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Galen Brownsmith
30 July 2011 @ 09:22 pm
Just letting my mind wander and brainstorm on this.

Who Am I:with respect to this discussionCollapse )

Something is, metaphorically, rotten in the state of Denmark.

Google has been a geek's technical giant. They haven't always made good decisions (q.v. Buzz roll-out), haven't always had the success they expected (q.v. Wave), and haven't always done what users wanted (q.v. killing Labs). However, they have tried, and until now, have lived by their motto "Don't Be Evil."

Then there was Google Plus, and something went wrong.

I'm not going to discuss the moral or political status of disallowing pseudonyms on Google Plus (although I think they should be allowed). I'm not even going to discuss the uneven enforcement of the issue (which is pretty extreme). There's something more than those issues, which seems to be the root-cause of the problem.

To be clear, I'll state my observations of what the current state is, and then go to speculation.

  • While there are some supporters of the no pseudonym/real name only policy, these appear to be a significant minority. While every one that I've seen support the current policy is also arguing from a position of privilege, and only argues about the theoretical reduction of hostilities or poorly behaving users, none has provided concrete evidence to support their position, this is only what I've seen. I'm willing to concede their might be evidence to support this point of view and that there are people who are more closely associated with The Other who support the policy. However, even conceding that these exist, they are not common, not loud, and not making arguments in a place that is having the same volume of distribution.

  • Objectors to this policy have come from all sorts of social, economic, political, and religious positions. Many argue the necessity of pseudonomynity because of the need to protect The Other; in fact, some of these objectors are in a precarious circumstance themselves and would be put in real danger if they had to use their best-know-to-positions-of-power (offline) identify. Some objectors are basing their arguments on theoretical issues for using pseudonyms, but others have based their arguments on concrete, significant, actual threats to their health, happiness, freedom, employment status, or other condition.

  • Google has, historically and generally, responded positively to user feedback and objections. The feature sets of many Google application and tools get expanded from suggestions of users, and they have responded to user objects (most notably, buzz privacy concerns) quickly and on the side of the users. Google's key to success includes providing the end user with a good experience; while their income is from advertisers, it is the end users that make them their 'ker-ching-ker-ching'.

  • Google is dependent upon its user-base. From browser plugins that enhance Google's online and non-hosted (e.g. chrome) applications, to bug bounties, to edits and updates of data (e.g. maps), to content providers (e.g. YouTube, Picassa, Groups, Docs), Google needs it user base to keep driving more web browsers back to their virtual arcology. In particular, Google needs its evangelists who encourage others to send their business to Google, via individual or corporate subscriptions.

  • Google is burning through massive amounts of good will with how it is handling this situation. There are several distinct problems with how Google is responding to the users. First, it isn't addressing the core issue -- the primary responses from Google have been about improving enforcement, clarifying the policy, and how a user can still associate their pseudonym with their account. This is a non sequitor and a red herring -- it is neither responding to the argument and it is introducing facts that are irrelevant to the argument[1]. Secondly, Google has been very slow to respond. Additionally, despite very vocal opposition, which is a strong majority of my friends[2] (although I have no idea how that relates to the general user-base), Google is ardently refusing to budge. This is offending a non trivial number of Google's early adopters and evangelists, without getting them anything out of it.

  • Google is enforcing a policy, uniquely and distinctly, on a pre-release product. I do not know if the Terms of Service for other Google products require "real names"; I don't recall reading it in any of the products I use, and there are many google products that I haven't tried. Regardless, the Real Name requirement was not enforced on Orkut (if it was present when I used Orkut), and it isn't enforced with Checkout. It isn't even enforced with Google Health[3].

  • (Somewhat tangentially) Google is still a very top-managed organization. To wit, when I interviewed there last fall, I was informed that all technical hires needed to get sign-off from Sergey Brin (as well as a bunch of hiring committees before getting that far), and he was known for occasionally vetoing hires. While everyone can innovate, major decisions still come from the top.

  • Google Management has placed a gag order on at least some of the employees of Google, barring them from discussing this issue in public forums (http://infotrope.net/2011/07/29/google-is-gagging-employees/). The nature of the gag order isn't known (how many employees are affected by the order, whether it applies in the office as well, if there is a legitimate business reason for the order), but it isn't encouraging.

What does all of this mean?

My spouse's theory is that someone high in Google Management had a "Brilliant Idea" (tm), and wants to see it through, come hell or high water. I find this believable and possible, but less likely. This sort of behavior isn't consistent with the history of Google as-I-know-it. On the other hand, with the recent shuffling of responsibilities in Google upper management, it is possible that someone new is exerting their authority.

