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I met/had a similar experience with Google ATAP in 2013 (was Motorala ATAP then; Google recently bought them) though not for a job interview but to discuss working together to build our tech SpeakerBlast into the Moto X.

They asked if we ever thought about selling our technology to them before the meeting and at the meeting they baited us for how our tech worked saying we'd like to work with you tell us how it works. Once we did they left the room (Dugan's 2nd right hand man at the time and another) & 3 minutes later showed us the door saying the "race is on."

They have since been awarded patents for audio syncing across phones.

Many here will say that's just how Silicon Valley works.... takes advantage and stomps on the little guy innovators & their dreams. That's not professional and I met with many other companies like Samsung who acted with the utmost respect & professionalism towards us. Yet, Google whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," can't act in the same fashion?

This is a level of douchiness I cannot fathom. What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night? How is this not seen as clearly unethical behavior? A clear violation of Wheaton's Law, here.

I mean... I could easily take that lollipop from that naïve baby in that baby carriage... but I don't, simply because I'm Not A Dick™.

Did all of Silicon Valley get the wrong takeaway from the Apple/Xerox thing, or something?

Why do people carry out muggings? Because they gain from it. Morality and legality aren't just divergent - they're orthogonal. Just like one can perform moral and immoral actions in physical space, one can perform moral or immoral actions using the legal system. Despite the goal of the legal system being to punish immoral behavior, being able to actually formalize that is up against the limit of complexity - as soon as rules are made to discourage bad behavior, the lawful bad actors move on to using those very laws to carry out attacks.

A major meta problem in the current system is that even when bad behavior is able to be formally judged and is called out, there is still little downside for getting caught. Under a functioning legal system, Google would have to make OP whole for their time/stress/legalfees/etc incurred, and would therefore be discouraged from attacking again. Alas.

The individuals have no problem sleeping at night because there is no shortage of narratives to pick from to justify their actions - then further normalized by their peer group engaging in similar business. Nobody sees themselves as a bad person.

Great comment. Is this a fundamental limit? The justice system itself pricing most people out of justice. A reasonable judge could make the the OP whole, and discourage attacks. But access to that judge is far, far too expensive.

In the absence of a working justice system, are we helpless? Mostly, yes. But Google's reputation will take a big hit here, rightly so. Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit. In an ideal world when they apply for a job, these individuals will be rejected for their immoral, unethical behavior.

>Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit.

Ideally yes, in reality? the problem of a system that rewards trickery and deceit is that eventually the opposite (truth, honor, respect, etc) becomes worthless. You even have countries like mine that are so down this rabbit hole that being called a "good guy" is almost an insult because it just means you're simpleton who gets scammed.

Public reputation is only good in an environment where (public)reputation matters and in this situation the (private)reputation of that google employee within the corporation as a guy who makes money for the company matters more than if a limited portion of the public (us here) knows he outright steals things from other people through deceit. In general the average consumer couldn't care less about the actual individuals behind the products they are using or the controversies behind their creation. The vast, vast majority of computer users don't know that Xerox actually created the GUI and not Apple or Microsoft, and they don't care. So expecting them to provide justice in lieu of the system its a tall order to say the least.

Why do elite decision makers, CEO's, boards of directors, make decisions that will certainly have adverse effects, that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura), just to make more profit? Despite the fact that they are all already individually multi-millionaires and could not really materially improve their lives with more money?

I've ruminated on this.

I think the only reason that could explain such excess is competitiveness. To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.

I've tended to think that a lot of it is about different social circles. If everyone you know makes $50-100k/yr, you feel fine making that yourself, and may not even be sure what you'd do with a million dollars. If your social circle is full of millionaires and multi-millionaries, all of the sudden making a million feels like barely getting by and you think about all of the cool stuff you see people around you getting that you could get if you had tens of millions.

I think it's different past ~$150k salary too (probably more like $200k-$300k in the valley). At that point there's this weird net worth dick measuring contest that becomes a lot of people at that level's xbox gamer score. As in it's this number that they've attached a whole lot of identity to to be able to compare to their peers. It has very little to about what they can actually do with that number and more that they just want a bigger one than their friends.

>To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy.

This is presumably what might inspire a billionaire to sue Forbes over their position in Forbes published rich list - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-saudi-billionaire...

Money is entirely ego-points for people like that.

