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Philipp Kern
SRE, Coffee addict, Debian developer
SRE, Coffee addict, Debian developer


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Nach großem Erfolg beim Kölner Stadtarchiv nun in Rastatt: Züblin. Aber "zu 99%" durch zu sein, um dann nochmal anfangen zu müssen, mit einer neuen Bohrmaschine für die letzten 200m (50m Rest plus die 150m die jetzt verfüllt wurden) ist schon echt bitter.

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In case you need music for the event, dear Americans. SCNR.

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Schweinerei der Woche: Google lässt nicht einfach jeden Deppen beliebige Konten übernehmen, sondern prüft die Identität ausführlich, wenn man das Passwort nicht hat. Und hat auch noch die Stirn, dass das etwas länger dauert (und manchmal scheitert), wenn man keinerlei Kontaktdaten für die Wiederherstellung hinterlegt hat!

Früher hätt's das nicht gegeben!

Ihr wollt übrigens bei gucken, was ihr als Account Recovery Options hinterlegt habt. Am wichtigsten ist eine Telefonnummer. Vielleicht auch gleich den kompletten Account Security Checkup durchlaufen, gerne einmal im Jahr.

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Signal boost about TT-RSS upstream being a bunch of immature jerks.
PSA: if you read my blog with TT-RSS, you now will have to find an alternative. As of today my sites will refuse providing any content to TT-RSS, as upstream a) is confrontational upon request of following standards b) feels like if they have all the bandwidth in the world they are fine with splurging others' and c) appear to be openly Nazi sympathisers.

See and

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So +Avery Pennarun​ set out to explain IPv6 and explained something else instead. :>

We can't have nice things if we just add layer over later for compatibility reasons and never remove one when it'd be prudent.

I have met someone at university who proclaimed (to me relatively proudly, but I may have misinterpreted it) that his father switches the voice of the car navigation device to be male because he's not to be told by a woman where to go. That's the level of stupidity we are dealing with in terms of the manifestbro.

No, Google is not a Gulag. There is also absolutely no Thought Police. You need to have basic empathy for your co-workers in terms of not discriminating based on race, gender and sexual orientation. But you'd think that's common sense in a place where you work together?

It's not just what you present, it's also how you present it. If you intend to offend a large part of your co-workers and are not prepared to listen what they have to say, then don't ask. People tried to argue with the author of the manifesto and he was unwilling to consider alternative opinions.

People at Google never work in isolation. You always have to consider the opinions of your co-workers in relation to your work. How that's supposed to work with someone who is ignorant is beyond me. Given that the manifesto ended up with many individual contributors declaring that they would not work with the author anymore, because they would not expect to be treated fairly and given that there were people coming out of the woodwork speaking out about how uncomfortable they felt before the manifesto because of the author's opinion, I'm not sure what people expect.

None of this is related to the "conservatism" the author proclaimed to have. Even some conservatives were offended by the opinions held and spoke out about it. Yes, if you are unwilling to tolerate other people's opinions or unable to show even basic human decency, you have no place at Google.

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The "manifesto": as an ex-Googler, I despise it. For the damage it's already done.

If you haven't read the Medium piece from +Yonatan Zunger linked below, I urge you to do so now. Since he recently departed Google himself just before the manifesto leak, he's (somewhat) freer to discuss this than he would have been before.

As a Xoogler, what really pisses me off is the unfair damage of this manifesto (and its leaking) will do to Google's internal culture and external image—in a way that could affect diversity efforts across the entire industry. This is something Yonatan got at very well in part 3 of his essay.

A big part of the problem with this story has been the decontextualization of the "manifesto". Let me try to raise the veil a little bit, although, due to my NDA, I must write partly in generalizations and hypotheticals:

The thing that people who haven't been or closely known Googlers won't get is the company's long history of semi-sanctioning internal dissent and minority opinions—some of which have lead to some of Google's most popular and profitable services.

