Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Googlespeak – How Google limits thought about antitrust (zyppy.com)
954 points by cyrusshepard 22 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 298 comments



When I was at IBM 15 years ago, IBM was far from being a monopoly, since there were plenty of competitors in the hardware space (HP, Sun, Dell, etc) and in the software space (Oracle, SAP, etc.) and in the Services space (Accenture, PwC, KPMG, etc.) employees still had to complete annual legal training that was very similar to what was described in the post.

Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women." Instead they will tell their employees to focus on making life better for their customers. It's a much healthier way for product managers to focus, and what you might do if the goal is "crush/dominate the competition" is *not* the same than if the goal is delight the customer. So it's not just a messaging strategy to prevent embarassing e-mails from coming out at trial; it's a business strategy, too.


> 15 years ago, IBM was far from being a monopoly

I think some historical background is necessary here. Nowadays IBM isn't a monopoly but during the 20th century, IBM was more or less a monopoly. IBM's antitrust problems go back to their 1936 consent decree and 1956 consent decree. IBM was subject to a huge antitrust case that went on from 1969 to 1982 as well as many other antitrust lawsuits.

The first point is that of course IBM and other at-risk companies will have training to keep people from writing things that will cause antitrust problems. (Their antitrust case had 30 million pages of discovery.)

Second, antitrust cases hinge on the "market" (as a legal term), so it's not surprising that Google wants employees to avoid using that word. In an antitrust case, each side will argue over what is "the market", and you don't want to lose the case because of a random email discussing the "market". Google's recommendation to say "Area" instead of "Market" hardly limits thought, but it makes a big different in antitrust.

Third, I don't want to go all CLS, but antitrust law is pretty much incoherent and illogical. Even after the antitrust case against IBM ended (by fizzling out after 13 years), nobody agrees on whether IBM was violating antitrust laws or not.


No question that anti-trust is currently pretty much incoherent.

One frustration is that it has morphed from things around consumer harm to a new focus on harm to other ... businesses.

Google downranks some crappy content farm / shopping aggregator - bam - antitrust complaint. Yes, it hurt that business and so helps google shopping - but no one asks - do users like these crap content farms? Same with google finance - I liked it. Now google can't prioritize that - even through I want it and so I get sent to a giant ad laden garbage fest of another finance / stock quote site.

The other issue consumers no longer have any leverage with respect to very large businesses and govt is no where. So Apple can build a very valuable offering by playing "cop" in their closed garden. That is a consumer benefit.

In other words, you individually would never be able to negotiate a deal where someone would let you sign up for their service anonymously, but apple can force that.

They can force trials signups to have full details of renewals (same font).

They can force folks to allow you to cancel subscriptions without huge advance warnings and will remind you of subscriptions in advance. Yes, this sucks for developers, but the consumer is helped by these steps.

Until govt steps in, I'd love for them to back off on folks creating these places where the tons of crap the govt allows on the broader internet is not permitted.


> morphed from things around consumer harm to a new focus on harm to other ... businesses.

As far as I know, it is actually the focus on "consumer harm" that is, well was, the new thing, introduced in the 1980s under Reagan, and it largely gutted antitrust law. And that was exactly the purpose.

For much of that history, including the seminal breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1911, the ruling antitrust theory was “harmful dominance.” That’s the idea that companies that dominate an industry are potentially dangerous merely because they are dominant. With dominance comes the ability to impose corporate will on workers, suppliers, other industries, people who live near factories, even politicians and regulators.

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 saw the rise of a new antitrust theory, based on “consumer welfare.” Consumer welfare advocates argue that monopolies can be efficient, able to deliver better products at lower prices to consumers, and therefore the government does us all a disservice when it indiscriminately takes on monopolies.

https://wolfstreet.com/2021/08/14/antitrust-bombshells-in-th...


Monopolies in the long term tend to lead to higher prices because without good competition what’s the incentive to sell with low profit margins? So, sell cheap for years, kill any competition, then the market is yours and you can do whatever you want to the inevitable detriment of the consumer. The consumer also looses in monopolies.


But the complaints against apple have focused on things they do that at least too me seem helpful and a positive part of my experience with apple. I feel MUCH more comfortable spending money via apple then I do almost anywhere else.

Software on the web - endless issues buying / refunding / renewing.

And if I don't like apple (which only has like 15% market share) I can switch to any number of android phones.

It's just weird seeing the FTC going after a player that is generally doing things consumers like. Meanwhile, android phones ship with rom loaded rootkits / trackers / overlays and app stores and what do we hear from FTC? Crickets - literally.


But there's a lot that would help consumers that Apple conspicuously don't do.

It took them ages to deal with kids making unauthorised in app purchases and AFAIK they still haven't dealt with scam apps and scam subscriptions ($150/year QR code scanning app).

Consumers would appreciate PWAs but it doesn't suit Apple's corporate strategy so they are poorly supported.

You can't pay through the Netflix or Kindle app due to their ridiculous rules.

They look for ways to keep market dominance and move into more markets and then they think about consumer benefits they can add on the side.


I might add, Apple could kill the market for stolen iPhones (by preventing a phone from working when they get a bona ride police report) but they don’t.


If apple allowed other stores on their phones you could still buy exclusively from apple. All your applications to could have a "verified by apple" sticker.

Nothing prevents apple from providing the exact same experience and still have a setting in the phone that allow third party markets from installing their applications. It would be just like the app store in windows.


> Nothing prevents...

Nothing prevents you working 10 minutes a day on something I want you to do - and yet I suspect you will not.

Apple has proven to be the most competent organisation on the planet, in the 50 odd year history of mobile phones, at getting consumers what they want. Suggesting that they should run things some other way needs some much stronger arguments and is going to be highly debatable.

To get to this point they've taken on all the major tech giants, the mobile phone industry, the telecoms and various foundational web technologies (including Flash, happily) and out-competed anyone in the business of making profits. At every step of the way they proved to be much better at anticipating what was a good idea than everyone. Much more serious voices were made to look foolish than the backseat drivers.

If you don't want what Apple is selling, buy something else.


I think you make a good point (sorry to see it looks like you are getting downvoted).

Apple has CONSISTENTLY chosen to go outside norm. For example, carriers wouldn't let you have more than 10 songs on their devices? Carriers putting crapware on devices? Carriers making you do contracts to get a specific device?

Apple took all that on - and I was happy for it. You can buy an unlocked iphone for most iphones outside of carrier channels, and you don't need to worry too much about who you buy from because apple doesn't let carriers screw with device.

One interesting pattern is the criticize and then copy pattern. Folks are 1) outraged at a change apple is making and then 2) rush to copy it.

I hate the lack of a headphone jack personally (was amazing for low latency audio work). But I can't deny that literally almost every company that criticized them then COPIED them on this.

I expect the same thing with their move away from more chargers in the box. Lots of outrage and criticism, then folks will probably copy them.

I do wish lighting cables had become a standard. The USB-C port is just less solid when plugged in - I have lots more problems with it for some reason (stuff getting inside cable, loose fitting etc etc.


Buy what? There's only Apple and Google and they collude to dominate the market.


Monopolies also breed more monopolies.

If there is only one buyer/seller then in order to fight their price making power, you can’t form a cartel (illegal price collusion!) but you can consolidate into another monopoly and push the monopoly price making power elsewhere in your benefit.


> One frustration is that it has morphed from things around consumer harm to a new focus on harm to other ... businesses.

This is the root of most hullabaloo around Apple, isn’t it? Many of the things they do, like limiting exploitation by third-party payment systems (e.g. which rarely offer refunds for regretful purchases, unlike the App Store which always complies) or hiding your email from personal data farmers, ultimately benefit consumers, but of course Apple’s competitors would love to break those walls down and invade the garden.


It's interesting because the coalition for "app fairness" is a whose who almost of folks who have repeatedly paid fines / penalties (which barely covers the cost) for their billing and other practices.

We already know how the other guys do it, they screw you. must cancel 30 days in advance or you get a 1 year renewal. Meanwhile, when I delete an app that has a subscription apple reminds me and suggests cancelling subscription!

The problem is individuals have NO / ZERO leverage in these deals these days. This is not your corner grocer. Match Group etc are major companies - and yes, they will do everything they can to extract every $, long term brand strength be darned.


> Now google can't prioritize that - even through I want it

Of course they can: they could let you opt-in to this specific facet of customised search results. The general issue is about the default search results.


How would a consumer know that they are "harmed" by Google's shenanigans when those shenanigans involve deleting the competition before it gets the chance to compete? This sounds like a catch 22 type of definition of monopoly. Businesses need competition for the free market to work properly.


No rational person is going to see “Area” in this context as anything but a synonym for “Market.”


Especially when Google is distributing documentation saying to use the word "Area" explicitly instead of "Market."


IANAL but it seems that it would succeed in requiring an additional layer of argumentation that “area” is code for “market”. My rough sense is that nothing is trivial in cases like this, but how difficult would it be to argue this?


It’s not that complex. Judges aren’t computers, and the words of a law are not an imperative program that judges “execute” against the evidence and arguments. The attempted ruse isn’t that clever, and it’s more likely to piss a judge off than wow him or her.


Using area still murk the waters. Some people may be legitimately meaning something other than market when they say area. So it's not really possible to say that every market occurrence can be replaced with market in the internal emails. This is not the definitions section of a contract, it's a guideline. So, it's probably still worth doing. If they don't, then people using market have 100% chance of meaning market, whereas after the guideline, usage of area has less than 100% chance of meaning market and being accepted like so.


Las I checked judges don't love it when you try to be clever or cute.


q: why do you ask people to use the word area instead of market?

a: Because imprecise language clouds thinking and makes things less intelligible, and Google is a company that makes its money from intelligence. People have been incorrectly referring to areas as markets, in order to better communicate we laid down guidelines. We often lay down guidelines about corporate communications to heighten their efficiency, as do other companies

on edit: I'm not saying that this is true, but one can easily make an argument as to why you use area instead of market in communication and ask your workers to do likewise. I would think the courts would require more evidence than that.


You're suggesting that an answer which explicitly makes "area" a synonym for "market" is a defense against the suggestion that using "area" is an attempt to obfuscate that they're really referring to "market". That, uh, doesn't add up.


Establishing the use of the word "market" in an email is not the end goal. The end goal is establishing the violation of US antitrust laws by, e.g. buying out the competition and taking actions that unreasonably restrict trade (generally in your competitors' goods/services).

But there are two ways to hold a company to account. One is a civil mechanism, producing civil penalties and consent decrees (or damages, maybe?). The other is by the prosecution of a criminal offence. Enforcement via the latter is harder to do. It requires showing the actions were done intentionally, just like every criminal prosecution. It also has a very high standard of proof. Using the word "crushing the competition" in the context of buying competitors or engineering them out of the first page of search results is evidence of that. Google doesn't want exposure to criminal liability. It is undoubtedly harder to prove they did this stuff intentionally if they deliberately refrain from talking about it and do it in winks and nods.

I don't know what you're referring to by "try to be clever or cute" but using these language guidelines to decode discovered materials and show a criminal intent to do things that constitute criminal violations of antitrust law is not cute, and neither is relying on the absence of directly incriminating language to absolve yourself.


"Your honor, my case is kawaii. The defense rests."

In all seriousness, a clever argument can be very good, as long as it's also solid. Not mutually exclusive.


That's true, but if this didn't make news then what would've happened in the future? Thousands, millions maybe, of documents talking about areas and no mention of markets make discover more difficult for a future anti-trust case.


Okay, but we can agree that IBM powered the holocaust, and that those tattoos on survivor’s arms represented the punch cards for IBM systems, right?

Because really, when there’s a profit to be made, American companies are there to fill a “need”, right?


That's horrifying. I was not aware. The horror is hundreds of IBM employees were directly involved in extermination activities; literally maintaining tabulation machines on prem, as it were, in the camps.

I hope every HN reader has the awareness and moral strength to resist, where the corporations are unable, the next time such à job comes.

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/52879



I wouldn't get my hopes up. The number of times I've seen people, even here, equate legality and morality is frightening.


> I wouldn't get my hopes up. The number of times I've seen people, even here, equate legality and morality is frightening.

I have literally never seen anyone here argue that "murder and genocide isn't morally wrong if it is legally right".

Are you sure you aren't equivocating "I don't support $FOO political position" with "I support murder and genocide"?

Because I have seen a number of people argue that some aspect of their personal moral code, which isn't currently written into law, should be written into law and enforced on the rest of the people who don't have that moral code.


No, I wasn't even thinking of political positions. I'm not trying to dog-whistle around red-tribe/blue-tribe signaling, I actually mean what I said. I was in a comment thread some time ago about the ethics of self-driving cars. Another user believed that they should base the decisions of who to save on the cultural mores, history, and laws of the region where they are sold. On the one hand, it's hard to see a business doing otherwise. On the other, that's exactly how we get Zyklon B and legal slavery in the third world.

I was discussing the trolley problem with a lawyer a few years ago, and her conclusion to the dilemma, no joke, was literally "It depends if I would be legally culpable in the country I'm in." Which is a very legalistic, and utterly amoral answer.


My apologies, I read your comment more uncharitably than you intended.

> Another user believed that they should base the decisions of who to save on the cultural mores, history, and laws of the region where they are sold.

This brings up a different issue: the product will then be considered amoral in the particular region that it is deployed in. That's the problem with using "morals" as a yardstick - it's too subjective because every culture has their own set of morals, and these morals change over time anyway.

For a product sold in multiple regions, it makes sense to follow the cultural mores of that region. If you don't like their morals, don't do business with them.


Holy shit, that's an incredible story. I live right in front of Auschwitz and I had no idea.

Also that quote from the article, from IMB's spokesman:

"We are a technology company, we are not historians."

That's fucking rich. Imagine Bayer saying the same when questioned if their company used to make Zyklon B.


I wonder how much has been spent over the years suppressing this?


Americans will fuell all sides of the conflict to reap the financial and political profits, disregarding human lives including unaware civilians. With their official army, intelligence agencies, corporations, and many other entities we have no clue about.

The fascinating part of the deal of IBM with Nazi Germany is that it boils down to _tracking_of_individuals_. Their personal profile, location, capabilities, health status.



[flagged]


Now you're trolling. Please stop.


It sounds like German employees in Germany and it’s territories working for the german subsidiary did work for the German government yes, and after the war was declared they did some very shady stuff. Similarly American citizens working for German companies in America did work for the US government during the war.

I don’t really see what’s surprising about any of this. The implication seems to be that the US directors of IBM were supposed to do something about it, but I’m not sure what.

Of course if some of these contracts for the concentration camps and such were tendered during peacetime, and this was known and it was possible for the US operation to exercise oversight, that would be incredibly damning.


Are you just guessing though? There certainly was coordination between IBM in the US and IBM in Nazi Germany even during the war. Look at IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black for example.

We can argue about the scale of involvement and its meaning, but if you're not just speculating you should mention a source.


My apologies, I thought it was clear I was speculating. Hence "sounds like" and "that would be incredibly damning". Thanks for the reference.


[flagged]


The Just World Fallacy is incredibly strong in this one.

Sure, the US imprisoned its citizens of Japanese ethnicity during WWII, a practice approved by its highest court, but they would never imprison Jewish people just for their ethnicity, right?


If I'm committing a fallacy, it's probably just assuming that individual American IBM executives probably wouldn't have actively and knowing facilitated genocidal policies. Also that if German IBM employees did do so, that's on them, not necessarily US execs who may have had no knowledge or awareness of it.

That turns out to be false though, it's seems apparent that US execs had a pretty good idea what their machines were being used to do at last up to 1942. Not in detail, they probably weren't aware of the specific activities happening at say Treblinka, I don't think anyone in the US did, but they were aware that German government policy was the registration and oppression of Jews and other minorities and that IBM machines were facilitating it.


You pretty much just hoped something wasn't true, even though references were easily available, so you started making excuses, caveats and assumptions instead of following up on those references. Really what was your comment going to achieve?

Your fallacy is to repeatedly make assumptions in favour of the US without any evidentiary basis. When history is as well studied as it is, there's no need to propagate your assumptions.

Now you're at it again - I just Googled "when was us aware of the holocaust" and found an interesting Time article. There were already rumours of mass killing. And the existence of concentration camps, ie not merely "registration and oppression" but active imprisonment, was very well known. The number of victims was underestimated in the common mind - but IBMs contribution of record keeping systems was to help increase that number.


Nah, this is just the ultimate conclusion of the Friedman doctrine: there is no morality, only legality. Unless you can conclusively prove that IBM US C-level executives knew about the Holocaust while it was happening, it was just business as usual which makes it okay by definition.

Actually if I put it that way, it's just hating Mondays. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yts2F44RqFw


What point are you trying to make?


Every corporation has secrets they’d like to hide. No one is beyond reproach.

I don’t think anyone is disputing that — but every thing Google is doing is the result of fallible humans acting in pursuit of profit.

It doesn’t matter who or when. What matters is that people put aside their ethics in pursuit of profits. I think that needs to end.

</soapbox>


> antitrust law is pretty much incoherent and illogical

Most things antitrust are incoherent and illogical. The unofficial plan seems to be literally to find market leaders who are offering substantially better products than the competition and then attack them for unspecified and likely immeasurable gains. Whether or not we've seen benefits from past antitrust actions, I don't believe measurements and observations of the actual outcomes are part of the debate. There is just an assumption that because they happened and big companies are bad ergo the outcome must have been good.

The article alludes to Google's 92% search engine market share as some sort of concealed monopoly. As a problem, this doesn't make sense! There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone switching to another search engine except the other search engines aren't generally very good. Google is better at providing search results than they are. Or presumably it is, I don't know since I stopped using Google Search a long while ago. This is a monopoly only in the sense that everyone agrees Google is a better option.

The problem with Google is that it is likely integrated with the US intelligence services. No antitrust suit is ever going to attack that; because it is the part that the government supports.


Once upon a time US regulators recognized that limited competition and market dominance can be a problem all by themselves, for their chilling effect on innovation. Unfortunately under Reagan the DOJ changed their policy and started arguing that concrete consumer harm has to be demonstrated for a business to be subject to antitrust. That’s a much higher bar. Imagine trying to build the modern internet under a telco monopoly, and trying to argue that consumers were being harmed because internet access was limited. Who would even want internet access under those circumstances?

The same is true of Google. It’s hard to show concrete harm (though wrecking flight search counts for me) when we have no counterfactual to consider. For example, in a truly competitive display ad market (instead of a duopoly), maybe our civilization would have figured out that display ads are a waste of money and consumer product manufacturers and retailers would stop buying them. But it’s hard to know. This is why we should go after any company that is dominant in any market.


Helpfully this is exactly the sort of argument I'm complaining about. The basic form is "the regulators did this", its "hard to show concrete harm" but therefore "we should go after any company that is dominant in any market".

If we skip to the handwave, what is and how solid is the evidence that the regulator's actions were sensible? Targeting the most competent company for harassment is, on the face of it, a bad strategy.

