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By Douglas Moran

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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'Google memo': a lesson on not trusting news media

Uploaded: Aug 9, 2017
In the 2016 Presidential primaries and the general election, much of the "Mainstream Media" (MSM) (foot#1) was blatantly partisan in its coverage of the candidates, often seeming to compete with Fox News Channel in being unfair and unbalanced (multiple senses of "unbalanced"). Some of this was ideological and some was profit-oriented.(foot#2) During the campaign, there were some in the Liberal media who expressed concern that constant repetition of their favored candidate's falsehoods--misrepresentations and major exaggerations--about the opponent was creating a crying wolf situation, where the legitimate negative information about that opposing candidate would be dismissed or ignored as untrustworthy. However, they were only voices crying in the wilderness.

Since the election, I have seen many articles by, and interviews of, prominent media and political figures worried about the increasingly fragmented news media: A functioning democracy needs credible and widely trusted sources of information on issues as the basis for discussion and decision-making.

Note: I am more sensitized to this issue than most of you. I grew up in a town covered by a mediocre newspaper, "The Mis Leader" (hey, its lesser offenses involved its inability to get people's names right, so why should we respect its name). In my 20s, I was the spokesperson for an organization that was covered by a newspaper that was openly antagonistic. Then as a researcher, I had to deal with reporters who couldn't understand why we would have problems with them utterly mangling what we said. ... There are some interesting stories there, and maybe I will write about them later.

----The 'Google Memo'----

A now-fired Google engineer published an internal memo entitled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber". After going viral, it became public in articles on Gizmodo and then Recode websites. I encountered the Recode article first: The introduction by the writer--not reporter or journalist--had so little resemblance to the memo that it is difficult to believe that the egregious misrepresentations weren't intentional. I then found the Gizmodo version--its version of the memo is much better formatted. Although the writer's introduction was shorter, it and the headline were also serious misrepresentations. My code of ethics puts both these articles well over the line into being dishonest.(foot#3)

Since these articles were so biased and otherwise skewed, I went to other news sources for their versions. Distressingly, they echoed the similar biases and often repeated the same distortions. "When you have lemons, make lemonade." It occurred to me that this could be a good illustrative example of mass misconduct by the news media.

I am not going to wade into the swamp of discussing the content of this memo. First, there are already plenty of discussions ongoing. Second, those other discussions demonstrate that there is negligible chance of having a meaningful one here. Consequently, I am declaring the content and issues covered there off-topic. The topic here is the media coverage. I suggest that you read the memo, and then read the coverage from various supposedly reputable news sources, and compare ground truth--what is actually written in the memo--to how it is reported.(foot#4)(foot#5) For many of the news articles that I read, I had doubts about whether the writer had actually read the memo, or not just other news articles.(foot#6)

As I am writing this blog, critiques of the press coverage are beginning to show up among the recommendations on my various news sites.(foot#7)(foot#8)

----Failure to question Google's responses----

There were three official responses from Google, from
- Ari Balogh, the VP for the memo's author.
- Danielle Brown, VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance.
- Sundar Pichai, CEO.
The first two are in the original Recode article, and many of the other articles. The CEO's message is part of many articles in addition to being on Google's blog site.(foot#9) I was very disappointed that the "reporters" don't seem to have asked any of these three about the major disconnect between what was in the memo and how they characterized it in their public statements.(foot#10)

----Why this matters to the general public----

There has long been concern about the algorithms used by Google, Facebook... to choose what news stories to present to whom. There have been multiple experiments that have found that changes that are difficult to detect can have large enough effects to change the results of close elections. Part of the motivation of this research was to discover how to detect and prevent such changes from inadvertently happening. Naturally, this raised serious concerns that a few engineers could intentionally slip such a change into the algorithm. These could be either "rogue engineers" or ones taking directions from upper management. I doubt that outside monitoring would be effective, both because those algorithms are so complex and because they are legitimately highly confidential.
Aside: I have an appreciation for the difficulties from a relative who worked for an agency involved in monitoring sensitive manufacturing operations where that monitoring was severely limited by the proprietary processes and equipment.

Alphabet, the corporate parent of Google and YouTube, is one of the world's largest media companies--possibly the largest. Most of its income comes from advertising. This is intertwined with its extensive data collection and profiling operations, which could qualify it as one of the world's top intelligence agencies.

One of the concerns about this episode is whether Alphabet is going down a path of increased politicization, which would reduce the number of potential whistle-blowers should Alphabet misuse its incredible power in certain areas.

