Does Google Have Any Social Skills At All?

Sam Biddle, at Gizmodo:

Everything new from Google is prima facie fantastic, and served with the best intentions. Google is a monolithic company, sure, but it's filled with geniuses who want to make your life easier through technology. Nobody's faulting their ambition, or questioning its motives. But we have to wonder: Are these new things meant for regular people, or the data-obsessed, grace-deficient Silicon Valley nerd vanguard? As much as we wish it weren't so, the answer seems a whole hell of a lot like the latter. That the company responsible for Android is still building for robots. In each case, Google has balanced on golden fingers a product—clearly with a lot of time, thought, and money behind it—that just doesn't seem to jibe with the way we actually live our lives. There isn't any lack of effort or innovation here, but rather a gaping disconnect between the way data geeks and the rest of us see the world. What happens when you fill a company with socially inept software engineers and allowing essential things like design take a back seat to engineering. That you can get the light bulb to work is not the ultimate goal. People have to want to use the light bulb.

Google’s Evil Stock Split

Felix Salmon, writing for Reuters:

My key problem with the proposal is that it’s being pushed through without common shareholders being given the opportunity to object. I would be OK with it if it was being voted on a one-share, one-vote basis. But instead, Google’s Troika has decided that having ten times the votes of any other shareholder isn’t good enough for them, and that what they really want is a whole new class of shareholders — including new employees — who have no votes in the company at all.

Oink’s Data Privacy Breach: Download the Data of Any User with Their Own Export Tool

Cristina Cordova, at her blog::

When Oink shut down yesterday, I used their export tool so that I could do something useful with the information I gave them. In requesting my data, which I did simply by filling out a form with only my username, I received the email below. In looking at the link, it seemed that my publicly available username (cristina) called for the download. The screenshot shows a simple link ending in "". So, curiously, I tried replacing my username with Kevin Rose’s: (go ahead, click it). You’ll get a zip file of every item he has ever added, rated or reviewed. You’ll also get every photo he has ever uploaded to Oink. I began thinking about what access I gave to Oink – did I somehow allow them to make all of my data publicly available without my consent? Well, I tried exploring their privacy page, but it seems to conveniently redirect to their data export page. I hope in the Milk team’s next steps at Google, they place a higher value on user data and privacy. Next steps at Google placing higher value on data and privacy? HA!

Why I Left Google

James Whittaker:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus. [...] Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the "old Google" and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a "new Google" that promised "more wood behind fewer arrows." The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again. If you read anything this week, read this. When I tell people that I dislike Google as a company and have made the decision to quit using their products, they often ask me why. This is why. On the outside it has been apparent to me, as well as other folks, that these changes have been happening at Google in the last 3-4 years beginning with Google's backstabbing Apple and releasing Android. Whittaker's posts reinforces, from someone who has been on the inside, what I've seen happening from the outside perspective.

Is Google Plus's Problem One of Design?

Nick Bilton, at The New York Times' Bits blog:

We skitter around the world with our smartphone cameras, taking pictures of leaves and sugar cubes and sunsets, then applying filters and making even the mundane look beautiful. Clearly, design is becoming increasingly more relevant to people. Google Plus doesn’t seem to understand that. Google’s iPhone app, for example, looks like a sketch that was never finished. And if you think the iPhone isn’t important for a good social network, just ask Instagram, an iPhone-only photo app that has more than 27 million users. That’s a quarter of Google Plus’s users, and Instagram didn’t need the Google homepage to get there.

DOJ asks Court to keep secret any partnership between Google and NSA, not that one exists, definitely not

Mike Scarcella in The Legal Times writes about The Justice Department defending the government's refusal to discuss, or acknowledge the existence of, "any cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the National Security Agency."

The Washington based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in federal district court here to obtain documents about any such agreement between the Internet search giant and the security agency. The NSA responded to the suit with a so-called “Glomar” response in which the agency said it could neither confirm nor deny whether any responsive records exist. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington sided with the government last July. via Boing Boing. I think Google has changed their motto. They've removed the "don't" from the rest of the "be evil" phrase.

Google Forcing Android Developers To Use Google Wallet

Allstair Barr, writing for Reuters:

Google warned several developers in recent months that if they continued to use other payment methods - such as PayPal, Zong and Boku - their apps would be removed from Android Market, now known as Google Play… Google’s payment service charges a higher cut per transaction than some rivals’. But the move also suggests Google is using its powerful position in the mobile apps market to promote an in-house offering. Marco Arment aptly sums it up: "Open".

The Little Boy Who Cried "Don't Be Evil"

While catching up on the news I missed while I was on vacation, I ran across this via Daring Fireball. Nick Bilton on Google’s stream of privacy incidents:

“The past two months have been unprecedented; there has never been anything like it at the company,” said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of the blog Search Engine Land, who has closely covered Google since the company began. “They are a big company, and any big company is always going to have something happen that they don’t expect. But these things keep happening where you can’t even trust their word.” When I asked Mr. Sullivan if Google was now too big not to be evil, he said, “I don’t think they were ever not evil.” Google says nothing has changed. John Gruber says, "Exactly".