This leaves 2 other options that I can think of:
1) There is some reason that Google's legal department has required real names. This seems the least likely option, but it is the most generous to Google of the options. I can't fathom the reasoning that the legal department would come to this conclusion, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility.

2) I will admit that this is the conspiracy theorist in me. The Powers That Be Outside of Google are applying pressure. This is the least likely, but it is also the only one that truly makes sense. Between failing to be responsive to their user base, burning bridges, offending early adopters and evangelists, and otherwise tripping over themselves, Google's behavior is as atypical from their norm as I can recall. Google wasn't perfect in my eyes before this, but this is A Step Beyond, and runs directly counter to the sort of behavior I would expect. This would presumably be a major world government, as Google has pretty much ignored influences by anything else. It probably isn't be the EU because, as report elsewhere, this policy seems to be in conflict with EU law.

Regardless, whatever reasoning Google is using, it is doing pretty impressive damage to their reputation and good-will. Further, as much as Google Plus may be better than Facebook with respect to individual rights and privacy, it won't matter. Facebook has always been awful in that respect; individuals use it in spite of that, as a known flaw. Google built up users' hopes, and are now dashing them. It is human nature to take that as more offensive and damming (betrayal of a friend) than almost anything Facebook could do.


As a further point, I will call out some bullet points from Google's purported philosophy.
From http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/corporate/company/tenthings.html
"As we keep looking towards the future, these core principles guide our actions.

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
8. The need for information crosses all borders."

From http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/corporate/company/ux.html
"Ten principles that contribute to a Googley user experience

1. Focus on people–their lives, their work, their dreams.
6. Design for the world.
9. Be worthy of people's trust.
10. Add a human touch."

I wonder when the management at Google last read the descriptions of those bullet points. Currently, Google is missing those 8 of the 20 bullet points on those 2 pages; in my experience, a 60% is a very, very low 'D'.


[1] it may also represent other logical fallacies. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacies and http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html

[2] I have no data, other than via the online sources I read, on the totality of interest in this issue. All I can base my experience on is those I communicate with, and that group is a biased basis. However, the super-majority of my experience is people who dislike or hate this policy. A notable minority don't care either way or are willing to let Google fix it over time. The remainder, supports of the policy, do not exist within my social group.
To be fair, my social group is very liberal-minded in a social-policy standpoint. Personal freedoms are very important, as is individualism and the ability to express ones-self in whatever manner one chooses. It is also full of many who identify as 'The Other' for one or more reasons (although it does not have a large diversity in ethnicity or social upbringing -- mostly white, and mostly middle class).

[3] This I know for a fact -- my 'legal' name is not the name I used with Google Health. New Hampshire does not allow for name-changes via marriage license (where we were married), and my spouse and I have not filed the paperwork to make our name change official. It is, however, the name I registered on Google Health. It is also the name I registered on Google Plus. Which means, I may be kissing my access goodbye in the near future.

This entry was originally posted at http://marphod.dreamwidth.org/646793.html. I'd prefer a unified comment thread, so please comment there using OpenID. There are comments, so far. (Comments are allowed here, for those who dislike going offsite.)
Galen Brownsmith
14 March 2011 @ 02:28 pm
First, a blog post on what is going on in Japan, from a US ex-Pat living there: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/03/13/some-perspective-on-the-japan-earthquake/

Second, I don't do engineering for nuke plants, but:
I read at least 2 articles that stated there was concern that if the plants lost hydraulic pressure, the control rods might withdraw, causing faster reactions. Why is the system not designed such that 0-pressure is the control rods being fully in-place, and pressure/power required for them to be withdrawn? Massive, multi-ton weights trying to put the rods in place, and pressure to keep them lifted. This seems to be the most safe design, if requiring more power in normal operation.
Similarly, why does it require power to flood the units, rather than being designed that without power, they get flooded, and it requires power to keep them dry?

I'm sure there is a design reason for the later, but the former?
Galen Brownsmith
11 March 2011 @ 03:02 pm
Gov. Walker is clearly nuts.

This staged action is going to result in something, and that is a Democratic legislature by the next election cycle. Plus all the calls for recalls and impeachment. His career as a state politician is going to end by the next gubernatorial election cycle.

Which means, he's probably thinking of doing something else.

There are only, really, 3 options: (1) Presidential Run, (2) VP Candidate, or (3) High nominated office in the next Republican Administration.

If he really is in bed with the Koch brothers, 2 or 3 seems highly likely. The first would require more self-delusion. But who knows.
Galen Brownsmith
10 February 2011 @ 07:03 pm
When the Apple iPhone was first released, there were incredible shortages, long lines, and huge sales figures for Apple. This has repeated, more or less exactly, every major iPhone rev. Bigger, better, stronger, faster -- Apple is printing money.

Verizon offered the phone and ... Not much happened.

