Tag Archives: google

Poached

As more details emerge in this massive scandal over employee non-poaching agreements, I can’t help but think of something I said to my brother a few years ago: If you don’t own a piece of the company you work for, you’re always getting screwed. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior VP making 30 Million a year. You’re still getting a sucker’s share of the overall take.

What Jobs and Schmidt started here was absolutely atrocious. But it’s not even remotely surprising. Executives serve boards, boards serve shareholders, and shareholders always want maximum profits. That’s the inherent nature of any corporation. And if the goal is to maximize profits, you have to—by definition—minimize cost of goods sold. Which means keeping salaries as low as possible.

Like I said, if you don’t own it…

The funny thing is, though, and I may be extremely naive here, I suspect that for Jobs the motivation for this scheme in the beginning had less to do with keeping salaries low and more to do with a serious case of paranoia about being betrayed. I think when Bill Gates screwed him over so badly with Windows, Jobs became permanently scarred and was always looking for ways to prevent others from screwing him again. He wanted loyalty, and this scheme bought it for him. Later, as the practice spread through the industry, I imagine that keeping down wages became a stronger motivation for most other CEOs.

Again, probably naive of me, and still unforgivable regardless.

If you want to be sure something like this isn’t happening to you, the only choice you have is to run your own company. Otherwise, you are part of a system that is designed to pay you less than you’re worth.

Google-

I never had any interest in Gmail.

Back in the mid 2000s, when everyone was jumping on the Gmail bandwagon, I was perfectly fine with my mac.com email address (which I had signed up for within five minutes of Steve Jobs’ announcement at Macworld New York 2000). People always complain that Apple’s Internet services suck, and they are right in many cases. But mac.com email has always been rock solid for me. I can count on one hand the number of times my account has actually been out of service over the last 13 years.

Furthermore, accessing email in the browser seemed like a step backwards, and while I was interested in many of Google’s products at the time (Maps being my favorite), changing my email address didn’t seem like a good idea. Also, in the early days of Gmail, an invite was the only way to get in. (Maybe because I have few friends and hate asking them for favors of any kind, I’ve always found invite systems pretentious.)

Eventually, I did give in and sign up for a Gmail address, not because I wanted Gmail, but because it was required for another Google product I did very much want to use: Reader. RSS reading, unlike mail, seemed like a good fit for a browser app, since all the articles I’d be reading would be in the browser, anyway. (Remember, this is long before the era of Instapaper.) So I created a Gmail address, reluctantly, but only used it for Reader access. This same address later gave me access to YouTube and Google’s chat, neither of which were ever as important to me as Reader was.

The announcement of Google’s retirement of Reader, then, meant a lot more to me than simply losing my RSS syncing method. I had since moved out of the Reader web interface entirely and adopted a combo of the excellent Reeder app on the Mac and iOS, coupled with Instapaper for all my RSS reading sans browsers. Now that the back end needed to be replaced, too, I could finally retire my Gmail address and shut down my Google account altogether.

Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly moving away from every Google service I’ve ever used. Duck Duck Go has replaced Google search on my Macs. I’d love to use Duck Duck Go on my iOS devices, too, but Apple so far has only given me the option of Yahoo and Bing on my iPhone and iPad. Apple’s Maps suits me perfectly fine, especially with the announcement of the Maps app for OS X Mavericks. (Go ahead and laugh, but wherever I’ve gone, I’ve only run into minor issues with Apple’s solution.) I use Vimeo instead of YouTube for any videos I need to upload, which are few and far between. Google+ adds no value to my life whatsoever. I have no use for Google Docs. I’ve never liked Google Calendar and Contacts, either. And then there’s that Gmail account, which I never used for email in the first place.

It’s not that I hate Google, or that I take some special joy in shutting down this account. But the fact of the matter is that I simply don’t trust Google with my data. And what they offer me in return is of little benefit to me. I have good alternatives for anything I would want to do with a Google product.

A few months back, I finally shut down my LinkedIn account, and it felt great. (They still email me once in a while, which is a whole other story.) Letting my Google account go, I’m guessing, will be similarly liberating.

Sure, the alternative services that I’ve chosen are collecting data on me, too. It’s not like I’m “off the grid” by any means. But being off Google’s grid does seem like a good idea at the moment.

So what will I do for my RSS needs? Well, fortunately, the closing of Reader has caused a real resurgence in RSS offerings, so I have plenty of options. I’ve postponed the switch until now for two reasons: so I could research the best options, and, more importantly, to wait and see which services Reeder will support. (RSS is a serious part of my daily workflow. I don’t want to switch apps if I don’t have to. And I need a solution that works the same everywhere, on my Macs as well as my iOS devices.)

Unfortunately, Silvio didn’t manage to get all three versions of his Reeder apps updated in time for the shutdown, so I’ll be at least temporarily marooned with a workaround solution. Most likely I’ll just do all RSS on my iPhone until the iPad and Mac app updates arrive. Or I’ll try out a Mac alternative like ReadKit, since it’s getting a lot of good press lately. But I’m sure in a few months this will all be settled and I’ll back into my regular workflow on all my devices.

In the end, I chose Feed Wrangler as my sync service, as the streams seem like an excellent feature, and there’s a yearly subscription cost involved. (I inherently mistrust any company that doesn’t charge me money for a service.) We’ll see how that goes. I will reserve judgment for after I’ve had a few weeks working with it in Reeder everywhere.

I’m sure there will be times when not having a Google account will be a minor inconvenience to me. But I see no compelling reason at the moment to keep it active just on the outside chance I’ll need it again.

With all the extra complications of modern Internet use, I think it’s a good thing to purge the list of companies who have accounts associated with your name, just to clear the air a little. So look out, Facebook. You’re probably next.

Buying Market Share

Android’s Market Share Is Literally A Joke | Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis: “The company that buys market share must inevitably go out of business or reverse its course and fight its way back up to profitability. The company with the value and the profits, on the other hand, has the advantage of holding the high ground and can choose to take market share at will.”

(Via John Kirk for Tech Opinions.)

This, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with developers on the App Store trying to get to the top of the charts at any cost. They’re buying market share by maximizing downloads instead of profits. And most end up making little money as a result.

Kirk’s piece here is examining iOS Phones vs. Android, but the same concept applies to the software sold on these devices as well. Having more users is actually a bad thing when the cost per user is higher than the profit per user. 

People like to cite Microsoft when talking about the value of market share, but they always seem to forget that Microsoft never sacrificed profit margin to get that market share. It was the hardware manufacturers—Dell, Sony, HP, Gateway, etc.—who were caught up in the pricing wars. Microsoft pitted them against each other and sat back on a pile of gold as they tore each other to pieces. 

Google? Not so much with Android.

A Little Logic Regarding Maps

It occurs to me that the people trading barbs about the whole maps controversy on iOS are wasting time and getting bent out of shape about nothing. There’s a very simple and logical way to decide which maps app, Google’s or Apple’s, you want to use.

  • If you live in an area where Apple’s map data sucks, use Google.
  • If you live in an area where Google’s map data isn’t as good as Apple’s (Yes, those places exist.), use Apple’s.
  • If you need transit directions, and you aren’t satisfied with the many third-party transit solutions out there for your home town (or you just don’t feel you should have to rely on a separate app for this) use Google.
  • If you live in one of the many areas where the mapping data is good enough on either, try them both and decide for yourself which one works best for you. (I know, hard to believe this is possible, but it is.)
  • If you’re uncomfortable with your location being tracked and your data being sold to third parties without your consent or knowledge, you can use Google, but be sure to opt out of that tracking.
  • Use the app you like, and then shut the hell up about it. It’s not your job to convert the world to your way of thinking. It’s not your job to tell other people that the app they prefer, the one that works best for them, is terrible, or that they’re an idiot for prefering it. It’s a maps app. Get a life.

I’m sure Apple’s and Google’s apps will both get better over time. So revisit both on occasion if you feel your chosen solution is letting you down for whatever reason. Or don’t. That’s entirely up to you.

This is what that famous ‘competition’ so many people claim to love looks like. Be happy we have choices. If you can’t admit that both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages, you’re being a zealot, not a rational judge of the true merits of either solution. Which is fine, as long as you’re aware of that.

Dumping the Yellow Pages on Your Doorstep is a Protected Right

Appeals court rules against Seattle’s curbs on yellow pages | Local News | The Seattle Times: “The court ruled the city’s law is unconstitutional, saying yellow pages are protected, like other publications, by the First Amendment.

‘Although portions of the directories are obviously commercial in nature, the books contain more than that, and we conclude that the directories are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment,’ Judge Richard Clifton wrote in the decision. ‘As a result, when we evaluate the ordinance under strict scrutiny, it does not survive.'”

(Via. the Seattle Times)

The huge thing that bugs me about a story like this is not all the legal issues involved. I actually agree with the court’s finding in principle. It’s the notion that you have a group of people who clearly don’t want these books, and yet the Phone-book companies want to shove them on their doorsteps, anyway. I mean, once someone tells you point blank they are completely uninterested in your product, what is the point of shoving it down their throat? You’re not going to make any money off these people. You’re going to waste your own money printing a book that immediately gets trashed. So why would you give it to them, and pay a lawyer do defend your right to do so?

This is the problem with advertising as a business model. All the stats are based on the number of “eyeballs” rather than the effectiveness of the ads themselves. Reach the maximum number of people, period. Don’t worry if you’re offering breast implants to men or Viagra to women. Just reach people, because at best you’re going to convert on 1 or 2 percent of them. The money comes from total people who saw the ad, not the percentage of those who actually bought the product as a result.

This was the problem that Google’s promise of “targeted” ads was supposed to solve. But it hasn’t. At the end of the day, all the targeting in the world doesn’t pay as well as good old fashioned dumb carpet bombing of the entire universe. 

Sad, really.

Coyote Tracks on iOS 6 Maps

Apple makes the left turn at Albuquerque:

What’s being ignored, no doubt to the frustration of Apple’s designers, is that the visual design of the new Maps application is amazing. Ask for your current location and just start zooming out slowly. Pay attention to when titles fade out and fade in, and how the typography changes: the way neighborhood names appear in faint grey in close range, then city names appear, then the cities become mixed case or small caps, then eventually state/province names appear—and if you keep zooming out from that, you end up with state abbreviations. At every level, the app keeps the appropriate aesthetics for a traditional print map at that scale. Notice when small streets fade away, and when eventually you just see a national highway system. State or province highways have the proper signage for the state or province. Now, when you’re zoomed into a high detail level, ask for information about a restaurant. Realize that not only is it pulling the review from Yelp, it’s pulling photos from Yelp, using them as a background and doing the Ken Burns effect with them. Find an Apple engineer to slap.

(Via Coyote Tracks)

This is my exact feeling about Maps in iOS 6. Sure, the data is sometimes wrong, and that trumps everything else when you’re trying to get somewhere. But the app itself, the level of detail that went into the actual experience of using the app, is a lot better than the old Google Maps app ever was or could be with Google’s back end.

So while the app feels like a step down now, as it’s making mistakes and while everyone is nitpicking it like mad trying to find errors, in the long run, when those data errors are corrected, this is going to be a far better experience than the old Maps on iOS.

And let’s remember, that old iOS Maps experience was Apple’s, not Google’s. Google provided the data, but Apple designed the look and feel of that app. Those of us who used mobile Google Maps before the first iPhone remember how piss poor it was before Apple came into that equation.

So while lots of people can’t wait for Google to release a new iOS Maps app of their own, I wouldn’t be so sure that anything Google designs will be anywhere near as good as the old iOS 5 Maps was. So you’ll still be stepping down, regardless. Plus, it’s bound to be chock full of ads. Yuck.  

In other words, this war isn’t over quite yet. If Apple can fix the data errors faster than Google can come up with a useable user experience, the advantage will still be Apple’s. With all of iOS 6’s other numerous flaws (a small example of which I pointed out this morning), Maps is actually the app I’m worried least about. 

Username/Password Needs to be Taken out to Back and Shot in the Head

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking | Gadget Lab | Wired.com: “In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.

Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.

Those security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them.”