However, Facebook might be an even larger concern, what with its similar power and the speculation about Mark Zuckerberg running for President (in 2020). The Russians may come in only a distant third as a threat to meddle in US elections (smiley face).

----Footnotes----
1. Names for media: For searching:
The term "Mainstream Media", and especially the acronym "MSM", is widely used by Conservatives and the Right, although it also appears in general usage. It is also used by the Left, but "corporate media" seems to be more common.

2. Financial motivations:
In February 2016--early in the primaries-- CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves famously said "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS" and "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."

3. Google's Ideological Echo Chamber:
Best-formatted Public Version (PDF)
These are the articles that initially made it public:
"Exclusive: Here's The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally at Google" by Kate Conger, Gizmodo, 2017-08-05. Has decent formatting.
" Google has hired a diversity VP -- just as it struggles with a sexist memo from an employee Apparently, dudes can code -- the ladies not so much." by Kara Swisher, Recode, 2017-08-05. The copy of the memo here is poorly formatted, but it has the responses from the two Google VPs.
Note: "TL;DR" stands for "Too Long; Didn't Read" and is often used to mark a brief summary of a long article.

4. Examples of purportedly reputable news coverage vs. reality:
When reading news articles such as these, remember the memo's statement "I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there's significant overlap between men and women, so you can't say anything about an individual given these population level distributions ." (emphasis added) You will see many of the articles claiming he said the opposite. Also remember his take on assistance for women and racial groups overcoming barriers: He supports it, but argues that it should be extended to everyone facing those same barriers. Again, you will see the news articles claiming he was arguing to end those programs.
- "A Google engineer who bemoaned racial diversity has sparked anger in Silicon Valley" - The Washington Post (tiered subscription), 2017-08-06. Original headline: "A Google engineer wrote that women may be genetically unsuited for tech jobs - women wrote back". Both headlines are flagrantly false, not to mention the content.
- "Here's what Google workers are saying about an employee's controversial diversity manifesto" - LA Times (tiered subscription), 2017-08-07. See "due to biological differences" and the social media posts whose inclusion implies that they are valid responses.
- "Google Has Fired the Employee Who Wrote an Anti-Diversity Tirade, Report Says" by Ryan Kilpatrick - Time, 2017-08-07. Headline and false claim "He also argued that the shortage of women in the tech industry is attributable to biological differences...".
- "Google employee fired for anti-diversity memo referencing women, race" by Lilian Kim - KGO/ABC News, 2017-08-07. Headline and "argued that women didn't have the biological makeup to succeed in Silicon Valley."
- "Report: Google fires anti-diversity engineer" by Ethan Baron, Mercury News/Bay Area News Group, 2017-08-07. Headline and "suggesting women are biologically unsuitable for tech jobs and leadership".
- "Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech" by Daisuke Wakabayashi - NY Times (tiered subscription), 2017-08-07. Headline and false statement "argue that the low number of women in technical positions was a result of biological differences rather than discrimination".
There were many similar news articles that have large overlap of content--including what quotes were used--indicating that they were re-writes of shared base material, be it social media, news service, or each other. For example, NPR's piece is very similar to the LA Times piece, even in which tweets it used: "Google Grapples With Fallout after Employee Slams Diversity Efforts" (2017-08-07), updated and re-titled "Google Reportedly Fires Employee Who Slammed Diversity Efforts".

5. Promoting disreputable information:
Many of the news articles I saw had a link to an essay -- "So, about this Googler's manifesto" by Yonatan Zunger -- whose opening sentence contains two substantial falsehoods. For me, that would have been disqualifying.
Disturbingly, the author and this essay are highly regarded by Google management, that is, if you can believe what you read in several news articles.

6. Did the writer actually read the memo in question?
An example where I see no good evidence that he did, and presumably is only using the events to write about his agenda: "Opinion: Outrage over Google memo is misplaced" - CNN, 2017-08-07.

7. Recommendations from various news sites:
I appreciate the recommendations produced by various news sites, such as Google News--it produces articles that I would otherwise not see. However, their profiling of me tends to be overly aggressive. Looking for information on a particular topic is often quickly followed by an increase in similar articles on that topic, with my longer term interests getting submerged. This is particularly annoying for political issues, because the offerings often slide into more and more extreme positions. Consequently, I have three different browsers installed on my computer, each attached to a different online account (plus anonymous browsing). One is for me being profiled as a conservative, another as a liberal.

