High School Science Club Management: In the Dark with Tweets

August 18, 2018

I read what I found to be a somewhat bittersweet description of today’s Google management trajectory. The article is worth your time and has the title “The Tweets That Stopped Google in Its Tracks.” I think this is the title. That in itself throws some water on the idea that a reader should know a title, the source, the date, and the author in that order. No more. Now it seems to be “provide your email address,” the title in smallish letters, the date, the title of the online publication in giant letter, and then the author. Yeah, disruptive.

The write up, despite its free form approach to the MLA and University of Chicago style suggestions, makes this point:

employees noticed that executives’ words were being transcribed in real time by the New York Times’ Kate Conger, who had a source inside [the Google company meeting].

The Google approach to this issue of leaking was interesting and definitely by the high school science club management handbook.

A Googler allegedly said:

#^!* you.

Outstanding.

One senior Googler explained that Google’s creating a search engine custom crafted to meet Chinese guidelines was “exploratory.”

Allegedly one of the founders of Google was not in the loop on the Chinese search system designed to get Google a piece of the large Chinese online market. I circled this statement:

Brin said he had only recently become aware of Dragonfly. On one level, this would seem to strain credulity: Brin’s upbringing in the Soviet Union shaped his views on censorship and informed the company’s decision to exit the Chinese market in 2010. Launching an initiative to re-enter China without Brin’s express approval would seem to be a firing offense, even if Google is now a subsidiary of Alphabet and operating with less direct oversight. (Counterpoint: this is Sergey Brin we’re talking about! One of the world’s most eccentric billionaires. Yesterday he described Dragonfly as a “kerfuffle.” If you told me Brin had recently delegated all of his decision-making authority to a stack of pancakes, I would believe it.)

Let’s assume that these statements are accurate.

What I took from the information provided in the Get Revue write up was:

  1. The notion of appropriate behavior in a company meeting is different from what was expected of me when I worked at Halliburton Nuclear and Booz, Allen & Hamilton. Although my colleagues were smart, maybe Google quality, discourse was civilized.
  2. I cannot recall a time when I worked at these firms when information from a confidential company meeting was disseminated outside of the company as quickly as humanly possible. Neither Halliburton nor Booz, Allen was a utopia, but there was an understanding of what was acceptable and what was not with regard to company information.
  3. I cannot recall a time when my boss at Halliburton or my boss at Booz, Allen was “surprised” by a major activity kept from him. Both of my superiors made it part of their job to know what was going on via established communication meetings, formal and informal meetings, and by wandering around and asking people what occupied their attention at that time. Mr. Brin may be checking out or is in the process of being checked out.

I will have to hunt around for the revised edition of the High School Science Club Management Handbook. I am definitely out of touch with how business works when a company pays an individual to perform work identified by the company as important. Also, who is in charge? Maybe employees are? Maybe management has segregated managers to those in the know and those outside the fence?

Worth monitoring.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2018

Challenges to High School Science Club Management Methods

August 17, 2018

High school science club management methods involve individuals who often perceive other students as less capable. The result is an “I know better” mindset. When applied on a canvas somewhat larger than a public high school, the consequences are often fascinating.

I am confident that high school science club management methods are indeed effective. But it is useful to look at two recent examples which suggest that the confidence of the deciders may be greater than the benefit to the non-deciders.

The first example concerns Google. The company has had some employee pushback about its work on US government projects. I learned when I read “Google Employees Protest Secret Work on Censored Search Engine for China.” The newspaper of record at least around 42nd Street and Park Avenue said:

Hundreds of Google employees, upset at the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China, have signed a letter demanding more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work. In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” They added, “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

High school management methods have created an interesting workplace problem: Employees want to pick and choose what the company does to generate revenue. Publicly traded companies have to generate revenue and a profit.

How will Google’s management deal with the apparent desire of senior management to make revenue headway in China as its employees appear to want to tell management what’s okay and what’s not okay. I assume that high school science club management methods will rise to this challenge.

The second example is provided by the article “Twitter Company Email Addresses Why It’s #BreakingMyTwitter.” Twitter management is making decisions which seem to illustrate the power of “I know better than you” what’s an appropriate course of action. Twitter has made unilateral changes which appear to have put developers and users in a sticky patch of asphalt. Plus, management has taken an oddly parental approach to the Alex Jones content problem.

I learned from the article:

It’s hard to be a fan of Twitter right now. The company is sticking up for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, when nearly all other platforms have given him the boot, it’s overrun with bots, and now it’s breaking users’ favorite third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterific by shutting off APIs these apps relied on. Worse still, is that Twitter isn’t taking full responsibility for its decisions.

