Have You Ever Seen a Killer Dinosaur on a Leash?

January 27, 2023

I have never seen a Tyrannosaurus Rex allow a European regulators to put a leash on its neck and lead the beastie around like a tamed circus animal?

google on a leash

Another illustration generated by the smart software outfit Craiyon.com. The copyright is up in the air just like the outcome of Google’s battles with regulators, OpenAI, and assorted employees.

I think something similar just happened. I read “Consumer Protection: Google Commits to Give Consumers Clearer and More Accurate Information to Comply with EU Rules.” The statement said:

Google has committed to limit its capacity to make unilateral changes related to orders when it comes to price or cancellations, and to create an email address whose use is reserved to consumer protection authorities, so that they can report and request the quick removal of illegal content. Moreover, Google agreed to introduce a series of changes to its practices…

The details appear in the this EU table of Google changes.

Several observations:

  1. A kind and more docile Google may be on parade for some EU regulators. But as the circus act of Roy and Siegfried learned, one must not assume a circus animal will not fight back
  2. More problematic may be Google’s internal management methods. I have used the phrase “high school science club management methods.” Now that wizards were and are being terminated like insects in a sophomore biology class, getting that old team spirit back may be increasingly difficult. Happy wizards do not create problems for their employer or former employer as the case may be. Unhappy folks can be clever, quite clever.
  3. The hyper-problem in my opinion is how the tide of online user sentiment has shifted from “just Google it” to ladies in my wife’s bridge club asking me, “How can I use ChatGPT to find a good hotel in Paris?” Yep, really old ladies in a bridge club in rural Kentucky. Imagine how the buzz is ripping through high school and college students looking for a way to knock out an essay about the Louisiana Purchase for that stupid required American history class? ChatGPT has not needed too much search engine optimization, has it.

Net net: The friendly Google faces a multi-bladed meat grinder behind Door One, Door Two, and Door Three. As Monte Hall, game show host of “Let’s Make a Deal” said:

“It’s time for the Big Deal of the Day!”

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2023

How Do You Know You Have Been Fired? 700 Hundred Words about People Skills

January 26, 2023

I read “Some Google Employees Didn’t Realize They Were Laid Off Until Their Badges Wouldn’t Let Them into the Office.” The write up reports in the manner of an person learning something quite surprising:

One laid-off Google employee, a software engineer who requested anonymity to speak freely, told Insider that he witnessed one of his co-workers repeatedly try to scan his employee badge to get into Google’s Chelsea, New York office, only for the card reader to turn red and deny him entry.

Yep. Code Red. Badge denied light Red. Google management Red Faced? Nah. Just marketing and a few others. No big deal.

How is Googzilla supposed to fire people? Get one of the crack People People to talk face-to-face with a Google wizard? Ain’t happening, kiddo. Perhaps a chill video call to which the newly unemployed super brains can connect and watch a video explaining that your are now officially non-essential. The good news, of course, is that one can say, “I am a Xoogler. I will start a venture fund. Or, I will invent the next great app powered by ChatGPT. Or, Mom I will be moving in next week. I’ve been fired.

Let’s go back in time. How about the mid 1970s when the US government urged buildings housing work deemed sensitive to implement better security systems. At the time, many buildings used a person sitting behind a big desk with a bunch of paper. One would state one’s name and the person one wanted to visit face-to-face. I told you we were going back in time. The person at the desk would use a telephone handset connected to a big console and call the extension of the person whom one wanted to meet. Then that person would send someone down to escort the outsider to a suitable meeting room. (Don’t ask about the measures in place in the meeting room, please.)

An employee would show an official badge, typically connected to an item of clothing or hanging from a lanyard. The person behind the desk would smile in recognition, push a button, and a gate would open. The person with the badge would walk to the elevators and ride to the appropriate floor. There are variations, of course.

But the main idea is that this electronic smart security was not in place. When a person was to be fired, that person would typically be in a cube or a manager’s office. The blow was delivered in person, sometimes with a bloodhound’s sad look or a bit of a smile that suggested the manager delivering the death blow was having fun.

