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No, I still don't want to work for Google (infotrope.net)
460 points by chris_wot on Oct 29, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 396 comments

I worked at Google for a short stint. I found the tech interview easy and I wasn't asked anything particularly ridiculous. I received a job offer shortly thereafter and accepted.

As someone who regularly interviews prospective engineers at my current gig, I see no problem with expecting candidates to arrive prepared to answer algorithm questions or questions about their strongest programming language. Ditto for someone who wishes to change assignment within their organization, however they arrived there. If you're unwilling to provide proof you're not a bozo, you're probably going to be just awful to work with as well.

However, the blind allocation policy at Google sucks, and it continues to suck. I came in as an expert in field D and therefore according to Google's magic sorting hat I ended up a natural for assignment in field Q. I tried my hand at it for several months, but as someone else has already said, bored employees quit: http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2011/07/12/bored_peopl...

In order to avoid that fate, I futilely attempted to get reassigned to something close to field D (really, B, C, E, or F would have been just peachy) and that seemingly got me flagged as trouble internally. Shortly thereafter, I got a higher offer to go somewhere else and left.

However, unlike the author of this post, while Google recruiters regularly stalk my linkedin profile, none of them ever contact me, which is good.

Blind allocation got me too. They told me how allocation worked before I joined, but I was hopeful that they would put me on a project that had some overlap with what I was interested in and what I had worked on for the past 15 years (computer vision, robotics, natural language processing).

No. I found out on the last day of orientation I would be doing YouTube ads. I knew there was no way I could do that for 18 months, and I told my manager. He was understanding, but there wasn't really anything he could do. He passed my concerns up the management chain.

A couple weeks later my manager gave me their response, which was, literally, "We don't care." That shocked me a little, and I knew at that point I wouldn't be at Google for very long. Maybe that was even the right thing for them to do, since I was proving myself to be the kind of employee who wouldn't work on a project they weren't interested in for a year and a half just because it was good for Google, or good for their potential career at Google.

For a short time I led a 20% project with three other engineers that was in my interest area, and after we won an innovation award I hoped that it might make the Google bureaucracy more sympathetic to my preferences, but management didn't care. I left not long after that.

(tl;dr: I learned that Google is a bureaucratic megacorp.)

I've heard of the 18 month rule, but it wasn't how it worked in my experience. My first project lasted 4 months and ended with a successful launch. My second lasted two months and ended when I was pulled off (actually, I volunteered) to work on a project more suited to my abilities.

YMMV. Google is a giant corp, I'm sure there are bad managers somewhere (and I've heard of Nooglers getting stuck on a bad project and then leaving for Facebook), but if you keep your eyes open for opportunities and work to build relationships with your new team, you can usually transfer regardless of what the rules say.

Pretty much my naivete and experience as well (minus the 20% project because the one I wanted to do would have tipped some sacred cows had it succeeded)...

Exactly--I didn't quite say it explicitly, but part of the problem was my naiveté about working for a large company after a career of mostly startups.

(And my summary of the project may have been overly short. It was a week of full-time work, with a plan of making it an ongoing 20% project.)

I don't think this is a large company vs. startup thing. In most companies, large or small, you're hired to fill a particular job opening (that's described as part of the recruitment process) and usually interviewed by the group of people who you'd be working with. Does anyone know of any other companies that do this kind of random assignment the way Google does?

I wonder why google would choose to randomize assignments instead of recruiting for a particular skillset for a particular project/role.

If they are afraid of leaking information about what projects they are up to based on their job openings, that's actually easy to solve - advertise heaps and heaps of openings for many, varied and niche skill sets. Of course, only some of these adverts are real openings, but no one but outside google will know which ones are real openings. Hence, your competition cannot sniff your job openings to see what you are working on. This simply costs fees in administration and you reject every fake advert application.

Blind allocation is about grunt-work roulette, not secrecy.

Google wants to collect smart people, but it's impossible for a company to get to that size and have only smart-people work, so blind allocation is their way of getting PhDs to work on apps for HR-- the kind of work that a lower calibre of engineer would happily do for a Google salary, but Google just refuses to hire at-level for that kind of work when they can hire above-level and roulette someone into it.

That's also why it's frowned upon to transfer before the 18-month mark.

My issue with it is not that they expect 1.5 years of grunt work. That's fairly typical. Unpleasant, but common. What's worse about it is that people who land on grungy work for their first projects tend to keep getting bad work because they can't transfer to the good stuff, because they're competing against people who had better projects and could actually accomplish things. If the model was, "do this for 18 months, and then the company is open to you", that'd be one thing. The problem is that people suck it up for a year and a half, thinking things will get a lot better, but then when they get to the 1.5-year mark, they don't actually have the degree of optionality and autonomy that they were promised.

20% time can easily destroy your career. Most managers view it either as a waste of time or a flight risk. If the manager has to put someone on the 5% shit-list (which has more to do with his performance than yours) and you're 20%ing, then you're probably screwed.

Blind allocation is imbecilic, but I think even the idea that people need to be "allocated" to projects is moronic. It doesn't belong in this fucking century. Closed allocation makes managerial dinosaurs think they control something, but they lose control of the most important thing, which is their ability to retain talent and enthusiasm. If Google wanted to actually deserve its reputation, they'd man up and go for Open Allocation: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/tech-companie...

> 20% time can easily destroy your career. Most managers view it either as a waste of time or a flight risk.

So at Google, you're job isn't to make Google more successful, but to make your manager look good.

This statement out of michaelochurch is just silly. Most managers I know consider 20% time to be important to those engineers that desire taking it. That said, not everyone tries, and you can lose your ability to do 20% if you underperform.

michaelochurch appears to have had a very strongly negative experience with his time at Google - I'd implore you (and everyone) to not base your assessment of what the company is like on his experience alone, especially since I've got pretty much entirely opposite experience.

Actually, my reason for spilling on Google is that someone from Google did something unethical after I left and Google refused to investigate (knowing they'd have to fire the person if they did). If Google had done the proper investigation and canned the person, I would never have said a word about them.

I'm pretty much over it by this point, but I still think the terrorists who thought it would be fun to destroy Google from the inside with their imbecilic "calibration scores" need to be named, shamed, and buried. They have attacked what was once a great company, and they are destroying it. I am pointing this out as a public service.

Google is a great place if you have a good manager and an interesting project. If you land on an interesting, relevant project, and your manager supports you in the political processes, it's a great place to work. I've never argued against that, because it's true.

The same is true of 20% time. If your manager believes in 20% time, you have that benefit. If your manager thinks it's a waste of time and will express it by threatening you with a perf smear, then you don't have 20% time.

"If Google had done the proper investigation and canned the person, I would never have said a word about them."

I don't get this. The faults you mention here and elsewhere (closed allocation, lousy managers, unfairly rating expectations, 20% dooming you etc) have nothing to do with Google investigating unethical behaviour, right?

So, does Google really have none of these faults, but you say they do because they refused to investigate your claim; or do the really have these faults, but if they had investigated your claim, you would have kept quiet and let everyone think that it's a fantastic place (as far as you were concerned)?

(Serious question, I'm not trying to flame you. I just don't really understand how your various criticisms and this specific ethics issue are connected)

or do the really have these faults, but if they had investigated your claim, you would have kept quiet and let everyone think that it's a fantastic place (as far as you were concerned)?

Disparaging an ex-employer in the public, even if the ills disclosed are minor-- which in Google's case, they are-- can do considerable damage. Or it might not. It's hard to measure the cost of lost opportunity (in this case, lost recruiting). In any case, it's a move to take seriously, because it involves downside risk for both employer and whistleblower and the upside is quite minimal. It's not something to do just because you have a negative experience, because 3/4 of work experiences are pretty negative (by which, I mean they get less out of the job and the company than they should) for most people. If a company is going to get a public smear, it has to earn it.

If Google had done the right thing and investigated, then terminated the person, I probably would still have warned my friends about the death of "Google culture" but I wouldn't have leaked Perf and the death of 20%T to the public.

I see. Thanks for the rationale :)

>>Google is a great place if you have a good manager and an interesting project. If you land on an interesting, relevant project, and your manager supports you in the political processes, it's a great place to work. I've never argued against that, because it's true.

That's true for any company I know of, Hardly an interesting proposition to work at Google.

As my manager told me a while ago: "making our company successful is well above our pay-grade: we need to make our managers look good".

The key to success at most companies is to please your boss's boss, indirectly of course.

The key to success at most companies is to be a unicorn.

Let's quantify ambition using the letter A. At A > 1.0, people are interested in advancing their own careers and are only going to work hard on their assigned stuff when there's a long-term, career benefit. If they have a surplus of time (which is common, because they're good at getting shit done) they will pursue their own education rather than asking for more work. They are hard-working, but they focus on their own objectives and take a mercenary attitude. They only go "above and beyond" in the context of a mentorship arrangement where someone senior is genuinely looking out for their careers. Otherwise, they calculate exactly how much to invest in their assigned role and how much to put in the skill or networking bank.

People at A < 1.0 just don't see career growth as very important, and it's hard to motivate them to work more than an 8-9 hour day. They're not lazy-- they're often more than competent enough, and they tend to consistently do good work-- but they have more interest in life outside of work than in their paid labor. Give them 6 weeks of vacation, and while they'll generally give decent notice, they will take it.

People at A = 1.0 are ideal employees, but that's a single-point set, and we don't have Dirac delta functions in this analysis, so that's probability zero. It's a unicorn. (Note: I know that probability zero doesn't mean "impossible". Unicorns are also not impossible.)

Succeeding at work is about pretending to be at A = 1.0... or at least fading A to 1.0 enough to keep people unaware of your true leaning-- which is that you're either too ambitious to prioritize your boss's objectives over yours, or you're too lazy to care about anyone's goals.

How close you are to A = 1.0 determines how long you can stay at a job. At A = 0.5 or 2.0, you'll last 6 months and get cold-fired. At A = 0.9 or 1.1, you have an expectancy of two years and will get a severance. At A = 0.99 or 1.01, you can probably stick around for 10 years and you'll be gently "managed out".

I'm at A < 1.0 (even 6 weeks of vacation, which I always take with plenty of notice), but have no problem getting or keeping a job long term. I'm A < 1.0 because I'm ambitious about "working to live", rather than "living to work" like the A > 1.0 types. I do expect to be "managed out", but only because everyone but top management gets laid off eventually, to keep the staff young.

Yes, which doesn't make Google any worse than most companies, but does mean it has regressed into the meaningless, incoherent, parochial grey glop that is standard corporate working life.

You know, I work for a 122 year old > 100,000 employee megacorp, and it is not so bad. It takes longer to do things, and you have to work around a lot of problems, but the vastness of the problems and systems has some appeal.

Wow, I never would have expected Google's perf management to be as bad as what I've read here - Glassdoor reviews all sound so peachy.

Take what Michael Church says with a grain of salt. I was around to observe his threads on the eng-misc mailing list while he was still at Google. Without his consent, I'd rather not say what went on, but I would advise you to get your information elsewhere.

I find it quite disconcerting when people write comments like this. If you're not willing to share what was said, so that we can judge whether or not it supports your veiled allegations, then don't make the allegations. It is in bad taste, and reflects badly on you.

I know it can be hard to resist talking if you believe you have inside information, but giving "warnings" like this without sharing details that are directly relevant to the claims he made in effect boils down to nothing more than an ad hominem supported by appeals to authority about the reasons for his claims.

Michael O'Church seems quite happy to share what went on. What's stopping you?

Michael O'Church's arguments are internally consistent, and more persuasive than vague statements impugning his character.

> What's stopping you?

Respect for the confidentiality of internal communications.

Anyone is free to share their own impressions, but it is inappropriate to pull someone else's privileged documents and wave them in public.

Just how respectful and appropriate is it to make public claims about someone's character without giving evidence?

what about anonymizing and cleaning the communication such that you cannot decipher any actual information, but can grasp the gist of the topic about which this thread discusses?

Yet you leak the name of an internal mailing list. Well done!

The negative comments here haven't really been my experience either. I once heard a VP say that perf is an "eventually consistent system", meaning that mistakes are often made over the short term (1 review cycle), but over the long term high performers get promoted. That's basically what I observed: it can be maddeningly slow for people to notice you've been working your ass off, but if you keep at it, they do notice and the rewards do come. If you stick around long enough for them.

The real world isn't all that different - if you found a startup, you're likely to go through 3-4 years of nobody giving a shit before everybody suddenly discovers your a genius.

If you identify high performance by the performance review system, and people who perform highly according to that system are more likely to be promoted than those who don't, then of course over the long term high performers are the ones who get promoted. And it might well be merely "eventually" consistent if a few dings early on (or later on!) don't destroy your chances to, over time, be considered a high performer by that system. It would be very hard for such a system to be anything but consistent, since the consistency is just self-consistency.

The relevant question isn't "do promotion decisions get made consistently with the tools used to rank performance" but "do the tools used to rank performance adequately track potential, and does the environment generally adequately make potential actual?". A system in which lots of people are dissatisfied and bored but some luck into positions for which they're suited, excel, and are promoted is, indeed, consistent, but it's also pretty wasteful.

I don't identify high performance by the performance review system. I identify high performance by "Who would I like to have on my team if I were to found a startup?" I've found a fairly high correlation between these people and the people who get promoted.

To be fair, Google has a lot of very good engineers, so of course there are a lot of great engineers who are getting promoted. I'm pretty sure you could find an equal number of good engineers who don't get promoted. The rank-and-file programmers are just very good, with almost no deadweight.

Google's promotion process isn't, as far as I can tell, that broken. What's broken is the policy of making political-success (or, "perf") scores part of the transfer process. It's mean-spirited and creates an autocorrelation in project quality that many people never overcome.

Google would be a real company with a culture actually worth caring about if the executives manned up and did the following:

1. Go to open allocation. When you have that much fucking cash, you can invest in employee autonomy. No excuses. Do it. Learn from Valve, because you're not a cultural leader anymore, Google. http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/tech-companie...

2. Get rid of the "calibration" nonsense. It's stupid, and it goes against the idea of a peer-review driven company because that bus is driven by managers only. Fire the B-student management consultants who came up with it. Get rid of the 5% firing rate, too. (I know that Google rarely actually fires people, instead humiliating them with those insipid PIPs and transfer blocks. No real difference. Firing people with a real severance package is a lot more decent than wasting their time with kangaroo-court PIPs and tearing up their careers slowly.) Firing should be saved for real problem employees, rather than a threat that turns no-fault lack of fit into a problem employee. This tactic of-- without a business need (such as in a cash-crisis layoff)-- firing some set percentage (who tend to just be unlucky) to keep people "on their toes" is mean-spirited thuggery that doesn't belong in this century.

What was your 20% project?

Doesn't matter. The whole point in the 20% projects is not to ensure rewarding best projects, but to reward trying. Because eventually the good projects will flush out.

If you say you will punish failed 20% projects. Nobody is going to buy into a concept where you people are likely to be punished for failing to try and do something good for the company in the spare time.

I don't think michaelochurch did a 20% project, which is why it's interesting that he speaks so authoritatively on what happens to someone with one.

I went through a 3-month long interview with google in 2007, they said I did great in the interview and told me they'd be sending me an offer.

Two days later they rescinded and said they would not be giving me an offer without explanation. I was really pissed off.

A couple years later they contacted me again for a job and started the interview process, then I told them what happened the last time. They then said they didn't want to proceed.

Then a few month ago they contacted me again (these were all for basically the same job) - I sent the recruiter a rather terse email stating my experiences and said "stop wasting my time - either give me the job at salary $X or stop contacting me."

They replied that they couldnt meet my salary requirements.

Personally their recruiting method is farking ridiculous.

Same thing here, almost exactly, although they didn't wait a couple of years before contacting me again---more like a month.

On a third go-around, I asked what the deal was and haven't heard much from them since.