> Imagine trying to build the modern internet under a telco monopoly

"Before the 1996 Act was passed, the largest four ILECs owned less than half of all the lines in the country while, five years later, the largest four local telephone companies owned about 85% of all the lines in the country." [0]

Yeah, that'd be really hard. But the major problem is poor regulation creating monopolies/incentives for them. The correct approach is to go for the root cause - competition stifling regulation - rather than setting up monopolies and then ineffectually trying to fight them in courts.

"Antitrust" is a distraction from the actual problem - bad regulation and incentives. And if the coversation revolved around actual attempts at showing evidence the antitrust stuff is hard to sustain. The examples are trivial. People on HN were whinging about Google removing an alert box in Chrome the other week.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996


The problem with this is that I can't really point to a competition-stifling regulation that actually benefits Google.

Copyright and patent law would be the closest thing, but Google's core business isn't selling licensing agreements. They owned the search market way before Android was even a public project, much less the open-core monstrosity it is today. Google got to where it is because it legitimately hunted the rest of it's competitors into extinction, not because it got better at throwing red tape at them.


Can you point to actual harm done by Google that people can't walk away from?

I've been working to untangle myself from them for a while. It isn't particularly hard, there are just a lot of really good services that need to be replaced.

The only thing I can't evade is the constant snooping all over the web. And that isn't something antitrust regulators are going to be dealing with.


> Can you point to actual harm done by Google that people can't walk away from?

The idea that things such as access to information, mailbox, applications, storage, … should not cost you any money and that it’s acceptable (for the few people who even know) to pay with a log of every move you do.

Just go read any paid app reviews on any of the App Store to read tons of comments like « 1/5 It’s not free ».


In what way did they wreck search? If I’m going to a new city, I usually start on Google flights and find it okay to good.

If I need more, I’ll go to a specific carrier’s site or to Matrix, but I’m usually using Google to get the overview picture (and it seems to work well).


Google recently removed use of its sync API (and others) from Chromium. What you call a "search engine" is really a vast network of integrated services that Google can pull the plug on at any moment for any reason.

If you want to make money from your site/channel, you pony up to Google's ad services to get ads from Google's ad networks to show up higher in Google's search engines so your customers with Google accounts can easily sign into your site running Google's authentication and feed metrics back into Google's web browser that's optimized for Google content. That's some kind of vertical integration, baby.

I'm deliriously sleepy, but I'm sure I got like, 70% of that right. I don't want to just de-Google, I want to be able to extricate and cordon off it and everything related to it on the web like I do with Facebook. But how?


Monopolies aren't necesarily bad in-and-of-themselves. The trouble starts when a monopoly in one market is used to gain an advantage in another.

So, having a monopoly in the search engine market isn't necessarily a problem (especially given the low switching costs you noted), but leveraging that monopoly to compete with non-search-engine companies by essentially choking off their search engine traffic is a BIG problem.

The exact means used that results in said choking-off may or may not matter (this is where the incoherence pops up), but the fact is that the conduct of any company with a monopoly (including entirely legitimate and legal ones) MUST face additional scrutiny for how it affects other markets.

When it was just starting out, Google was proud of how quickly users left Google search results by clicking a link. AFAICT, that didn't change until sometime well after AdWords was introduced (in fact, how quickly users left was an AdWords selling point and increased competition for the top ad slots), but at some point, Google started cannibalizing their SERP traffic in various ways. It was going to bite them in the ass sooner or later.


> Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women." Instead they will tell their employees to focus on making life better for their customers.

The lawn mower would like to have a word with you: <https://youtu.be/-zRN7XLCRhc?t=2040>


That is an amazing talk! Thank you for sharing.


Reference is not until about the 38:30 mark, link starts sooner but provides greatly amplifying context!


At what point does *market share* not become a KPI? At what point does market share become so irrelevant, that you stop tracking it altogether in your entire multibillion-dollar megacorp, and make your employees stop talking about it?

Answer: When you become a monopoly (or are on your way there), and need to hide from regulators. That's the point where the market becomes irrelevant, so tracking market share is nothing more than a liability.

The "improve life for customers" stuff is all fluff that you might read in a training manual alongside photos of happy employees playing ping pong at work.


>> The "improve life for customers" stuff is all fluff that you might read in a training manual alongside photos of happy employees playing ping pong at work.

I'd say Google is redefining the word "customers". What they really mean is users. Customers are traditionally those who pay for products or services. I'm sure Google also makes things easy for those who pay them, but that's not who they mean by "customers".

If I'm not mistaken the GoogleSpeak word for "companies we extort money from to maintain relevance in search results" is probably "partners".


if you create a product thats unique or defines a category you start by having a market share of 100 percent. Market share does not define monopolies. What defines monopolies is the absence of alternatives. Like you know, the postal service to send letters. funnily nobody talks about those.


The economic definition of monopoly is 'price setter' as opposed to 'price taker'. The government actually defines that as 'market power'. But in order for it to be something 'anti trust' etc. then it's more complicated.

Sherman Act, Section 2 [1] - definitely worth a read.

[1] https://www.justice.gov/atr/competition-and-monopoly-single-...


Which is hilarious, because I remember very clearly when McDonald's was crushing Burger King and the head of McDonald's said, on the record, "You know what you do when your competitors are drowning. ... step on their head".

I guess burger joints can't be monopolies.


Burger joints compete in the "fast food" market which also includes fried chicken joints, taco joints, and the like. They also have more broad competition from the "fast casual" market, "restaurant dining" market, and the "food" market.

The question antitrust has historically asked here is the concentration, and the extent to which have they have pricing power.


Healthier way? This is wrong. First, to admit your goal is to crush your competitors is completely appropriate. That is the exact way the market is supposed to work. Thoughts about hiding this inherent part of any businesses strategy is, well, fine for lawyers, but essentially ignorant for engineers. Lawyers are not paid to make things, nor to develop your strategy. They are paid to manipulate laws and the truth. To write ethical issues off as lawyers just lawyering is a terrible way to approach business or technology.


You can win a 100 meter race by having a goal of running sub 8 seconds, or you can win a race by having a goal of crushing the other athletes. It's up to you if during your training you're focused on the times versus on the other athletes. It's also up to you if during the race you're looking left and right to see how fast they're running or if you're just focused on going the fastest you can. I think this is the difference in approach that they were mentioning. Obviously you still defeat the competition as a byproduct of being the fastest, but they are very different approaches.


Except in the race, your goal is to be the first, not to eliminate your competition. On the market, your goal is literally to crush your competitors in any legally possible way. Making the best product is one way to do it, though not the most effective one.

People seem to forget that the market, as a system of competing actors, doesn't care. It's like the lawnmower/Oracle mentioned elsewhere in the thread. It just doesn't give a damn. All the wealth any member of society enjoys is merely a side effect - the same way the motive force for a car is a side effect of combustion in the ICE. Gasoline doesn't give a damn about you being late for work, it only wants to violently oxidize. We make the market economy work the same way we make a car work - by carefully harnessing powerful forces that, inadequately constrained, are deadly.


> Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women."

I don't think that's true. I work for Samsung and we talk about market share and competitors all the time.

I mean, why shouldn't we? Being crystal clear is a very good step to achieve a goal. We need to be more honest.


Somehow related Comic: > //s20.directupload.net/images/210825/v4dbak6h.png ^^

BTW: (Yesterday-News) "News For South African Looters As Samsung Moves To Block Stolen TVs..."


Here's Adam Curtis' brief history of Google's relationship to "the customer" (false label: advertisers are the customers, not search engine users)

1998 Idealism. "I think I want to make the world a better place."

https://youtu.be/55jSx4pRZqI?t=1789s

2000 Disaster and desperation. VCs tell SB what Google must do.

https://youtu.be/55jSx4pRZqI?t=2249s


Neither having a child out of wedlock or even with someone on staff, and, quoting Conan the Barbarian have anything to do with anything really.

Sergei Brin pushed the company to invest in his wife's company, had an affair with a subordinate, and probably quotes some other funny things along the way, it might say 'something' but I'm not sure if it speaks to 'competence'.

I'm not sure if this attack on the character of the companies, while maybe somewhat relevant, really speaks to the 'legal posture' of the companies.


"The only thing in my head is a conviction that our fascination with modern technology and the internet may go very quickly. It doesn't mean the internet will disappear - but it will just become suddenly seen as mundane. And not threatening. And quite a lot of it a bit of a con." - Adam Curtis


In other news: Googler doesn't see anything wrong with Google.


'Legal's job is much more about language than approach.

They will require you not to say 'crush competitors' because it would be used as evidence.

The issue 'make a better product vs. crush competitors' is usually a more of a strategic issue.

Edit: it's not illegal to want to 'crush competitors' FYI the issue is the language that would point in a particular direction. The evidence of my point is Google's existence - I would argue it participates in a number of anti-competitive practices for which it's very smart legal team has made sure the language they use doesn't support legal scrutiny.


What exactly is the logic here, that because IBM used to do the same thing Google is doing, and because IBM was not a monopoly, that we should be okay with Google behaving this way?


Literally every other company does this. I'm not sure what is the story here - the lawyers are coaching the employees not to put anything that can be used against the company in writing? The author tried to make it about Google for whatever reason.


There have been a handful of these. Somebody leaks the communications training and then somebody writes an article is shock that a company with 150,000 employees has communication training.


Every company does this? I’ve worked at quite a few Fortune 500’s and never experienced this.


true


That's an indictment of every other company as well then. The point is about anti-competitive ideology. If "anything that can be used against the company" also includes anti-competitive thinking, then that's the conflict.


