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Google cancels TGIF weekly all-hands meetings (cnbc.com)
416 points by stygiansonic 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 548 comments



First. Thanks to HN for not demanding phone numbers: anonymity allows to say things that cannot be said.

Second. Many googlers read HN. In some sense, HN is the extension of the internal forums.

CNBC made a good summary and I can comment on each bullet point.

Larry and Brin probably stopped attending because nothing important is said on TGIFs. More people -> more leaks -> less interesting information -> less attendence. Nothing surprising here. Sundar's solution seems to be resorting to boring once a quarter all-hands about business strategy. I wonder what the attendance will be.

It's a hypocrisy to complain about troubles with trust and at the same time ban political or whatever discussions. Googlers are generally very smart folks and understand that whatever they say may be used against them in the future, when policies change once again. Today you post a memegen where you state that triangles are better than squares, tomorrow you get fired because squares have become the symbol of some protected class. You have to apply a form of forward self-censorship and be very careful about what you say to whom.

I don't think there is a tension between execs and workers, but only because the two classes live in different worlds.

Don't get me wrong. Google is still the best workplace with top notch pay, but as it's got big, it's also morphed into a typical big corporation with typical corporate politics.

Just my 2c.


> Don't get me wrong. Google is still the best workplace with top notch pay, but as it's got big, it's also morphed into a typical big corporation with typical corporate politics.

Sorry but I cannot stand that level of internal koolaid. I guess you also think that Google got the "smartest" people? There are literally thousands of companies working on problems way more interesting and with more stakes and upsides for humanity than Google and the adtech industry. I would qualify all of those companies as "better place to work" than Google. It is maybe the best place to work if you have no sense of ethics, want to take it easy, work 9 to 5 and maximize your money.


Google throws away obscene amounts of money on non-adtech things. Some of those are pretty interesting and useful for humanity.

You can say, well, those don't count, because Google isn't making money from them! But if you take that route, you also have to exclude all the startups working on "interesting" problems that don't and won't make money. You're left with a very small set of companies. I wouldn't be surprised if it's the null set.

I'd say a fair assessment is a random team at Google is as likely to be doing something interesting and beneficial as a team at a random startup (which is to say, unlikely but possible). At Google, though, you're going to have both better average financial outcomes and lower risk.


Google is an ad company with delusions of grandure.

It's nothing more, until it finds a way to turn a profit on its other ventures. (Just like those startups - realistically, until they turn a profit, they're just in the exploratory stage.)


In some ways, they could be not only a driver of innovation, but profit off of it. For instance, the initial idea of spearheading Waymo makes sense to me: self-driving cars lead to more search queries and YouTube video views when someone is in transit. They didn’t need to own this technology though and should have sold most of the equity last year to GM or Ford as the OEMs moved into the space. Verily makes more sense to me, but it’s goal should be specialized cloud infrastructure for healthcare.


I was under the impression that Youtube, G-suite, Cloud Platform, and hardware were all quite profitable. Not to the same degree as ads maybe, but they would all be considered successful if they were standalone businesses.

Calling google just an ad company is ignoring a large amount of reality.


Youtube is an ads delivery channel.

afaik, hardware is nowhere near close to profitable once you add the costs of Android. Android is an ads delivery channel and a defense against ios usurping an ads delivery channel.

You have a point about gsuite and gcp.


Bell labs? Xerox PARC?


> "At Google, though, you're going to have both better average financial outcomes and lower risk."

this is a classic misaligned incentive problem though. getting more pay for lower risk just makes the google workers risk-averse, so their success rate will be lower than startup founders who put more on the line (and who are therefore incentivized to make tougher decisions faster/earlier). a former founder-turned-googler friend admitted as much to me in casual conversation.


Likely true. The average worker, though, doesn't want exposure to risk. The risk is almost purely downside for the average worker. Even "making tougher decisions faster and earlier" is a pretty shitty deal for a worker, in that they're going to be cast aside on a whim. And startups come with little to no upside risk to compensate for the downside risk (I say this as someone who's been bitten by shitty startup shenanigans).

Probably if Google were broken up we'd see many more and more successful startups, for reasons of funding and talent (and the end of the tendency for Google to make some halting inroad into a niche only to abandon it because of internal politics). That doesn't translate into a better experience for workers though.


> It is maybe the best place to work if you have no sense of ethics, want to take it easy, work 9 to 5 and maximize your money.

Hey, that's me to a t. Google is not actually that great for that. The pay is average and they make too much of a song and dance about helping people, even if you're working on ML used to ferret out dissidents in China.

The good companies for 9 to 5 casual evil are small >50 man shops which require security clearance to work at.


Pay is well above average. Regardless of what HN spews, Google foundationally made search and mobile more accessible around the world. I don't know what "great" company you work for but it's hard to top that for impact.


> Pay is well above average

Depends on what you mean by average. When I talked to google I was looking at L5 for just over 300k with stock and bonus. In Evil Inc I was making well over over 500k all cash for the same job description.


300k is average?

That’s more than the ceiling for CEOs of public companies in my country.

Tech salaries in the US really seem out of proportions.


That's more like the low end for L5, honestly. And 500k is the high end, for a top performer L5.


If you value your work little, expect to be paid little.

I see no reason why I should get paid less than a CEO, when most of their job is similar to that of a kindergarten teacher.


It also is much more than most politicians and ministers. Especially the latter are typically way more influential imo.


Kickbacks, future speaking appointments (for decades afterwards), etc probably raise the "official" salary for various politicians and ministers.


Your location / interviews must have not been favorable. Most L5s pull more than that. Also the equity refreshes are far greater than other companies.


I have no idea. The whole process was Kafkaesque. I'd get someone calling me at 10pm asking if I'm available the next day, then telling me someone will call and confirm only for no one to follow up. Then the whole thing starts up the week after again.


What's Evil Inc.?


If I had to guess, Goldman Sachs


Yes Google did make search and mobile more accessible while helping itself to a big pile of money. Stop pretending that they did it out of the goodness of their hearts. Hate to break it to you but Google is just like any other business.


Oh so ? What's wrong with earning money ? What's wrong with having good impact while making money. That is what sustains impact and not a flash in the pan. Get off your high horse and respect what they have achieved. Businesses won't survive without money. HN's favorite browser Firefox gets a 300 million donation from Google. Without this Mozilla will slowly die. Of course you wouldn't mention this. Google money is now against your narrative right ? Also Google pulled out of the DoD contracts. Hate to break it to you none of your other businesses had the balls or people to do that.


Google only donates to Firefox so Chrome is less obviously a monopoly in the browser space (remember Microsoft and IE)

Google just recently said they're ready to talk business with did again. They said Maven employee upset was just a one time thing.


Lol you guys will never be happy. The Firefox money has been going for a while now. If they help someone "oh this is to divert attention". If they don't help someone "Google is too big and doesn't care ".


How on Earth is that a criticism?


>The good companies for 9 to 5 casual evil are small >50 man shops which require security clearance to work at.

Where do I sign up?

(Edit: this is a serious question.)

(Second edit: Mencius.)


You need to know a guy, I met mine when I was running a 3d printing course for an astronomy group of all things.


LOL at the GPG swarm down below. I hate the Internet, I regret posting my own GPG message, and I'd delete it if I could.


I'll be on the lookout, but quite frankly I despair. I've always wanted to be in a spooky line of work. Oh well.


If I were in a spooky business, I'd never hire somebody who's too eager to work in this line of work. Too easy to hire a Snowden this way. And I have no idea how they solve this problem... must be tough to be a spook.


Valid point. To clarify, it was hyperbole, as I got (rightly or wrongly) a more "military" vibe. And in my highly uninformed opinion, I'd feel much less comfortable in close quarters with actual spook-dom than I would around high-end military establishment people. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd probably take upper six figures to warm a seat for either, though. Shake the hand of the devil, sell your soul on the dotted line.


Get in touch?

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There are also huge federal contractors (defense, etc.) that the average consumer can't name because they aren't on anything the public comes in contact with.


Yeah, but their total comp is shit compared to the tech industry.


It depends on whether you restrict "tech" to FAANG/bay area. There are tech companies that pay ~40K for entry level programmer/analyst positions that said contractors pay $80+, or did ~5 years ago.


So somebody likes the workplace they work at. No need to be all up in arms against it. There are certainly places as good or better than google, and there are certainly people that like it at Google anyway. There's tons of ethical work you can do at Google, not everybody works for Project Dragonfly. Before you ask, no, I don't work for Google, don't want work for Google, never interviewed to work for Google, and don't particularly like Google. But that's not the reason to hate all people for whom it works.


If you know names of those better workplaces, I'm all ears.


Over 16 years I've worked at only four companies, but one of them was Google, and it was honestly my least favorite.

Creature comforts: I have an actual cubicle with >2x the space. Excellent meals are still provided, but now lines are <1 min. I can always find a parking space. I can always find a bathroom stall.

Engineering culture: No more promo or perf review nonsense. There's none of the internal competition / pressure that I felt every day at Google. The org and leadership has vastly less churn. The place is dead at 5:15pm. And the people I work with are incredibly smart.

In terms of company: my new employer is not creepy. My grandmother understands what I work on.

Do follow your heart, but I'm so happy I left.


Always interesting to hear these counterpoints. I've never worked at Google, but reading internet comments and such you get the impression that most people consider it some ideal workplace (though to be fair, many people selling you this fantasy are also trying to sell you their Google interview prep courses). Yet when I meet Googlers/ex-Googlers in real life, I never got that same impression. Seems like any other corporate job (I'm personally pretty jaded from corporate), just more prestige and maybe more pay. Also it seems like one's experience will vary drastically depending on what team they get placed on (eg. Google X vs. some internal tool).


I won’t ask what company you’re at, but have you noticed a correlation between size of company and your happiness? Is this new Valhalla a significant smaller organization than Google?


Sounds like Netflix and I think you’re on point that the model might be great but won’t scale to anything resembling google size


What "pressure" you feel is entirely up to you. Most managers at Google don't micro manage you.


But are you expected to exceed expectations? :)


You do your best on your projects. No one thinks day to day how their perf will be. What a stupid way to live.


Definitely happens at other FAANGs.


"The best" is pretty subjective based on what one is looking for in a job. Not everyone gels with all company cultures.

It's great that you like working for Google and have found a good fit.

Some features I like in workplace culture:

- Empowering the "builders" and developers to have autonomy and guide how product development cycles are defined.

- Top cover provided by managers - managing expectations from stake holders

- Overall non-toxic environment

- Quality work and product vision


Well said. I worked at Google on Adtech. I have decades of experience and it was the most meaningless, uninteresting job I ever had. All everyone cared about was perf/promotion and their gsus. I also took a pay cut (total comp, yes) to join, thinking the work would be interesting and people worth it. The last year their was miserable

Sure there are great people and projects but anybody claiming any of them would exist without the drudgery and 90% revenue stream of “adtech” have their blinders on. And fwiw, if all one cares about us pay, Facebook pays MUCH much more.


I automatically replace that with "the best place to work (for me) I know of". Someone who isn't into software or hardware but loves dancing might be very bored at Google, someone who loves animals might be happier as a vet, and people who enjoy organizing information and making it accessible to humans will probably be better off as a librarian, and so on.


Woahhhh there, don't fall off that horse! You might hurt yourself from a height so high.

Your qualification of what makes a company's problems more interesting or beneficial to humanity is certainly debatable, but if you think people at Google are "taking it easy" talentless slobs you are quite objectively wrong


Organizational Politics and Real world Politics are usually studied separately. One in B-schools the other in political science depts. You have to spend time thinking about why that is.

There is a lot of overlap, because both are about gaining power and influence, but there are big differences in needs, resources and routes taken. It's easy to misunderstand them.

Google, thanks to the amount of info they sit on and decisions they make about how it flows, is stuck bang in the middle of those two worlds. Other corps sit in that intersection too such as oil/energy, defense, banking, media etc but none of them have achieved info scale that Google has.

This is still early days where traditional Politicians/Parties (other than the Chinese) haven't fully processed what those info flows can do to them.

They recognize now, how important corps sitting on top of mountain ranges of data are. But the moment they loose power and influence because of those info flow is when real awakening happens. It's safe to assume Real World Politics will dominate Org Politics within such corps. Things will break apart just as they did with Newspapers and TV/Radio News.

At an individual level it's always good to think about what your needs are and be conscious of them. People who aren't, just get dragged by whatever chaos is unfolding thinking they have no role to play or choice. Those that are in touch with their needs and values experience the whole story very differently.


> but as it's got big, it's also morphed into a typical big corporation with typical corporate politics.

The level of self-censorship my friends from Goog exercise and how carefully they choose their words on everyday topics is unlike anything I've seen from people working at any other big corps. They've also become more flexible on moral stances that once used to be clear cut lines for them.

Google is a borderline cult. It has fallen far below the bar that most people would set for 'best workplace'. This is just something that Goog employees don't become aware of until they leave the bubble.


> Googlers are generally very smart folks

Seems like it's time to remind folk of Joy's Law: "no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,”[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy%27s_law_(management)


> typical big corporation with typical corporate politics

I don't know why this would surprise anyone. People are people and politics are politics in any large organization. There is no reason to think Google would be exempt.


> There is no reason to think Google would be exempt.

Except that it did seem to be exempt, for much longer and while becoming much larger than I think most people would have imagined.


Google lost its varnish around the time it sought to fight Facebook with Plus. Around the time they released the Nexus 7.

I guess around the time Sundar became ascendant.


Sundar only became ascendant afterwards. When + was around, Vic Gundotra was in charge of that. Nexus 7 was released back when Andy Rubin was still firmly in charge of all things Android. I'd associate Sundar's ascendancy more with the shift from Nexus to Pixel and Android One, with the assistant, etc.


There is an interesting analogy. Two uranium hemispheres remain peaceful only until they are joined.


> There is no reason to think Google would be exempt.

It can be controlled in some way. If you only hire people from the same political pool, for example. Or getting them early enough (young enough) to shape them in a way that will lower internal tensions. Not every large company is burning in political fires.


> If you only hire people from the same political pool, for example.

That’s not possible. In fact, one of the best ways to stoke internal political fires is to make the mistake of convincing those holding the majority political viewpoint that they represent the viewpoint of the whole company.


Another option is to have a culture of not permitting political fires to be lit on company property. In other words, not talking about politics at work.


>> Don't get me wrong. Google is still the best workplace with top notch pay, but as it's got big, it's also morphed into a typical big corporation with typical corporate politics.

Such comments is what changed at Google. There are other excellent places to work at these days, like Microsoft (also Amazon) if you are interested in large scale cloud services and not advertisement.


Microsoft is pretty good, indeed, but they don't match the Google pay. A senior at Google pulls 350 (add free food and gym to that), while a principal at Microsoft will be lucky to cross 250 (no free food and no gym on site). Sample size: a few tens of people. And the limited housing supply means that prices are tuned to the more successful folks.

Amazon seems to be very focused on squeezing out most out of its employees. The curious vesting schedule means you instantly lose 10% of your stock grant value. The company expects you to pull more hours and do some real oncall duties: this means less free time for you and less pay/hour rate. Good and gym are out if question. And don't forget to pay for your parking spot. IMHO, if you aren't big enough to demand a custom contract, you don't go to Amazon unless you have no better choices.

