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Why I Left Google (msdn.com)
947 points by cangencer on Mar 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 306 comments

I think people here are being ungenerous towards the author. Too me this story sounds genuine and not like a pr move dictated by Microsoft. It strikes me to be a personal account by someone who's trying to make sense of the past and actually mourning what he believe is the death of old Google. This deserves our respect as professionals because inevitably we are all going to find ourselves in a similar situation, trying to learn from the past and seeking understanding by our peers.

I agree the responses seem a bit harsh.

Also as someone who never worked at Google but has been a pretty big Google "fanboy" (of the search, Google Apps, Android, etc) his waning enthusiasm for the brand as an employee seems to have taken a very similar dip to my waning enthusiasm for them as a user, though due to personal investment his dip was probably faster and deeper than my own.

I've loved Google in the past precisely because they weren't Apple and they weren't Facebook. It seems increasingly like they are trying to be Apple and Facebook rolled up into one, which (most importantly for me) sucks because I'm not a fan of Apple or Facebook and (most importantly for them) sucks because they aren't a very good Apple nor a very good Facebook, so they're trading in their old fans for the hope of new fans that probably aren't interested anyway.

Larry Page, I am disppoint.

> trading in their old fans for the hope of new fans that probably aren't interested anyway.

100% agree. Two small decisions that enrage me for some reason:

1. Stealing the "+" operator away from searches

2. Making Google+ a (semi) closed platform - when I see a link on HN and I click through and it wants me to login to my google+ account just to view the article, I rage inside.

I always want better search, and I've always been happy with google. But now (for many little things like the two above examples) I really want someone else to come along and bring me better search. I don't like google anymore.

Delete your Google cookies and only log in to Google+ in an Incognito window. Then you won't have the "wants me to login to my google+ account just to view the article" problem ever again.

Or just skip it. If getting there requires manipulating cookies and incognito mode there had better be something special at the other end; in 99.99% of the links to G+ the payoff is not worth the bother.

You only have to delete your cookies once, and the main benefit is not that you can read stuff on G+, but that Google isn't tracking everything you read. As closely.

Yeah, but, there is a better solution, right? Like, Google choosing to not actively break the Web?

If you're enraged over relocating a "+" prefix to a double quoted word, then you might not want to use a post-2005 version of Microsoft Office...

It was not a relocation; + and "" were not equivalent, and Google has made no effort to replace the functionality they removed.

quotes on a single word actually _are_ the equivalent of +, AFAIK. I.e if you want foo, bar, quox to be all present on the page you search, the term is <"foo" "bar" "quox"> (minus angle brackets, obviously)

I could be wrong, but it seems to work for me.

It breaks sometimes.

Imagine the name Dan Northern. I search using (without square brackets)

["Dan Northern"]

I don't ever want, for that search, to see any results like:

["Dan's Northern"]

But I do, sometimes. (Using different names, which I'm not giving here to protect a friend who actually does need protection.)

But Google has a handy feedback form, and I report it when it happens, and sometimes it seems to make a difference.

I would freaking love to see some of that feedback.

I assume you did try the "verbatim" search option, right? (Click "more search tools" if it's not on your screen)

The numbers of people using + operator correctly were tiny. (1 in 600 people.)

If there are 6 billion people on earth, that's 10 millon of them.

The statistic is over the total number of users, not over the total number of human beings, or the total number of human beings that ever existed, or the number of atoms in the universe.

What percentage of the total number of human beings do you think use Google? I'm not even off by a single order of magnitude.

It's good to see a Google manager hold that point of view. Do you have any influence in the organization? Or are mchurch's nightmare demons really running the show?

I've worked on the query parsing code for google.com, and, I promise you, + and "" were equivalent. (Barring unusual edge cases with ambiguous combinations of punctuation.)

Ha.....I agree with you on MS Office!

"I've loved Google in the past precisely because they weren't Apple and they weren't Facebook."

I absolutely do not understand this frame of mind. Why not just like a company for its products, rather than liking them because they're "not" some other company?

Life is too short to get caught up in the identity politics of corporations. Google is a business, not your buddy.


If you invest time/money in something, you want to have a good feeling about it. I want to know I'm not going to get screwed down the road.

I think of if like a relationship with person. Do you want to be friends/lovers with a thief/liar/cheater?

Reputation matters.

"I think of if like a relationship with person. Do you want to be friends/lovers with a thief/liar/cheater? Reputation matters."

It's entirely possible to have good feelings about products, value the reputations of brands, and trust companies (or not) without getting caught up in politics. I like Whole Foods because they have really good produce, not because they're "not Safeway".

You don't have to choose sides in a religious war to make product judgments.

It's not necessarily always about 'choosing sides'. We are at the point where buying a product from one of these large companies no longer simply means "buying a product" (like you would produce at a Whole Foods). Popular tech products are so intertwined with their parent companies, that it basically implies more of a wager. As a user, when you make a purchase, you place a bet that in your commitment to use this product, the company behind it won't do something that will decrease the enjoyment/utility you get out of the product during its lifecycle. Now this doesn't have to be some new policy/action that literally occurred after your purchase, but rather something that was not obvious upon purchase, and might not even have to do directly with the product itself. Either way, this type of assessment still fits into what you're saying about evaluating a product on it's own merits, but at a certain point, the politics behind a product actually DO affect the product's merit, because they are so intertwined.

In my case for example, I just recently got bit by the fact that iPads are restricted to syncing with only one computer while I was developing an app for it. The iPad on its own is a fine piece of hardware, and is a generally nice product, but this one detail devalued it for me significantly. Can you honestly say this detail is completely detached from the fact that it is an apple product? I wouldn't think so, that move is completely expected from apple; it's part of the locked-down ecosystem you buy into with apple products. I actually like apple's products 'on their own', because they are well made and have attention to detail; however, I will [most likely] never again buy one due to apple's aforementioned politics, which directly affect my experience with their products as a user. Similar thing happened with Samsung/T-mobile and my Vibrant which they never even updated Gingerbread; awesome product on its own, but the service I got with it (part of my 'experience') was poor, and totally determined by the politics behind it.

So while it might be easy to detangle product from company for something as simple as produce, it gets a bit trickier when looking to purchase a longer-term tech product. If you're ok with lock-down, and/or lack of updates, that's great, Apple and Samsung products are totally awesome, they're just not for me.

For me it's nice that one company doesn't know/own everything about me. When you put all your eggs in one basket and then the company turns, getting out can suck. And sometimes I route for the other guy to prevent a total monopoly or to spur innovation.

Because the side effects of my decisions matter? If the 'identity' of a company is providing good products and doing something negative, then by buying their products I'm helping them do the negative thing.

By buying Apple products I'm, for example, supporting needless patent aggression. I may still choose to buy from them anyway because I find their products so good it's worth the hit, but I don't see any sense in ignoring a company's wider effect upon society - by doing so you're removing any incentive for them to behave positively.

A little off-topic. My comment is going to be anecdotal so it may very well be wrong and if yours has been a different experience I would love to hear about it.

A lot of people love a company X because it's "not Apple" or sometimes "not Facebook". I don't get that. It's doesn't make any sense to me. You like something; in this case a company, because it has/does/stands for/makes certain things. Why do people like X just because it's not, say, Apple. It only tells me you hate something and are picking their competitor because they are not Apple. Doesn't X has merits of it's own to be liked?

Personal case:

- I love Apple for OS X, iOS, iPhone (and somewhat the iPad)

- I love Google for search and Google Apps but not a big fan of Android (Maybe because I always had a Nexus One that didn't let me install more than a couple of apps because of internal storage, had a jittery UI, had to keep killing tasks to preserve battery, poor quality of apps and a not so awesome UX. If I had one of the newer Androids I may not be pissed at it.)

- I'm neutral on Facebook because I never share anything personal on it. I'm using it wrong. But that doesn't mean I love G+ or Orkut or MySpace.

- I like Microsoft for Office and their Exchange server.


To me I seem to have a liking for companies because of their qualities. My question is if anyone knows studies or psychological explanation why people like companies because they are NOT some other company (aka competition of a company they dislike).

You're reading my comment about loving Google because they aren't Apple a bit too literally.

That's just shorthand to say I love Google because of many actual reasons including but not limited to these:

I loved Google because they've had a true culture of open APIs and open code as opposed to Apple who does use and contribute to OSS projects, but on a much more limited basis and generally only when it has immediate benefit for themselves.

I loved Google because they haven't had a history of disallowing apps from their app store for goofy reasons (like they compete with their own apps, or they are written in a language Google doesn't like).

I loved Google because I didn't feel like they were overstepping their bounds in deciding how I should use my computers or devices.

I loved Google because I never got the feeling that they were trying to trap me completely inside their own walled garden.


There are a lot of haters around, for example any link to http://winsupersite.com is hellbanned. I guess the anti-MS folks that abound here(mostly Apple and Google fans) have flagged the premier source of information about MS to death because they hate MS.

The beauty of a good smear is that is true. You have to find things that are genuine and exaggerate their importance and weight in the public mind through timing, placement and publicity. If it doesn't have the weight of truth behind it a smear cannot work.

To me, I see this as a cynical smear by Microsoft precisely because it is true and it is genuine.

So he complains about advertising and then he complains when they try to make a more honest living with app engine. At the end of the article you would conclude that this guy has had enough of rampant commercialism and was off to joing something like MSF. But it turns out to be MSFT. I know its harsh to say it but the guy comes across as a spoiled child.

Doesn't seem that genuine posted on a corporate blog.

is it a corporate blog, or a personal blog part of the msdn developer community? I honestly don't know, but it doesn't look like a "Microsoft" blog.

This blog is as personal a blog as a Microsoft employee can get without hosting one themselves.

As a Microsoft employee, I could have my own blog on blogs.msdn.com - but the signup process was more complicated than Posterous, so I don't.

The latter, although obviously hosted on a MS flagship property.


Not enough people think about year 10. You know, that's when you're 10 years old as a company and you've got a lot of huge successes behind you. Kind of like teenagers when they realize that finding a job is suddenly not an 'optional' thing in their lives.

James' rant here reminded me of a similar rant I read (internally) at Sun on its 10 year anniversary. They had published a book all about Sun's first decade, and somehow excised the fact that Sun had built a workstation called the 386i. It emphasized the successes, and papered over the mistakes. The rant was about how Sun, who had kicked DEC in the nuts and had them retreating to the data center, was walking right into that same data center because Microsoft was starting to make PC's as useful as workstations. (there used to be a real distinction there.)

I remember thinking that somehow Sun had gone from bringing technology to the folks who could use it, to being all about being a more impressive Sun Microsystems. Sun's "Google+" moment was the day they announced they were going to merge System V and SunOS.

In my brief time at Google I was exposed to the folks who had become more about 'The Google' and less about doing cool stuff. I saw many of the same things James did, and I hear Marissa's 'call to arms' about Social and said to myself "If she can't say what it is, how can she expect the troops to achieve it?"

If you read the stuff about Mark and Facebook (and I have to believe that at least some of it is true.) the man is on a mission. And his mission was to make a new place in the universe that didn't exist before, he left it to others to figure out how to monetize it. Google did the same with search, make it real, then monetize.

But I think at some point the operating committee at Google looked at monetization of all the things Google has done and if you included search advertising the in the bar graph everything else looked like zero. And you ask yourself "We've got all these smart people doing all these projects and not a single one even comes CLOSE to the income that search advertising does? Give me one good reason I shouldn't just fire all of them?"

The sad thing is that I saw multimillion dollar a year businesses get tossed under the bus because they just didn't move the needle.

Ten years on, ask yourself, "What value do you bring to the table?" if you don't know, that is a big problem.

Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" was motivated by DEC getting killed. He claims that DEC was a victim of a disruption: a new technology that offered something that didn't seem to be a threat, become successful in other markets and eventually improved enough that it was threat - then it was too late. There, the old technology was minicomputers; the new technology was workstations.

The new technology isn't perceived as a threat because it is not as good and will never be as good in the old market. It manages to survive in a different new market (because it really can't compete in the old pond). As it improves, it never catches up with the old technology - but it becomes good enough. That is, the old technology has also improved, and is definitely better - but the old market doesn't care for that extra improvement. You can see there are a few things that have to happen for disruption to occur.

