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Louis Wasserman
Deranged Google engineer, contradancer, and mathematician.
Deranged Google engineer, contradancer, and mathematician.

Louis's posts

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SF Pride 2014
14 Photos - View album

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If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.

I have to admit, this is a catchy line.  It appeals to the inner cynic in us all and makes a certain amount of sense in a core, "what can you do for me," type of thinking.

But it's hog-wash.

I work for Google so I follow the news about the company and I'm really tired of seeing that first line, or some variation of it, spouted by people who really don't care enough to want to think it through.  It does not work that way!

Yes, Google is a company.  And yes, Google is a reasonably large company (though not that large compared to the likes of IBM, GE, etc.).  But though a company is a single entity in the eyes of the law, it is not run like that.  Google is full of many thousands of individuals, many of whom are more rabid about user privacy than the privacy watchdogs that complain.  I've watched them take Larry and Sergey to task on stage about the smallest things.  I've done it twice myself.  If the leaders of the company purposely violated our users' trust, there would be open revolt and the founders would be lucky to not find themselves strung up by their toes.

Everything Google does is done for our users.  Your happiness is always the first priority, even above Ads.  (I've seen this in both policy and various practical implementations.)  You are not product; you are our customers!  That's simply the way we view it and it permeates the company from bottom to top.  Everything is done to make a better service for you.

Even Ads is viewed as a service to our users.  Random ads are garbage.  Useful ads are a benefit.  Yes, it's also a benefit to our publishers and yes, it's also a benefit to our shareholders.  Since when did win-win-win arrangements become a bad thing?

I won't claim that Google always gets it exactly right or that we haven't made mistakes.  We don't and we have.  And we admit it.  And it will happen again.  Sorry.  But everything is done with the right intent even if it doesn't always work out as hoped.  Hindsight is perfect.

Google is the most moral company in which I have ever worked.  But guarding our users' privacy doesn't just make moral sense, it makes business sense.  If we purposefully violated our users' privacy, we wouldn't have a business at all before very long.

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Making Blockly Universally Accessible
Posted by +Neil Fraser, Chief Interplanetary Liaison

We work hard to make our products accessible to people everywhere, in every culture. Today we’re expanding our outreach efforts to support a traditionally underserved community -- those who call themselves "tlhIngan."

Google's Blockly programming environment is used in K-12 classrooms around the world to teach programming. But the world is not enough. Students on Qo'noS ( have had difficulty learning to code because most of the teaching tools aren't available in their native language. Additionally, many existing tools are too fragile for their pedagogical approach. As a result, Klingons have found it challenging to enter computer science. This is reflected in the fact that less than 2% of Google engineers are Klingon.

Today we launch a full translation of Blockly in Klingon. It incorporates Klingon cultural norms to facilitate learning in this unique population:

-Blockly has no syntax errors. This reduces frustration, and reduces the number of computers thrown through bulkheads.

-Variables are untyped. Type errors can too easily be perceived as a challenge to the honor of a student's family (and we’ve seen where that ends).

-Debugging and bug reports have been omitted, our research indicates that in the event of a bug, they prefer the entire program to just blow up.

Get a little keyboard dirt under your fingernails. Learn that although ghargh ( is delicious, code structure should not resemble it. And above all, be proud that tlhIngan maH ( Qapla'!

You can try out the demo below or get involved at

Shin splints, both legs; no ceili for a month.

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The Guava team is trying a little social experiment and hosting a Reddit "AMA" (ask me/us anything) tomorrow. We'll devote some serious time toward answering these questions deeply and soul-searchingly. :-)

Go post your questions and upvote the questions you like!


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I remember hating recess when I was a kid.

That was the time when there were the fewest teachers paying attention. If they did pay attention it was either to break up a physical fight or to force the kid playing by himself to “be social”. “Be social” is code for forcing a kid to participate in whatever conformist ball-kicking nonsense the other kids felt like doing. It meant being picked last, being cajoled and made fun of, being an outcast without being able to get away. Nothing too overt, of course, anything physical or loud would attract the teachers.

The message was clear though, “You are not welcome here.”

I managed to construct some safe places. The teachers tended to like me because I didn’t cause much trouble, so the classroom was safe. I also paired up with another outcast for recess. We’d go to the far corner of the field and play tetherball. The other kids didn’t like tetherball much, and the teachers wouldn’t be so quick to force two kids playing together to “be social”.

Then they started trying to destroy my safe places.

On some days there was a sudden “interest” in tetherball so that my friend and I couldn’t play. Not every day, of course, they didn’t really like tetherball, but enough to send a message. Later in elementary school the kids got more clever; they started sabotaging projects and creating enough anonymous mischief around me that the teachers started considering me a hassle.

I remember one day in particular. My friend and I were playing away from everyone else and the school fire alarm went off. We heard it and marched off dutifully to line up with the rest of the class. We had the farthest to walk, so we were the last to arrive.

We were immediately marched off to the principal’s office. Someone had pulled the fire alarm as a prank and several of the other kids had concocted a story that my friend and I had done it. We spent what seemed like hours being lectured about how serious it was to trigger a false alarm. They told us that our parents would get a $500 fine and that it would be better if we’d just confess. They said they “knew” it was us because so many of the other kids said they saw us.

I remember the feeling in my gut as the people I’d relied on to protect me turned against me, as my safe place went away, seemingly forever.

The school staff eventually dropped the subject. They never apologized or explained why. I don’t think my parents ever got a call, much less a fine.  The message that day was clear too though, “You have no place. Anywhere.”

It’s been a long time since I felt the fear/dread/frustration/sadness that I felt that day, but I felt it today.

A group of people took some real and dire problems (income disparity), added some speculative and questionable ones (some poorly articulated thoughts on surveillance) and decided to pick a Googler somewhat at random and make him a scapegoat. A mob of people marched up to his house, rang his doorbell, blocked his driveway, and passed out fliers telling everyone in the neighborhood what an evil person he is.

It’s hard to articulate why this pushes my buttons in the same way.

There are plenty of well paid people in Berkeley. There are lots of expensive houses on that street and all over town. Lots of people who live in Berkeley work elsewhere. There’s only one reason this guy was targeted, only one thing that makes him stand out.

He’s a “techie”.

“Techie” seems to be the new slur to throw at people who like gadgets, people like me. They can’t use “nerd” or “geek” any more; we took those and made them our own ages ago and made the asshats who threw them at us choke on them.

An angry mob showed up at this guy’s house because he’s a geek.

He’s someone like me.

(I feel the need to point out that there are many other groups of people who deal with this sort of asshattery (and far worse) all the time. )

Apparently something sports happened sports sports.
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