Yo, Amazon, Hello, Facebook, Hey, Google, Sup, IBM: Any Moonlighting Wizards on Your Payroll?

September 28, 2022

A couple of years ago, I provided those in my LE and intel lectures with the names of some online recruiting services which say things like:

Hire Silicon Valley-caliber engineers at half the cost

The number of outfits offering programmers with in-demand skills is large. Do these “remote” employees have: [a] full time jobs at big tech firms, [b] work remotely with supervision from an indifferent 20 something or Microsoft Teams-type monitoring functions, or [c] have automated a full-time job so that an eight hour work day can be used to generate income from gig work or another full-time job?

I read “Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji Fires 300 Employees for Secretly for Moonlighting.” [Note: this item appeared in India and the provider of the content can be disappeared at any time or charge for access to the full text. There’s not much I can do to ameliorate this issue.] The article states:

Wipro has terminated 300 employees found to be moonlighting with its key rivals at the same time, its Chairman Rishad Premji said on Wednesday [September 21, 2022] . Speaking at the All India Management Association (AIMA) National Management Convention, Premji termed moonlighting is a complete violation of integrity “in its deepest form”. “The reality is that there are people today working for Wipro and working directly for one of our competitors and we have actually discovered 300 people in the last few months who are doing exactly that,” the Wipro Chairman said. The company has now terminated their employment for “act of integrity violation”.

I find the action of Mr. Premji instructive. I wonder why US-based high-tech firms do not take the same action.

The point I made in my lecture is that bad actors can pass themselves off as legitimate businesses just based in some interesting city like Athens, Greece. The technical skills required are advanced and not directly connected to anything other than helping a jewelry company or online egame service implement a resilient network. The person responding to this opportunity may have requisite experience working at a big US high tech company. The person does the work and forgets about the project. However, the entity doing the hiring is a bad actor. The task completed by the US high tech engineer snaps into a larger set of work.

Should the online recruitment outfit perform more due diligence on what looks like a legitimate company selling fountain pens or plumbing equipment in another country? The answer is, “Sure.” That’s not the case. Based on our research none of the recruiters or the gig workers did much if any investigation of the hiring outfit. If a company paid the matchmaker and the gig worker, that was the proof of appropriate activity.

The reality, which I described in my lecture, is that insiders are making it easy for bad actors to learn about certain companies. Furthermore, the simple and obvious coding task is just one component in what can be an illegal online operation. The example I provided to the LE and analysts in my lecture was an online streaming service with an illegal online gambling “feature.”

I can hear the senior managers’ excuses now:

  1. “Our employees are prohibited from doing outside work.” [Yeah, but does anyone validate this assertion?]
  2. “We have a personnel department which works closely with our security team to prevent this type of insider activity.” [Yeah, but telling me this is cheaper and easier than reporting on specific data compiled to reduce this type of activity, right?]
  3. “Our contractors are moderated and subject to the same security procedures as our work-from-home full time staff? [Yeah, but does anyone really know how that contractor located in another company actually operates?]k

Net net: Mr. Premji is on the right track. FYI: WiPro was founded in 1945 and the firm took action on this matter after 77 years. Speedy indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2022

Google: Fraying Comes with Graying

September 28, 2022

At a conference last week, I had to work hard to avoid getting annoyed at 20 somethings: Fiddling with mobiles, looking bored, and tapping on laptops. I stayed on course.

Not at the Google apparently. “Google CEO Pichai Tells Employees Not to ‘Equate Fun with Money’ in Heated All-Hands Meeting.” I have zero idea if this news story is spot on, nor do I care. The factoids might be disinformation bought and paid for by a disgruntled lobbying or a person unhappy with Google’s objective search results spiel.

But the write up is entertaining and it is suggestive, at least to me.

First, I chuckled at the “heated” all hands meeting. I have heard that in the Brin Page do no evil era, meetings were often fun. Heck, I have reasonably accurate information about Mr. Brin’s arriving at a meeting with Sumner Redstone. Mr. Brin exuded fun because he had been roller blading and arrived with skates on and fruit bootin garb. Mr. Redstone was not amused too much. If the write up’s headline reflects reality and not a quest for clicks, “heated” does not refer to sweaty wizards. Heated means angry, annoyed, maybe out of control? Huh, not cool.

