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title: Google + 1yr url: https://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2015/03/29/Anniversaries hash_url: cd48ce5c2d

As of this mon­th, I’ve been an ex-Googler for a year. Some­times I miss it, but my rearview-mirror feel­ings are mixed.

What I miss · Most of al­l, the bug track­er. Any em­ploy­ee can file a bug against any prod­uct and be cer­tain that some­one on the en­gi­neer­ing team will at least look at it. There are cer­tain internal-social-engineering tech­niques you can use to fo­cus at­ten­tion on an is­sue you think isn’t get­ting enough. Lots of bug re­ports are feature-requests and oth­ers are feature-removal de­mand­s, and that’s fine.

Giv­en Google’s glob­al im­pact, that bug track­er is one of the sin­gle most pow­er­ful world-changing tools that most peo­ple will nev­er have ac­cess to.

I al­so miss the high pol­ish of the in­ter­nal Google-apps de­ploy­men­t. When you put your work­ing life 100% in the cloud, and have re­al­ly good shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion tool­s, the no­tion of “office documents” stored in “hard-drive files” be­comes more and more self-evidently in­sane. This is ob­vi­ous­ly where the world is head­ing; I hope Google gets more good com­pe­ti­tion.

I’m pret­ty meh on Google’s so­cial ef­fort­s, but the in­ter­nal G+ de­ploy­ment was in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive for community-building, self-organizing around one thing or an­oth­er, and col­lec­tive­ly laugh­ing at the laugh­able.

Be­ing paid part­ly in Google shares in the pe­ri­od 2010-2014 was pret­ty pleas­ing. And yep, the food is ev­ery­thing they say; I won­der if the Cloud café is still op­er­at­ing? There are all the oth­er perks and good­ies you hear about, but they were a no-op for a re­mote work­er like me.

Work­ing around lots of re­al­ly super-smart peo­ple was nice, but I haven’t had to give that up, thank good­ness.

Neu­tral · I’m broad­ly in sym­pa­thy with most of what Google’s try­ing to do. Most of the peo­ple who are para­noid about Google are most­ly wrong. But yeah, in­di­vid­u­als in Google’s man­age­ment (and sep­a­rate­ly, Prod­uct Man­age­men­t) com­mu­ni­ties have im­mense pow­er; and at the end of the day, they’re just peo­ple. Thus some of them are mis­guid­ed some­times, or have drunk too much Google kool-aid. Hin­t: Just be­cause most of Google’s ac­tions have im­proved the In­ter­net doesn’t mean that any­thing that’s good for Google is good for the world, or for the In­ter­net.

Yeah, I thought that a few of the pol­i­cy de­ci­sions I saw when I was in An­droid, and then in Iden­ti­ty, were some com­bi­na­tion of crazy, mis­guid­ed, and dam­ag­ing. But at the end of the day, that’s not a gripe against Google; be­cause there’s no com­pa­ny that doesn’t have occasionally-wrong em­ploy­ees.

Google re­mains ahead of the in­dus­try pack on pri­va­cy, di­ver­si­ty, and com­mu­ni­ty. But that is damn­ing with faint praise.

The number-one pop­u­lar gripe against Google is that they’re watch­ing ev­ery­thing we do on­line and us­ing it to mon­e­tize us. That one doesn’t both­er me in the slight­est. The ser­vices are free so someone’s got­ta pay the ren­t, and that’s the ad­ver­tis­er­s.

Are you wor­ried about Google (or Face­book or Twit­ter or your tele­phone com­pa­ny or Mi­crosoft or Ama­zon) mis­us­ing the da­ta they col­lec­t? That’s per­fect­ly rea­son­able. And it’s al­so a pol­i­cy prob­lem, noth­ing to do with tech­nol­o­gy; the so­lu­tions lie in the do­mains of pol­i­tics and law.

I’m ac­tu­al­ly pret­ty op­ti­mistic that ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion and com­mon law might suf­fice to whack any­one who re­al­ly went off the rails in this do­main.

Al­so, I have trou­ble get­ting ex­er­cised about it when we’re fac­ing a wave of hor­ri­ble, tox­i­c, per­va­sive pri­va­cy at­tacks from abu­sive gov­ern­ments and ac­tu­al crim­i­nal­s.

Not miss­ing · I’ve been to­tal­ly pub­lic about my #1 gripe with Google: It’s a highly-centralized or­ga­ni­za­tion, based in a part of the world that I don’t much like. I’m not say­ing that’s a bad idea; it seems to be work­ing for them. I’m not even say­ing that it’s a bad idea to do your next start­up in the Bay Area, if you can han­dle the lifestyle.

But I do think the In­ter­net econ­o­my would be bet­ter and more hu­mane if it didn’t have a sin­gle white-hot highly-overprivileged cen­ter. Al­so, soon­er or lat­er that’ll stop scal­ing. Can’t hap­pen too soon.

I’ve al­so talked about the oth­er gripe: The dis­tinc­tion be­tween “user” and “customer”. Yes, I un­der­stand why; see above. But in my four years at Google, I talked to an end­less stream of de­vel­op­ers and end-users  —  and en­joyed it  —  but nev­er ex­changed a sin­gle word with any of the ac­tu­al cus­tomers pay­ing the bill­s; which is to say, an ad­ver­tis­er. Maybe I’m weird, but that still sort of creeps me out.

But I’m not that weird. Ob­vi­ous­ly, Google’s man­agers and own­ers and em­ploy­ees would all love new, non-advertising-focused, lines of busi­ness. The best can­di­dates are Cloud and Doc­s/App­s. I think their chances are bet­ter in Doc­s/App­s, and yeah, maybe that’s be­cause now I see how ruth­less­ly com­pet­i­tive the Cloud biz is.

Lucky again · This busi­ness has been so good to me. I have yet an­oth­er gig where I’m broad­ly in sym­pa­thy with what my em­ploy­er is try­ing to do, and get­ting paid well for it.

From my cur­rent point-of-view, this gig is a win­ner. First, I’m in my home-town work­ing in face-to-face mod­e. Se­cond, I’m work­ing for cus­tomers who pay ac­tu­al mon­ey for ac­tu­al ser­vices, and who I can talk to. And third, the cus­tomers are geeks just like me; un­der­stand­ing their prob­lems is low-effort even when fix­ing them is hard.

Oh, an­oth­er bonus: I no longer have to read the Of­fi­cial Google Blog, or of­fi­cial Google state­ments on any­thing; a hu­man be­ing can on­ly take so much re­lent­less sunny-faced cheer­i­ness.