The logic is that this isn't a sign of google being a monopoly and that it has more implications than just being there to avoid anti-trust actions.


That doesn't follow. You can read it in the exact opposite direction, that every other company culture is already behaving as if it is a monopoly.


It's much more simple once you realize that 'language is not reality'.

People can use all sorts of language, colloquially, and it can be interpreted in many ways.

You could absolutely use language within the company like 'crush the competition' wherein the culture is fully product oriented, great quality, support etc. and 'win the market'. That's perfectly legal and frankly ethical.

Legal's job is to protect from scrutiny and litigation, in which case, they will, among other things, say 'don't use this language'. Because it could be used as a kind of evidence, even if it's totally contextualized and misunderstood.

They will also obviously advise the CEO and product leadership on materially illegal activities, but it's unlikely that rank and file are going to hear about that.

For example, colluding with your industry partners on hiring practices ... you're not going to be privy to that.

If the company is not getting sued, legal is doing it's job. The rest of the equation mostly up to the rest of the executive team.


"Language is not reality" is the problem at stake, because language is really how people and organizations think. Language structures the field of possible self-justifications, and it's the ruler against which behaviors are measured. But, like you said, the fact that monopoly-related language is prohibited doesn't change reality. All the prohibition does is that it stops the organization's (and regulators') ability to measure its behavior against possible self-justifications. It's a strange legal technology.


> is really how people and organizations think. Language structures the field of possible self-justifications, and it's the ruler against which behaviors are measured

This works less well when employees are not taught from birth only the language Google's legal team want them to learn.


I agree that others do the same, but the observation that vocabulary somewhat affects thought is still interesting. As an example, the sentence about "defensive rationale" didn't just reformulate the sentence, it completely changed the meaning.

If people aren't allowed to talk about "crushing competition" they also can't think about it. If they can't think about it they also can't recognize it when it happens.


Trust me, every Google exec thinks hard about crushing competition. They just don't put it in writing.


Do they? Googles competition is Facebook (advertising). But Google seems very wary about going into FB dominated areas (Google+ notwithstanding), and FB is very wary about going into Google areas (no FB phones or tablets).

They kind of agree Google is the search/Android company, and FB is the social network company, and that way they can both sell ads.

Even Reddit, Snapchat, and TikTok, FBs main competitors, were never “crushed.” There was never a full out assault on them.

FBs attitude seemed to be to watch them, learn from them, and adopt their best practices.


The policy isn't to avoid crushing competition or becoming a monopoly in some market, it's to avoid specifically setting out to do so. Unless Google intentionally slows development/cuts resources, the amount of capital and level of talent they put into products makes "make the product better for users" a plan very likely to result in naturally taking over the market.


That's the policy that the Biden team is trying to change. Following from what you said, do you expect Google to change its behavior once the natural monopoly policy loophole gets fixed?


> That's the policy that the Biden team is trying to change.

Source? the FAAMG plan with horizontally scaling the business into more markets is ultimately "benefit the consumer", so disallowing such expansion is effectively making products worse (for the majority; the minority customers unhappy with the new FAAMG-backed competing product do indeed suffer). If this policy is that narrow, they'll just slow acquisitions/product development and either start spinning off more companies or increasing VC spending, which doesn't move the needle besides detaching the company's name from their money.


You justified natural monopolies in your first comment.

What do you think Biden meant when he said "capitalism without competition isn't capitalism"?


> What do you think Biden meant when he said "capitalism without competition isn't capitalism"?

Until we see some antitrust action that's an actual breakup and not 'locked down devices that aren't game consoles need to allow third party App Stores' we won't know the actual extent to which Biden is serious about doing anything to natural horizontal monopolies.


Yes and no.

Via market share, competition amplifies the rewards of being better. if you make your product 1% better than the competition, you might go from 30% to 70% market share. But to do so, you have to actually gain the market share. You can't just "build it and they will come"; in many industries, someone has to go out and win the market after the product is built. And so a lot of people in companies are really, really, really, motivated to gain market share. That's what increases their share option value, and gets their bonuses. And that's what tempts companies towards lock-in and all the rest.


Public relations has been around for a hundred years now. It shouldn't be news to anyone that large companies are careful with phrasing things and have full time employees devoted to the nuances of messaging.

And yes, when armies of lawyers are routinely descending on your internal communications then it sucks but PR-speak has to become the norm for all. Most people don't like it, but the consequences of not doing it are even worse.


But do the means justify the ends? Most people understand that unethical behavior or concerning actions to get a desired 'good' result isn't acceptable.

But the current approach is to mask the ends, the end goal may actually not be what we desire, e.g. corrupt monopolies leeching off society. But as long as we create approaches and incentive structures that get us to the same ends that are deemed acceptable, then it's just an "undesired side effect" we can handwave away, or so many managing businesses think.

Both the ends and the means matter.


This is such an uncharitable interpretation of the training materials. The material there is not saying "if you want to speak about things that raise antitrust concerns, use this coded language", it's saying "don't do these things, and just focus on building a good product".

Like, the thing here that really boggles my mind: if the training materials had said literally the exact opposite of what they do: "crush the competition, find ways to prevent competitors from competing fairly with us" etc. — someone like the author would write an article vilifying them. (And rightly so.) So the company instead says "focus on our product; competition is good and okay" and … they're vilified for it. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

By this article's twisted logic, any company focused on their product is just engaging in newspeak for thinly veiled anti-competitive behavior. Or is it just if Google does it?

(It kills me to argue this, since I think normally these threads/articles spawn good debate about the size and scope of FAANG. But… this one is ridiculous.)


Accusing interpretations of being "uncharitable" feels really odd when we're talking about communication training material. It's not some Slack thread taken out of context, we're reading quotes from reviewed and crafted material.

Also I don't see how changing "Cut off competitors' access to target" to "Integrate target with Google" matches your idealistic view of "focus on our product; competition is good and okay".

They basically acknowledge competition will be crushed, and are asking for appropriate communication to avoid troubles. It makes sense from Google's point of view, but I don't see why we should be advocating for them in any way.


I think you are reading something into it that is not necessarily there. The slides give examples of things that are appropriate to say and are not appropriate to say. It doesn't necessarily mean that one thing has to changed into the other.


That "good vs bad" table doesn't work if the element on the same line don't refer to the same situations/behaviors. The examples above of reneging "Dominant" for "Successful" is a clear example of that.


Just like the 1984 party so the article is spot on.


But it is not training material that tries to convey "focus on the product".

It's literally communication guidelines of a profit oriented company dominating it's market in a monopolistic way that says "avoid talking about market or market share, this is bad"

The only way to have a "charitable" interpretation of this is to partake in their game, imho.


Whether it is charitable or uncharitable depends on your subjective interpretation of the intent of the training material. But I think the focus on not talking about market share is a huge sign that this material is not written with good intentions. That makes very little sense.

If the material was written exactly the opposite, it'd almost make more sense, most companies want a high awareness of their market share... unless they're worried about being hit with an anti-trust case.

And so, when it comes to banning phrases like "crush the competition" it's not that rule alone which is worrying, it's the whole package.

Your argument is also a bit flawed, in that the alternative isn't training material that encourages talking about "crushing the competition". The realistic alternative is that the training material wouldn't have to mention it at all. Either because the company doesn't have a problem with that kind of culture, or because the company isn't close to being a monopoly, such that talking about "crushing the competition" would just be interpreted as healthy competitiveness.


To simplify - if the actions of an entity are bad (or perceived as bad), then whether they are saying truth about those actions or lies - DOESN'T MATTER AT ALL. So yes, indeed, Google will be damned whatever they say, as long as their actions stay the same.


> This is such an uncharitable interpretation of the training materials. The material there is not saying "if you want to speak about things that raise antitrust concerns, use this coded language", it's saying "don't do these things, and just focus on building a good product".

That is a very charitable interpretation of the training materials.


I disagree.

When I was at IBM 15 years ago, IBM was far from being a monopoly, since there were plenty of competitors in the hardware space (HP, Sun, Dell, etc) and in the software space (Oracle, SAP, etc.) and in the Services space (Accenture, PwC, KPMG, etc.) employees still had to complete annual legal training that was very similar to what was described in the post.

Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women." Instead they will tell their employees to focus on making life better for their customers. It's a much healthier way for product managers to focus, and what you might do if the goal is "crush/dominate the competition" is not the same than if the goal is delight the customer. So it's not just a messaging strategy to prevent embarassing e-mails from coming out at trial; it's a business strategy, too.


Your comment shows that it works, exactly like the article says it does.


[flagged]


Am I supposed to come away thinking they're both reasonable interpretations which accurately critique the main argument in this article? Because that's what I came away with.

(At the moment, the other to comment is about how focusing on positive goals is a good business strategy, not just light-stepping on legal egg shells.)


[flagged]


Can you explain what you’re trying to say? I feel like I’m supposed to see something damning in these two paragraphs, but I’m not seeing it. Writing styles seem dissimilar enough that I don’t think they’re the same person, if that’s it.


You’re being downvoted because your comments make no sense.


Every now and then I'm reminded of a) how much of HN has never worked for a large company, and b) how unfamiliar much of HN is with common business and legal practices.

Too many thought leaders masquerading as engineers.


You're being cryptic. The people your criticizing (this might include me, i have no way of knowing) will not be able to learn anything from your reply. It would be more constructive I'd you shared your thoughts so we'd have a chance to improve. What is your point, exactly? Spell it out for us, please.


This kind of training is incredibly standard practice at large companies.


This is about being careful what you put in writing, because the discovery process for lawsuits will find your carelessly written email and opposing lawyers will take it out of context, and do you want to end up in court years later explaining what you meant?