Second, I spotted this comment in the write up:

Pichai admitted that it’s not just the economy that’s caused challenges at Google but also an expanding bureaucracy at Google.

High school science club management appears to fall short of what’s needed to make the Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind entity walk like a neurological digital dinosaur should. Wobblies and poor coordination do not send positive signals to big time Wall Street wolves.

Third, this compensation point resonated with me:

Pichai dodged employee questions asking about cost-cutting executive compensation. Pichai brought in total pay last year of $6.3 million, while other top executives made more than $28 million.

Is “dodged” the right word? Probably not, but to a wizard manager getting plastered with the word “dodged” is not positive PR. But, hey, this is the outfit which fired Dr. Timnit Gebru for pointing out one type of error association with Google’s smart software. Does that lack of intelligence extend to the managing humanoids at the Google? What about Google’s compensation plan for leadership versus a young programmer working on single sign on? Good question maybe?

Fourth, I found this passage thought provoking:

“I’m a bit concerned that you think what we’ve done is what you would define as aggressive cost saving,” he said. “I think it’s important we don’t get disconnected. You need to take a long-term view through conditions like this.” He added that the company is “still investing in long-term projects like quantum computing,” and said that at times of uncertainty, it’s important “to be smart, to be frugal, to be scrappy, to be more efficient.”

I think this illustrates what I would call a disconnect between the life in carpet land and the programmer-eat-marketer environment of the Foosball table. Disconnects? Is Android fragmented? Does Google have what it takes to catch up with Amazon and Microsoft in cloud space?

Has AGYD solved death? I know that Google may be looking a bit like a senior citizen struggling with the reality of arteriosclerosis. Will walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs be on display at the next big time all hands meeting?

That would be a significant signal in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2022

US Government Censorship: Remarkable Assertion

September 28, 2022

I am not familiar with the censorship action described in “The U.S. Government’s Vast New Privatized Censorship Regime.”

One passage struck me as interesting; to wit:

At least 11 federal agencies, and around 80 government officials, have been explicitly directing social media companies to take down posts and remove certain accounts that violate the government’s own preferences and guidelines for coverage on topics ranging from COVID restrictions, to the 2020 election, to the Hunter Biden laptop scandal.

One of the characteristics of any government, including the US government, is that coordination across, among, and between agencies and individuals is time consuming, difficult, and fraught with missteps. I have no doubt that any broad US government activity is difficult to set up, implement, and keep outside the ken of Washington Post-type investigative journalists. Furthermore, getting one — let alone a group — of Silicon Valley type high tech outfits to take prompt action runs counter to my experience. If a government professional wants to obtain information believed to be available to a high tech outfit, the process often begins with a form. If the government professional, a specific point of contact will be known to the official. A phone call, email, or text message may or may not elicit a response. I have heard such statements as “Wow, blue bubble green bubble problem”, “I must have missed that email; I will look in my spam folder”, and “Can you send a hard copy request via FedEx?’ have been offered as reasons for typically slow responses to queries.

I know that information and outputs during the time of Covid was a bit of a challenge. I am not sure that anyone knew much about what others were doing. I will grant that the signals cited in the write up paint a picture of focused US government action concerning the conference and statement involved. But, if true, the actions are not what I would call “routine” behavior. Toss in third parties and the write up’s description of purposeful action is even more anomalous. Maybe I worked in less organized government entities.

I wish I had a nickel every time a project on which I have worked was described differently from what was actually going on.

Nevertheless, the write up is interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2022

Anyone Remember the Google and Its Magic Algorithms?

September 21, 2022

Outfits like Foundem and the French tax authority wondered why the findability of their products and services was poor. I recall hearing from one or more Googlers the message that manual changes to search results were not part of the grand plan. The algorithms have more than 100 factors which make such determinations. Heck, I even included about 120 of these in my monograph published by the late and lamented publishing outfit Infonortics. In the Google Legacy I summarized these numerical recipes and pointed out that Google’s super secret system and method determined Google quality, Google relevance, and Google appropriateness. I did the research for that monograph in 2003 and 2004.

How times change! In 2015, the phrase “right to be forgotten” gained traction. In early 2022, Spain complained about the Google right to be forgotten process.