8. Critiques:
I strongly recommend "The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo: Many headlines labeled the document 'anti-diversity,' misleading readers about its actual contents" by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 2017-08-08.
- "Opinion: Google Can't Seem to Tolerate Diversity: Silicon Valley won't solve its gender issues if political correctness shuts down every conversation" by Elaine Ou - Bloomberg, 2017-08-08.
- "Opinion: Congrats, Google, you found the worst way to build diversity" by David Mastio, USA Today, 2017-08-07.
"Why Google's firing terrifies social conservatives so much" by Erick Erickson - Washington Post (tiered subscription), 2017-08-08. A conservative perspective focused more on the specific details.
- "Google Receives 95 Theses of Diversity and Inclusion" by Michael Brendan Dougherty - National Review, 2017-08-08. Original title "Google's Anti-diversity Memo Threatens Political Correctness Religion". In my opinion, not worth reading unless you want to know what various conservatives are reading.

9. "Response from Google's CEO".

10. Issues for Google responding:
"That Google Manifesto Really Put Executives in a Bind" - Wired, 2017-08-07.
As expected, this article also make false statements about the memo, for example, "The document cited purported principles of evolutionary psychology to argue that women make up only 20 percent of Google’s technical staff because they are more interested in people than in ideas ..."


----
An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.

Comments

 +   19 people like this
Posted by Bunyip, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 7:48 am

I agree on two points.
1. The memo was a well thought out position. Right or wrong, but refreshing to hear someone articulate their viewpoint without the usual bombastic sheep-like rhetoric.
2. Diversity IS having to hear different opinions you may not like. The Berkeley protesters, the constant public shaming and apology demand activities of activists has created an environment that ALL non-conforming speech must be shut down and the author publically lynched. We need a TED talk series on alternate reasoning.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Carr, a resident of University South,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 8:15 am

Privacy is every Americans right. Freedom of speech and freedom of the internet,. We must keep the internet free from the government. Stop the Government from spying on everybody. So stop using the spying search engines, us the unbiased no tracking search engine that owns its own search results Lookseek.com try it have a nice day


 +   3 people like this
Posted by david schrom, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 10:42 am

Hi, Doug,

People call it "the information age." I call it "the noise age." All this bandwidth devoted to noise. Your signal is a refreshing respite. Thank you!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dennis, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

I too was struck by the distance between the reporting and the memo. I think there is an intermediate connection being missed: the internal reaction within Google even before it got to the reporters.

Moreover, there is considerable backstory on Google, diversity, and Silicon Valley bro culture.

All of the above is grist for a worthy story; one that uses the memo as a touchpoint. I don't fault the reporting for weaving in these externals to the memo.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Dennis

There is a substantial and crucial difference between weaving externals into a story to provide context and presenting a false report of the primary events. It is analogous to reporting on a black swan that states it is white because of the context of most swans being white.

My fear/expectation is that conservatives will (understandable) see this episode as yet more evidence that their viewpoints will not be reported fairly, accurately or honestly by much of the "liberal media".


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Bunyip

The memo is a good representation of a widespread conservative viewpoint. However, one has to go looking to find it because the media strongly favors extreme views - of all kinds - as being more entertaining and drawing more "eyeballs" (for their advertisers).


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

The inconsistencies in the media writeups faithfully reflect the memo writer's own mental confusion as reflected in his piece. For example, the excerpt beginning with "I'm simply stating that..." opens with generalizations between groups then jumps with brain-snapping abruptness to generalizations concerning individuals. I found the entire screed similarly confused. It is an exemplar of pretzel logic, badly expressed.

To deadline-challenged media writers it is pure tabula obscura, so to be safe with the boss, they carefully wrap the company line around selected hot excerpts and send the result to press.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Curmudgeon

I didn't have a problem following the argument in the memo because it is one that one readily finds if one goes looking for conservative viewpoints.

Your speculation of what the reporters did - writing an article without understanding - is likely and common (it was my experience as a researcher in the 1980s and 1990s). It is telling that the reporters writing these articles apparently didn't have any background on the conservative viewpoint that they were reporting on, but didn't see that as a barrier. I forget who said "The job of a reporter is to explain things he doesn't understand to people who don't care."