My question is still open: what are those better places?


You seem to confuse pay with "best place". Principal at Microsoft can make way more though (not working there, but know from Partner level folks there) - it's a very wide range, spawning 3 job levels.


I know SDE IIs at MS who made 350+. However 90% of those SDE IIs don't even approach the entry level Google pay. My info about the principal salaries comes from those principals themselves.

By the best place I just meant best in terms of getting knowledge, status and pay with the least effort in the least stressful conditions.


Throwaway time..

The minefield about trying to predict what's going to be politically correct in the future is so true--you nailed it. You might carefully self-censor your discussions to things that are politically allowed today but everything lives forever, so something you say may fall out of fashion and years from now it could get you in hot HR water. The only solution is to just stick to work topics, really. The need for both current and forward self-censorship is very real.

The "bring your whole self to work" thing is actually kind of a trap. If you're politically aligned the correct way, then sure, you're welcome to bring your whole self to work and participate in political discussions. If you're a Trump supporter, for example, or don't buy in to the whole pronouns thing, then [it's kind of unspoken that] you're expected to please leave that whole self at home thankyouverymuch. Kind of a one way street.

I just come in to work and don't seek out political drama. It's totally optional. Besides the above future-PC worry, you really have to go out and look for trouble. For me, memegen is a place to read silly lighthearted memes and nothing more.


Genuine question: (you're on a throwaway, what's the harm in answering me, right?)

What is there to buy into about pronouns? If my first name is Stan, named after my dad also named Stan, and my middle name is Jason, and my dad abandoned my family when I was young so I prefer people to call me Jason, you'd have no problem calling me Jason and be understanding that calling me Stan is a sore point, right?

What if I don't want to explain my personal issues with my father and childhood family situation to coworkers? If I just say that I really strongly prefer Jason and that it genuinely upsets me if you call me Stan, would you demand an explanation?

So if I claim, without explaining, that I strongly dislike being addressed as "she" and strongly prefer "he", isn't that the same amount of work? What is there to buy into, an explanation about personal struggles with gender dysphoria? That seems like a pretty personal thing to expect from a coworker, does it not?

What am I missing?


I think the “buy into” aspect is possibly buying into the importance of it all. In the current climate, it’s a charged issue, because for one side it’s a matter of respect, dignity, and honoring a persons agency, and for the other it’s about coercive speech and toeing closer to coercive thought.

And then there’s the the third side that can perhaps see that both sides have valid points, except that none of it matters in the long run. If words are so empty that they can be bent to call a woman a man, a man a woman, blue as red, 50 as 1,000, depending on a person’s internal emotional state, then whatever we choose to say is as valid as anything else.

And if one person refuses to comply with social niceties, it doesn’t necessarily indicate anything other than, at worst, said person is a dick.

So I think right now, it’s a social crusade for both parties, and not everyone wants to get sucked into feeling passionate about everyone else's fights. And that doesn’t mean you’re choosing sides.

But somehow, less than 100% virtue signaling in either direction means you’re implicitly supporting “them”.

But, my approach is, when dealing with people, I’m not going to be a dick, and I’ll happily call them a preferred pronoun, within reason, even though it’s really not that important to me. But I’m also not going to go out of my way to try to fix everyone who is a dick either, even when it is something important to me.


>If words are so empty that they can be bent to call a woman a man, a man a woman

Based on this statement, I don't quite think you understand what being transgender actually is. It's not people asking to be called the opposite gender, it's people asking to be called the gender that they actually are, and have been their entire lives, but who had the vast misfortune of being born into the wrong body. There is not a 1:1 correlation between the body's sex and the mind's sex; usually they match up, but sometimes they don't. Gender dysphoria has severely negative outcomes for mental health and well-being, and no one chooses it willingly.


Oh, I’m also not claiming anyone is choosing gender dysphoria, but they are choosing their responses to it. I’m sure there are ways to superficially suppress the mental side just as we can superficially suppress the physical side. One is, in this day and age seen as preferable, and the other is a seen as caving into social norms, and denying your true self. But why is perception, one that is not shared or independently validated to be true or measurable in any way the one to follow?

I’m not saying these are easy questions or that I even understand the experience. But simply that there are many people who view themselves or others in a way that contradicts quantitative facts, but there isn’t a large social movement to have the world at large support that perception.

But as I said originally, inasmuch as it doesn’t require anyone to do anything and doesn’t have a cost to anyone else, what do I care?


Is mental gender something that can be as quantitatively determined as physical gender? And what is a male or female brain apart from the accompanying biology? What makes it uniquely male vs female?


Names says nothing about a person while he/she describes an aspect of you. A person who wants to use the wrong pronoun is like a fat person wanting people to call them thin. Of course calling fat people fat is not very nice, the same can be said about missgendering people, but it is very hard to call fat people thin so you try to avoid the subject.

So if you look like and behave like a man then people will call you a man, if you look like and behave like a woman then people will call you a woman. Of course there are cases where the person looks like and behaves like the other gender but some assholes still calls them by their old pronoun, but in most cases I see someone who is obviously male wanting to be called female or vice versa. In those cases it hurts a bit because it goes against the meaning of the words, and given how our language is structured it is very hard to avoid the subject like most people do with other attributes.


"in most cases"

What is the issue, that you are claiming grave consequences exist for making an innocent mistake, and that's happened to you enough times to generalize?

...or are you saying you are unwilling to behave in an expected manner once you understand the expectations?

...in the latter case, do you find yourself frequently disagreeing with other people about who looks and behaves like a man/woman? Or are you just disagreeing about whether to honor their preferences?

Edit/addition: There was a time when people claimed a man with long hair or a woman with short hair was indistinguishable from the opposite sex.[1] Which pronoun do you use in that situation?

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=turn+the+page+lyrics


I don't know a lot of trans people in real life and I have never miss-gendered someone. But there are a lot of prominent trans people in for example the gaming community and I am basing that anecdote on the discussions from there.

Edit: Note that I am not the person above the parent, I don't think there are any grave consequences for missgendering people, at least not if you don't do it consistently. I guess it could happen if you did it on for example twitter and some activist picked it up, but not in a casual conversation at work.

Late edit: As for what I consider man/woman, take this picture: https://keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/up...

If I saw it without context I'd assume it was a guy being surrounded by two women based on their body and face structures, it is very hard to see the middle one as a woman. But surprisingly they are all three women.


Sounds like a genuine question, so I'll give a genuine answer:

I'm a very busy person at work. The amount of daily cognitive load I dedicate to pronouns there is essentially zero because it never comes up. The only time it becomes nonzero is when someone else who thinks it's vitally important brings it up, which is pretty much always memegen or some other internal forum where political advocacy creeps in. If someone were to ever ask me, "Hey, can you call me 'she' instead" I'd have no problem doing so. It's just common courtesy and most of my job at Google involves building and maintaining relationships. But I don't go out of my way to list people's pronouns next to their userids in design docs, or have a section in every presentation on pronouns in order to signal that I'm woke. Just like if someone pointed out that he goes by a middle name, I'd call them that because that's what they prefer, but I'm not going to ask everyone I meet if they go by a middle name or some other name.

As engineers we consider rare edge cases in our designs but typically do not build our solutions around them.

The difference between pronouns and first-names is that nobody is out there searching for instances where I inadvertently called someone by their first name so that they can go into outrage mode, call me out and shame me for it.

When I say some people don't "buy into the whole pronouns thing", I mean they are indifferent to it--they don't think about it every day, they don't consider it some vitally important cause that the company must urgently dedicate resources and collective cognitive load to.


That makes sense, I also dislike people seeking out innocent mistakes and interpreting them in the worst way. "Woke" people definitely don't have a monopoly on that, but it's natural that the hotter a topic is at any given moment, the more common it'll be for that topic.

I don't know how fair it is to suggest that people who have a section in their presentations on pronouns are just trying to "signal that they're woke". It makes sense to me that someone who is personally sensitive about them or has a close personal connection with someone who is personally sensitive about them would do so out of conscientiousness, not disingenuousness.

Thanks for your perspective, I totally agree that it doesn't deserve much cognitive load. Adding pronouns to a slide that had people's names on it would take up less space than most surnames, and while shaming someone if it doesn't occur to them to do so is undeserved, it baffles me when people vehemently resist and spend incredible cognitive resources arguing that it's an enormous burden they can't possibly bear.


Because changing a name allows the same English grammar to be used the same as it usually would and creating a new pronoun does not. Also, I feel like no one would really care that much if people called Stan by the name that’s registered to him (but prefers not to be called), whereas it becomes a political issue if someone didn’t call him by his preferred pronoun.


I'm sure some people might only slightly prefer not to be called Stan. However, I specifically gave an example of why someone might instead have strong emotional reasons to prefer not to be called Stan.

I'm not sure why becoming a political issue is relevant—if Alice is generally kind to people but refuses to be kind to Bob not because of something Bob did wrong, but because the particular instance of kindness is a political issue, I don't think Alice is a kind person.

The point about grammar doesn't make much sense to me. Someone says "actually I'm not John, I'm Mary", you think it would be more grammatical to start referring to them as Mary, but continue to use he/him?


> Today you post a memegen where you state that triangles are better than squares, tomorrow you get fired because squares have become the symbol of some protected class.

This is not how anything works.

What actually happens is, today you post something insensitive and disparaging because you can get away with it as a "joke", tomorrow, people will actually stand up for themselves and tell you it's not ok to say that, and it never was, and you were too much of an asshole to even consider that that might be the case.


That's not how humor works.

People who see it the way you do are pitiable, to say the least. The perfect joke is forever a shifting target and us being the humans we are can only approach it by trying repeatedly and through different tacks. One of those is being an asshole which can be funny and is funny to pretty much everyone under different circumstances and environments - but it is offensive and will always be offensive. You can look at nearly any stand up comic and see that's the case. I think you and your ilk need to lay off and relax.

Just give it some thought. You take one joke but change the audience, the time, the place, the delivery, the intonation, possibly the surrounding comments around the joke itself and everything changes. As an example If I make a joke about drowning and some person's brother who's in the same group I'm in died five years ago because a random orca dragged him under suddenly I'm the asshole. Maybe you're laughing because you didn't know either. But maybe next year there's a rash of orca attacks and someone finds a youtube recording of me making a joke about people drowning. I'm screwed now. I'm never becoming a CEO. Sounds pretty outlandish right? I bet all of those people who did blackface probably thought the same thing back in the 60s or whenever.

I think you guys need to have some empathy for people who just want to make a joke. Attempts at humor are ok but Statutes of limitations should be applicable.

I'm not going to put my ethnicity or sexual orientation on here right now but I feel no distaste for those people who wore black face or made jokes about people with different sexual orientations or whatever you might think is super bad because I know that they were acting within the boundaries of acceptability back then yet trying to have fun. If they're still doing those things at a time and place when it's not acceptable it's a different story but copping some 'Holier Than Thou' attitude over things that happen in the past when IT REALLY WAS OK TO SAY THOSE THINGS really rubs me the wrong way. It's as if they'd never said anything at the wrong time to the wrong person or in the wrong company. You might as well not say anything at all and give up all attempts at humor.

We are human. We try to laugh. Try not to hold it against us in the future.


Downvotes and no response.

I don't know why HN wants to hide behind this strawman so bad. Noone is getting fired for posting about geometric shapes, unless you're trying to say something insensitive or disparaging.

The line of what is acceptable to stay has changed, but turns out if you wern't being an asshole in the first place, people are very forgiving.

Also, Twitter is not an example. People are constantly unforgiving assholes on Twitter for short-term Internet fame; your workplace isn't Twitter.


It's not a strawman. Good jokes that haven't been said before are hard to find and many times lie on the edge of what's acceptable and isn't acceptable or is a combination of nearly unrelated ideas delivered through a multitude of different comedic devices. There's a reason that workplace humor is so repetitive and soul deadening.


A part of humor is "reading the room".

I've met genuinely funny, kind people, who are able to make jokes on the line of what is "acceptable", but because they could read the room, they could stay within acceptable and rarely offend people. When they did offend, they were quick to admit their mistake and apologize. Their apologies are genuine, because they believe it's wrong to offend their coworkers trying to be funny.

I've also met people who believe it's their right to make jokes on the line of whatever they think is acceptable, regardless the thoughts of everyone who has to hear them. Some of these guys were really funny. But they did offend some people and were generally not apologetic when called out. A lot of them were assholes. All of them had somebody who thought they were an asshole.

Honestly, I find there's tons of humor at work that goes nowhere near the line. I feel like funny things happen all of the time at my work. If your workplace feels soul-deadening it might be worth applying somewhere else.


> A part of humor is "reading the room".

And nowadays 'the room' is becoming the entire world and can include a decade or more into the future.

Today you make an edgy joke that everyone considers hilarious. A decade from now, after the Overton Window has shifted, a recording of you making this joke will become trending on Twitter and you will lose your job.


This is the strawman.

Can you give me a link to someone that lost their job for something they wrote 5+ years ago that was actually "edgy" and not, like, grossly insensitive?

The poster I replied to, in a separate common for this article, used blackface as an example. I believe, however acceptable to the majority of people at the time, blackface was always cruel and derogatory.

People respond to images of them doing blackface 20+ years ago with "well it was just a joke and okay back then" and not "back then, our culture felt okay with cruel jokes meant to bring down black people, and by participating, I helped bring down black people"

If you think it was just "okay back then" you're missing the point.


None of that is actually true.


This reminds me of this sentence from a Wired article[0] in August:

> TGIF's transformation from candid conversation to press conference was pretty much complete.

As a Googler I'm totally not surprised this is happening. The writing has been on the wall for a very long time.

[0]: https://www.wired.com/story/inside-google-three-years-misery...


Unfortunately that's what happens when the discussions get leaked.

It's hard to be candid and open if what you say might end up distorted in the media and without you having an ability to defend yourself.


I fail to see how that really matters. Facebook had all kinds of media exposure (Cambridge Analytica, Libra, etc). Nothing happened.


He's referring to individuals.

There have certainly been consequences for some of them.


Okay, fair point, that's an interpretation that occurred to me after posting the comment, but I'm not really familiar with any high profile case. Has FB sent away anyone? Or G? Due to leaks about real talk I mean. (And I guess the answer must be some sort of yes, after all they are huge organizations and the culture of taking responsibility via looking-for-new-challenges is a rather Western thing, so maybe I'm just too far from it.)


> It's hard to be candid and open if what you say might end up distorted in the media and without you having an ability to defend yourself.

Distorted by the media? That's the point of "leaks": to make transparent leaderships' opinions verbatim.

The firms that control our lives should not be allowed to confer behind closed doors.


The media constantly misconstrues or completely invents whole stories based on small pieces of information that are presented without context.

I don’t see how that is helpful to society.

I’m not against whistleblowing but I completely understand why someone would choose not to engage in that, since they are basically volunteering information knowing it may very well be taken very seriously when it was done throw away off hand comment or shared without underlying meanings being properly attached.


Don't throw the baby of internal memos out with the bathwater of biased commentary on them.