Get any offer in writing, and if it's rescinded, the words you want are: promissory estoppel.

At-will employment, unfortunately, makes that doctrine legally useless for workers in America.

A friend of mine came to this country (Israel) to work as a chemical engineer. His salary isn't large by American standards ($27,000 USD/year take-home pay), but for here it's pretty good and the benefits package is superb. The thing that really hit me, though, was that his job offer was a literal, written contract specifying, in legally binding terms, the conditions and compensation of his employment.

It was one of those "Why don't we have that back home?" moments. Why don't Americans get binding contracts for jobs? Honestly, which bastard came up with at-will employment?

"Honestly, which bastard came up with at-will employment?"

Some bastard, and they are not in short supply, who was not a fan of unions or the strengthened bargaining position that they give employees.

See also "right to work" states, where "right to work" means "right to find yourself without work and without recourse".

But at-will employment is actually a separate issue from unionization. At-will employment goes against what most countries and cultures regard as a cornerstone of capitalism itself: clarity and enforcement of contracts.

At-will employment: anyone can terminate the employment relationship at any time, unilaterally, for any reason or no reason. The party in the stronger bargaining position can unilaterally demand changes at threat of leaving/firing, more or less whenever they want.

No at-will, no union: employment is governed by a contract negotiated and bound at the start of the job. There are set terms, and agreed amounts of leeway. Either party who decides to unilaterally cheat the other can be taken to court and legally held responsible to the other party.

Seriously, why should Americans consider it normal to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement when beginning work for a new company but completely out-of-the-blue to have the employer be legally responsible for granting so simple a "privilege" as a 40 hour work-week without threatening to fire you?

(Which, by the way, doesn't mean things like long work-weeks don't exist in "contract employment" countries. My friend I mentioned has a standard week of 45 hours. That length is set by his contract, which he agreed to. What they can't do is sign him to a 45-hour week and then start regularly demanding 55 hours each week. This pleasant standardization of his hours allows my friend to attend language-immersion classes after work to get his Hebrew up to par -- an absolute must for integrating fully into the Israeli economy as a competent worker.)

Yes, that's so, at-willness of employment and unions are separate.

I nevertheless believe it comes from the same impulse, because, in general, the employer is in the stronger position than the employee. (Not always, of course, and it's certainly possible that some employers regret not having contracts with certain of their employees.)

Union rights and at-will employment are intimately connected.

What do people get fired for? It's rarely a true "performance" issue. Mostly, it's anything that the company judges to be against its interests. (In contemporary companies where managers can unilaterally fire people, it's anything that is judged to be against the manager's interest.) Anything that is perceived as disloyal, no matter how small, will usually lead to termination. That's how human societies tend to work, so it's not reasonable to expect that (absent legal incentives to operate differently) corporations would behave differently.

At-will employment, philosophically, trusts the company to pursue its own rational interests and gives it the right to terminate an employee if it believes retaining him to be outside of its interest. I don't fully agree with it, but that's what it is.

Collective bargaining is something that governments have decided that workers have the right to do, even though unionization is decidedly against management's interest.

The fundamental question here is: is it reasonable to expect companies to continue to employ people who, lawfully and ethically, act against the company's interest? There's no simple answer to that one. Greg Smith didn't do anything wrong, but I can't say Goldman would have been wrong to fire him (had he not resigned). On the other hand, the social benefit to unions (in theory, at least) and whistleblowing provides a good reason for the law to protect some categories of employees acting against employer interests.

Over time, the laissez-faire policy regarding employment relationships has been scaled back-- in the U.S., not enough; in many European countries, too much. It's now technically illegal to fire someone for attempting to organize a union, filing a discrimination or harassment claim, escalating a disagreement to HR, or even publicly disclosing one's salary (try that one in most white-collar contexts and see how long you last!) The problem with at-will employment is that companies have become very good at making illegal firings look "performance"-related.

> Seriously, why should Americans consider it normal to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement when beginning work for a new company but completely out-of-the-blue to have the employer be legally responsible for granting so simple a "privilege" as a 40 hour work-week without threatening to fire you?

The same reason half of Americans wholeheartedly approve anything else that screws them over. At least it's not so bad here that the employer has at-will capability but the employee must give notice to quit.

One day the workers will be billionaires and at that point they want to be able to tread upon their underlings as they themselves were tread upon?

Basically any state where the majority of people there see "right to work" and that's all the info they need to believe it means something good.

At-will employment is complicated. Very complicated.

The truth is that you should usually take the severance as offered, because a lawsuit usually isn't worth the time and reputation risk. That said, there are reasons companies write severance contracts. They're afraid of lawsuits, and secondarily about what you might say about them.

At-will protects the right to end employment for business reasons (layoffs) and to fire people for objective, published performance standards. The first of these, I think, is completely reasonable. The second would be reasonable if the standards were published before people accepted the offer.

Performance improvement plans (PIPs) attempt to make subjective firings look "performance" based, but if you know how to play that endgame, you can draw it out and make your manager's life hell without giving him anything objectively fireable. (You shouldn't make his life hell. In fact, if you can strike a deal with him where he improves your review so you can transfer, and you get the hell out of his way, that's better. You should get a new job and resort to endgame tactics only if you need more time at the old job.)

With a rescinded offer, there's no performance case, so it's only legally acceptable if the company can establish a business-related reason (such as a plant closing or a hiring freeze).

It's very unlikely that one will actually end up in a lawsuit over this. You use the words "promissory estoppel" to get a severance package, and you take it.

Personally I think these anti-discrimination laws are likely fundamentally flawed.

If Googles interviews had seemed to be remotely reasonable, I'm sure the people complaining would have been fewer. As it is, they seems very much to have the attitude that it doesn't matter if they weed out tons of great candidates as long as they weed out the bozos too.

I once went through technical phone screening with them for a management position, and was bizarrely asked lots of probing questions about unix filesystem internals. Which I answered with descriptions of how it varied by implementation for 3-4 different filesystems I've worked with over the years. But I hadn't worked with his pet filesystem and so couldn't answer everything the way he liked.

In the end the recruiter came back to me totally exasperated after he'd failed me. She'd looked at my feedback and taken it to some committee, and had the tech interview thrown out after they realised the type of questions I'd been given.

But by then I'd have time to reflect about the fact that the guy who interviewed me was on the team I'd been expected to manage, and I did not like the thought of a team like that. Couple that with a process that seems almost designed to push away people who aren't desperate to work there, and particularly people who have plenty of other alternatives, and I lost interest.

(Blind allocation for example, is not something I'd subject myself to - the only reason I said yes to that interview round was because it was for a specific position)

they seem very much to have the attitude that it doesn't matter if they weed out tons of great candidates as long as they weed out the bozos too

Yes, this is their explicitly stated intention, as I recall.

>the attitude that it doesn't matter if they weed out tons of great candidates as long as they weed out the bozos too.

What would you do if you got over 2 million applications a year for a few thousand positions?

I realize the problem. But their current approach has the outcome of alienating a lot of their target audience from even wanting to work there, or at the very least wanting to subject themselves to the hiring process.

The result is that a lot of people who are good enough to find it easy to find competitive jobs elsewhere self-selects out of the process, leaving the people who either really badly want to work specifically at Google, or who don't have other alternatives, in their hiring process.

The former group likely will contain lots of great people still, given that there's still a lot of people who see Google as a great place to work. The latter group likely isn't who they want.

Clearly the former group is not enough, given that Google has an army of recruiters who keep hassling a lot of us who have never applied to Google and/or who have turned them down for interviews or jobs before, or who have even worked for them and left.

They recognise they are losing out on a lot of good candidates, or they wouldn't have these people calling the same potential candidates over and over and over.

And from personal experience I know a lot of their recruiters are frustrated at how hard it is for them to fill many positions, and how often they approach candidates and are explicitly turned down because people don't consider it worthwhile subjecting themselves to their interview process when they can easily get jobs with competitive packages and terms elsewhere.

The last Google recruiter who contacted me called me to plead for me to do a second round management interview after I was lukewarm after the totally botched tech interview I've mentioned in this thread - she'd gotten approval to simply skip doing another tech interview completely after the tech interviewer did his ridiculous nonsense.

But who would I keep putting myself through that shit? No other potential employer, many of whom offer better terms than Google are likely to do, have ever tried to subject me to that type of employment process. I know I'm good at what I do. I'm used to being rapidly pursued with face to face interviews, being taken out for lunches and dinners, having the recruiter and potential employer actively sell me on the prospects and the benefits of working there, being told upfront exactly what I will work on and having them make it very clear that they can meet my salary and stock expectations. It's not that I need to be treated like some special snowflake, but I'd put a premium on working somewhere where I know I am appreciated.

Googles recruitment process scream "we don't care".

Sounds a bit like the Death by Lethal Reputation example Nick "Ask the Headhuner" Corcodilos wrote up: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/halethalrep.htm

Google could eventually reach that point....

I guess I'd do just like Google and hire an army of non-technical recruiters to interview my top prospects.

Yegge has explicitly said that Google sucks at hiring people.

> " If you're unwilling to provide proof you're not a bozo, you're probably going to be just awful to work with as well."

I do not see any justification for this in the general case.

It is true, I have seen it myself, that even students who receive good grades in a CS program can be bozos when it comes to actually building things. However, these same people are likely to do well on a coding interview because these people study for coding interviews. These students can also be miserable to work with, as their high opinion of themselves leads them to be uncooperative and terrible at communication.

I would much prefer to work with someone who has built wonderful things than with someone who can study to ace a coding interview. I would also much prefer to befriend someone in the first category (who wouldn't?).

I do not see the fault in an engineer with a full portfolio of past projects, be they personal or open source, expecting to be evaluated on the basis of that work rather than on some arbitrary algorithms assignment. In fact, I would be likely to have greater respect for such a person should she refuse the quiz, as clearly she values her time and is not willing to have it wasted to satisfy a recruiting bureaucracy.

And let's be clear about why algorithmic questions and interviews of this sort exist at all: because companies like Google are not interested in finding the next Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, etc. They are interested in finding engineers to do grunt work. Google already knows who its stars are, they are the guys sitting in the room during executive meetings.

> If you're unwilling to provide proof you're not a bozo, you're probably going to be just awful to work with as well.

I always liked the idea of people looking at your previous work (github, ...) and having a pleasant conversation about it rather than making engineers jump through hoops.

Especially if the company comes to you I think it's a weird thing that they'd assume you're a "bozo".

Given how lax the US employment laws are, you can always fire somebody if they turn out to be a bozo after all.

So here's where we have to agree to disagree. A pleasant conversation about your previous work is great, really, and as part of a complete package, likely to send you right to the top of my list.

However, in my experience, the tech industry is overflowing with pretenders. If I haven't met you personally, those github records are of limited use as there's no way to prove you actually did the work in question. I apologize for the paranoia upfront, but once a bozo gets into the foodchain, they can do a lot of damage before getting expelled.

And in the end, the kind of technical questions I ask are so basic that unless you haven't programmed in years or you've never read a programming or algorithms book in your life, you'll get them. What's really disappointing is how few do get them lately. But I attribute that more to the current environment of recruiter cold-calling as opposed to a decline in the expertise of programmers.

Much like in dating, most of the "good ones" are taken, and if not, they don't stay on the market very long.

Is your mentality typical of Google hiring practices? As long as we're going by anecdotal evidence here, nothing you've said here rings true. I've found great engineers by chatting with them -- if you can't separate a great, well-accomplished engineer from a faker by talking with him/her at length about their previous work, then IMHO the problem is with you, not them.

You said it best -- the process you describe above is reflective of a paranoid, neurotic obsession to have "the best" engineers, for some definition of best. Whether or not we agree on what constitutes "best" is not important, but if you insist that people who refuse, or fail, your particular method are bozos then you have your head stuck firmly up your ass.

I think the problem is the fact that we have two types of engineers: the academic geeks, and the creative geeks.

I wouldn't give anyone a pass if they show no personality, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking with good product intuition during my interview. Vice versa, I don't think any academic geeks would give me a pass if I couldn't solve their math puzzles with a proof.

I could be just talking out of my ass here, but it is nonetheless how I see this situation. I don't like it, but I don't see any evidence of it changing anytime soon.

In an interview, I have 30-60 minutes to figure out whether I want to hire you or not. My team writes a lot of code.

Therefore, I'm going to ask you what your favorite language is and then test your ability to write 10-20 lines of code in that language to solve a relatively simple problem.

If you can't do that, it seems to me that a) you don't like to write code and therefore I shouldn't hire you or b) you're out of practice and shouldn't have claimed expertise or c) you're a poser.

If your expertise is with something else, go apply for positions that require skill with said "something else" as we'll both be a lot happier that way.

It's a completely different situation if I know you personally but 95% of the time I don't and I have to make a quick decision.

Keep in mind that if we only have 30-60 minutes together, I'm going to be putting forth a lot of energy in determining if you are even worth working for or are just another bozo boss/company. It is just as risky on my part as it is yours. That doesn't leave a lot of time to think about any challenges you send my way, no matter how easy they may be.

It feels to me like such a process tries to shift the power towards the employer, to make it seem like you would be lucky to even have a chance to work there and focus the time wholly on the business needs, when it really should be a mutual discussion to see if both parties feel it is a good fit. Passing your test with flying colours only to find we are a terrible match is just as damaging as hiring a bozo to begin with, no?

Both are important; match is obvious, but what about the prospect of working at a place with a fair amount of deadwood? Even if they're on the way out, that's going to be ugly.

Failure to do the most basic of technical screening will result in the latter; as I've said in more detail before, in the '90s it was reverse a linked list in C/C++, look at this dozen or so lines of code and find some of the errors in them, and do some design (quiet, no one in the same room time allowed for that, with a discussion to follow). I didn't think it was too much to ask back then, but it sure weeded out a lot of people who couldn't program their way out of a paper bag.

I'm curious to know if you would reciprocate in kind? That is to send me code samples of the work your dev team has done on your company. Your goal is to ensure I'm not a bozo and my goal is to not have to work with bozo colleagues. Hence the exchange of code samples. Fair?

Heh, I'd go father than that, I'd set them in front of a console and let them look through the code base. Of course, this test works both ways ^_^.

Never had anyone ask for that, though. They would have gotten major bonus points for asking....

Before you spend those 30-60 minutes, I want to know if you're worth working for. If you go straight into coding tests, I a) know you're not, b) expect you to be a formalistic stickler, c) I know you haven't done enough homework to at least have a reason to believe I am good enough to have plenty of options.

If you have done your homework when interviewing me, you'll understand that you need to sell me on your company, your team and the position first to let me assess whether you're worth my time.

The candidates who will bend over backwards to satisfy your coding tests before you've spent at least 20 minutes explaining why they should care, are the candidates who are fanboys and/or don't have other decent options. You should ask yourself why.

I've called off interviews and called the recruiter back to tell them I don't want to deal with that company again over interviewers who conducted bad technical interviews, for the reason that I know my value and I know the value of my time.

Conversely, when on the hiring end, I don't want candidates that are happy to bend over backwards for me without any sales effort first, or who don't ask me pointed questions about the company, the job, the terms. It makes me immediately suspicious about why they are willing to make such a big decision without sufficient information to evaluate if it would be a good fit for them.

I don't quite support your position and am more in line with the parent one. It may be possible to find the "truly great" by a nice discussion but for those that are good and above it isn't so easy to separate them from the good talkers without some deeper technical discussion that gets started by an innocent technical question. The question is used to weed out the complete bozos and the deeper discussion to understand the depth of the person interviewing.

I truly don't understand someone who claims to be a great talent and not willing to put up with an hour or two if interview on technical topics. He might or might not be a bozo but by such a stance he failed my personal fit test.

If the question were simply, am I going to go to company X or not, then sure let's do the bozo test to your satisfation.

