Google: Managing Staff a Challenge

September 24, 2019

DarkCyber is not sure about the accuracy of “Exclusive: Google Insider Turns Over 950 Pages Of Docs And Laptop To DOJ.” The story appeared on Saraacarter.com (the second “a” is a middle initial). Ms. Carter’s about page states:

Sara A. Carter is a national and international award-winning investigative reporter whose stories have ranged from national security, terrorism, immigration and front line coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sara A. Carter is currently an investigative reporter and Fox News Contributor. Her stories can be found at saraacarter.com. She formerly worked as a senior national security correspondent for Circa News.

The write up asserts that:

A former Google insider claiming the company created algorithms to hide its political bias within artificial intelligence platforms – in effect targeting particular words, phrases and contexts to promote, alter, reference or manipulate perceptions of Internet content – delivered roughly 950 pages of documents to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust division Friday.

The story is dated August 13, 2019, and DarkCyber spotted the link on September 23, 2019. In August 2019, Project Veritas revealed that the alleged Google insider is / was Zachary Vorhies.

Project Veritas does have a Google Document Dump page. You can view the files and download them at this link. A representative document is “Algorithmic Discrimination from and Environmental Psychology Perspective: Str5ee-Inducing Differential Treatment.”

The write up is an academic review of findings which, upon reflection, are mostly common sense. Manipulation can be accomplished via stress causing and stress relieving.

What struck DarkCyber as interesting is that the cache of documents has not made much of a splash in the last few weeks.

Other observations include:

  • Unlike the now long-offline Google research papers which I cited in my 2003 Google Legacy monograph, the documents in this cache are more touchy-feely.
  • Google’s ability to control its confidential documents appears to have some gaps.
  • The “insider” turned canary reveals that Google is not generating happy Xooglers.

Net net: The high school science club approach to management may need some upgrades.

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2019

Chef Cooks Up a Management Stew

September 24, 2019

What happens when a programmer deletes open source software? The answer is to cancel a contract with the US government.

Information about this interesting not-so-passive resistance moment surfaced on the Chef blog. Barry Crist allegedly wrote:

While I and others privately opposed this and various other related policies, we did not take a position despite the recommendation of many of our employees.  I apologize for this. I had hoped that traditional political checks and balances would provide remedy and that our relationship with our various government customers could avoid getting intermingled with these policies.  However, it is clear that checks and balances have not provided relief to the fundamental issues of the policies in question. Chef, as well as other companies, can take stronger positions against these policies that violate basic human rights.  Over the past year, many of our employees have constructively advocated for a change in our position, and I want to thank them.

The fix?

Do not renew the US government contracts. Donate money to groups “that help vulnerable people impacted by the policy of family separation and detention.”

Vice describes the employee’s deleting code and the Chef decision to dump US government contracts this way:

a ballooning activism community within tech companies and the broader tech community.

DarkCyber finds the employee push back interesting for several reasons:

  1. The failure of management to manage is a characteristic of a number of technology-centric firms
  2. Employee activism can derail a company’s business processes
  3. The push back appears at this point in time a function associated with educated professionals.

Without a resolution, will US government agencies turn to non-US companies to provide needed software and systems?

Will employees demand a say in what a commercial enterprise does to generate revenue to pay those who work for the organization?

Will stakeholders tolerate intentional erosion of revenues because employees can destroy or possibly corrupt data, software, and systems because of a personal perception about rightness?

Will the digital Druckers at Gartner, Gerson Lehrman, and Booz Allen offer advice which solves this management puzzle?

Without organization and span of control, work at some firms may be difficult to complete in a satisfactory manner. Getting paid to do work was a contract. An employee does this task and gets paid. If the employee does not do the work or destroys that work, the contract is broken.

Then what?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2019

Information Technology Outsourcing: Good or Bad?

September 18, 2019

One of the early twentieth century woes was outsourcing IT jobs. These jobs were sent to India, China, and other places in Asia. The outsourcing was a topic for comedy sketch shows and a political slogan for right and left wingers. There is more to IT outsourcing than we think, especially in the United Kingdom. Computer Weekly shares a new side about IT sourcing in the article, “IT Outsourcing Is Increasing, But Not As We Know It.” There is nothing new bout the growing demand for IT workers, but service providers have changed what they offer their customers.

The outsourcing statistics are worrying for the United Kingdom economy, because Whitelane Research and PA Consulting discovered that 71% of UK organizations plan to outsource the same amount or more of their services in 2019, according to a survey of 760 IT deals. The same study showed that the same organizations are going to insource less at 16%, compared to 22% in 2018. The main reasons for the outsourcing is how traditional service providers are being changed to meet customer demands and businesses streamline operations, such as automation, AI, and mobile apps.

