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Googler Calls Google + a "Knee-Jerk Reaction" and "A Study In Short Term Thinking"

Software engineer accidentally publishes internal letter to the public

Consider this a lesson in how not to use Google+.

And to think, the Circles feature was designed to give you more control over who sees what…

A Google software engineer, Steve Yegge, had some less than favorable things to say about his employer’s social networking service Google+. You know, the one that Google says “is Google.”

He crafted a lengthy and very critical post about Google+ to share within Google, but accidentally shared it publicly (hat tip to Frederic Lardinois). Of course, others were able to capture it before he deleted it.

Here are some quotes from the rant.

“I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I’ve been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies — an impression that has been reinforced almost daily — is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right.”

That’s how it began. Good start, in Google’s eyes no doubt, considering the building rivalry between those two companies. In fact, much of post talks about how Google does most things better than Amazon, except for a few. Eventually, he talks about how Google’s “doesn’t get” platforms.

Here are some of the Google+-specific quotes:

“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. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: “So is it the Stalker API?” She got all glum and said “Yeah.” I mean, I was joking, but no… the only API call we offer is to get someone’s stream. So I guess the joke was on me.”


“Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone.”

“Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: “Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.” Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.”

“You can’t do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don’t have a Steve Jobs here. I’m sorry, but we don’t.”

He also talks about how Microsoft “gets platforms” better. “So yeah, Microsoft gets it,” he says. “And you know as well as I do how surprising that is, because they don’t “get” much of anything, really. But they understand platforms as a purely accidental outgrowth of having started life in the business of providing platforms.”

He also says Amazon gets it and that Facebook gets it.

Google has said flat out that Microsoft is its “main competitor” (words of Eric Schmidt). And Amazon and Google are competing more and more. Obviously Facebook is a direct competitor to Google+ specifically. You wouldn’t think this is the kind of message Google would be happy about its employees putting out in public.

Yegge put up a public follow-up post, saying, “Sadly, it was intended to be an internal post, visible to everybody at Google, but not externally. But as it was midnight and I am not what you might call an experienced Google+ user, by the time I figured out how to actually post something I had somehow switched accounts.”

The post was taken down at his own discretion, he says. “I contacted our internal PR folks and asked what to do, and they were also nice and supportive. But they didn’t want me to think that they were even hinting at censoring me — they went out of their way to help me understand that we’re an opinionated company, and not one of the kinds of companies that censors their employees.”

A couple of interesting comments in response to Yegge’s explanation:

Pedram Keyani (Facebook engineer who has worked for Google and Microsoft): “I’m glad you are shaking things up and telling it how it is. I joined Google in 2005 but after a few years of I couldn’t take how little the company cared about connecting people. Fight the good fight.”

Theodore Ts’O (Google engineer): “The bits about the pro’s and con’s of SOA (and what you have to do so you can use SOA sanely from an ops and development point of view) are definitely worth publishing in a cleaned up fashion. Definitely a well written rant, even if it was published in the wrong place. :-)”

Liz Gannes interviewed Bradley Horowitz, VP of product at Google this week. While she notes that Yegge’s post was not a topic of discussion, she says, “First, Horowitz does think Google+ is a larger platform play rather than just a product, in that it will be a layer on top of all of Google’s products. And second, his team severely ‘underestimated the appetite for this product,’ and it is currently rushing to push out all sorts of things users are asking for, as well as other stuff they haven’t anticipated.”

We haven’t heard what kind of consequences Yegge faces from the company, if any. Rip Rowan, who shared the post on Google+ before Yegge deleted it, says, “Hopefully Steve will not experience any negative repercussions from Google about this. On the contrary, he deserves a promotion.”

Now Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is using Google+. Maybe he’ll accidentally post an internal message publicly too. Keep your fingers crossed.

About the Author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: @CCrum237 StumbleUpon: Crum Google: +Chris Crum

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