However, most candidates are going to have several options, and perhaps 7 or more opportunities that they want to chase down. In light of that, and considering that companies like Google want the person with 7+ opportunities chasing him/her, why grind them down by putting them through such an impersonal process? IMO it shows a complete lack of respect or understanding of the position the candidate is in.

If you are the only one who says "great talent should be willing to jump through my hoops" then it's not a problem. The problem is when everyone wants you to jump through their pop quiz, which is what happens when smaller companies see the leaders of their industries institute these bullshit procedures.

To your point about "7+ opportunities":

Last time I spoke to Google, I had two offers on the table from companies who contacted me after Google, before Google even managed to put me through a tech interview. They then proceeded to mess up the tech interview so badly that the recruiter got the result thrown out and got approval to bypass the whole thing. In the meantime said two companies invited me for dinner and lunch and an informal gathering to meet the teams I would manage if I said yes. In the end I ended up staying where I was, but Google was by far the easiest company to turn down: I didn't proceed through the second interview, because I didn't see the point when comparing the treatment I got.

This is what their rigid bureaucratic process results in. Perhaps Google would not have wanted me at the end of it, if I continued the process. But if so, then presumably any candidate they would want for that position would find it even easier than I did to line up other offers in the same time frame.

I don't espouse the Google interview process, just some technical questions. I've done at one point the Google interview process and actually wouldn't suggest to follow it.

to be honest, many positions are filled through referral.

If your concern is to ensure that you're not getting a coding bozo, I think that your tests are designed incorrectly.

Instead of having a 'simple test', just find some random, buggy sub-optimal code sample online (shouldn't be hard) and ask them to identify the problems with it and refactor.

I can almost guarantee you that bozos won't see half the problems, and they definitely won't know how to fix them.

Asking someone to code up simple examples on a board ends up just testing a dude's ability to code up simple coding questions. Bug finding/fixing, creating readable and elegant code and the ability to refactor are all much more relevant and important than asking if someone can implement a sorting algorithm or parse a custom data structure.

In the end, I think that by testing candidates this way it'll make it more likely that the people you hire actually have skills that are important to their daily work.

As someone who regularly interviews prospective engineers at my current gig, I see no problem with expecting candidates to arrive prepared to answer algorithm questions or questions about their strongest programming language.

And as someone growing to be an expert in programming languages, I'd appreciate if Google didn't immediately peg me as "useless academic" for using something other than C++, Java, and Python.

Ditto on Amazon.

I'm reasonably sure I failed a couple of job interviews for being more familiar with Scala than Java.

Actually, for reference of why I mentioned those languages in specific, it's because the following scene happened in these interviews:

Interviewer: Could you figure out how to solve a blah blah blah for me in whatever language you prefer?

Myself: By "whatever" language, do you mean whatever language? Is Scala ok?

Interviewer: We'd prefer C++, Java, or maybe Python. Try with one of those.

It's one of those things like the "pieces of flair" in Office Space. If you require an object-oriented, weakly-typed, imperative language whose syntax you've seen a thousand times before, please specify so. Don't put out job ads looking for creative, intelligent professionals who think outside the box and then tell me, when I come to the interview, that I can paint it any color as long as it's black.

A (very naive) friend of mine started programming in Haskell for a job interview because he thought it'd show the interviewer that he was creative, liked to learn things out of the beaten path, etc (after all they said 'your favorite language').

Needless to say the interviewer was very confused and irritated, and asked him to switch to Python/C++/Java after 15 minutes. He didn't get a followup interview (this was with a big major tech company too)

One mistake (of his):

The point of these programming tasks is not to show off your prowess; most of the time the interviewer is trying understand your thought process and maybe some basic programming abilities. Think of it like a sanity-check.

Showing off turns people off because it can lead to negative team behaviors. Being creative to make life better is good, but there's a line between that and being too clever to work with other people.

Yup, that's basically what I told him.

What's sad is that he wasn't really showing off— he's just one of those computer scientists who loves to geek out and doesn't really think how other people could interpret it; and I guess he was hoping the interviewer would just start nerding out with him, that they'd start talking about how GHC handles lazy evaluation, and that everything would be perfect.

And the interview did its function properly - the position isn't a good fit for that person. If nerding out during the interview about lazy evaluation and purity isn't happening, then its probably all for the better that the interview failed, then to have a disfunctional team with the odd language nerd.

I (and some others) once interviewed a guy who had recently started learning Lisp. He wanted to show off and use it on the whiteboard. Not a problem, theoretically - we've had a guy give us Prolog solutions beautifully explained.

He botched it. We laughed and let him retry in C. He solved it successfully - and also more people than myself could read the solution. Since he was a really junior chap, we didn't really have an issue with the botching.

I am OK with someone showing off. But you have to actually make the run successfully, IMO. Personally, if you can write FizzBuzz as a call/cc continuation, more power to you. I really want to see if you can grasp the upper reaches of computational abstraction in our field, i.e., show off. But trying and failing doesn't really win you points, at least with me.

It's only showing off if you think Haskell programmers are better than everyone else ;-).

Scala is great, I wish it saw wider use.

But given your claim to be an expert in programming languages and that many teams need C++, Java, and Python skills, perhaps a little flexibility on your part would go a long way?

Or given that such flexibility is not an option, why not target teams that need Scala skills instead of complaining about the teams that don't?

I actually can program in C, C++, Java and Python just fine, and I've repeatedly told the companies so (and have published portfolio work in Java and Python). Where they faulted me was for falling back on Scala syntax in my psuedocode answers to interview questions, rather than immediately jumping into "ordinary thought" in an imperative, weakly-typed, object-oriented language.

If I worked with X most recently and I tell you so, could you allow that I'll have X at the top of my head in the interview rather than Y, Z, A or B? I'm not going to totally swap-out everything about my last job and my hobby projects from my brain for the sake of someone who hasn't even offered me a job yet.

"being more familiar with Scala than Java" is a few miles east from "cannot/will not write pseudocode comprehensible to people who don't grok functional languages".

As with most communications distances, that depends entirely on where the other person is sitting. I never use monads, for instance, and only use type-classes when they look really applicable. Still, if the person I'm talking to has never heard of a map() primitive outside of MapReduce, that causes issues.

And then the #1 thing that really causes friction is recursion. Most people interviewing on behalf of BigCo's seem to think recursive algorithms are dirty and will always/almost-always overflow your stack. I learned in second-semester of freshman year of college that with a little work, every recursive algorithm can be made tail-recursive can be made iterative, and that rejecting recursion wholesale is premature optimization.

The best interviewer I had on the topic (who couldn't offer me a job because I'm a hardcore algorithms/CS guy and he ended up needing front-end web developers, no harm no foul) accepted my recursive answer and then proceeded by asking me to make it iterative. That was the best, in my opinion, both because it shows a level of "academic" knowledge about recursion and iteration, but also because it was exactly what I would have to do in a real job situation: transform a theoretically correct algorithm into a usable implementation that can perform well.

The people I want to criticize are the ones who seem to believe, or want to believe, that no such usable implementations of functional or academic techniques can exist, categorically, and hence that anyone who answers a question with anything so "functional" as a recursive algorithm must be a stack-overflowing, head-in-the-clouds academic or simply an amateur. Hence why I bring up Scala and why I'm not much of a Haskell programmer: it's damn well readable and usable for people who aren't functional-programming gurus, you can write code in it that plays well with CPU and memory, you can use a wide ecosystem full of libraries, and it comes with just enough functional magic baked into itself in just the right way to make the "magic" parts (like the Option functor) easy to learn and use for people who don't care about functional programming theory.

Funny, a lot of the technical questions I had to do in pre-screens and in the interview itself were naturally solved via recursion and were what the interviewer was looking for. This is both with Google and large financial companies.

Like I said, the interviewer who asked me to convert recursion to iteration, who knew something about it beyond "Dirty!", was a great guy with whom I had a great time. The fact that my quite-sufficient-in-his-opinion algorithmic skills ended up not being what his company actually needed doesn't change that it was a wonderful interview.

I write tail-recursive functions in C using gotos sometimes. I figure why bother with recursion when the function call would be two jmps, register spills, and stack growth?

I'd say you are doing it right, it's just too bad the companies you had these experiences with don't understand you are a solid candidate.

It's really not that bad. I ended up back in academia getting a funded MSc, and at this level I'll be interviewing in summers or at the end of my degree for industrial positions that are more in line with what I want anyway. Why not walk to the door that says, "Research and Development Engineer" rather than "Generic Software Engineer N+1"?

Definitely; I'd much rather do R&D as well. Good luck!

The allocation policy is something that people are not fans of, but it isn't as bad as you make it sound. When I joined Google, I also initially joined a team that was a bad fit for me. However, I transferred to a completely different team (from enterprise server software to consumer mobile software) after 4 months of near zero productivity, and the new team was a perfect fit.

Much of Google's culture is based on being willing to tolerate mistakes and fix them rather getting everything perfect the first time. This applies to both the computer systems (the system should keep running even if part of the network fails) and people. In the latter case, it means the person should be aware that things aren't always perfect and proactively try to adapt and improve the situation. Unfortunately, this chaotic method doesn't always work for everyone and people who want perfect order end up getting stuck in a position they don't like, burn out, and leave. Ultimately, this is bad because it results in the loss of good employees who don't like this chaos, and I'm sorry that it happened to you, varelse. However, I prefer this over a situation where I would interview for a given position and my offer would be based on whether or not I was a good fit for the position that particular position. That method would result in losing people who would be able to fit in well somewhere at Google but not with that specific team.

Could you say more about how you arranged to transfer? Others have suggested it is impossible or very difficult, but perhaps they are outliers or victims of older policies. Was it 4 months of trying to be moved, or did you move quickly after trying your assigned role for a while?

(I think I would move the other way, into servers :))

It was <3 weeks from the time I decided I would be more productive in a different group until the time I was at my new desk. The stages were roughly 1) meeting with my manager and manager's manager to notify them that I wanted to transfer. 2) Meet with other teams to find one that was a good fit. 3) Get all the sign offs from people who needed to sign off. Step 2 took most of the time because I didn't want to make the same mistake that I made the first time.

Others who have run into problems and left might be outliers, but it's difficult to come to a solid conclusion based on anecdotes. People who have bad experiences will have stronger feelings and bring up their experiences whenever possible (E.g. michaelochurch who complains about Google every chance he gets) while those who have good experiences like myself don't mention it as much. I only mentioned my case because it was a counterexample to varelse's case, and this is probably true of many others who have had good experiences and don't bother talking about it.

Just remember that the plural of anecdote isn't data, and negative anecdotes tend to suffer from selection bias because they have a greater emotional impact upon the person.

I should note that you probably made that decision before you had a negative perf in your record. If you had waited you'd have been less likely to have had a good experience.

(I'm another who got dropped into a "poor for me" role. I waited too long to think about transferring. The site director said that I shouldn't have made that mistake. A co-worker on the same team who was in a similar situation at an earlier stage, on my advice, proceeded to begin his transfer immediately. He had a much better experience.)

> I should note that you probably made that decision before you had a negative perf in your record.

where would such a negative perf come from? And what is that sort of record's nature? Is there any managers here who could clarify how this whole shebang works?

Google has quarterly "calibration scores" that are assigned by management, but require a lot of political in-fighting because there's a forced curve across the company. You don't see your score but only get a range. "Meets expectations" is what most people get and it's a huge range: from 3.0 (can't transfer, borderline for a PIP) to 3.4 (above average). What this means is that you're managers can smear you and you have no idea that it's happening. Evil much?

Then there's a semi-annual Perfolympics in March and September, which is peer-review driven (engineers drop everything for about 2 weeks to write reviews) but has all sorts of boondoggles that are easy to abuse. For example, there's unsolicited feedback and even manager-only feedback that you don't see. Google routinely has to pay out settlements because of aftermath of this system. If you work in technology, chances are that you know a couple people who've collected six-figure settlements because of things said about them in the Perf system. Needless to say, this only gives Google further incentive toward secrecy.

Also, Perv really is a "permanent record". A bad Perf will block you from getting promotions and transfers 5 years later.

Google is nothing if not abusive with data, although in this case, I'm hesitant to call that deeply subjective garbage "data".

You are spouting nonsense sprinkled with vague half-truths. You have a distorted view of what one part of Google might have been like for the short time you were there.

There is no forced curve. One of your "Perfolympics" is actually optional. Perf is technically a permanent record, but promotion committees will rarely look back beyond one or two cycles (e.g. up to a year). Five years is nonsense.

My bad experience aside, I got over it, and life as a Xoogler is fine. In fact, I think I'm on better terms with Google as an ex-employee than when I worked there. And that's because the thing I'm really really good at is at odds with the core beliefs of Google's management. This begs the question of why they so aggressively recruited me in the first place, but really, that's mostly water under the bridge now. And that question is answered, I suspect, by the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.

In the end, if a team at google in need of my specific skills (cue obligatory Liam Neeson schtick) recruited me, I'd happily go back. I don't expect that to happen, and in fact, the one project that remotely resembled something I'd want to do there got deprecated.

Life goes on...

I think this is something that varies by office and by manager. I was told that maybe they could let me transfer after a year, but that even a low "meets expectations" score would mean zero chance of being able to transfer.

This is essentially correct. 3.4 is fine, but 3.0-3.1 means you are dead and may not even know it. It's utterly immoral, because a lot of employees at 3.0-3.1 think they're doing fine. Their managers are just giving them low scores to keep them captive.

What's amazing to me is that employees don't know their rights. If your manager deliberately interferes with your work performance, that's illegal (harassment law). If a company allows transfer, then exploration of internal opportunities is part of the job. A manager who makes transfer impossible through negative reviews is interfering with work performance and therefore breaking the law. (That, by the way, is why "calibration" happens in secret.)

I'd love to see this turn into a huge class action lawsuit against every company (including Google) that does that shit. Serves the fuckers right.

> Their managers are just giving them low scores to keep them captive.

From reading these comments in this thread, it seems that this score is used to evaluate whether to allow the said employee to transfer.

Now, a manager has incentive to keep the best people in his/her team. Is this 3.0-3.1 score something they do so that a good programmer but is somehow "bored" with the crappy work (and face it, there is always crappy work) don't try to all leave?

IF that is the case, then there is something wrong.

From reading these comments in this thread, it seems that this score is used to evaluate whether to allow the said employee to transfer.

HR won't stop transfer with a 3.0-3.1, especially if those are more than a year in the past, but no one will want you. It's the standard ill of closed-allocation shops. When projects compete for people, the result is better projects. When people compete for projects, the result is worse people.

Captivity is the most common reason for bad perf. Second place is plain old punishment for things that are political in nature. In third place is "storying", which is when a manager gives bad reviews (and often projects with low visibility and no hope of success) to a good employee to bring him within an inch of his life, puts him through a PIP, and then starts giving him more reasonable scores. The manager gets a story about "rescuing" an "underperformer" and looks like a good boss, but the employee is lucky to transition into the company's lower-middle class, because no one wants a guy who was put on a PIP 5 years ago (having stayed with the company, while under the PIP, reflects on him worse than the PIP itself). The fourth-place cause of bad performance reviews is when the manager takes out someone he fears might be better than him.

Somewhere about #13 on that list is actual low performance, because 95+% of real underperformers are so good at underperforming as to be political wizards (they have a lifetime's worth of experience playing politics, since they can't rely on ability) and never end up on the Perf list.

Thank you for sharing. I had imagined Google was a place to "shop around" for a good fit. Whilst they seem much further from this than, say, GitHub, I'm glad someone came up with a counterclaim to the immutable blind allocation.

FYI, when I was there the company policy was that you had to spend 18 months in your initial allocation. Exceptions are... exceptions.

What prevented you from moving to a different field? Is Google not the dynamic, chaotic mass of teams that I've been led to believe?