At most command-and-control large corporations, the simple existence of a document like this to leak in the first place would be a terrible indictment of the company's culture, because at most companies such a document would never be allowed to even promulgate. At most companies, any potential writer would have understood—even in terms that the writer of this thing would have gotten, with his cough "male engineer mind"—posting this to be literal career suicide. Not because of its bigotry, but simply because it's semi-publicly questioning the decisions of management. ("Terminable behavior" might be the sort of thing you'd read in an employee handbook.) So there's a built-in assumption much of the media is making that for this document to even exist probably indicates it was written or sanctioned by a top executive.

But Google has always tolerated (there's that word again) smart, thoughtful "minority reports" from individual employees not speaking for anyone but themselves—many in the "<something> considered harmful" strain.

"Dissent reports" might have been more accurate terminology, because such a paper (on a different topic) might represent a view that the majority of Googlers (even in management) hold, but some other course had been decided on by the controlling managers, or Google had just fallen into a practice and it had become de facto policy without conscious thought.

I have a story about this (again, whose details I must elide). I think I first met +Yonatan Zunger when +Liz Fong-Jones and I co-chaired an officially-sanctioned group working on such a "minority" opinion, at the behest of Larry, when the executives in charge of the project in question had already declared the matter closed to discussion. (The opinion itself was first promulgated widely by an individual employee writing on his or her own behest; the officially-sanctioned committee we co-chaired was followup to that opinion.)

That minority opinion eventually largely won out, after our team worked to flesh out the particulars of the consequences of the decision, gather data, and open lines of communication. We did this partly by going out and meeting with Googlers to find out how the decision affected the company's values, and what kind of company Googlers wanted to work for (for instance, I held several "town halls" in the NYC office, where we exceeded fire-code capacity of our largest multipurpose room).

We had to try to answer these questions of company values. Was the dissenting opinion actually held by just a "minority"—specifically, of those who had informed feelings or an actual personal investment one way or another? (Decisions by default or from ignorance, chance, or due to extrinsic cultural norms were not considered valid arguments.)

If the opinion was not, in fact, that of a small "minority"—and the opinion represented a majority, or at least, demonstrable plurality of those to whom it mattered—how alienated would those who agreed with the dissent feel if the company continued down the course? Was there a stake held by the informed members of the (non-dissenting) opposing side, and if the decision were overturned, how alienated would that make them feel? These were the sort of questions we were tasked to answer.

"Minority/majority" are really the wrong words here—it was just what we got stuck with given the "minority report" terminology. In our case, it was only "minority" because there's a presumption in any business that when executives make decisions, they do so in a way that reflects company values, and company values are held by the entirety of the company, ipso facto.

Yet—to make up two hypotheticals—there's an enormous difference between a cosmetic product redesign that was well and truly hated by 90% of Googlers, and a decision about benefits affecting LGBT employees that only 40% of Googlers overall disagreed with—but that 30% had no informed opinion on, and that almost all LGBT employees disagreed with.¹ In case it's not obvious: at Google, the latter "minority" argument will win, because it's a matter of company values. The former "majority but dissenting" opinion may or may not win, because it's not about values. (Actually, it probably won't win, because Googlers are not in the business of making products for Googlers, and their opinion of aesthetic design isn't necessarily an informed one.)

At other large companies I've worked for, this entire scenario would be unthinkable—once an executive makes a decision, the only thing that will change it is that executive changing his or her mind, being replaced, or getting overridden from the top—at most companies, general employee organizing and dissent is not a valid use of company time, and will get you fired.

All that's to put into context why I hate the damage this manifesto and its leak caused. Inside Google, it will add entirely unneeded and unwanted toxicity to the work environment, especially for women, because its content is so execrable. For that reason—dissent tolerance or no—this person deserved to be terminated immediately, as Yonatan described in his final paragraphs. "Public" (inside the company) dissent was acceptable, and even, when successful or when its tough questions improved the final product, was lauded; bigotry was not.

Outside Google, because most people will be unaware of the "tolerated dissent" culture, they won't recognize this missive for what it is—the uninformed and bigoted whining of a single engineer whose support among other employees is proportionally minuscule.