However, should it be acceptable for a reporter to spot a few keywords and phrases and then fill in everything else from their ideological templates (aka bumper stickers)?? There is a big difference between honestly reporting something you don't understand and falsely reporting it.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

"should it be acceptable for a reporter to spot a few keywords and phrases and then fill in everything else from their ideological templates...?

and

"I didn't have a problem following the argument in the memo because it is one that one readily finds if one goes looking for conservative viewpoints."

One can usually find what one chooses to look for in ambiguous or tortured text. Ideological templates, such as conservative viewpoints, provide reliable search frameworks. So, should one criticize professionals for doing what one does oneself?

The real question is why this silly little nonevent from a nonentity got reported at all. I know we need some relief from Circus Trump, but why this??


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "The real question is why this silly little nonevent from a nonentity got reported at all."

It became public because it had reportedly become a major issue within Google.

It became significant because of the nature of the responses from the Google VPs and CEO. It is one thing to have this happening on college campuses where the administration concedes to its clients/students, but it is very different when it happens in a major corporation.

Opposition to the Political Correctness culture was the motivating factor for many Trump voters (according to various polls). This event is one of those potential tipping points where festering dissatisfaction becomes something much more. For those not exposed to that dissatisfaction, it provides a focus for them trying understand it (the event provides several good web-search terms). One problem is whether to explore now or wait a few days. Waiting allows things better articulated positions to emerge, but you often miss the emotional part of the reactions that can be a greater influence on the future than rational analysis.

Background: I came up in an environment where red teaming was routinely practiced. For example, if you are going to make a research presentation, have colleagues critique it from many viewpoints, especially generating practice questions that non-believers might ask. This can benefit the simulated non-believer by forcing him to think more carefully about the experience, motivations and beliefs of the non-believer.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:38 pm

A lot of people are aghast at the fact that I support Donald Trump. To them it is simply inexplicable. However I do not support Trump because his policies have torn families apart through deportation of non-criminal illegals... or because he has supposedly emboldened white nationalists... or because of his supposed incompetence and inability to govern... or his lack of intellectual curiosity and lack of attention to detail...

The biggest, perhaps the only reason I am a huge Trump supporter is because of precisely what Douglas Moran has elucidated in this article.
The Trump movement represents the only avenue in which we can fight back against the monolithic mainstream media, spearheaded by the uniformity and overwhelming influence of Google and Facebook. Above all else, it represents the nature of thinking critically and the importance of independent thought.

DJT is the only person of our generation who has dared to "talk back" to this system where millions of Americans have been silenced out of fear. Hence, "I am your voice".
Say what you want about his lack of scruples, but that same defiant nature has brought catharsis to conservatives across the nation.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm

"Say what you want about his lack of scruples, but that same defiant nature has brought catharsis to conservatives across the nation."

You confuse dementia for defiance and angst for catharsis. Trump speaks to The Base, our least intelligent, least civil, least successful demographic element, not to true conservatives, who tend to be much the opposite.
[[ Blogger: This is inappropriate and an attitude that helped Clinton lose the election. The post-election polls I saw found that Trump had substantial strength in the suburban, educated, successful middle class. Trump has (deservedly) low approval ratings, but one of the caveats on approval ratings is that they are very different from assessments for a head-to-head comparison.
]]

It is mainly the alt-right press that has latched onto this nonsense at Google (Web Link).
[[ Blogger: This is misleading. The referenced NYTimes article talks about the activity of the alt-Right that overlaps the Google events, but it does not say that the coverage is "mainly the alt-right press". What is popping up in my Google News recommendations (irony?) are articles from much of the political spectrum.
]]

[[deleted: personal rather than issue]]


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Feedback, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 9, 2017 at 11:16 pm

I think the blog author has really nailed the issue. The media has destroyed itself in attempting to "report" on events with skewed and dishonest underlying purposes.

Perhaps the reason for these false and alarming headlines is that the news media now finds that they get revenues based on how many times readers click on the article headline to read the actual article.

The more distortion in the headline, that will mean the higher the likelihood of clicks to open up and read their article.

All the newspaper website are like this now....the LA Times, the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune, etc. In my opinion, the headlines they produce on a daily basis look like they are something cut and pasted out of some cheap, British tabloid.

Unfortunately, no media organization now can be trusted to report the facts.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

mauricio is a registered user.