LOL. Google is still a company, and the employees are hired to deliver stuff that the executives decide is important. It is not a college or grad school where you can switch between majors or research topics at will. Usually you have to stay for about 18 months in an assignment before you can successfully change to another group. Otherwise, there's always the door; which almost everybody prefers, considering how easy it is for them to find jobs they like outside of the big G.

Interesting. I thought the various groups inside Google competed for engineers? To the extent that there are posters advertising working on Chrome/Android etc.

Given that it is "easy" for people to leave, I would have thought the policies would be forced to change?

> "Given that it is "easy" for people to leave, I would have thought the policies would be forced to change?"

I wish this were true. Certainly, if people were more careful about how they spend their lives, this would be true.

However, you need to consider the average (or even above average) young engineer and how he makes decisions. Sit in a computer lab at a major engineering university and start a conversation with the CS and EE students to see what kind of work they want to do. They have no idea. These kids work themselves raw to get perfect grades in EECS programs that require all-nighters to get the work done, but at the end of the day, they are as confused about The Good Life as anyone.

Most of these kids have had heavy pressure from their families to do well in school, and that same pressure pushes them into a "prestigious" company like Google. Recruiting flyers actually use the word "prestigious" (same for recruiting flyers for the various engineering student groups and fraternities), which I think must be specifically targeted as Asian students' cultural background.

A lot of great minds I have studied with simply shrug when asked what they want to do for a career. Hence Google has its pick.

A lot of great minds I have studied with simply shrug when asked what they want to do for a career. Hence Google has its pick.

Admittedly, many people know damn well what we like doing, but are just about equally sure there aren't any actual jobs doing it.

For example, I like academia. It's not perfect, and I could certainly make some improvements (like more money, less bureaucracy, less enforced hierarchy, and more personalization of... everything), but next to business life (at both a mid-sized corporate environment and a niche bespoke software business), I like it and I'm good at it. That doesn't mean there are anywhere near as many jobs available for aspiring academics as there are qualified aspiring academics.

Eventually, something has to give.

You're thinking Valve.

I futilely attempted to get reassigned to something close to field D (really, B, C, E, or F would have been just peachy) and that seemingly got me flagged as trouble internally.

"Meets Expectations" ranges from 3.0 to 3.4, and employees in this range have no idea where in that interval they landed, even the career effects of the numbers are dramatically different. 3.4 is above average, while 3.0 is fatal to transfer and promotion, even years later, but unlikely to get someone actually fired. There are several managers who've been caught using 3.0-3.1 to keep people captive but unaware of the fact that they've been internally blacklisted. It's disgusting but it happens.

Whoever came up with the "innovation" of making review history part of a transfer packet (and that has nothing to do with Google; it pre-dates it) is a domestic terrorist and should get the same treatment that all the other terrorists get. It's a horrible system that eats companies from the inside. Enron's cultural decline (leading in macroscopic ethical lapses and bankruptcy) has been established to be a direct result of its globally-visible, mobility-destroying review system.

Google's Perf is a play-for-play copy of Enron's PRC, but Google probably won't go the way of Enron for extrinsic reasons. A lot of Enron employees had nowhere to go (for geographical and specialty reasons) and had to make ethical compromises to beat PRC, whereas a lot Googlers leave for greener pastures when that happens.

WAT? Enron was a scam from the very highest levels of the corporation. Unless you're suggesting that Kenneth Lay got a 3.0 from his board of directors and reacted accordingly, this is a ridiculous comparison.

Apologies in advance for the Gladwell link, but he's likely referring to Enron's "star system": http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm

I'm not disputing that there were silly McKinsey-ite management practices in place at Enron. I'm disputing the idea that those practices had anything to do with Enron's failure. The reason 'michaelochurch invoked Enron in his comment was to link Google with Enron, as if to imply that Google's internal management practices would eventually result in a similar comeuppance. That's an absurd connection to make.

The reason 'michaelochurch invoked Enron in his comment was to link Google with Enron

This is pretty much it. The companies have diametrically opposite reputations, so it arouses not a small chuckle that their performance review systems are almost identical.

as if to imply that Google's internal management practices would eventually result in a similar comeuppance.

Unlikely, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, Enron's executives were criminals. I think that Google's top guys are decent but unseasoned judges of character, which is how stuff like Perf gets through. Companies like Google have an unusually high rate of decent people getting the top jobs, but said decent people are generally terrible at telling when their underlings are lying to them (which, if you're high enough up, is almost always).

Why apologize for a Gladwell link?

Gladwell writes a lot of anecdotes which are then taken as pseudoscience, and unfortunately get repeated as science because of his popularity.


> Michiko Kakutani reviews Malcolm Gladwell's latest book in the New York Times: “Much of what Mr. Gladwell has to say about superstars is little more than common sense: that talent alone is not enough to ensure success, that opportunity, hard work, timing and luck play important roles as well. The problem is that he then tries to extrapolate these observations into broader hypotheses about success. These hypotheses not only rely heavily on suggestion and innuendo, but they also pivot deceptively around various anecdotes and studies that are selective in the extreme: the reader has no idea how representative such examples are, or how reliable — or dated — any particular study might be.”


> This review captures what's been driving me crazy over the last year... an unbelievable proliferation of anecdotes disguised as science, self-professed experts writing about things they actually know nothing about, and amusing stories disguised as metaphors for how the world works. Whether it's Thomas Friedman, who, it seems, cannot go a whole week without inventing a new fruit-based metaphor explaining everything about the entire modern world, all based on some random jibberish he misunderstood from a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur, or Malcolm Gladwell with his weak theories on tipping points, crazy incorrect theories on first impressions, or utterly lunatic theories on experts, it all becomes insanely popular simply because the stories are fun and interesting and everybody wants to hear a good story. Spare me.

>or utterly lunatic theories on experts

I've read (and enjoyed) all of Gladwell's books. Outliers' theme revolved around the idea that in order to be good at anything you need to practice. It popularized the "10,000 hours" principle. I'm not sure how that qualifies as "lunatic".

This is pop-media, not academic research; it's a good "jumping off" point. God forbid someone tries to be entertaining with their non-fiction. But, last time I checked Gladwell had 3 titles on the NY Times best sellers list, so he probably doesn't care what any of us think.

The problem with the "10,000 hours" principle is may be you will be immensely successful following it. But don't be surprised if you don't.

For you to be successful "10,000 hours" might be one of the many thing that need to fall in place. In many cases it might not even matter, to give you a simple example- If you are born in a society full of tribal wars in some poor country in Africa. I seriously doubt merely putting in 10,000 hours of work will help you out of the situation. The fact is luck, opportunity, being at the right place all matter.

i doubt anyone is claiming that having 10,000 hours put into a skill/craft is going to make you successful. It's merely a pre-requisite, and not the only one at that.

Look at Mozart, for instance. He'd put in his ten thousand hours by the time he was like three.

>"But don't be surprised if you don't."

Necessary, but not sufficient.

>"The fact is luck, opportunity, being at the right place all matter."

True, this was also a theme of the book.

He's in the pocket of big tobacco, wall street and the health insurance industry, for one thing. http://shameproject.com/profile/malcolm-gladwell-2/

That link certainly seems reliable, well-researched, and unbiased.

There's a general "smear" feel to Project Shame. YMMV. I don't find the information at the link compelling.

He has been criticized for a lack of rigor in his assertions.

It's not academic research. The guys is primarily an author selling books, and rigorous academic treatises tend to end up in journals nobody reads.

It's not black and white like that, and the marketplace means that there is a meeting in the middle when assertions are presented scientifically enough for a layperson to ascribe authority to them.

Exactly - I feel guilty citing Gladwell on a forum because it smells factual when in reality it's merely persuasive.

Well, sure, but the problem is the more scientific you get the smaller your readership is. It might not matter so much to you as the author, but your book can't become an object of discussion if it isn't widely read.

It was actually Skilling, at least as much as Lay, who was responsible, but you're right that the corruption existed mostly at the executive levels.

It's probably more likely that Enron's management practices were a symptom rather than a cause of moral depravity, but I tend to think of such things as self-perpetuating. PRC probably didn't do any cultural harm that wasn't already there, but it did no good.

"A lot of Enron employees had nowhere to go (for geographical and specialty reasons) and had to make ethical compromises"

You're not seriously blaming Enron on your average grunt, are you?

If you've heard the recording of the Enron traders joking about the California power crisis you know that some of those grunts were pretty unethical.

No doubt. I'm was implying that the fraud was pervasive in all of the company's strata, that it was not the invention of your average low-level employee and manager.

No, of course not, but it wasn't only grunts who were subjected to PRC.

Are you referring to Enron's stacked ranking practice? I don't think Google does anything approaching that.

At Google, "Perv" history is part of the transfer packet, which means that people with average political-success (sorry, I mean "performance") histories become immobile, creating a low-morale underclass that is good for mailing-list drama but bad for the company. It turns average employees and no-fault lack-of-fit cases into problem employees who have to be pushed out. It's disgusting, and people who believe this is okay shouldn't be allowed to make decisions that affect other people. Or drive. Or breathe.

I know that practice is now typical in companies, but it's morally indefensible. Having "Don't Be Evil" as a motto is no excuse. I think Google is a great company in many ways and I have a lot of respect for the engineers I met there, but the people who designed "Perf" belong in jail for the billions of dollars of shareholder value that they torched for no good reason.

This happens at Microsoft, too.

Have a bad year, get "underperformed". (I dare anyone to have a long career without having a bad year at some point).

Ding! Now it's really hard to move until you've scorched that badness from your record. Your mission is to get a bunch of good reviews, or get promoted, or find a sympathetic ex-manager who's willing to hire you anyway (this is why you need a network, and one reason why the "patron" mechanism emerged -- the patron model compensates for a broken review system and a bunch of busted policies that surround it).

I've been in the software biz 30+ years and I've had really horrible reviews 3-4 times. It can be devastating if you're in an organization run by robotic principles. [btw, I'm not a bozo. You only have my word for that, I know . . . but I'm not :-) ]

I believe you. Bad reviews have a lot more to do with politics than anything "performance" related.

Making the review part of the transfer packet is one of the worst corporate "innovations" designed. It's not just mean-spirited and immoral (because it gives managers a way to keep people captive). It also makes the review process totally pointless. An honest review needs to be between the manager and employee. Here's what you did right, here's what you did wrong. If it starts having long-term effects on the employee's career, then you can no longer have an honest review process because the stakes are too high. There are two options. (1) Give everyone high ratings they don't deserve, so your employees still like you, making the "review" pointless. (2) Give a few bad ratings, and turn no-fault lack-of-fit cases that would usually be resolved with transfer into outright wars that burn up a lot of time and energy and generally hurt the company.

What is wrong with a manager who is considering bringing you onto their team wanting to know about your past performance at the company? I bet that happens at EVERY company. It certainly did at Microsoft.

Because software development is not the 100 metres. You could spend weeks on a particularly elusive and obscure bug and change one line of code. While you were doing that, your colleague built 2 new 'oh wow' features, banging out hundreds of lines. There is no standardised measurement for 'performance' that can rank those two achievements objectively, so to assess performance, it comes down to the subjective opinion, motivations and political goals of the 'assessor'.

More to the point, if the subjective performance metric rewards the latter and punishes the former, the net result is more features AND more bugs.

In other words, it's crap wherever it occurs.

Of course, the manager is going to want to know. People would rather have information than not have it, even if it's wildly inappropriate.

Microsoft was destroyed by stack-ranking and the global visibility of political-success review (I mean, "performance review") history. Are you seriously trying to use Microsoft to make a case?

"Perv" history? They can see what you search for in incognito mode? :-O

Typo for "Perf" - or maybe you are making a joke I didn't get.

Yes, I was making a joke you didn't get.

Intentional typo. A lot of people call it Perv, as in perversion of justice.

A lot of people call it Perv

This is the first time I've heard that term.

> belong in jail for the billions of dollars of shareholder value that they torched for no good reason.

Wait, isn't it the shareholders' risk of investing in a company that torches money for no good reason?

> Enron's PRC

Tried looking this up on Wikipedia, and I'm pretty sure you don't mean "People's Republic of China". Or any of the other disambiguations on the page I ended up on. So even though I'd like to read up on whatever it is you're talking about, I find myself without a clue.

Performance Review Committee. The inspiration for Google's Perf system. (Otherwise, the companies are very different, but they have very similar review systems.)

I don't follow why being an "expert" in D would make you "bored" of Q. If Q is simply a boring field to you, that's one thing (and the appropriate response is to quit and find something better). But it's not your employer's job to give you your dream assignment. If they need Q geeks and you're available, then that's what you're stuck with. That's what being an employee is all about.

As if geeks are so interchangeable like sprockets! I'm an expert in my field, I have a PhD in it, if someone asked me to do machine learning or data mining or image processing, it would be a huge ramp up time for me, say about 2 or 3 years to get to the point of expertise I have in my current field. It would be a boring 2-3 years, and something that I'm probably not very interested in. If there are other jobs out there that make use of my expertise and interest, why bother with something else?

why would you be bored learning something new?

Depends what it is. I'm actually trying to get into machine learning, but I'm not into databases or knowledge representation even though there is some cross over on my field. My point is that I wouldn't appreciate just being thrown into a new field without any say. I might transition to a new field over time as my interests evolve, or as part of some negotiation where there is a crisis need. But no, I'm not an interchangeable part.

It's not absolute, but relative. E.g. I'd learn some interesting things studying either databases, or rocketry, but I'm pretty damn sure I'd be more interested in rocketry.

Because I might have more interesting things to learn and completely not care about the topic I am told to learn.

One of the things I disliked about Google was the tyranny of At Google. If you didn't do it At Google, it doesn't count. You don't really know the first thing about anything unless you did it At Google. It's an extreme case of institutional arrogance.

This explains the blind allocation policy. If knowledge that is not At Google doesn't count, then there's no point in matching people with their expertise or interests, because a Noogler by definition doesn't know anything.

In July 2011, I did some research on the strategy of the Google+ Games team and saw that the going plan was doomed to failure and seriously risked such embarrassment as to kill the entire product. (Lots of Zyngarbage, preferential treatment to mainstream publishers.) I had some domain expertise from designing a game and spending a lot of time hanging around game designers. So it was pretty easy for me to come up with a strategy that had a damn good chance of actually succeeding. I posted it internally and got a huge amount of engineer support. The strategy was to establish a quality-centered community first by providing a platform for independent developers, integrate it with Hangouts, and become a center for the "German-style" board game sphere. The high quality starting community would establish G+ Games as cognitively upscale, creating a comparative brand advantage that would persist in perpetuity.

By the way, the Google+ Games engineers also got wind of what I'd been proposing and they supported me. It was as obvious as it can be to humans (obviously, no one can predict the future) that this strategy would work. I got a ridiculous number of emails from engineers telling me that I was right on and that they wished they were implementing "Real Games" instead of giving ridiculous preferential treatment to mainstream publishers (who were throwing us mediocre product because they didn't expect us to succeed). What got me in trouble was that a lot of high-level people didn't like that an FNG had so much engineer support.

I was a recognized domain expert, but not an At Google domain expert. There were no At Google games experts, because Google had never gone into the Games space before (and that's smart, because Google did extremely well on web search by being ideologically non-editorial, but for the games space quality is so damn important that you must be editorial.) So it came down to politics, because Google's At-Google bias rendered it incapable of recognizing domain expertise and discovering a correct decision.

Finally I got an email to the effect of, "domain expertise isn't relevant here, deal with it. Besides, you're only a SWE 3." Well, fuck you very much. I don't see why job titles matter when you're about to lose millions of dollars and would have been making as much had you listened to me.

A year later, I was proven right, but it doesn't matter in the least. Google+ Games is a non-concern, and I'm not a part of Google.

The lesson I learned from that ordeal is not to try to "save" a company from itself because you can't. You'll be seen as right, and possibly even lionized, long after you leave... but it won't matter in the least. Keep your head down, stay employed, and enjoy the middle-row seat to the show-- that "show" being the people in charge making fools of themselves.