One of the reasons for Google's 20% was to try to prevent this kind of thing, but it never worked out. Some business types redefine terms, so that "invention" is a new technology (make something), and "innovation" is a new business (people want). Google's made a lot of stuff, but most isn't wanted and didn't create a business. They aren't innovations. Closing down businesses that aren't making enough to move the needle is the classic mistake of disrupted businesses: Christensen suggests setting up separate, autonomous business units (even separate businesses; startups), with limited resources, that will get excited by small wins - because new disruptions start small. (YC is pretty much doing it right...)

However, right now, Google is fighting for its life. At the beginning, facebook didn't seem threatening - or at least not that threatening. Then again, I'm not sure that Google ever could win this fight; social is such a different kind of business. Perhaps the best that google could hope for is to settle back into owning search forever.

My only disappointment is that google didn't manage to transform its internal inventions into innovations. I'm not saying it's easy or that I could do better, it's just that unlike winning social, it seems possible... and who knows what new disruptions might have come from that?

As it is, Google seems closer to Xerox: one fantastic invention/business, invents the future, makes no money from it.

Its an interesting comment but lets put a few things in perspective:

1) "However, right now, Google is fighting for its life."

Any company that is dumping 2 - 3 BILLION dollars into the bank each quarter is not 'fighting for its life.' Google is doing just fine at the moment.

2) "My only disappointment is that google didn't manage to transform its internal inventions into innovations. "

This is a huge thing, and its important to know that it isn't that Google didn't make money, its that Google didn't make enough money.

When I was their 2006- 2010 I saw projects that were nominally making a profit of several million dollars a year get cancelled. That is they were covering the cost of the group working on them and they earned their bit of the advertising pie enough revenue to make money. But it was 'nominal' since at the time Google didn't charge internally anything for using the physical infrastructure which clearly did have a cost associated with it.

So when they started figuring out their costs (which they needed to do if they were going to charge for AppEngine) they got a kind of rude surprise (a nuanced description of that surprise is covered by NDA but suffice it to say they learned new stuff about themselves).

At the time I suggested that rather than penalize folks who were running their product on infrastructure that was ill suited to them, they allow those folks to change the infrastructure, and I might as well have been telling the Church that the Earth revolved around the Sun. That is where Clayton would have said, "Guys, you aren't looking at this like an entrepreneur..."

Which is funny, because Google product developers are intensively trained to believe compute resources (BigTable, etc) are free (in stark contrast to Amazonians who are constantly shopping for TCO effective virtual machines) right up to the moment they get shut down for inefficiency.

1) DEC also had bumper years just before they failed. That's a common pattern, according to Christensen (and his empirical data), caused by the incumbents' retreat upmarket (away from the new threat) - where the margins are higher.

For Google, this is optimizing its advertising reach and effectiveness. I haven't checked trends, but I'm sure that over time higher margin goods have began advertising online, and the competition for ad ranking has increased, bidding up google's price (they worked that system out well).

Overturning everything, in order to match a competitor, is a sign of something. As facebook figures out how to use its data to sell to people, it can target advertising more effectively than google's approach can.

I think facebook is a threat because you can advertise better the more you know about your audience - google's been gathering personal data, but they aren't in the same league as facebook (and I get the impression they haven't exploited it as effectively as they could). i.e. it's not really a contest between two companies so much as between the approaches they champion. Of course, Google is trying to become a champion of social; so the second issue is whether google can beat facebook at its own game.

Christensen found that incumbents practically never win this. It's because they are not incumbents in this new approach - here, facebook has had years of experience in social, of the technology, of the needs of people, how to address them, what works, what doesn't, and an organizational structure with values shaped over time around improving those issues, and synchronized to the rhythms of that business - and of course, astonishing marketshare and mindshare. Google beating them is like some other company beating Google at search. It's really hard to do, because there are so many advantages that an incumbent can build up over time.

It's different for "sustaining" technologies (which support the same way of doing business, same market, same values) - incumbents almost always win those. For example, if a new way of doing search came along, totally different from PageRank, google would likely still win that: they have habits of customers and advertisers; they have engineers that are great at doing it; and their whole organization is naturally galvanised around any such technology. Everyone involved would be excited about this new technology, because that's what they were hired for. They would probably also try to buy the competitor, paying whatever it took (which wouldn't be that high, since they'd be on the lookout and would catch them early).

2) Thanks for your insight on costing those innovations. Unwillingness to adapt is bad sign (i.e. change infrastructure). It makes sense: google's infrastructure is great. Excellent technically, and a world-beater when applied to Google's way of making money. It might not be valuable for other approaches, other ways to make money in other markets, based on other values.

Here are my thoughts as an engineer at Google. These are my own thoughts, not Google's :)

I don't think Google is fighting for its life; people are not defecting away from search to use Facebook's search or Bing or whatever. Right now, Google+ is something like, "let's see what happens if we build a social component and integrate it with our products". It doesn't seem like much right now and it's certainly not killing Facebook, but that's not the goal; the goal is to have something in case being able to post pictures and "interact with brands" turns out to be important in the future. (Do people like ads? I say no; I avoid them at any cost. But many people like ads and like companies and like products. So we'll see how that goes! Look at the brand Apple has built. That's advertising, my friends.)

It's easier to understand if we look at past events. So let's take Picasa, for example. It was never as popular as Flickr or even SmugMug. Why bother maintaining it when it's clear that Google "lost" to Flickr? The answer is because it could later become relevant. Now that people are running around taking pictures with Google phones, sharing them with GMail and Google+, it's logical to have a Google-owned picture repository. That way, we get total control over the user experience and can make a really integrated product. Take a picture on your phone, instantly share it with your friends from your computer. Pretty neat!

Google Play is similar. People loved iTunes' integrated payment system, music store, book store, movie store, app store, and phones. Google had all the infrastructure for these things (Checkout, Music, Books, YouTube / Video, Android Market, and Android), but not integrated, so people didn't tend to buy Android phones to get apps and content. But, time allowed Google to unify these discrete components into Google Play, and now users have access to something very much like iTunes. It was a very slow incremental thing, which people aren't as excited by as "one more thing" style announcements, but now we have something that's pretty cool and will make Google products more attractive than they were before. It was worth keeping stuff like Checkout and Books alive, even if they were not exactly putting PayPal and Amazon out of business.

So today, Google+ is maybe not the best thing ever. But some day, it might be a useful piece of software to have, and so we have it. Right now, I think it's really great as an internal bulletin board that I can fine-tune to exactly my interests. It may not be as cool as Facebook, but it's still a useful piece of software that was worth writing. (I've never seen an internal bulletin board system that lets me subscribe to certain topics and people, after all.) Rather than ensure that everything we push is an epic success on day one, we're putting it out there for people to try. Some people don't like Google+, some do. I use it as a better Twitter; the interface is nicer, I can write more, and so I use it more than I used any "social" products before Google+. So there's one data point, though I realize I am not the average user. (Facebook never excited me and I didn't have an account. Google+ was interesting enough to entice me into trying social networking.)

Yes, management sounds a lot more excited about Google+ than I do, and that's fine, Google is not my company and I am more practical :) Worst case: G+ is a nice internal tool for Apps customers. Middle case: something that's good to have if we want to play with social ideas. Best case: a new way to use computers that people love. All are good.

(Remember Google Checkout? It was a nice foundation for Google Wallet. So it's worth trying things and having products that may not be the industry leader, because you can always improve them!)

Personally, I'm working on a new product at Google that will make computers do something that they've never done before, something that many people have wanted for a long time. I have no idea how it will ever make money, but we're doing it anyway because people will like it. And no, this is not some rogue 20% project. :)

So to summarize; I'm not upset with Google for creating products that are not overnight successes. Yes, social is where your friends are, and everyone is on Facebook today. Clearly Google+ isn't enough to get people to abandon their friends for a while. But it's worth continuing to develop, because it will only get better with time. I don't think that means the end of Google :)

But it is Google itself that is creating the impression that Google+ is critical to its future, just look how much you're pushing it everywhere.

By the way, I use G+ and like it more than facebook, but I also think that there is only one serious way for Google to differentiate it enough from Facebook to make it a compelling alternative in the long run: Make G+ the open alternative to Facebook; ie, make it THE platform on which other websites, services etc. want to build their social features, without being afraid that by doing so they'll contribute to the construction of a walled garden that, in the end, could destroy the (free) internet as we know it.

Google is already the biggest winner with the free internet, so, defending that model would be in its best interest. Trying to beat Facebook at its own game, on the other hand, doesn't make so much sense to me. By winning over third parties, on the contrary, they could make it so diffuse and useful that even "common users" will see a real reason to use it.

Haha! I told Vic Gundotra to do exactly what you say (and I am surely not the only one), he said "maybe later".

Google used to be about the open web, but with Chrome. Experiments and now the way they built G+ (need a Google account to view shared photo link?!), it is clear they have fallen in line with the walled garden "a little evil is OK" contingent.

But Chrome is open sourced, so that isn't really closing down the open web... G+ is a different beast!

I agree for the most part that Google is not "fighting for it's life", though I think it has faltered a bit.

> people are not defecting away from search to use Facebook's search or Bing or whatever.

You are perhaps missing the point a little.

It doesn't matter what people are doing, it's what advertisers are doing. The fact that everyone still uses Google search won't be worth much if advertisers are only interested in putting ads on Facebook.... Google would be running an expensive, but popular, charity.

I don't think the day like that will come, but it is clear that Google's revenue can be threatened from things like Facebook which don't directly compete with their products.

Yeah, absolutely.

I think iPhone vs. Android is a good analogy. Google is never going to kill Apple and Apple is never going to kill Google. Google provides a phone platform for two groups: people who want the cheapest smartphone, and people who want the most freedom to customize their phone. Apple provides a phone platform for people willing to spend a good amount of money on a phone that works perfectly without tweaking. Android will never satisfy John Gruber. Apple will never satisfy Jon Rockway. So there are two platforms and they happily coexist.

Google phones aren't very customizable by the users. They are customizable by carriers. Rooting is a pain and buggy, so that is no defense.

Heck, Google won't even let me remove Facebook and Twitter from my unlocked Nexus One!

I disagree, and in my opinion this is the exact logical flaw that has lead google down it's current path.

Facebook might become more profitable at some point, yes, but google's revenue was not threatened if they kept their spot as search engine and innovator.

Every time I hear concern that advertisers will suddenly throw all their money at Facebook instead of Google, I am reminded of my experiments at Facebook advertising and the 0.00[...]001% click-through rate I achieved after a few dozen attempts.

This notion is laughable. The notion that Facebook will look into the minds of my friends and determine the answers I am searching for is also laughable.

The fact is that the only ads I have ever (deliberately) clicked on IN MY LIFE are ads on Google, because they were the only ads that were 1) relevant and 2) timely. Facebook is nowhere near getting #1 and hasn't a chance in hell of getting #2.

Facebook ads are far more relevant to me than google ads. But then I'm quite free with my posts and likes on facebook. IE, I'm using it as they envision.

I've clicked many, many more ads on FB than I ever have on Google.

Actually, speaking as an android user who LOVES that I can auto upload my pics to the GOOG, I absolutely hate that Google has any social platform at all.

Because G+ exists it makes Facebook a competitor. Can I easily share my auto uploaded pics with my Facebook friends? Not at all. Can I change where I upload my pics to? (Ie : not picasa) not at all.

Picasa is about lock in. Not about user experience.

You can upload all your pics from your phone to facebook with a couple of clicks from the Android Gallery app. A lock in would be if you were not allowed to, or at least if they went out of their way to make that harder for you. But instead they go out of their way to put the share button and inter-app communication (intents) to allow you to easily share your pics with third parties.

I understand your frustration, and I too would like some kind of API to let us better control auto-upload. But "lock in" seems a bit of a stretch. You're asking to go out of their way, again, to better support competitors. When there's already a lot of support for them in place.

Can facebook or flickr or whatever poll the pictures directory to support auto upload, if they (app writers) want too?

Auto-upload is a feature provided by the G+ app. There is absolutely no reason why Facebook can't include that functionality in their app. (It would be nice if this was as nicely integrated as contacts in the dialer, but it's not yet. It's due to developer time constraints or the fact that nobody has thought about it yet, not due to lock-in. Remember, Google is the company that lets carriers ship Android phones with Bing as the default search engine!)

Being able to leave once an for all is different from open interoperability with other systems. Both are a form of lock in protection, and Picasa only supports the former.

"Lock in" is a particularly loaded term, and I have to disagree with its use here in that they've given you a way to export everything should you want to. Not doing the work to integrate with other system is not "lock in".

