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robi b
interface explorer at More on Google+:, Medium: Plus hackday:
interface explorer at More on Google+:, Medium: Plus hackday:

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Sigh, the comments us usual are disappointing and dive into arguing rather stupid semantics.

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I can completely see how the some parts of the public might really misinterpret both the reasons for the initial manifesto being allowed to exist, and the various responses and actions to it from executives.

I've worked at large and small companies (one each) and thankfully I don't feel any overbearing pressure as corporate dictum to have to hold my tongue if I feel like decisions are not being made correctly or if I see something going on that needs to be addressed, whether from an executive or not.

So it's certainly an eye opening implication that there are companies that actively decide to quash any type of dissension, whether positive or negative, and solely make everyone follow the party line blindly.

That in it of itself it a reason to think really hard about why you would want to be at that company.

So that being said, think about what it takes for a company culture to exist that would make an employee feel empowered enough to write and publicly circulate this type of well intentioned but ultimately frighteningly blind manifesto. That takes an enormous amount of tolerance and culture to seep into the employee mindset. But as with all companies, it is understandable that lines will have to be drawn as to what is and isn't appropriate, and how your own actions can create an environment for others that is inappropriate.

The key is though, Google was (and hopefully still is) open enough to have a culture where the employees can decide for themselves to take that risk to try to do what they feel is right instead of being categorically shut down.

Personally, I would rather have the option to be allowed to take risks than to know that I'm in a culture that shuts down anything and everything that dissents from the party line.

As an employee, that is a privilege of empowerment given to me, and consequently, it is also my sole responsibility to figure out how this may affect others and to accept both the benefits and the consequences of such. Sometimes it can lead to revolutionary new concepts that can benefit the company, and other times, it can lead to termination for severe disruption.

But it gets to be my choice, and not some sort of rigid thing handed down from above. That, for a company, takes a lot of guts to do to trust their employees and to also trust that they will both do the right thing and to accept the consequences and benefits of their own actions.

+Trey Harris +Yonatan Zunger
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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They come and go pretty fast when your viewpoints are somewhat toxic and unscientific.
Google has fired the software engineer who wrote an anti-diversity note which went viral and fuelled a major debate and controversy.
Excerpts from +Sundar Pichai 's internal note can be read in the image attached and also just below:

'This has been a very difficult time. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.'

'First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The full note can be read here:

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Ah, the joys of Javascript.

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Watch this, sign this:
The founder of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, defending Net Neutrality. “If we lost net neutrality, we lose the internet as we know it”.

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It's that time of year again where the lawmakers pretend like they're doing things in your best interest. They're not.

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Fascinating piece about the origin of color names.
The surprising pattern behind #color names around the world Wow. Mind blown. Very interesting.

Sigh, my Moto X 2nd gen finally gave up the ghost with one last drop (and an already cracked LCD is now almost all bad pixeled out).

I like the slightly enhanced stock android but hated that they gave up on providing any updates. I'll probably look hard at a Pixel 2 once that comes out, but in the mean time, got any suggestions for a nice phone meant to just be a temporary replacement for a few months (or knowing Google stock, maybe a year)?

I'm looking for:
* Verizon compatible
* Close to stock android
* Android N (with hopefully a promise for O when it comes out)
* Size doesn't matter too much, but larger screen is better
* Willing to buy used (probably on Swappa?)
* ~$200 might be the max. Any more and I feel like I'm overspending for a temporary phone (I have psychological problems selling old phones so tend not to recover costs)

One that came to mind is a Nexus 6P. Anything else I should look at?

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It's a little odd when people are so staunchly set in their ways they've completely lost the ability to adapt to new situations and technologies, even for those highly versed in tech and especially concerning platforms (iOS vs Android, Mac vs Windows vs Linux, Desktop vs Mobile, etc).
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