I don't want to go dredging up all my own boring/painful stories but my experiences at Google were very much like yours. I do want to chime in on this one though, and warn anyone with experience that before you take a job at Google -- be aware that as far as they're concerned you know absolutely nothing. The main thing they care about on your resume is your GPA whether it was last year or 20 years ago.

Again, None of what you are saying seems to be a problem only at Google. These are really MegaCorp problems, and they apply to Google as well.

I knew even from the beginning even 5-6 years earlier, when there was immense desperateness among geeks to work there. It was only a matter of time when all MegaCorp problems will eventually plague Google.

> It was only a matter of time when all MegaCorp problems will eventually plague Google.

this is really interesting - what is the cause of all these problems?

Is it inherent in a hierarchical organization? Is it because you have people who are responsible for the output of others (a manager), but isn't able to actually control that output directly, but is only able to indirectly affect it (and not very well at that)?

I think this issue of "control" is central. Facebook and valve seems to have their structure right (at least, the engineering department). But both is still young and small.

Open allocation seems to have one drawback. You still do need (a few) managers and executives (not to order people around, but to keep track of the bigger picture) but it's hard to hire managers from outside into an open-allocation shop because typically they want promises of authority, and OA is directed through leadership rather than intimidation.

Most companies move toward the closed-allocation end of the spectrum because they perceive a need to do so in executive recruiting. Most executives don't want to take a position where they won't have the power to unilaterally fire people.

Regrettably rhetorical question: And this is not a useful filtering function for most of the executives you'd want to hire?

A company must be able to fire people (I've been in ones that went down the drain because the founders were too nice to do this, or at least do it soon enough), but this sure sounds like Lord Acton's "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

+1, This problem is not unique to Google.

"The lesson I learned from that ordeal is not to try to "save" a company from itself because you can't..."

Agreed in most cases, but you once said that before:


It reads like the parent got brought in as an expert in D, not Q, and then got told to work on Q, which wasn't their expectation. You'd be unhappy at that happening to you, right?

My understanding is that people don't find out their assignment until after the hiring. Sounds like the Air Force: dream of flying jets, end up cleaning toilets. At least at Google one can quit.

It's one of the reason why every time a Google recruiter contacts me, the conversation starts with me interrogating them about what exactly they are able to promise, and so far all but one were able to give answers that made it worthwhile to accept an interview.

If Google had been the hottest place in the world to work, and I'd been fresh out of university, then maybe.

Depends on what he meant by "expert". If he meant he has PhD level expertise in D and that is his life's work, then it's completely understandable he wouldn't be happy doing Q, and would seek to do D elsewhere.

People tend to misuse words like "expert" and "fluent" though, when they're really not, but on HN odds are higher that they're using at least "expert" correctly.

There are some among us that won't do tasks we don't enjoy. Even if it meant that our pay was to be cut, we'd flock elsewhere to seek the fulfillment of being applied to a more meaningful duty. The key here is that 'meaningful duty' is self-evaluated and the organization's value of that position holds no merit or sway to the individual.

"it's not your employer's job" It's in their best interest however to do so, as replacing him costs money.

Yes and no. Replacing someone who can't possibly be happy with the work you have available is cheaper than keeping them on. It depends critically on the details of D and Q. If you get hired by, say, Facebook and refuse to do web development you're going to be a bad fit. The goof here may have been hiring him in the first place.

It's important for both sides to accomodate. But sometimes fits just don't work. If what someone wants to do isn't something you need, or if they aren't as good at it as the other people you have on staff, then the correct fix is just to part amiably. It's no more Google's "fault" than it is varelse's.

It's a matter of resource allocation.

If you hire lots of, I don't know, compiler specialists but you allocate them to write web apps we're all possibly worse off. The issue is, and what you're not cottoning on to, is that in a company the size of Google there's probably a team working on x for all values of x that could maybe use another member.

They're only tolerant of their resource allocation scheme because they probably don't worry about their employee acquisition cost.

With a company the size of Google, it'd be really interesting to deregulate their internal labour market (i.e. what Valve does). Let people switch all the time! If you need to prioritize one boring, yet necessary team allocate higher salaries to it.

If you hire lots of [...] compiler specialists but you allocate them to write web apps we're all possibly worse off.

Speaking from direct experience, faced with the job of developing a framework for web data entry apps, what I ended up doing was writing a dataflow language for data binding. Another ex-Delphi compiler developer, Danny Thorpe, ended up co-creating Google Gears. IMO compiler development is a great basis for a certain kind of thinking about solving problems; but I'm also biased.

Speaking as another compiler guy (ok, more into PL), there is a reason many of the top engineers at Google are PL/compiler guys (e.g., Jeff Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat)...think of MapReduce. However, we are also sort of dangerous as we see many problems as PL problems, and if the problems require specialized domain expertise beyond grunt programming, we really aren't that effective (e.g., machine learning) without being paired with those domain experts.

PL man to PL man, what would you say the prospects are for taking a brain soaked in PL, compilers and software-engineering research expertise outside academia? You know, for when they boot me out of grad-school with a so-called "degree" in a bunch of years ;-).

You have a lot of choices, basically look for anyone with big iron requirements (big data systems/infrastructure). Microsoft, Google, Facebook love PL people. Many startups would be happy to have you also.

Oh wow. Given that my university (Technion) has strong ties to Intel and Marvell, and substantial ties to the local branches of Microsoft and Google too, it sounds like life should someday be good. That'll be nice :-).

Actually, I was at a presentation today for new grad-students, and one of the older grad-student mentors helping to present mentioned that the coursework phase of grad-school is a good time to get a bit of industrial experience in the summers. Once I actually have real grad-level PL experience under my belt I'd quite like to go and see what it's all about.

Sorry for the novice question, but what does PL stand for/refer to? My best guess is programming languages [creating them] but I have zero confidence in it.

EDIT: Sorry, did some research and assuming its this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programming_language_theory

Because programming languages is so tedious to write. Actually, what you are referring to is PLT, which is a bit different from PL implementation and/or design. Implementation is usually associated with compiler, although these days it could be garbage collection, palatalization optimizations, or something else. PL design are the people who design programming languages, like say Hinkley, Mats, Pike, ...and tons of lesser known people.

If Facebook hired someone who wants to work on their compiler and put them on web development I'd regard that as an extremely bad decision.

Wrong. Any company that wants to be successful has to allocate their employees to positions they will excel at. Not doing so is a gross waste of resources.

Its more nuanced than that.

A company might want to hire an expert in Q because having expertise in Q means they are of a high skill level, and thus is able to also do D very well. D might be very mundane, boring or inconsequential from the point of view of the employee (and whether it is in reality as well is quite moot at this point).

THe employee might _want_ to do Q, but D is what makes the company money. Hiring someone who does D (but may not come up with novel solutions for D), or hiring someone who does Q very well, and assigning him/her to D in the hopes that they do a great job - which is better for the company?

Back in 2007 I got quite far through the Google hiring process, up to an on-site interview and being told to expect an offer the Thursday after I returned home. I was ready to move half-way across the country and get started living in the bay area, moving my life to there.

That Thursday came and went, and I found out that due to some internal bar-raising I would not be receiving an offer. I stayed here in the Detroit area, moved up with my current company, married my wife, and settled into being quite happy here.

Five years on I regularly have Google recruiters contacting me both via phone and email, asking if I'm interested in a position, and exclaiming how good the interview feedback was. When I decline to revisit any opportunity which would require me to move across the country, the recruiters are universally flabbergasted.

Sorry Google, the time when I was excited to move across the country has passed. I still want to do interesting things, I'll just do them on my terms now.

I always thought that strange too. I get a fair number of recruiter emails, and almost all of them seem to assume out of hand that relocation is the least of my concerns, when it probably easily the #1 thing. Every reply I give[1] ends up being a cheeky way of mentioning that I have a life and a home in a place and I do not intend to abandon it for a mere job.

Perhaps my current job isn't the most interesting thing in the world, but I love my coworkers, my family, my friends, my little town. That's a lot for a job offer to compete with.

[1] http://simonsarris.com/blog/626-why-i-love-recruiters

Let's hope you can afford to do that for many years to come. When the choice is between relocating or unemployment, an average job offer suddenly gets much more interesting.

Unfortunately, here in Europe things are starting to change for the worse.

> Unfortunately, here in Europe things are starting to change for the worse.

For very geographically specific values of "Europe". Lots of places are on the contrary seeing things improving. Europe isn't a single entity.

If a growth rate of 0.5% for the EU is not a good indicator of an economic slowdown, then you must be talking about Europa, Jupiter's moon. I know that EU < Europe, but we're talking about almost all of Europe's greatest economies here.

Yes, I know some countries are doing better than others and that in some places unemployment is even decreasing, but taking into account the fact that Spain is on the verge of bankruptcy and countries such as France and Italy are being hit by austerity, I see no reason for optimism.

Averages across hundreds of millions of people easily mask that substantial areas and sectors are thriving. Yes, it sucks if you're in low level jobs in the weaker markets. If you're in other sectors and markets you will instead be hounded by recruiters. The place I currently work, we have to be lightning quick when hiring these days, because the candidates we want get snapped up within a couple of days.

And does that make the european crisis a localized thing? If any, such anecdotal evidence shows us that it is possible for a company to thrive even in the worst of scenarios (which is a positive thing, I agree), but extrapolating any macroeconomic data from that makes no sense.

Even considering that there are sectors that don't suffer as much (or even get some benefit) from this crisis and that you're working in one of those, everyone will be worse off in the long run. Or is your job the only thing in the economy that influences your well-being?

Key quote.

Since I’ve been out of the Silicon-Valley-centred tech industry, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society. Companies like Google and Facebook — in common with most public companies — have interests that are frequently in conflict with the wellbeing of — I was going to say their customers or their users, but I’ll say “people” in general, since it’s wider than that. People who use their systems directly, people who don’t — we’re all affected by it, and although some of the outcomes are positive a disturbingly high number of them are negative: the erosion of privacy, of consumer rights, of the public domain and fair use, of meaningful connections between people and a sense of true community, of beauty and care taken in craftsmanship, of our very physical wellbeing. No amount of employee benefits or underfunded Google.org projects can counteract that.

Well hold on a damn minute. True community? The internet didn't erode that, bad city planning and work-centered, geographically unrooted lifestyles did that. Craftsmanship? Commodification and mass manufacturing did that. Physical well-being? Cheap, shitty food and sedentary lifestyles centered around sedentary jobs did that.

Google has historically both been reliant on fair use and the public domain and has defended such in court. I'm not saying they did it out of altruism, but substantial precedents that help solidify fair use come out of Google's activities in court.

Please don't propagate the myth that Google asks prospective programmers questions like, "How many golf balls could you fit on a bus?" Google interviewers list the questions they asked when they write up their conclusions, and anyone who asked a question like that for an engineering interview would be immediately contacted by the hiring commitee and told not to do it again.

What's actually in the post: "If you are a Google recruiter, and you want me to interview for SWE or SRE or any role that has an algorithm pop quiz as part of the interview, [...]"

I was asked about algorithms for my internal reinterview to transfer from SRE (O ladder) to SWE (T ladder) in 2010. It was the usual sorting algorithm complexity stuff. That's never been my strong suit, and I'm sure I disappointed the interviewer. I sure felt like crap afterwards.

On the other hand, the second interviewer engaged me in practical matters like designing a class which would do some things, and would be thread-safe, and how I'd rig it. Also there was the question of what you could do without a mutex for whatever reason, and when you needed to suck it up and burn the CPU time on it. Then we got into the actual design of a class like Mutex and the helper MutexLock wrapper normally used with it in the depot, and so on, and so forth. I imagine the responses from that individual helped balance out the algorithm drilling I got the day before.

Where are you seeing the "golf balls" question in this post? What you said is true, that it's a crap question, and asking it would probably draw attention to you, but why did you even bring it up? It's like you're blaming the writer for propagating something when it hasn't even been mentioned.

Personally, I think that this whole "oral exam" style of interview is completely wack. If you have a lot of experience with it, then you are likely to do great, and if you don't, then you are likely to suck at it.

When I was in high school, for instance, I was on the math team, and the first year, I got four questions right the entire year! By the time I was a senior, I got four answers right every meet, on average

Did I get smarter between being a sophomore and being a senior? Not at all! I just had a lot more practice of that style of thinking in that particular kind of situation.

This being said, the golf ball question is no more ridiculous than any of the other questions that Google might ask you. That sort of question is designed to see whether you can do a "back of the envelope calculation" that will get you within an order of magnitude of the right answer. Being able to do this sort of calculation is actually an important skill for any kind of engineer to be able to do. I don't think, however, it important skill to be able to do while in one of the most stressful situations you will ever face in life.

Also, I have to take issue with the claim that Google doesn't ask you brain teasers. I interviewed there about three years ago, and I was definitely asked a brain teaser. It was couched as an algorithms question, but it wasn't the sort that you'd see in a typical algorithms class. It was the sort of question where you only come to the answer by having a leap of insight and a light bulb goes on over your head. I.e., this is how all "brain teasers" work. And most "Mathlete" questions, for that matter.

The problem with this sort of question is that if the light bulb doesn't go off in your allotted 20 minutes, then you look like an idiot. And if it does go off, you look like a genius. What if it goes off after 25 minutes when you're in the elevator? Too bad!

You might argue that you can talk it through, but this doesn't usually work for me. To solve this sort of problem, I usually just have to stare at the wall in silence until it comes to me. During the interview, I drew geometric shapes on a piece of paper. The interviewer must of thought that I was stupid. Or as stupid as you can be while wearing a Brass Rat. Until I came up with the right answer at minute 19.5, and then he must have wrote down, "Very smart indeed!" Or at least that's what I imagine, since they did ask me back for another round.

The assumption is that, if you were a genius, you'd be able to come up with that eureka spark in the time allotted in the interview.

I won't discuss whether this assumption is correct or not. But i will discuss that even if you hired such a genius, it would not ultimately make the company any more money, unless you could put such genius to great use rather than grunt work (which a genius would do no better than the grunt - thats why its called grunt work).

> Did I get smarter between being a sophomore and being a senior? Not at all!

You learned nothing in 2 years of high school? Huh.

> You learned nothing in 2 years of high school? Huh

The type of questions that they asked at a math meet never exceeded the knowledge contained in Algebra and Geometry, which I had learned by the end of 9th Grade. Mathletic events were designed this way so all high school students could participate on an equal footing.

So, no, I learned nothing during those additional three years that increased my abilities on the math team. The only thing that increased my abilities on the math team was practicing solving the sort of algebra and geometry math brain teasers that they asked at math meets within very limited time constraints.

There's not a math meet problem that I ever saw at one of those math meets that I couldn't have solved on my own given enough time.

She links to to an article that propagates said myth. Click on "arbitrary technical puzzles".

Okay, there it is. That makes a little more sense. Thank you!

What do you mean by "O Ladder" and "T Ladder"?

Those were (are?) the designations for certain types of jobs over there. You might think that if you're hired into the company, your possibilities are wide open, but they aren't. System administrator flavored SREs (site reliability engineers) could only get other SA-flavored jobs, of which there are relatively few. Meanwhile, software engineer (SWE) type SREs could go into any other SWE job, of which there are many.

If you were hired on as a SA-SRE as I was, then you have to do an internal interview to get to be a SWE-SRE. If you can't make it through that, you're stuck. I made it, and a friend did too, but I know people who didn't. I'm sure that makes them feel great, especially if they're already doing SWE type work in their daily jobs.

I was told repeatedly there was no difference between the types, but found out the hard way when it was time to transfer from a toxic situation and there were few alternatives. It took over a year to finally get it all sorted out.

Google was well known for logic brain teasers like that in years past - there was a time when Google recruitment was defined by such questions.

They've since stopped, and sadly it looks like Microsoft has taken up the mantle for stupid irrelevant logic questions.

