?

What about it? I'm sure Google makes minor changes to their search algorithm that drive small companies into bankruptcy all the time.

I think he needs to do this as his work. I mean seriously who would buy usb adapter cables worth more than 1000 USD just to write reviews?

Depends on whose card he is using.

Yet, if we go to a conference and Benson The Google Engineer is there and we happen to find out he's been testing cables and we ask which cables he finds to be the best, it's OK.

I would think this is appropriate disclosure, and probably part of the job... to say "this is great" or "this sucks" without disclosing that you were paid to review the product and/or the context it's unethical.

This is entirely ethical, and the context is stated clearly... I think it's great.

bradfitz has this pretty famous video "review" (of sorts) of Nest fire alarms:


The review is extremely negative, explicitly telling people not to buy Nest products. Those are (and were at the time of that video) a Google product, as Google acquired Nest in 2014.

Brad still works at Google. I'm sure Benson will be fine.

At least for me, the Google name adds zero credibility (nobody can tell if you are a dog, or unemployed, on the Internet). The detail of his reviews, and their high rating, is what sells it for me. That there is a plausible explanation for why he's doing it is just icing on the cake.

Yes, this is a giant NO NO at most big companies.

I would think it's probably sponsored in that they want their customers who buy cables for their pixel and Google stuff from Amazon to have a good experience and actually get working stuff.

I actually had the same reaction. He has a vested interest in pushing specific vendors that work well with his employers products.

This means because of his reputation (Google engineer) it's easy for him to dismiss one cable manufacturer and support another while getting some form of a kickback either directly or indirectly from said manufacturers.

Sure, he's doing his job, but he's also in the position to pick and choose winners. As such, I would discount his advice based on the possible bias towards products that could possibly line his own pockets.

>This means because of his reputation (Google engineer) it's easy for him to dismiss one cable manufacturer and support another while getting some form of a kickback either directly or indirectly from said manufacturers.

That's always a risk, but I think it is more of a risk having used his real profile and Google affiliation. On the face of it, I want to think that Google pays Benson well enough that he needn't go tell lies on Amazon as a side job.

>As such, I would discount his advice based on the possible bias towards products that could possibly line his own pockets.

This isn't like for example "audiophile" cable reviews where people just make crap up in ambiguous terms hoping to sell a thousand-plus dollar pair of speaker cables knowing full well that no one can argue sensibly about the warmness/depth/color/scent of the sound.

He pretty clearly explains his major complaint being the lack of a proper 56k pullup so that the cable identifies itself correctly. This is testable by almost anyone. It makes very little sense to publicly tell a lie that can be verified so trivially.

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