It is outrageously false to claim that Trump has given voice to the voiceless. Firstly, Trump, as the representative of those supposedly voiceless has been in large part a creation of the mainstream media which always latched on to him because he attracted huge viewership and readership and is a certain revenue trigger. Over many years, Trump had ready access to any TV and radio talk show he wanted to be on. his followers have been expressing their views freely on the numerous right wing radio and cable TV shows. There are definitely many more right wing radio shows than progressive ones(are there any left?). During the campaign, the supposedly anti right MSM spent all its time on Clinton's email and scandals from the Clinton administration, ignoring Trump's endless business scams, treatment of women, deliberate bankruptcies as a business model, many business failures, his ignorance, lack of knowledge of basic issues, etc. When you drive through red states, or conservatives areas in blue states and listen to the car radio, liberal opinions are completely absent, all you hear is extreme right wing views, laced with racism and deep hostility toward modernism and the outside world. So much for the oppressed right wing sector.

This myth about the poor right wing masses without a voice, squelched by the liberal main stream media is ridiculous, pure fantasy. The MSM is not liberal, if anything, they are cowed by the right wing and eager to please it. It is profit oriented, and Trump brings in huge profits.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm

"Blogger: This is inappropriate and an attitude that helped Clinton lose the election."

Inappropriate as the proprietor of the blog judges propriety, but entirely accurate. There are many truths that media mavens do not wish to face. This is a prime example.

Clinton suffered in the media from her "basket of deplorables" observation (not "attitude") through a combination of tut-tutting political correctness in the liberal press, and the near-universal editing that separated it from its context, which was in fact quite sympathetic to "that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, ..." Web Link

The Trumpies were of course delighted to do the surgery. The motives of the rest of the media are less crystalline; maybe they were stunned at Clinton's frankness, or just drunk on sensationalism.

In the media business you cannot allow the competition to outshout you. It's that simple. It explains everything in this topic.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Derek, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:20 pm

From the memo, as quoted above: "I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

What the blogger suggested was a false claim by a writer: ""He also argued that the shortage of women in the tech industry is attributable to biological differences...".

To me, that seems like an accurate, if not complete, representation of the controversial nature of the memo. Can you expand on why you labelled it a false claim? Would inserting "partly attributable to biological differences" convert it from "false" to "true" in your mind? I'm genuinely confused.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Derek:

The difference is that "some X" ("in part") is not equivalent to the reporter's "all X" ("is attributed to"). The author repeatedly emphasizes this, including saying that there is a small differences in the averages. Part of his argument is against setting that a 50/50 split as the target given the differences he cites. He doesn't give a magnitude to what he would see as legitimate differences (split) because one focus of his argument is against what he sees as negative effects of expecting -- trying to achieve -- a 50/50 split.

Much later in the document he makes brief mention of things that could be done to better accommodate different individual personality types, such as using pair programming, especially personality types that were disproportionately female. This indicated to me that he thought the current difference at Google could be significantly improved. However, I suspect that this was not stated forcefully enough to register with most people who haven't had to manage programmers.(1)

The commonly cited stat for technical employees at Google is a 80/20 split. In my (repeated) reading of the memo, I could not see any legitimate interpretation that would have the author attributing the whole, or large part, of the 80/20 split as being due to biological differences. Yet, as I pointed out, many news articles and headlines made statements such as the author saying "women may be genetically unsuited for tech jobs", that is, advocating a 100/0 split.

Note: Reporters as a group have a well-earned reputation for statistically illiteracy. I don't see this as an excuse for their mistakes in coverage of such matters, but a factor to take into account when reading news articles involving statistics.

----
(1). There is a justly famous 2009 essay "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" by Paul Graham that talks about different conditions for different tasks. Personally, I have experienced bullpens, cube farms and private space (preferred) for programming, but for diagnosing complex problems, I have occasionally resorted to temporarily shifting the team to a bullpen. For inexperienced new hires, I found that pair/team programming and debugging to often be the most effective arrangement.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:35 pm

"The author repeatedly emphasizes this, including saying that there is a small differences in the averages. Part of his argument is against setting that a 50/50 split as the target given the differences he cites."

He fails to give any confidence interval on his claimed "differences in the averages." Thus a 50/50 split may be perfectly justifiable. How can anybody know from this muddled screed?

Rejected by reviewer. Send ms back to author.

As you state, no general media entity would ever catch this essential nicety, or understand it, or even know it exists. The memo's author, a presumed techie, sure didn't.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Ken, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:35 am

As a judge at various science fairs (typically high school age) I am struck by how females are quite abundant, but not in coding projects or projects involving algorithms that require coding. Females, indeed, seem to be focused on 'softer' areas of science. Just an observation...I am not trying to explain why.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:07 am

There are many studies that have been done over the years that show scientific data to the differences between genders in various aspects of life. The gender differences in relation to supermarket shopping habits for example are well documented and refer to the hunter/gatherer past. A woman, for example, wanders the aisles picking the items she wants and adapts her meal preparation choices to what she sees on sale or looks particularly good, whereas a man will enter the store with a list of 5 items which he will find as quickly as possible and makes his way out without seeing the special offers or the tempting displays. Spend some time googling and you will find many scientific articles as to the differences between the male and female brain and why they are more likely to be geared towards a leaning towards math and science as opposed to artistic, creative or organizational proficiencies.

This guy perhaps chose his words poorly with use of terms such as genetic or biological proficiency, but the scientific community provides the same arguments and gets very little criticism. For him to be subjected to such criticism and to lose his job over what could be down to poor English writing skills (possibly something connected to be more interested in math and science back in high school rather than his English writing classes) in my mind is very wrong. Of course there are going to be exceptions to scientific theories and that is why we have so many women involved in science and technology anyway, but for the media in particular and general public opinion to be so outraged is I think way overboard. Being PC nowadays is a fact of life and freedom of speech is out of the window for anyone who has an opinion that is against the majority norm. Even when the opinion has good reasoning which can even be scientifically grounded, it seems that expressing the opinion even in a semi-private internal memo, is enough to destroy one's career and change one's life.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Bro Culture, a resident of Green Acres,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:29 am

Google ended up canceling its all-hands meeting because employees are being threatened by the alt-right mob. I'm disgusted that the NYT article focused on the "free speech" aspect rather than how women are routinely treated and marginalized in and by Silicon Valley.

The article reminded me of their coverage of the women's march where instead of focusing on the march and why women were protesting, it bemoaned the fact that the poor Monclair, NJ, men would have to cook their own dinners while the women were away.

Women have routinely done experiments on how men never yield to women pedestrians and in London one woman was just pushed in front of a bus by an entitled male jogger.

I'll never forget being at a Google party where one jerk repeatedly and blatantly refused to acknowledge any comments made by women who ALSO knew the field. It was so bad that his visiting girlfriend asked if this was the normal state of affairs here. She left him and went back to Portland, never to return. We enjoyed watching him dine alone or dateless for years.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:32 am

I come from the old school that when you sign on to work for a company and accept payment for same you strive to do the job assigned, and do it well, and work with your teammates for the stated goals of the project at hand. It is not your job to editorialize management points of view or use your position of employment to criticize your employer. The individual had no right to editorialize against Google and accept a salary. Sorry - person was an idiot for assuming that he is being paid to criticize the employer. Not a person striving for advancement at that company. You never embarrass the person who is paying you for a job that you have accepted to do.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:52 am

"Being PC nowadays is a fact of life and freedom of speech is out of the window for anyone who has an opinion that is against the majority norm."

Nothing new there. Check out the ancient media, like Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (ca. 1920).


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Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Headlines I've written in my head as this brouhaha has unfolded:

"Google worker goes way outside his job description to e-mail his personal opinions about company policy to everyone in the company."
"Anonymous Google employee forwards other employee's e-mail to non-Google blogger."
"Blogger blogs own opinion of Google employee's personal opinions, including full text of the e-mail."
"Other bloggers, not to be out-done, do the same, including bloggers at big national newspaper sites, who should never have touched this so-called story."
"Google worker fired."
"Google distances itself from opinions of fired worker."
"Palo Alto blogger decries misrepresentation of original opinion piece by reputable media."
"Palo Alto commenters are, as usual, all over the map."
"For first time ever, Mike Alexander agrees completely with Curmudgeon."


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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: resident of Charleston Meadows and Mike Alexander

According to news reports, the memo was posted - not emailed - to an officially sanctioned internal discussion group for the general topic. This is implicitly supported by the official statement that says that Google management regarded only some of the memo as having crossed the line into positions they objected to. If the topic of the memo - management policy - had been inappropriate, I find it hard to believe that the official Google response didn't cite that rather than what it did say.

Mike Alexander's comment includes that the memo's author was not the one who made the memo public, and I have seen no claims to the contrary. Additional evidence is that someone of his politics would have chosen a much different reporter to leak to.

The argument in the comment by "resident of CM" has appeared in multiple places, but it is interesting to me that the first instances I saw were on the NY Times article. None of those comments address what was and wasn't appropriate under Google's policy for such discussion groups. Consequently the argument in those comments are potential Strawman fallacies.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "nothing new here"

While the events themselves have historical antecedents, that is not a valid argument that our current expectations and aspirations can/should be dismissed.