It sounds like you're against whistleblowing.


I don't see the connection between leaders not want to have open ended meetings with thousands of people and being against whistleblowing... sorry.

Nothing wrong with leaders preferring more controlled medium where they can careful and clearly state what they are saying, or preferring such meetings with smaller groups of people in a smaller company. Especially because we're working with the assumption it will be leaked in a raw form otherwise.

Workers should be whistleblowing based on negative events, company projects, or misbehaviour which they have knowledge of and see in the workplace (which can be through other people at work). Which is quite different from rehashing some comment made during TGIF to reporters.

If we're going to villianize people for comments made in open-ended forums then it will defeat the purpose of the forum and make people extra cautious. Which makes them no different than PR-speak-riddled internal memos.


It hadn't really been practical for years to have an "all hands" with a 100,000 person company.

Time constraints alone had already put pressure on the whole concept. Humans don't scale that way.


Yeah, but somehow it managed to work pretty well as a 50,000 person company. I'm not exactly sure why this number was the tipping point.


https://twitter.com/MikeIsaac/status/1195130656042496007

I don't think the number is a major factor but the media environment getting hostile against the tech sector in general. Sundar also mentioned about "a coordinated effort to share our conversations", which aligns with my observation.


Theoretically that would be fine if you weren’t discussing skeevy things.


That reads like "you don't need privacy/encryption/locked doors if you have nothing to hide!", which I assume is not the point you're trying to make?


seriously with so many employees, nothing else would have sense imho


RIP

I'm one of those people who go work at Google once every few years.

The transformation of culture from about 2013 onwards has been somewhat sad to experience.

Interestingly, most people who have been continuously employed there have not felt the very slight gradient. However, the changes in culture, freedom, food quality, etc are fairly obvious when one returns after ..say.. 18 months.

Here are some semi-concrete metrics: Decreasing TGIF frequency (now gone..), 'micro kitchen' snack variety and quality, which doors in buildings you are allowed to enter from(:facepalm:), badging in for meals(also :facepalm:), weird restrictions on business flights, attempt to make everything look uniform (no candies in receptions! No decorations..), defense contracts(much publicized here), any other discretionary spending by teams.

Anything I forgot?


The dismantling of Google.org in 2015.

We were once an engineering and product team that used Google's unique reach, resources, infrastructure, and technology to create tools and services purely for good. We reunited survivors of disasters, helped them find shelter, alerted people to keep them safe, built technology to help MSF fight Ebola, and predicted flu epidemics. We worked to lift the most vulnerable among us. Teams all over the company and around the world helped us do things only Google could.

That Google.org no longer exists. The "Google.org" label has been reassigned to Google's donation programs. Google donates money to many meaningful efforts, and that's great; but anyone can donate money. Google used to donate money and build things for good, and it does the latter no more.


I (an Eastern European software engineer who was working at Google Switzerland) can't forget the Christmas gift I got from Google that I donated Chromebooks to students in U.S.

It was the weirdest Christmas present that I got in my life, and believe me I got some very weird clothes from my mum when I was young.


Yes. Another one I just recalled: More and more retaliation. Two prominent women who tried to protest were 'managed out' this year.


That was the same Google.org that had weird problems with its leader interfering in middle eastern politics, to the extent it became practically an extension of the White House?

I remember google.org - seen from the perspective of an engineer in a far away land it was frankly just kind of weird/creepy/slightly sinister. Yeah the flu epidemic predictor thing was kinda cool, except I never heard anything about it since and I'm not sure it's ever actually been useful for much.


If badging in for a free meal (which is "required", but not enforced) is one of your top complaints, this comment will only reinforce how ridiculously entitled some tech workers have become.

Not sure what office you work or worked in, but where I'm at they regularly go over the top with decorations during celebrations. It's pretty awesome.


None of these on their own are huge complaints or issues. They just add up.


How is badging for food even a small issue?


Would you want your employer to know about your exact food habits for years of your life?

How about your government?

How about your insurance company?


The badging for food thing is because the IRS is coming after tech companies saying that it should be treated as a taxable benefit. It helps to have metrics about how widely used the perk is in arguing that it shouldn't be taxable.

Badging for food doesn't say anything about the evolution of Google's culture over time; it only says that the IRS is now coming after Google.


You blew it out of proportion. It's more like you badge in a certain cafe. No one knows what you ate in that cafe.


Google already tracks every time you badge in at any door meaning they already know exactly where you are, when you com in, where you go for meetings etc. Badging for food is very minor in comparison.


Just because you badge in for your company doesn’t automatically mean your government or insurance company will get the data. Even if they did, they could probably get it in more detail from other sources like your bank and credit card company. Also they don’t track what you get, so I don’t see what the big deal is.


Oh come on. Those are 3 wildly different use-cases. Your employer is providing you a perk as an incentive to keep you at the company longer hours. They provide a complementary meal, they log things like how many people eat, how often, what times, etc, to improve the service.

Your government is mandatory, your employer is voluntary.

Your insurance company would likely offer you a discount if you provided them this information. Again, on a voluntary basis. In general when something like this is required by an insurance company it's heavily regulated.


Point taken, but how is badging for meals a ‘facepalm’? Re: decorations, https://www.androidpolice.com/2019/10/04/google-seattle-hall... ?


This, from 2009? "Badging today will allocate funds for your meal tomorrow". And I wrote about it eight years ago.

https://rachelbythebay.com/w/2011/10/17/badging/


I'm still unclear on what the badge for meal thing was, but apparently its come and gone before. It was apparently a thing in 09, went away, came back sometime in like 2013 or 14, went away again, and is now again a requirement (and has been since sometime in 2018). It didn't spell any particular doom either of the other times, and other than some dubious tax related stuff, i'm not sure what the impact is/will be. Seems like it will take more years to find out.


The badging for meals is to show to the IRS that it's not a taxable perk. AFAIK it's just something that happens in the US.


Out of curiosity, why wouldn’t that be a taxable perk? (Not that I think tax codes make any sense)


If it's provided because of its benefit to the employer, it's not taxable (same reason company computers are a business expense and not a taxable perk to the employee).

The logic is that the company gets benefits from providing meals that exceed the costs, e.g. shorter lunch breaks since employees don't even have to leave the building. And given that meals can be provided at scale for under $10/head, then even shaving 5 minutes off a lunch break is worth it at Big Tech compensation levels. There's also benefits to having employees eat more meals with other employees, and thus some work gets done over lunch.


It's only for IRS reporting purposes, nothing more.


I might be slow, but I still don't see reason to worry there. What happened in the proceeding months / years that was forewarned by this whiteboard / practice?


I think this is basically par for the course as a company becomes massive. A small percentage of employees will abuse perks, and once the absolute number hits some threshold the financial cost of that abuse requires revision. Same thing happened at a company I watched from from about 100 to 5000, albeit on a smaller scale.


That's not what cafe badging is about. It wouldn't catch that anyway; you're just badging into the cafe. There's no way to know how much you actually ate.


I think it's more about the 22 y.o hire who decides he and his 5 mates should all get dinner at the new office


Cafe badging does nothing to address this, as guests don't even have badges to badge with! There's no gate that you need to badge into the cafe to enter, if that's what you're thinking about.

The way to address that is to see who is consistently registering to bring in way more guests to the office than anyone else.


This is generally fine, at least in Google Cambridge.

It's just for tax purposes, as has been made abundantly clear in this thread.


It's generally not fine in other offices where cafes are already crowded just with employees (e.g. NYC). You have to register all guests at the building entrance and if you're registering lots of guests all the time, something might happen. What exactly I'm not sure; I don't know anyone who abuses the cafes to this extent. I think the registration requirements alone substantially curtail potential abuse.


which doors you are allowed to enter from is a security protocol...

badging in for meals is for IRS tax purposes...

The two things you facepalmed are absolutely easily explainable.


Yes, all of this is explainable. So is cancelling TGIF. Was that your main takeaway here?


The real issue with the security "protocol" was that directors and up were exempt from it, creating a two-class system. That's supposedly since been rescinded.


*security theater


> No decorations..

Where does this apply? Just reception, or more?

Can I have a poster or art? A plant?


Receptions and front desk, iirc. People manning them were previously allowed (and long ago, encouraged) to decorate the space to their liking.

That went away this year (and partly restored as a result of memegen-driven protests, after I left as I hear.)


I'd be interested to hear what Googlers have to say about recent deals with the Chinese government. Any qualms about that, or is there more of a feeling of relief or "glad we're back in China"?


Which deal? Are you saying about Dragonfly?


Nothing to see here. While most employees are chill, I would imagine Google has a disproportionation of hyper ideologists who are intolerant to different opinions and self-righteous to bring everything down to achieve personal validation.

The trust is reduced, but it is both way, between employer and employees. Without that, any conversation is meaningless.


If you're an engineer at Google, you've probably had a great technical education, you feel empowered because if Google would hire you, you can assume most anyone else would too; you probably feel smart because of this and in many ways you probably are a pretty smart person. You're very well paid and compensated and you know it.

There are a lot of things here that not only give someone confidence but also conviction. As you rise up the social hierarchy, and a Google engineer is very high on the social hierarchy, you begin to question your beliefs less and less and have more conviction that you are right - you must be enlightened. Because if you're so awesome as to be an in-demand engineer (at Google!), clearly your opinions are more informed and enlightened than people below you on the social hierarchy. This conviction is going to grant you confidence to not only openly proclaim positions on topics most people find private, but use this newfound social power to leverage dominance over those subordinate to your leadership position in society.

How could you be wrong? Just look at how awesome you are - your expensive house, nice car, rare foods, and luxury recreation activities validate this. Lift your hammer of justice (it's a heavy burden you carry with the privilege's you were born to have) and smash any who your in-group find problematic. After all, it's only collateral damage if some honest, humble, and hard working people are destroyed in your wrath to feed your new, insatiable appetite for further social conquest.


That can't be the whole story. Google is not the only provider of high status jobs for nerds. Why aren't Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook also rife with this sort of activism?


They didn't have the same culture?

Microsoft had a reputation from very early for ruthlessness and infighting; it's not the sort of thing that particularly attracts idealists, or encourages them to speak up if they do get hired.

At Apple, the boss (Steve Jobs) was in charge and most employees feared him. Also they were very compartmentalized and secretive. Not the same thing at all. (I'm going by press reports over the years.)

Amazon has a strong leader who sets the culture, and it's all about business rather than idealism.

I don't know about Netflix.

Facebook seems to be leaking quite a lot and has some similar problems to Google?

I think a lot of this has to do with what you think you're signing up for when you get hired. It's not like employees at a defense contractor are going to complain about military contracts. For years, many people joining Google thought they were joining an idealistic organization where they would be able to contribute to "changing the world" in some positive, non-ironic way. That's what they signed up to do. But I doubt new hires think that way anymore?


It also doesn't account for the behavior of similarly privileged non-nerds. Swap out "technical education" in that comment with any other form of specialized training that leads to high salaries. How does the specialization of computer science educations compare to the specialization of neurosurgery educations?

The notion that engineers are shitty people because they weren't made to take enough liberal arts classes falls flat for me. Learning about ethics doesn't make people more ethical[0][1]. And I'd say the number one problem with this industry, and the root of its increasingly poor reputation among the general public, is a lack ethics.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19529374

[1]https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2013/01/07/168650666/new-y...


> And I'd say the number one problem with this industry, and the root of its increasingly poor reputation among the general public, is a lack ethics.

Correction: The number one problem with every industry is lack of ethics. The root of its increasingly poor reputation is that the richest companies in the world will always face extra scrutiny. Few people cared for them 10 years ago when they were small fries and conventional companies topped the charts, but today when the majority of the 10 most valuable companies are tech companies the world will naturally start focusing on them more so than any other industry.


Perhaps “don’t be evil” was ill advised? “Evil” is rather subjective in many ways and invites a culture that maybe doesn’t scale.

Maybe google was a tad myopic to the realities of what it takes to be a high growth public company with a single revenue generating product of any significance which they didn’t really create in the first place.


This is a perfect description of my old best friend. We always disagreed politically, but after he worked at google for a few years, he became completely intolerant to any opinion I had. Was utterly confusing to me


I blame Twitter. It’s radicalized a whole generation of people.

People are extremely tribal as it is. Of course only a subset of people are prone to this extremist and highly emotional/vindictive group think. But we’re seeing what this means on a large scale as the hysterical 1% of the population in each region bands together nationally and starts recruiting other with a unified FUD campaign. People see a tweet with 50k retweet’s and assumes it’s a popular, established, and credible opinion.

I still have hope for the vast majority of people but I think society and our culture needs to become more resilient and less overly receptive to the loudest voices in the room.

The bad is far too low to what is called “controversial” today. Society simply yet hasn’t adapted to national scale outrage machines IMO. We’re starting to see people start questioning what the right way to handle them and manage the never ending radical activism campaigns.


I hope those Google employees who think like that only apply their self-confidence to things relevant to their work. I think most people grow out of the phase where they think that they excel at everything just because they know how to program.

To be fair, a lot of people who don’t find a career success also have strong opinions and ideologies. People can always have their opinions to themselves if nothing else.


If you think that's bad, think of what they're like when they eventually move on to other engineering organizations as leadership...


It's almost like the employees are slowly seeing Sundar as somebody they can't relate with under the company's now "controversial" common goals and objectives. Now Google management is panicking and doing everything they can to reduce employee's face time with the higher-ups since management knows the company is moving in a direction that a large number of employees disagree with!


> It's almost like the employees are slowly seeing Sundar as somebody they can't relate with

I might agree but I'm not sure that this is news. Ever since Sundar became CEO there, there's been a somewhat widespread perception that he would focus on beancounting and running Google as a "mature" firm, with little or no innovation to speak of. (For that matter, you could even view this as a very reasonable response to increased challenges in the Internet advertising market, which is of course where Google makes most of their money.)


Yes, I think the IBM-ification of Google was telegraphed a decade ago. Sure, there's kombucha on tap, you don't have to wear a blue suit with black shoes, and you're not forced to use Lotus Notes; but the differences are constantly declining.

If I were Google, I would also be alarmed by the "Google vs Bing" meme format. It's a silly meme, but it's pointing out that consumers are realizing that Google's filtering and groupthink shape results. If you want the approved marketer-friendly result, you use Google. If you want the truth you use Bing.


> ...would focus on beancounting and running Google as a "mature" firm, with little or no innovation to speak of.

Surprising that folks would think along those lines given Sundar's background as head of product with Chrome browser, Chrome OS, and Android before he took over as CEO in 2015.


Don't forget Google Toolbar.

That was the product credited with getting him noticed for better or worse. A strategically vital and utterly boring piece of software which aligns well with how the company has changed.


Well, i think it makes sense for google to be run like a mature company now. Their core products are pretty well developed, but they still have sections that are more focused on innovating and researching stuff that can possibly be part of Google's core business in the future.

Dont fix what ain't broke.


As an Xoogler (left in 2015) I find that news highly disappointing. I think that without honest, regular Q&A at events like TGIF, the company will become more and more out of touch.