An IT expert said:

“ ‘Technology-driven challenger organizations are transforming the way services are delivered and consumed across sectors,’ said Manish Khandelwal, IT transformation expert at PA Consulting.”

The traditional service providers might be changing, but they, along with smaller players, are increasing their IT spending. The same IT expert observed:

“’Technology investments are growing, presenting significant opportunities for established service providers and new entrants with differentiated offerings,’ said Khandelwal. ‘Service providers that are able to transition from traditional delivery and commercial models without compromising the service quality are looking at an exciting future ahead.’”

Organizations want to meet their customers’ demands, while achieving their business goals at the same time. This requires changing the traditional service structure, but also how companies are established and how they spend their money. It does not look good for growing local economies, but it could offer individuals the ability to start businesses when they might never had the chance. It is tough balance to keep, but no one knows what the results will be.

Whitney Grace, September 18, 2019

YouTube May Be Too Big to Monitor or Fail

September 17, 2019

A friend if mine who shall remain nameless, but who is a Baby Boomer and not technology illiterate once said that the United States government should just shut down the entire Dark Web. I burst out laughing at this statement and incredulously he asked why I guffawed. After explaining how wide spread the Dark Web is, the number of countries involved, and using the “herding cats” metaphor my point was made. Google is facing the same problem as it tries to sanitize YouTube, you can read the story from IT Wire.

YouTube is a big Web site and its expanse does not know an end. Google’s CEO Sundar Puchai stated to CNN that it was too difficult to clean up the entire video platform. YouTube tends to obey the US’s First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, but there is a mega backlash when it comes to YouTube hosting harmful content.

The definition of “harmful and malicious” content varies. The general consensus is videos related to neo-Nazism, white supremacy, racist, nudity, promoting terrorism, sexism, hate speech, and anything that specifically targets ethnic or social groups in a negative fashion fits the harmful definition.

Pichai said that using a combination humans and machines Google has gotten 99% of YouTube sanitation right, but videos still sneak between the upload cracks. This reminds me of Web filters “supposed’ to protect children from harmful Internet content, but they always took things to the extreme. Pichai admitted that while he wants the harmful content on YouTube to be well below 1%, he admitted that any large scale system will have a trace amount of fraud, take credit cards for example. Pichai remained silent when confronted with a conspiracy question:

“Asked why YouTube had taken nearly seven years to remove videos claiming that the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 never took place, Pichai did not give a straight answer, but danced around, saying he wished that the company had gotten to the task of removing such videos much earlier. The Google chief was not asked about the fact that numerous alternative media sites have now been demonetized as a result of the purge of content which Google says is unsuitable for YouTube.”

Yep, impossible.

Whitney Grace, September 17, 2019

Yeah, We Are Sorry. Very, Very Sorry

September 8, 2019

If you do not remember the name James Damore, he was a former Google employee who authored the Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber aka the Google memo that described Google’s diversity as an “ideological echo chamber,” where the company believes that disparities are caused by oppression and attempts to fix them through reverse discrimination. Google fired James Damore after the memo made the rounds inside and outside the company. One Redditor named TiredOfLying4Google posted, “I Helped Google Screw Over James Damore” in the James Damore subreddit.

TiredOfLying4Google started that he/she saw the memo internally a month before it went viral. Google human resources did nothing, except send the memo up the reporting chain as internal feedback. When Damore’s memo leaked, Google took action:

“Unfortunately, the memo started spreading within the company. The floodgates opened and previously silent employees started talking. To quell dissent, we: told executives to write to their employees condemning the memo; manipulated our internal Memegen to bias the ratings towards anti-Damore posts (the head of Memegen is an “ally” to the diversity cause); and gave every manager talking points on what to tell their reports about the memo. In all our communications, we concentrated on how hurt employees purportedly were and diverted attention from Google’s discriminatory employment practices and political hegemony, never mind the science.”

TiredOfLying4Google continued that the company wanted to make an example of Damore, so they spied on him and tried to find a reason to terminate his employment. They did not discover anything, but his devices became extremely slow and probably prevented him from rallying support. Upon his dismissal, Google employees were afraid to speak up. TiredOfLying4Google also said that Google’s reputation took a hit.

Damore apparently knew about Google’s dubious practices, including Dragonfly-the censored Chinese search engine. TiredOfLying4Google was surprised Damore did not report those secrets, claiming Damore probably cared about Google.