Then the revolution. The building in which I worked toward the end of the 1970s got the electric key card thing. The day after that system was installed, my boss who ran the standalone unit of a blue chip consulting firm decided to fire people by disabling the person’s key card. Believe it or not, the Big Boss, the head of what was then called Human Resources, and I drove from the underground parking garage to the No Parking zone in front of the building and watched as people found their key card had been disabled.

My recollection is that because the firm had RIFed a couple of hundred people earlier in the week, we could observe the former blue chippers reaction. It was interesting. The most amazing thing is that the head of Human Resources put in place a procedure to terminate people via a phone call, allow them to return to the building and enter with a security escort to retrieve pictures of the wives, girl friends, animals, boats, or swimming trophy. Then the person could put the personal effects in a banker’s box and the escort would get the person out of the building. The escort then collected the dead key card.

That’s humane. What’s interesting is that Google’s management team ignored the insight out Human Resources’ person had: Find a way to minimize the craziness outside of the building. Avoid creating a news event on a busy street in Washington, DC. Figure out a procedure that eliminates, “Can you send me the picture of my dog Freddy?” to a person still working at the blue chip outfit.

But Google. Nope. Now it’s headline time and public exposure of the firm’s management excellence.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2023

Googzilla Squeezed: Will the Beastie Wriggle Free? Can Parents Help Google Wiggle Out?

January 25, 2023

How easy was it for our prehistoric predecessors to capture a maturing reptile. I am thinking of Googzilla. (That’s my way of conceptualizing the Alphabet Google DeepMind outfit.)

image

This capturing the dangerous dinosaur shows one regulator and one ChatGPT dev in the style of Normal Rockwell (who may be spinning in his grave). The art was output by the smart software in use at Craiyon.com. I love those wonky spellings and the weird video ads and the image obscuring Next and Stay buttons. Is this the type of software the Google fears? I believe so.

On one side of the creature is the pesky ChatGPT PR tsunami. Google’s management team had to call Google’s parents to come to the garage. The whiz kids find themselves in a marketing battle. Imagine, a technology that Facebook dismisses as not a big deal, needs help. So the parents come back home from their vacations and social life to help out Sundar and Prabhakar. I wonder if the parents are asking, “What now?” and “Do you think these whiz kids want us to move in with them.” Forbes, the capitalist tool with annoying pop ups, tells one side of the story in “How ChatGPT Suddenly Became Google’s Code Red, Prompting Return of Page and Brin.

On the other side of Googzilla is a weak looking government regulator. The Wall Street Journal (January 25, 2023) published “US Sues to Split Google’s Ad Empire.” (Paywall alert!) The main idea is that after a couple of decades of Google is free, great, and gives away nice tchotchkes US Federal and state officials want the Google to morph into a tame lizard.

Several observations:

  1. I find it amusing that Google had to call its parents for help. There’s nothing like a really tough, decisive set of whiz kids
  2. The Google has some inner strengths, including lawyers, lobbyists, and friends who really like Google mouse pads, LED pins, and T shirts
  3. Users of ChatGPT may find that as poor as Google’s search results are, the burden of figuring out an “answer” falls on the user. If the user cooks up an incorrect answer, the Google is just presenting links or it used to. When the user accepts a ChatGPT output as ready to use, some unforeseen consequences may ensue; for example, getting called out for presenting incorrect or stupid information, getting sued for copyright violations, or assuming everyone is using ChatGPT so go with the flow

Net net: Capturing and getting the vet to neuter the beastie may be difficult. Even more interesting is the impact of ChatGPT on allegedly calm, mature, and seasoned managers. Yep, Code Red. “Hey, sorry to bother you. But we need your help. Right now.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2023

Responding to the PR Buzz about ChatGPT: A Tale of Two Techies

January 24, 2023

One has to be impressed with the PR hype about ChatGPT. One can find tip sheets for queries (yes, queries matter… a lot), ideas for new start ups, and Sillycon Valley pundits yammering on podcasts. At an Information Industry Association meting in Boston, Massachusetts, a person whom I think was called Marvin or Martin Wein-something made an impassioned statement about the importance of artificial intelligence. I recall his saying, “It is happening. Now.”