Admittedly, there were record first-day sales for the 3am pre-sales, and there were weather issues on the release day. It remains unimpressive -- no multi-date waits, no out-of-stock issues nationwide.

Why? The reason is, IMO, easy to see. Apple shot themselves in the foot. With a Howitzer.

Exclusivity with AT&T made sense the first year; an exclusive contract means a higher share of the profits for Apple. Into the second year, it may have made sense still. No major competitors, a huge market share, and, again, a larger share of the profits. But, in 2009, it stopped making any sense.

Now there was a real competitor; Symbian may have been the leader worldwide, but Android was coming on strong. There were handsets in the field, and huge enthusiasm behind it. iPhones, as cool as they may be, were no longer the sole slick-and-clean, app-market focuses smart phone. Apple needed to keep its market share up, and needed to be able to fight Android on more carries.

Apple goofed. Exclusivity remained. Android handsets, which were coming out with increasing frequency, were getting to be cleaner, slicker, and meet a wider range of needs. The iPhone is no longer the Coolest Possible Option; in part, that is because for many it wasn't an option at all.

Apple opened up to one other domestic carrier. It is a good start, but it is too little, more than a year too late; they needed to open up to any major carrier who can support the handset. They needed to do this before the Android Market became competitive. Instead of maintaining Apple's lead in the market, and general appeal, they missed the boat, and ended up, again, in a niche market (akin to their computers), rather than maintaining the dominance and lead in the market.

Further, Apple did this with 4 months left in the product cycle. Even if you want an iPhone on Verizon, if you don't desperately need a new handset, why would you sign up now? New models are coming out in June.
Galen Brownsmith
08 February 2011 @ 09:40 pm
Latest response from GroupOn:

response 2Collapse )

I'm not sure if it is worth writing another response. It seems obvious that they aren't actually reading them.

Galen Brownsmith
07 February 2011 @ 04:15 pm
For what it is worth, I've just started reading news and the Internet today (I had jury duty this morning). I've no idea how well publicized this is, at this point.


I missed the beginning of GroupOn's Tibet ad. I was watching, but not really paying attention. When the rest of the room groaned, I asked what happened.

What happened is that GroupOn lost a huge portion of their customer base, including me.

So, I sent a message to GroupOn this morning. I had about 10 minutes in my schedule, as I had to run to Jury Duty, so the message was not as clearly thought out or comprehensive as I would like.

Letter 1Collapse )

Somewhat to my surprise, I received a response (text after the cut). The major point of it can be 'The CEO explained himself, and we donations too!'. Yeaaaah. It is obviously a form letter, and one hastily put together; it doesn't respond to any specific points, and it isn't satisfactory.

(Also, it was sent as a rich-text email; annoying in and of itself, but the only reason seemed to be to change the font face .)
Response 1Collapse )

So, I responded again.

Letter 2Collapse )

Lets see if anyone gets the point.
Galen Brownsmith
24 January 2011 @ 04:05 pm
So, in my world, the plumbing in my house would make sense.

A reasonable proposalCollapse )

(I hope everyone could follow that. Essentially, Source -> split for each floor -> split for each use -> processor (if any; furnace, boiler) -> split for each zone.)

What my house ACTUALLY does. (I'm using letters, as this is really going to hell.)

I started this process several times. After getting throughly confused several times, I labeled each pipe section with the AFOREMENTIONED letters. The final pass took over an hour.

Lovecraftian 4D Plumbing follows.Collapse )

Galen Brownsmith
19 January 2011 @ 03:31 pm
Somehow, I've changed the default UI on my MS Windows (XP) box to default to some bizarre ordering in file-access dialogs. I think it might be most recently accessed?

Regardless, it is nigh-useless. Does anyone know how I can get this to something useful (like, alphabetical?)? I can always change the dialog explicitly, but that's been getting very tedious.
Galen Brownsmith
29 November 2010 @ 12:14 pm
I was woken up at 10:08 am by my phone ringing.

"Comcast Business Services; can I please speak to the person who is in charge of phone services?"


Now, lets ignore for a minute that my phone number is on the Federal Do Not Call Registry. It is possible (although, if true, stupid) that they can call me because I'm a residential (phone-service) customer of theirs.


This does not take a genius to figure out what the problem is.
Galen Brownsmith
19 November 2010 @ 11:56 am
There's an article about how Israeli Airport Security is superior in almost every when to the TSA. And it is. Almost.

First issue: Matters of scaleCollapse )

Second issue: ProfilingCollapse )

Now, I fully support a system that works better than what we've got. Israel has a system that is designed to stop dangerous PEOPLE rather than dangerous THINGS. Which is the right way to do security. Simply saying 'do it like Israel' ignores a lot issues.