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Joel Becker
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Joel Becker

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Google's re:work team has published in their blog a one-pager I wrote internally at Google a couple of years ago about one of our most successful (and less publicized) approaches to innovation.
Google’s “moonshot factory” is inspiring and ambitious, but there’s a less talked-about route to many of Google’s great achievements -- the consistent, short-term, incremental “roofshots” that make our products better year after year.
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Joel Becker

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I've often wanted to write this, but +Brian White said it much better.
 
After being asked personally a few times and reading claims by others a few more, I thought I'd set the record straight....

Working at Google does not give you access to the data of users!

It's an easy assumption to make.  After all, most companies don't put internal access controls on data making it easy for every employee to access everything inside the firewall.  Google does not work that way.

Though there are many groups at Google, we'll simplify it into Software Engineering ("SWE") and Site Reliability Engineering ("SRE").  I was the latter for 5 years and I've been the former for 3.

SWE, in general, has access to nothing.  They run their code on their own workstations and sometimes test clusters with test data.  A few get access to anonymized user data for their service -- more on that later.

SRE is the group that owns the keys to the kingdom.  They're the group (actually many small groups) responsible for running Google services "in production".  They almost always have access to anonymized user data for their service and the ability to access "raw" logs if necessary, again for only their service.  The kicker is that, since around 2011, this latter access comes through a specific interface where you must explain with each request why you're doing this.  All those actions are logged and those logs are audited.  Misuse of the access will get you fired.

What is "misuse"?  I can't even look up my own queries.  I could be on-call for my service, have you on the phone fixing a problem with you saying, "go ahead" , and I still couldn't do it.  In five years, I only used raw logs twice, both on myself during training just so we'd know how.

So, for any given service, there may be somewhere between 10 and 100 people worldwide who could potentially access Personally Identifiable Information ("PII") of a user, but doing so without a good reason would be the end of them at the company.  And should that abusive employee somehow cause "material damage" to the company...  I don't even want to speculate.

On top of that, any attempt to track a single user, whether the user can be identified personally or not, will also get you fired.  Every user with any form of logs access has signed a paper (real paper, even) stating that they understand all this and the consequences.

This is serious stuff.  My own team would turn me in without a second thought if I did any of this.  And I'd do the same to them.

What are "anonymized" logs?  They're the requests that have had all PII stripped.  No IP address.  No account identifier.  No geo-locating finer than the city, etc.

Disclaimer:  I work for Google (obviously).  These thoughts are mine and mine alone.  Mine, I tell you!  Mine!!!
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Joel Becker

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"Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Goering's alleged statement ("When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," "universities are a nest of reds.""

-- Umberto Eco "Ur-Facism"
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I've been ignoring The Force Awakens, because the commercialism has been annoying me on one side, and the usual Internet Hate has been pissing me off on the other.

Well, I just binged on the trailer collection. There's more goddamn movie in there than in Episodes 1-3 combined.
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A very good contribution by +Matthew Garrett on the dialogue on "meritocracy" and inclusiveness in Open Source communities, and on the failed contribution by ESR to that dialogue. Go read it.
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Joel Becker

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"Whatever Hillary Clinton’s faults, she’s not ignorant or hateful or a nut. She acts like an adult, and understands the responsibilities of an American president. That might not be a ringing endorsement. But in 2016, the year of Trump’s s campaign, it’s more than enough."
There are many reasons to vote against Donald Trump. Let me cite the most obvious. He’s an ignoramus whose knowledge of public issues is more superficial than an occasional newspaper...
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"Privacy, being necessary to the security of a free People, the right to keep and bear Encryption, shall not be infringed."

Props to +Stuart Eichert for this formulation!
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"... but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo."
A leading scientist has declared homeopathy a "therapeutic dead-end" after a systematic review concluded the controversial treatment was no more effective than placebo drugs. Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the tre...
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All I wanted was to stream some music now that Rdio is gone. Seriously, everyone? Adobe Flash is required? So much for "online" streaming.
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This.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
I came to the US from India 22 years ago. I was fortunate enough to gain entry to a university here, and time after time…
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"We are America.  We must lead."
"In the face of terror, will we panic, or be calm and deliberative in approach?"
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