My takeaway is that high school management methods are more interesting than the dry and dusty notions of Peter Drucker or the old school consultants at the once untarnished blue chip consulting firms like McKinsey & Company and Booz, Allen type operations.

Business school curricula may need an update.

Stephen E Arnold, August 17, 2018

Google: Back in the Games

August 17, 2018

Ten or 12 years ago, a person flipped through a presentation developed allegedly by a Google professional. The angle was that Google and Yahoo would team up for a video and online game business. As far as I know, the idea may have been a spoof. Given the history of Google and Yahoo, my thought was that “teaming up” might have been a non starter.

Flash forward to today.

Google’s limitless budget means it gets to invest in a lot of cool startups and ideas of its own. However, they have a real Babe Ruth batting average with this arm of its business—either they hit a homerun or strike out. This disturbing trend was covered in-depth in a Tech News World story, “Next Up, Game Consoles: Is There Anything Google Can’t Do Badly?”

According the story:

“Google’s latest effort is rumored to be a gaming system to compete with PlayStation and Xbox (but with streamed games). I expect it will end badly, largely because Google won’t want to expend the effort to make it successful and will lose interest within a brief period of time.”

If this ambitious jump to a new market goes as poorly as Google’s effort to break into the world of tablet computers. In case you need a reminder, it appears that the GOOG abandoned that effort. Will online games become a winner like Google Home?

Worth watching.

Patrick Roland, August 17, 2018

DuckDuck Go and Its View of Google

August 16, 2018

A post at the Search Engine Journal reproduces a series of tweets—“DuckDuckGo Blasts Google for Anti-Competitive Search Behavior,” they report. Writer Matt Southern introduces the captured tweets, noting that DuckDuckGo seems to have been prompted by the record $5 billion fine recently levied on Google by the EU for antitrust violations. Here’s what DuckDuckGo had to say about specific ways Googley practices have affected them:

“We welcome the EU cracking down on Google’s anti-competitive search behavior. We have felt its effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop.

We noted:

“Up until just last year, it was impossible to add DuckDuckGo to Chrome on Android, and it is still impossible on Chrome on iOS. We are also not included in the default list of search options like we are in Safari, even though we are among the top search engines in many countries.

And this statement was interesting:

“The Google search widget is featured prominently on most Android builds and is impossible to change the search provider. For a long time it was also impossible to even remove this widget without installing a launcher that effectively changed the whole way the OS works. Their anti-competitive search behavior isn’t limited to Android. Every time we update our Chrome browser extension, all of our users are faced with an official-looking dialogue asking them if they’d like to revert their search settings and disable the entire extension.”

Google owns the domain Duck.com, which redirects to the Google home page and may confuse some DuckDuckGo users. Southern notes the privacy-centric search engine continues to dog Google on Twitter; for example, they recently called it a “myth” that users cannot be tracked when using (Google-owned) Chrome in Incognito mode and linked to a post that details why their process is far more effective at protecting user privacy. I suggest the curious navigate to that resource for the technical details.

BeyondSearch believes that DuckDuckGo is a metasearch system with some unique content. Depending on one’s point of view, there may be significant differences between DuckDuckGo and primary Web indexing systems like Exalead, Qwant, or Yandex. Running the same query on different systems is often a useful way to get a sense of what is in an index and what is not.

Cynthia Murrell, August 14, 2018

 

Google Becomes an Adviser to New Zealand about Copyright

August 16, 2018

We learned about a controversial meeting in New Zealand from an article at Stuff provocatively titled, “Google and Rights Holders Battle Over Copyright Reform.” Writer Tom Pullar-Strecker reports that in late June, Google lobbyist Kent Walker met with New Zealand Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi to discuss reform of that nation’s copyright laws. Apparently, Google was not sure search engines like theirs quite comply with existing law—so he offered suggestions on modifying the law. To be fair, that was an action already under consideration, but Google had to add its perspective to the mix. Naturally, Walker’s arguments must go beyond the well-being of his company, so the “more liberal” approach is being billed as key to New Zealand’s tech industry, particularly in AI. Others are not so certain; we learned:

Paula Browning, chief executive of interest group Copyright Licensing NZ, said one of the benefits of the existing law and the certainty it provided was “we don’t go to court every five minutes. The idea we would slip that on its head and be burdening the court in order to make law doesn’t sit very well with me,” she said. Browning also rejected the suggestion that copyright laws were holding back innovation. “There is an awful lot of business happening in New Zealand involving tech startups that suggest the law is not broken. We have got 28,000 tech companies under the Act we have got, so it doesn’t seem to be stopping us doing fabulous things.” There were only impediments to machine learning if people wanted to use other people’s information, she said. “If you are looking at companies that are doing AI, they are using data that is theirs. “If you want to have a ‘data grab of other people stuff’ to use for your business then, okay, maybe there are things in the way of you doing that.”

