Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Podcast #24: Weeping Angels

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Dylan and I talked about Blink last night, as well as discussing our experiences at the Squeetup event we had that coincided with AEA’s opening night party.

Here’s Dylan’s recap of the podcast:

Kyle and Dylan talk through the implications of Google’s new Blink browser engine and what it means for the future of web standards. Also, a review of the Squeetup, a Joel Spolsky reference, and Dylan’s exhaustion causing a few too many pregnant pauses.

You can go listen to it now at 3rdaverad.io.

Snow, Blood and Cookies

Friday, December 9th, 2011
CSSquirrel #90: Snow, Blood and Cookies

Today’s comic features Opera’s viking doing some nasty, brutal stuff. Because if a public community representative of Opera acts out of line, and the company doesn’t call them on it, they might as well be endorsing it. Luke Wroblewski also stars as the stand-in for well-meaning folk who are trying make peace at the expense of correcting bad behavior.

Buckle up.

I’m going to throw myself on the grenade and be the curmudgeon.

You don’t have to like what I’m about to say, but I think you need to read it.

We are, as a community, allowing ourselves to be abused. We’re Kevin Bacon in Animal House, bent over in our underwear and thanking someone for beating us. And, like any sadist with a free pass, they’re continuing to hit us again, and again, and again.

I get it. It’s the holidays. We’re stressed out by end-of-year deadlines, driving on icy roads and getting our Christmas shopping completed and hoping that at the end of the day we can kick back an egg-nog and just be merry. We don’t want the stress of confronting and condemning bad behavior, so we’re trying our damnedest to shrug it off.

Additionally, most of us want to be liked. And we want our friends to like each other. Whether it’s in our neighborhoods, in our Facebook profiles, or in our professional circles we just want people to be friendly and think highly of one another, but especially us. So when a flare-up starts between two peers we’d rather put our fingers in our ears and hum the Benny Hill theme song than owe up to the fact that there’s a problem.

But I’m here to be the bearer of bad news: there is a problem. Not only that, we’re responsible for it.

When I was growing up, my mother made it clear that certain behavior was not acceptable. Among other rules of childhood, I couldn’t go about tossing insults at people. Not my parents. Not my siblings and not friends. Heck, I was expected to maintain at least some decorum around the kids I disliked.

Going outside the bounds of socially acceptable behavior carried with it a penalty. Maybe soap in the mouth, or a spanking, or being grounded in my room, or at the bare minimum no desert after dinner. It was unpleasant. I was a pretty big crybaby, so any sort of punishment or chastising resulted in a waterfall of tears and a sniffling cry that would last for hours. I guarantee my mother hated having to deal with it. She probably would have enjoyed her evenings much more pretending I didn’t doing anything wrong, instead of listening to me cry and sniffle in my room as she desperately tried to read a book in peace.

But she did it anyway. As a result, I learned the difference between right and wrong and stopped doing the bad behavior. It didn’t mean that I stopped thinking ill of kids I disliked, or devising a choice insult for my brother when he provoked my ire. But it did mean I knew it was unacceptable to act on those thoughts, and it made me consider my words before I said them. If, after a good hard think I decided it was worth provoking my mother’s wrath, I’d still take the risk of insulting someone.

I did, however, think first.

In a pattern that goes back probably for quite some time but for certain seems to have flared up this week we’ve been permitting ourselves to be subject to bad behavior. We’d rather read our books in peace, so we are ignoring the misdeeds of an entitled few in the hopes that it will all go away.

And it’s not going away.

There’s literally thousands of amazing, talented developers and designers currently involved in making the Web a better place. A whole lot of them are like me, working hard for a very modest living in a small design firm that doesn’t get awards or fancy big-name clients. A great many also work as embedded Web people in a large corporation or other entity, thanklessly fighting the ignorance or misinformation of their bosses and co-workers while trying to apply their awesome skills to making their corporate site a better, slicker place to visit.

Then there’s the superstars, Web folk that work as community representatives and star developers for the big Web companies that take leadership roles (by fiat or by standards) in developing and proselytizing the advancement of the very technologies we use to make awesome Web stuff.

These people don’t just speak at conferences, they speak at dozens of conferences. They don’t just make cool web projects. They make amazing, cutting-edge projects that push forward the meaning of “good Web design”. They talk a lot about community participation and self-learning and being involved.

They’re intelligent, creative and successful people.

Sometimes, they can be utter dicks.

Anyone can be a jerk. From the drug-addled homeless man currently shooting up in the alley down the street from my office to the richest men in the world. Every person is capable of forgetting those lessons in basic decency that their parents (hopefully) taught them as children and slip up from time to time.

