Re­cent­ly, Steve Yegge pub­lished two rants, each of which has gone vi­ral and moved the In­ter­net con­ver­sa­tion nee­dle a bit. I liked both of them, thought they were gen­er­al­ly well-argued and use­ful. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, there are a few as­ser­tions of fact there that are just wrong, and may be dam­ag­ing. So I thought that, first of al­l, I should en­cour­age peo­ple to go read these pieces and, sec­ond, point out the things that are coun­ter­fac­tu­al.

The posts · Now at Medi­um (sigh, it makes me sad when an­oth­er in­die blog­ger mi­grates off their own plat­for­m): why I left Google and Who will steal An­droid from Google? Go read ’em.

Wrong: Google’s cus­tomer fo­cus · Steve as­serts that “Google has be­come 100% competitor-focused rather than cus­tomer focused.” He’s mak­ing the all-too-common er­ror of mis­tak­ing Google’s users with its cus­tomers. Cus­tomers are the peo­ple who pay you mon­ey for your ser­vices, which in Google’s case means ad­ver­tis­er­s. Bear in mind that some­thing like 90% of Google’s rev­enue is still based on search ad­ver­tis­ing. Google takes re­al­ly good care of search ad­ver­tis­er­s, and deeply un­der­stands their need­s.

Google al­so does a pret­ty good job of reach­ing out to de­vel­op­ers be­cause it needs peo­ple build­ing on its plat­form­s. I spent four years in the Devel­op­er Re­la­tions group, and know where­of I speak.

But user­s? Nope, be­cause that means ba­si­cal­ly ev­ery­body, and no­body can af­ford to pro­vide high-quality sup­port to ev­ery­body. The on­ly way to deal with cus­tomer pain is to make ex­pert help from a re­al hu­man be­ing, and that’s just not af­ford­able for search or Gmail or Docs or YouTube. The num­ber of peo­ple who’ve on­ly had their hideous, life-blighting Google prob­lem re­solved be­cause they hap­pened to know some­one who works there is sub­stan­tial.

Wrong: Amazon’s cus­tomer fo­cus · Steve al­leges that Ama­zon staffers on­ly in­ter­act with cus­tomers once a year. Nope. Part of the prob­lem may be that he pre-dates AWS, where I work, and where we talk to cus­tomers ob­ses­sive­ly all the time, and I mean all the time. I per­son­al­ly do, and I don’t know any­one who works any­where near me that doesn’t.

Wrong: Lan­guage cool­ness · Steve: “At the top of Snoot Moun­tain sit the lofty Search en­gi­neers writ­ing in C++, which is con­sid­ered cool­er than Java, which is cool­er than Python, which is cool­er than JavaScrip­t. And Search is cool­er than Ad­s, which is cool­er than App­s, which is cool­er than Tool­s, which is cool­er than Fron­tend­s. And so on. Pro­gram­mers love to look down on each other.” That’s just crazy. I think a whole lot of pro­gram­mers would rather work in high-level lan­guages like Ru­by and Python; it’s just that if you want to build in­fras­truc­tural ser­vices that can han­dle a mil­lion re­quests a sec­ond, you prob­a­bly can’t use that stuff even if you want to.

And last time I looked, all the coolest, hippest, “thought-leader-ish” peo­ple I know are build­ing rad­i­cal JavaScript frame­work­s.

Steve cor­rect­ly notes that front-end pro­gram­ming is hard, but leaves out maybe the sin­gle most im­por­tant rea­son why: It’s super-hard to unit-test prop­er­ly. He al­so cor­rect­ly notes (here and in pre­vi­ous out­ings) two of Android’s most hor­ri­ble mis-steps: The Frag­ments API, and Gradle.

Wrong: What An­droid is for · Steve says An­droid is Google’s most im­por­tant chan­nel. That’s on­ly if you don’t mea­sure by mon­ey. From a busi­ness point of view, AdWords is five times more im­por­tant than any­thing else. My per­son­al opin­ion is that An­droid orig­i­nal­ly ex­ist­ed to pre­vent Ap­ple get­ting a monopoly lock on the hand-held mar­ket and lock Google en­tire­ly out of mo­bile ad­s. Mo­bile ads still com­plete­ly suck as a busi­ness, BTW.

And it’s ac­tu­al­ly not ob­vi­ous that in the big pic­ture, An­droid has had a pos­i­tive ROI for Google. (Yet an­oth­er rea­son why Oracle’s lit­i­ga­tion is so stupid.)

Oh, and did I say? · They’re ex­cel­lent blogs. You should read them.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: dbt (Mar 26 2018, at 16:24)

Very good points.

One historical note: The Android acquisition was to protect Google's open web advertising business from potential dominance by Microsoft Windows CE (pre-Windows Mobile). It predates the iPhone announcement by far enough that they had to pivot from screen+keyboard to touchscreen-only significantly far into the process. There were still traces of the physical keyboard in the original android developer docs.


From: Kartik Agaram (Mar 26 2018, at 20:57)

> I think a whole lot of pro­gram­mers would rather work in high-level lan­guages like Ru­by and Python..

Steve Yegge would agree with you there, but it doesn't actually contradict his point. Programming has sub-cultures. Based on my experience at Google, his description of the subcultures at Google rang true. C++ and Java are correlated with high status. But it's entirely just reflected glory from Search and Ads.

So the problem isn't that he's wrong, but that this is not a very useful lens. I find it often to be the case lately: Small programmer minds discuss frameworks; average minds discuss languages; great minds focus on problem domains (even if they accidentally create frameworks or languages in the process).


From: Alex (Mar 27 2018, at 00:08)

> Cus­tomers are the peo­ple who pay you mon­ey for your ser­vices, which in Google’s case means ad­ver­tis­er­s.

That's exactly what was the end of Yahoo.


From: Saverio (Mar 27 2018, at 04:07)

Interesting thoughts, it's always nice to see conversations with different opinions presented in such a manner. I think Yegge's point of view comes from a lot of frustration, and in that scenario it's easy to just diss everything to make your point stronger.

Just as an aside: I don't get the beef with Medium, which I think is pretty nice. Let alone the ease of use for writers, if came to your blog after reading on Medium, and the eye strain in here is *real*.


From: Walter Underwood (Mar 27 2018, at 09:08)

Steve Yegge just now figured out that Google is arrogant?

Yeah, Google customer support is nonexistent and their product design is so bad that they need it. I tried to set up G Suite for our home email mailboxes and it was such a disaster that I had to abandon a Gmail address to get out of it. Wow.

I'm using FastMail now, which is a delight.


From: Shakkhar (Mar 27 2018, at 12:47)

> He al­so cor­rect­ly notes (here and in pre­vi­ous out­ings) two of Android’s most hor­ri­ble mis-steps: The Frag­ments API, and Gradle.

Where exactly does Steve Yegge mention the Fragments API? I could not find it in either of the articles. Do you mean the _fragmentation problem_ (as Steve does)?


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
March 26, 2018
· Technology (81 fragments)
· · Software (64 more)

By .

I am an employee
of, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.