The official has a point. The article goes on to note Walker brought up Content ID (used by Google-owned YouTube), suggesting such a measure could be worked into the new law. (We’re told the EU is also considering the technology.) Notes on the meeting were taken and shared by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). Browning expressed concern about upcoming decisions made “behind closed doors,” but believes the MBIE is working to ensure all stakeholders, large and small, have a say in that country’s copyright reform process. Meanwhile, we’re told, Walker is now senior VP of global affairs at Google; quell surprise.

Cynthia Murrell, August 16, 2018

Google Contributes to the History of Kubernetes

August 15, 2018

It is time for a history lesson; the Google Cloud Platform Blog proffers, “From Google to the World: The Kubernetes Origin Story.” Anyone curious about the origins of the open source management system may want to check it out. The post begins with a description of the 2013 meeting at which the Kubernetes co-founders pitched their idea to executive Urs Holzle, which only happened because one of those founders (and author of the post) Craig McLuckie found himself on a shuttle with the company’s then-VP of Cloud Eric Brewer. To conclude the post, McLuckie notes Kubernetes is now deployed in thousands of organizations and has benefitted from some 237 person-years’ worth of coding put in by some 830 contributors. In between we find a little Star Trek-related trivia; McLuckie writes:

“In keeping with the Borg theme, we named it Project Seven of Nine. (Side note: in an homage to the original name, this is also why the Kubernetes logo has seven sides.) We wanted to build something that incorporated everything we had learned about container management at Google through the design and deployment of Borg and its successor, Omega — all combined with an elegant, simple and easy-to-use UI. In three months, we had a prototype that was ready to share.

We also noted this statement:

“We always believed that open-sourcing Kubernetes was the right way to go, bringing many benefits to the project. For one, feedback loops were essentially instantaneous — if there was a problem or something didn’t work quite right, we knew about it immediately. But most importantly, we were able to work with lots of great engineers, many of whom really understood the needs of businesses who would benefit from deploying containers (have a look at the Kubernetes blog for perspectives from some of the early contributors).”

McLuckie includes links for potential users to explore the Kubernetes Engine and, perhaps, begin a two-month free trial. Finally, he suggests we navigate to his Kubernetes Origins podcast hosted by Software Engineering Daily for more information.

History is good.

Cynthia Murrell, August 15, 2018

Partnership with Deloitte Boosts SAP-Google Cloud Combo

August 14, 2018

Google wants to be a player in the enterprise cloud. Price cuts alone may not do the job. Therefore, Google is embracing new types of partners.

Consultancy firm Deloitte has been busy. On the heels of merging their Pacific operations, we now learn, “Deloitte Deal Brings Google Cloud and SAP Alliance to Life,” courtesy of New Zealand’s ResellerNews. Now, as part of its cloud migration and management services, the company will migrate SAP apps to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Writer James Henderson informs us:

“Deloitte will provide a ‘full suite’ of solutions for running SAP applications on GCP, including an invoice management solution, which will automate invoice processing within an SAP environment. In addition, other offerings include a visual inspection solution, capable of automating the visual inspection process and accelerate inventory restocking. … From a technology perspective, GCP is certified to run SAP workloads, which includes S/4HANA, BW/4HANA, Business Suite, Business Warehouse, alongside applications such as Hybris, Business One, Solution Manager and Business Objects BI Suite… The alliance comes 18 months after Google Cloud announced an applications partnership with SAP, in a move designed to position the tech giant as a serious cloud contender within the enterprise.”

Further offerings include an automated visual inspection process and accelerated inventory restocking. This partnership brings more than 125 million SAP subscribers into Google Cloud’s realm, including more than 5,200 start-up developers, we’re told. Deloitte was founded long ago in 1895 in London, and is now headquartered in New York City. They also are hiring at the moment for locations in several far-flung cities.

Cynthia Murrell, August 14, 2018

Google and GPS Tracking

August 13, 2018

You will want to chase down the full text of “Google Tracks Your Movements, Like It or Not.” I read the AP story in Chron. Note that I try not to quote from AP stories because I have zero desire to get involved in a fair use hassle with a large entity like the AP.

