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Aaron Swartz' Raw Thought blog features a piece on how Google is infantilizing its employees by providing free food, lava lamps, etc. It's drawn a lot of comments, some of which should be taken with a grain of salt, but potentially interesting to anyone who wants to work there or get another opinion about the company culture.

One respondent, former Googler David desJardins, was in the MIT class of 1983. I didn't know him very well (he was a friend of a friend). I recall that he was quite brilliant. He was also very much into computer hacking, such as it was back in my day. In fact he was one of the first people who I learned about the ARPAnet from. He had guest accounts on the ITS machines, legendary for "security through obscurity" (meaning there was essentially no security, but generally only the hardcore hackers knew this because of its obscure and complicated command line syntax and programming platform). In fact there were several people I met in the spring and summer of 1980 who all lived in New House and hacked ITS. (Nowadays, it seems you wouldn't find too many west campus folks like that, according to some reports.) Some of them took hardcore to another level – I had to draw the line at using emacs on a DECwriter.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
firecat
Jan. 5th, 2007 08:22 am (UTC)
That's a funny article. It reminds me of Apple back in the day. That type of environment doesn't especially help to retain employees as far as I can tell.
gregbo
Jan. 6th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)
That occurred to me, actually. Apple was discussed in many of the same terms Google is today. But I didn't get the feeling that a disproportionate number of software engineers wanted to work at Apple, or that Apple was used as a benchmark against all other software companies.
nsingman
Jan. 5th, 2007 05:23 pm (UTC)
I read the entry, and most of the comments, and I did like Mr. desJardins's comment quite a bit because he cut to the chase. I don't like Google, wouldn't interview there, and wouldn't work there (though I do enjoy brainstorming sessions with bright people, and always have). However, it really is simply a matter of preferences. Some people enjoy that sort of environment, and will find it a good fit. Others don't, and won't.
gregbo
Jan. 6th, 2007 06:05 am (UTC)
If you'd been in computer science when you were younger, would you have wanted to work for a Google-like company?

Thinking about firecat's comment, when I was younger, I never looked into working for Apple. I had nothing against the company – I just didn't have much of an interest in graphics, UIs, or the other things Apple specialized in. They didn't really have much of a presence in the (IETF) computer networking community, so there was little overlap between their needs and my interests.

I knew a few people who worked there. There wasn't any "cone of silence" that I can recall; I didn't get the feeling most people felt compelled to remain there even if they could get another job; while there were certainly plenty of people who wanted to work there, it wasn't as if it was held up as a paragon of computing.
nsingman
Jan. 6th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
I was in programming when I was younger (though with fewer computer science credentials, I've been working full time since 1981, at the age of 21), and still wouldn't have wanted to work there. I've never been a rah-rah kind of guy. I'm also too much of an individualist (and even a loner) to work for an organization so infused (I almost wrote "tainted," but I'm trying to be less biased) with collectivism and messianic tendencies, and which is a bit hypocritical, besides.

To me, work is and has always been about having fun and making money, and the latter is still paramount. I've been fortunate to have fun in my career (there's a lot of great math being done on Wall Street), but the Street is about the bucks. We save the world on our free time, and have little use for northern California weirdos. :-)
jessiehl
Jan. 5th, 2007 05:30 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with the point made by some of the commenters on the thread. How exactly does Aaron Swartz think corporations ought to treat employees?

Some of the expectations society apparently has for "adults" are really depressing. Based on things I've heard and read recently, adults are expected to not have real social lives, dreams, or political beliefs that don't revolve around whether a policy will benefit them financially.

1980...New House...quirky geeks. Okay, I'm going to be sort of a jackass and ask, because I can't resist. Did they overlap with these guys (who also fit the first sentence of this paragraph)?
gregbo
Jan. 6th, 2007 05:15 am (UTC)
I don't know if the quirky New House geeks were members of THA. If they weren't, they may have known people who were. As far as I can recall, their hacking interests were primarily computer-oriented, rather than tunneling, etc. I have a friend who reads this journal who lived in New House, so he may remember/know some of the THA folks.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )