Thursday, December 13, 2018

Before Blogger is sunsetted, I'd better write this post on Google's customers

I've talked about Google's customers several times in the past, and about Google's need to keep its customers happy.

Google's customers are heavily influenced by the data that Google can provide to them. But lately, there has been less data.

What do Google Search Appliance, Google News & Weather, Reply, Tez, Google Goggles, Save to Google Chrome Extension, Encrypted Search, qpx-express-API, and Google Site Search have in common? All of these were services that Google killed (or will kill) in 2018 alone. The complete list of services that Google has or will kill include several services that I have used, including Google+, Google URL Shortener, Google Now, Picasa, Google Flu Trends, iGoogle, Google Reader, Google SMS, AdSense for Feeds, and Google Buzz. And, of course, a bunch of other services that I haven't used.

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

So as the data dries up, Google's customers are looking to places other than Google. And it's not just anecdotal:

In some cases, specific consumer-packaged brands have reportedly shifted half of their search ad budget from Google to Amazon.

Now, to be fair, Lauren Weinstein has noted that Google can't rely on its current customers forever, and is therefore looking for new sources of revenue.

Google knows that as time goes on their traditional advertising revenue model will become decreasingly effective. This is obviously one reason why they’ve been pivoting toward paid service models aimed at businesses and other organizations.

However, with Google's track record of sunsetting services, will corporate customers want to make the investment to switch to some Google service that may not be around a year or two from now?

Friday, December 7, 2018

The gig is up - GrungeBeanie meets FeldGrau Burger

Dave Riley was sitting at his cubicle late one morning, and he was getting hungry.

By Asa Wilson - CubeSpace, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Dave was the Chief Enterprise Independent Experiential Innovation Officer at GrungeBeanie. Not to be confused with the clothing style, GrungeBeanie was a Generation BB paradigm-shifting firm using actionable analytics and post-blockchain-based seventh-generation hyper-reality to revolutionize the gig transit market.

Unlike the stodgy Ubers and Lyfts of the world, GrungeBeanie was revolutionizing the transportation ecosystem - or would be doing so, once its beta app was approved by the various app stores.

Well, once the app had actually been coded.

And once the coders had been contracted.

Well, once the first sprint of the overall requirements had been finalized.

But things would be happening Real Soon Now.

Despite having a half billion dollars in venture capital funding, GrungeBeanie only had three full-time employees, although GrungeBeanie's presence would change dramatically once the app was out and people were selected to work with GrungeBeanie.

But all of that paradigm-shifting can work up an appetite, so despite the heavy workload, Dave decided to step outside GrungeBeanie's coworking space and go to the FeldGrau Burger franchise across the street for a quick bite.

Dave stepped into FeldGrau and was immediately greeted by a robot that buzzed up to him.

By Photo by Gnsin - Gnsin, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

"Are you registered?" the robot asked.

"What?" Dave replied.

The robot immediately went stationary and said, "Please wait for a human."

Seeing no human, Dave wandered around the restaurant and finally found a woman in a uniform sitting at a table. Her badge read "Emily, Independent Experience Consultant."

"Where can I order lunch?" Dave asked.

Emily barely looked at Dave. "What do you want?"

"Just a simple burger," Dave replied.

By Super Rabbit One from UK - MmmmmmmmmUploaded by , CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Emily sat there for a moment. "Oh," she said, and then said nothing else.

After a few moments of silence, Dave finally spoke up. "Well?"

Emily looked up. "You don't want a full meal?"

"No, just a burger."

Emily said and did nothing.

Dave was getting impatient. "You do work here, don't you?"

Emily pointed to her Independent Experience Consultant badge. "Duh!"

Dave had finally had it. "Listen, I have a business of my own - I'm the CEIEIO there - and the way that business works is that a customer asks for a product or service, and the business provides it. I have half a mind to contact FeldGrau and let them know that Emily does absolutely nothing!"

Emily did not seem frightened in the least. "I don't work for FeldGrau."

Dave rolled his eyes. "OK, the FRANCHISE, then. I'll contact them, and I can assure you that you won't be an employee of the franchise any more."

Emily started laughing. "I'm not an employee of the franchise. Surely you know that, if you're a CEIEIO. I'm an independent contractor, and my compensation is maximized when people order actual MEALS, not just burgers. I don't have time to bother with burger orderers. Now there's a new contractor who's desperate, and when she shows up later today - if she shows - maybe she'll sell you-"

Emily's watch rang.

By Orangeboxes2 - Own work, CC0, Link

"I have to take this call. It's my parole officer." After a moment, Emily started speaking. "Yes, you got my geolocation right. Yup, I'm gigging at a burger place." After hearing excited comments on the other end of the phone, Emily continued. "No, the owner didn't really care about my embezzlement convictions. We don't interact with the payments anyways. And we don't take cash or plastic, so I couldn't rip off this place if I wanted to. And I don't want to get my third strike."

Dave couldn't help himself. "You're a two-time felon and you're working here? How did they hire you? Didn't they do an employment check?"

Emily walked away from Dave, throwing her "Independent Experience Consultant" badge in the trash as she continued to talk on her watch. "Hey, do you know anyone in computer security who's looking for people?"

Dave watched in silence as the robot followed Emily out the door.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The difference between "with" and "for," and why it matters for Uber, Google, and other workers

Precision in written communications is crucial, but sometimes we gloss over the ramifications of the precision.

Case in point - in almost all cases, drivers never work FOR a company such as Uber.

So what's the difference between "with" and "for"? If you work for someone, then you are an employee of the company, and the company is obligated to follow laws regarding employees - minimum wage, health benefits, and the like.

But that magical word "with" makes all the difference:

Uber considers drivers to be independent contractors. Two recent class-action suits challenging this have since been settled, and Uber won both.

But hey, that doesn't affect some of the older tech companies, does it? Google certainly has a whole bunch of employees.


Google has been increasingly hiring TVCs rather than full-time employees for all types of roles, resulting in a majority TVC workforce. We do essential work, from marketing, to running engineering teams, to feeding you and the rest of the Google staff — all without fair benefits or recognition.

In the quote above, "TVC" stands for "temporary, vendor, and contract" - the second class of people who work for/with Google. Examples:

Google routinely denies TVCs access to information that is relevant to our jobs and our lives. When the tragic shooting occurred at YouTube in April of this year, the company sent real-time security updates to full-time employees only, leaving TVCs defenseless in the line of fire. TVCs were then excluded from a town hall discussion the following day. And when 20,000 full-time and TVC Google employees walked out to demand equal treatment for all workers, TVCs were again excluded from the company-wide discussion held a week later....

Even when we’re doing the same work as full-time employees, these jobs routinely fail to provide living wages and often offer minimal benefits. This affects not only us, but also our families and communities.

So earlier today, the "Google Walkout for Real Change" posted a piece on Medium entitled "Invisible no longer: Google’s shadow workforce speaks up." Their point is that Google workers are Google workers, regardless of employment status, and they should get equal pay and equal access to information.

This is not unique to Google, or to Silicon Valley, or to tech in general. A lot of companies are using contract workers rather than employees. And it's not always a bad deal for the contract workers, either:

For just as there are many who are used by the system, there are just as many who are using it to their advantage. There are a growing number of workers who remain independent because they choose to. For the most in-demand skills, such as data scientists, there can even be bidding wars. Contract workers in these in-demand areas can take their pick of projects, command high rates and then take time off or move on to another project.

"There are six-month CFOs or two-year CEOs who do what they need to do. Then the person goes on and starts new projects," said Chris Dwyer, vice president of research at Ardent Partners, a research and consulting firm.

Ten years ago contractors were often used to fill in for employees on leave. Now it's more likely that companies are hiring temporary workers in very sought-after fields, such as certain "hot" computer-programming languages or data scientists to develop artificial intelligence or machine-learning programs because they have no other choice. "That means for companies to gain access to them, they have to use contractors," said Brian Hoffmeyer, senior vice president at Beeline, a tech company that helps companies manage their contingent workforce.

But knowing that some contractors are doing well is of little comfort to those who are not - especially when they are excluded from the processes at the company "with" which they work.