Google has so many employees that they need training to limit the damage from random chatter and speculation.

It’s more cumbersome to have to talk about some things via video chat, but it’s not about limiting thought.


They also have a corporate email policy where mails get auto-deleted after 18 months, unless you apply labels or are on a litigation hold (which would make such policy completely illegal). The email policy has no other purpose than to limit legal exposure. There is no legitimate business reason for that policy. In fact, it actively harms institutional memory and is frankly Orwellian, IMHO.


That's not just Google though. Most companies have an email deletion policy that auto-deletes emails after a certain about of time, on the premise that they eventually lose all value and only pose a potential liability and litigation risk.

Even U.S. government officials have used private email servers to avoid having to serve them up via requests.


> Even U.S. government officials have used private email servers to avoid having to serve them up via requests.

And when that failed they destroyed the hard drive that contained the exchange server db. (See IRS scandal)


> The email policy has no other purpose than to limit legal exposure.

> There is no legitimate business reason for that policy.

So the policy is about limiting the chance of potentially very expensive lawsuits, and has no legitimate business reason? Choose one.

I wish people stopped overusing "Orwellian": the term is so overused that you could use it next to "agile" and I wouldn't notice.


> I wish people stopped overusing "Orwellian"

"Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson"—a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in his novels, particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four[2] but political doublespeak is criticized throughout his work, such as in Politics and the English Language.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orwellian

I defend my use of the term. Disappearing the past absolutely is Orwellian. Down the memory hole!


"Orwellian" seems like a good fit for memory-holing people's communications.


At the same time the only apps I cannot select & copy any text from are YouTube and GoogleMaps. The comments people leave there are so valuable for Google?


I just tried it, I seem to be able to copy text just fine from both apps.


Maybe it's because you tried iOS apps? It doesn't work in Android apps.


I misspoke. I meant I can copy & paste on the web. On iOS I can copy paste from Google maps, but not Youtube. Maybe there just isn't a good enough use case for it, that's why it's not supported everywhere?


> They also have a corporate email policy where mails get auto-deleted after 18 months

Eric Schmidt’s retention policy was 72 hours.


Source? Curious what the reasoning would be there. Seems insanely impractical


It's obviously false, there are a number of regulations which would require G. to keep his communications on record for years, which is really established and well understood despite the commons here seeming to disagree with me.

More than likely Schmidt may have said something along the lines of deleting anything more than 3 days old because at the pace of his business, it's 'time out' and not relevant. But that's just a matter of his peculiar communications style. That the label has changed to 'archive' doesn't mean anything really from a corporate perceptive.

So yes, illegal to actually delete, and seemingly impractical to bump from one's inbox, but perhaps at 'Google Speed' there's some reason for it (and maybe there's a big caveat i.e. anything that's 'starred' or whatever doesn't get deleted, or, maybe anything older than 3 days that's opened or unopened gets deleted).


This policy makes very little sense. Does Google IT also purge every message he responded to from all corporate managed mailboxes?


I work at Google and my messages are purged before I even send them. This avoids so many problems!


Truly Google lives in the future the rest of us will catch up with.


How does he keep track of relationship history with someone? Commitments? Goals?


If true, my guess is that with such a huge power imbalance Schmidt isn't often waiting 72 hours for replies.


Before or after the High-Tech Employee Antitrust Settlement?


I doubt that because it's probably illegal. Execs have to keep copies of things they write around.

EDIT: For those who are wondering, here is a quick summary [1].

Eric Schmidt's emails are definitely kept around a very long time, for very legal reasons, and whatever he happens to do with his own personal 'inbox' is not relevant to the subject at hand, and amounts to a kind of personal email/habit choice.

To suggest '72 hours' in response to a discussion about legal discovery etc. is basically misleading in that regard.

[1] https://www.spamtitan.com/web-filtering/email-retention-laws...


Execs themselves don’t, they just have to be kept around. The policies are most likely enforced through Gmail’s retention settings which are set by IT, who can view all of the mail (regardless of whether it was deleted from the user’s mailbox) in Vault.


Yes, of course, 'execs' don't manage anything on their own, but the OP is talking about 'email retention' in the context of litigation and discovery i.e. 'a copy' irrespective of label, which is a legal requirement.

Eric Schmidt is not deleting his emails after 72 hours for the reason you mentioned and certainly the company is not, which is the salient issue.

One could say 'oh that's just from his inbox' but that's pointless in the context of this conversation because we're talking about 'If the corporation has a copy or not' i.e. 'IT' etc..

Scmidt deleting maybe a local copy after 72 hours doesn't really have anything to do with anything other than his personal email habits.

[1] https://www.spamtitan.com/web-filtering/email-retention-laws...


How is it Orwellian?

>"Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson"—a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orwellian

Stop overusing terms you don't understand


The analysis here is so absolutist and extremist it is ridiculous.

Many business have auto-delete for the simple business purpose - when someone hacks your email (which will happen somewhere in a large business) - why do you need to keep all that crap around forever? And yes, people email payroll details, passwords, logins and the list goes on - stop with the preaching about how to email securely.

So you auto-delete, which reduces the blast radius. In most cases folks are not looking at emails past 3 years old.


>There is no legitimate business reason for that policy.

You already completely answered the perfectly standard and reasonable business reason: "to limit legal exposure. "

In fact, this legitimate business reason is 100% the reason for the policy. Increasing legal exposure for no reason is a bad idea, for companies and for individuals.


This is a pretty standard policy at larger companies. Part of the reason is that even if everything in the emails is 100% legally fine, discovery is _expensive_ and gets more expensive the more emails exist.

This explanation was given to me by a corporate lawyer who was trying to figure out whether the same kind of expiration could be put on tickets in bug and project trackers, which would have been even more harmful to institutional memory than an email expiration policy.


You get more of the behaviors you encourage and less of the ones you discourage. The US legal system strongly discourages retaining email, since it rarely works in favor of the entity making the retention decision. And there is no particular reason to keep emails that old, so naturally companies want to get rid of them.


Almost every US corporation with a competent legal department has such a policy, and at a lot of them the period is way shorter than 18 months. I've suffered through 30 day policies before, and it's dumb and not fun at all, but Google is hardly being creative on this point.


So that's what they settled on? Kent tried to introduce it while I was still there and the pushback was so severe they decided not to do it at the time. I think the initially proposed retention period was shorter than that though. I could live with 18 months, but shorter than that cuts into all sorts of business processes including the all-important performance review cycle (AKA "perf"). I do think it's detrimental to the business of writing software though. I quite often search for emails from years and years ago, as well as mail "notes to self" to be able to find them later.


I disagree. If its part of the institutional memory it should be documented on an internal site and kept. Not stuck in an email format to disappear.


Personally, I often refer back to emails of what people sent me in order to have proper context, both technical, logistical, etc. Instructions on how to do things, how we debugged something or other, etc. That makes me more productive and useful as well as other people. If we gotta write every email over again and put it up on a wiki, that just won't happen.


Write it on the wiki first then just email the link to the wiki. No additional effort and then the guy who joins two years after everyone on the email chain has left and now has to maintain it also has that info.


I meant specifically, things like "Wait, who is this person? What did they want again? What did I tell them last time?" That's not stuff you put on a wiki.


This may or may not work for you, but I keep notes in a collection of Google docs.

Depending on context, these are either shared with the other person (and usually editable by them) or is accessible only by me.


At the volume of mail I was receiving at Google (100+/day), there's just no time to manually index things like that. Why can't we let email archives just function?


If you need it for your workflow, it is very easy to avoid the auto-deletes. I know plenty of people who blanket keep all their old emails without a problem.


> The email policy has no other purpose

Yes, it has: GDPR requires that you delete PII in reasonable time. I have a lot of customers contacting me by email for example, but also the JIRA notifications which all end up in emails with extensive PII. It must be deleted in a controlled way according to GDPR.

But you are correct that this excuse goes away with Google, since they don’t do support ;)


Many large companies have the same policies/training for this very reason. You do not want to put something in writing that could potentially appear on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

The training/policies just codify that.


It might not be intended to limit thought, just to avoid liability, but does it limit thought anyway?


Working there in the first place limits thought. Nobody wants to think of themselves as part of the problem.

The language, at best, just makes the cognitive dissonance a little easier.


Googler, opinion is my own.

When I started at Google in 2015, in my first week here chatting with some peers, some of them were complaining about some of our policies around Android and that they much preferred Apple (the person didn't work anywhere near Android, but was complaining about it more as a user).

There are many people at Google that have issues with various parts of Google's businesses. Some are more vocal about it than others. One great example was Brad Fitzpatrick complaining about the first-gen Nest smoke alarms (2015): https://twitter.com/bradfitz/status/566072337020112896


Those are minor product quibbles.

I'm not saying Google is the great Satan or anything, I'm just saying it's impossible for most people, especially the typical Googler, to simultaneously work at a place for a nice paycheck and think it's bad for society. Everyone justifies, whether it's Phillip Morris or Google.


It might have some effect, but Googlers can read all the same stuff on the Internet as everyone else.


Have you ever been a devout practitioner of a religion whose views on the world differ in key parts from the established scientific consensus?

Have you ever been affiliated with a political party that was highly popular (or a monoparty even) in your country but was held in contempt by the rest of the world because of how totalitarian/inhumane it was?

In both cases, you could read whatever, even critical information about your values. But you would have an explanation ready — enemies envy and slander us, they either know they lie or they are repulsed by the God's light because of how corrupted they are, they are not aware of the whole truth... You would have a whole arsenal to explain things away, because you are committed, and your commitment makes it hurt to realize that the purpose your values serve is not very noble, or that you're a part of something atrocious. It's the human nature.


I understand what you’re getting at and there is certainly a lot of closed-mindedness going around. I don’t think any organization is immune to this.

But there are also a lot of employees who have strongly opposed various Google policies and engaged in various political activity based on that, so the groupthink doesn’t seem to be working very well? Also, the company leaks like a sieve these days.

Even before that, there were a lot of internal debates. (They just didn’t leak as much.) It’s in part because of these debates that you need policies; people sometimes say careless things in heated discussions.

(Former Googler, but it’s been a while.)


Isn't continuing to work for a company that has policies you strongly oppose an example of successful groupthink?

I suppose you could make a case for continuing if the policies are/have been/could realistically be changed.

But if that's unlikely?


When a company is large enough[0], it's probably not unreasonable to start thinking of it as a municipality, or even a small country. There are probably people who live in my city who I wouldn't like, there are probably policies of my city I don't like, but I still live where I live.

Similarly, at a large enough company, if your work is good, but some other division of the company is bad, should you leave the company(city/country)? Or just avoid the bad division?

[0] Leaving aside the question of whether it's a good thing for companies to get that large.


Thank you for this, the analogy really resonates.


Google’s internal memegen website does not confirm that. I’ve never seen anything so critical of Google.


Well, I'd say it does. My understanding is that if you're not limited in what you're thinking, but severely limited in how you are allowed to think about it, your freedom of thought is limited nonetheless.

And it's limited, by necessity, even outside working hours, lest your tongue/fingers slip and you utter a bad word in your Googler capacity so that a liable deed gets a liable name and there won't be any lawyering around this.

Heck, it's almost, though not entirely, like a brainwashing cult!

I guess in China they also force their Uighur camp operators to not even think about what they do as "torture", but "reeducation". It makes them happier in their workplace.


How people think about things and what people put in legally discoverable media like email are worlds apart. As a basic aspect of corporate survival, it's important to keep that in mind.

The overarching concept is "don't make it hard for the company to do business." The point of those trainings is that the words to avoid have legally-defined meanings that may or may not be what the Googler intended, but are likely to be interpreted in an antitrust sense in a court of law. The underlying concept is "don't talk like a lawyer if you're not one of our lawyers."

Watching what you put in email (as described in this article) is in the same training where Googlers are given the overarching advice "always communicate via email as if those emails are going to show up on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow."


Doesn't negate my point in the least.

The fact alone that there exists such an extensive training specifically about monopoly-related stuff hints that there is extensive monopolistic behavior liability for which only hinges on whether it's acknowledged as such in the internal communication.

Also, it adds a whole new (new?) meaning to any press release or a blog post from Google using any of the terms from the right column if you substitute them with the terms from the left column. They say "dedicated to providing the best services to our users", you see "dedicated to eliminating our competitors".


Someday you will participate in a legal proceeding, and you will feel silly about writing this. I wish I could have those days back, when I believed that lawyers wouldn't twist words out of context, or construct entire alternate realities from a few found seed words.

But they do, and the good ones are really good at it.

Any competent company is going to train its people with some sort of variation on a course named "The Ten Dumbest Things You Can Write In An Email So Don't".


This is sound advice not only for corporate survival; you should also keep this in mind in personal communications. Even your private communications with your closest friends could be leaked years later if you somehow manage to cross the wrong people, and Internet mobs are every bit as capable as the smartest lawyers at constructing alternate realities from a few found seed words; or maybe they’re not as capable, but the bar of acceptance is also far lower.


> discovery process for lawsuits will find your carelessly written email and opposing lawyers will take it out of context

I don't work for Google or have much of an opinion on "Googlespeak".

However, that the practice of law is allowed to exist in its current state is an indictment on our society. The legal profession is one that polices itself, has no proper oversight (judges are just lawyers with a more refined superiority complex), raises barriers to entry with a level of zeal only matched by medicine (to which it is not actually comparable), and is also allowed to maliciously and limitlessly wield this power over the people who do real work is a foundational problem with governmental design.


A hard-of-hearing friend of mine got tired listening to videos. He told me that he sneakily ran speech-to-text software and read the text in a separate window.

In a different vein, when I was younger I didn't understand why people preferred phoning.

I as a Deaf engineer rely on written communication. This exposes myself and people communicating with me to «showing what has been said». I am sure that in my career I missed some important information just because people weren't willing to create a persistent record of communication.

My friend «solved» this problem, but I am sure his interlocutors would be miffed if they knew that.


From don't be evil to don't leave a paper trail...


Why not both?


This is what’s known as a Stringer Bell warning[0] and it doesn’t reflect well on the organization who has to make it this aggressively.

Yes, it stands to reason that if you’re engaged in a potentially unlawful conspiracy you need to be careful what you put in writing.

However if this is coming up constantly and prevents you from using common sense words for your regular business operations then it’s a pretty clear red flag that your actions may be subjecting you to legal liability.

[0] https://youtu.be/pBdGOrcUEg8


No, that's just a convenient excuse.

The other side of "Be careful what you put in writing because lawyers, lol" that is always ignored is:

"If you think we need to dress up the way we talk about this one particular thing we're doing, then maybe we should reevaluate whether we should be doing this thing. If you think we need to dress up the way we talk about literally everything that this company does, then maybe it's time to step back and reevaluate the ethics of what this company stands for."

A company is a machine that is going to do whatever it can to print money, including brainwashing its employees. You and your colleagues are the only entities capable of ethical reasoning. The company and its executive functionaries are not going to do this for you. In fact, they're more likely going to try and stop you.

It's your responsibility to do it anyway.


Who is "we" and "you" in this context?

At Google, the team responsible for deciding whether a given project is legal is the legal team. Googlers are encouraged to get a member of legal on board as soon as a project gels far enough to have a concrete description that could have legal consequences. At that point, a set of attorney client privileged communications could begin where any of the words listed here can be on the table (because that communication is not in discoverable media).

But in general, Google doesn't encourage its software engineers to think they're experts in law any more that it encourages its lawyers to think their experts in BigTable performance tuning.


I'm not talking about what is legal, I'm talking about what is ethical. They are not the same.

I'll grant you that not every corporate policy will agree with me, but I would argue that every human with a brain has a responsibility to think about whether what their boss asks them to do is ethical, and a responsibility to raise hell if they think it isn't.

I don't believe it's ethical to abdicate this human responsibility to a corporate legal team.

Part of what these corporate policies are deliberately designed to do is condition employees into believing that "deferring to the legal team" is where their responsibility ends. They want to convince you that this checks the box for both "legal" and "ethical" so that you feel like you've done your duty, and now you don't need to think about the ethics of your work anymore. This is what I meant by corporations "brainwashing" their employees. But you're always on the hook for the ethics of your work.


I agree with you. But one can raise hell by advocating to get the legal team on board as quickly as possible and making it clear that there's a significant issue that needs to be considered without using the words that will get the company half a million dollars of billed in-court attorney time whether or not there was actually any ethical issue.

That's the key difference and the purpose for constraining what ends up in discoverable media.

There is, perhaps, a meta-ethical question of whether companies should, in general, be factoring into their calculus ways to minimize the government's capacity to hinder their activities. It's a good question. I don't have an answer that's universally true. I suspect if we sit down and consider it, we find lots of circumstances where it's not in the best interests of anyone to just hand the government a company's throat to be slashed. After all, especially if we're talking about the United States, it's not like the government itself has proven a bastion of ethical reasoning either.


> the team responsible for deciding whether a given project is legal is the legal team

Since legality in a corporate context is not typically a binary evaluation, it would be far more accurate to say that their job is to ascertain the relative financial and business costs of potentially illegal behavior so it can be effectively compared to that behavior’s potential profits


I was in Google Ads from 2008-2010. At that time, there was a limit of 3 top ads and 8 right-hand-side ads. The top ads generated the vast bulk of the revenue.

They were also in blue or yellow (I forget which, but one was WAY more lucrative than the other!) so it was very easy for the user to distinguish an ad from a search result.

I just did the canonical $$$ search "flowers" on my Macbook. The entire first page was ads and they are not colored anymore (although they do say "Ad"). There is also a Maps snippet which shows where I can buy flowers.

What happened? Well, I can guess: they did experiments, and not coloring the ads produced more revenue. I know from talking to ordinary users that they often say proudly "I never click on ads!" Now they do.


I very rarely click on Google Web Search ads.

I very rarely use Google Web Search.

Poor relevance and ubiquitous tracking is a key condern. But the ad-spamming is also tremendously out of hand.

I'd switched to Google from AltaVista in 1999. I ditched GWS effectively by 2013.

Yes, I'll still occasionally run a "!g" bang search. And there are Google services I find genuinely useful --- Google Books and Ngram Viewer most especially.

But the bloom hasn't been anywhere near that rose for a long, long, long, long time.


Really surprised to hear that you’re not getting the relevance out of Google. Are most of your searches in a specific domain that’s somehow not covered properly by Google? And is there a search engine that does a better job for you? I’ve tried using services like DDG and find myself falling back to Google more often than not.


The problem is generally typical of online content as a whole given SEO gaming and commercialisation. DDG's bang searches and the ability to fluidly target searches to specific sites with less typing and fewer hops is a key differentiator.

The most relevant quality content tends to come from published rather than online sources, or by going direct to source.

The Web has been a mistake.

That said, Google's SERP page content, layout, tracking, and advertising all effectively drop relevance by a tremendous amount --- I've got to consciously filter out Google's own crap on top of the irrelevant web results returned.