I think Google and Apple already see the facebook threat, and are trying to limit helping it grow any further. Even without G+, you may not have had this sort of FB integration to Google. The only reason Microsoft is sidling up to FB is in an effort to get some traction in mobile and the web space.

I suppose 'lock in' was the wrong choice of words to use. I understand that the data is only there because I chose to auto-upload it, and I also understand that I can easily re-upload the photo to facebook, but my point was that Google themselves are actively preventing me from doing something like that through the Picasa interface.

I think you understood the meaning behind my point, but I'd argue that they shouldn't even be in that space in the first place. The very first thing that any photo-storage/sharing site should be looking at, after the service itself is working, is social sharing and interaction. Google are restricting the interaction on their platform (understandably, I might add) because they have built a competitor to Facebook.

that is what I have a problem with.

"Actively preventing"? How?

By not allowing users to share directly from their plus.google.com interface, to twitter/facebook.

That's passively preventing. (YouTube lets you share to Facebook and Twitter, so the lack of this ability from G+ is a lack of a feature, not one of Google's design goals. Code takes a long time to write and everyone wants a different feature. Eventually we will have them all, but right now, not enough code has been written :)

Prioritizing G+ over an open API (and a "Chinese wall" between the apps and the platform) is still preferential treatment, and is the sort of thing that got Microsoft consent-decreed.

I am not saying Facebook is better, but you can't say Google is better, either.

Personally, I'm working on a new product at Google that will make computers do something that they've never done before, something that many people have wanted for a long time.

There are 2 things I've wanted for a long time:

A search engine for stuff in my house, so that I never have to sift through drawers for hours ever again.

A cheap robot for cleaning dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the house. The current solutions are expensive and don't work very well.

I hope you're working on one of them.

have you read doctorow's "makers"? he presents a reasonably plausible way in which a "search for stuff in your house" system could evolve (based on dirt cheap and deeply unobtrusive rfid tags you simply attach to everything)

Attaching rfid tags (or anything) to everything sounds like a very inefficient and impractical solution. I think I have a better idea involving other types of sensors. I just need another life to work on it.

A cheap robot for cleaning dishes, washing clothes

I think we have these, right: dishwashers and washing machines. The problem is emptying the dishwasher and folding clothes. (I live in New York so I drop off laundry before work and pick it up after work, cleaned and folded, for about $9 a week. Yay.)

And for sorting clean dishes you have the Google kitchen staff. (But you still have to sort your own dirty dishes for some reason... )

> Rather than ensure that everything we push is an epic success on day one, we're putting it out there for people to try. Some people don't like Google+, some do.

Oh, I got bitten by this before by Google. I was a heavy Google Notebooks user which used it until the last days. They stopped supporting it some time ago and now will be shut "anytime soon".

The problem I see with a lot of the 20% projects (labs, or microsoft Garage) is that all of them are wasted business opportunities stalled by the corporate aspects of the companies. When a new technology is created on the side (such as say, Wave), there should be a way to create semi-independent "startups" which tries to make bring the technology to the market on its own (making it mature,etc). Later, if it is good, Google (or Microsoft) could then buy it and integrate it to their stack.

Interesting that you choose Wave as an example, because Wave was run as a semi-independent startup, and it ended horribly.

There are definitely cool things that end up shut down. All I can say is that it's an age-old problem: "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all."

Google needs to pick Picasa of the gutter where it dropped and make it a good photo app before shoving it down everyone's throat as a social app. And online editing from that startup they bought is not the answer.

Similar for Market/Play. I will never buy a POP culture book or video from Play, so stop flooding me with ads for them when I want to look for apps.


Eh, people said the same thing about Microsoft and the Internet, and IE managed.

I predict that Google will win this fight and lose every fight thereafter. That seemed to be the pattern with Microsoft.

But I think at some point the operating committee at Google looked at monetization of all the things Google has done and if you included search advertising the in the bar graph everything else looked like zero. And you ask yourself "We've got all these smart people doing all these projects and not a single one even comes CLOSE to the income that search advertising does? Give me one good reason I shouldn't just fire all of them?"

Funny nobody mentioned until now, but from what I've read, that's what happened to Yahoo. Apparently years ago they were so successful with the ads on their "portal" that not much more could matter. Maybe somebody has good links at hand? The similarities seem to be really big.

We've got all these smart people doing all these projects and not a single one even comes CLOSE to the income that search advertising does? Give me one good reason I shouldn't just fire all of them?

Because "we" (if I was a Googler) need to make the next big wave, or at least catch it. Search won't be the biggest thing forever.

> Ten years on, ask yourself, "What value do you bring to the table?" if you don't know, that is a big problem.

Is there a reason you shouldn't be asking yourself that after every year you spent at a company?

Oh absolutely but if you've ever gone hiking without a compass you may have experienced the 'many straight segments run you in a circle' kind of effect. Generally for a 'huge' success the first 10 years are just developing potential, there aren't a lot of questions because its 'obvious' where you need to be.

But once you get to the top of that mountain, you really need to think long and hard about the next mountain you are going to go for. I've always been a big fan of a 1yr, 3yr, 5yr planning system where every year you think about those three time frames, yet as a core value perspective you need a different scale to think about things. Ten years seems to be a reasonable tech scale.

Also, you can do a lot (relative to where you started) in 1 year or 5 (depending on your market), as compared to where you started. 10 years after you start though, you had better have something globally significant to show for it, or you should be doing something different.

> App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee.

From where I'm sitting Google has been pretty rough on independent developers recently.

I think their lack of caring (or understanding?) indy devs is best summed up by the Google+ API. Read-only is understandable as they get off their feet, but you can't even get a user's profile stream (you can only fetch profiles one by one).

Now that the Buzz API is shut down I have yet to find a way to "share" anything programmatically on Google. How can you be social without a share API?

Google's recent behavior was central in our decision not to embrace their technologies and APIs. If they're going to either be suddenly shut down or have prohibitive, anti-startup pricing applied to them then why should we hitch our wagon to their horse?

Its not just independents, we're working with one of the largest US companies and they don't want to license (and by license I mean happy to pay for) google maps (for a traffic app) because the Goog can't guarantee that the maps will remain ad free.

IMHO what's sad is that Google+ is not better than Facebook for average people. Better is, for them, more warm, where you may express more about you in a simpler way, and so forth. Google+ is clearly designed by people not exactly in touch (mentally speaking) with the average person using Facebook, that's why nobody of the non tech guys want to switch to it.

p.s. IMHO Google is going to lose in the email space soon as well, times are mature to beat it in simple ways, only protection they have in this space is that there is a big "optimization" part in email that is anti-spam and they are good at it.

^ this.

G+ is a worse Facebook (and not in the worse is better sense).

Gmail is getting slow and the recent changes haven't been for the better. In fact it's hurt usability for common users for the (dubious) benefit of "power" users.

The unified google interface is rather crappy. I don't know which which i have to click/hover/etc to get to my account settings.

IMHO Google is going to lose in the email space soon as well, times are mature to beat it in simple ways, only protection they have in this space is that there is a big "optimization" part in email that is anti-spam and they are good at it.

The only thing that, for me, would cause Google to "lose in the email space soon" would be the exact thing you say they are good at: anti-spam. I've started getting more spam on gmail recently but it's now only 5 or so emails a week out of thousands. Think about how good that is and then ask the question, "If it was 0, would that inspire people to go through all of the hassle to switch emails?" I'd guess that the answer for most folks would be, "Meh - 5 spam messages a week for a free email service is fine. I'd rather not change."

G+ is Facebook for Asperger's.

As a Microsoft employee, I wish this hadn't been posted to a Microsoft-branded website. Other than that, I thought it was an interesting perspective and I loved the money quote:

"I couldn’t even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, “social isn’t a product,” she told me after I gave her a demo, “social is people and the people are on Facebook.”"

But "the people" were on Myspace, Hi5, Friendster and other social networks before Facebook - hundreds of millions of them. So clearly it's something about the product, too.

That "something about the product" was that cooler people were on it. Facebook started with the ideal situation of seeding its initial users with the most exclusive club at Harvard. From there, it spread to all of Harvard, then all of the Ivy League, then all elite colleges, then all colleges, then all college and high school students.

"cooler people" - classist much? Perhaps have a look at dynah boyd's research on the class divisions between Facebook and MySpace. http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html

Additionally, MySpace killed itself by pursuing the wrong objectives. Facebook didn't kill MySpace, MySpace killed MySpace.

It's absolutely classist. I saw the research when it came out and found it quite interesting.

Thing is, class divisions are a fact of life. If your goal is to pursue a more just society, it's worth trying to minimize them (though even then, you need to acknowledge them before you can do anything productive). But if your goal is to get maximal user uptake for your new social network, it's worth exploiting them. They aren't going away, and if you don't, someone else will.

A lot of Web startups have actually had the byproduct of significantly lowering class divisions, eg. Google gives important information to people who would not otherwise have had it, Twitter lets people organize who would otherwise have been divided & conquered by oppressive regimes. But to get there, they need users, and one powerful way to get users is to be seen as a status symbol that makes one cooler than their peers.

Regardless of whether exploiting class divisions makes good sense for increasing product adoption, I'll reiterate that it was not class divisions that killed MySpace but bad product divisions.

MySpace's ad deal with Google encouraged a site design that was anti-user. Facebook developed their own ad platform that allowed them to extract value from data that only Facebook has and that third-party networks couldn't get value from because it's so specific (like where you went to university).

But as much as the movies would have you believe Facebook won on "coolness", it won on old-fashioned better product decisions.

While that's true, I don't think any of them really had critical mass. Of those you mentioned, I had precisely one friend on Myspace, none on Hi5 or Friendster. I had two friends on Orkut. I think Facebook played it smart by making it an exclusive network on college campuses at first, then opening it up.

I don't think the exclusivity was a long-term strategy, but rather a natural progression from its beginning as a site for Harvard undergrads. It was really useful at providing specific needs for college students at the start. It was easy to find who was in your classes so you could ask for homework help or invite people to work on a group project back when everybody listed their classes through Facebook's central app. But after it opened up to everybody and a whole bunch of apps appeared, there were multiple competing class-listing apps with no clear winner and you needed to use all of them if you wanted to see everybody in the class. It became less convenient and most students no longer bothered to list their classes at all.

Once Facebook understood the appeal the site had to the general population, they realized that it would be better for them to create an ecosystem where network effects were optimized for the decentralized user base as a whole rather than the centralized subnetworks that made the site take off in the first place. At each step, they focused on what worked for the users at the time.

Google+, on the other hand, really did deliberately start out as an exclusive network, largely for people in the tech world, and it hoped to quickly transform into something with universal appeal. You can draw your own conclusions about how well that worked.

Facebook played it smart and still plays it smart by devoting much of their user interface into coaxing you to engage non-users or infrequent users of the service. I would rather just see a news feed, but that UI only gets you a FriendFeed-size user base, not Facebook.

Except if you go backwards from Facebook, there was at least an order of magnitude fewer people on MySpace, at least an order of magnitude fewer than that on Hi5 or Friendster, and so forth. Facebook reached a critical mass that the others never did.

That's not true. Myspace had 200 million users before Facebook even got a chance to catch-up with them.

Facebook says they have 845,000,000 "active" users. log10 of 845,000,000 is 8.9 or so, log10 of 200,000,000 is 8.3, leaving about 0.6, or most of an order of magnitude. And Facebook hasn't peaked yet.

Interestingly enough, I see lots of people around me moving to WhatsApp, undermining FB's undermining of E-Mail. (My uneducated guess: because FB is absolutely TERRIBLE at mobile.) So nothing is cast in stone, it is just that G+ simply failed.

Yes, those services were cool (at the time).

Google+ is only cool for geeks, if even that. I'm not sure what to do with Google+. The technical folks I work with aren't sure. The non-technical people barely know it exists.

Personally, I love Google+. It doesn't replace Facebook for me, but it has definitely replaced Twitter.

Thing is, Google search used to be the exact same way.

Another great quote: "Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room."

Google released hangouts (it's group video chat) in mid january. it might be a feature teens would really like and one that facebook would have hard time to copy.

So it's probably too early to tell if teens will use google+.

I also miss the old Google.

I think it's a mistake to blame this on ads though. I don't believe that the G+ crusade is being driving by advertising (though I'm sure it looks that way to people who assume that everything is about ads).

Really? Please enlighten me, what is Google+ (or Facebook for that matter) about if it isn't about advertising?

Because as far as I know, every service that isn't about being so great people would pay for it is about advertising and nothing else.