I read “Google App Starts Rolling Out Results about You to Help Remove Personal Information.” The article points out:

For some today, opening the Google app on Android and tapping your profile avatar in the top-right corner reveals a new “Results about you” menu item. This takes users to a page that explains how they can request Google remove Search results that contain phone number, home address, email, or other PII.

So what?

My opinion is that Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind or AGYD has the tools, knobs, and dials to makes it smart systems perform like puppets in the hands of a digitally literate puppet master. If my view is accurate, some hypothetical notions can be outlined; for instance:

  1. AGYD can “steer” what enters its systems and what goes out to its partners, advertisers, and users. Does this mean that oversight of AGYD is needed? The European Union seems to think so it appears.
  2. AGYD’s protestations about objectivity and doing good stuff for its users could be rephrased this way: Google does good stuff for Alphabet, itself, YouTube, and DeepMind. If this hypothesis is close enough for horse shoes, what does ethical behavior mean in the AGYD datasphere?
  3. Are AGYD’s systems “smart” or are these systems just following instructions. How should algorithms like those in use at AGYD be viewed: [a] Harmless science club stuff, [b] Applied weaponized information methods, [c] a Rube Goldberg system which allows a large number of adjustments as long as the money generating functions are not impaired?, or [d] some other view?

These three points are observations and probably a reflection of my skepticism about “magical” technology. Google may be more like Houdini than Einstein.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2022

US Big Tech and Little Tech: Are the Priorities Clear?

September 19, 2022

Just a quick note to document the run up to Big Changes in 2023.

First, the estimable, much loved and respected, togetherness outfit made some of its priorities clear. I read “Meta Disbands Responsible Innovation Team, Spreads It Out over Facebook and Co.” [I think the “co” means company, whatever.]

The article states:

Meta spokesman Eric Porterfield told The Register that, rather than ending the efforts of the RIT, the disbanding will see “the vast majority” of the 20-person team moved into other areas at Meta “to help us scale our efforts by deploying dedicated experts directly into product areas, rather than as a standalone team.”  Per Porterfield, Meta’s official statement on the matter is that the work done by the RIT is more of a priority now – not less, as a disbanding of the team would suggest.

Yep, disbanding means amping up. One priority is clear to me: Dump a central group and bury what I think is an underfunded, understaffed, and mostly ignored function. Is Facebook saying, “Okay, find someone to pin a specific issue on now, you Silicon Valley real journalists and pesky Congress-people.”P

The second item about priorities is from everyone’s favorite work around for MasterCard and Visa issues. I read “Patreon Cut At Least Five People From Its Security Team.” The article reports:

“As part of a strategic shift a portion of our security program, we have parted ways with five employees,” said Patreon in an emailed statement attributed to the company’s U.S. policy head, Ellen Satterwhite …

What’s this say to me? How about Patreon management perceives that its security is really good. And that the layoffs don’t have an impact on security. Therefore, why not reduce the cyber security team? That makes sense in Patreon-land; here in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, not so much.

The third item concerns digital plumbing. I noted “Cisco Says It Won’t Patch These Dangerous VPN Security Flaws in Its SMB Routers.” The owner of the Talos security operation is okay with some security flaws. The article asserts:

Cisco has said it won’t be issuing any further updates for three vulnerable routers which could apparently allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to bypass authentication controls and access the IPSec VPN network.

Good decision, right?

Net net: The priorities for 2023 are clear:

  1. Reorganize so it is tough to pinpoint who is doing what
  2. Assume that cost cutting will keep security in tip top share or at least less likely to be fixed up when a gap is discovered by bad actors
  3. Rationalize away doing security while sending a signal to bad actors that certain devices are vulnerable.

Outstanding management presages a super duper 2023.