When it happens, it’s usually considered acceptable to say “Dude. No.”

The worse the bad behavior, usually the more stringent the chastisement should be. Action. Consequence. It’s a no-brainer, right?

But what happens when thought leaders, community representatives of important companies in the industry, and superstar talents start to repeatedly engage in or endorse bad behavior? It usually goes something like this.

  1. The superstar does something socially unacceptable. Like refer to a recent article by the owner of a small design firm as drug-enduced bullshit. (original was deleted, here’s a retweet).
  2. Individuals call the superstar on the behavior, noting how unacceptable an action it is. Especially for a community representative of a major player in our industry (although, really, it’s just unacceptable period).
  3. The superstar sort of apologizes. Usually in the vein of “I’m sorry for using strong language” or “I’m sorry you got upset”.
  4. The individuals (rightfully) insist that’s not an acceptable response, and demand a genuine, public apology.
  5. The superstar does so.
  6. Supporters of the superstar retaliate by calling the original individuals the curmudgeons in this situation. They in essence defend the bad behavior by shaming them for “bullying” the superstar, say the “crap” they’re saying is undeserved.
  7. The rest of the community, straining to retain a smile, do everything in their power to bury the “firestorm” under a (likely well meant) pile of hugs and cookies universally handed out to everyone involved, including those that defended the bad action and the superstar that did it in the first place. All are pardoned, nobody is wrong.
  8. The superstar states how tired they are of the drama… seemingly ignoring the fact that it was their own behavior that caused it.

This is all sorts of messed up. Nobody’s learned a lesson, because as a community we’re too concerned about “drama” that we’ll do anything to quash it instead of uniting as a community to call down the person who started the drama with their attack in the first place. We’re sending such a mixed message of supporting the peace or the person without collectively condemning the behavior.

Anyone who ever raised a kid or was a kid knows exactly where that will lead. To more bad behavior.

I’m not calling for punishment. But the launch of a pro-community “make the web better” website (which I will not be linking or mentioning by name for reasons I’ll make clear below) should have been a source of joy in the holiday season. Instead, two individuals tied to that effort have engaged in either passive/aggressive sniping or outright insulting of individuals and their efforts in this week alone. And according to people in the know, this isn’t the first time for some of those involved. And what kills me, what hurts me is how highly I thought of these people prior to now. But how can I promote the work of people who engage in socially abusive bad behavior?

I can’t. No matter how much I agree with the message of their product, I cannot in good conscience promote their goods and services when they’re behaving in a fashion that I know to be wrong. And as near as I can tell, they’re not sorry for how they’ve behaved. They’re simply sorry they were called on it.

The only way we’re going to improve as a community is to grow up and realize we can’t hide everything under soothing hugs and cookies. People messed up. Worse yet, people who are well known and respected representing companies with power or social clout messed up. If they are protected for their behavior, they will continue to abuse us, the community. And many of us will, over time, mimic that behavior in a misguided attempt to become as successful as they are.

Shame on you, Divya. Shame on you, Paul. You’re grown adults. You know better.

Next time you want to blame the drama, stop for a moment and think about who actually started it.

And to the rest of you, I’m sorry. I don’t want a cookie. I want it made clear that this behavior should never have happened, and can’t be allowed to keep occurring.

Happy holidays.

Surrender Monkey

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Gruber says: “It’s not that Google is worse on net neutrality than other companies with a stake in the mobile phone game. It’s that they made such a show of being better, of being on the side of the public interest — before they had a big stake in the game.”

Word.

This is in reference to this piece by Ryan Singel on Wired, entitled Why Google Became A Carrier-Humping, Net Neutrality Surrender Monkey.

Gruber’s response is short, sweet and quotable. Ryan’s piece is worth the read. Both manage to say, eloquently, reasons that Google’s behavior is poor behavior.

Cat’s out of the bag, Google. No more free passes for being the “people’s champion”.

Comic Update: Define “Evil”

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I’m not always comfortable with labeling technology-related positions as “evil” or “good” considering the difficulties of applying morality to anything in the 21st century without being told that it’s all subjective. However, considering the importance of the Internet and equal access to its content in today’s society, I think I’ll ask you all to excuse me when I say that net neutrality is a good thing.

Unless you’re a greedy content provider corporation interested in your bottom line. Then it might be a pain in your ass.

But since I’m not a greedy content provider, I’m going to go ahead and say that the recent joint proposal for an “open Internet” that Google and Verizon have made public is them knowingly abusing terminology, trying to falsely claim support for a neutrality their actions oppose, and are therefore being “evil”.

Today’s comic provides a desert-themed metaphor to my opinion on the topic, featuring Faruk Ateş and Manu Sporny, who stumble through the dunes with the Squirrel before encountering a familiar-seeming water merchant.