Marvin or Martin made that statement which still sticks in my mind in 1982 or so. That works out to 40 years ago.

What strikes me this morning is the difference between the response of Facebook and Google. This is a Tale of Two Techies.

In the case of Google, it is Red Alert time. The fear is palpable among the senior managers. How do I know? I read “Google Founders Return As ChatGPT Threatens Search Business.” I could trot out some parallels between Google management’s fear and the royals threatened by riff raff. Make no mistake. The Googlers have quantum supremacy and the DeepMind protein and game playing machine. I recall reading or being told that Google has more than 20 applications that will be available… soon. (Wasn’t that type of announcement once called vaporware?) The key point is that the Googlers are frightened, and like Disney, have had to call the team of Brin and Page to revivify the thinking about the threat to the search business. I want to remind you that the search business was inspired by Yahoo’s Overture approach. Google settled some litigation and the rest is history. Google became an alleged monopoly and Yahoo devolved into a spammy email service.

And what about Facebook? I noted this article: “ChatGPT Is Not Particularly Innovative and Nothing Revolutionary, Says Meta’s Chief AI Scientist.” The write up explains that Meta’s stance with regard to the vibe machine ChatGPT is “meh.” I think Meta or the Zuckbook does care, but Meta has a number of other issues to which the proud firm must respond. Smart software that seems to be a Swiss Army knife of solutions is “nothing revolutionary.” Okay.

Let’s imagine we are in college in one of those miserable required courses in literature. Our assignment is to analyze the confection called the Tale of Two Techies. What’s the metaphorical pivot for this soap opera?

Here’s my take:

  • Meta is either too embarrassed, too confused, or too overwhelmed with on-going legal hassles to worry too much about ChatGPT. Putting on the “meh” is good enough. The company seems to be saying, “We don’t care too much… at least in public.”
  • Google is running around with its hair on fire. The senior management team’s calling on the dynamic duo to save the day is indicative of the mental short circuits the company exhibits.

Net net: Good, bad, or indifferent ChatGPT makes clear the lack of what one might call big time management thinking. Is this new? Sadly, no.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2023

ChatGPT Spells Trouble for the Google

January 20, 2023

The estimable New York Times published “Google Calls In Help From Larry Page and Sergey Brin for A.I. Fight.” [Note: You will find this write up behind a paywall, of course.] You may know that Google is on “Red Alert” because people are (correctly or incorrectly) talking about ChatGPT as the next big thing. Nothing is more terrifying that once being a next big thing and learning that there is another next big thing. The former next big thing is caught in a phase change; therefore, discomfort replaces comfort.

The Gray Lady states:

The re-engagement of Google’s founders, at the invitation of the company’s current chief executive, Sundar Pichai, emphasized the urgency felt among many Google executives about artificial intelligence and that chatbot, ChatGPT.

Ah, ha. Re-engagement. Messrs. Brin and Page have kept a low profile. Mr. Brin manages his social life, and Mr. Page enjoys his private island. Now bang! Those clever Backrub innovators are needed by the Google senior managers.

The Google is in action mode. I have mentioned papers by Google which explain the really super duper smart software that will be racing down the Information Superhighway. Soon. Any day now. The NYT story states:

Google now intends to unveil more than 20 new products and demonstrate a version of its search engine with chatbot features this year

And the weapon of choice? A PowerPoint type of presentation. Okay. A slide deck. the promise of great things from innovators. The hitch in the git-along is that the sometimes right, sometimes wrong ChatGPT implementations are everywhere. I pointed a major Web site operator at the You.com writing function. Those folks were excited and sent me a machine generated story, saying, “With a little editing, this is really good.” Was it good? What do I know about electric Corvettes, but these people had a Eureka moment. Look up Corvette on Google and what do you get? Ads. Use You.com and what do you get, “Something that excited a big Web site owner.”