Google took more extreme measures by cancelling an employee town hall to address the controversy, placed the blame on “alt-right trolls”, planted information with journalists, and controlled the entirety of the NLRB case and class action lawsuit. Google used its money, influence, and power to create false information to support dismissing Damore and keeping their employees in line. Damore does not hold any power and Google will continue to hold sway.

Whitney Grace, September 8, 2019

Google and Unions: What? Unions!

August 31, 2019

DarkCyber noted “Google Contractors Are Unionizing with a Steel Workers Union.” The main idea is that people who take money from Google want protection or influence or maybe a voice. The write up states:

66 percent of the eligible contractors at a company called HCL America Inc., signed cards seeking union representation, according to the United Steel Workers union. With the help of the Pittsburgh Association of Technical Professions (PATP), they’re asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a vote on union representation. The PATP is a project sponsored by the union aimed at “helping Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania workers in high-tech fields organize and bargain collectively.”

Google does not seem to be eager to do much more than be Googley. If the unionization effort succeeds, DarkCyber believes that those representing the contractors will not be impressed with Googley.

There are quite a few issues which this union thing embraces.

We noted this statement:

In some instances, contractors do the same work as employees but are paid less and get fewer benefits. In other scenarios, the contractors are doing “ghost work” because they’re erased entirely as their labor is presented as the product of “artificial intelligence.”

Does this mean that Google is misrepresenting its technology?

DarkCyber thinks that the GOOG may do some efficiency analysis and terminate the workers and move the contracted work to more hospitable locations. Occam that at your next rally, semi Googlers. And if there’s a better, higher paying job, take it. DarkCyber knows that Pittsburgh is a technical hot spot with Carnegie Mellon for engineering and Duquesne University for accessing the epistemology of ethical behavior.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2019

Google: Not All Tech and Ads. Surprise!

August 29, 2019

I read “Former Google Employee Says #MeToo Behavior Institutionalized at Search Giant.” The write up explains that a Googler (a Xoogler mother now) interacted with another Googler (still a Googler) and output a baby. DarkCyber does not know if this story is “actual factual”, so we’re are not sure if this is fiction or life.

We read:

Jennifer Blakely says Chief Legal Officer David Drummond made her life “hell” after fathering her son.

A lawyer. Making life hell. Interesting assertion.

The write up reported:

After the relationship ended, she says, Drummond neglected their child and made “terrifying threats” to gain custody. She said he initially refused to discuss child support, and she called Drummond’s treatment “nothing short of abuse.”

(Yikes. the DarkCyber team thought Google was into ads, relevant search results, and Foosball. If the write up is accurate, DarkCyber’s assumptions are incorrect.

The article stated:

Blakely previously shared her experience with The New York Times in a bombshell article last November about the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against key executives, including Android creator Andy Rubin and former Google X director Richard DeVaul. The story spurred a massive walkout protest from 20,000 Google employees in offices around the world.

DarkCyber’s files contain some snips from open sources about the Brin-Rosenberg tie up; for example, this Medium article. The made-for-TV type story about a Googler, heroin, and a yacht summarized in this CBS News story.

Google’s posture on these types of matters may be reflected in this quote attributed to none other than CEO Sundar Pichai and Head of People Operations Eileen Naughton:

“We are committed to ensuring that Google is a workplace where you can feel safe to do your best work, and where there are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately.”

DarkCyber is intrigued by the job description “Head of People Operations.” Google is quite an operation. Babies, attempted suicides, and heroin appear to be fodder for the “real news” outfits.

Change, equality, etc. Serious consequences. And the baby?

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2019

 

Interesting.

21st Century HR Tips

August 29, 2019

If it isn’t about the Benjamins, what drives business intelligence analysts away? ITProPortal considers, “Why Are BI Engineers so Frustrated? (It’s Not Money).” Reporter Amnon Drori notes that business intelligence salaries are on par with other IT workers’. However, much of their work occurs behind the scenes and is not well understood by others, meaning it is often underappreciated. Furthermore, the work itself can be some of the most frustrating in the software industry, involving tedious efforts to clean up and transform data in a never ending cycle. A lack of standardization and haphazard implementations make matters worse. Drori writes:

“In order to make data usable and searchable, metadata needs to be accurate, and organizations may have standards and specifications for metadata. But this tends to go by the wayside; departments that need to get their work done develop their own lingo and labels, and over the years, as organizations build up large caches of data and implement new databases, those differences grow – essentially rendering the data stored by a department useless to anyone in the organization other than itself. For example, an organization might record information about a customer’s location with a label called ‘location,’ ‘address,’ ‘city and state,’ etc. Whatever search system that is implemented needs to take into account these issues. This is a chronic – and central – problem for many organizations, and one that could seriously hamper their ability to find data at all. Of course, BI will come in and save the day – hence the frustration. Subject your BI staff to a few cycles of this metadata confusion and remediation, and you begin to understand the staff turnover numbers.”