When I was there, TGIF was watered down, but we still asked uncomfortable questions of management. I remember asking a question of Sundar when he was head of Android when the Nexus 6 came out questioning our chasing Apple into the high end market, rather than making affordable devices.


Having left more recently (mid 2019) - TGIF had been increasingly sporadically scheduled from 2016 onwards, to the point that many of us had thought it was cancelled a few times between then and now. In my local office, snacks got rescheduled and shuffled around to be further away from where the live stream happened and sometimes start at the same time as the broadcast. The writing was on the wall for a long time.

A lot of people blamed this on leaks, but that already came to a head in the 2013-2015 era, where I saw announcements go from being made a week ahead of time at TGIF, to a day, to hours, to a few hours after the fact, to not at all. I'd attribute more to new executives who were more hostile to being asked hard questions.


I get the impression (as a total outsider) that Google went from being a cohesive "us" that had clear inside/outside communication, to a collection of disparate groups (code monkeys/execs, for lack of a better term, as well as others) that do not feel aligned/allegiance to each other. Is that in any way accurate? That the internal unity got balkanized (primarily by senior management)?


Management above the director level was always invisible, but it went from invisible and assumed benevolent to invisible and assumed hostile (spurred by concrete actions). I don't think they were considered part of an "us" at any stage. Despite all the people ranting about political culture on Hacker News, my experience among leaf level employees was one of growing solidarity, and that sense of "us" increasingly being extended to temps, vendors, and contractors.


Exactly that.


Do you remember other "uncomfortable" or probing questions that were asked? Just out of curiosity.

I work for a company that holds similar "town halls" where employees are able to ask anonymous questions of management and they can get pretty brutal sometimes ("why is turnover so high?", "why is upper management's compensation so much higher than others?", etc).


My work has this too and it gets a little embarrassing when people reveal they fundamentally misunderstand the relationship they have with their employer.


> reveal they fundamentally misunderstand the relationship they have with their employer.

Due to the great PR that an employer create via their branding (for HR and recruiting).

It is wise to always remember that if you earn a wage/salary, the relationship between an employer and employee is going to remain as such - the business's interests supersedes your own.

I would like to see a future world where there is no such employer/employee relationship, because everyone works for themselves (but also cannot hire anyone).


ha! I completely agree.

Some of the questions are genuinely things that everyone is thinking but too afraid to ask, and some are complaints from employees to management that are as old as time.

But with both types, it at least gives people the feeling that they can be heard.


It has been nearly 5 years, so I don't remember specifics. But I do recall people asking the same kinds of questions that would come up on HN around controversial product decisions. Eg, product cancellations, etc. I also recall people asking about differing working conditions between the core Google and acquired consumer products companies..


I thought the same thing, this sounds like the CEOs approach is to cover up the issues rather than work on addressing them, probably one of the worst things you can do honestly and he now has the issue to solve of making sure the right information is communicated effectively without misinterpretation.

It sounds like they might even need more transparency rather than less of it. If some of the conversations were being leaked, well why not just open it up?


Sounds like Googlers spoiled the well. I'm not sure exactly why but Google employees always seem to be in the news about something and have leaked conversations that management had with them. In some instances the controversy is warranted (Rubin Payout, etc.) but it must be annoying from a management perspective.


When you sign up to manage a company that's been on the Fortune 500 for over a decade, I imagine you're being paid to tolerate and manage some amount of annoyance.


Pichai is making over $100,000,000 a year. That is more than enough to deal with all the annoying crap that goes on.


It is enough to expect him to perform better as a leader at least.


Leaving Google it became clear how extremely entitled the culture was. People lose perspective when embedded in a culture that is permissive about entitlement.

Management will always attract its share of assholes, and enablers of assholes. And while I don't mean to excuse behaviors in management that are inexcusable, I think the sense of entitlement and overinflated egos of the rank and file did much to improve company culture.


s/did much to improve/did little to improve/

(Not sure why I can't edit the comment)


I think it’s interesting that people absolve management from blame, when they actively hid details of military contracts with employees.


Can’t really blame them for that given the reaction. You can blame them for taking those contracts in the first place.


By what principle could one blame them for one thing and not the other?


Of course we can blame them for hiding their abusive, violent behavior. It's never too late to come clean, and embrace accountability.


What a distasteful sentiment. Management is punishing workers with their silence, and their lack of transparency, and you have the gall to suggest these workers deserve it? That they brought it upon themselves?

It's our right to speak up about our experiences, even if that means "leaking" our bosses words. In a sense, it's our duty–Google's actions impact us all, and we're owed transparency with which management's not forthcoming.


I mean this respectfully - why are you owed transparency?

Google is a company, not a collective. Companies typically have various controlled ways of disseminating information, both internally and externally.

Internal transparency (at a company of Google’s size) effectively means public transparency... ie all of the inner workings are known to everyone. I’m not aware of any for-profit organization that can function effectively that way.


Googlers are owed transparency because that's what we were promised when we were hired. It was the reason we were working over time (nights, weekends). I stopped doing that when I saw that the promise was broken, as a promotion without making something amazing together just doesn't worth to give away a part of my life.


I am not owed transparency. I am making a threat. If Google does not become more transparent–allowing me to make better-informed decisions to protect myself from their policies–I will fight them until it does.

I am subjected to negative externalities of Google's Surveillance Capitalist practices. I consider their business practices to be abusive, coercive, manipulative, and exploitative. I resent them.

I recognize that I, as an individual, have very little leverage over firms such as Google. I am not, however, an original thinker: if I am pushed to this perspective by forms in the zeitgeist, I am not alone.

> I’m not aware of any for-profit organization that can function effectively that way.

Neither, frankly, am I. Even those firms which claim to be "radically transparent" are, in my esteem, doing so largely as a PR front. If "the client owns the interface," then transparency should be implemented not a curated blog posts, but as something akin to FOIA requests. I should like to see enormous innovation in terms of corporate transparency in my lifetime, or else I–and many others–will be defecting from our collusion with such firms.

If you find my perspective difficult to sympathize with, perhaps I have done a poor job of communicating it. Hopefully, you will recognize it as codified by better writers:

1. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26195941-the-age-of-surv... 2. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37830765-ten-arguments-f... 3. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41963432-ghost-work 4. https://crimethinc.com/books/no-wall-they-can-build


It makes sense, if I was CEO and only 20% of employees were attending, and whatever I said at the meeting got leaked, I'd cancel them too. And I think most people would. Also, I think a lot of people just want to go to work and work, they don't care about politics or even business strategy.


(1) 20% is 20,000 people; (2) almost everyone sees the summaries the next days; (3) TGIF is [was] not about politics. I agree that leaks is what seems to have brought TGIF down though.


Or convert the meetings into a vehicle for press disclosure.

"The purpose of a system is what it does."

(Hold my Beer.)


As a Xoogler who just wanted to get on topic product updates ( and Sergey jokes I guess - he really is insanely funny), I actually found it frustrating that it was an overloaded forum for any and all random topics.

Were I working there, this would have made sense to me.

I didn't work there to be an activist. I worked there to go work on products.

I don't get other comments that say "courted activists". The recruiting pitch is about impact, a good work environment, compensation and interesting products.


I wonder if companies like Google and GitHub that actively courted activists are now regretting their decision. For a long time it was common knowledge that you would try to keep stuff like that out of the workplace. The past 10 years have been an about face to that strategy and now we're seeing more or less complete chaos internally at these previously pro-politics (some kinds of politics) workplaces.

My guess is there will certainly be a shift away from other companies trying to do this in the future. Rightfully so imho.


I think it's more that they actively courted assertive people with opinions and then created a culture where you can bring your whole self to work. They did this so that they could get the benefits of creativity, which inherently requires emotional engagement, which requires that you not repress your emotions. (It turns out that it's not possible to selectively repress emotions: "I've got to watch what I say about politics" subconsciously spills over into "I've got to watch what I say" which spills over into "I've got to watch what I say about anything new and controversial", and you lose the latter well before the former.)

The part that's biting them is that now that they're 100,000 people, creativity is wasted anyway, because any brilliant new product idea will get killed long before launch and if it doesn't it'll probably catastrophically damage Google's brand. So the upside of this cultural decision is worthless to them, and the downside is incredibly chaotic and difficult to manage.

I think we'll see a shift away from this at Google, but I think other startups will still consciously embrace it. When you're 10 people and are about to go out of business if you don't come up with a brilliant idea, your incentives are dramatically different from when you're 100,000 and make tens of billions from your existing business lines every quarter.


You can be creative and still act like a professional in a professional environment.

One example is advertising agencies, which in the last century (in spite of what you see on popular television) were very button-up places but created cultural touchstones we still know today.

(Edited to clarity I'm referencing ad agencies in the 20th century, not the SV-wannabe agencies a few have evolved into today.)


My brother worked in ad agencies, and this is the opposite of what he said. Tons of drinking and just generally bad behavior which would only be tolerated in the worst silicon valley startups. He moved to the startup world because it has a healthier work culture.


One of my first jobs out of college was for a digital agency. Shortly after I started we were bought by a very large ad agency and it was shocking how casual alcohol and drug use were at our parent company. Luckily we were insulated enough that it didn't permeant our culture until after I left.


We are surrounded by functional alcoholics (10% in the US drink most of the booze). They naturally tend toward career paths that support their behavior.


90% of people surrounded by 10% ? The word "surrounded" seems inappropriate.


Maybe a better word could have been chosen. But in perspective, almost every team on average has at least one person with an alcohol problem of some sort.


and then there's Ireland.


Surrounded =/= Majority


Since when were advertising agencies button-up affairs? Crispin Porter is down the street from me and they seem to be every silly brogrammer stereotype, just in a different market.

Like their shuttle looks like a prison bus but is labeled "disruptive thinkers transport" or some such. That's Mike Judge levels of ridiculousness.


> Like their shuttle looks like a prison bus but is labeled "disruptive thinkers transport" or some such.

You're joking, right?




I wish I could bold this comment and pin it to the top.

It's absolutely a false dichotomy to assert that there can either be creativity or there can be constraints.

As a game developer, I look no further than the numerous game jams with artificial constraints as evidence that creativity can flourish within the confines of constraints. One might even argue that creativity is given constructive direction by way of constraints.


I didn't say constraints, I said emotions.

I don't believe it's possible to have creativity without emotions, and I've got citations to that point (which are apparently quite controversial, that comment has been fluctuating heavily in score) [1].

It's possible to put constraints on your emotions and to not immediately do something because you feel like doing it. This is the essence of emotional intelligence, and of maturity. The thing is that this is a conscious process: you are expending your limited attention on watching your behavior and ensuring it conforms to the desired norms. (If you internalize those norms such that conformance is unconscious - well, then you've internalized the existing norms, but the point of creativity is that you're trying to break out of those unconsciously-internalized customs.) That means you're not expending that attention on the details of the problem itself. Most of the problems involved in revolutionizing an industry with computer code are immensely complex and require all the attention you can give them.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21548499


That's an interesting argument: can creativity exist without emotions?

It speaks directly to the nature of creativity. Is creativity simply the discovery of the new; or is it an expression of desire for the new? Is it something else?

Hmm...

Although, to the original concern: I don't believe constraints on behaviour necessarily constrain emotions; such constraints influence emotions, but I wouldn't expect a general suppression of emotion.


I doubt I'll be the only meditator that disagrees with you, on every point, regardless of citations.


I work at one of the largest, oldest agencies there is and have worked before in big tech and in startups, and to be honest people in ad agencies are pretty open about controversial opinions around politics. I'd say the workers are, in general (as in, if you pick one randomly) more to the left side of the spectrum as in any arts-related organization, but as in any company there are different people from all sides - a left, liberal, atheist director hiring a right wing, conservative, Catholic worker is just normal, people don't bother too much with this kind of personal stuff. My take is that the difference comes from the business model - agencies (as consulting firms) are client-facing and don't scale as pure tech companies so there's always some big, influential clients to please, so people tend to stop personal opinions from getting in the way of business, while in pure tech where engineers are far from their customers, politics become something relevant in the workplace.


Advertising agencies are lot smaller than 100K employees. Also if there are very big agencies they are distributed and individual country/city offices are responsible for clients. Beyond corporate functions there are no business "best practices" to be enforced by headquarters.


WPP alone is 130k. There are a few at that scale, just like the vast, vast majority of tech companies aren't Google's scale.


WPP is a holding company for a number of smaller agencies - having previously worked for a holding company-owned agency (holding companies dominate the advertising agency space), no one considers themselves e.g. a WPP employee, and culture is very much set at the individual agency level.


I do not believe chronic bouts of performative outrage leads to anything creative, inside or out of the workplace. If one's "whole self" cannot meaningfully function without getting constantly triggered, the problem is with the normalization of such "whole self" concepts


Performative outrage? Constantly triggered? Are we talking about the same company?

Paying someone $90 million to leave after allegedly assaulting someone [0] isn't something that happens "constantly", and seems like a pretty reasonable thing to have strong opinions about. And there's nothing "performative" about successfully rolling back mandatory arbitration [1], which studies have found is stacked in favor of employers and muzzles employees [2], and which the ABA now recommends against [3].

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/technology/google-sexual-...

[1]: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/8/18075780/google-sexual-as...

[2]: https://www.vox.com/2018/8/1/16992362/sexual-harassment-mand...

[3]: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications...


Rubin was accused by, if I recall correctly, a woman he'd been in a relationship with and then dumped? He denied her accusations and as it was all behind closed doors there's no way to ever resolve it. That shouldn't be in the public realm at all, let alone people having strong opinions about it!

Honestly if Google really kicked him out because of an unsubstantiable claim by some woman with an axe to grind, or some private sexual perversions .... after all he did for Google? $90M is probably too little for what they gave him. That's like, less than a year's CEO salary.


> He denied her accusations and as it was all behind closed doors there's no way to ever resolve it. That shouldn't be in the public realm at all, let alone people having strong opinions about it!

That's true of every accusation the Miami Herald published against Jeffrey Epstein as well. Do you believe none of that should be in the public realm, either?

I'm not arguing that you're wrong, I'm just pointing out that if you want to live in a world where such accusations stay out of the public realm, then that means you want to live in a world where Jeffrey Epstein is still raping adolescent girls, and you have to admit that's a price you're willing to pay to protect the accused.

Conversely, I have no problem admitting that if I support such he-said-she-said accusations being publicized and having consequences, then even if Al Franken and Aziz Ansari did nothing wrong whatsoever, the hits to their reputation and earnings opportunity cost that they suffered is a price I'm willing to pay to reduce sexual harassment.

I also don't fully understand what you mean but "shouldn't be in the public realm". If me and some other person are the sole eyewitnesses to something, should I be muzzled from saying what I witnessed in the public realm simply because the other eyewitness disagrees?


The problem is you don't get to pick and choose who your culture affects. If you hire people with those opinions and then tell them they need to watch what they say, other employees get the same message. You may have people who aren't political at all, but they see people being punished for expressing their opinions and decide they too better modify their behavior.


It's true that Google doesn't need creative all stars. It needs line workers, and there's no way its culture of whimsical creativity could have survived expanding so much and so quickly.

Your point about emotions is also good. Here is another way to put it.

The issue IMO is that they told people they were changing the world and by making information universally available etc etc. The people who went to work for them early really believed it and those people seeded their culture.

The people who just wanted to make a bunch of money went into other fields (like Wall Street or law). Those people also talk about politics and undoubtedly have political activists. But the politics of someone who just wants to make a ton of money are aligned with a company whose stated goal is to just make a ton of money.

This political alignment doesn't happen for free at Google. And since they seeded their culture with people who cared about improving the world, they have a higher than average rate of influencial employees who don't want to make money in traditionally "dirty" fields like arms dealing and private prisons.

Google has to solve this problem because their cloud division can't survive if they can't take government contracts. I see no way of solving it except that they just have to kill the old culture while attempting to minimize attrition.


They could try to split up. The separation into Alphabet seems almost a dream for regulators who can just separate them.

I mean, just think about it. Standard Oil had the same monopoly over a valuable resource (oil then, Software and Data today) that Google has today (fine, Facebook etc too... but there is no Facebook search; also they are monopolies over different kinds of digital products). They need to be broken up; their successors will probably end up becoming quite big over time; rinse, rise, repeat.

Capitalism is an amazing thing. Only the strongest survive but then they dominate everything and strangle the market itself. Fuck that, keep the markets free of such control by non state actors.


> but there is no Facebook search

Ouch, don't let Facebook hear you say that :p

They tried so hard to get Search to stick, to the point of trying to juice the numbers by forcing you to go to a result page instead of directly to a group/page/profile in the live results dropdown.


Facebook could easily be told to shed Instagram, WhatsApp and everything else they bought up to dominate the social network space. Individually those companies might not survive, but they could spin them off, as a whole, if the FTC tired to step in.

Google could be asked to do the same with some of their product lines/companies.

It's very unlikely though. These companies have a lot of influence and a lot of power .. and when was the last time the Federal government broke up a company over antitrust violations? It didn't happen with Microsoft .. and for examples of really big monopolies, you'd probably have to go back to the Bell/ATT days.


> It's very unlikely though. These companies have a lot of influence and a lot of power

While that's true, just money and influence aren't sufficient for this. Congress passes laws, but its upto the Executive to interpret it. The lack of breaking up of larger corporations has indeed been due to their significant influence, but I'm interested to see how e.g. a left-learning President like Sanders or Warren would use the powers of the Federal Executive (specifically the Justice Dept) to enforce existing anti-trust laws. Probably the only thorn in their plan would be SCOTUS, and its possible that its current makeup might make it amenable to the influence of corporations (its not clear to me if it will).


Have you considered how standard oil is now ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP. They did break up but we're hardly in a different place in terms of who controls the market and who has most influence on gov policy globally to keep it that way.

http://2oqz471sa19h3vbwa53m33yj-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-c...

Or how Bell is now ATT and plenty of other useless oligopoly companies?


It’s true they currently have enormous power. But consider how the market would look like and how they would behave, if it were still Standard Oil and ATT.


They can't break up because ads drives something like 80-90% of revenue.


> (It turns out that it's not possible to selectively repress emotions: "I've got to watch what I say about politics" subconsciously spills over into "I've got to watch what I say" which spills over into "I've got to watch what I say about anything new and controversial", and you lose the latter well before the former.)

This was the same logic that allowed talented men to turn their workplaces into a very unwelcoming place for women by allowing them to make sexual jokes, proposition their coworkers, and have business meetings in strip clubs. If you are going with the “take your whole self to work” spiel you can argue that sexuality is a bigger part of most people’s lives than politics. So if we can ask for co-workers to not discuss their latest bedroom exploits, surely we can ask for people to not talk about politics at work.


I don’t think they’re the same thing. It might be a generational thing, but younger workers are at ease and fluid with Gender and gender based identities. There is a culture of respect that I see in this generation that might be hidden by the absolutely pathetic situations under which many of them live today due to reasons unrelated to their talents and work ethic. But this is changing, Google embraced that change but it’s struggling with it today for uncertain reasons.


Its ridiculous to equate talking about politics to sexual harassment. Talking politics doesn't magically turn you into a chauvinist.


Not in general. James Damore was likely a singular exception.


Why do you think that creativity requires emotional engagement? I haven't found that to be the case.


Personal experience, but it's also been born out by studies:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creativity-the-art-a...

https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-emotions-that-make-us-more-creat...

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.0266...

TL;DR: It's not the specific emotion that matters (indeed, there's evidence that having mixed emotions, where you can synthesize aspects of them, is crucial to creativity), it's the motivational intensity behind it.


This seems like a pretty big stretch. The realization that mixed emotions (as in happy/angry) being useful for creative thought somehow can be applied here?


> (It turns out that it's not possible to selectively repress emotions: "I've got to watch what I say about politics" subconsciously spills over into "I've got to watch what I say" which spills over into "I've got to watch what I say about anything new and controversial", and you lose the latter well before the former.)

I don't believe this. I can tune out whatever random BS my coworkers a few desks over are talking about and still be engaged in technical discussions about what we're building.

It just requires some discipline and an expectation of that discipline.


I don’t know if I could really trust the opinions of a co-worker who believed the earth is flat. I’m pretty sure that would influence my attitude towards them in technical discussions as well.


Do you mean that you wouldn’t trust any objective claims they made without verifying the claims yourself? Shouldn’t you not do that anyway, with anyone, including people with strange cosmological beliefs but also renowned experts?


Literally nobody has time for that. Take a question like “Will this tool meet requirement x?” - you want every person on the team to verify that for themselves?


If you only trust facts that you verify yourself firsthand, you can’t really live on the accumulated progress of human expertise. Your level of technological sophistication will max out at “can make a thatch hut and gather pineapples.”


> If you only trust facts that you verify yourself firsthand, you can’t really live on the accumulated progress of human expertise.

Arguably, the differentiating factor between humans and animals is our ability to organize on large scales. Monkeys and killer whales can coordinate behavior in groups of sometimes up to 50 or maybe 100 individuals. However, humans can coordinate behavior across millions of people. Building a modern automobile, a computer chip, or the social security system requires coordination across so many individuals, no one person can fully and deeply understand the entire system.

The ability of humans to believe information that they do not fully know is true, is probably one of the defining traits of humanity.


It's because these extraordinarily stupid individuals started out with the same shitty American k-12 education as the rest of us and then went out of their way to make it worse by believing things that are patently false. Someone unable to grasp the basics isn't worth getting into a technical discussion with. There aren't many of these 'basics' that I would consider an instant DQ, although Holocaust Denial, Being Superstitious, Cannibalism, Flat Earth Belief, etc. would fit the bill.


The informal "just be yourself" spirit can work quite well in a small startup team.

Google used to be just that, and they made untold billions from it, so it's not surprising that they held on to remnants of that spirit for too long.

Now they're a gigantic megacorp, and need to act the part.

...and life goes on, everything is different but also the same...


I disagree with this. This is like comedians raging against cancel culture.

It’s possible to both be funny and be conscious :: It’s possible to be creative and not fixated on political activism.


You notice basically everyone funny is raging against outrage culture


> It turns out that it's not possible to selectively repress emotions: "I've got to watch what I say about politics" subconsciously spills over into "I've got to watch what I say" which spills over into "I've got to watch what I say about anything new and controversial", and you lose the latter well before the former.

I don't have any problem keeping my non-work related opinions to myself at work, and I don't see any corresponding repression of my professional creativity.


It means that you can't make jokes, designs or decisions based on your non-work related opinions, how can that possibly not hurt your creativity? For example, it could mean that instead of using your own judgement when hiring people you remember that race and gender is political so you override your gut-feelings and go by the book to avoid problems in the future.

The same applies everywhere, and going by the book is always the least creative thing you can do. Of course often going by the book is the best solution you have, but it is hard to argue that it doesn't reduce creativity in the workplace.


> It means that you can't make jokes, designs or decisions based on your non-work related opinions, how can that possibly not hurt your creativity?

I can't imagine my being an R or a D having any connection with engineering creativity.

> it could mean that instead of using your own judgement when hiring people you remember that race and gender is political so you override your gut-feelings and go by the book to avoid problems in the future

I give an evaluation of their ability to do the job, and let the HR dept. fret about the company's social equity agenda.

I don't choose my friends based on if their politics/religion align with mine, either.


How did being assertive and bringing your whole self to work work out for James Damore?


Please don't start this flamewar for the hundredth, at least, time. It's predictable and predictably nasty, the two things we most need to avoid here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


This whole thread is a dumpster fire.

Sadly most even remotely political topics have started to turn into one, even on HN.

It's getting to the point where I wish moderators would just downrank such topics to position 20+ or outright ban them front the frontpage.

Or at least slap some clear "POLITICAL" tag on it and give users a filter option.


[flagged]


Can you link to where he said that as specifically as possible? I have read his paper and it doesn't say that.


Is it simpler but less civil to just to call out an entirely false representation of Damore’s position, than to entertain it asking for evidence?


The hope is that people who are in good faith will look for the evidence and through their failure to find it come to change their views.


Why should this opinion (just for the sake of argument assuming that it is, which I don’t think) have any effect on his employment status if there were otherwise no problems?


> actively courted assertive people with opinions

Is that something that companies do on purpose? Because such an environment sounds like absolute hell.

I want to spend my time dealing with technical problems not arguing with people's egos.


Well, Google and GitHub built fantastic engineering departments with that decision, beating the pants off several companies that followed "common knowledge." It was (and still is) a cliche that you get better results by hiring like Google than by hiring like everyone used to hire.

What they're now learning is that this decision is incompatible with certain forms of revenue like military or immigration-enforcement contracts. That doesn't mean that the right answer is that you should accept such forms of revenue and reject the employees who don't support it. That just means you have to choose. What they're regretting is simply that they can't have it both ways.

(Also, GitHub in particular is trying to endorse a particular form of politics at work - they've been defending the practices of ICE in their internal and external communications. If opposition to ICE is political, support of ICE is political too, no?)

Google and GitHub are trying to turn into IBM and Oracle. That's fine, but they should remember that they were originally trying to beat IBM and Oracle. And they shouldn't be surprised if a company that explicitly embraces activist engineers and forswears sources of revenue incompatible with that activism, a company that says "We will talk about politics at the workplace and this is our particular form of politics," one day beats the pants off them.


This is historically revisionist. Google was a money-making behemoth with its tentacles in many areas of innovation before it became the politicized entity we know it to be today.

Google only really became politicized a couple of years ago when certain media publications started making demands for diversity numbers within the organization and publicly shaming them for not meeting some imaginary bar in the area.

Github was the premier hosted SCM solution long before it literally pulled its meritocracy rug from under it [0] and has been living off first-mover advantage since, succeeding in spite of the activists it now employs, not because of.

I personally _would be_ very surprised to see an identity politics focused company beat either, not merely because of their [Google, Github] current status but because those in question haven't shown themselves to be capable of building much at all.

[0] https://www.businessinsider.com/githubs-ceo-ditches-meritocr...


> This is historically revisionist. Google was a money-making behemoth with its tentacles in many areas of innovation before it became the politicized entity we know it to be today.

This is also historically revisionist. Google's been super political since forever, it just wasn't in the news for it.


Really?

Googler 2006-2014. I can't say I remember much politics during that time. The closest it got was Eric Schmidt having close relationships with Washington. That and the China thing but even there, Google was in China with a censored search engine up until they went and hacked the firm. I don't remember much discussion of the fact that we had a Chinese version of the search engine.

What are you thinking of?

I look at it like this. My friends who still work there complain about stupid idpol all the time now. I never heard complaints like that when I was there.


rms is extremely political, and has made significant contributions In the operating system and application space. The entirety of the free software movement is a political movement, stemming from a philosophy that people should have freedom to change the software on devices they physically own. I assume you're not considering him one of "those in question?"


Google sheets had the gay pride flag Easter egg for almost a decade. Company has been political for awhile.


That's no more political than it is to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Saint Patrick's Day with a custom logo or easter egg.


A lot has changed in the US in a decade. Case in point: a person could make the above claim with a straight face now. ;)

Obergefell v. Hodges was only four years ago. American conservatives are still trying to reverse gay marriage.


Not in SF.


Same SF where Mozilla's employees revolted against a CEO who donated to support Prop 8? None of that was political, then?

(And hiring mostly in SF isn't itself a political choice?)


You seem to be the revisionist. Implying that people of colour that were brought at the company changed the culture for the worse because this is what the media wanted. Implying that politics came in only because they tried to bring diversity in the workplace.

We are talking of the company that was advocating do not evil. This was political from day 1, remember their stand on China?


> You seem to be the revisionist. Implying that people of colour that were brought at the company changed the culture for the worse because this is what the media wanted. Implying that politics came in only because they tried to bring diversity in the workplace.

Yes, when they stopped caring about engineering skills and starting caring about diversity checkboxes, their overall engineering capabilities declined. Google has done relatively little of note over the last 5 years given their size, and part of it is that they have an incompetence cancer and engineering teams cannot trust other teams (or even coworkers in larger teams).

Do you realize how harmful it is to an organization when you can’t tell if a coworker you are depending on is competent or if they were hired because of their genes?

> This was political from day 1, remember their stand on China?

Which stand? Because they flip-flop all of the time.


I'm an engineer at google and this bit about hiring someone because of their genes is false.

All candidates must past the same hiring bar, no one gets extra points for "diversity". So no, I never wonder why a coworker was hired.


Nope, allowing some candidates to retry more because of their genes or straight up skip a failed phone screen is lowering the bar for them. The entire hiring process from recruitment to offer is part of the hiring bar.

Retries, easier judges, removing some earlier barriers, etc would all be obvious discrimination in any other process.

You yourself admit that the process has false negatives. If those are in any way probabilistic (which is obvious that people get in after multiple tries), allowing minorities to try more frequently is lowering the bar for minorities.

If you let someone throw extra darts at the dartboard to hit the bullseye, that doesn’t make them as good as the people that hit it in fewer attempts.

> So no, I never wonder why a coworker was hired.

Good for you, but not everyone was so willfully ignorant when I worked there.


I hate to break it to you, but that's not true.

Yes, the company tells you that's how it works. But I was also a Google engineer, I did hundreds of interviews during a time when it was way less into diversity than it is today. And absolutely Google bent its policies to try and hire more women. Constantly.

Some tricks I saw used:

1. Assigning the best/most reliable interviewers to women. Recruiters confirmed to me that they did this.

2. Allowing women who failed the phone screens to proceed to on-sites anyway.

3. Organising recruiting events which banned men, e.g. there was since early years Google CodeJam, a coding competition that was pretty openly used as a way to find candidates. But the men crushed the women, repeatedly. I think there was a female finalist once in 13 years. So they set up a second CodeJam with large cash prizes, but banned men from it.

In recent times there was the recruiter who quit and claims he was told to not hire non-diverse candidates. I believe that. I was told about recruitment's diversity goals by recruiters themselves.

But still, there was a lot of resistance to bending the hiring pipeline in more extreme ways. That culture carried over to Facebook. I've been told that at Facebook recruiters were incentivised with cash to hire more women, but they gave up pretty fast because stuffing the pipeline with weaker candidates didn't work: they got flushed out by the hiring committees.