DDG's cleaner presentation increases effective quality by a subjectively-assessed factor of 2--10.

Date-bounded search remains one of the very few reasons to favour GWS for a specific search, though even that is highly unreliable. Often what I want is a searchable archive from a given period, not a guestimate of a date-ranged search over the live Web.

Even in Google Books, date-ranged search results very often fail to return content from the requested period.


> The Web has been a mistake.

In hindsight, what would have been better?


That's a good question. I'm not sure I have a good answer.

I'm also not sure that djin can be rebottled. The history of media advances has been that they tend to progress and proceed, and human culture changes around them, they do rather less adapting to human culture.

(I've become aware in the past five years or so of the study of media and its impacts on society as a whole. Elizabeth Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change only hints at the full breadth, but is one of the major works on the topic. She draws heavily on Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy (literally: we live in the universe Johannes Gutenberg created), and there are numerous others who explore this, notably Adam Curtis and Neil Postman. Again, the Web, algorithmic social media, and mobile computing each bring their own twist. Again, this isn't the first time media's transformed society. I'd argue that every advance, from speech on up, has. The changes can be tremendous and catastrophic --- to the previously existing order --- as with the printing press and the Reformation and Hundred Years War.)

One useful approach is to look at each of what were touted as the Web's strengths, and consider them from the perspective of "what could possibly go wrong". Several principles of the sociologist Robert K. Merton are helpful here: overt vs. covert functions and phenomena, unintended consequences, and possibly self-fullfilling prophecies.

It's not clear to me what boundaries can be established for the Web, or what the consequences of a failure to establish those might be. Either case the future appears bleak.


I almost never get useful results out of a web search, nowadays, unless the query is very specific (like looking up a website I forgot the domain of). This is not particular to google search, which in fact I don't use anymore.

Trying to find information given only fuzzy details almost never produce relevant links; anything remotely commercial, like trying to find a product reviews, film to watch, a store nearby, etc. produces tons of synthetic websites full of ads that magically match my query; specific technical information can result in low-effort blogspam or total rip-offs from other websites (stackexchange answers, other blogs, etc.); and the list goes on.

It seems to me the only actually interesting material is now found in forums, message boards, wikis and other kind of websites where users generate the content. Unfortunately searching these is far from handy because they aren't always indexed or have archaic interfaces or require a login. I think search engines in general, either by prioritising revenue or being tricked by spammers and CEO, are now blind to the real information contained in the web. I wish for a search engine that would only index a curated list of genuine websites based on a topic, but I don't think we'll ever have one because it's not profitable.


"I almost never get useful results out of a web search"

This I find impossible to believe. So you basically don't get any useful results for 80-90% of your searches? I wish you could give some examples.


Ok, here's a few real example where I had only partial (but 100% correct) information had a hard time finding the right answer:

1. There's a shell (program) which feature a built-in file manager inspider by ranger, I forgot its name: try to find it. Answer: [1]

2. There's a particular gas that can (temporarily) kill a smartphone, but you forgot which. Find the article about this. Answer: [2]

3. There's a blog post (well-known if you're into networking) that argues IPv6 was meant to replace MAC addresses. Answer: [3]

[1]: https://elv.sh/

[2]: https://www.ifixit.com/News/11986/iphones-are-allergic-to-he...

[3]: https://apenwarr.ca/log/?m=201708#10


1. Only finds it if something in the line of "programming language and interactive shell with built-in file manager" for less, it indeed misses.

2. "(this) gas causes smartphones to temporarily deactivate" second result

3 "blog post ipv6 was supposed to replace MAC adresses" 3rd result

In some cases some slight change in the wording changes the ranking drastically. However, I am not sure "The old good google" would find these at all honestly.


YES! I still remember the earlier days of Google, when it was not only returning results, the results were a delight to click through. I genuinely felt happy using it. Infoseek was good in a way that it let you search within searched results, so you could filter down. Alta Vista was definitely larger, but Google was pure magic. Not only relevant but digs up interesting and rewarding well researched information sitting around in a little corner of a web.


Holy shit. No wonder google doesn't give a shit about adblockers. Those people would be the ones who care about litigation and stopping this shit. Easy to let such a small % of users slide when the other 99% will willingly fall into the ad trap.

This is insane:

https://i.imgur.com/bdtvyXF.png


Wow, I had no idea because it's been so long since I've been without ad blockers.

Interestingly, I tried the same on DuckDuckGo and it seemed almost identical: some inlined ads, shopping results, have to scroll down to find actual search results. (main difference: embedded non-ad results like wikipedia and news).


And, simultaneously, I've switched search engines to DDG (something I last did in the mid 1990s -- to Google!), and have multilayered network, browser, and hosts-file level adblocking. Such is the price of progress...


DDG is pretty good and it's my first try for searching.

Occasionally Google is still better. Just today, I was looking for old financial data on Synoptics (late 80s). Google has books & journals from back then; DDG does not.


For the other canonical query, try "mesothelioma." An info box on the right, and four ads on the left.

At one time, this was the highest-priced ad in Google (idk if it still is), because personal injury lawyers were desperate to get clients.


I just tried this (firefox on iOS, new england). Google asked for my location and I said “no”.

TLDR: 2 ads, the rest organic.

Top-2 were ads, a maps widget, organic result, people also ask, 4 organic results, people also search for, images, 4 organic, 1 ad.


Really? I just did this on desktop and the first two pages were all advertisements for florists. These sorts of links used to be demarked as ads on google search in the before times. Wikipedia didn't even appear until page three. That used to be the first result for a typical noun search.


While looking at the tables of good versus bad phrasing I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading something not so dissimilar to how leaders of organized crime historically avoided prosecution. By not naming the crime, by speaking about it indirectly and with softer language, they hoped to invigorate doubt in a hypothetical jury.

It's a method of avoiding responsibility oft credited to Henry II, who stated off-hand "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_no_one_rid_me_of_this_tur...


Yeah, but that isn't even a hint of a problem. It would be like observing that Google and the mafia also both use accounting principles to organise their finances.

These large companies are going to be involved in lawsuits, no matter what. Their written communications are going to be trawled through, more than likely. Everyone in the company would have to be a bit simple for there not to be some preparations to defend against legal discovery.

Even if you believe yourself to be completely innocent of any crime, it is still stupid to make life easier for some legal assailant.


If the behaviour doesn't warrant prosecution then there would be no need for careful use of language to conceal it.


Or the earlier example "Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_linguistic_example_sen...).


It is far more widespread than an interaction with a Google employee. The phenomenon is everywhere. It was distilled perfectly by Upton Sinclair quite a while ago: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”


Same with asking people here to stop using Chrome to get rid of the way it dominates the web.

When you are tied to the hip to something, you will never change. The network effect keeps you on the same Ferris wheel.


> It is far more widespread than an interaction with a Google employee.

Yes, it's systemic, not just in capitalism, through all of nature.

In cell biology, it's the Krebs cycle.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28219702/


>It’s difficult to imagine any new flight search, no matter how innovative, winning today with Google acting as the web’s gatekeeper.

Google results are dominated by the Expedia Group (a conglomerate of tons of different brands: https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx). While Google's practices have definitely hurt, it's a huge business, and probably a larger reason why a new flight search competitor can't get off the ground.

As a customer, it's annoying there isn't more diversity anymore. Generic travel searches are dominated by these brands, plus articles full of affiliate links that are hard to trust.


Thats not Googlespeak. Thats legal protection. Whenever a company is open to investigation you can bet emails will be searched and if something suggesting something borderline illegal is written there it can be used against you. A lot of companiea give such trainings to their employees.


Unclear how any of this means it’s not Googlespeak.


It's not clear to you how standard business practices aren't some sort of Google-specific Orwellian new-speak?


Well I don't know about OP but, no, its not clear to me! Or at least, I don't know about the Orwell parallel precisely here, but this way of thinking/speaking is very weird to me, however much its "business as usual." Can't really critique it, but you can't tell me its not a weird view of the world!


Many people would consider that particular business practice a bit Orwellian, however standard. And it’s especially so when the business in question is a global megagiant that’s so deeply integrated into our lives. The comparison with Newspeak is just a blindingly obvious literary reference. Do you genuinely not see it? If so I urge you to read the article again and try to imagine you don’t work at Google.


Perhaps you could view Googlespeak as a side-effect of the legal protection.


I was a direct witness of such a brain washing case a few years ago.

Google was about to release a new version of Android or of Nexus phones. (I don't remember the exact details)

And there was an insider leak, so the details of the innovation were published on internet a few days before the official announcement.

Leaks are now very common and often organized by companies, but a few years ago it was not yet the case.

I had a lunch with a few people including some Google engineers a few days after the leak. A discussion started about this topic, and the googlers said things like: "what a scandal the leak, we hate so much the person that did that, that we would have like to have him dead. If anyone in the company find who he his, we would seriously punch his face".

I was surprised, because, this was just a leak of the features, same content has what would have been disclosed in the PR announcement. Personally I would be happy that people have so much interest in my product that they spontaneously reshare early details about it. I did not see where the offense was for some random engineers of the company.

So, I asked them, and they told me that they felt that the insider "stole their announcement of their product".

I told them that it is ridiculous, because as an engineer you should like that your product is known, and that people hear and talk about it. But it should personally make no difference if the feature list/preview is published a few days earlier by a leak instead of by a random PR guy or by a big head of the company.

The only offended one might be the big head and the PR/marketing guys that had their plan ruined, but not common Google software engineer salarymen.

But the Googlers were not able to understand this idea, and then, they became hostile to me for the rest of the lunch for even having suggested that their feeling might not be justified.