(Via. Wired)

While it’s tempting to say he’s right here, that it really is his own dumb behavior that led to this, it’s also important to remember that this is a nerd with major street cred we’re talking about. Compared to the average computer user, this guy is way ahead of the curve when it comes to security. And he still got hacked. 

Worse yet, he didn’t get hacked by some brilliant but malicious programmer who figured out a secret path through the back door via sharp technical skills. The guy just called Amazon and Apple and was handed the keys to the kingdom. 

Remember that next time your customer support rep doesn’t believe you’re you, and won’t let you in without proper identification. 

The bottom line is that we have a broken system. Period. Tech companies (I’m looking at you Apple and Amazon) need to be innovating in this area more. The whole username/password thing is way past its expiration date. We’re storing our lives on these machines. We’re trusting companies with our most precious data and private information. We need a better way for the computer to know who it’s talking to. 

No matter how many times you tell people to turn on two-factor authentication, use better passwords with numbers, letters, and symbols, use different passwords for all your accounts, etc., it’s not going to happen. 90% of people are still using their dog’s name with a 1 or 2 tacked on the end. It’s human nature. 

So while I applaud Google for having a better authentication system than Apple on this one, it still puts the burden on the user, and thus is essentially useless. The vast majority of people, even if they were scared into turning two-factor on by this story, will turn it back off again after two weeks of being inconvenienced by it. 

In other words, don’t tell me I have to type a 16-character password every time I want to use my phone. Make a better phone that knows the difference between me and a stranger without me having to do anything. 

The thing that’s made Apple products better than everyone else’s over the last few decades is that they always put the user’s needs ahead of the designer or programmer. It’s time Apple stepped up and did that again, this time with an authentication system that works with near zero effort on the user’s part. Yes, that’s hard. Too bad. It’s the only way we’re going to fix this. 

And meanwhile, Apple, stop using the last four digits of a credit card number as proof of anything. Wow. Talk about bone-headed. That’s worse than the bank using your mother’s maiden name.

Google Delays Nexus Q Launch

Google Delays Nexus Q Launch:

Google has just let us know that it is delaying the launch of the Nexus Q as it works to improve the device. The Nexus Q order page on Google Play has been taken down, and now simply leaves customers with a note that the device “is coming soon.”

(Via Daring Fireball)

Imagine for a half-second what would happen if Apple ever did this. Announce a brand new product at a huge venue, then a month later suddenly and mysteriously put it on hold, which essentially means they’re killing it before it ever gets released. 

Anyone with a brain could see that this thing was a complete clunker, anyway. But how embarrassing for Google to continually announce and kill products, and how strange that no one ever seems to give them crap about it. 

History is Not Repeating Itself. And it Often Doesn’t

I tend to believe that the main thinking affecting investors with a negative sentiment in Apple’s long term future is one of historical perspective. Apple with their closed and vertical model lost to the more open model of Microsoft long ago. So the conventional thinking would be that both Google or Microsoft with their more open platform approach will again rise to dominance if history does repeat itself. There are, however, several things I believe are wrong with the thinking that history will repeat itself.

(via TechPinions)

I’ve been trying to figure out for years why so many analysts get this wrong. If you can’t see the obvious diffences between the tech industry of the 1990s and today, you have no business predicting the future of any tech company, let alone Apple.

Also, if you believe that anything Microsoft or Google does is ‘open,’ you’re completely eating their marketing crap and not thinking critically at all.

Which would be fine, except that you’re playing with other people’s money.

Google’s Leadership has No Charisma, and Even Less Tact

Google’s Page: Apple’s Android Pique ‘For Show’ – Businessweek:

I think that served their interests. For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.

(Via www.businessweek.com)

You lost me there, Larry. See, it was one thing to say that you thought Steve was using a “ramped up” or “fake” anger over Android to rally his troops. At that point, I just think you’re naïve and a poor judge of character. But then when you say you personally think you’re better than Steve because you “shoot higher” and ignore your competitors, now you sound like the pompous ass I always took you for. And a hypocrite, too.

Man, it’s pretty hard to deny that the people at the top of Google’s food chain are elitist snobs. And terrible at PR. Someone should lock these Ivy League nerds in a lab where they belong and hire some spokespeople who don’t come off as creepy or arrogant 100% of the time they are being interviewed.