The article suggests a couple remedies. Companies should take the time to set and enforce policies around metadata terms and data-storage protocols throughout the organization. This includes establishing consistent data catalogues, dictionaries, and glossaries. Automated remediation systems can then be used to clean up legacy data and bring it in line with those standards. Once all that juicy data is properly labeled, BI engineers can turn their attention to the satisfying, and profitable, work—deriving insights about products, customers, markets, and the company itself. That should give them enough reason to stick around.

Cynthia Murrell, August 29, 2019

Google and Details: Hey, Work? What?

August 24, 2019

DarkCyber noted several “real news” items related to what we call “the chill mentality”, one aspect of Google’s management methods.

Example 1: The Next Web reported “Google listed the wrong number for its product hotline, nobody noticed.” That’s one way to be efficient with regard to customer support costs.

Example 2: The Next Web reported “Open-source spyware bypasses Google Play defenses — twice.” Yep, security is Job One.

Example 3: Ars Technica noted: “85 Google Play apps with 8 million downloads forced full screen ads on users.” A paltry eight million downloads. Chill, folks.

Example 4: Slashgear pointed out that “Google just gave Hangouts a temporary stay of execution.” From the death sentence in January 2019 to August 2019, Google is just being flexible. Relax.

Be flexible.

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2019

Tradition: New Methods Gummed Up by Back and Forthing

August 19, 2019

DarkCyber spotted a post called “The Arc of Collaboration.” At first glance, the article points out that “messaging” may be a:

better center of gravity than documents.

That makes sense. People send texts from their mobile devices. Lots of text messages. Phone calls are okay if prearranged with a text. Email is okay, but despite Fancy Dan smart in boxes and folders, email still requires some grunting around to find the message with the needed attachment.

Here’s a key point in the write up:

Slack is not air traffic control that coordinates everything. It’s 911 for when everything falls apart.

The write up points out:

Slack is ubiquitous at most companies in tech (and in many other industries as well), but it doesn’t feel like it is becoming the central nervous system undergirding all the apps and workflows of its customers. A new generation of functional apps have risen, with messaging and collaboration built directly into them as first parties. And with them it becomes increasingly clear that Slack isn’t air traffic control for every app, it’s 911 for when they fail.

DarkCyber agrees.

Quick blast from the past: Remember Lotus Notes? Hmmm.

Here’s an insight from the write up:

Productivity and Collaboration are two sides of the same coin for any team with more than one person. Work is just the iterated output of individuals creating and coordinating together. But the two have been distinct and isolated segments historically, due to how long the feedback loops of both were.

The emphasis on latency is an important point. Time is the one thing that is difficult to manufacture.

Quick blast from the past: In 1972, I worked at a nuclear services company. We had to prepare a 400 page document in less than 10 days. One scientist said, “Just hire 400 people and each types one page.” Right. But the time required to locate 400 typewriters with identical government accepted type balls and 400 people who could type simultaneously and the people needed to proofread those 400 pages was more than one day.

DarkCyber noted this passage:

The dream of Slack is that they become the central nervous system for all of a company’s employees and apps. This is the view of a clean *separation* of productivity and collaboration. Have all your apps for productivity and then have a single app for coordinating everyone, with your apps also feeding notifications into this system. In this way, Slack would become a star. With every app revolving around it. Employees would work out of Slack, periodically moving to whichever app they were needed in, before returning to Slack. But productivity *isn’t* separate from collaboration. They are the two parts of the same loop of producing work. And if anything collaboration is in *service* of team productivity.

The problem is “meta coordination”; that is:

Discord is the best analog for what should exist. For a while Slack and Discord were compared to each other as competitors. As Discord has focused squarely in gaming, and Slack in companies this comparison has been used less and less. But this misses the main distinction between Slack and Discord. Discord is actually two products bundled into one. It *is* a messaging app that looks akin to Slack. But it is *also* a meta-layer that runs across all games. … Discord has functionality like a social graph, seeing what games your friends are playing, voice chat, etc. These have been misunderstood by the market. They aren’t random small features. They are the backbone of a central nervous system.

There are more valuable insights in this Kwokchain essay. But these points resonate with DarkCyber.

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2019

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