I said, "proportionally minuscule." Critiques of the sexism and other "casual bigotry" of the industry by looking at the FOSS community—where things that at companies would be internal issues are done out in public—strongly suggests that there's an embarrassingly large portion of straight white cis engineers who might be sympathetic, but I very firmly believe that at Google this was less prevalent. (Not less prevalent enough to even be held up as an example—and of course its prevalence should be zero—but substantially less than other large companies I'm familiar with.)

Outside readers won't understand that this engineer had undoubtedly seen other cases of minority opinions being promulgated, thoughtfully (and sometimes passionately) discussed, and management taking action in response, and—in his own, entirely misguided way—thought he was following this notorious yet proud tradition by doing the same. That process is so bizarre, so outside the experience of employees of most large companies, that outsiders will reasonably conclude that this had to have been a semi-official document of some kind—at the very least, a message from some important dissenting executive. (And, from much of the press coverage, they seem to have assumed exactly that.)

As a direct result of this leak combined with this misunderstanding of internal Google culture, Google is going to find it even harder to recruit good talent who find these views repugnant, and will lose talent who find the increased toxicity intolerable. And that's even just limiting consideration to disproportionately overrepresented men. Diversity hiring and retention has just become a newly even worse nightmare.

More pernicious and harder to detect: it's going to attract applicants with the entirely incorrect notion that Google is a place that respects their bigotry as "just another opinion". And unfortunately, Google's hiring process—as exhaustive, selective, and byzantine as it is—doesn't screen for quietly-held bigotry. (At least, it didn't when I was privy to how it worked.)

The leak of new chief diversity exec Danielle Brown's message in response won't help matters much.² It states for the record that Google finds the views of the manifesto to be against company values, but it also restates Google's support for its culture of dissent. I think the motivation of this came from a good place, that this was meant, internally, to reassure nervous Googlers that this manifesto's leak's horrible external optics aren't going to suddenly result in a crackdown on even the good dissent, like other companies have.

Unfortunately, people without understanding of the internal Google dissent culture will read this part of Brown's message as condoning bigotry as just another argument, as appropriate as any other.

I have no easy answers here. As Yonatan wrote about his having to do cleanup—even as an ex-Googler!—this manifesto, and its decontextualized leak, has done enormous damage to the company and its diversity efforts. The manifesto-writer's being fired or not is almost irrelevant at this point except as signal—and there are important legal and ethical reasons why Google can't easily use his firing for PR purposes.

If the writer wanted a less-tolerant and less-diverse Google, he may have succeeded simply through the publicity. Undermining years of progress, as glacial as that progress may have seemed. He's managed to make Google in particular, and tech workplaces in general, more hostile unilaterally, just by clicking "share". And he probably has put a chilling effect on the dissent culture that was part of what made Google such a special place to work—which could ultimately lead to Google adopting an official policy banning internal promulgation of dissent, like other companies have.

All of that absolutely infuriates me.

You wanted answers at the end of this post? Sorry, I'm fresh out. This was despicable asymmetric behavior on the part of the writer (and possibly leaker), whose fallout at this point is still unknown and probably can only be mitigated somewhat, at best.

¹ For the record, I'm making this up—again, NDA.

² And to be clear, it won't help matters much because of its decontextualization by being leaked; I'm not criticizing her for the message's content to current Googlers. (I could wish she were more explicit that bigotry is not tolerated in the same way that other dissent is—the "paradox of tolerance" Yonatan's written about so brilliantly—but I suspect that someone else, perhaps Sundar or Larry himself, did that in a message that hasn't (yet) leaked.)

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»Like one psuedoscience blowhard gets fired and suddenly a bunch of Ayn Rand fans want to know where all the labor protections went.«

Handy shortcut: If you want to purge something from auto-complete in the address bar in Chrome, type it and then press Shift-Del. That will remove the selected entry. (Which doesn't work for search queries and stuff but for already visited - or attempted - sites.)
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