"its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike."

I think their sense of identity is tied to their performance. I noticed the same thing in sports or even in school were students compare exam scores.

> that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura)

I had to google that. Shocking story.

> To them, it is like a game.

I think you're right. I also think Trump (ahem) once said something along these lines: "At some point, all this stops being money and is just numbers that you want to keep going up." That would support your competitiveness assertion. (It might also explain why men tend to make more than women, but I digress.)

> I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.

nah, that's just the variable-ratio reinforcement schedule :) https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-variable-ratio-schedu...

Selection bias? You need to have a certain amount of ruthlessness to become a CEO or a serious director.

>>What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night?

It is very simple, they only care about themselves. Everything else is irrelevant.

It is greed and a hefty bonus.. and if they have to walk over 50 corpses, it doesn't really matter. There is no point trying to discuss ethics with a snake. Those people have a distorted sense of honor (or not at all).

One word: greed!

”For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” ‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭6:10‬

Money. And money. And pathological drive to win.

It's sneaky and underhanded and shady and evil.

Let's use a different real-world example. An acquaintance shows me an "attic treasure" that I know is worth at least $20k on the open market. Do I offer them $100 and not tell them what it might really be worth? Does it depend on how well I know them?

In my case, even if I did not know the person at all and never expected to interact with them again (basically, the recipe for non-cooperation, according to Axelrod's https://smile.amazon.com/Evolution-Cooperation-Revised-Rober...), I'd offer them about $5k (given some reselling risk and effort on my part, which I believe is worth at least some of the difference). If they were smart then they'd refuse and do their own homework. If they simply wanted to accept the price, they could.

I would NOT offer to take it off their hands for free. "More space in your attic!"

I'm sure that Google didn't owe this woman anything and didn't know her from a hole in the wall but... This is just machiavellian ruthlessness.

Don't be greedy, people. Make mutually-beneficial deals. It's not zero-sum (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).

The analogy breaks down, though - in Google's disfavour and in OP's favour.

OP knew that she had something valuable. But she also thought of it as a free good (libre, not gratis). As I interpret it this is because she knew that her work builds on the work of others.

At Google, they probably knew about the intellectual background of OP's innovation, too. And yet, they tried to patent it. So much about their intellectual honesty.

> (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).

If I have a hamburger patty and a hot dog bun, and you have a hot dog bun and a hamburger patty, we both win if we trade (it's not zero-sum).

You can generalize this across more than one party and more than two goods pretty easily.

Assuming no caloric difference between the buns and between the meats, the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic/intangible though!

The analogy wasn't really about hot dogs and hamburgers, but about complementarity.

Assume that you have something that has a complementary relationship with something I have, but doesn't have a complementary relationship with anything you have. Assume that I'm in the same situation in relation to you. If we trade objects, we both benefit. Hot dog buns and hamburger buns are designed to be complements of certain respective forms of ground meats, hence the naming scheme.

> the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic

Aesthetic value is still value. Most people would prefer not to eat Nutraloaf three meals a day.

Eating a hamburger in a hot dog bun would be messier than eating a hot dog in a hamburger bun, so the person with the hamburger and hot dog bun has a stronger incentive to trade.

>(even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head)

The earth isn't a closed thermodynamic system ;)

Seeing that Apple didn’t steal anything from Xerox. It was very much a negotiation so what lesson would that be?


Sure, but the popular recollection is not that story, it's "good artists borrow; great artists steal"

They get big and go public. Only a matter of time before the bad behavior starts to happen. Gotta keep that stock price up.

Not saying private companies can't engage in heinous shenanigans either, they sure can.

White collar sociopathy. These guys at the top lack an empathetic intuition.


You are a Nice Guy (TM) but business is business

it's actually not a bad thing that it's one of the few places you can actually be an asshole without feeling bad for it though

Business can be respectful, honorable and still successful, so that phrase is mostly a lame blanket excuse to not put in effort towards such goals.

And, sorry, but it's hard to escape the indicative aspect of liking the oportunity to be "an asshole without feeling bad about it"...

Well the point is that its nice to see the world how you would like it to be instead of what it is. In practice some people are asshole, egoistical and take pleasure in it and i would argue life tend to reward that kind of behaviour (more money, more power and more girls). And they make fun of you.

Wow that's crazy. I didn't know they did stuff like that.