So then I realized that they were brain washed by the company internal communication to feel that anything annoying for Google was bad for them personally!

In the exact same way that there are dictator led countries were most of the inhabitants are blindly following whatever the dictator says is the truth!


I've never even worked at Google, but if my team is working towards something and our announcement is pre-empted, yeah, I'm going to be upset. I would never wish anyone dead over it, but I would definitely be pissed at them.

There's a lot of work that goes into those announcements. It's not just advertising the product that is the goal, it's presenting it their way.

Similarly, when someone is telling a joke and someone else tells the punchline, they get upset about it. According to your logic, they shouldn't. The joke was told, and the audience heard it. But I've yet to meet anyone who wouldn't be upset about someone else telling the punchline to their joke.

They were not brainwashed. You were incredibly insensitive to their feelings.


If you are an engineer working on the software, the announcement really has little interest. You just want it to be wide and sure not being done in a way that put a bad light on your product.

This kind of things happened in my case, and I was more happy to see the interest of the potential users than knowing who disclosed it as it would not be me anyway in all cases.

It might not be true in a small company/team/product. But in a big tech corps, the guy that will do the official announcement is usually quite far and unrelated to the engineers that did the feature.

Also, maybe a piece that was missing from my story is that the Googlers were not even in a team working or related to the disclosed thing. For example they were in the chrome team and it was an Android announcement or something like that.

Another point is that, at Google, it looks like that each big product team is firewalled from the other team. For example, people not working on Android core will not know anything about it or it's development and be in separated buildings and co.


This is just completely false - if you're working on a feature, you want a PR splash controlled by you, not a stream of silent leaks. PR begets other PR.

You're being super presumptuous by saying engineers shouldn't care about the PR around the feature they worked on, even if someone else is running the PR


If it was silent leaks, no one would have even cared about it!


As an engineer you should be focused on delivering objective value, not subjective value.


As an engineer my ultimate goal is to help people, not push metrics. The subjective value is the thing that matters.


To some degree, having the work discussed is great. But depending on the way it leaked, it can diminish the focus on the product, and sometimes it can make the official release flop and that's not great.

From what I hear, Google has/had a policy/culture of largely free information flow inside the company while not having information flow outside the company; a leak undermines that culture/policy and leads to more locked down information flow on the inside, and it's reasonable to be upset about that.

> they became hostile to me for the rest of the lunch for even having suggested that their feeling might not be justified.

People don't usually apprechiate it when they're upset and others tell them their feelings aren't justified and they should feel differently. That's simply not a good way to engage people.


Yes, this happened at Google, in a huge way. Ten years ago you would hear interesting things at TGIF, the weekly informational company-wide event people would demo not-yet-launched software and hardware, discuss R&D, etc. After such a lot of cumulative leaks people stopped saying anything interesting at TGIF. You'd get information faster by reading the company press releases than by waiting for Friday.

It's not like the leakers did some kind of noble service, either. They were just assholes who destroyed something nice.


> Google has/had a policy/culture of largely free information flow inside the company

Sadly, this is "had" rather than "has" (it was the latter until a few years ago). As you point out, not least due to leaks.


The reason Googlers get really ticked off about leaks is that they ruined the very candid and open internal culture we used to have. In the 10 years I've been there I've seen us go from TGIF sessions where Larry and Sergey and Eric openly discussed things that every other employer I'd had before would have kept quiet ... to the situation now which is a lot less like that. And it has a lot to do with leaks from those very TGIFs.

Now I certainly wouldn't be talking about "punching people" or "wanting them dead"... But I am not happy when my coworkers violate trust by leaking. Unless we're talking about gross ethics violations, harassment, etc. leaking internal stuff doesn't improve anything for anybody except maybe the ego of the leaker.


On the contrary, the leaker is sharing with the public, often things people deserve to know. It's the height of selfishness to be upset that Larry and Sergey stopped telling you about their dirty laundry, because the public was finding out.


Sounds like you're comfortable with having all of your conversations transcribed directly to twitter! Let us know where we can read that.


I think that is an extremely false equivalence. While there's an inherent irony about Sergey and Larry's woeful desire for privacy, whilst buying yachts bought by stripping everyone else of their own... I think it's fair to say that a public company affecting the lives of billions has drastically less right to privacy than a private individual. ;)

I'll leave you with a quote: "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place." - Eric Schmidt, former CEO and chairman.

The fact that Google locked down communication in response to the leaks, is a tacit confirmation that they are doing things they probably shouldn't be doing in the first place.


I don’t follow this reasoning. The leaks were of internal but not secret as in “scandal” information.


> So then I realized that they were brain washed by the company internal communication to feel that anything annoying for Google was bad for them personally!

I think your interpretation of this experience is incorrect. Their visceral reaction was against leaking specifically, not negative information generally. Part of the propaganda behind TGIF, the internal newsletters, and so on is the idea that this inside information is part of what makes you special as a Googler.

> "...we hate so much the person that did that, that we would have like to have him dead."

While I'm sure you caught a big fish that day, I'm also sure it wasn't that big (come on: the retelling of this anecdote does not need quite that much exaggeration).


> While I'm sure you caught a big fish that day, I'm also sure it wasn't that big (come on: the retelling of this anecdote does not need quite that much exaggeration).

I don't exaggerate that point, the sentence was not exactly that but something very excessive and very close to that.

This is the intensity and violence of their feeling that shocked me to the point that I still remember this case after around 5/6 years or more.


During my tenure, just about every leak was accompanied by howling about the people who dared leak the information. Termination? Yes. Blackballing? Yes. Summary execution? No.


For a more complete look at the concept that linguistic structure & lexicon set the boundaries of thought, see the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis [0]. Spoiler alert: the "strong" version doesn't quite hold up under experimental scrutiny, but the "light" version has some legs.

As a bonus, follow-up with George Lakoff's Metaphors we Live By.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity


I second your recommendation of Metaphors we live by. It is a book that had a lasting impact on how I view the world and I think most HN readers would find it interesting.


Every large company has these trainings. I personally have worked at multiple companies with very similar trainings.

With thousands of employees, a company can’t take the risk that some random college hire mouths off over Slack on something they don’t know anything about and it shows up in discovery for something in the future and is used as evidence of planned malfeasance on the part of the company. I know we don’t like Google but this is not a Google thing, it’s a “opposing lawyers will take speculation from random low level engineers wildly out of context and judges and juries are too dumb to put it in context” thing.


It's hilarious to me that someone thinks this is about controlling thought and not a defensive legal maneuver.


It's also absurd to me how the answer to "how can folks with whom I generally respect have reached such a significant gap in thinking?" is basically "they must be brainwashed by their Communicating Safely training"... That's such terrible way of dismissing someone who has a different opinion than you.


You just dismissed them yourself didn't you? "thats a terrible way" is an emotional cast to disregard the logic in the argument. Its lawyer speak. HOW DARE YOU style rebuttal.

Or.. maybe you're just using english with its rhetorical richness? the quality of emphasis is not meant to imply actual dislike or distain? In which case.. why can't you ascribe the same motive of language style to the original author?


Totally. This whole thing is just wild to me.


I mean it can easily be both at the same time.


Right. This seems to be needlessly overcomplicating/obfuscating whats going on.


I think that a lot of this makes sense from Google's legal perspective, where antitrust litigation is a constant consideration and any internal document mentioning market share or competitors could be used against them.

I'm sure that there is a great deal of discussion about potential anticompetitive issues within Google and with their outside counsel, but in a context where legal privilege protects against disclosure.


One could argue that they position themselves as an accomplished monopoly already, because their internal correspondence pretends competition doesn't even exist, or is of no consequence whatsoever.


Being a monopoly (or to be precise: to be in a dominant position), is not problematic in EU competition law. It is the abuse of said position that is illegal!

https://ec.europa.eu/competition/publications/factsheets/ant...


On a literary note: another great sci-fi reference point is Samuel Delaney's "Babel 17" - the hook is that a government creates a language that enables extreme thought capabilities, but prevents you from conceptualizing the opposing government as anything but an enemy.


Totally out of topic, but I highly recommend it ... (Not technically a spoiler) I really liked the parallel betweens the bad guys' language, which was manipulative to the extreme, and the good guys' language, which was of course less extreme but still contained deceiving vocabulary (i.e. Babel 17 is critiqued because the good guys are called "who are invading", yet the bad guys are themselves called "invaders" in English ...)


People who go to live in other countries are called expats, people coming to live in your country are called immigrants


It's a shame about the downvotes, because that's a perfect example of loaded language which imposes a conceptual frame for both speaker and listener.

It's not an abstract point. It has very real consequences because it's supposed to - and does - trigger expected emotions and behaviours.

PR consultants, politicians, lawyers, ad copy writers, and others who use rhetoric professionally use this kind of loading very deliberately.


I don't particularly like Google, but it is obvious that they are in the "Everything you say may be used against you" situation and they cannot simply take the fifth and cut off any communication among employees.

If you need to take into account that every single message sent over internal media may be one day combed by hostile investigators for anything that might be considered your wrongdoing, you need to be careful, regardless of your size.


While I wholeheartedly agree with this article, I can't help but think, why would Google or Googlers encourage discussion about anti-trust in the first place? I understand that Google certainly does dominate the market, but can you really blame them for wanting to keep it that way?


Google wants to be anthropomorphized. It is a non-physical but conscious/living entity, and yeah I do empathize with its desire to continue to exist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egregore


probably because for a company that prides itself on innovation, it's a long term bad idea to prioritize eliminating wrong-think and hiring people who are okay with that over people who actually believe in competition and open thought


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: