A Google Engineer who sees the outsider perspective?

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I know that as a stubborn old nerd I can be pretty hard to win over, and as much as this Google Engineer claims to have accidentally leaked his rant, I read this as intentionally made public from the get-go just by the way it was written to ‘everyone’ in a few spots. I could be wrong, but I’m not reading this as a leak, just as a rant.


The full post is, amazingly enough over on Google+ as a public post (although the original author has pointlessly deleted it). I shouldn’t say it’s really amazing that the post is still public, people duped it instantly so there’s no point in trying to remove it now.

Make no mistake, there’s a few good points from Steve Yegge; I find some of the observations to be true but mostly from an outsider standpoint which is shocking because it was written by a fellow with almost 6 years of experience in the company. Google does have platforms, they do use them, and they do share them. True there’s always been an obvious panic towards security that’s effected accessibility, but then Google’s track record probably wouldn’t be as amazing with a more casual approach to giving outsiders access to core tech.

Amazingly of all the points made, the one that echos most with my opinion is that Google is becoming arrogant and almost needs two versions of projects like Google’s Chrome browser. One version that runs super secure, fast, compatible, and sleek, with no frills or compromises. The other needs to be as bloated as FireFox/Opera, and it’d run like a buggy mess of poorly considered features that are starkly incompatible with themselves. To quote Steve on arrogance and Chrome development:

“You know how people are always saying Google is arrogant? I’m a Googler, so I get as irritated as you do when people say that. We’re not arrogant, by and large. We’re, like, 99% Arrogance-Free. I did start this post — if you’ll reach back into distant memory — by describing Google as “doing everything right”. We do mean well, and for the most part when people say we’re arrogant it’s because we didn’t hire them, or they’re unhappy with our policies, or something along those lines. They’re inferring arrogance because it makes them feel better.

But when we take the stance that we know how to design the perfect product for everyone, and believe you me, I hear that a lot, then we’re being fools. You can attribute it to arrogance, or naivete, or whatever — it doesn’t matter in the end, because it’s foolishness. There IS no perfect product for everyone.

And so we wind up with a browser that doesn’t let you set the default font size. Talk about an affront to Accessibility. I mean, as I get older I’m actually going blind. For real. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, and once you hit 40 years old you stop being able to see things up close. So font selection becomes this life-or-death thing: it can lock you out of the product completely. But the Chrome team is flat-out arrogant here: they want to build a zero-configuration product, and they’re quite brazen about it, and F*** You if you’re blind or deaf or whatever. Hit Ctrl-+ on every single page visit for the rest of your life.”

As Steve deleted the original post he put up a good bit on why it’s bad to have such things in public:

“Please realize, though, that even now, after six years, I know astoundingly little about Google. It’s a huge company and they do tons of stuff, and I work off in a little corner of the company (both technically and geographically) that gives me very little insight into anything else going on there. So my opinions, even though they may seem well-formed and accurate, really are just a bunch of opinions from someone who’s nowhere near the center of the action — so I wouldn’t read too much into anything I said.”

I really couldn’t agree more. If this had come from someone working with Google’s engineers on something such as the GO language it would have been a different story, but Steve’s admittance of the scope of his role is very honest and worth considering as you read his rant.

TL;DR – Google guy rants about Google’s strategies from an outsider’s perspective and calls out some of the lingering issues with Google’s dev teams/arrogance. Everyone would like to see Google bend more and give more, though nobody can seem to qualify themselves to say if it’s really the wisest strategy.

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