The NYT included a quote from an expert, of course. Here’s a snippet I circled:

“This is a moment of significant vulnerability for Google,” said D. Sivakumar, a former Google research director who helped found a start-up called Tonita, which makes search technology for e-commerce companies. “ChatGPT has put a stake in the ground, saying, ‘Here’s what a compelling new search experience could look like.’” Mr. Sivakumar added that Google had overcome previous challenges and could deploy its arsenal of A.I. to stay competitive.

Notice the phrase “could deploy its arsenal of A.I. to stay competitive.” To me, this Xoogler is saying, “Oh, oh. Competition but Google could take action? Could is the guts of a PowerPoint presentation. Okay, but ChatGPT is doing. No could needed.

But the NYT article includes information that Google wants to be responsible. That’s a great idea. So was solving death or flying Loon balloons over Sri Lanka. The problem is that ChatGPT has caught the eye of Google’s arch enemy Microsoft and a platoon of business types at Davos. ChatGPT caused the NYT to write an article about two rich innovators returning like Disney executives to help out a sickly looking Mickey Mouse.

I am looking forward to watching Googzilla break free of the slime mold around its paws and responding. Time to abandon the Foosball and go, go, go.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2023

Google: The Game Plan

December 23, 2022

I read “You Have Reached Your Destination: Google Elegantly Says Goodbye to Waze.” I was thinking that a better title may have suggested that Google has displayed its strategic ways. Not to be.

The article recycles a familiar story. Think Dodgeball. Buy a product. Big opportunities exist with other services that Google wants to “put wood behind.” The future is elsewhere. Hasta la vista “old stuff” for pastures whose harvesting delivers more compensation, influence, and bonus bucks.

Google recycles its hasta la vista language. The article quotes some:

Waze will continue to operate under a separate application and brand. “Google remains deeply committed to Waze’s unique brand, its beloved app and its thriving community of volunteers and users,” the company said in a statement.

Hello, interns and new hires. Work on Waze. Look for something hot like the new moon shot to solve death, for example.

The article suggests what’s behind Google’s buy, ignore, milk, and let die products and services:

Google, instead of seeing Waze as a brand to be nurtured and promoted, treated it as an incubator of ideas that should be exploited. “Every idea we had was quickly adopted by Google Maps,” he wrote. Nor did the company use its vast resources to attract new users to Waze.

Interesting. Same old song.

The reality is that Google struggles, in my opinion, to come to grips with these issues:

  1. Ad revenue is the goal. Products and services which do not deliver Google scale payoffs are doomed unless the service is a fave of senior management or part of an initiative to kill off Amazon, Microsoft, and others deemed to be non-Googley
  2. Incentives affect products. When services don’t change or are lousy, the engineers able to make a difference are working on more lucrative opportunities for themselves. How’s that search working for you? What about that Gmail interface? Great, right?
  3. Google’s senior management is not sure how to reduce costs, amp up revenue, innovate, and avoid getting crushed with administrivia like personnel issues, government regulation, and ageing infrastructure.

Net net: Send Waze down the Orkut path is easy and part of the so-called culture of the GOOG.  There’s nothing fancy, subtle, or complex in what Google does as it faces increasing internal and external pressure.

It’s high school science club management methods in action.

Stephen E Arnold, December 23, 2022

Google and Its Hard Data Approach to a Soft Skill: Firing People

December 5, 2022

Who knew that Google would embrace highly subjective methods such as performance reviews. Yep, a person provides input about another person. What could go wrong? Nothing because the data are Googley by definition. (Interesting how that works, isn’t it?)

The scoop on the method plus a somewhat less than enthusiastic comment are the guts of “Google’s Plan to Lay Off 10,000 Poor Performing Employees Is Based on a Big Lie: Can Performance Reviews Really Do the Trick.”

The Google approach appears to equate fewer employees with lower costs. Okay, sure. But why not focus on the core problem: For me, Google is losing its magnetism. The company like Apple is embracing more aggressive methods of generating revenue. Do you enjoy the promotions for Google’s spin on cable TV? I love them: Repetitive and invasive. What’s not to like.