I had an MS interview a few weeks ago and it contained no irrelevant logic questions. Sure it involved moronic things like regurgitating Moore's voting algorithm and atoi but it at least involved code.

retaken, perhaps.

True. Microsoft has been famous for those for decades.

Many others have read the published books and incorporated the same in their processes.

I had a series of interviews that was all logic questions with a trick that you had to decode to successfully answer it.

It's cute, and everyone gets to feel really proud of themselves if they can solve an applied prisoners dilemma for the answer everyone in the room is looking for, but it's not relevant to the performance of any position that I was being considered.

I'm involved in a lot of interviews and I think the problem is getting worse. Taking all of your questions from a certification exam, constructing a bubble sort, or talking about why manhole covers are circles might be satisfying to a bad interviewer, but does no one a service IMHO.

I'd suggest diving deep into past work experience and ask them to show you something that they have done well so that you can understand the utility that they provide. Very few people that I encounter do this and then try to pound round pegs into square holes.

I've spent some time at MSFT (including a transfer) and know a few recent hires across the lake and NONE of them (including myself) have had any of these sort of questions. A few data structures and algorithms type questions, but never the 'how many pennies fit in this room' type stuff that they're supposedly so famous for.

Were they well known for it because they did it, or because people assumed they did it? An awful lot of people immediately jump to "stupid brain teasers" when hearing "they ask technical questions". I have people write code and solve actual problems during interviews, and have gotten several "these kinds of riddles are a waste of time" responses from people who are offended by the notion that I want them to be competent.

From my limited anecdotes of the time, I believe Google actually did it. We're not talking about programming-related brain teasers here, we're talking about non-programming ones.

e.g., "3 light bulbs in a room" and "family crossing the bridge" being the classic examples.

Never heard the family crossing the bridge one. Which one is that?

You have a bridge that can only take a certain amount of weight at once without collapsing. It's dark at night and you have only one flashlight. A flashlight is required to cross the bridge, which is traversable in both directions.

You have a family of people of varying weights (the exact numbers you'd have to look up) - determine the optimal way for the family to make it across the bridge.

Thanks. I don't think that's a bad one. In fact, like the Towers of Hanoi, I think it has enough parallels with computer science and engineering to be a good interview question.

Indeed, it is a specific instance of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knapsack_problem

I've heard the same thing, always from unreliable "I heard" sources. I've never heard anyone who actually did interviews or was interviewed say that.

I was interviewed by Google and had to answer this "brain teaser" kind of questions. So, no, it is not just folklore.

Can you be specific with some examples? As demonstrated elsewhere in the thread, some people perceive the same questions as appropriate and others perceive them as "brain teasers".

Funny, I was asked that exact question at Google. Granted, it was ping pong balls, and it was an airplane, but same thing. It was also 2005, for an APM position, coming straight out of college.

Truthfully, for a kid coming straight out of college, that's not such a terrible question to ask. (No, I didn't get the job. :P) It allows you to start from a totally neutral knowledge position, and lets you see how a person thinks critically about an unorthodox problem - one they almost certainly haven't seen before.

The problem comes when kids start training for such problems, instead of just tackling the sorts of interesting challenges that would inadvertently cause them to approach this question well...

Why would that even be a bad question to ask?

Because they're not real logic questions and they don't predict anything. It's about the same as judging someone's programming/design/writing/etc. ability by making them do crossword puzzles or Sudoku.

The LSAT is filled with logic games, and they are nothing like a silly question like, "how many golf balls could you fit on a bus." They are actual logic questions that have a definitive answer that tests your reasoning abilities.

Being good at brain teasers does not make you intelligent; it makes you good at brain teasers. And they don't help prevent Alzheimer's, so they're really just a way for board people to pass time.

> a silly question like, "how many golf balls could you fit on a bus."

Why is it a silly question?

Because it makes all sorts of assumptions that are outside the scope of what you really want to test.

First, it assumes familiarity with golf balls. I have friends who grew up in Manhattan who have never seen a golf ball. They may have seen one on TV, but that doesn't let you really gauge the size of something.

Second, it assumes familiarity with buses, and assumes the interviewer and the interviewee are talking about the same kind of bus. Are we talking about a school bus or a big-city reticulated bus?

Third, it tests skills you're not testing. I live in the city and take the bus all the time, and I don't know whether a bus is 20 feet long or 70 feet long. I'm not good at visually estimating measurements. That might be a skill relevant to a carpenter, but not so much to a programmer. Even if you assume you have the measurements, then you also have to visualize the packing structure of the golf balls. This also tests spatial skills, which are arguably not highly relevant to a programmer.

Brain teasers are generally stupid because they are under formalized. I agree with the poster above. If you want to test logical skills, give someone a section of the logical reasoning section of the LSAT. Those questions were carefully designed to test logical reasoning and to avoid testing other things.

Generally speaking, when questions like these are asked (I used to work somewhere that did them, and was often responsible for evaluating the responses), nobody cares that you come up with the right answer.

Rather, I should specify, the right answer looks like this: Let's say a golf ball is approximately 2 inches in diameter, and let's say that the bus is approximately 20 feet long on the interior, with seat backs that are approximately 6 inches thick, seats that are approximately 8 inches thick, sit 18 inches off the floor, and are supported with posts of approximately 1.5 inches diameter.

The key is in being able to break down a problem, identify the challenges (seats are wonky shaped, for example), identify all the components of the problem (e.g., seats take up space, seat posts take up space, buses aren't perfect rectangles, etc.) and all that.

For what it's worth, I've evaluated that question more than a few times during interviews, and I have absolutely zero idea how many golf balls you can fit into a bus. If you don't know what kind of bus, ask. If you don't know the dimensions, ask.

If you're going to throw up your hands and claim that the problem is unsolvable (plenty of people do, some even got hired), then perhaps a job in solving problems with possibly unforeseeable parameters isn't the job you want.

There are plenty of other problems with the question, sure, but the key is in being able to figure out what the parameters are, at least loosely define them, and come up with a strategy for working the problem out. In the best answer I ever got, the guy asked to borrow the whiteboard and started charting out equations to calculate it (with variables such that if he was off on the diameter of the golf ball, you could replace it with the correct value and re-run the calculation). I stopped him well before he got anywhere close to actually solving the problem and recommended he be hired.

Of note, I do not now nor have I ever worked for Google, so I can't say how they perform those, if it is even true that they did, but that's how I've always approached them.

The problem is that people who aren't familiar with golf balls, etc, might be so put off by the question it impairs their ability to think through the problem. You're biasing the question against specific groups of people, on criteria that are completely irrelevant to the job.

I used ask "can you break down the problem" questions all the time. I'd base them on programming tasks. Because, you know, I was interviewing programmers.

That's a fair critique, and pretty much what I said the first time I was asked to join the interviews to evaluate the answers.

Regardless, I do believe that being able to ask "how big is a golf ball" when you don't know is a crucial skill to possess, and I've found (anecdotally) that the people who threw their hands up, but were hired anyway, generally had poorer work performance because they either didn't know how to ask for help, or weren't willing to admit that they didn't know something.

Humility is a very good skill for any programmer I think.

The desired result is not "X golf balls will fit in a bus" but the process of how the interviewee approaches the problem.

Are they entirely baffled by the question? Are they stuck, with no idea about how to proceed? Or do they ask for more information from the interviewer? Interviews are not about quizzes; they're a discussion. This question is a great way to start a discussion with someone.

"Well, I've never played golf, but I do play squash. So, I'll use a squash ball as a start."

"I have no idea how big a bus is. Let's assume a cuboid of let's say 10 ft by 10 ft by 30 ft."

"Really this question has some sphere packing stuff in there. Being honest, visualising that kind of thing is not my strong point. I'm much better at things like $TOP_THREE_HERE. So, I'll use a weak version first to get a ballpark figure. Let's just line the balls up in a grid (as if each ball is a cube), where each ball touches 6 other balls, or the some other balls and the floor, sides, or roof of the bus."

If anyone is using the question as you've suggested then yes, it's a bad question and they've failed. But you've missed the point of the question.

I wouldn't say those are the reasons the questions suck. The idea of asking it is not to get a good answer but to discover the process by which someone would approach an unsolvable or half-solvable problem. In other words, they use it to see how you think through the problem.

The issue I have is, if you don't know that when you're asked that question, it's easy for a good candidate to freeze up because they don't know what is really being asked of them. In other words, it's like taking someone off the street and giving them the SATs. Their score is going to suck compared to if they prepared for it. So what you're really doing is testing their ability to take an arbitrary test, or jump through hoops. Since Google prefers advanced degrees, they probably are already pretty good at jumping through hoops, so it's a bit of a pointless exercise that can throw off great candidates completely if they aren't prepared for it.

It's not a silly question at all. You can completely parameterize the answer in terms of bus volume and golf ball size, or define a "best guess" by explicitly defining your assumptions on the size of a golf ball or a bus in the question. Finally, you should at least be able to provide a magnitude.

Or, you know, you could always just ask what size a golf ball, and bus is.

It seems to me the only assumption the question makes is that a person could make some logical assumptions about the question, ask some logical questions, or ignore all assumptions and parameterize the answer.

It doesn't make assumptions, YOU make assumptions.

You can calculate a "valid" response in function of the bus volume and the ball radious f(v,r) without assuming anything and without having any real data.

Off course you can also focus on the "supidity" of the test and that also gives the company an idea of your thinking process and problem solving capabilities.

In any case the test serves its purpose well.

Because it could lead to an algorithmic discussion of numerical integration by shells vs numerical integration by disks from integral calculus, a discussion about 1-3 sig fig engineering estimation and error estimation and error propagation, maybe a discussion about circle packing efficiency.

It's an analysis of four things: How an applicant socially responds to ridiculous requests outside their previous experience, and how they handle initiating and architecting a "large" engineering project from a vague request, how mathematically well educated an applicant is, and how wide the knowledge level of the applicant extends (basically a psuedo IQ test, with all the legal risks that implies).

This is vitally important for a handful of positions, but a complete waste of time for most positions, thus silly.

I'd have to disagree with "they don't predict anything".

Do you think P(intelligent|good at brainteasers) > P(not intelligent|good at brainsteasers)?

I'm not saying it's the best test, most accurate, etc. but if someone is really good at brainteasers I'd post it's more likely than not that they're intelligent. There's probably false negatives with people who are intelligent but bad at brainteasers. But for a filtering test (when Google has too many applicants anyhow) I can see why they're used.

Because they've been shown time and time again to tell you if someone is good at answering brain teasers rather than if someone is good at being a programmer/engineer/whatever.

*citation needed

Because it was popular in the past, and nothing is more out of fashion now than what was in fashion last year.

I may be making the problem worse but both this post and the comments section are some of the worst I've seen on HN -- from linkbaity title to incorrect possessive pronouns (I barely speak English and caught it while skimming), and then the deep analysis of anonymity on G+ completely based on one or two anecdotes with no relation to G+, anonymity, or even the Internet.

Why is this submission at 80 upvotes? What value am I missing that others are seeing?

Some of what Google does is tech industry gospel - for example things like technical interviews. When there's faults with it, that's relevant to my interests, as I might want to avoid their mistakes at my own company.

That's why I found the article interesting, at any rate.

>When there's faults with it, that's relevant to my interests, as I might want to avoid their mistakes at my own company.

Same here, except that is why I found the article to be a crappy, linkbait, waste of time. It wasn't about mistakes in google's hiring process, it was a personal rant about what the author dislikes about google.

You're not providing much value with your comment yourself. I thought it was an interesting personal story of what can happen the company you work for gets acquired by a large company. Just because it's not "top 10 hiring mistakes" doesn't make it uninteresting. The comments also include far more insight than usual into things that aren't necessarily found elsewhere.

How would he provide value on top of something that he perceives of not having any itself?

I didn't say nobody could find it interesting. I said the title is misleading, thus wasting the time of people who were expecting content appropriate to the title. The content would still be interesting to you if the title reflected the content.

Sorry, I must be being dense. How is the title linkbaity? It's as close to a literal description of the article content as I can imagine. What should the title be?

It seemed like linkbait to me, too. It sounds like a slightly different version of "Why I left Google."

Hi. I submitted this article. Frankly, I don't think that skud ever expected this to get onto Hacker News. I'd never heard about her before her article - in fact I found out through David Gerard of Wikipedia fame via Facebook and I thought it was interesting enough to submit to HN.

I don't think there was anything intentionally link-baity about the title. It is what it is.

Just a criticism of Google Plus and how it is not the all the goodness what we expected it to be

the real name thing is stupid. I have created and use google plus by a fake name but since it does not sound fake, I have not been flagged.

"Skud" is not a fake name to her.

I think the post is negative. With all the awesome stuff going on in tech, I don't think we need to spend our time writing (or reading!) negative posts like this. It's unlikely to help anyone and only serves to get the rest of us all upset. Google has done some awesome stuff and the experience of a few (or even a moderate amout) people who have worked there isn't helpful to the conversation.

Good news is fluffy candy that is tasty but not very useful. Bad news is harder to eat but is much more useful for survival reasons. Bad-experience outliers at Google are then more interesting than average or good outliers. Having a pointless conversation about the joys and successes of Google really doesn't allow me to "know" anything, which is the point of coming here.

None. Linkbait just tends to get upvoted, and sometimes the HN bozo brigade comes out in full force.

I tried, but I found that I can't really identify with the plights of some. Thankfully (for reasons I'd rather not be challenged to justify, except to say that it's apparently good as measured by others) I'm a fairly normal white guy with no marginal traits that might cause me to have different viewpoints than I currently do.

This means that I support the notion real names on Google Plus, and I also believe that all speech should be free, but that you should also have the courage to attach your name to it. Yes, I understand that there are reasonable circumstances in which that would not be ideal, but perhaps due to my aforementioned luxury of being a 'normal' white male, I am ignorant to how much they would matter in real life. I am neither queer nor gender-queer, so while I am empathetic to their struggles, I just can't identify with what are possibly very real concerns about losses of anonymity, and as I've met people who are public with their genderqueer status who haven't been assailed or assaulted, I can't help but wonder if the fear isn't simply perceived fear or not.

Regardless, aside from that (which again, I empathy with, but cannot relate to) the only other thing I took issue with in the article was the categorization of the autonomous vehicle as a 'geek toy'. It isn't, and that marginalizes an entire category of technology that has a very real possibility of changing the world in a very positive way to 'something SV types are wasting money on', which I take issue with.

Even if you are a "normal white male", your wife and children aren't.

It can be fairly trivial to find out family details of a target and harass the wife/children.

Maybe you don't have strong opinions that would inflame someone to the level where they would interfere with your life like that.

But it's ignorant not to have enough empathy to think that does happen in a world where a woman can be stalked/assaulted after someone sees her out jogging.

My 21 year old straight cousin was gay bashed for walking home from a bar with his equal straight friend.

I've been racially profiled even though I'm white because I have a Fred Armistan-like hodge-podge of vaguely ethnic features.

People are dicks.

> I am ignorant to how much they would matter in real life. I am neither queer nor gender-queer, so while I am empathetic to their struggles, I just can't identify with what are possibly very real concerns about losses of anonymity, and as I've met people who are public with their genderqueer status who haven't been assailed or assaulted, I can't help but wonder if the fear isn't simply perceived fear or not.

I live in an Eastern-European country, which also happens to be an EU-member. One of my (female) colleagues told me how two or tree years ago she happened to see a trans-gendered person (I don't know what's the politically correct term) who had just been beaten up during that year's GayFest. "Blood was pouring out of his/her wounds", was what my colleague told us.

That's why I down-votted you, btw, which I only do once every 2-3 months on HN. Not because I don't agree with you, which should not be reasons for down-votting people anyway, but because you kind of choose to view things through very narrow lenses, which is what the article was writing about all the way.