By the way you're blind to a much more important trick Google uses. Eng hiring was, during my time, at least somewhat well defended against diversity abuse. But firing was totally controlled by HR. And it is an open secret that at Google it's nearly impossible for women to be fired, regardless of how low their performance is. Instead they get moved around between teams. Men, on the other hand, can be and are let go for merely not exceeding expectations. Obviously that's one way to get less male workforce, if you're patient!


You're arguing against a point that wasn't being made. It is absolutely possible to try to hire more women and require them all to meet the hiring bar (as you yourself point out with your story about Facebook).

1. Assigning the most reliable interviewers to women ensures that women who do meet the bar don't get inaccurately rejected.

2. The hiring bar is enforced at the on-site, not at the phone screen.

3. Sourcing an all-women group from a hiring event and sending them through the normal interview process is ... sending them through the normal interview process.

If you want to claim that Google is trying harder to hire qualified women than qualified men, sure, I don't think anyone disputed that. The dispute was whether Googlers ever think an unqualified person was hired to meet a diversity goal.

(And how often does Google fire someone for discovering that their interview process emitted a false positive? Given the incredible cost of making that mistake, most hiring processes are tuned to err towards false negatives instead of false positives, and Google's intensive process should be particularly good at that. Unless you're claiming HR is firing qualified men to meet a quota - i.e., textbook wrongful termination at scale - a bias for never getting around to firing women can't have a noticeable effect.)


> tuned to err towards false negatives instead of false positives

This is a lie perpetuated by googlers. That’s a false dichotomy. There is no evidence that their process reduces false positives. Pointing to a bunch of false negatives just means they have a process that produces a bunch of false negatives. For how smart googlers are purported to be, you would think they wouldn’t report such an obviously illogical statement.


[flagged]


the only reason Google doesn't just outright ban white men from applying for engineering jobs is

Please don't troll on HN.


Sadly, this isn't trolling. There's a lawsuit that claims much evidence of this:

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/2/17070624/google-youtube-wi...

Maybe you don't agree with those claims but please don't simply write off anything you don't like the sound of as trolling.


> Do you really think Google doesn't let men go for low performance? I saw that happen many times.

Cool, you should sue. The SJW women are suing alleging Google has been discriminating against them: https://googlegendercase.com/ Are you going to let the SJWs win? It sounds like you have an open-and-shut case, from what you're claiming.

> Feminists would utterly lose it.

Again, that's not what's under dispute. What is being claimed is that Googlers have no reason to doubt that every person there met the hiring bar. Even in your scenario, that would still be true. Even if Google refrained entirely from hiring white men - which, yes, would be illegal - they could still enforce the hiring bar.


There's already such a lawsuit by a recruiter:

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/2/17070624/google-youtube-wi...

I don't have any documents or hard evidence, just what I saw and heard. So I can't contribute to that case even if I wanted to get involved.


Right, there is a lot of talk about things but ultimately the strongest political side at Google are still the ones clamoring for meritocracy.


It's less "meritocracy vs. diversity" and more "meritocracy factors in diversity."

They aren't opposed goals; an organization with a meritocracy that over-optimizes on too few metrics is fragile and collapses in a dynamic market.


Which organization has collapsed that focused only on technical skills?


It doesn't take more than a handful of interactions to determine if a coworker is competent. The reason they were hired is irrelevant; software engineering at Google is very fast-paced, and it tends to interpret incompetence as damage and route around it.


I read the "how Google works " book and I can't help but question myself if they built what they built despite of the culture.

The best recipe for a company that isn't printing billions of dollars from Advertising to go bankrupt is try to follow their book and culture.

If you remove infinite money and market dominance would it still work out in the end ? My guess is that it wouldn't.

Google feels sometimes very much like startups with VC money just being inefficient and burning other people money, except of course, Google is burning it's own money that is generated from the non sexy / cool stuff (ads and enterprise email / storage )...


> If you remove infinite money and market dominance would it still work out in the end ? My guess is that it wouldn't.

Google in the early days didn't have infinite money nor market dominance and it obviously worked out. Doing what they did is what got them from A to B.


And Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are nothing like that and two of the three are more profitable. Correlation is not causation.


I didn't say it was. But the GP asked:

> If you remove infinite money and market dominance would it still work out in the end ?

And the answer to that is clearly: yes. It would because it did.


Is there a variant of Godwin's law/meme that all conversations on HN about politics degenerate to hitting each other over neoliberal economics, the CoC and men's rights?


CoC?


Code of Conduct


Nah, there's a much simpler and more factually correct explanation. Google developed a natural monopoly using smart people. It then had very high hiring standards and higher salaries, and hired more very smart people in order to wrap its tentacles and create more competition crushing apps and features. It gave these smart people more freedom and money compared to what they were used to, and allowed them to freely innovate and task risks. This all happened before the political era we know today.

None of Google's success it had to do with identity politics. In many ways, you could argue Google was a-political for most of its life.


It seems likely that this is not a conflict between politics and non-politics, or even between left and right, but between labor and management. The people that built Google are shocked that management is not making the decisions they would make (especially about things a bit less functional than most corporate decisions, e.g. whom to do business with). I'm pretty sure that if all the programmers at Google decided Google should not do something as a company, they actually have the power to stop it. I am not sure they want to exercise this power in some coordinated fashion.


> And they shouldn't be surprised if a company that explicitly embraces activist engineers and forswears sources of revenue incompatible with that activism, a company that says "We will talk about politics at the workplace and this is our particular form of politics," one day beats the pants off them.

They should be surprised as it hasn't ever happened before. That's not to say that it won't or shouldn't happen, it just would be surprising.


Didn't it happen with Google? Did they not build a more productive engineering department because they said "Bring your whole self to work, and bring your dog too" and not "We want your butt in a cubicle for 40 hours and this is just a job"?

I suspect if a company says "Bring your whole self to work, and we're actually serious about it, only bother applying if you think you'll gel with the folks already here," they'll still be able to hire as many people as they need and they'll deliver better products because of it.


How are they “more productive” than the other tech behemoths?

I would argue that they are less productive seeing that after all these years they haven’t diversified from advertising - where 90% of their profit comes from - as compared to Apple or Microsoft or even Amazon.


They're very productive, but much of that productivity gets spent reinventing the same products and services over and over.


Interviewed at Etsy about a year or two ago and the interviewer was asking me about politically charged topics. How I would handle workplace gender complaints. How they should handle racial diversity in the work place, etc.

It was really clear I was giving wrong answers. I told them flat out that I think people should be judged by the quality of their character, not the color of their skin and that the company should just try to be fair and hire the best people.

I mean I get that companies want to do the right thing but you can only really do ONE thing well.


I assume this was for a supervisory position or an HR position?

These aren’t really politically charged questions but rather questions about how to manage people and the issues that come with people. While the cause of the complaint may be politically charged, how one would handle the situation should be pretty by the book.


Even if the book is wrong?


No, not if the book is wrong obviously . In this interview case, however, you’d want to be pretty specific about where you thought those flaws might be and suggest ways to make it even better.

By “the book” I meant a well thought out process that follows the law, protects parties in a dispute, prevents retaliation, encourages reporting, and is well documented and understood. I’m probably missing a bunch of other best practices - not a certified HR Specialist.

My only aim here was to distinguish between disputes that arise in politically charged areas vs. the handling of those disputes which, I would argue should not be charged at all but rather an efficient run-through of a dispute process that “works”.


"The book" in this case starts with legal obligations under the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment act, etc. A milquetoast 'well, I treat everyone equally' doesn't even come close.


How is treating people equally "not even close" to complying with those laws? I feel like I'm misreading to your comment, but it seems like treating people equally is exactly the point of those laws.


If a person is interviewing for a supervisory or HR position, there's a lot more involved than just their personal behavior, and even with personal behavior, just saying "I treat everyone equally" in a blandly shallow manner suggests a lack of experience with or thought about clashes of perspective in an organization.

Or, to use an analogy, consider interviewing someone who, when asked about their preferences and strategies for ensuring code quality, answers "I just write correct code in the first place". Even if they're correct in that statement, that's not the sort of person you want in charge of that subject, because most people don't work like that, even if they wish they could.


Just to be clear you’re explicitly saying that the law says that in a workplace context you should treat people differently based on whether or not they’re in a protected class.

Not the same, differently?

Because the entire point of the law on protected classes is that people should be treated the same regardless of being a member or not of a protected class.

Non discrimination, not discrimination.


You aren't allowed to treat protected groups the same. If you have a group of men and one of them say he is treated unfairly then you are allowed to ignore it. If you have a group of men and one woman, and the woman say she is treated unfairly then you are not allowed to ignore it.


Wait... those are the wrong things to say? They are practically textbook PR cliches.

They are not necessarily what people would actually do, but they sound like the correct answer in interview-speak.


Er, if the question is "How would you handle someone you manage telling you of sexual/racial discrimination," the correct cliche answer is absolutely not to say "I judge people by the content of their character and pretend the color of the skin doesn't exist," or some equivalent form like "If the behavior would be acceptable if the people in the situation had different gender/race, then it's definitely acceptable." That would count as ignoring a report of discrimination that you're legally obligated to not ignore.

(We'd need to know more details about the question and the answer to be sure.)


It's very hard to actually have private, internal dialogues in a 'townhall setting' among an employee group so large.

Recordings and videos could get leaked at any time by an employee to the media or on social media, which will further blow it up (ahem, like with Facebook) or perhaps take things out of context or cause more chaos.

Google actually trying to have a serious - and not just PR/HR-bullshit - discussion about highly nuanced, opinionated, divisive topics relevant to the workplace in this type of mass-meeting setting is basically playing with fire out in the open.

(This isn't a take on yes/no politics in the workplace, just an interpretation from Google/Facebook)


> Recordings and videos could get leaked at any time by an employee to the media or on social media, which will further blow it up (ahem, like with Facebook)

Worth clarifying a point. The leakers didn't make Zuck say stupid things.

I can understand that having scrutiny on every single communication is probably pretty hard, but people often neglect that the best PR scandal avoidance mechanism is to not do stupid things.


What did Zuckerberg say in the leaked audio that was stupid?


Well, that's the price of expecting people to spend their whole life at work. If everybody knocks off at 5 and goes home, they can keep their politics at home. Google feeds 3 meals a day, and if you eat dinner at work, you're expected to return to work afterwards. They have lockers and showers at work. They'd have adult dorms if they could.


I know you're a prolific poster on here, and you often provide valuable contributions, so it's disheartening to see how full of misinformation this comment is. I've worked at many tech companies, and Google has among the best work-life balance I've encountered. Work hours vary by team and by role, but on a whole, it's very reasonable.

They serve three meals, but you're not expected to eat all three meals. Some people like to get in early and leave early, others like to get in late and stay late. The food is just a perk, there if you want it.

Also, you're not obligated or expected to work longer if you eat dinner. Not sure where you heard that one. If you're at the office when dinner is served, it's considered that you've already stayed late.


And many companies unlike Google don't let you take food home. Or serve it very late, so you are working late. This is not the case at Google at all. The parent comment is so off the mark. These kind of posters have an image in their head from HN threads and keep propagating it in their comments.


To be fair to OP, I had the same image in my head before I joined. I probably wrote a similar comment at some point in the past, and propagated the misinformation myself. I worked for many years at an aerospace company, where we put in long hours for relatively little pay. I convinced myself that if a company offered its employees good perks, it must have a sinister motive.

Of course, now there are constant stories of tech employees griping about how evil they think their employers are, how unfairly they're being treated, how little freedom they have to express their opinions. It's hard not to roll my eyes sometimes.


I spent some time at the Mountain View campus and it was cut throat. I suppose it depends on who your manager is but I didn’t like the vibe. It was novel but once that wears off - reality sets in.

I found a good litmus test with how courteous people are, or aren’t, in the gym.


Well, that's simply not how it works. Sure, pretty much everyone has lunch in the cafes. Breakfast is popular too but you can get it until 9:30 or 10:00, so you don't even have to show up early. Dinner attendance is significantly lower, and pretty much everyone I know who regularly has dinner at work goes home right afterwards.

Personally I probably manage to get breakfast once a week on average and stay late enough for dinner 2 or 3 times a year.


> I wonder if companies like Google and GitHub that actively courted activists

You say that like it's a given truth - do you have anything to back up that assertion? FWIW, I don't recall Google courting "activists", though they obviously did court people who were highly invested in their education and careers, and of course there is probably a non-0 correlation with those types of people and "activists". I also wouldn't describe Google as "pro-politics". They certainly were pro-open-communication, but given their size now, and the complete change in the nature and temperature of political discussions over the past decade, it's not surprising at all that hey would be forced to change this.


> I also wouldn't describe Google as "pro-politics".

Google let employees spend company time and resources to do left-wing activism, how is that not "pro-politics"? The things you see coming from Google the past few years are the death throes of these rules being removed and Google becoming a conventional company where you have to work when you are on company time.


> You say that like it's a given truth - do you have anything to back up that assertion?

Sure, and this is just one of many examples:

https://diversity.google/

They have been very proactive in this space for a long time.


How is trying cast a wider net in hiring the same as "courting activists"?


I think their diversity initiatives failed miserable. They created a monoculture that is violently intolerant of diverse viewpoints.


[flagged]


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The GP talked about a diversity of viewpoints, but you're talking about diversity of race and sexual identity. At the very least, most persons don't consider race to be a viewpoint.


It would be a good distinction to make if only "intolerant of my viewpoint" wasn't usually an euphemism for "not letting me being a hateful person".


It would be a good distinction to make if only "not letting me being a hateful person" wasn't usually an euphemism for "saying things you disagree with".

See that symmetry?


I strongly suspect that Google can't hear the question over the sound of their stock reaching record highs, but it's an interesting question.


I'm pretty sure Google has seen an exodus of alienated top performers in the past years (who happen to be predominantly Asian and White males). So now Google is realizing that maybe demonizing their core demographic through fostering hostile identity politics inside the company is threatening their core advantage. I expect more crackdowns from the leadership in the future, including restrictions on Memegen and other toxic internal forums.

I cannot stress enough how bizarre the internal politics truly were now that I left Google. It's interesting to see posts from Xoogler activists in Xoogler boards who try to introduce themselves as some sort of oppressed heroes, only to be stonewalled by the alumni community who couldn't care less about their PC agenda now that their career isn't held siege to PC whims.


They must have. They have actively invite politics into their companies, and make a playground for them.


Seems like it'd be really easy to get rid of the "activists" though: sign a few Cloud contracts with people they don't like (starting with DoD and going down the list), and if they really are activists, they'll go work elsewhere. You don't have to get rid of TGIF to do that.


Also Kickstarter, who is dealing with an internal unionization fight that's pitting the employees against each other.


Isn’t it pitting some employees against management? I’ve seen the articles discussing dismissals of prominent members of the union fight, but haven’t seen anything about employees fighting each other because of the unionisation.


The pro-union group within the roughly 110 person company doesn't have enough employee support required to establish collective bargaining. The pro-union group does not want unionization to go to vote because of this, so instead they've chosen the tactic of creating bad PR for the company management and the demand that company management accept unionization without employee vote. Employees who are both pro and against unionization have concerns about how the union organizers have acted and that it may be detrimental to the long term health of the company.

