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

A View of the Google Employee Resistance Movement

August 5, 2018

I read “Googlers Bristle at Censoring Search for China.” The main idea is that Google is experiencing “widespread employee anger.” Call me old fashioned, but I thought that when a person accepted a job for money and benefits, part of the deal was to work on tasks one’s boss handed out. The write up states:

Google was scurrying to stop leaks and quell outrage inside the company over what had been a stealth project prior to a report this week by news website The Intercept.

I like the “scurrying” metaphor.

Unnamed sources allegedly said:

“Everyone’s access to documents got turned off, and is being turned on [on a] document-by-document basis,” a source told the news site. “There’s been total radio silence from leadership, which is making a lot of people upset and scared. … Our internal meme site and Google Plus are full of talk, and people are a.n.g.r.y.”

The write up reveals that Google has 700 employees in three offices in China.

Is it possible for China to direct its attention to these employees. Monitoring might communicate a hint that finding work at another company might be a good idea?

Of course, here in rural Kentucky, it seems possible, maybe likely.

Net net: Google has a couple of challenges to which to respond: Management and getting a chunk of what may be one of the largest markets in the world.

No big deal for an online advertising company selling Loon balloons and waiting for money to roll in from an investment in baby Segways.

But what about employee resistance? What about some actual sources?

Stephen E Arnold, August 5, 2018

Facebook: Information Governance?

July 9, 2018

Anyone else annoyed by the large amount of privacy disclosures filling your index and slowing down your favorite Web site? User data privacy and how companies are collecting and/or selling that information is a big issue.

Facebook is one of the more notorious data management case studies. Despite the hand waving, it may be easy for Facebook data to be appropriated.

Josip Franjkovi? writes how user data can be stolen in the post, “Getting Any Facebook User’s Friend List And Partial Payment Card Details.”

There are black hat and white hat hackers, the latter being the “good guys.” It is important for social media Web sites to hack themselves, so they can discover any weaknesses in their structures. Franjkovi? points out that Facebook uses a GraphQL endpoint that is only accessible their first part applications. He kept trying to break into the endpoint, even sending persisted queries on a loop. The same error message kept returning, but it did return information already available to the public and the privately held friends list.

The scarier hack was about credit card information:

“A bug existed in Facebook’s Graph API that allowed querying for any user’s payment cards details using a field named payment_modules_options. I found out about this field by intercepting all the requests made by Facebook’s Android application during registration and login flow.”

Thankfully Franjkovi? discovered this error and within four hours and thirteen minutes the issue was resolved. Credit card information was stolen this time around, but how much longer until it is again? We await Franjkovi?’s analysis of Google email being available to certain third parties.

Whitney Grace, July 9, 2018

Google Cloud: Dissipating with a Chance for Unsettled Weather

July 4, 2018

I love Google. It’s relevant. I am not sure the folks at CNBC share my enthusiasm. Navigate to “Google Cloud’s COO Has Left after Less Than a Year.” To be exact, I think Diane Bryant, Google Cloud Chief Operating Officer, was a Googler for about 13 months. In Internet dog years, that a long time, is it not? Maybe not? Here’s a different employment number: Seven months.

I highlighted this passage:

Bryant’s hire was a win for the search giant’s cloud business, which is widely seen as No. 3 in the public cloud market, behind Amazon and Microsoft. As the relative newcomer in the space, Google Cloud’s challenge has been to prove its capabilities to large businesses, though Greene has said that there are no more “deal blockers” in the way of new contracts.

Fact, snark, digital corn beef hash?

I don’t know. I continue to wonder if Alphabet Google’s approach to management is going to allow the company to keep pace with and then surpass the Bezos buck machine.

I will be reviewing my Amazon research at the September Telestrategies ISS LE and intelligence conference in Washington, DC. I will focus on both management and technical tactics.

I am not sure there will be a reference to Google until I have a sense that it is managed for sustainable innovation, in the cloud and on the ground as it were.

Stephen E Arnold, July 4, 2018

GitHub Rides Donkeys, Elephants, and Undecideds Too

July 3, 2018

We don’t often see many overtly political stories in the world of search, AI, and machine learning. Bias, yes. Politics, not so much.  When a political theme surfaces, we think it is worth a look. Recently, an interesting dustup involving Microsoft and the border deportation issue came up in an Inquirer article, “GitHub Devs Warn Microsoft ‘Ditch That Contract with ICE or Lose Us’”.

For GitHub, the company’s deal with ICE (The US customs branch responsible for deportation) was a potential deal breaker:

“The signatories join several hundred employees of Microsoft who are now joining calls for the company to ditch its ICE contract over the matter.

“The GitHub petition talks openly of how many developers chose to leave GitHub specifically over the Microsoft takeover of its company for $7.5bn. It goes on to point out that those who remain had decided to give Microsoft a chance to prove itself, and this is that time.”

We have a hunch this battle isn’t over. As The Verge reported recently, Microsoft’s own employees also worked up a petition protesting the company’s relationship with ICE. Amazon wants employees to have a voice in what projects the digital WalMart pursues.

Has management become a reflection of political agendas? Is social justice a new management concept?

Patrick Roland, July 3, 2018

Google Exam Fail

June 26, 2018

On one of my jaunts to the world’s largest “search” engine, I picked up a copy of the GLAT. The Google Labs’ Aptitude Test is an interesting document. In fact, I have emailed selected questions to individuals who told me they were really good at problem solving. Here’s a representative question:

Question 10: On an infinite, two-dimensional, rectangular lattice of 1-ohm resistors, what is the resistance between two nodes that are a knight’s move away?