Stephen E Arnold, September  19, 2022

Meta: The Efflorescence of Zucking

September 19, 2022

Years ago a colleague of mine and I spent a couple of days with Pat Gunkel. Ah, you don’t know him? Depending on whom one asks, he was either an interesting person or a once-in-a-generation genius. I have in front of me a copy of “The Efflorescent World View.” (Want to buy a copy handed to me by Mr. Gunkel? Just write us at benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. It’s a collectible because only a few of Mr. Gunkel’s books are findable in our wonderful, search-tastic online world.) The image below shows what an actual Gunkel book from his office looks like:

gunkel cover 300 pix

I thought about Mr. Gunkel when I read “Meta Shares Plunged 14% This Week, Falling Close to Their Pandemic Low.” Mr. Gunkel’s method involved creating lists. Lots of lists. I think he would have found the challenge of cataloging Mr. Zuck’s impressive achievements; for example:

  • The reference stock plunge
  • Implementing an employee management technique in which employees learn that some of them should not be Zuckers
  • The “make friends with your neighbors in Hawaii” actions
  • The elimination of personal cubes and work spaces in Meta’s offices
  • The renaming of the company to celebrate the billions invested in what eGame developers have been doing for — yeah, how long — for decades
  • Thinking about charging for its unpopular clone of a really popular app. (Genius with a twist of Zuck? Yes!)

But what’s an “efflorescence”? Some may ask. I have a big fat book on the subject. Let me summarize: One might say a gradual flowering. Others might suggest that it represents a culmination.

My hunch is that the year 2022 marks the efflorescence of the Zuckbook, the knock off of TikTok, and the push to make WhatsApp a superapp for good and evil.

The efflorescence of Zucking. Too bad Mr. Gunkel is no longer with us to undertake this project. He was, I must say, very interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2022

Tech Boomers: Is the Motivation Data or Power?

September 14, 2022

I read an essay by the high profile writer / analyst / technologist Douglas Rushkoff. People love his approach. In “Douglas Rushkoff: Silicon Valley’s Elite Prize Data Over Reality, and It’s Hurting Us All,” the argument runs along this path:

  1. Use innovation to pop up a level or what gamers call “level up”
  2. Get data: Overt, covert, whatever and use math art history majors don’t know about
  3. Use analytic outputs to generate clever stuff
  4. Make or get money or more money
  5. Get big, bigger, and biggest whatever.

I think the idea threads through Mr. Rushkoff’s new book and is a component of his metaphor, “The Mindset.”

I am confident he is correct, well, mostly correct.

I think there are other, possibly more potent chemicals fueling the thinking of the tech boomers.

One of these is a desire to demonstrate that one can do whatever one wants. Whether it is the hoo haa or the “chaos monkeys,” the antics of programmers playing Foosball during the work day, or dying with a hooker after taking an opiate, one has to accept the thought process of really smart, very clever people. I call this the high school science club idea of how the world should and will work.

The second is more fundamental. The other chemical chugging through the tech boomer is a desire for power. The type of power that leads the big dog at Facebook Meta Whatever to be a leader who cannot be removed from office. A parallel exists at a certain online ad vendor which talks equality and diversity and then terminates those who are manifestations of diversity for thinking different thoughts. And there is a certain online bookstore which allows certain types of products flow from source to consumer without worrying too much about provenance. Then when a best seller pops up that online retailer dupes the products, cuts the price, and sallies forth.

What role does innovation play in these two digital chemicals addictive characteristic? I think it plays second or third violin. Innovation is not well understood. What people who are smart and clever grasp is the idea of doing what one wants and finding a way to gain power.

Does my view suggest a dark side to the tech boomers’ success? It depends upon whom one asks.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2022

Google: More Management Mysteries

September 6, 2022

I read a somewhat odd article about Google in the New York Times. That’s a newspaper, not a Harvard Business Review? Sorry. The world of “real journalists” has embraced the wonkiness of management gurus and Drukerism.

The article which caught my attention was named by someone — possibly a really busy editor — “Google Employee Who Played Key Role in Protest of Contract with Israel Quits.” The idea that an individual who accepts pay in return for work does not like a corporation’s direction is becoming a thing, a trend. The idea is that a company pays a person and that person gets to alter the direction in which a decision is heading.

Yeah, okay.

From my point of view, the person who accepts money to work at a company, presumably eight or more hours a day, has several options:

  1. Just quit. Hunt for a new job. This is a good solution.
  2. Keep quiet. Do the work. Cash the check or look at the bank balance in an online only bank app.
  3. Work harder, get promoted, and earn a position and responsibility so that one’s ideas can influence colleagues. This is a better solution.