It always seemed to me that social is the evolution of search. And google knows this very well. Social signals are very important for finding what you're looking for. The idea of g+ was always to implement something like the new "google + your world" on a larger scale on all google products. If they didn't do this, they would fall behind to the competition. They felt forced to.

Erick Schmidt once said something like "we only want facebook to open their data so people can search for it, failing that, we'll find other ways to get it". It was clear from that day, that they were building a facebook competitor. Not because they were looking for new ways to spam people with ads (that's an overly simplistic generalization). But because they found it important to keep their existing business relevant. Independent of which monetization they were using. Even if google search was a paid premium, they would need social anyway. It's clearly not "about the ads".

I'd rephrase this: "Social is the more general form of PageRank". If you think about PageRank in it's original form, it harnessed a social signal (linking to a site) to provide better search results. Degrees of pages in the graph-of-all-pages are easily-machine-readable manifestations of social signals.

There's nothing evolutionary about "social signals". It's very, very old. Since the beginning of time advertising companies have used big data to better target their ads. Facebook obviously makes this easier, but it is not new. 20 years ago advertisers knew, within a margin of error, what type of car you drove, how much money you made, and whether your wife was pregnant.

Social signals are less valuable than search terms. Search terms very often lead to a direct purchase. Social is just another avenue, like TV, to build brand awareness. It's very valuable, but it's not search-valuable.

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying. I'm not implying they need social signals to better target ads. But to give better search results. (as in google + your world)

The competition was already doing this, Google was threatened. Bing had a deal with Facebook. Users were already using Facebook to look for information instead of Google. They tried to outsource social to facebook and twitter. That proved an unideal strategy. Social was too important for their business to rely on the good will of another company. Social is the future of search. Google saw this coming a mile away and got into social before they could become irrelevant.

Social is the future of search, this fact is independent of advertising. Even if Google had a different business model for their search engine. They would still need social. They didn't get into social because of ads, they did because search needs it.

> Social is the future of search

Says who? The fact is that arguably the most hardcore googlers are here on HN, and I would imagine that most of us don't care for, and even dislike, social search.

That's not enough to prove that social isn't the future of search, but it's enough to think twice about it.

> Not because they were looking for new ways to spam people with ads

I think you are wrong. I don't think Google "spam[s] people with ads". I found myself and most friends to like Google because they have been exact opposite what was before, such as Altavista: one huge Las Vegas Board, where you were forced to see ads totally irrelevant (spam).

Most GOOG revenue comes from the front page search engine. You search for something. Therefore, you ask to be "spammed".

>what is Google+ (or Facebook for that matter) about if it isn't about advertising?

It's about your identity.

Google has said outright that their plan is to become an identity company. Google already knows everyone's identity (or have at least put extraordinary amounts of effort into probabilistic matching it). They're not going to stand by and let Facebook and Twitter own the login authentication process the same way Google currently owns the website analytics process.

Any user can create a context-specific throwaway identity on the net, and Gmail used to be an easy way to do that. But the identity that's very difficult to throw away is the one you've built connections with in a social network.

This is why they're hell-bent on pushing G+, banning pseudonyms, requiring mobile phone numbers, and merging user tracking data across all of their properties.

The only reason to want your identity is for advertising.

Google went from a technology company (with the goal of collecting and making available all the world's information) to a social media company (with the goal of collecting information on the unwashed masses). Google has gone from cool to dirty and I think we'll see more Googlers leaving the company as they slowly discover that fact.

I mostly suspect you're right. But at the same time I get the sense that nobody is completely sure what all this social identity is going to be good for.

Like the early days of the web, everybody can see that it will be very important going forward, but the business models it will support aren't fully clear yet. So it's a mad land grab at the moment in the hope it will monetize or be commercially leveragable somehow down the road.

For example, a Facebook valuation of $100B? More than $100 per active user? Come on. No matter how well you can target them, how many banner ads are these people going to click?

I think you get it; Social identity just isn't worth that much and I don't think it's a question of nobody knowing what to do with it. It's a bubble and now Google is on the bandwagon as well.

$10/user per year isn't so much....

Facebook is winning advertising because they have 750 Million users.

Facebook wasn't created for advertising so much as advertising was the logical way to profit from having that many people use your product.

Google certainly is motivated to compete with Facebook for that advertising revenue but their real motivation is just the user base which I'm sure they already have they just haven't been able to convert them to social users.

Facebook isn't winning advertising.

How many users do you think Google has? I'm not talking about Google+, I'm talking about Google products, in general, including search.

> Facebook is winning advertising because they have 750 Million users.

That's a rather bold claim. How many of those users see, much less click on those ads? I know for all my family (of which roughly half use FB), no one sees ads because I've disabled them. How many of those 750M are active accounts that represent real people?

Fact is, we don't know and it's their revenue that shows us... and they're far far behind Google in that respect.

Given your experiences/history, I for one would like to know what you think is driving the G+ crusade.

What disappoints me is how much it has failed. I used to love Google products, but lately...not so much.

I do miss the old Google. They had some good products. Search was search, and it was clearly designed to provide the very best search possible. Unadulterated and honest. Same story with Gmail, despite the ads. No lock in, no rent-seeking.

Too bad, really. The new Google is obnoxious in a "why-are-you-doing-this?", Facebook kind of way.

I would put the difference this way. I used to feel like Google was providing me cool, useful services. Now I feel like Google is trying to figure out ways to collect my data.

I think they will learn to their cost that trust doesn't grow back.

This pretty much sums up my feeling about Google, too. It's the same feeling that made me stop using Facebook.

Google should focus on their product- the search bar.

Google Plus Me should mean I can find anything of mine via the search bar. If I want to find a file on my computer, I should be able to search for it using google.com instead of spotlight. I should be able to do this even if I'm not on my normal machine.

It's not just desktop files. If I want to show my dad pictures of my trip to Cabo, I shouldn't have to log into Facebook, find the always moving Photos app button, find the album, find the picture.

I should be able to search 'My cabo pictures' in Google.

The omnibar should really become omnipotent. That would be compelling, cool, futuristic must-have UX. That's what Google Plus Me means to me.

I liked old Google Search. I would pay to lose the omniscience and omnipotence for the same reason I pay for Google Apps, I'm tired of everything being a sales pitch.

Someday I may want to look up the stage Nietzsche's syphilis advanced to without that following me around as part of my advertising profile.

'People who enjoyed "Human all too Human" also bought Doxycycline 200 mg tablets' - that sort of stuff creeps me out.

I don't think Google /want/ you to have any files on your computer. They could have built Dropbox a long time ago, but that's not the direction they want the world to go. They chose Google Docs instead.

Whether they're correct or not is still up for debate. Dropbox are doing pretty well.

> I don't think Google /want/ you to have any files on your computer.

Oh, yes they want. They also want to be your computer.

No, not really. They don't want to be your computer; that would mean you have a computer. They want to convince you to replace your computer with a thin client that forwards all actual data and computation to them. That's their ultimate business proposition: you get analyzed for ad-men, and they make the big mean scary monster of responsibility for one's own computing go away.

This is certainly true.

They have that: Google Desktop. If I recall correctly, it even lets you do it from your other machines. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've used it, so I might be wrong there.

(Methinks that it would be vastly improved if they got simply got rid of the big clunky desktop widget engine. Possibly even got rid of the search box and just let you use a web view -- as you described above.)

I'm pretty sure that has been shut down in one of the last few culling rounds. I agree that it was very useful, it also had a good sidebar that seemed to learn which rss feeds were likely to be interesting among other things, but I stopped using it quite a while ago...


You want to be able to search the files on your computer from another computer over the internet using Google? If such a thing exists, what would you do with it? Are you willing to open your entire hard drive to Google to transfer the found files to the second computer? Really?

That wouldn't be necessary. The indexing service could reside on your computer with the "omnibar" able to access it to find results (either built into Chrome or via extensions to other browsers).

But since Google would probably want to know the content of your documents to better target ads, the omnibar would eventually, probably, become the nightmare you speak of.

It would be necessary, why search for files on a second computer if you don't want access to those files? Unless the search is restricted to one folder then the whole hard drive is open to Google. I remember Google Desktop being similar to what he wants other than secondary computer access.

Here is some information on the product that did this that they launched in 2004: http://googledesktop.blogspot.com/

An observation from the inside of what I've been seeing/feeling from the outside.

When Google started killing the "cool" stuff, I perceived (rightly or wrongly) the writing on the wall as far as attracting and retaining top talent. And they lost my semi-hesitant... "devotion". I wanted to believe they really did care about e.g. next generation energy sources, at a time when even our lame-ass federal government can't get its act together on that front. And Earth, Maps, various API's (Translate, for example), and the like produced fundamental changes in various environments and endeavors, both professional and hobbyist.

Now, sliding into "corporate", lame-ass Google. So sad. Perhaps inevitable; nonetheless, if so, then "just another".

P.S. As I reflect a bit more, I still have more respect for them than e.g. Facebook (manipulation) or Microsoft (domineering, monopolistic, and (perhaps resultantly) now fumbling senior management). But I fear the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction.

And yeah, this is just one random guy's observation. I guess I've added it because in the past Googlers (and "Google") seem to have occasionally observed and perhaps absorbed some of the collection sentiment expressed on HN.

G+'s problem at it's root is that it's a FB clone. They copied the core functionality and tacked on a few specs that make it, literally, FB+1. The problem is no one is going to move their whole social network for FB+1 or FB+2. Google needed to build a product an order of magnitude better to win social.

There are plenty of colas that are +1 better then Coke but to take away Coke's base you'd need to be Coke+100.

The obvious solution is to stop trying to make a FB clone and do something else to get your ad demographics. I think they should stick with their core advantages and innovate in the vein of their own Adsense product:

(1) Users sign up with Google and volunteer their demographics.

(2) While signed in, Google tailors searches to them.

(3) Google gives the user a tiny percentage of the increased ad revenue. It's peanuts for most people so make it Google Play credit.

(4) If you're not signed in everything is anonymous.

Test run the whole thing on a smaller scale with Android users that already have Google accounts and (for many) credit card info on file.

Nielson families give up a lot of personal data about their viewing habits. This is rewarded with free cable, internet and cell phone service, heck they may even be paid. Even people that just take an hourlong phone survey about tv or radio are rewarded with $50+ checks. The reason market research companies pay this is because the data is extremely valuable to them and their clients. Obviously every web company wants to get that data "for free" like they do now but the giant tracking databases and all the personnel behind that certainly aren't free and create an adversarial relationship that can dilute your brand.

I don't think giving users a percentage of ad revenue is a feasible business model. How/why would that work?

Shrug I thought I made the case already.

If Google makes X on untargeted ads and X+Y on targeted ads then it comes out ahead by offering Y/10 of that money to the user somehow.

Yeah it's peanuts so you make it Google Play credit. For some people maybe it's only one song a month, for others it might be one movie a quarter.

Or Google could make a deal with Facebook: If Google makes X without Facebook's data and X+Y with their data, they can offer Facebook Y/3.

But Facebook is gunning for that X+Y. There are only 12 billion * 24 eyeball hours in each day.

If life were a movie, all the "advice" Steve Jobs gave to Larry Page toward the end of Jobs' life was completely bogus, and part of a long con aimed at destroying Google in retaliation for Android being a "stolen product" (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/20/steve_jobs_vow...)

We all know Jobs was enough of a mastermind to pull it off; but was he that malicious?

He may have truly believed in what he was doing.

After all, this is the guy who believed every computer with a switching power supply was ripping off the Apple II. http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power...

Today google is doing what MS did some years back. Google wants to be facebook and some years back MS wanted to be Google(when they started bing).

People at google say "don't be evil", you cant run business without being evil, google in its early days tried being the least possible evil, but as Shakespeare said: "lowliness is young ambitions ladder".

But the ambitions of MS were clear from start and they did not even care about what was evil, they wanted their supremacy all over. By joining MS you have come to a place that is more evil, more evil than putting ads or compromising slightly on privacy of users, look at the open source initiatives that Google takes, agreed google labs has been shut down, app engine prices have gone high they have dedicated some of their focus working on Social Networks, but which company would not want to have a chunk and share in what is hot. By the way, what do you see on MS being done, even they are wannabe in their approach. free 90 days trial for azure and the sun will rise from west if they offer anything that is not free/freemium. The point i want to make here is

When you talk about privacy, i am sure you would curse facebook for privacy, won't you. The only reason that compelled you to leave google, was you did not get a project that you would like to work on, more geeky, irrespective of what the company gave you, you should have tried paying it back by being proactive in your efforts and pointing out the errors. I respect google for what it has built, i am sure the amount of effort it has put, the horizons that it has opened the initiatives it has brought remains unsurpassed, yes there is a tinge of evil air that currently surrounds it, but again as you mentioned Google learns from its mistakes, and rectifies them.

