Google Engineer Calls Google+ a “Knee-Jerk Reaction”

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A Google engineer called Google+ a “knee-jerk reaction” in a long-winded rant that he accidentally made public, but that’s okay – Google says it can stay up for everyone to read.

If Steve Yegge worked for any other company, his continuing employment prospects might be looking pretty dim right now. Yegge, you see, wrote a very long yet entertaining and informative rant about the failings of Google and Google+ entitled “Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant,” intended to be an internal post for the folks at the office. But thanks to the lateness of the hour and, amusingly, his own inexperience with Google+, he ended up making it public, for all the world to see.

It was what you might call a powerfully honest message. Following an interesting look at the nature of Amazon under the leadership of Jeff Bezos, Yegge turned his attention to Google and specifically Google+. “Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers,” he wrote. “We all don’t get it. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought.”

“Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product,” he continued a little further on. “Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said, ‘Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.’ Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.”

There’s a lot more to it than that [at one point he refers to Google+ as “a terrible venue” for blogging] and it never becomes nasty in any way, but there’s no denying that the honesty contained therein is very much of the brutal sort, which is probably why it was never meant for public consumption. And although Yegge eventually deleted the message, he said that was entirely his call, not Google’s.

“I contacted our internal PR folks and asked what to do, and they were also nice and supportive. But they didn’t want me to think that they were even hinting at censoring me — they went out of their way to help me understand that we’re an opinionated company, and not one of the kinds of companies that censors their employees,” he wrote in a follow-up. “So I made the call myself and deleted it.”

Of course, this being the internet, the post is still readily available from numerous other sources, such as right here. In spite of that, Yegge also made it clear that he’s not worried about any possible repercussions arising from this little kerfuffle. “The company is super open internally, and as I said several times in my post, they really try hard to do everything right,” he added. “That includes being open to strongly differing opinions, and that has certainly not been true at every company I’ve worked at.”

Lucky for him, I’d say – and lucky for us, too, if his message sinks in.

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