Here’s the Google plan:

Reports indicate that performance reviews are rolling out companywide. Google leadership is turning to the reviews so that they can rely on supposedly hard data to maintain fairness, remove bias, protect against favoritism, and have something to point to when needing to justify their decision for which 10,000 get laid off.

But the information in the write up which caught my attention was this passage’s payload:

But, according to this Harvard professor, [the write up in the best tradition of Silicon Valley real news does not identify Tsedal Neeley as the expert who is calling Google’s method hogwash]  it’s all one big lie. Many experts claim that the layoffs in big tech are the result of new corporate strategy, failed big bets coming out of the pandemic, and austerity measures entering the recession. This angers the public (not to mention the employees at these companies), because now the decision feels less objective — less fair.

My take on this is that Google’s multi-decade approach has been a high school science club approach to management. Now the company is embracing the ways of the dinobabies. Will this work? In my opinion, it will work like most of Google’s technology, in a way that is good enough.

Google’s personnel milestones include some notable, high profile events. My hunch is that 2023 will feature some newsworthy benchmarks as well; for example, fairness, equal treatment for those from certain backgrounds, and unbiased selection of those who can find their future elsewhere.

Worth watching because the Twitter email notification about termination may be an ideal fit for Gmail’s capabilities.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2022

Google Revises Guest Speakers Rule to Avoid Future Controversy

December 2, 2022

Here’s another example of high school science club management in action. Free thinking and cultural sensitivity seem to be in a constant tug-of-war. Finding itself caught in the middle, “Google Fixes Rules for Inviting Guest Speakers to Its Offices After Recent Row Over Indian Speaker,” Gadgets 360 shares. Reuters explains:

“Alphabet’s Google this week introduced rules for inviting guest speakers to its offices, days after it canceled a talk by an Indian historian who has disparaged marginalised groups and their concerns, according to company emails seen by Reuters. The policy released Thursday is Google’s latest effort to preserve an open culture while addressing divisions that have emerged as its workforce has grown.

Workers at Google and other big tech companies in recent years have clashed and protested over politics and racial and gender equity. Also, Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon all face union organising drives whose demands include that the companies adopt progressive policies. The Google speaker rules, seen by Reuters, cite risk to the brand from certain talks and asks workers to ‘consider whether there’s a business reason for hosting the speaker and if the event directly supports our company goals.’ It calls for avoiding topics that could be ‘disruptive or undermine Google’s culture of belonging’ and reiterates that speakers are barred from advocacy of political candidates and ballot measures.”

This clarification follows months of complaints from workers about scheduled appearances by diametrically opposed authors Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Rajiv Malhotra. See the write-up for details on that dustup. Now potential speakers must be approved by a review team, meaning any request must be submitted at least 12 weeks ahead. So much for Googley spontaneity.

Cynthia Murrell, December 2, 2022

Management Follies: High School Science Clubism at Scale!

November 22, 2022

Several years ago, I floated the idea of a “high school science club management method.” A big time “real” journalist said, “That’s wrong. There is a bro mafia management style.”

I said, “Yeah, you are right. I paid the coffee bill and vamoosed. I wanted to bide my time until I had a few rock solid cases of the HSSCMM or high school science club management method. I am speaking from experience because I was in my high school science club. I was one of the three musketeers who liberated the morning public address announcement with Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

Yep, a half century ago a band of merry teens (both young men and a couple of young women) met weekly to do science like the PA address thing. Why? I have given this great thought over the last 64 years, and here are the three main reasons we pursued our high value projects.

  1. We believed that we were special because we earned top grades, accrued honors (one of our club’s members published a short article in a peer-reviewed astronomy journal and yours truly had a story published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch for which I was paid $10. Net net: We thought we were really smart.
  2. We believed that we knew exactly what to do in any circumstance life in a Midwestern corn and factory town could plop in our path. We have confidence, which I now understand is near fatal hubris.
  3. We conducted ourselves as if our world was the one, true world: Math, science, logic, etc. etc.