I think you chose an exceptionally poor reason to downvote him. You downvoted him because you disagree with his views ("view things through very narrow lenses"), which is different from downvoting him because you disagree with him only in phrasing.

Downvotes should be for comments that do not add to the discussion. Considering that most of the comments here are in response to him, his comment clearly added to the discussion.

> Considering that most of the comments here are in response to him, his comment clearly added to the discussion.

By your criterion, how would one distinguish between someone "adding to the discussion" and a troll? Or is it your position that trolls add to the discussion, because they elicit responses?

Is this a serious question? Can you generally not tell the difference between a comment that pushes an opinion you disagree with and a comment that exists simply to push buttons? If a "troll" comment is so good that it appears to just be a legitimate comment that you disagree with, then you should probably assume that it's just a legitimate comment that you disagree with.

Downvotes are for disagreements, too.

That's a recipe for hivemind rule: downvote everything you disagree with so that only the things you agree with show up. I think there's enough of an information bubble on HN without actively trying to create one.

That just sounds like an easy way to rationalize your counterargument while avoiding being shown the error in your thinking. If a comment is worth disagreeing over, it is worth explaining why you disagree, otherwise nobody learns anything. Save your voting for the quality of the writing, not the arguments being made.

No, actually it has been discussed elsewhere in other comment threads that downvotes are used for showing disagreement, as well. I didn't come up with this myself; rather, it seems to be convention on the HN community.

If you disagree with this, please feel free to downvote this comment. This isn't reddit, or YouTube comments, where karma is some sort of aspect of prestige. It should be freely given and taken away as part of the natural discourse.

I once thought downvoting as disagreement was disapproved-of (as I would prefer), but in fact it is not: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2164087

Downvoted because I disagree with you.

That's fair, and I'd expect for you to do so. Upvoted for following convention.

I suppose that's fair (though I disagree with it) -- I wasn't being critical of those who are transgendered in any way. I am also speaking from the lens of my own experience, which may clearly differ from those of others. I don't choose for my views to be narrow-minded, and am in fact very open to people of all sorts, I just can't relate, and attempted to proffer justification as to why I couldn't.

I of course wouldn't want to personally be in a situation where I were beaten bloody, nor would I want to be oppressed or invite harm upon myself just to experience the other side of things. Again, I don't discount the plight of the author; I am just thankful that I don't have to live through those experiences myself, and am not personally aware of anyone who has.

Does this narrow my world view? Perhaps. But just as I can't personally relate to the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany, that doesn't mean that I would choose to be hunted / murdered / massacred for the sake of being able to. I acknowledge that what happened there was "Very Bad", and am also able to scope my understanding as to know that nobody that wasn't there will likely fully understand the hell they went through.

Thanks for the explanation of the downvote. I obviously disagree with it as I didn't intend any malice in my post (and was in fact just stating my opinion), but c'est la vie.

This idea that there are no real concerns about losses of anonymity is to me very odd. Its odd, because its obvious that the information is valuable, and the possibility for abuse is almost unlimited.

To point to a few of them, what if, if ever time you drive to fast, your car insurance increased in costs? (already happened in sweden).

What if, if ever time you took a job interview, the company order up a complete review of your activities, actions done at party's, ups, downs, relationship, political affiliation, health status, friends and so on? (some do already, some dont't. Mostly US companies. Companies that do reviews exist but few except the military pay's them regularly).

What if, every time you bought a beer, your medical insurance company got a notice by the friendly credit company and thus added a dime to the premium? (Some credit companies do sell this information, but its not in real-time yet).

What if, at every election, you would have to attach your name to it (thankfully, I have yet to hear about a election like this. I would assume its because the output would be obviously and bad).

Anyway, the categorization of the autonomous vehicle as a 'geek toy' is wrong like you say. The opportunities for improving safety, lowering pollution and improving the traffic system is many.

Regarding the car insurance: This is happening to an extent in the US currently. There are several companies who offer discounted rates for attaching 'trackers' to your car that report your driving behavior back to the insurance company.

I have very real concerns that this will grow to becoming as mandatory as requiring seat belts while driving. I'm sort of mixed on this point because, while this is obviously a very real invasion of privacy, I also tend to drive safely, and wish that more people did. In short, I'm conflicted. That said, just as I am currently able to not use those insurance providers, I am able to blog anonymously from a variety of other sources. I don't have to blog on Google Plus if I don't want to, and I don't believe that we're in danger of any laws being put forth that require real names on every internet post everywhere. If there were, I'd agree that this is a more likely comparison than it is, but I feel it's somewhat contrived at the moment. Your argument is akin to requiring that you HAVE to blog about everything that you do, and is only a matter of whether or not it's received by troublesome parties. I still have the choice whether or not to blog about a given activity, and if I do blog about it, I have the choice of specifying who receives it (or making it altogether private).

Regarding the job interview, if that were the case for all the applicants, I'd probably fare well enough. It should be worth noting that I've opened my life to such intrusion before for a job with the federal government, but I understood that as a condition of employment. If all employers made this common practice, I agree it would be very troublesome.

Skipping a little bit, all of the examples you gave are basically those of invasions of privacy, which I don't feel fairly reflects the issue at hand. Nobody's forcing you to post things on G+ at all, but if you choose to publish something, it happens to be in your real name. Again, you can still restrict visibility, or choose not to post at all, or choose to post somewhere differently that allows anonymity/pseudonymity. As such, I feel your examples are all significantly different from my original point.

Nobody is forcing your to post on G+ or Facebook, but as large companies, their policies have ripple effects. If we accept what they do now, what will things be like in 10 years?

At least in the US, there was already political chatter about requiring everyone on the Internet to have trace-able identity, and maybe using FBConnect or Google logins to do that.

And as I mentioned in another thread[1], that is something I disagree with entirely.

[1] - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4713137

Regardless of your views, large companies implementing 'real name' social networks makes it closer to a reality. The closer we come to basically having a 'switch' that would allow politicians to turn on such functionality, the more likely it is for them to flip said switch.

The biggest issue I have with said trackers is that they don't allow for judgement calls. Recently for example I was travelling from Arizona back to my home in Colorado, and was on several single lane highways. The speed limit is set at 65 Mph, however you have some people that choose to drive under the speed limit at 60 Mph.

To pass those people you need to speed up, enter the opposite lane of travel, pass the person, then enter back into the correct lane of travel. While you are speeding up to pass the person you go above the allowed speed limit (generally somewhere around 80 Mph) to make sure that you don't stay in the opposite lane of travel to a head-on collision.

With one of those boxes your insurance could now consider you a dangerous driver since you were speeding, and could now ding you, when in reality you were simply passing a slower car.

You could now suggest that I just stay behind the slower car, but with no passing lane for the next 70 miles that would have added a not insignificant amount of time to my already lengthy travel time, and then I haven't even mentioned all of the RV's that are driving 50 Mph because they are dragging a car behind them.


Safe driving has to be evaluated some other way. I've been involved in only one accident, and I lost control of my car in an attempt to avoid an accident on icy roads and took out a lamp post. (A pick-up truck driver lost control over their vehicle and was sliding towards me while all four of his tires were locked up. My corrective action was an attempt to move out of the way ... ended up hitting a patch of ice instead, at which point I was no longer able to complete my manoeuvre). Even if I had that box in my car it wouldn't have had me driving any differently because I was already driving safely for the conditions present and that box wouldn't have made the difference.

The biggest issue that I have found here in the US (at least compared to Europe) is that it is too simple to get your drivers license, and you can get one at an age where you don't realise the full extent of what it means to control a 2000+ pound metal box at speed. Where you don't yet fully understand the consequences and what it means. Traffic schools/lessons in the US are a joke compared to the rigorous requirements set forth in most of Europe (I'm talking Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium as the ones I am familiar with).

Should insurance companies be able to offer such boxes to people if they want to take them? Maybe, I am still split on whether or not we should allow insurance companies to go down such a slope, because at some point it becomes too easy to then make it mandatory. I don't think such privacy invasion measures should ever be allowed to become mandatory.

I agree with everything you said. I'm not entirely sure if it was offered as a counterpoint to what I said, but if so, please know that it's just because I didn't get too deeply into it.

The pragmatist in me says that because passing on the left is often legal, surely they have some way to identify that, or at least accept it as a deviation from the mean which they would discard.

The cynic in me though believes it exactly as you suggested, that every time you break the speed limit gets added as a 'point' against your record, and enough points eventually causes your premiums to go up.

As a publishing forum, I agree that a real name policy has little effect. Sadly, I rarely see people use social network sites as a publishing forum, and more like a social space to hang around at. Its like a bar. technically, a bar is for drinking, but if bars only purpose was drinking, few would go there. An other example would be to compare Google+ and BBC opinion section. Both are technically the same thing, an publication forum. But beyond the technical viewpoint, they share nothing in common. If BBC opinion section would have a real name policy, I would not care that much.

We're all entitled to our opinions.

This boring / average white guy here thinks that real name policies are very, very bad and unacceptable, while I do support limitations in free speech (Europe, Germany -> We've got a number of cases where free speech is limited and I support these in principle, while avoiding the slippery slope thing. In fact, I'm typing this while wearing a 'Zensursula' (Zensur, censorship + Ursula, first name of a weirdo/idiot - free speech! my opinion! - politician with a 'think of the children' attitude towards anything, leader of a 'censor the internet, 'cause there's porn. with children.' movement for a while) shirt.

The concept of self-driving cars might be nice, but I think she's right _for now_. The current tech is, even if they are on the road already, not ready and she thinks there are better ways to help society / the people, for all I can tell.

Overall her post strongly resonated with my views. Obviously I was already biased one way, just as you probably already leaned another (maybe even as a happy G+ user).

I feel like I unintentionally stirred things up with my commentary on empathy, so I'll skip responding to that part for now except to say that yeah, I know they're just my opinions, and they were formed from a position of relative safety.

Obviously, autonomous cars are in their infancy, but I think that to trivialize them at this point because of that is to ignore their farther reaching steps. When the light bulb was invented, it would have been easy to categorize as a more expensive candle for the rich, but it clearly brought about much more and changed conditions for the world at large.

Autonomous cars have the potential to completely reshape the commute, traffic, how and where cities are formed and function and travel. It's a bigger project than just throwing a GPS and LIDAR onto a Prius.

I agree. Autonomous cars can and will have a profound impact on society, in combination with cheap personal powered transportation like electric skateboards and bikes. The less time we spend commuting, the more time we have to care for each other, innovate, and stay healthy. When we waste less land on parking lots, and turn off lights when they're not being used, we will benefit. When goods and people are shipped autonomously in the night, we will save ourselves much stress and inefficiency. When the world is 3D mapped and sensed in realtime, we can spend less time worrying about the unknown and spend more time doing useful productive things.

>as I've met people who are public with their genderqueer status who haven't been assailed or assaulted, I can't help but wonder if the fear isn't simply perceived fear or not.

No, it really isn't. While obviously it doesn't happen to everyone, such people are at a measurably higher risk of violence; there are well-documented cases of people being killed just because of that status.

I think you're probably right, and it occurs to me that I'm thinking of the civilizations in the cities I've visited recently (SFO, DC, etc.) and are perhaps not reflective of what it's like to be a transgender in other parts of the world / nation.

And even then, there's the problem of "what do you want your family to see?"

I know a number of people who're completely open about stuff to their friends, but very carefully maintain a cis+hetero front to their family in order to avoid a complete disaster.

(psueodynoms aren't a fully sufficient solution there of course, but they definitely help quite a lot)

I think it's worth noting that in that regard, Google Plus, with its 'circles' grouping mechanism, is very good at respecting one's privacy to whatever degree that they wish and are willing to put forth the effort to implement.

Yegge infamously posted a rant publicly on G+ without intending to. I don't think I'd bet my life on circles, especially after watching how Facebook put in similar features and then capriciously violated the intent of many users.

Pseudonymity for everyone helps the ones who do need it, because then they don't stand out.

If you're not part of any minority or have no radical politics, yeah you might not need it. But even then, you would want the comfort of the advertising industry and your future employer not being able to disrespect your privacy. (Public data and privacy? Yes.)

Why then is it good to kick people out for using pseudonyms? Why does it have to be a requirement? Do the benefits of real names even compare to the benefits of pseudonymity? I don't think they do.

I didn't mean to imply that they don't have the right to anonymity, just that I don't think that Google is any less right for refusing to provide it. It is their platform, and those who feel they require anonymity are free to choose another platform (like Livejournal, Twitter, Identi.ca, etc.) to voice their opinions from.

Whether or not the benefit of real names matters, Google has decided that they think it does. I happen to agree, but even though I (obviously) disagree with the idea that Twitter allows pseudonyms, I don't feel justified in complaining that they don't require real names. That's their decision just as much as this one was Google's.

And while I realize that what I'm writing comes off as a slightly less sensitive version of "If you don't like it, then leave," type of comment, and I'm not trying to be inflammatory, I really don't understand why people who disagree with Google's real names policy can't just up and go elsewhere. This isn't remotely as serious (in my humble opinion) as mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts that we're seeing so much of lately.

Again though, that's just from my perspective, and may very well be a result of a white privilege.

I do interpret what you wrote as a slightly less sensitive version of "If you don't like it, then leave," type of comment.

That type of comment is doesn't say anything, there's no real argument in it. It's simply dismissing criticism. You can dismiss any criticism whatsoever using it.

The sweeping "if you don't like it leave" doesn't really work. There's good reasons to use a platform despite deficiencies, no platform is exactly how I'd do it. Perhaps Google+ is technologically better, or the audience on Google+ is better for what I have to say. Maybe I want to keep in touch with real life acquaintances and they are on Google+. Do I have to convince every contact I have to switch to a platform that is worse in different ways?

Even if I vehemently disagree with their stance on publishing your true identity; there's reasons to use a platform despite it and keep complaining about their bad policies.

To frame the discussion differently, I disagree with Paypal's recent mandatory arbitration clause, but I have reasons to use Paypal despite it; Namely, I have a few accounts that I pay for that only offer Paypal as a payment option.

As of this morning, I have sent emails to each of those account holders asking whether or not they have alternate payment methods available, as I will be canceling my Paypal account shortly so as to opt out of their mandatory arbitration clause.

If I choose to accept their mandatory arbitration and continue to use the platform, then that is my choice. That it causes me considerable inconvenience to opt out of their policy is my problem alone. So long as there are other ways to pay, then it isn't Paypal's responsibility to cater to me or my beliefs.

Does this mean that I might have to cancel some accounts (namely PRGMR.com, which I use and love) and replace them with other, perhaps more expensive alternatives? Yes, but that is the choice that I am making regardless.

If G+'s benefits to you are greater than your conviction against their real name policy, then that is the choice that you have made. You're of course entitled to your opinion on it, but nobody's forcing you to use it even if it is perhaps the most convenient way to do what you want.

Whether or not you keep using a service, it's good to voice your opinion on bad policy, because every so often a company listens to its users.

Besides marketshare, bad press has an impact as well. Leaving a service is NOT the only way of protest.

but even though I (obviously) disagree with the idea that Twitter allows pseudonyms

I can understand not caring about pseudonymity, but I see no good reason (for individuals as opposed to corporate entities) to be actively opposed to it. Why do you think you have any right to know my name, and what harm comes from not knowing it?

I don't disagree with the premise. When I say I disagree with Twitter's choice, what I mean is that I would probably enjoy Twitter much more if that wasn't their stance.

The reason for this is perhaps anecdotal, but in my personal experience, I generally find richer, deeper and more meaningful discussion when real names are involved.

This is anecdotal at best, and HN is a notable exception to that rule, but that is my experience. If I were president of the world, I would not change Twitter's rules, as that is within their right to provide pseudonymity, but if I were president of Twitter, I might just change it. (Though from a business perspective, what they have has been working for them, and I'm profit-minded enough to wager I wouldn't mess with that.)