By joining MS you have done more bad than good, probably you will be given some hardcore engineering project, but you could have got them as google as well, with some efforts.

The author states that in his time at Google he realizes it was always a company funded by ads, but that he did not have to personally feel the need for Ads in all products. That's a fair point. Where I lost him is his connection of Google+ with Ads.

I disagree that G+ is an Ads play. It's a play for staying relevant on the internet. When you think about it, Facebook is a closed system. They want CNN to post articles into the CNN FB stream. They want people to read those articles on the CNN page (yes, this currently links to outside FB... that will change). They want to do this so that you never have to leave FB, and in fact if you look at the user behavior of 13-17 year olds you will see disturbing trends that this is the case.

Facebook is a danger to a free and open internet by becoming the de-facto internet. I concede that this is a stretch, but it is within their power to do so and from my understanding is how their strategy is lined up.

TL;DR: G+ is only about Ads in the way that Google needs users to serve Ads to and there is a threat that all users of the internet only go to Facebook and nowhere else.

"When you think about it, Facebook is a closed system."

People say this all the time without any justification. As far as I know, all content within Facebook that has no privacy restrictions can be viewed without being a Facebook user. Facebook has an API that can be used to both read and write.

Facebook is stingy with phone numbers and email addresses, which is a significant failing in my opinion. Other than that, I can't imagine a more open social network that allows users to control who can see their content.

So what you're saying is that Facebook is open because you are allowed to fetch information that Facebook allows?

You're allowed to fetch data that users allow, with few exceptions.

Is that the same guy (I honestly don't know)? There is no answer on Quora that I saw. If so, then yeah that post would be viewed in a very skeptical light. If not, well then unrelated.

Edit: Looking at other responses about his history I doubt it, it sounds like he previously worked in DevDiv (my home), not OSD (the home of Bing).

Oh, that's the same guy? I remember being tickled by that particular blog post.

Valid reasons to quit Google, but then he joins Microsoft?

Well, say what you will about Microsoft, but their business model is primarily to sell technology. Google's business model is to use technology to sell ads.

But remember, you are Microsoft's product, not their customer. When you demand to use Windows, it means that the OEMs have to negotiate Windows licenses for new computers, or you'll buy some other OEM's box. That means the OEM is the customer that Microsoft gets money from, meaning you are only tangentially important. (The Office market is the same way: Office is sold as being the "don't retrain your staff" solution. Companies then buy site licenses, leaving individual users relatively powerless. Microsoft sells to your IT department, not to you.)

quite right, but "you are the product" is obviously even more true of Google, selling you to advertisers, right?

Microsoft just wants you to want their product. Google wants to know everything about you so they can sell you to advertisers.

More and more, to all companies, especially tech companies, we are commodities to be sold.

Nice to see the stupid "you are the product" meme subverted.

That was my reaction too, but then I thought: everything he outlined in his blog post is everything that MS is not. In fact, it's what MS is often criticised for- that it has no central authority, teams that don't cooperate, so on and so forth.

The conventional wisdom is that people leave big companies to form startups. If he did that, Whittaker wouldn't be able to do anything that he wants to do- startups do not have the resources for large-scale "big thinking" and idea testing. They have a laser sharp focus on one thing. It sounds like Whittaker has no interest in that.

He used to work at Microsoft before he joined Google, here's his farewell blog from MS:


He used to work for the Developer Division, was Architect for "Visual Studio Team System – Test Edition", and Chair of the "Quality and Testing Experts Community at Microsoft", so going to MS isn't such a stretch.

My impression is that Microsoft is actually very diversified and focused on technology. There was an article a while back about where the various large companies (Google, Apple and Microsoft) make their money; Microsoft had the most diversity by far.

Microsoft is also not afraid to fail or try random things, which makes it much like the "old Google" in this blog post.

Microsoft's diversification is not really a good thing. IMO, it is no use building lots of technology without being good at any of it.

My belief is that Microsoft will improve, but I would not go there because they already have their technology goals right. (I would go to Microsoft as an intrapreneur trying to fix their technology/innovation story).

Microsoft is unlikely to shut down MS Research.


[edit] If I have my James Whittaker's straight, he worked at Microsoft before going to Google. If I don't, he probably didn't.

Google Research is alive and kicking: http://research.google.com/pubs/papers.html

I think you mistook Google Labs with Google Research, Google Labs was sort of a playground for engineers more than a research division. Google Research is as serious as an academic division is inside a big company.

I'm not in any way affiliated with any of both, though I know people who interned/work at both. In fact I would take Microsoft Research over Google Research if I had to choose a "favorite" one... but I'm just clearing a common misconception with the Google Labs closure and people thinking Google closed their entire research division.

>"Google Research is alive and kicking:"

Alive, yes. Kicking?

I figured out what was bothering me about the comparison between Google Research and MS Research in light of the shutdown of Google Labs. The Google Research site is essentially a bibliography for academics, Microsoft Research site has papers, blogs, and downloads -- in true Microsoft tradition, it is a BLOB not an RDBMS table.

Microsoft Research is clearly reflects a hacker culture, Google's reflects a culture where the idea that labs are not necessary to research holds sway. Google Research reflects an approach more akin to the social science of sociology, than physics.

Looks like you have your Whittaker's straight: http://googletesting.blogspot.com/2009/06/james-whittaker-jo...

Joining Microsoft can also be interpreted as "let's help (re)creating the third pole", with the first two being Apple and Google. A stronger Microsoft could surely advantage users.

From the perspective of wanting to work for a technology company, and not an advertising company, I suppose it makes sense.

I dream of a day when the world will wake from this social sharing bad trip. Facebook is not only making the web worse, by breaking most of its core assumptions, but it's destroying one of the greatest companies to arise in recent years.

Google has made accessing the world's information transformatively faster and easier. Facebook has made blogging more pervasive and closed.

>Facebook has made blogging more pervasive and closed.

I've got to disagree with you there. Blogging in general refers to longer-form posts than the average status update field on Facebook is comfortable for.

If you're going the angle I think you are, you could make the same argument of Twitter.

Facebook inspires a shorter writing than a typical blog post, yes.

But Facebook is in a completly different category than Twitter.

Tweets are encouraged to be public. You don't need to fill in a form a agree to EULA to follow a link.

Anyone can compete with Google because the information they are indexing is public. Last “App” I did for Facebook required me to give them my cel phone number to access the information the user consent in giving.

Larry Page is killing his company to chase after a market that is less profitable that the one he currently owns.

Larry Page, like anybody else with any chops in the business, understands that the internet is about communication, and communication is about identity, data, and a sharing protocol. If Facebook owns those things, they own everything.

As long as all the users are on one identity and sharing platform you can develop all the open social APIs you want but it's totally pointless. We need at least a duopoly and angry users wanting to share with people not on their platform for any kind of standards to emerge.

You're thinking ad money, ad money, ad money. And Microsoft and others are quite happy to feed that theory with there substantial PR budgets and lack of ethics. But I don't think that's what's on Larry's mind. I might not agree with his strategy, or particularly like Google+, but I think if you study the man you would come to the same conclusion.

I'm reminded of the term "architecture astronaut". When you're discussing business strategy in highly abstract terms, I'm not sure whether you're onto something or whether you're being a business strategy astronaut.

At first blush, Facebook's got a stronger foothold in "identity, data, and a sharing protocol". At second blush, they still make less revenue/profit than Google, which in turns makes less revenue/profit than Apple. And it's hard to see how that will change without flying up into the stratosphere talking about ungrounded abstractions.

Facebook gets more buzz and is considered hotter shit because it's newer. It doesn't mean anything.

What does mean something is that Facebook can provide targeted advertising, and obviously an amalgam of Facebook and Google could provide the most targeted advertising. For instance, if I googled something about online dating but my Google+ account said I was married, the CPC/CPM on Adwords for my search should be different than if my Google+ account said I was single. If Google has any business sense, Google+ is about targeted SERPs and targeted advertising, it's not about vague abstractions that may or may not have anything to do with turning a profit.

" As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the “old Google” and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a “new Google” that promised “more wood behind fewer arrows.”"

Simply put, Google stopped investing in it's future through building entrepreneurship in its engineering ranks. This is bad for Google's future growth prospects, full stop. They've drawn a line in the sand "we're about ads, not technology innovation!" and that is where the company will slowly age and die.

Google is no longer about where it's going, but about how it ages.

Why does he even bother bringing Wave into this? As a Googler he should know that Wave was never meant to be a social network. It didn't even have the subscribe of 'friends', it was an attempt to create a new kind of Email.

He worked at Google but didn't realize that all that innovation, be it GMail, Android, Chrome, Search, Maps, Google Car, etc was paid for by ads?

I think Google+ 's mistake, like the author, has to do with a changing doctrine, but i think it has more to do with a branding issue than an innovation or technology issue. (it could be both, but i would argue perception comes before reality when it comes to success)

I think "Google+ is a dud," has less to do with whether social is broken, but rather with human perception and branding. Much the way Google owned the category search in peoples minds, Facebook owns the category social in peoples minds.

Google made two fundamental mistakes. 1. Using their brand that stands for Search on something else. The human mind is like wet cement, once a brand owns a category, that impressions is almost impossible to change. (Ever try to change someones mind from his political philosophies? almost impossible).

2. Building a product in a category that is already owned by another brand without positioning themselves opposite it.

This is classic... Burger King will never take over Mcdonalds market share because they are trying to convince people that they are better. Since the category is owned already, they need to claim, "We are different"

When it comes to branding, its all about human perception. Like the authors daughter said, "Facebook is where the people are." Even if that statement weren't true, the perception is ingrained in peoples minds.

A good example of competing with an established brand is Coke vs. Pepsi... coke was the real thing, original coca cola, so pepsi came out and said were for the new generation. Why be old when you can be young and fresh.

Avis didnt say we are better than hertz, they said, sine we are number 2, we try harder.

Dominoes didn't say we have better pizza than pizza hut, they said, we will get it to you faster.

Listerine didnt say we taste better than scope, they said, "the taste you hate twice a day."

This is branding 101. A brand can only stand for One Thing. (a brand that stands for everything, stands for nothing.)

If google wants to compete in the social game... They either need to create a niche of social like twitter, foursquare, and pinterest did, or they need to use a new brand name, and position themselves opposite facebook, not claim they are better...

Big executives always talk about convergence, but the Human perception just doesn't work that way. When you combine two things, people assume you are compromising on quality on both sides. When you separate things, people assume you do that one thing much better than everyone else...

Google owned the search brand because that was all they did, Search. The new ways of trying to get into other businesses like Paul Graham said," is a chink in their armor."

Just my two cents.

Agree totally.

However I think G+ did in fact differentiate itself at the start. They made a big play out of how circles were there so that you weren't sharing things publicly all the time. But the nymwars hit and it went horribly wrong at that point. You can't sell a message that you're the champion of people's privacy and then kick them off your network for not revealing their identity to you. They basically lost all credibility as being differentiated from Facebook and became just "the same" as Facebook but worse because none of your friends were there.

Very valid point. Brands are built by third party validation, not by your own claims. If there is incongruity between your message and your product, you wont be able to get over the initial hump of credibility. Without credibility, it doesn't matter how well you try to position yourself, no one will believe you.

Nobody believes what you claim about yourself, but they believe what others say about you. This is why PR is such an important element of building a strong brand.

> Brands are built by third party validation, not by your own claims.

I actually think what a company claims about itself is tremendously important, but not because people believe it, rather because it influences how people frame their ideas. It's like the public are viewing you through a magnifying lens and what you can influence is where the lens points. What is actually seen through the lens is then what you really do.

So claiming something about yourself that is authentically true and then behaving genuinely in accordance with that is quite powerful. But you can't fake it, you have to really do it. Claiming G+ is about privacy and then doing things like forcing real names and public profiles is extremely harmful (and not just to G+, but the whole Google brand).

Google has to figure out the good things that are really true about themselves and then talk about those. If they can't think of anything then they have to really take a serious think about where the company is heading.

Sounds like you've read Ries and Trout's classic marketing books (Marketing Warfare and Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind). They should be required reading for startup hackers.