Also I didn't know Google had patents for syncing audio across phones. I wonder if any of the mobile apps (like AmpMe [1]) have to pay some license fees.

I once spent an evening researching the different apps that could sync audio across multiple devices [2]. I also wanted to build my own app, so tried to see if it would be possible (only if you have a jailbroken phone.) I just wanted to play the same audio on two pairs of AirPods. I found out that the Samsung Galaxy S9 has a Dual Audio feature, and the iPhone X can theoretically support this with Bluetooth 5.0. And the AmpMe app can sync audio across multiple phones. (I was also really surprised to find out that they're a pretty huge company with 20 full time employees.)

[1] https://www.ampme.com

[2] https://www.evernote.com/l/ACo7ItT-pItKkZoYf0YJy0raGhN5255FR...

> AmpMe app can sync audio across multiple phones. (I was also really surprised to find out that they're a pretty huge company with 20 full time employees.)

The owner is a sketchy guy that made his money using adware (and still is) named Wajam.

I guess AmpMe is what he hope will be his legit way to make money. Until it happens, it's probably bleeding money and is founded by his adware company.

Do you know AmpMe's owner?

I mean I don't have any context, but surely this is a similar technology they have implemented with their Google Home speaker system?

Oh, right! I've heard of Sonos, but I didn't know you could sync up multiple Google Home speakers. Yeah I guess that's probably the main reason for having those patents.

Cool ours syncs audio on any IP device..desktop, laptop, tablets, phones, IOT devices, whatever

Is that not a fairly simple technology? You're basically measuring latencies (for which there exist very accurate solutions) and accounting for clock drift (again not difficult - USB audio did that many many years ago).

I guess you can get fancy if the devices have microphones but I still think it wouldn't be difficult. Like one man-year worth of work.

Creating a web player that syncs audio across all types of IP devices where you can play, pause, fast forward, seek within a track & more as seen in this video isn’t trivial!


How close is that? It sounds as though there is a very slight spread, but that might be just the chosen music.

This is (one of the reasons) why you sign NDAs before discussing your technology.

A mutual NDA was signed as seen here https://ryanspahn.com/motorola-google-Expired-NDA2013.pdf.

We started SpeakerBlast in March 2013 & were meeting with Google in April 2013. We filed a provisional before the meeting & have a patent in the patent office.

NDAs generally aren't worth the paper they're written on, but holy hell is that one a piece of work. The "residuals" concept basically gives them an open invite to copy anything they like so long as they didn't "intentionally memorize" it. Establishing intent is no easy task.

The one thing that NDAs do extremely well, and the reason that companies like them signed is protect against prior art (the opposite of what we're talking about above). Without an NDA, if you've had a conversation with another company about your tech, then it has become public domain and you can be prevented from patenting. With NDA that problem doesn't exist.

Conversation with a company doesn't count as prior art under new first-to-publish rules.

Yes, establishing intent to memorize is near impossible. You would have to have something like written records (e.g. emails) stating the intent.

The tech came a long way after meeting them... its now a web app driven by JS that plays, pauses, forwards, rewinds audio in sync as seen in this 2014 video...


We revived it after seeing Google's April 2018 patent & are excited about finally getting it out to the public.

An NDA is only as good as the lawyers backing them up.

Useless. Savvy inventors get at least a provisional patent application on file before meeting with predatory companies like goog, ms, intel, etc.

We filed before the meeting and have a patent in the patent office.

In retrospect why on Earth did we ever think a company whose motto was "Don't Be Evil" wouldn't be? It's like meeting someone who introduces themselves with, "Hi I'm John and I am definitely not planning to rape you to death and wear your skin as a mask."

“Don't be evil"? Let's see if there's an uproar by Google employees this time. My bet is on "fat chance".

Considering all the other corporate strategies Google employees have taken a public stand on lately, I wouldn't be surprised if there were serious fatigue on both ends - on corporate, for dealing with the constant rebellions killing major revenue sources (ex:- project maven's death being the end of any more government contracts); and for employees, who are likely sick of protesting an endless stream of obviously bad stuff while risking career alienation (ex:- dragonfly).

What's not immediately publicly evident is the opportunity cost vis a vis attrition and new hires - how many people have left from disillusionment? How many prospective employees are actively shunning Google directly because of these policies? (While a number might provide explicit feedback to recruiters about their reasons to reject, it's probable a silent majority is silently avoiding all contacts from Google recruiting.) At least personally speaking, I had a vastly more positive view of google around 2012 when I started grad school (more or less my dream company to work for at the time) than what I had when graduating (sufficient to decline any recruiting requests).

Reminds me of an episode of silicon valley where they write some of their implementation on a rival company whiteboard.

Didn’t they spoof this in the Silicon Valley series?

Yes. Season 2, part of the Homicide Energy Drink plot-line. EndFrame lures PP into a meeting, ostensibly to discuss funding, but instead brain rapes[1] PP.

1 - Erlich's term, not mine.

Thank you for sharing your experience and backing up the original post; this is something I will remember should the opportunity to work with anyone associated with ATAP come up.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this on Silicon Valley. Have been telling people who don't work in IT that it's pretty much a document from season one, and they refuse to believe me.

document -> documentary?

Wasn't there a Silicon Valley (the HBO show) episode about something similar?

Ah, found the episode: Season 2 Episode 2, "Runaway Devaluation".

> Google whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," can't act in the same fashion?

may be that's why they change it with doing right things (for own purpose) - https://bgr.com/2015/10/04/google-dont-be-evil-alphabet/

I thought they dropped the "Don't Be Evil" motto a long time ago.

That sounds downright awful.

This is a theft. They should be in prison.

Google’s motto was don’t be evil, they’ve clearly changed their mind.

Ignore corporate claims such as "don't be evil."

The problem isn't that those claims were lies. I'm sure Google's founders actually intended Google to "not be evil." The problem is that a corporation (or a government, university, church, fraternal organization, you name it) is made up of people. As such things get big they end up being made up of many, many people. Leaders change. Managers change.

When an org gets big some of its people will be assholes because some people are assholes.

Google has been through several CEOs and is a publicly traded company with the latter meaning that it's subject to market pressure and activist investors. It's also a company large enough and relevant enough to be a "national security" interest, making it likely subject to government and intelligence infiltration, pressure, and micromanagement.

So it's OK for them to be evil?

No, I'm saying you shouldn't take the words of corporations the same way you take the words of an individual person. A corporation is not even a singular entity. Corporations can't have values because they're composed of a rotating set of minds that may not all hold those values and there is no way of guaranteeing values will be preserved into the future.

But Samsung isn't an SV company, so it's to be expected.


Certain actors have been getting away with murder for over a decade now. We have a few lucky first movers that have become alpha predators and are now stifling innovation. I can't really see any rational argument for this type of behavior benefiting our society or market at all - beyond religious adherence to the free market or if Google is working exclusively with your political party (wink wink). Hopefully regulators wake up in the near future - societies that don't protect entrepreneurs won't have any.

bUt bUt...ChInA dOeS iP tHeFt

We've banned this account for using HN primarily for ideological battle.

Also for repeatedly posting flamebait and ignoring our requests to stop.


at least in this case, they aren't wrong. on hacker news, there is a strong bias towards how silicon valley likes to operate and against china.

Can you point me to the requests to stop? I've seen exactly one, a long time ago. I'm not personally attacking people, and I do contribute here with a positive upvote score. I don't see the issue.





But the main issue is using HN primarily for ideological or political battle. That's directly against the spirit of this site, and destroys it more insidiously than incivility does.

Positive vote scores, alas, aren't an indicator of whether comments are good for HN or not. The most indignant and ideological comments routinely get upvoted. That's one reason they're insidious.

This honestly seems to be an issue with what my personal opinions are about certain topics. I do not "flame bait", I am serious in my positions and don't seek any type of nefarious response. I don't see how pointing out that nobody bats an eye when Google does what China does is "flamebait", it's just an observation. Other links were benign in nature or then sourced as factual right below 'mod' comments.


I'm sure you're serious but that's not the standard here. Nor is it based on opinions. We moderate users with opposing opinions just as heavily.

Flamebait is a matter of effect, not intent, just like tossing lit matches in dry forests. It's our job to prevent flamewarring users from burning this site down, thereby ruining it for the majority who want to use it as intended. The site guidelines distill long experience about what kinds of comments do and don't have that effect.

I do not mean to be mean but why on earth would you volunteer how your tech works when someone asks without any legal protection? Talk about clueless

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