When I reviewed these “questions,” I realized that a computer science major with a desire to work as a comedy writer was at work. Now a “real” online news service has gathered information about Google’s “test” and “interview” questions.

Google Admits Those Infamous Brainteasers Were Completely Useless for Hiring” states:

Google has admitted that the head scratching questions it once used to quiz job applicants (How many piano tuners are there in the entire world? Why are manhole covers round?) were utterly useless as a predictor of who will be a good employee.

Instead of a sense of humor, an expert in hiring allegedly says:

They [the questions] don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

My observations about Google’s hiring process are uninformed. I live in rural Kentucky, which explains quite a bit about my intellectual capabilities.

I look at what’s going on in what seems to be my real world. Right now, Google’s hiring has created factions within the company. Employees who are paid to work on tasks Google gives them are demanding that the company abandon government contracts. Others are protesting social issues.

I have been out of my office since June 3, venturing into the wilds of Central Europe and the backwoods of North Carolina. I have noticed that Google has decided that some MIT videos are not suitable for distribution by YouTube. There are statements from the Google SEO expert that Google delivers great search experiences. And there are the dust ups between Google and the EU as well as a back door play to make Google a player in the Chinese market.

Judging from Google’s singular dependence on a business model artfully inspired by GoTo.com, Overture.com, and Yahoo advertising, Google’s hiring has been interesting and consistent.

Google management manifests itself via its hiring, its employees, and their actions. Tests and questions are, it seems, not particularly useful when it comes to assembling a bright, hard working, dedicated workforce.

Stephen E Arnold, June 26, 2018

Can Google Flex Like a Start Up?

June 21, 2018

Short honk: I read a “real news” item from a company. The title was “U.S. Lawmakers Want Google to Reconsider Links to China’s Huawei.” In my opinion, the Google reacted to employee pressure, killed off Maven (a US government project), and assumed that its Googley actions were okay. Good idea. Flex and move on. But, according to the write up:

A group of Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers asked Alphabet Inc’s (Google on Wednesday to reconsider its work with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which they described as a security threat.

A bump on the information highway? A tactical move with unintended consequences? I am not sure.

Dumping government contracts is somewhat unusual. When I was working in Washington, DC, I recall that one day word diffused through the green halls of bureaucracy that Mr. Brin, a Google founder, wore a T shirt and sneakers to meet with elected officials.

But Google is no longer a start up. China is a topic of interest it seems. Flex does may not translate to surprised government entities. Procurement teams are usually averse to surprises in my experience.

What’s the trajectory of this Googley flex? Interesting for sure.

Stephen E Arnold

Google: Arm Wrestling with Oneself

June 13, 2018

A typical fiction trope is human vs. creation. The most famous work with this concept is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, followed closely by an endless science-fiction list that deals with humans vs. robots. While most humanity vs. creation stories focus on a dystopic future, the real life drama focus h job replacement and human skill obsolescence. The New York Times reports that “Early Facebook And Google Employees Form Coalition To Fight What They Built.”

Former Google and Facebook employees banded together to form the Center for Humane Technology. Partnering with Common Sense Media, the Center for Humane Technology’s purpose is to educate parents, students, and teachers about the social media’s dangers. The Center for Humane Technology’s founders built the social media technologies and companies, so they know what Facebook and Google are made of and the their potential health dangers.

“The effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.”

Among the members are Dave Morin, Justin Rosenstein, Lynn Foxx, Jim Steyer, and Tristan Harris. Inspired by anti-drug campaigns, the Center for Humane Technology aims to understand the affect technology has on children’s brains. They also plan to lobby Congress to curtail tech companies’ power.

Now there’s a subplot. “Inventor Says Google Is Patenting Work He Put in the Public Domain” asserts that Google took another’s work and seeks to obtain a patent for a compression system and method. Both Facebook and Google appear to have adopted some of the open source technology.

Is Google arm wrestling itself? What happens if it loses the contest?

Whitney Grace, June 13, 2018

Short Honk: Contracting Newbies

June 4, 2018

I read “As Google Quits Controversial Project Maven, Mystery Deepens over Role of Other Tech Firms.”

Google has employees who do not want Google to do certain types of work.

I find this darned interesting. I circled this statement from the write up:

Google has also reportedly pledged to unveil new principles guiding its ethical use of artificial intelligence technology. That promise has already been met with skepticism by the Tech Workers Coalition, a group calling for Silicon Valley companies “to stay out of the business of war” and develop ethics standards for AI.

There are companies doing work from the US government and other countries’ governments as well. How does one handle work which is tagged “secret”?

The management approach which Google is using is almost as interesting as having employees create a situation which, in effect, is quite different from those within which I worked before I retired.

I noted a reference to a company for which I happily labored. That firm? Booz, Allen. The write up points out that Booz, Allen declined to comment for the write up.

Partitions, need to know, separate facilities, and other mechanisms exist to provide technology, engineering services, support, and products to governments.

This is a surprise or somehow improper now?

I suppose a company could allow its employees to vote on which tender offers to bid. I am not sure how that approach would match up with requirements for secure facilities, employees with clearances, and expertise in the specific task with which a government seeks assistance.

This management by squeaky wheel will be interesting to track as the management wagon is pulled by workers who agree to providing motive force. Contracting newbies at work methinks.

Stephen E Arnold, June 4, 2018

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