Over the years, I have interacted with a wide range of companies. I have watched the HSSCMM move from the weird world of immature and naïve teens into the mainstream of business, leadership, and — dare I say it — techno worship.

Now back to the real journalist dismissing HSSCMM. That bright individual was incorrect. The HSSCMM is the driving force of several fascinating business dramas now unfolding in real time. These are real people (still locked in the teen year immaturity hormone rush), and having a profound impact on families, children, culture, and the way people perceive the world.

Let’s take a look at the three modern dramas, which if we were in Athens in 440 BCE, would be the stuff for the modern version of Oedipus at Colonus called “Dorks of Silicon Valley” or a bop variant of Women of Trachis named “Bros of Business.”

The first is the Twitter hellscape and the space Karen calling the shots with HSSCMM spins. A Silicon Valley infused article in the Verge provides basic information of a consequence of an informed management decision. To keep the story short, lots of people are just quitting. So the lead Tweeter is shutting down the company for a cou8ple of days. Brilliant cost savings and publicity in one fell swoop. That’s a hallmark of the HSSCMM: Act without considering consequences.

The second is the FTX thing. The estimable Bloomberg has covered the story with slightly more thoroughness than the news organization did its story about fiddled motherboards. I am not going to review this case example because I am not sure about what’s fact and what’s fiction. It does seem as though adding some chemical compounds to a mathematical experiment produced consequential results. Ah, who lost their retirement savings? Too bad. The events appear to follow a path my science club took when we poured calcium carbine and concentrated hydrochloric acid into a lab table drain. Yep, someone ignited the resulting gas. Exciting and no one got expelled.

The third is the Amazon termination of a mere 10,000 humanoids. You can get a sense of what goes into a brilliant and logical decision to cut costs in a recent CNBC report.  The reality is the science club or Amazon carpetland. Those not walking on squishy floor coverings cannot be expected to understand. A basic precept of the HSSCMM is that no one in the science club really, really cares.

I am tempted to step back and offer a few thoughts about the broader implications of allowing the HSSCMM to dominate a major part of current business. I won’t. If you read some of the 12,000 posts we have published in Beyond Search since 2008, you can figure out that the fixes are going to be difficult because no one wants to confront the naïve teener mentality which has implemented businesses which leave scorched earth and burned lives.

Yapping and hand waving won’t solve the problem. I am too old to care. I won’t even remind the big time “real” journalist that it is HSSCMM, not bro stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2022

The Freakonomics Approach to Decision Making

November 18, 2022

It is predictable an economist like Steven Levitt would apply statistics to the process of making life’s big choices, but one may be surprised at the simplistic solution he has deduced. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, hosts the “Freakonomics” podcast. Freethink explains how a “‘Freakonomics’ Study Offers Simple Strategy for Making Tough Decisions.” The study had each participant make a binary choice, to make a change or not, with a coin toss and report back. Levitt found a trend in the results. Writer Stephen Johnson reports:

“Most surprising were the results on well-being. At both the two and six-month marks, most people who chose change reported feeling happier, better off, and that they had made the correct decision and would make it again. ‘The data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting,’ Levitt said in a press release. ‘A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo.’ The study had some limitations. One is that its participants weren’t selected randomly. Rather, they opted in to the study after visiting FreakonomicsExperiments.com, which they likely heard about from the podcast or various social media channels associated with it. Another limitation is that participants whose decision didn’t play out well might have been less likely to report back on their status after two and six months. So, the study might be over-representing positive outcomes. Still, the study does suggest that people who are on the margin of a tough decision — that is, people who really can’t decide which option is best — are probably better off going with change.”

Perhaps. Johnson concludes with an old trick for checking your gut instinct that also involves a coin flip? Go ahead and toss that coin, then see which side you find yourself hoping it will land on. Will either of these methods really point to the best decision? Is Mr. Musk using them to inform decision making at Twitter? Are the results reproducible?

Cynthia Murrell, November 18, 2022

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