The newspaper article skips these ideas and focuses on the actions taken by the employee. The implicit idea is that the employee’s approach to a problem was just wonderful. The company’s response to these actions was inappropriate, ill advised, and stupid.

Maybe Google’s approach to management is different from what someone of my age expects?

The one point in the article which struck me as significant was:

… Google had tried to retaliate against her for her activism.

The retaliation point is one that warrants more development. The newspaper article could have been boiled down to 150 words. The MBA- / the-big-tech-outfit-is bad angle could have been expanded, explained, and analyzed in an HBR-type of write up or a law review-type analysis.

What I perceive is a newspaper trying to to something its is not geared up to do well. Is the Google perfect? Nah. Do I think this situation reveals a facet of the online ad outfit which is troubling?

Absolutely.

Both the employee and the company could have been more old fashioned, which then would not have been “real news.”

That’s a problem.

Stephen E Arnold, September 6, 2022

Google Management: If True, a New Term Gains Currency

August 29, 2022

Caste bias. That’s a bound phrase with which I was not familiar. I grew up in Illinois, and when I was a wee lad in Illinois by the river gently flowing, castes and biases were not on my radar. Flash forward 77 years, and the concept remains outside the lingo of some people who live in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

Google Scrapped a Talk on Caste Bias Because Some Employees Felt It Was “Anti Hindu”, if accurate, provides another glimpse of the Google’s difficult situation with regard to different ethnicities, religions and cults, and other factors which humanoids manifest.

The issue of management is a tricky one. Google, as I pointed out in The Google Legacy (Infonortics Ltd, 2004), Google is a company with non traditional management methods. These embraced settling an intellectual property misunderstanding with Yahoo related to advertising systems and methods, permitting a wide range of somewhat adolescent behaviors such as sleeping in bean bags and playing Foosball at work, and ignoring some of the more interesting behaviors super duper wizards demonstrate as part of their equipment for living.

The cited Quartz India article states:

“I cannot find the words to express just how traumatic and discriminatory Google’s actions were towards its employees and myself…” Soundararajan [the terminated speaker who is executive director of the US-based social justice organization Equality Labs] said in the press release.

The Google wizard charged with explaining the termination of the lecture allegedly said:

While noting that caste discrimination had “no place” at Google, Shannon Newberry, Google’s spokesperson, said in a statement to The Washington Post, “We also made the decision to not move forward with the proposed talk which—rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness—was creating division and rancor.”

Observations? I would like to offer three:

  1. Who in charge at the Google? Does this individual harbor some biases? My experience suggests that it is very difficult for an individual to step outside of the self and judge in an objective manner what behaviors could trigger such remarkable management decisions, explanations, and reversals.
  2. The lingo used to explain the incident strikes me as classic Sillycon Valley: A statement designed not to address the core issue.
  3. I wonder how Dr. Timnit Gebru interprets the management decision making for the allegedly true Quartz described incident.

Yep, just part of the Google Legacy. “Caste bias” plus accompanying Google babble in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2022

Google Outages: The Logic of a Quasi Monopoly

August 24, 2022

I read “Google Search Goes Down Around the World, Chaos Ensues.” In today’s world, I am not certain that a quasi monopoly’s technical shortcomings cause chaos. Anger, frustration, and confusion, yes. Chaos already exists in a number of high profile activities; for example, air plane luggage handling, medicines which don’t work as advertised on cable TV, and self driving vehicles. The write up states about one outage:

Google Search went down in dozens of countries. Other Google services, like Google Maps, were affected too.

Then:

The outage followed an “electrical incident” earlier in the day at a Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to local media and SFGate. The incident critically injured three electricians around midday Iowa time. One person was flown to a nearby hospital and the other two were transported by ambulance.

Now here is the sentence which made the logic of quasi monopolies clear to me and probably no one else in the world, including the 150,000 or so Googlers laboring in the vineyards of truth and advertising revenue:

A Google spokesperson, however, told CNET that the two incidents were unrelated.

Er, one company is the glue that connects the two events. Thus, in my opinion, the one company has failed twice and the events are related: Corporate DNA does not infuse just the Mountain View folks. Everyone has the chemical magic if not the technical skills to demonstrate that technical debt is now too burdensome to address in an effective way. Focus, right?

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2022

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