For example, in the past, petty theft was punished by execution in some societies, but in others, murder was punished by a multi-year banishment or compensation to the family of the victim.


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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Bro Culture"

This comment is a good example of why PC culture has created such animosity:

1. Second sentence: "I'm disgusted that the NYT article focused on the "free speech" aspect rather than how women are routinely treated and marginalized in and by Silicon Valley."
An attitude of "my issues are the ones that are important, those of others aren't."

2. Junk science (in para 3): "men never yield to women pedestrians"
The only reference I could quickly find by Google'ing was "Manslamming: are men more likely to bump into people?" in The women's blog on The Guardian, and that blog was very negative about the "experiment".
But the presence of "never" in the statement should be enough to warn you that the claim wasn't credible.

3. The cancellation of the Google all-hands meeting (first sentence):
Top Google search result:
"Google Cancels All-Hands Meeting About Gender Debate To Protect Employees From Online Harassment" (Forbes)
Question to ask yourself: Would the alt-right reaction have occurred if it hadn't been for the biased and hostile press coverage? Part of PC culture is going out of your way to antagonize others, or being resolutely clueless about how offense your behavior is.
Note: I am in no way excusing the alt-right reaction. Bullying and intimidation are not to be tolerated. But condemning bad behavior in a reaction without condemning the original, provoking bad behavior often only makes the situation worse.

4. "in London one woman was just pushed in front of a bus by an entitled male jogger" (in para 3)
Always shout "male privilege".
In the video, the victim is not interfering in the slightest with the path of the jogger: He has to go considerably out of his way to shove her. My first reaction was that it was a premeditated, targeted murder attempt.

5. Para 5: An anecdote that one employee of a company that employs tens of thousands is a boor.
How is this anecdote relevant? I am a male with a PhD in Computer Science and I have had multiple similar experiences (with some Googlers).
It is this type of fallacious reasoning that makes it futile to try to have a discussion with a PC zealot (PC has the characteristics of a fundamentalist religion).

---
Aside: The "Bro Culture" goes back at least to the late 1990s. The (Microsoft-assisted) suicide of Netscape sent programmers from that culture into many startup where the adults were shocked by the attitudes. We also saw this culture in many new graduates from Stanford and similar colleges. Because competent programmers were in such high demand during the DotCom Boom, company management was often too tolerant of bad behavior in order to avoid the risk of antagonizing "the talent". As an exec in one such startup, I was limited by my superiors to expressing disapproval in response to ongoing incidents (and to the useless reporting to HR). And since the offenders didn't report to me, those expression of disapproval carried little weight.

Companies have problems changing this culture once it becomes established and has incoming employees of that culture and a news media that lionizes entrepreneurs who became rich by ignoring societal rules (and actual laws) and who trampled over others.
(There, I brought the discussion back to press coverage)


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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 5:52 pm

"RE: "nothing new here" While the events themselves have historical antecedents, that is not a valid argument that our current expectations and aspirations can/should be dismissed."

Contextualization is not dismissal, but I concede it can be misrepresented as such. Happens a lot in the agenda media.


"...in the past, petty theft was punished by execution in some societies, ..."

I can't tease out the logical relation of that narrative to the blog topic but, following the blogger's lead, I'll point out that deviation from the company line often meant being fired--at the stake--when the company was the Church. May I recommend William Simpson's book Burning To Read as relevant media coverage.

Nonconformists get fired much less spectacularly today.


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Posted by NY Times call for CEO to Resign, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:41 pm

In case you have not seen it, the NY Times OP-ED states what the blogger states --- that the media coverage was completely biased and false.

Also, the NY Times states the Google CEO must resign.

I agree. Take a look.

Web Link
[[ Blogger: The OP-ED is "Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google's C.E.O." by NYT columnist David Brooks who has a conservative bent.
The call to resign is his and not that of the NYT management.
]]


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Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

I used to like David Brooks in another time and world. But he has somehow delegated himself as the adjudicator of reasonableness. As have most of the media columnist who always start their position with some outrage attributed to Trump. [[Deleted: off-topic for-example sentence that risked provoking many off-topic responses.]] There appears to be no reflection on where we have been - not good place to be - setting up the debacle we are now in. We did not get here via Trump - we got here due to all of the nonsense that was allowed to flourish unchallenged and now has gone over the tipping point. Identity politics is not going to work anymore - the opportunity was wasted.