Indeed. My first Exposure was Laura Ries as a Guest on Fox Business. Since that point I have read all of their books and completely agree that Positioning by jack trout and al ries is a Must Read, as are their other books.

At first, I also thought it had to do with branding, and was infact, quite enthusiastic about G+. But then G+ launched, and I tried it, and about half of my friends also came ever to give it a try.

It just wasn't good enough. I've had people tell me that they go to G+ to escape from the madness that people apparently post on facebook. This 'madness', as the person quoted, was simply the fact that people post more personalised messages on facebook. I've yet to see that when it comes to G+, (and to be honest, the only reason I still visit is because of the HN circle).

So I guess you're right that branding is a part of it, but not big enough. Google thought compartmentalising everything with circles would be the answer, but is it really? People complain about facebook's privacy all the time, and yet, when G+ came with better options, they didn't just up and left.

I guess the question is... Were your preconceived beliefs about facebook being more personal, etc.. the chicken or the egg?

I suspect your perception highly influenced your experience. On that note, I also suspect that had Google done a decent job branding, it wouldn't have been an either/or choice... They would have convinced you that facebook is for personal entertainment but G+ is a utility for managing information and relationships... they would have talked to your existing beliefs about facebook and explained why you need them for a different reason, or why their solution makes facebook obsolete. By trying to win you over with " a better product" they didn't stand a chance in the battle for your mind.

I agree circles should have been created years ago when there was demand for privacy, now that users of Facebook have become complacent to the noise in their stream it's hard to get anyone to switch though I don't use Facebook, I do find the the level of conversation different than G+ I mainly use my G+ as a news stream for what important to me not who's important to me sticking to the Google model information, not today's noisy gossip, to me this stand off is the equivalent of Jerry Springer vs. Oprah Winfrey forgive my analogy, basically in order for G+ to compete with Facebook if it were trying, Google would need to water down/dumb down who it's marketing it to

> 2. Building a product in a category that is already owned by another brand without positioning themselves opposite it. > This is classic... Burger King will never take over Mcdonalds market share because they are trying to convince people that they are better. Since the category is owned already, they need to claim, "We are different"

For what it's worth, Apple's Jon Ive completely disagrees with you:


"...most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear new - I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us - a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. "

The entrenched winner in the late 90s right before Apple's resurgence was Wintel - cheap and everywhere. What does Apple do to compete? The name of the campaign was literally what the parent comment says a company needs to do - "Think Different" - backed by a line of products that were completely different than Windows: colorful vs beige, whole-stack vs licensed out to third-party manufacturers, premium vs commodity.

Now that Apple's winning, of course they want to try to convince you that different is bad, because different is the threat to their business. They don't want someone coming along and doing to them what they did to Microsoft and Dell.

But what Apple did to Microsoft and Dell is make a better product, which is exactly what Jony Ive is talking about.

Okay, so make a better product. Just don't market it as 'the same thing but better', market it as 'different and better'. That's the point.

Ive wasn't talking about promotion. He was just saying that "different" is not sufficient.

The whole point of this thread is that "better" isn't sufficient, either. If people are happy where they are, the only way "the same thing but better" wins is if it's so much better that it covers the perceived switching cost. There aren't a lot of markets where the current leader is so bad that that's something you can actually pursue as a strategy.

This is a fantastic post on what branding is and how to position oneself. There's probably more to it, and I am not fully versed in such a field, but I am now far more interested in the aspect and history of branding than I was before.

Thank you.

Thanks. The only way to really know what works is to study the history of successful brands. If you really want to learn more, I highly recommend The books mentioned Below by Al Ries and Jack Trout, or Al Ries and Laura Ries. They also have a bunch of videos on youtube you can watch called Ries Report. They actually took the time to study successful branding, and completely opened my eyes to a world where there is actually a rhyme and reason to successful brands. (keep in mind that you can still make money without owning a category in peoples minds. This is probably what throws big executives off track. They see opportunity to make money in a new category, assume if they launch under their recognized brand, they will rake it in.... but fail to appreciate how they might hurt their brands in the long run.

What ends up happening is more often than not, they fail, fold, and move on.

Just as a note: since we have less history with Internet Brands, there are different rules, rhymes, and reasons why certain things work.

And here I am, just wishing someone could sell me awesome $10/mo email without feeling the need to leverage my presence on the mass media cognitive battleground.

Social seems to be to Google what mobile is to Microsoft... they might have good stuff here and there, but nobody's ringing the bell.

I am not a Google Employee - but I do want to defend Google here. Yes, Google used to be a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. However, in the process they built a huge amount of UX Debt.

Bad UX was forgivable a few years ago, but that is no longer the case. Google has not figured it out yet, but with the web maturing, I am glad that they are trying to evolve to be a more UX focused company.

I disagree. Search used to be fast and clean. Ditto GMail. Even Maps has gotten slower and more cluttered.

Google's recent UI changes are about branding, not UX.

I agree with your points. I categorize them under growing pains. Good UX is not easy - especially when you have such a large number of users and products.

If you look into the reasoning for many of the cluttered items, you will see things like "doing X would make it more readable/useful/etc for the general population".

Perhaps I am just an optimist. My fingers are crossed.

I think advertising has a lot to do with google's growing pains.

Google clearly has empireitis and that alone is causing them to grow into something that the google of, say, 2000 would look on and despise. But aside from that the incentives of being an ad focused company are harmful to what used to be google's core values.

The problem with any ad-focused company is that your users aren't your customers. Your customers are the ad companies, and your users are your product. There's less reason to make a product that people love passionately, deeply, and value greatly. There's only a reason to make a product that people use frequently. This is a subtle but hugely impactful distinction. It's the difference between a newspaper full of hard-hitting investigative journalism married to solid, thoughtful analysis and an run of the mill tabloid rag. When all that matters is how many eyeballs are looking at ads then it makes the most financial sense to maximize that at the cost of everything else.

Granted these charts are 2 years old now, but 2 years ago when I first saw them I thought they might be a pretty good indicator of the future for the respective companies...

Google revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-02-24/tech/29964449...

Microsoft revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-02-10/tech/29961217...

Apple revenue broken down by product: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-04-21/tech/29988935...

I know which company I would want to work for if I was interested in the opportunity to work on and be passionate about a variety of different projects.

It also boggles my mind that the Apple chart is pre iPad...I would love to see what that chart looks like now.

This individual joined Google in 2009, and left before he'd been there 3 years. He's in no position to be waxing nostalgic about the "good old days" of Google.

To be very honest I am glad he left google. The googletesting blog went to shit as soon as he came along. It was very enlightening to read it until he showed up.

Whittaker reminded me of one of my over enthusiastic handwaving lecturers, very short on substance. Compare and contrast the articles written by Misko (Hevery) and Whittaker. I don't think his departure is a manifestation or representation of anything at Google, and I think it's telling he returned to MS.

Google has really taken it on the chops these last few years. I remember back in 2006 or whenever the time was when they were the shiznit, and were easily the most admired company in tech. And I remember thinking, let's see how well it goes when everyone is NOT cheering you on and you have a tailwind in your sails. Google is definitely in that situation now.

Weird choice to post such an article on msdn.com, of all places.

It's sort of a cultural thing amongst a lot of Microsoft employees, especially older ones (or in this case, ones that have returned), to run their blogs off of Microsoft's blogging platforms.

In this regard, Microsoft's culture actually does a very good job of encouraging its employees to blog from the inside - I've never felt quite the level of direct engineer access and communication working on Google platforms as I have on MS platforms, even in cases where Google's platforms are actually superior. (Chalk it up to Google groups being a little opaque and Google product blogs being run by product managers.)

So he ran from Google to Microsoft because Google did not live up to his ideals anymore. I am not actually a Microsoft hater, but I'll take that story with a grain of salt.

Is it me or does several of his complaints about the overly-aggressive targeted marketing apply to Facebook as well? He must really hate Facebook then. Personally, I think all this targeted stuff is not as good as stated by the people selling it.

I can understand that he felt the need to leave because something changed for him and his attitude towards his employer. But I seem to remember the big statement someone made not too long ago that Google+ was the future of the company and if you didn't like it you were welcome to leave. I suppose he took their advice.

As for any meaning or message one could get out of this about the future of Google, Facebook or even Microsoft; I see very little substance. It's one guy explaining to anyone who wishes to know why he left Google. That's it, let's not make more of this than what it is.

for the most part, facebook can only target you when you're on facebook. google now targets you across their properties some of which have significant lock in. it's not as easy to escape google being creepy as it is to escape facebook being creepy.

Facebook can target you across any site that has a Facebook Connect or Like button, and eventually they will turn those Like Buttons and Comment plugins into display ads.

I would say Facebook is far worse because they have easy access to more data about you that you more than likely provided. Then there's the data that they get about you from your friends. And as pointed out, Facebook has been tracking people outside of Facebook on any page that had their like button code in place.

Every company grows up. I'm old enough to remember when Microsoft was cool. I remember my first copy of Windows 286; all 12 floppy disks worth. I was excited. Now I fight with the MS sales team over MSDN prices. :)

My point; it's part of the process. Google's grown up. Do I like it? No.

This article could easily be paired with the Godman-Sachs article to teach a business class on the value of having right priorities in business. Often businesses lose themselves placing the pressures of business ahead of the priorities that got them to where they are in the first place. Sort of the proverbial "putting the cart before the horse" analogy. Google should focus on being itself. It sounds as if they have lost touch with what they really were in the first place. After all, they were the search engine that changed the world to such a degree that most everyone now says "google it" in reference to searching the web.

I wish Google had focused on being the champions of the open, pluralistic web, instead of on Google+, which ironically seems like Bing.

I think the problem with larger companies is that they have something to lose. So fundamentally, almost at a physics level, they become less flexible. They have more momentum in a given direction.

The problem with larger technology companies is that technology don't give a s*. And it's fast. Things iterate quickly. That's just how automation and computers work.

There is a ring of truth to this blog post. Especially in Google's seemingly blind, dogged attempts to beat Facebook at their own game, in the social space. It reminds me of how MS went after AOL with MSN - and we all know how that ended up.

I thought google used to be a company of innovation (and still had potential to become better) and now that they find themselves competing with Facebook just brings them down from where they started.


A company with so much money, and still no idea what to do with it. Here's a hint, use all that brainpower you waste optimizing advertising machines and make something that solves a problem that many people face using technology? maybe seek to reach out to a new audience? maybe quit sucking on the corporate tit that thinks advertising works in its current form? It's barely working for fb and thats because they dont care about user privacy (facebook actually sounds like a legal phishing company for advertisers, and i rather be shot than to put any of their API's on any site i create). Whatever, sheeps will be sheeps. And google isn't immune it seems.

Smart move to leave Google b/c it was buying its way into social and then go to Microsoft who's trying to buy their way into relevance #fail

Google is at trouble. They are following Facebook on the web/search front, and following Apple on the mobile/media front. What are they leading?

Why didn't they just buy Facebook?

when the best a company can do is copying, no wonder people are leaving.

To understand why Google isn't what it used to be, one has to understand what happened in 2009-2011. This is the era when Google decided to get "real managers" and they hired a bunch of executives from places like Oracle, IBM, and Intel. If Google had told them to wipe their fucking feet off before tracking shitty culture into the place, it might have survived. It didn't.

Google has an immense amount of talent "under its roof". Unfortunately, there's a necrotic layer of useless and counterproductive middle management coming up with a series of "innovations" that each have made the company worse. For a few examples:

* 20% time is dead. It requires managerial approval. More on that later.

* Until recently, people were hired "between levels" on the engineering ladder (which is generally a disaster at Google; see this: http://piaw.blogspot.com/2010/04/promotion-systems.html) and then about 2/3 of them were "downslotted" to a lower level. It didn't affect their pay, but it blocked future raises, was a career kiss-of-death, and generally shat all over morale. What's amazing to me is that no one ever said, before this bit of syphilitic idiocy could reach implementation, "This is a terrible idea and you need to stop abusing cough syrup on the job." Fucking California culture, man. In New York, terrible ideas cause buildings to fall down kill people and so we refuse to tolerate them. Unfortunately, Google's executives seemed to lack the insight to recognize an obviously horrible idea as horrible. (Downslotting was abolished last year, but I'm astonished that such idiocy got in the door in the first place.)

* Engineers (not just managers) literally drop everything for 1-2 weeks each year to write "Perf" (for themselves and peers). The high-stakes performance review process is just that important.

