Thoughts on Steve Yegge’s Google+ Rant

Let me say up front, Steve Yegge is my favorite blog writer. I think I started reading his blog in late 2007, and really picked up digging through the archives in 2008. He is the reason I still write blog posts. This blog does decent traffic for a hobbyist technical blog, but it’s still like pulling teeth to get comments. And blogs may just be fading in general, as people want more bite sized content. I’m not complaining, that’s just the 140 character world we live in.

Speaking of 140 characters, that’s one of the great things about Steve’s blog, brevity be damned, he writes what he wants to. Unlike twitter experts regular pithy updates, he drops novels, and then walks away for 3 months. But you need time to stew on the posts. I consider it an honor that one of my posts is cited on his wikipedia page.

So what did he do? He mistakenly posted an internal essay to Google on his public Google+ stream. It’s everything his best posts did and maybe even more. It’s brutally honest, funny, and making points at several different levels.

First, I wonder if it even was a mistake. His follow up on Google+ tends to make me think it was. But if not, there’s some “friggin’ genius” in his blundering. You can’t unsee things on the internet (insert your favorite internet porn meme here). By “accidentally” dropping a note like that, he may have just saved Google. Their lack of platform and dog-fooding is a real issue. And now, it’s clear to everyone at Google, and everyone outside of it. Every new product that Google launches will be scrutinized through the lense of that post. Google _HAS_ to react and take that demand serious. Speaking of, Facebook just launched an iOS Platform.

Again, I don’t think he did it purposefully. But you have to consider the analogy of a lawyer saying something inadmissible in front of the jury. You can tell them to forget it, but there is no “undo” button that takes you back to where you were.

Everyone wants to know what Google thinks. Will he be fired. First, I doubt it. Google’s “don’t be evil policy” would make it hard to fire a guy for being a public whistle blower, albeit on technical matters. But I want to know what Jeff Bezos thinks, as Steve takes him to task pretty well. Now he does call him the Dread Pirate Bezos at one point, which may be a hint that he’s just doing that for humor and realizes that Bezos is nothing like his own legend. But still, he may have done some career damage by talking that candidly about a former employer where he was pretty high on the chain, and for putting Google in that kind of spot. Facebook would certainly have some questions about that post before hiring him.

I thought he did a really nice job of summarizing what Microsoft does well, and what they don’t. Microsoft is baffled that it’s strength in tools (Visual Studio) and languages don’t trump environments like X-Code and Objective-C. Microsoft community members cite Objective-C as proof that developers just care about market share. That may bare truth, but Steve’s right about platform. Microsoft has opened up more API hooks into their products than you can imagine, but Apple does it elegantly. There is a much smaller surface, and a straight forward interface to working with things. I think that’s due to Apple’s desire for everything to have a clean design, and a gift that came when they chose to build a system with Unix under the hood. No wonder ever described Win32 as “by programmers, for programmers”. Want more proof that Steve is right? Look at what Microsoft just did at build. They didn’t release new languages, or new tools. They even resurrected C++. But they did release a new Platform, with a much cleaner API surface.

Finally, look at the community around Google for confirmation of what he’s saying. There are developers around Microsoft, Facebook, Adobe, Amazon and Apple. Because they can leverage those platforms while still striking out on their own. Adding value. How do you add value to Google Docs? Once you’ve configured a business account for a company, and trained their users, how do you continue to add value? You don’t. The only place Google has done this is with Android, and they screwed the pooch on the store model.

If Google rallies around his message, they could get their mojo back. After all, they understand Big Data better than anybody. They get horizontal scaling and Data Analysis like nobody’s business. And people generally still buy their ethics, and their is a culture around quality and intelligence. But marketing, innovation and what Steve calls Accessibility matter.

Now go read some of his best posts like:

That list may take you a day to read, and that’s if you can resist following the rabbit trail into further articles. Enjoy.

Finally, one of my favorite recent discoveries is his keynote inspiring developers to solve bigger problems:

Now if he would just write on his blog more often…

Oh, and for those new to following Steve Yegge, he’s one hell of a guitar player: