Tag Archives: Google

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:

On Commuting and The Economy

Yesterday, I left downtown Cleveland at 3:45 headed to a 4 o’clock meeting. I was probably going to be 5-10 minutes late. Instead I ended up calling to reschedule, and still didn’t make it home till 6:15. Two and half hours, for a drive that usually takes me 45-55 minutes. Google maps says 38 minutes, but that’s not realistic on a weekday. As I was virtually at a standstill on I-77, and I saw some helicopters coming and going, I assume this was a very bad day for someone up ahead, and so as frustrating as the experience is, delaying my day (and many others) is a small price for life saving flights to the hospital.

But the traffic did get me to thinking, that most traffic jams are a multifaceted problem. I’m referring to those simply caused by congestion, fender-benders, or traffic stops (and the associated gawking). Wikipedia does a nice job of listing the negative effects. But I think in the current context of the US today, it’s worse than what they list. And I think we have the power to mitigate some of this.

As already mentioned in the Wikipedia list, there is opportunity cost, massive pollution increase, and psychological effects to traffic problem. What about our current time period makes this worse? Try the housing market. How? Workers commuting a long distance wanting to avoid the risks of long traffic tie-ups aren’t nearly as free to move closer to their jobs. Or they aren’t looking at far away jobs merely because of the commute. The tie-in between housing (mobility of workers) and jobs is clear, add urban congestion to that fire. Also, construction and maintenance projects that can make for better commutes aren’t exactly popular, particularly when tied to state and local budgets. Unlike the Federal Government, these state and local entities can’t run large deficits during times of tax revenue decline. Finally, consider the wasted fuel (which is getting more expensive with turmoil in the Middle East) and it’s effects on household budgets that are already stressed thin.

So what remedies exist?

The White House has been pushing for high speed rail projects across the country, but some states have turned the money down fearing the investment they would have to put with it. There are a lot of questions about the value, but it’s hard to imagine that making people more fluid is a bad thing for commute times and the job market. With this in mind, I asked a question about the speed of Ohio’s rail on quora.com.

Telecommuting has gained a lot of momentum, although I expect there has been some reduction during the recession (office space is not as much of an issue with a contracting workforce). While I’ve never been a big fan of working from home, it’s clear that it can save both the individual and company time and dollars.

GPS Systems are increasingly integrating traffic data. Just like emissions standards, having smart traffic systems as mandatory in cars could go a long way to assist in intelligent rerouting of commuters in the event of a backup. How many times have you been in a traffic jam and felt like you were rolling the dice when deciding whether to get off the highway and try another way? There are even social GPS systems like Waze that attempt to address this.

Google has been working on driver-less cars for a while now. Certainly safety, reliability and such are an early concern during testing. Once refined and proven, however, this technology would drastically reduce accidents, traffic stops, and save lives. If everyone were driving such cars (this is a loooong way out), speed limits could be drastically increased with little additional safety risk.

IBM, under their Smart Planet initiative, have been researching and implementing smart traffic systems.

I can only hope that some of these advancements lead to the kind of information available to drivers that is portrayed in this video “A Day Made of Glass” by Corning.

I think the challenge is finding reasonable first steps and getting some coordination between these initiatives. Given a recession, and global competition from rising powers like China and India, the US could gain a lot output from simple efforts to improve traffic scenarios. And maybe civil engineers (specifically transportation engineers) are on top of these ideas, but for now it certainly doesn’t look like the US is leading the way with solving these issues. Even if commute times aren’t drastically reduced, with solutions like the Google car or the high speed rail, imagine the productivity increase of commuting free time with internet available. You could use the time to pay your bill, catch up on news, do correspondence course work, etc. For some commuters, this is already a reality.

Some of the stimulus money was aimed at these kinds of projects, but in my mind, not enough. The long term economic effects of a mobile workforce are undeniable. And these efforts could payoff in terms of global competition for years to come.

What do you think? Does your city have solutions or efforts under way for this? Do you see a particular effort or company leading the way with this? I see mostly efforst coming from technology companies, but are there other significant efforts to address these issues?