About 20% of the company publicly, openly supports unionization but 2 people got fired. From the rest, almost 100% of them have received a raise or a promotion during the same period.


> I wonder if companies like Google and GitHub that actively

> courted activists are now regretting their decision.

I think it's fair to say that there are a large number of people who are very invested in the answer to this question, hence it will be difficult to get a serious unbiased answer. It's also quite politically hot.

> For a long time it was common knowledge that you would try

> to keep stuff like that out of the workplace.

Activists and unions have brought many a company and Country to its knees. Companies that stay away from politics (or any statements at all) seem to be doing better, but somebody like Google or GitHub have so much financial and structural clout that they can afford to make mistakes.

> My guess is there will certainly be a shift away from

> other companies trying to do this in the future.

> Rightfully so imho.

I agree, but it's hard to fully quantify. I guess the real point is that politically companies and Countries are split approximately 50/50 between two main parties and any polarizing position a company takes will likely upset roughly half of the people. I think the only way to maintain a proper diverse structure is to not take sides.


“Complete chaos”? For real?


They're not keeping it out of the workplace, or at least that's one complaints that is public.

Employees have been objecting to the hiring of conservative activists into influential positions.

E.g. there were objections about support for the Trump administration's extreme positions on immigration and activist positions opposed to trans people.


To be clear, "keep politics out of the workplace" is another way of saying "I'm okay with the status quo, and if you don't like it I don't want to hear about it at work".


The old switcheroo: by not being in support of office political activism like me that means you just support the [insert bad guys]. Rabble rabble.

This sort of logic and villianization just adds to my reasons for not wanting that in my workplace.


To be clear, Kafkatrapping, which is what you’re doing, is the most insidious manifestation of this culture because it turns everyone who isn’t trying to out-do the next one into a potential “enemy”.


Perhaps you’re also amping up the discussion. It’s one thing to say “you have no complaints because it works for you”. It’s another to say “you can’t say anything useful because of your white privilege and class alliance “


I guess that’s true to a certain extent. Unfortunately, today it is very apparent that the former example is conflated with the latter all the time. The “status quo” for the noisy people really is “white privilege and class alliance” (I’m using your terms to try to not inject any other value statements into this obviously contentious issue).


> "keep politics out of the workplace"

Pretty much all of the “pro-politics at the workplace” types would demand that anybody who wore a MAGA hat be fired… so I think that the people who think politics in the workplace are OK are the ones who are actually the ones maintaining the actual status quo: you can have opinions, as long as they’re the same as mine.


Yep, quite simply they demand both the presence of politics in the workplace and their own monopoly on the politics displayed.


No it absolutely isn't. Adding an arbitrary and incendiary meaning to what others say is a major problem. You can create as many enemies as you want that way and it just fuels more division.


Pointing out the inherent privilege-preserving effects of discouraging challenge to the status quo is not adding an incendiary meaning. It's lifting a latent consequence to the level of manifest evidence.

This understandably makes some people uncomfortable. It challenges beliefs, it challenges self-worth, it challenges value systems, it challenges worldviews.

None of these invalidate the underlying concept that sheltering today's winners from any challenge, complaint, or criticism, is inherently repressive to those outside that class.


It is adding incendiary meaning. You are assuming the intent of someone else not wanting politics in the workplace. You assume it means that they are content with the status quo and would like to maintain that.

The reality is that many people keep politics out of the workplace because they dislike the amount that bringing politics to the workplace can affect the cohesion of their team/department.

You're creating a strawman argument.

You clearly value the change that can be brought by bringing politics into the workplace. That's totally cool, your value system is different than that of some other people. All they're asking is that you take their viewpoint without assigning your assumed reasons to it.


There is a distinction I'm being exceedingly careful to make between intent and effect.

The meaning may be absolutely as you describe. The effect, however, is to perpetuate gradients in power, privilege, and control.


There are multitudes of venues for political expression, why cannot the workplace be a refuge from that maelstrom?


That sounds like a political thesis, not a workplace. Who said anything about status quo? How does a lack of discussion mean agreement with a position you assumed but was never stated? Do you see how people don't like this?

You can challenge all you want, but being an annoyance in the office by forcing your views and interpretations on everyone is a major issue. I don't care about your politics and don't want to discuss mine. The company is paying you for productivity, not political change. Understanding boundaries is the first step to communicating with people.


If we work together, you should assume good faith. We are all on the same team at work. That's the point.


Wouldn't an assumption of good faith presume a capacity for frank discussion?

Oddly enough, I'm debating (on Mastodon) against the notion that a Single Global Authority defined as "suitably free", supported through taxes, would be a prefered / acceptable alternative to present private Internet service provisioning.

I agree with most of the sentiment, particularly public subsidy of comms capabilities. The concern is that it's not possibly to simply define a thing as "suitably free", you've got to work in a real world, in which definitions don't simply instantiate themselves, in which adversaries may take control of critical regulatory bodies (I pointed out that One Geopolitical Party with interests Significantly Opposed to Another has in recent history held the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, where the UN was the proposed Internet provisioning entity).

Similarly: you can't simply declare by definition or fiat that we're all on the same team. For multiple parties' interests to be fairly represented and addressed, there must be some mechanism for representing and addressing those concerns.

Otherwise the proposal simply ignores existing realities and complexities and attempts to abstract them out of existence. They'll reappear in time in other places or forms.

Additionally, my understaning of "presume good faith" may be different from yours. It's not so much a belief I'll maintain, most especially in the absence of evidence. It's an operating and communications modality I will attempt to sustain (and hope others do), up to the point at which it is clearly no longer tenable. It's an extension of all feasible grace and credit, to the point that no possible justification for that extension remains.

Andreas Schou, a Googler, used to have an excellent guide to moderation pinned to his profile page there. A copy survives here:

https://www.voidstar.com/Takeout/ActivityLog/Comments.html

I've posted it, with paragraph breaks to Pastebin: https://pastebin.com/raw/W3vpntgM


No, we're not. I'm not on your side just because we work for the same company. I'm not even on the company's side.

I'm on my side, first and last and always. If cooperation helps me, so be it. But if cooperation harms me, then I will speak up. If I am not heard, I will leave.

That is my inherent and sovereign right as a human being.


Bringing these issues to the workplace you risk finding more than you want to know about your coworkers. Will you still be able to be professional and unbiased in your relationships at work if you find out what opinions your coworkers have about political issues you care about? Probably not, so who wins in that case? Nobody, you lose as your motivation drops, company loses as productivity drops.

It's the same argument as not wanting to find everything there is to know about your neighbor, a dose of ignorance is healthy to maintaining most relationships in life. You don't need nor is it healthy, to apply the same standard of knowledge to your coworkers as to your significant other.


[flagged]


Again, nobody in this entire page has said anything like that. How did you come up with this statement?

And no, the vast majority of people don't consider those characteristics to be political at all and really don't care. Come in, do work, go home, and don't hurt anyone. It's not a complicated political argument.


> Again, nobody in this entire page has said anything like that. How did you come up with this statement?

Something about lying with dogs and fleas. I'm happy to listen if you elaborate on what exactly you mean by political. Though I'll caution by stating that in general, I find that most "political" issues can be phrased as consequences of ethical concerns (if there weren't underlying ethical disagreements, there wouldn't be political issues).

Let's take as an example the act of a company contracting with CBP. This is "political", in the sense that it is, to many, clearly an act of protest against the current administration. On the other hand, if one has ethical objections to separating children from their parents, or any number of other things, there can be a moral (and if one is an ACM member, an organizational) imperative to escalate when you have ethical concerns.

In essence, if I believe the family separation policy hurts people, and my company may enable that policy, do I have a moral imperative to escalate my concerns about the hurt we're causing? Or is doing so "political" and therefore inappropriate to mention at work?


There's nothing wrong with you privately expressing your concern about a project to superiors, and leaving the company if you don't agree.

When you protest against it publicly in the workplace and shout down others for as little as not vehemently agreeing with you, then we have a problem.

This is the difference between escalating concerns vs political activism, regardless of the actual issue at stake.


> shout down others for as little as not vehemently agreeing with you

Isn't this what you're doing now: shouting down others for as little as not vehemently agreeing with you about the place of political discussion in the workplace?

Edit: To rephrase since you missed what I was getting at: you are advocating for institutional support in silencing people who express views with which you disagree in the workplace. That is, views which are "too political" should be forbidden and, if expressed, presumably shouted down or otherwise silenced.

If for example, I expressed my disagreement with you that I believe political views are reasonable to express in the workplace, what action would you take?


No, I'm discussing. This isn't a workplace, it's a public internet forum. Nobody is prevented from participating here by my posts. You're free to discuss whatever you want as well.

Replying to your edit => A workplace is different than the state. You do not have complete freedom within a corporation, and expression is very different from beliefs. Nobody cares about your beliefs, but your expression will be limited to increase harmony and productivity within a commercial space where you're paid to do work.


The premise that commercial spaces should primarily be organized for productivity is a political statement.


No, it's what businesses are paying employees for. There's nothing political about it, in the context of actual government politics (and not the abstracted everything-is-political viewpoint).


You didn't actually address my question, and I made no mention of the state. I'm going to quote you again: you claimed that

> When you protest against it publicly in the workplace and shout down others for as little as not vehemently agreeing with you, then we have a problem.

I'm asking if you think that's generally true. For example, if you actually believe this, you would presumably make no attempt to silence me if I protested something in the workplace, as doing so would be taking exactly the action you object to.

Presumably you would internally object to my protesting something, and we both agree that that's alright. But were you to express that concern outwardly, say by asking me to stop, it would be shouting down others for as little as not vehemently agreeing with you about workplace conduct. And therefore we would have a problem, or more correctly, you would have a problem with yourself.

In other words, we encounter a bit of a paradox. How you resolve this paradox is of paramount importance: the value system you use to resolve this paradox becomes the values you use in the workplace.

I'm using this to illustrate a point: there isn't a "null" position. Nebulously banning "political" views doesn't work unless you're clear about what makes something political. And people will disagree with you on those things. Its much less painful to ban things based on content (say: cursing or insults) than "how political it is", because the second is just an excuse to let your values implicitly bias the local Overton window without acknowledging that.


> the second is just an excuse to let your values implicitly bias the local Overton window without acknowledging that

I can't speak for the original commenter, but I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that. Banning politics is a difficult and inevitably biased rule. But the alternative seems to be that politics invades every minute of everyone's life, and that's completely intolerable unless you're fortunate enough to precisely align with your local mainstream.


And that's fine. It's a choice. One I personally disagree with, but at least it's a deliberate choice. But if you make such a deliberate choice you need to be frank about it: you're making a tradeoff between, let's say, tranquility and openness, and favoring tranquility at a cost to people whose views are less mainstream. Or (under an alternate definition of political), you're making the choice to accept without argument the whims of the current government, in other words making company values dictated by the environment instead of by the company itself. This is, again, not inherently wrong, but you should own this and understand that it isn't a morally superior or better position, it's just an arbitrary stance that might make sense for you, but it comes at a cost to others.

> but it's miles better than the scenario where politics is allowed to invade every minute of everyone's life.

I just want to note that, as someone who works at Google, its very easy to turn politics "off", so to speak. There are mailing lists and group chats I just don't access. I'm privileged enough to be able to do that because there are very few political issues that directly affect me. That isn't true for some of my coworkers. Those who are, to take one example, immigrants are directly affected by "politics" on the daily. And so avoiding discussion or interaction with politcal issues isn't possible for them. The same is true for coworkers who are Muslim, or who have undocumented family members. The political realities are inescapable for them. Asking them not to discuss those issues at work is like asking me not to discuss, say, a parent being hospitalized. They're real issues that affect and weigh on people. Forcing people to keep those things bottled up, especially when the company may be taking action that negatively impacts those people, isn't nice.


But I think your framing is backwards here.

* Banning politics from the workplace is a huge benefit to people whose views are less mainstream. In the presence of politics, people with non-mainstream views have to either lie about what they think or live under a constant cloud of controversy.

* Banning politics from the workplace is the only way to keep your values independent of the political environment. If politics are allowed, you constantly have to monitor the political landscape to make sure following your company values won't make your employees rebel.

* Your analogy does hold, and it would be unreasonable to have a rule where I'll be punished for chatting in the breakroom about how my cousin might be deported. But it would also be unreasonable for me to interrupt meetings with demands that the company must cancel its medical plan, because my dad has the same insurance and I don't think they're treating him right.

More broadly, I don't think anyone actually wants or would benefit from politics in general in the workplace. The only people I've seen argue for it are confident that their politics will be popular, and that all political views they find offensive will continue to be forbidden.


(fyi I really appreciate this thread of discussion, it's quite interesting)

To your first point, this is only true if you're forced to participate. We have workplace social events, I sometimes choose not to participate. We have political arguments, I often disagree with the majority in those conversations. I simply don't engage when I'm not up for a debate. It's yet to be an issue. I'd agree that forcing people to express their political views is unreasonable, but that also isn't a position I've seen expressed except as a Boogeyman.

To your second point, if your values are independent of the current political climate, you need to be able to discuss how your actions align with your values. If you're working in political spaces, this necessitates discussion of political issues. To be concrete, if your values are "don't be evil", you need to be willing to have the discussion on whether or not working with the Chinese government on a censored search tool is evil. This is a really complex question (and I use this example because I've heard great arguments in both directions), but if you censor political discussion, the organization can't be held accountable, because no one is allowed to ask.

To your third point, I'm in agreement with your specific example, but asking a question about improving the healthcare policy at an all hands on HR issues would be warranted. Similarly, asking about access to gender neutral restrooms would be warranted even if it's political to some people.

To your last bit, I'm not saying that you can't ban certain things for certain reasons. As an example, banning discrimination is okay, even though some discrimination might be political.

In essence, I'm of the opinion that if you hold a belief strongly enough to ban dissent, you should be forthright about the belief. If your want to ban Republicans, or ban people who openly identify as trans (both of which are legal in various US jurisdictions), at least have the decency so say so and not hide behind banning "political discussion" or "political activism".


(Agreed! I'm glad we're having it.)

I don't think forced political expression is entirely a boogeyman. There was an article a couple months back[1] where a guy was publicly offended that (admittedly among other complaints) his coworkers weren't talking enough about police brutality. Anecdotally I have a lot of stories; for Hispanic Heritage Month, for example, we had Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posters all around the office.

It's definitely important to discuss how your actions align with your values. Sometimes that will mean discussing values issues that are also political issues, and sometimes that will mean making a very slippery distinction. But this isn't the extent of the political activism at Google. When employees insisted that Kay Coles James must not be allowed on the AI advisory council[2], they didn't argue that having her would make Google do some particular evil thing. They argued that she's a mean person who holds the wrong political views, so Google must shun her.

People definitely should be honest about what they want to ban and why. But again, in my experience, most people opposed to politics in the workplace honestly do have content-neutral motivations. I'm a very strong Andrew Yang supporter, bumper sticker and pile of campaign swag and all, and I never bring it up in the workplace because I'm not there to do partisan politics.