Let’s break down the timeline

  • The New York Times publishes an article claiming Google and Verizon are nearing a web tier deal, which Manu Sporny tweets about here, tying it into a threat to net neutrality.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. Faruk’s pretty clear on his opinion here, which I think sums up how a lot of us feel.
  • Google and Verizon jointly announce a proposal for the “open Internet”… sort of. An open Internet for those with wired connections.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. This blog post by Jeff Sayre indicates some serious problems with it, specifically in their fifth and sixth elements of the proposal. In particular, they feel that “additional, differentiated online services” should be exempt, and explicitly are stating that net neutrality shouldn’t apply to the wireless Internet, but only the wired one. Other people, like Faruk, are more brief but share their thoughts clearly like he does here.

I’m aware there’s plenty of idiots on the Internet. But it’s absurd, and childish, to claim you’re not threatening net neutrality when you’re in fact doing that exact thing and actually expect us to buy into the lie. They can try to pretend that how you access your water matters, but the fact is that water is water, regardless of whether you’re drinking with a straw or a spoon.

The op-ed piece that Google and Verizon put in the Washington Post today is just more attempts at obfuscation, claiming without any effort at being convincing that somehow the wireless access to the Internet makes it somehow a different Internet that should be subject to unique rules (or, better yet for them, no rules.)

I’m willing to say that manipulating the public through intentional deception (aka lying), especially on an issue as important as net neutrality, is evil. And it’s clear that Google and Verizon are (badly) attempting to do this for a mutual financial gain.

Welcome to being evil, Google.

Comic Update: IT Job Security vs Google Chrome Frame

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Google has presented us with yet another gilded offering meant to enhance the web experience for the masses (which appears to be a web experience involving their rendering engine): Google Chrome Frame. If you want to get the sales pitch then watch Alex Russell, one of Google’s engineers, explain it here.

I’ll sum it up for you: Google Chrome Frame is a plug-in for Internet Explorer, that makes it act like Google Chrome. Why would we want this? Well, mainly because IE (especially the older versions), is a wee bit (or a lot) behind on standards and features implementation.

The stated reasons by Google for this act of charity are summed up with making websites cooler for users, and making lives easier for website creators who often have to do some bizarre things (which only rarely involve goats, mayonnaise or unbuttoning pants) to make a website look proper on Internet Explorer. This is especially true with the older versions 6 & 7, which persists on too many people’s computers like relatives that just don’t know when to get the hell out after a holiday celebration. So with this plug-in, users have fun and developers save money. Hooray!

Well, in an ideal world. But in an ideal world I’d be typing this post from my veranda overlooking my palatial, lakeside estate.

The fact is, there’s a reason that IE6 and 7 still exist in the wild in such large numbers. It’s not because Microsoft is attempting to keep them going. Quite the opposite, in fact. They’ve even had programs where they offered to feed people for every download of IE8 they had.

The reason for these legacy browsers is that your grandmother is scared of pop-ups, so hasn’t upgraded a program since the mid-nineties. Also, and more culpably, there’s apparently a large number of major corporations that have IT departments that are unwilling or unable to upgrade from IE6 to something made in the last ten years.

When you think of these misanthropic individuals, claiming to be tech experts while clinging to the halcyon days of FORTRAN, you have to ask yourself this question: are these the sort of people that will let office drone Mr. Smith load a plug-in on the computer in his cubicle?

I’m going to bet that more often than not, the answer is no. Today’s comic explores the conundrum of facing a Luddite at the helm of your corporation’s IT department, guest starring a frustrated Alex Russell. (For fun, watch his Google Chrome Frame video again, and look at his facial expressions. Jeremy Keith sums up what you see here.)

Assuming that somehow you could get the IT departments of America to reverse course, the second requirement for Google Chrome Frame to work is adding a meta-tag to your web pages to support it.

Really.

Didn’t Microsoft try to sell us this a while back, with a resulting mob of violence? Why yes, yes they did. As it doesn’t seem to be widely adopted, I’m not sure I see any reason to expert website creators to flock to Google’s banner to do the same thing. I know I won’t bother.

But frankly, I’d rather serve IE6 a “gracefully” degraded experience anyhow.

Ultimately, for this plug-in to save the world, or at least the web, it needs two very unlikely scenarios to occur. IT departments need to lose their fear of upgrades, and website creators need to start adding tags to their markup to serve a single browser (well, a single plug-in on a single browser). That’s easy… right?

Google, thanks for your honest effort. But I don’t see any compelling evidence that will lead me to believe that you’ll succeed  in turning stubborn people around where Microsoft failed. You can lead a horse to water, but…