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Google faults exposed in employee memo

A Google engineer accidentally sends out a rant critical of his employer via--get this--Google+. What are the ramifications of an Oops this big?

You've no doubt seen the coverage: An engineer at Google accidentally releases a critical rant of his employer's knowledge of platforms on Google+. I'm trying to imagine a word that would correctly encompass what Steve Yegge must have felt when he realized the memo went out. Even mortified is too mild. We all really need to come up with a new word for that feeling you get after you've clicked Send or Post and realize what you've done.

But back to Mr. Yegge. I like the memo. I like honesty--even frustrated, oops-based honesty--in the corporate world. And it is as rare as CEOs taking a pay cut.

Here's part of what he said:

Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don't get it.

Now here's the rub: In a litigious world, where every negative Facebook comment made by an employee is challenged by an employer and defended by the NLRB, what happens to a guy who in careful, logical detail reveals that the company he's working for doesn't know what it's doing? The options are:

  • Google could fire Yegge. That would make Google look worse in my opinion.
  • Google could go out of its way to never acknowledge the points Yegge made. Until perhaps the shareholders say something.
  • Google could negate all of Yegge's points with some meandering explanation.
  • Google could embark on a huge Yegge smear campaign in which they expose drug use and/or affiliation with Al Qaeda. (I think I've been overexposed to the U.S. political process.)

Whatever happens, the word is out and can't be taken back. It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on the public's view of Google.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

11 comments
mpgme
mpgme

The employee comment box was full.. No other choice

ancientprogrammer
ancientprogrammer

From what I've observed and even experienced what happens is the end of your career at a company. It's not usually overt, as in a direct firing over the incident. Public acknowledgement is at best limited and may be nonexistent. Instead, offended managers marginalize the employee, given them junk projects, no real work or surefire failures. They look for ways to subtly harass the employee with 'random' drug tests, moving them to the worst location in the office, increasing useless status reporting, making them work with a known bully or jackhole, etc, etc. Any little thing that goes wrong during this harrasment process can be used as the 'real' justification to fire the offending employee, provided the employee isn't made so uncomfortable that they leave on their own accord. Maybe Google isn't like this but, underneath all that Vulcan-like left-brain think they're still human and emotional so Yegge should be prepared for retaliation, particularly served cold.

beck.joycem
beck.joycem

Well they could start by telling Yegge, with justification, that a public platform was not the place to begin his criticism - but maybe he had voiced his concerns to his bosses in private, we wouldn't know, would we? Then they could behave like real grown-ups and ask him (and others) to give his views in a reasoned, calm, evidence-based manner, and address the issues he raises. Google can't have got where it is without listening to the clever people it employs.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yegge is a smart guy. He's the author of Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns, for example (TR won't let me add a link to that post in its amnesiac commenting system). Yegge has his own reasons for starting this little uproar.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yegge is a smart guy. He's the author of Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns. He has his own reasons for bringing this down.

jkameleon
jkameleon

There are 3 kinds of software: 1) Me-ware. Software you write for your own personal use. The best software in the world despite of the fact that it's undocumented, unuseable (for everyone but you), unstable (when not used exactly as intended), and undeployable. 2) Us-ware. Software developed in-house for in-house use. Written for youself, and people you respect and work with. Documented just enough for them to understand it, useable just enough for them to use, reasonably stable, and deployable. 3) They-ware. Software developed for somebody else. Software that makes money and pays your bills. Professionally documented, useable, stable, and deployable. You never use it yourself, and you might even disapprove its use & despise its users (military, modern gonzo finance, online gambling, Facebook, gaming, etc). Google+ is, of course, they-ware, a platform useless for its own developers. Eating your own dog food is therefore about as smart as getting high on your own supply here.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Leaving on your own accord may be preceded by a major nervous breakdown. That, too, is a tool of control.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It looks like an earlier version of my comment has emerged from the murky depths of Lethe and back into the land of the living! See above. (Thanks, Tammy)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Facebook and friends are no longer merely recreational sites. When G+ jumped into this space, they knew they were trying to make a general purpose communication tool. That's why they designed circles the way they did -- it's not just one big frat party like Facebook was at the time. So they should be using G+ for their own communications, so they find out what it needs.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... and made their own decisions regarding useability and functionality, they'd create a software developer communication platform. I don't think G+ was intended for that.