[1] https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/43kd3w/google-employee-me...

[2]https://medium.com/@against.transphobia/googlers-against-tra...


> I don't think forced political expression is entirely a boogeyman.

Sure, someone complained that people weren't knowledgable and up for debating an issue that was important to him. But notably, no one was forced to express anything, he was simply disappointed that they weren't willing to discuss the issue. Actually it wasn't even that, he was disappointed that, instead of expressing concern over the death of a black man, his coworkers were more concerned over how people were protesting[0]. No really, what he complained about was his coworker expressing this opinion:

> “These protestors aren’t going to solve anything, ” she said. ”Like, what are those people even trying to do? Seriously. What are they trying to do? Make people mad about getting stuck in traffic? Piss people off because they can’t get to Grand Central? It’s annoying . I just can’t stand it.”

I can see why that would be disappointing, but even still that disappointment is a far cry from forced political expression.

> When employees insisted that Kay Coles James must not be allowed on the AI advisory council[2], they didn't argue that having her would make Google do some particular evil thing. They argued that she's a mean person who holds the wrong political views, so Google must shun her.

But they did! There were other objections too, but one of the objections was specifically that James's values are directly contradictory to those that Google expresses, both in terms of diversity issues and in terms of AI.

> Not only are James’ views counter to Google’s stated values, but they are directly counter to the project of ensuring that the development and application of AI prioritizes justice over profit.

From the original petition. The thinking, which I broadly agree with, goes something like this: KCJ isn't an expert on AI. She's essentially a layperson, so her value on the ethics board would be as an ethics person, not as an AI person. Two of Google's AI ethics principles are "2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias." and "3. Be built and tested for safety.". KCJ appears to be comfortable using AI for military applications, arguably a violation of 3, and certainly doesn't care for avoiding bias towards trans people, a violation of 2. She didn't make any sense on the committee, and I'd argue that the followup made it clear that it was more meant to pander than to actually address issues.

> I'm a very strong Andrew Yang supporter, bumper sticker and pile of campaign swag and all, and I never bring it up in the workplace because I'm not there to do partisan politics.

Sure, and I don't generally bring up politics at work either. But that doesn't mean that I should deny other people, who are more directly affected by things, the ability to do so.

[0]: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmjvy3/heres-the-memo-abo...


Maybe I'm misreading the argument. It sounds like the petition claims merely hearing her out is wrong; that because she disagrees on some hot-button political issues, nothing she says can possibly be valuable, and listening to her thoughts on AI ethics would constitute pandering to her side on those political issues. If so, that's a core example of the kind of toxic political wrangling that I'm opposed to in the workplace.


Personally, I think there's a difference between hearing someone out and elevating someone to be on an ethics council. And the only reason she was included was that she's a notable Republican, and Google was concerned that conservatives would complain if there wasn't a notable conservative in the group. In other words, she was included only for (partisan) political reasons. Calling that out isn't introducing politics, it's recognizing them.


1) Surely you can see the difference between topics? Politics are not relevant to work. Office policies are. You can discuss and protest the latter if you want, but not the former. I'm sure you don't discuss porn habits and drug usage with your coworkers, do you? But of course it's fine to discuss working from home or new laptops. There is no paradox here.

2) I would prefer any feedback and protests be in private when are relevant to the company. You don't make a fuss and nobody else does either, so we can all work in peace and quiet. Most companies implement these rules for the sake of everyone.

3) "unless you're clear about what makes something political." This is exceedingly clear for the vast majority of people, except the activists who are making the fuss.


> Office policies are

Perfect, so questions of what companies we contract with, how we do hiring and diversity, and what bathrooms people are allowed to use are all office policies and reasonable work discussion topics. Can you give examples of the kinds of things you object to then?

Fwiw, I've known people who discuss their porn and drug habits at work. Hell I've known people who do drugs with their co-workers.

> I would prefer any feedback and protests be in private when are relevant to the company

Of course, it's only as a side effect that this undercuts the effectiveness of any activism.

Are you familiar with the concept of "yes of course you can protest, but not like that" for all values of that? If the only acceptable forms of protest are ones that can be ignored with no consequences, you've just de facto silenced those who have concerns with the status quo. That's a very political decision, totalitarian ist to be specific.

> This is exceedingly clear for the vast majority of people, except the activists who are making the fuss.

If it's so clear, you should have no trouble making it explicit without relying on the word politics. Since you still seem to miss it, my entire premise here is that "politics" is a form of doublespeak and people who use it are generally unwilling to actually go on record with the views they want to censor, instead using it as a sort of "things that make me uncomfortable in the moment" catch-all, but without giving the same courtesy of banning "things that make me uncomfortable" to other people. So far your unwillingness to pin down exactly what you mean by political hasn't done much to dispell that thought.


This is again conflating politics with office policies. A workplace is not the state. You don't have carte blanche to act how you want, especially when it will clearly create chaos at the company's expense. And it's not specific views but entire topics.

Since you want it explicit:

1) Contracts are not office policy. Objecting because of politics is political.

2) Hiring is about getting the best people for the job. Discussing that is fine. Using quotas for race and gender instead of character and competence is identity politics, and thus political.

3) Bathrooms are by sex. Anyone with different needs can negotiate themselves or use single-person bathrooms if available. Discussing it is political.

None of that is relevant to the business doing work. It's political BS, and you're free to start your own company and discuss all you want there to see how that goes.


> 1) Contracts are not office policy. Objecting because of politics is political.

You're the one claiming the objection is political. I claim the objections are ethical. Again, if you are the arbiter of what is or is not political (which it seems you are trying to be), all this ends up is "objections to things I dislike are political and forbidden".

> Hiring is about getting the best people for the job. Discussing that is fine. Using quotas for race and gender instead of character and competence is identity politics, and thus political.

Great! Racial or gender based hiring quotas are illegal in the US. I don't support them. So which companies do you think are actively and brazenly breaking the law by using illegal hiring quotas? Or are you perhaps just saying that hiring policies you personally disagree with are "political"?

> Bathrooms are by sex.

This may be office policy where you work, but it is not always office policy. Are you saying that it can't be discussed? Because you just said that discussing office policies are relevant to work.

> You can discuss and protest the latter if you want, but not the former.

Now you seem to be walking back that statement. Which is is? Again, it seems that "political" things are just things you disagree with, this is an intellectually dishonest position and one that I'm asking that you reconsider.


You asked and I told you exactly what is political or not, and none of those things are about me disagreeing. Again you're confusing views with topics. If you disagree with every definition because you think everything is political then there's no rational discussion to be had. This is what the activists do. Make everything political without boundaries.

By the way, Google is undergoing lawsuits about race and gender discrimination with explicit documentation, as are many other companies and universities in the US.


I asked you if office policies were political. You said no (or that they could be discussed anyway). I asked about some specific office policies, you claimed they were all political and couldn't be discussed. They're clearly office policies, because different offices have different policies on them.

Your continued inability to provide a consistent definition of politics and banned discussion only reinforces my initial claim: you're using politics as a catch-all to justify banning discussion you have personal ideological objections to, even when those topics are related to day to day working conditions. I'm not picking a definition of political, I'm saying you've been inconsistent with yours.

Google, at any given time, is sued for discrimination against men and women and against conservatives and liberals. What's important is the merit, which most don't have. On the other hand, banning people from discussing it requesting changes to employee bathroom policy probably falls under broad protections of PCA, and would be illegal.


Fine, I'll bite.

Is idea that expecting you not to berate your coworkers about your pet political issue is erasure?

If so, then yes. I'm not willing to work with anyone who doesn't assume that I'm interacting with them on a good-faith basis by default.

If your only tool for examining the motivations of outsider-groups is bigotry and bias, then all you will find is bigotry and bias.


I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

> Is idea that expecting you not to berate your coworkers about your pet political issue is erasure?

No, the idea is that being trans in the workplace can lead to discrimination, and I've seen people use the excuse that identifying as trans is political to tell trans people they can't use preferred pronouns or use a preferred restroom or like wear what they want to work.

That's bigotry and bias under the guise of apolitical-ness, no matter what you're looking for.


I'm curious about the actual arguments people are making. I could see a few, with most people arguing a mix of a couple:

1. People who politically disagree with the work the company is doing should just leave. They do not have the right to resist or organize against it.

2. Google should just go along with anything the government does. If there's an opportunity for profit, Google should pursue it. If employees disagree, they should vote. Otherwise, see #1.

3. Google should have some moral tests, but the current situation passes the test. It's not as bad as people are saying.

I honestly don't see how any of these are tenable. Number one is an argument against labor organizing in general, and the cats kind of out the bag there. Number two is just a variant of number one, and number three is inherently political—it's a situation where people see things differently, and the way we resolve those is politics.


Someones job function at work is to perform their job duties. Unless someone works directly in politics, then politics do not belong in the workplace.

There are plenty of other impolite subjects that are inappropriate to discuss at work too.


Companies themselves are inherently political though, just by existing. They exist in the context of society and are made possible by the legal structures created by politics. And they generally advocate for themselves within the political system (a good example is lobbying).

So there are certainly limits in the workplace and there is a line to toe for toleration and polite conversation, but saying "politics do not belong in the workplace" is pretty absurd.


My coworker is free to march against gay rights on his free time, but if he brings it up every meeting as a topic we can't ignore then I'd call the workplace toxic and quit. The same goes for any other political topic people feel strongly for.


Why would someone bring it up at every meeting? That's a pretty big straw man argument. I'm sure there are outliers that do that, but they are rare.

On the other hand, many gay folks are afraid to even mention their partner at all at work, even casually in the what that most people do. In that case, the belief that "gay rights are political" that some folks have are creating a toxic environment.


> Why would someone bring it up at every meeting? That's a pretty big straw man argument. I'm sure there are outliers that do that, but they are rare.

Note that I said that someone who constantly argue against gay rights is toxic, I have met people like that (not specifically gay, but about immigrants for example) and being around them is not fun.

> On the other hand, many gay folks are afraid to even mention their partner at all at work, even casually in the what that most people do.

In that case it is no longer political and they can complain that people targeted them for being gay.


It's actually another way of saying I'm okay with MY status quo.

Not that that's good, necessarily. Just distinct.


The "status quo" in the workplace (at least in this rather narrow subsector of "tech") is far from politics-free, so I'm not sure that your comment makes much sense.


I think what they mean by status quo is the political and power dynamics. Not how much "politics" is discussed.


Because discussing garden-variety, oppositional politics at work is how you can change "political and power dynamics" most effectively, of course. Not, e.g. by focusing on the actual policy issues you care most about, applying systems thinking and seeking plausible points of leverage (which often boils down to rejecting the oppositional game entirely and "pushing the rope sideways" in wholly unexpected ways). Seriously?


I don't understand what you mean. I'm definitely not saying that "garden-variety, oppositional politics at work is how you can change "political and power dynamics" most effectively."

The type of politics I want in the workplace is the politics of building worker power and fomenting radical labor unrest.


I'm sorry you're getting downvoted. What you're saying is absolutely true -- keeping politics out of anything is endorsement of the status quo. And even more specifically, as it relates to the workplace, anything you build with your labor is endorsement of that thing. That endorsement may be (and often is) coerced, whether by circumstance of lack of resources, H-1B visa, et cetera. But pretending that the things we build are apolitical is self-deception.

If you build tools for ICE to put children in cages, you're building tools to put children in cages.


American freedom is the ability to earn a living and raise a family without paying a price for your political views. _Especially_ political views that you, zorpner, find reprehensible.


This is, of course, absolute nonsense. If I’m running a mini golf enthusiasts group, keeping discussion on topic and not going off on the latest Trump fail or the most recent celebrity to reveal themselves as a serial sexual assaulter is neither an endorsement of Trump nor of sexual assault. It’s recognizing that not everyone wants to spend every minute of every day in every place discussing your particular bugaboo. There are literally thousands of places to have these discussions, they don’t need to happen everywhere and you don’t need to be constantly getting confirmation from everyone around you that they agree with your political views.


Imagine if wikipedia courted specific types of activists. People should take sides but companies should be neutral,and get out of the way of people engaging in political discourse or activism.


Wikipedia is chock full of activists


Users,users! Not wikipedia promoted groups. Ffs,what is controversial about that?


Wikipedia is far from neutral and full of activists and people with agendas.

It can sometimes be acceptable for a broad overview of a subject, but it's so full of opinion, inaccuracy, and misinformation that it should have near zero credibility for anyone who is seeking truth and bias-free knowledge. Appropriately, it has zero credibility in any credible academic environment BTW.


> The journal Nature says the open-access encyclopedia is about as accurate as the old standby.

https://www.cnet.com/news/study-wikipedia-as-accurate-as-bri...


There are no unbiased sources of knowledge. Wikipedia isn't special. Everything is written by humans and humans have their biases. That's why you shouldn't get all your information from a single source.


> at these previously pro-politics (some kinds of politics) workplaces

There are no people who actually think it’s ok to bring politics into the workplace. There are only people who don’t think their politics are politics; it’s everybody else’s politics that’s politics.


I think it’s OK to bring politics into the workplace. I discuss Brexit, elections, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, etc, with those of my colleagues that want to discuss it when they want to discuss it. I agree with some of them, disagree with others.


I think the key difference is, you aren't trying to paint those who disagree with you or even refuse participation in such discussions as members of some axis of evil. Unfortunately, it is only possible if the overall culture of your company is conductive to that, as opposed to the monoculture of "if you aren't as enthusiastic about this topic as me, then you are the enemy".


If only the activists were mature enough to approach it this way.


Yes, same here. You can discuss politics at work without making the other person seem evil because they disagree with you. You shouldn't be doing that in a work place - everyone needs to work together to make things happen, and you will be around people with obviously different viewpoints than you.


Totally wrong. Haven't you heard people claim "everything is political"?


Have you ever heard someone say that AND say you should keep politics out of the workplace?


> I wonder if companies like Google and GitHub that actively courted activists are now regretting their decision.

I am really, really tired of people framing "Hiring (mostly) from the typical tech 22-35 college graduate demographic" as "Actively courting activists."

What were you expecting tech companies to do? Not hire anyone under the age of 40, or anyone who grew up, schooled, or worked in a blue state? If they did that, I suppose they'd get a largely 'activist-free' (But not politics-free!) workforce.

Google's business is inherently political. Its relationship with governments and regulators across the world is inherently political. The employee-employer relationship is inherently political. Of course you're going to get employees acting on their political opinions, in those contexts.


If American companies would like to provide 2-3 months vacation so the public can take time for political action, sure

This is just descending deeper into “more and more of your life must be dedicated to paid speech.”

Google is basically turning into that big IBM they weren’t going to be.

It’s entirely social pressure to conform to business norm.

There’s no reason things like cloud software and AI must be built by Google. Look at the Linux kernel.

This is kowtowing to financial economics first, cause paid speech is everything to an ad company.

Humanity is still emotionally transitioning away from traditional values belief in top down godhead must rule! hierarchy. We’ve seen literally for a whole now the idea of a God described by Abrahamic religion is not compatible with our physical measure of reality. But human social sensibilities take time to update as the generations of old linger

The finance economy is the last big hurdle.


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