> I didn't mean to imply that they don't have the right to anonymity, just that I don't think that Google is any less right for refusing to provide it. It is their platform, and those who feel they require anonymity are free to choose another platform (like Livejournal, Twitter, Identi.ca, etc.) to voice their opinions from.

I try to be free, but because i have a Google account (for GMail), i keep being harassed by Google, around 10 times a week, to join Google+.

I don't want to use Google+ (by principle, because i have no problem using my real name online). But i want to keep my GMail account. And this is getting increasingly difficult.

I really don't think the desire for having the option of anonymity has anything to do with being marginalized, gay, straight, white or male.

I'm a certifiable Google fanboy, but even I don't agree with their unwillingness to enable anonymity. I'm a fairly active user on G+, but I'll never feel like I can say whatever I want on that platform (or any of the other popular ones for that matter).

I guess the main area we differ then is that I do feel like I can say whatever I want on G+. Actually, let me take that back, I feel like I can say whatever I should, and that's a fairly important distinction.

I could easily foresee some kids trampling my lawn and me writing a hasty reaction on G+ of something like "I think all children should be murdered." It would be a joke, and anybody that knows me would know that (though potential employers and the like almost certainly would not) -- but I'm free to make that statement, though I might not post that publicly. Whether or not I should make such a statement on the emotionless internet is up for debate.

While I'm open to agreement that perhaps my views are just that vanilla, I've never had a political statement or personal statement that I believed in that I didn't feel I could express on whatever forum of my choosing, while acknowledging that sure, if I say positive things about political_candidate_x, I might very well inflame my friends and colleagues who adamantly support political_candidate_y.

Not that if you establish a pseudonym another sites first, like Lady Gaga, you can use that psuedonym on G+.

You can also engage in G+ as a Plus Page as though you are a rock band, with just about all the features of a personal user. But you do need have a person account to own the page, but I think you can make the owership a secret that only Google knows.

I once tried to downplay the expression of marginalized groups with a college professor, and they said that those who are in the groups doing the oppression are often blind to what goes on, and sort of that the group as a whole makes any oppression seem normal. There are many parts of the world where quite a lot of things are criminal, punishable by death, and sometimes there's just a social pressure for killing even if it is actually not in the law.

> those who are in the groups doing the oppression are often blind to what goes on

"Derailing for dummies" is an interesting analysis of this. It should be required reading for participants of discrimination-related discussions.

"Derailing for Dummies" is merely an attempt to dismiss the arguments/opinions of members of certain groups without logically addressing them.

The only purpose is to create a rhetorical Escape Hatch [1] when logical arguments fail (or one is too lazy to construct them).

[1] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Escape_hatch

You're assuming that you can write what you want and get away with it, now and in the future.

But Histoy has shown that anyone can be in danger because of something they wrote long ago.

The easy rule of thumb: if you have opinions and want to post them online, be prepared to lose friends, miss job opportunities and go to prison for them, even if they're not illegal or controversial right now.

The reality is someone like bmelton probably can write what he wants and get away with it. As a normal white guy who believes in technology and etc. etc. It's very unlikely that he has, or will ever, face oppression for his views. And that's probably why he can't relate to these particular views. If he were Arab, Black, or Latino he would probably be able to relate just fine.

I'm going to confess that I gave you an upvote because it is exactly right (even though I have lost friends over political views, that's hardly earth-shaking) while simultaneously wondering whether or not your comment was meant to be for or against me.

It's quite possible that the answer is neither, and I read in in a neutral tone and, as I stated, I think that it's spot on. My argument comes from the position of privilege. I haven't personally felt the privilege, but I acknowledge that it exists due to the piles and piles of evidence in its favor.

People like you scare me, because you are so ignorant of history. While we might be heading towards a uber-PC socialist nightmare, one could argue just as easily that we'll end up in a hell like fascist Italy, where leftists were rounded up and shot for their opinions. You also scare me because you are so sure that you're right, and those that disagree with you are not just wrong, but evil. I disagree with you, but I don't think you should go to jail for it.

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    -- William Butler Yeats

What on earth provoked that random screed? Who said anything about left or right, or PC socialist or fascist? You scare me because you seem to be mentally unstable.

I think it's pretty obvious what I'm talking about. The comment I was replying to suggested that people would be imprisoned for thoughtcrime. The original comment was disagreeing (slightly) with someone that has a very left-wing view of "social justice" or whatever. People like the person above clearly haven't learned their lessons about censorship, because there is a fair chance that even those with the "correct" politics like the author will disagree with the censors at some point, which could lead to imprisonment or death. Furthermore, you illustrate my point about people viewing their political opposition as evil perfectly, because instead of responding to me in a serious fashion, you call me mentally unstable.

The comment I was replying to suggested that people would be imprisoned for thoughtcrime. The original comment was disagreeing (slightly) with someone that has a very left-wing view of "social justice" or whatever.

No, he is suggesting that historically people have been imprisoned for thought crime, been passed over for jobs, and generally shunned when social values change. Thus the whole it is OK to be yourself thing might be true right now, but could be ones undoing if things change and one is on the record as pro X.

It is obvious what you are talking about, it is not obvious why you are talking about it. As I said, there was literally zero insinuation of anything to provoke your response. And I do not illustrate your point at all, as I am neither your "political opposition", not do I view you as evil. You are acting in a manner which is consistent with mental instability. You perceive enemies and threats which do not exist, and respond with unprovoked hostility.

You wrote in another comment that you think you unintentionally stirred things up with your comment on empathy, but I'm going to pile on anyway. I didn't downvote your comment though, because even though I take serious issue with your comment, your post did foster discussion.

I think you're using the word "empathy" incorrectly. If you really empathize as you claim, you wouldn't dismiss the "possibly very real concerns" as just "perceived fear". I don't need to tell you that the people you've met are just anecdata. It's fine if you can't relate or identify, but the meaning of empathy is putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It doesn't really sound like you're doing that.

This seems to be a common reply to my statements, so I'll say it once here and link to it elsewhere.

I feel that I am empathetic (or at least sympathetic) to the plight of transgenders, minorities and others who feel that they need an anonymous or pseudonymous platform upon which to share their views.

I am substantially less concerned with those who do not see that it is Google's right to offer a platform that requires real names. So long as there are other platforms available and allowed that support anonymity/pseudonymity, I don't see it as a great concern that one particular vendor doesn't work exactly how they want.

If the discussion were framed as a matter of law, and that a new law were coming down requiring all discussion platforms / social networks / blog platforms to use real names, I would be against that law.

It is within the rights of those providing the platform to determine what policies they wish to allow or disallow. It is within the rights of the users of those platforms to use or not use the platforms they agree or disagree with.

I do not feel it is within the rights of those users to demand (or at least, to get a result from the demands) that a platform change its policies to suit their ideals.

I do not feel it is within the rights of those users to demand (or at least, to get a result from the demands) that a platform change its policies to suit their ideals.

Sure it is. The only reason for a company to exist is to provide positive social effects (and capitalism is predicated on the idea that positive social effects correlate with revenue and, less so, with profit). When you want to create an all-encompassing social network, except for people X, Y, and Z, you're not providing positive social effects. You're being a dick. And Google, through their much-trumpeted "don't be evil" policy, has put upon themselves the responsibility of being even less of a dick. They have decided to assert that they're "better," so it is completely reasonable to expect that they should be and to demand it publicly.

"Well, users don't have to use it" is a pretty shitty escape hatch that ignores that social networks only have value through the network effect--and presupposes that people who will leave the social network because of attacks upon others in their social group. This is a sucker's bet because, frankly, of people like you, who acknowledge that they would feel differently if their own ox were gored but do not care because it is not.

At the end of the day, a social network is, at best, a convenience to you. That you're unwilling to suffer the inconvenience of not having the ability to use their network in the way that you want is an opinion I do not share.

It has nothing to do with whether or not it affects me personally -- it obviously does, but whether I agree or disagree with the choice being made here. I happen to agree, and as such, I use G+ (if only rarely). You disagree, so you don't. I assume that nobody is completely friendless or in complete isolation from their friends/family/colleagues because of their decision to not use Google Plus. A social network is not vital, and even if it were, there are plenty of others to choose from. If your friends aren't on that social network, then you don't get the benefit of it, but that's true of anywhere.

Insisting that Google abide your choice is the sucker's bet in my opinion. For what it's worth, almost every social network excludes somebody. In this case, it is 'people who aren't willing to use their real names', in other cases it might be 'people who are spamming the server' or 'people who are preaching hate crimes' or 'child molesters' or 'people outside of America'. An application has policies that it abides. You happen to disagree with one of their policies, and it apparently matters to you a great deal. You can complain as loudly as you like, and you can certainly hope that Google changes their minds, and you can even hold it against them that they don't. That doesn't make what they're doing wrong in any way other than something you disagree with.

(Note -- I didn't mean to intentionally lump any of the categories of people used in network exclusions together, except to come up with examples of why somebody might exclude somebody.)

"This means that I support the notion real names on Google Plus,"

That's strange, because I'm a fairly normal white guy with no marginal traits that might cause me to have different viewpoints than I currently do, and yet I don't support the notion [of] real names on Google Plus.

Being a fairly normal white guy isn't destiny.

One aspect of the "real names" policy you left out was the difference some people have between "name I am known by" and "legal name." The author is one such person. That's a separate issue from wanting to remain anonymous.

You aren't the first to try to attach a different meaning to the term free speech and you certainly won't be the last. That isn't what it means, though.

Care to clarify?

benatkin means that speech is no longer free if you can't express things that you're afraid to put your name to. (You clarified this even more when you said in another thread (paraphrased) that people could say anything they "should" say.)

Free speech means you can say anything. If you want to argue the contrary, that you would prefer some limits on speech, then that's fine, but it's disingenuous – well, it's Newspeak – to refer to your position as "free speech".

If that is indeed what he meant, then I should clarify my position.

Free speech may well be 'whatever you want to say', but I might often say things that I don't mean. I also might say inflammatory things that I regret. I also might say things that are insensitive to others, or are completely horrible to all people, depending on my mood. I believe that with the freedom to say 'anything' I want, I also have the responsibility to say the things that are meaningful and, at least to the ability that I can ensure, accurate.

When I mentioned filtering on things I should say, I meant that while I believe I have the right to say whatever I like, I don't feel I should make those same remarks over the internet. Just as I believe I have the right to make racist jokes, I would not personally want to be held accountable as being a racist, so I would not. If I did, I would not make them on a megaphone at a racial harmony rally. If I did, I would expect to be held accountable. While I would not expect to be the victim of violence, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if I did.

In summation, I understand that 'free speech' is not limited to 'free speech with accountability', I believe as a personal choice for myself and nobody else, that it should be. I believe the old trope goes something like "Live your life as though your mother is watching everything you do" is one that I try to live by. It isn't one that I insist upon others, and I don't want my mother peering into the bedroom often enough, but I believe that accountability adds a fair amount to controversial discussions and makes them far more relevant.

Had Martin Luther King, Jr been 'anonymous' and preached with a V mask, I don't believe we'd have made anywhere near the progress we have on racial equality. That doesn't mean that I require all others to relinquish their anonymity/pseudonymity, but I prefer it personally and I find it to be a good choice for others to make.

Thanks for the attempt at clarification.

> Had Martin Luther King, Jr been 'anonymous' and preached with a V mask...

... he would not have been assassinated at age 39 by someone who didn't like him speaking truth to power.

this is exactly why anonymity is absolutely required on the internet. Its the last bastion where anyone could promote their ideas on the idea's merits and not on appeals to social norms such as authority or ethical/moral norms.

You claim you have empathy for the group twice, but the content of your comment can basically be summed up as "I don't empathize with them, I don't know what they are going through." Maybe you mean you sympathize with them, but it's hard to tell from your comment.

It's possible that I'm misusing the term. I'll state that I am at least sympathetic, just not on the stance that not only are they entitled to anonymous/pseudonymous speech (which I feel they are), but are also entitled to having it on Google Plus specifically (which I feel they are not.)

[1] - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4713137

Am I the only one that read this as a parody of Google's management? Only the last paragraph particularly autonomous vehicle part felt like a genuine argument (even that I didn't agree with).

"I am ignorant to how much they would matter in real life."

There exists only one "business model" for social media and that is to post ridiculously personal, identifiable information all on the same unifying social media site. The key is there is only one model allowed to exist at present. Forcing non-anonymity means people might have to think about the issue, perhaps fraction the model into public and private parts, or evolve new standards of their own online conduct instead of just dumping everything everywhere. People hate nothing more than being forced to think, for example, its well known that many of the general public would rather die than think. Its a direct attack against the very idea of a single unified "business model". That's the main reason why its hated. The very idea of posting different things on different sites is whats being attacked, and by banning anonymity G+ was fracturing the existing model into "only post public identifiable stuff here, and anonymity required stuff elsewhere". They're hating a move a player made and some hating by extension the player, but we're not allowed to discuss hating the game or even what the game is...

Average white guy might need his anonymity too. Don't think you or other people at Google are a representative sample of the society. The outcry is justified.

I didn't meant to imply that it wasn't justified, just that I can't identify with it.

As I said, and I didn't mean to seem oppressive, I empathize with the plight of those who wish to be able to express things in anonymity, I just personally value the kinds of conversations that occur when people are using their real names more highly. Basically, what may be a need for those in the other camp is simply a preference for me, so I get that they have their strong opinions and I have my fairly weakly-held ones, but as we're all entitled to our opinions, mine is what mine is.

Your sincerity is worrying to me. I thought Internet would break physical and mental boundaries... And indeed it's quite the opposite, I realize how different we are.

But in a way, I understand your point, it's just that the world is not ready for that. Just look how far an Apple versus Samsung debate could go on a place like HN and imagine that you're talking about serious issues in a less tolerant place. I don't want to die (or be rejected) because I said I don't like X or Y on the Internet. (And I was the first supporter of G+ until they messed up with real names policy).

So, the main question there is: Would the thread have degenerated to that point if everybody were using their real names? I suspect the answer is 'no', and that is why I prefer the use of real names on the internet.

In counterpoint, while I understand that these views are public, it is to that degree that I make sure to state them as accurately as I am able. This means that my comments tend to be a little wordier than necessary, but if (as another has suggested) employers were rejecting me from a job based on a comment I made on the internet, then I would view that as better than being hired by a company that would fire me for something I said on the internet.

I am fully aware that neither case is the ideal, just as I am also aware that there are shady companies who perform overzealous background checks. I won't comment on whether those checks are right or wrong except to say that by not hiring me based on the result of an overzealous check is perhaps as much a win for me as it is them.

Yep, while I don't advocate real name policies, I do want the problems to be fixed if possible.

I just personally value the kinds of conversations that occur when people are using their real names more highly.

By real names, do you mean the names they're known by, "real sounding" names or their legal names? Is George Orwell not a real name?

An interesting question that I will admit that I haven't given much thought to. To me, I consider my real name as "Barry Melton", even though it is really "Bartholomew Melton".

I have signed contracts, purchased property and pay utility bills under the former, while the latter is relegated to a very few.

Unrelated, I think this is the first that I realized George Orwell was a pen-name.

I'm amazed and pleased at your self awareness and honesty in this thread. Thank you. If you could give some thought to the responsibility (and unique opportunity) us normals have to fight oppressive structures from within, I would personally appreciate it.

From that perspective, I think you are confusing "empathize" with "understand". If you empathized, you would be more likely to be more concerned with the needs of others than your weak preferences.

Thanks for the compliment. I honestly didn't intend to stir anything up this much, and my original statement was more of a tangent that only slightly related to the comment I wanted to make about autonomous cars.

Regarding empathy vs. understanding, I'll direct you to another comment[1] I made on the subject, but the TL;DR version is that I believe that I am empathetic to the plight of people who feel they need anonymity, but am not empathetic to the people who feel that they need anonymity and must also have it on Google Plus, despite there being other alternatives available.

[1] - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4713137

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