* Google is resistant to any change that might improve engineer productivity beyond the rather plodding rate it has now. C++ and Java are the real house languages; Scala's not even on the table. Python is listed as a house language so Google can still hire people but it's rarely used and nearly deprecated in production.

* Managers have free rein to fuck over an employee in Perf if they believe him to be "distracted" or at risk of future distraction by 20% time, even if that employee's performance is otherwise strong. This doesn't make Google any worse or any different from more traditionally managed companies. It does deprive them of the right to market 20% time as a perk without being called out as liars.

* Last summer, it was announced that every employee had to have a 3-word "mission statement" that managers could change, and a 63-word quarterly summaries of their work. This was the infamous "7/20" all-hands in which the deprecation of 20%-time was announced.

* HR ignores severe ethical lapses by influential managers, including a person who was outright proven to be using low performance scores and PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans, which stop transfers) to block transfers.

To make it clear, Google still has some really great people and could turn itself around if it just fired most of the middle layers. The company still has an incredible number of immensely talented engineers of whom I think quite highly, but the company is so horribly managed that I see nothing but a cold, miserable twilight in its future.

The problem with blog posts like this one is that they're largely ignored for their content. Instead, those with an agenda or an axe to grind (on either side) come out of the woodwork.

Your comment is a case in point. Anyone familiar with your story (at Google and, as you know, there are many of us who are) knows how totally skewed your perception is.

Many people (including me) tried to offer you constructive advice. Without getting into specifics I think it's fair to say that any problems you had were pretty much entirely of your own making.

Regarding a few specifics:

- You mischaracterize the slotting process, which is now largely gone anyway (and you should know this so I'm not sure why you're bring it up as if it were a present problem);

- I can't speak for how much time managers spend on Perf but managing their people and the careers of those people is kinda their job. As for engineers, it depends on how much feedback you need to do. One engineer I know how to do >20 feedbacks and this took him a couple of days. Generally speaking, the more you have to do it, the quicker you are (at each one);

The fact that performance is peer-driven is overall a good thing. It means your relationship with your peers matters and this isn't just an arbitrary managerial decision. I see you still don't get that.

Google isn't perfect. Then again, nothing is. But it's pretty great. Or, rather, it can be. You get as much out of it as you put in. See something that needs fixing? Then fix it. It's certainly not a place for those that simply like to sit back and complain.

> Your comment is a case in point. Anyone familiar with your story (at Google and, as you know, there are many of us who are) knows how totally skewed your perception is.

Speak for yourself, would you? I'm myself a victim, unfortunately. I never even knew my Perf when I was with the company, only discovered it accidentally after I left. The process is very broken for me. Thanks @michaelochurch, I now know better about what had happened.

Huh? You didn't see those links on the left? You missed those emails that told you Perf is completed and please go in and check your reviews?

Generally yes, you can see your peer reviews. What you can't see is your calibration score. And your calibration drives all of your compensation. There have been folks with really good reading peer reviews who have had really low calibration scores because their manager, for one reason or another, gave them that score.

I agree that many cases are different but the HR process is broken at Google, and it happens to be broken in a way unique to how Google set things up, but the effect is the same at other companies where reviews are a beauty contest.

@anthonydchang No, I never received such emails. My manager and / or HR never bother. When I discovered this accidently after I left, I complained by submitting a ticket. But you know what, almost whole managements at that subsidiary (read: Google China) has been sacked. So nobody could care less about it. I must say working for Google is THE worst working experience for me.

Even without the emails, there are the links on the left in Perf that you can see your peer and manager reviews. Unless you're telling me Google China used a different Perf.

I'm sorry to hear that you feel your time at Google is the worst experience for you, but your story just doesn't make sense. How can you submit a ticket after you left? Were you in eng? Did you not see mchurch's delusional rants and all the people that came out trying to help him? If anything, the support, advice given to mchurch is exactly why Google is a pretty awesome place to work.

The only reason I visited my personal profile was to write weekly snippet. So no, I didn't pay attention to the links you mentioned if there were no Perf emails to remind me.

I submitted a ticket from outside as an alumnus. It is a fact. Credit to Google for setting this up. That being said, if there is anyone gets delusional, it is you.

I'm an engineer and used to work for Sun Microsystems. It was awesome. So I have pretty good idea about what it takes and what to expect working for a good silicon valley company in general, including Google. It just didn't apply to what happened to me in Google.

No, GP is right, your story seems odd. I'm not saying it's false, but it certainly isn't related to what mchurch is talking about. If you visited the perf website (which you have to do at least every year), then you saw the "Received feedback" link at the top of the page. If you were bothered by not knowing your performance results, you should have clicked that link.

Saying you didn't explore your personal profile or look at the perf website and then complaining that you never knew your performance scores is like saying you never visited your calendar page and being upset about not knowing your meeting schedule.

It sounds like you may have had issues with poor management, but the fact that you didn't know your performance scores has nothing to do with mchurch's fictional manager retaliation, nor is it common for managers to blackmail their reports with poor perf scores over differences of opinion the way he alleges.

1. Perf is different from your personal profile or snippets. Were you even at Google long enough for Perf? 2. "I didn't pay attention." there you go :)

1. Of course. Otherwise what I submitted ticket for? 2. I said I didn't pay attention to the links if there were no emails to remind me.

Please, at least read what you reply to.

"That being said, if there is anyone gets delusional, it is you."

"Please, at least read what you reply to."

Why isn't this guy getting down-voted? Personal attacks and a sorry attitude shouldn't be tolerated on HN.

Personal attacks and a sorry attitude

How come? Your interpretation of what I said amuses me, sir. And the way you do it, quoting single sentence without context, seriously?

Guys, it sounds like he worked for Google China. I don't know how tech works between different Google entities (as I don't/never have worked for Google), but its possible that Google China wasn't using the same system as Google US at the time edwardw was working for them.

It's possible, yes, but highly unlikely as he uses all the US terms. What is possible was that he was a contractor rather than employee, and then your compensation has nothing to do with your Google managers, it's up to your contracting company.

Those are mostly irrelevant to this thread. Except as a matter of fact I was an employee. A googler, you say.

Anyone familiar with your story (at Google and, as you know, there are many of us who are) knows how totally skewed your perception is.

I'm familiar with michaelochurch's story (at least as much as your average Googler is, I assume) and I second what cletus is saying here.

Did anyone ever question you for being full of it? Judging from the tone only...

Why did you get defensive in the end ("google isn't perfect..." = "water is wet", no, really)?

Yes, this was certainly questioned. His threads on internal engineering lists (adopting this tone after just a few months at Google) are somewhat legendary. I'd caution anyone from forming an impression of the company from mchurch.

Actually, my reply was to cletus. I don't know either of them but he seems just too much overboard with kissing the management in the but.

You mischaracterize the slotting process, which is now largely gone anyway (and you should know this so I'm not sure why you're bring it up as if it were a present problem)

I said that they got rid of it, but I think the fact that such an obviously bad idea could get in the door in the first place is symptomatic of out-of-touch managers, and the same people are still there-- just coming up with new bad ideas (like the 3 word mission statements) that will linger around for 5 years.

The fact that performance is peer-driven is overall a good thing. It means your relationship with your peers matters and this isn't just an arbitrary managerial decision.

In theory, this would be true. In practice at Google, manager-as-SPOF is as much in force as it is in any other company. Actually, I think it's more the case at Google than at most places, because managers can unilaterally block transfers and because HR does nothing about abuse-of-process issues.

What Perf does is that it gives more reasons to deny promotions, not more avenues toward success. Managers can block promotions, and so can influential peers. So, in some cases, can trigger-happy idiots who abuse the unsolicited feedback feature (which does nothing but breed distrust, especially with the "manager-only feedback" feature, which is, at best, a quarter-step up from "XXX is a slut" gossip in fraternity bathrooms).

See something that needs fixing? Then fix it.

If you try to fix managerial, cultural, or product problems you just make enemies of the people who are invested in bad ideas and stupid decisions. It's really not worth doing.

I wish the full contents of the e-mail threads you started inside Google would be made public, including the hundreds of replies from random Googlers giving you advice on how to succeed and be happy there. I found this phenomenon inspirational, honestly: dozens and dozens of people helping out a frustrated co-worker they had never met. The advice they gave you was mostly quite insightful, and I feel fortunate to have been a lurker on these threads.

I'm glad that Perf at Google involves peer reviews, and that colleagues can volunteer to contribute to your review packet. I found the 3-word mission statement to be a fun thing. (For outsiders: this is just a text field on your intranet profile page where you can make up a slogan that concisely describes your goals.) It's about the same as being at liberty to make up your own job title for your business cards. People get very creative with it.

I came to Google as part of a medium-sized acquisition and I've seen HR solve complex problems (we brought some baggage with us that they had to deal with), and seen managers' managers overrule their attempts to block transfers. Problems were not solved overnight, but they were definitely solved. People worked hard and got promoted. Things work pretty well from my point of view. I've experienced my fair share of frustrations at Google, but I have also found that the company is full of people who are trying to make employees successful and happy.

The successful path requires that you employ patience, humility, and hard work in equal measure. If you can do that, you can thrive.

If you come in with a giant ego, pick fights with everyone you encounter, and ignore advice, obviously you're not going to succeed. When Yoda says "Your weapons, you will not need them", LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE. He is the Jedi master and you are the padawan; if you cannot recognize that, forever will the Dark Side control your destiny. :)

Google has a lot of people I really like. I never intended that post to be anti-Google. I just think the company made some really serious mistakes in terms of whom to give audience on major decisions and, as long as it has the wrong people making important decisions, it's going to lurch toward mediocrity even though a lot of the individual engineers are really great.

A lot of Googlers are reacting as if I attacked them. I didn't. Not in the least (unless they personally made some of the moronic decisions I listed). And Google is, despite the attempts of many influential and powerful people to destroy it, still a great company. I found most individual Googlers are really great people, but I think the danger of having the wrong people make decisions that affect thousands of people cannot be understated.

I have a feeling that you are just venting your specific personal frustrations in public while pretending that they represent some universal truth about Google.

>This is the era when Google decided to get "real managers" and they hired a bunch of executives from places like Oracle, IBM, and Intel.

Wrong. The problem with Google started with the new CEO. The decision to focus on Facebook, the Motorola acquisition, Google+, integration across all Google products and services,etc. these are not mid-level management decisions. These are decisions made by Larry Page.

The problem is with the CEO.

Why is integration a problem? It's working pretty well for Apple.

Because Apple sells products.

Google sells YOUR personal information that you do NOT want to share to advertisers.

Big difference.

This is not true. Google does not sell personal information; no advertiser ever learns anything about you. Google learns about you and it learns about the advertiser, and then uses that information to match ads and users. Yes, we make money from that. But it's a huge leap from that to "selling your personal information".

The privacy policy says: "We will ask for your consent before using information for a purpose other than those that are set out in this Privacy Policy," and selling your information is not listed there. Read it for yourself, it's pretty short!

>Google sells YOUR personal information that you do NOT want to share to advertisers.

According to Google, this is not true. https://www.google.com/search?q=Google+does+not+share+person...

Just a nitpick... but is there a particular link in these results that you want us to view?

There's probably ample evidence to support your claim, but linking to search results doesn't seem all that helpful. (If Google is still personalizing web searches or if someone has blocked a domain from their results we could be looking at different lists.)

He just means that there is no reference to 'Google does not share personal information with advertisers' on the internet.

Which Internet were you using for research? My Internet contained 128,000,000 results (or thereabout) for the provided link.

It seems like your confusing bad management with having a business model you don't like.

Why would I not want to share my personal information with advertisers. I certainly don't want to be marketed feminine hygiene products if I am a male. I also don't want to get offered oracle integration products if I am a Microsoft SQL shop. Targeted advertising is fine by me.

Is it possible, that you haven't thought this to the end. When you don't get advertising of feminine hygiene products, because you are a male, it is also possible, that you get no insurance advertisings, because you do free climbing. More, it is possible, you don't get cheap insurance or even any insurance because you habe only searched for free climbing or clicked on advertisement for free climbing products.

You understand. The industrie washes your brain to only see the positive side effects and don't think about the negative ones.

Just because you're ok with it, doesn't mean other people are.

Those people could, you know, not use Google. But I bet there aren't/won't be many of those in practice.

I think those decisions are totally right. It is very clear that social network is important. It is very clear that google needs really good phone/tablet products that other manufactures can not provide.

Google+ is a new product. Don't make a judgement so early. It is getting better everyday.

To understand why Google isn't what it used to be, one has to understand what happened in 2009-2011. This is the era when Google decided to get "real managers" and they hired a bunch of executives from places like Oracle, IBM, and Intel. If Google had told them to wipe their fucking feet off before tracking shitty culture into the place, it might have survived. It didn't.

You were only there for 6 months in 2011. That hardly makes you an authority on what happened in 2009-2011, or about how the company is managed. Perhaps it's time to consider the possibility that the problem was more with yourself than with Google.

Hi, I don't know you personally, but I joined Google a year or so ago and I disagree with many of your subjective judgements above. I have personally run into the problem of managers hired from outside (heck, I was one :)) and that's serious. But AFAIK, none of those other things you talk about were caused by incoming crappy managers; they were invented by good old fashioned Google culture.

People absolutely do not "literally drop everything for 1-2 weeks" for perf. That's just ridiculous. People complain about it, but it's more like a few hours of work, not a week. Moreover, the Google perf system is hands down the most amazingly great employee performance review system I've ever seen. Okay, my worldly experience only goes so far, but I sat in on calibration meetings and promotion committee meetings and so on, and I was absolutely shocked at how fair and objective people were. I'm sure there are cases of abuse or where it goes wrong - there are in any such system - but your examples of eg. using low performance scores to prevent transfers ought to be hard to achieve; the system gives such high weight to peer reviews that a crazy manager should be shown as crazy in fairly short order. At least in the group where I sat in these meetings (Commerce) this was absolutely the case.

I have mixed feelings about Google. But your accusations here are mostly misguided IMHO.

Currently, managers get in trouble if they deny you 20% time for more than one quarter. This seems reasonable and I've never heard of anyone (in my department) being denied even for one quarter. But you're right, there is a bit too much management in general.

The depressing part is that Google is so far ahead of everyone else that they can fuck up a lot of things and still be the best place to work by light years. (They even pay better than the investment banks now!)

I haven't done a Perf cycle yet, but the only problem I foresee is that nobody really knows what my job title is supposed to do. That hasn't stopped my coworkers from being promoted, though, so I can roll with it :)

Doesn't your 20% time project still require managerial approval? You can't just work on whatever you want, you need to get it approved by a manager? This is what I've read, I don't know if it's true or not.

No, 20% doesn't require any approval. Your manager can ask you to set it aside during crunch time (one quarter max) and you might eventually get dinged if you're doing something wildly irrelevant. 20% time is alive and well and not at all "deprecated".

Technically the particular project you work on is supposed to require approval. So far I haven't met any manager who does anything but rubber stamp anything you suggest, but theoretically you could get one who is picky, and that would defeat the point of 20% time a bit if it actually happens.

Seconded. In theory, a manager could veto a 20% project, but I have never heard of it happen.

I personally think "managerial approval" is just for 3 things:

1) If someone decides to do something wrong/illegal as 20% project, the manager should've caught this (so this 'approval' is really a 'we reserve the right to blame the manager if things go wrong') ;) 2) People probably want their 20% project (and progress therewith) to be factored into their perf, as such, their managers need to know about it. 3) So that people don't pick clearly fraudulent 20% projects (such as 'my 20% project is to stay at home and watch TV')

And if you set it aside you get 40% time next quarter. It's very much alive and well.

> * Google is resistant to any change that might improve engineer productivity beyond the rather plodding rate it has now. C++ and Java are the real house languages; Scala's not even on the table. Python is listed as a house language so Google can still hire people but it's rarely used and nearly deprecated in production.

Google is developing Go precisely to improve engineer productivity, so this claim is rather suspect.

And, there are plenty of languages that are first-class citizens with respect to tool support. The reality is that most engineers and teams are happy with Java and C++, and only those that really want to do something different do something different. It's decided at the team level what language to use; if everyone wants to write Haskell, congratulations, you're now on a Haskell project.

Java is unproductive when you are a startup with one developer, but it works rather well at Google. Each change has to be manually code reviewed before submission anyway, so you aren't saving much time by using Python instead of Java. Agreeing on one language means that it's easy to switch teams; if you did Haskell and another team used OCaml, it would be hard to switch. If you both use Java, though, the barrier to moving is smaller and that means you can switch projects without losing productivity. And that's a good thing.

(Remember: Java at Google is not the same as Java at Bank of America. The toolchain is better, the libraries are better, the culture is better, and the codebase is better. There's really very little I hate about Google-style Java, and that's after hating Java with a passion for about 10 years.)

Google developing Go as a research project, and Google using Go in a non-trivial number of production systems, are two very different scenarios.

Serving billion youtube requests per day is a trivial production system?

Vitess https://code.google.com/p/vitess/ ?

That's 1. A trivial number, if not a trivial system.

Hmm. I see (and write) some Python around me. I see a lot of Scala around me. And it's production code, actively developed, not phased out. I also keep hearing about Go.

Of course, I'm a mere contractor, I don't see the bigger picture, and all. But I _hope_ that on the language front things are not as grim.

Really? What do you work on?

Google's stance on Scala may have changed in the past few months as the language becomes more mature.

> I see nothing but a cold, miserable twilight in its future

GOOG profits are still growing, and they still control online search which I think will remain a huge cash cow for a long time.

Channeling Paul Graham: "Microsoft is dead" != "Microsoft is going to be out of business tomorrow". Same with Google. Yes, that company will be around for 50 years, but what Google used to be is gone.

Honestly, I've worked both on Wall Street and at Google. Individual people at Google are nicer, but the careerism and mentality (among people who want to move up) are nearly identical.

You are truly either delusional or an attention-monger that needs to troll to feel better about yourself.

Like cletus mentioned, many people reached out to offer you constructive advice. You ignored everyone, thought yourself superior to everyone.

I bet you were just waiting to be the first to comment, no? You did well...not only did you throw Google under the bus, you also threw California under the bus. Learn to have a little class.

cletus said: "The problem with blog posts like this one is that they're largely ignored for their content. Instead, those with an agenda or an axe to grind (on either side) come out of the woodwork."

Speaking purely as an outsider, you and cletus' comment prove his statement. You both clearly have an agenda, and the tone of your comments only lend credence to the stories.

Come on, why are you riding him so much? Who tried to help him? From your comments here you look more delusional then him.

As for the "California" thingy, he can't tell anything wrong about any state?

Suffice it to say that I would recommend that someone who is a junior engineer and new to any company _not_ try to tell everyone on a company-wide engineering list that he or she knows more than the all of the other engineers in the company, and to not try to claim that he or she has superior technical vision, such that ignoring all of the engineering tradeoffs and to just do things His way is the right way to go --- and that anyone who doesn't see things his way is a total idiot.

Furthermore, in general, it's a bad idea not to make yourself look like a total ass in public; it's a career limiting move in most companies, but in a company where it is truly the case that your peers have a lot more to do with your getting promoted than what your manager might have to say, it really, Really is a bad idea.

Hopefully everyone would agree that this is good advice....

And if you join an engineering company where the engineers pride themselves on data and accomplishments rather than speculations, it may be worthwhile to provide evidence to support your theory than just argue with everyone without anything to it up.

And if you join a company and someone more senior than you with ACTUAL accomplishments and that is respected in and outside of the company tries to take you under his wings and guide you through the corporate landscape, don't dismiss their actual accomplishments as "irrelevant" at the same time boasting about your success in a product for a "niche market that doesn't exist"

And if you join a company, you should not claim expertise in something unless you are an ACTUAL expert and have the knowledge, experience, and accomplishments to back that up. Saying that you're a T7-9 visionary doesn't make you a T7-9 visionary!

And if you join a company, don't dismiss your fellow colleagues and make a fool of yourself because even if you don't work with them now at the current company, you may encounter them again in the future.

I'm not speaking to any specific incident. Just general advice that any new junior employee to any company should follow.

For people skeptical of the other replies here, the reputation of OP is pretty well known... it has almost become a shibboleth of the people that were around during his tenure.

There's a huge, internal backstory to mchurch at Google. Most of which I don't have the right to share with the public. Most Googlers' responses here are based on that. That's why there is a visible disconnect in their heated responses to mchurch here when viewed from the outside.

I haven't regularly read those discussion lists at Google for years and years, and even I've heard of mchurch. :)

> thought yourself superior to everyone.

I'm really disturbed by this. I'm not a stranger to being the smartest person in the room - it happens from time to time - but, while interviewing at Google (I did it a couple times), I was always amazed with my interviewers, who were, with no exceptions, exceedingly smart people.

Please keep your flame wars to yourselves. You are just hurting your own case here.

I'm going to take you seriously even though you don't deserve it.

Any rip on a state with 50 million people in it is somewhat in jest. Anyway, there are a lot of great things about "California culture". When applied to technology, an open-minded and experimental "Let's try it" mentality is great. Necessary, even. When applied to management without enough attention paid to the fact that some of the people posing ideas have bad intentions, some awful ideas get into implementation and it damages companies. It hurts people. So more conservatism in selecting what to implement is in order, and discussing ideas that might be harmful (with thousands of people) until they've been explored is a bad idea.

The problem with Google is that it's got the conservative New York culture technically (I mean, even Scala isn't allowed) and the California culture with respect to hare-brained managerial ideas like downslotting-- the exact opposite of how things should be.

Put it this way: technological and managerial innovation are utterly different. If you do a tech demo and it's slightly rough around the edges, that's fine. You're awesome for having the courage to put yourself out there. If you're putting forward suggestions that are going to affect the way thousands of people work, the traditionally sloppy (for tech, I mean "sloppy" in a positive sense) tech demo is not how you should be communicating.

I think I agree that the existence of downslotting was a mistake. However, the problem it was attempting to solve (you got hired at one level, but performed at a lower level, because you managed to fool people in the interview) is a real one and there is no good solution for it. So I appreciate that they tried to find one, and realized their attempt didn't work, and tried something else.

If management was easy, we could all read a book about how to manage a company and then all do it optimally. Since that's not the case, experiments are necessary, and I admire the attitude that leaves them open to things that might not work. I disagree that it was "obvious" that the downslotting mechanism would not work - or rather, that it was obviously worse than any other alternative, because once you have the "not performing as expected" problem, all your options suck.

And BTW, I'm in New York :)

However, the problem it was attempting to solve (you got hired at one level, but performed at a lower level, because you managed to fool people in the interview) is a real one and there is no good solution for it.

These levels are a convenient fiction. Performance is way too context-dependent to believe that there's some "platonic" level for each engineer. This (http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/the-trajector...) is the best model I could come up with for the software engineer trajectory, and even it has a 0.2 to 0.4 point (out of 3.0) swing for most individuals based on technology choices, interpersonal topologies, motivational flux, etc.

What you mean is "some people don't work out". Right. So there are people you "manage out" (that is, try to get them to find another job and fire them after ~6 months if they don't get the hint and you absolutely have to) and there are people you work with to bring them up to speed, or to figure out what's blocking them. Typical management stuff. What doesn't work is to keep people around but at a lower level than they were promised in the hiring process. That just creates a class of miserable, shafted people who hate their jobs and the company they work for.

By the way, a lot of the idiots on this subthread think I'm airing personal gripes. I joined after slotting. I'm just pointing out what kinds of ridiculous results come from an out-of-touch management culture. What drove me insane at Google was being at a company where the engineers were so good at their jobs and yet the people making important decisions were so epically bad. The disconnect was shocking. I was watching an awesome company self-destruct in front of me.

Also, on downslotting: careers are sensitive things and once you make one overt move so directly against an employee's interests, you've essentially lost that person. Loyalty is pretty much binary. Once you make a move like that on someone, you now have someone whose full-time interest is career repair, which usually involves getting the fuck out and lining up the next job. If this is what you want, then fine. (If someone really is a bad fit, for that person to begin full-time job searching is the best thing.) That category doesn't encompass most of the company. Downslotting only makes sense as a mechanism for managing people out, and (1) there are better ways of doing that, and (2) you shouldn't be managing out over 50% of new hires.

The real reason for slotting, I think, was to put a better job title in the offer letter than people were actually expected to get, since the upper title is what was used. This works only because of Google's brand: what keeps it from doing major damage is that downslotted people have the Google name on their resumes and can get the fuck out long before they become "problem employees".

All hail Enron.

I work for a start-up, and we have a lot of autonomy. However, we can't afford 20% time on a regular basis. It's usually closer to 15% during a good week.

I couldn't help but leave an (infographic of my reaction to the outrage re: 20% time.


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