The main point of the story, which I assume is accurate, is that Google tracks where its customers go. The location data functions of a mobile phone provide the stream of data. The story asserts that Google collects these data even if the user has made changes to the default settings in the mobile device to disable tracking.

My understanding of the news report is that Google says a user can disable tracking. The AP story asserts that Google is not telling the truth. Thus, the AP asserts, Google possess location data on more than one billion users.

The AP story reports that Google says it is following the white lines set forth in its configuration tools exposed to the user.

Beyond Search finds the assertions interesting. The sources cited in the article include a university researcher from Yale and a graduate student at University of California-Berkeley.

Geolocation functions are “baked in” to most mobile devices. Numerous companies make use of these data. Some companies assert that they can derive location data by cross correlating a range of user generated data inputs. Microsoft invested in Hyas, a firm which allegedly has such capabilities. Our research suggests that Amazon has a similar capability for certain customer applications as part of its streaming data marketplace platform.

Many mobile devices make it possible to obtain location data even when the device is turned off and software settings are configured to disable location information. Specialist firms can disable the GPS circuitry to create “dark phones.” One rumored device with these capabilities is produced in the Middle East. If one has a mobile with a removable battery, the device goes “dead” when power is cut off. Also, Faraday bags make it difficult for monitoring and receiving devices to capture a mobile device’s location. (One option is the Blackout Faraday Shield, and there are bags which cost as little as US$10.)

Net net: The AP story seems to be more about Google doing something in an underhanded way than about GPS data widely used by law enforcement and intelligence professionals.

Beyond Search thinks the story would be more interesting if workarounds like the Faraday bag option were explained. Informed consumers can easily protect their location if and when desired. The singular focus on Google is less useful than a broader, more informed look at GPS usage.

When you read the original AP full text story, you can decide if the write up has an anti Google bias. In Harrod’s Creek, use of GPS data is routine. Google is continuing its personalization methods which have been part of the firm’s systems and methods for many years.

Finding fault with successful online companies may be the new blood sport for traditional news and publishing enterprises anchor4ed in the world of print.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2018

Google and Really, Like Cool Expert Search

August 10, 2018

To say I was surprised by Google’s celebrity search comes close to the truth. I am not sure. I think I will ask a celebrity if I were surprised or just anchored in the past. Don’t know about the really, like cool approach to getting information online? Navigate to “ Google’s New Celebrity Video App Is Basically AMA for Search.” I learned:

…The search giant [that would be China bound Google, of course] released a new app called Cameos, which lets celebs record vertical full-screen video answers to commonly searched-for questions about them.

Public figures include athletes, pop stars, and (I assume) technical superstars like Messrs. Brin and Page.

The celebrities can choose what questions to answer, record those answers, and make them available to a person who asks a question about the global Gan-Gross-Prasad conjecture. Tough luck if a movie star does not know the answer. I mean like who cares? Google can have Wei Zhang record an answer for the users of this new service.

From my point of view, I would like to enter a Boolean query with date limiters and get a results list with the “Date last indexed” displayed. I would like to have access to urls for PDFs. I would like, in short, to have a search system which returned sort of relevant results.

I assume I can ask Taylor Swift type people to help me out here. Celebrity is expertise it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, August 10, 2018

Google and Authoritarianism: Fear or Something Else?

August 7, 2018

I read “Without Sergey Brin, Google Has Lost Its Healthy Fear of Authoritarianism.” For me the main premise is that Sergey Brin has left the building. The loss or lack of Mr. Brin’s involvement has contributed to Google’s willingness to create a search system and method for the China market.

I noted this statement attributed to Mr. Brin published in an article in Der Spiegel:

“Having come from a totalitarian country, the Soviet Union, and having seen the hardships that my family endured–both while there and trying to leave—I certainly am particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties,” he told Der Spiegel not long after the pullback.

The idea is that Mr. Brin was not comfortable with a foray into China.

This statement from the write up warranted a pink highlight circle:

Since Pichai took over, Google has made a number of overtures to China, including plans for an AI research lab in Beijing. Pichai last year also attended an annual internet conference China hosts, as did Apple’s Tim Cook, a rare confluence of top US tech leadership at the controversial tech event.

Thus, the idea is that Mr. Brin feared authoritarianism. Now Google does not fear authoritarianism. Maybe? Maybe not? Other fears may be motivating the ad supported search giant.

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2018

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