Google has done a good job and the people who elect to make an application to work there should be grateful that they are hired and given an opportunity to work on challenging projects. To my mind complainers are those who cannot function as a team on large projects and therefore work to find fault in the company.
[[ Blogger:
1. According to multiple statements by Googlers, Google actively encourages such "complaints" and has designed discussion groups for them, which the memo writer used.
2. According to all accounts I have seen, with no contrary statements, the author did very good work. The author states that memo was written during a flight to China -- that Google sent him to China indicates he was not as this commenter implies.
]]
The actual challenge is to succeed in what you are doing, what you contribute, and work through the company to include more good teammates in large projects. You can only change a culture by succeeding and doing well.


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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 5:15 pm

"We did not get here via Trump - we got here due to all of the nonsense that was allowed to flourish unchallenged and now has gone over the tipping point. Identity politics is not going to work anymore - the opportunity was wasted."

Partly correct. Identity politics is alive and well and fluorishing on Fox and its rightwing media kin. In place of the strong man stalwart woman ideal that once made America great, we now have the media-stoked nonsense of white race as victim of powerful unseen forces conveniently identifiable with liberalism, cosmopolitanism, Milenburgenism, etc., etc.

Trump did not invent that. But, by capturing the mass media with his native demented clownishness, he was able to co-opt and ride that you-and-me-are-victims snivel to an electoral victory that he is characteristically incapable of capitalizing on, a continuing media obsession notwithstanding.

You will notice that the trope of the helpless victimized white male is the focus of the alt-right's media frenzy around the Google memo. Identity politics is very much alive in a rapidly declining America.


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Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[[ Blogger: normally this comment would be deleted as off-topic, but it provides context for my subsequent comment that applies not just to this comment but to articles and comments from a significant range of the political spectrum.
This editorial note was posted 20 hours after the comment, so some of the below comments were posted before this note.
]]


We got here because based on numerous conversations over the years with people infected by Trumpism, years before Trump even entered politics, and reading and watching them, they consider themselves as victims, oppressed by non-whites and politicians who supposedly help non whites oppress them. The mainstream media has coopted their paranoia to large extent, giving it a voice and legitimacy, instead of laughing off the way you would the flat earth society.

Their jobs disappeared partially because moguls like their hero manufucture the garbage they sell here in the third world or import cheap foreign labor to build his resorts. No uneducated Trump supporter would pick fruit in 100 degree weather, clean toilets or bus tables, yet they blame those who do low paying menial jobs for their plight.

trump presents himself as a victim several times a day, this white privileged clown who inherited a several hundred million dollar real estate empire. Some victim.


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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 8:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: victimized whites

In my sampling of conservative and liberal media, the trope of whites seeing themselves as being victimized and oppressed comes entirely from liberals/Left because this is how Liberals/Left think (victims and oppression). Conservatives/Right strongly prefer the terminology of fairness...

From what I have seen, portraying an argument by conservatives about fairness as being instead about victims and oppression is infuriating to conservatives/right -- many don't realize that this is not intentional misrepresentation, distortion, disparagement... Rather liberals/left have great difficulty thinking in terms outside their bubble.

Aside: There is political science and moral psychology research stretching back decades (Jonathan Haidt is a recent prominent instance) that has proposed 5-10 key dimensions that separate liberals from conservatives, but purportedly, conservatives could understand the full range of choices -- even ones they gave little weight to -- while typical liberals had problems even understanding choices that weren't their priorities.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 9:03 pm

@ mauricio - Apparently, you have never met many Trump supporters. I voted for Trump. My ENTIRE family voted for Trump. Our large family picked fields for my entire childhood -- from the year we moved to America (legally) through high school. When we weren't traveling throughout the seasons, my dad was mopping floors and cleaning toilets in stores. Moreover, I worked in fast food during school while in high school and college.

Do you really think that Trump's voters are "uneducated?" While my parents' education is limited, all nine of my siblings and I graduated from college. Six of us have post-graduate degrees. We graduated with honors from great schools too.

Are you insinuating that we couldn't/wouldn't vote for Trump? If so, you're egregiously wrong.

[[ Deleted: Asserted that "mauricio" said something that he didn't say, at least in this discussion thread. It was also irrelevant. ]]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 10:23 pm

"In my sampling of conservative and liberal media, the trope of whites seeing themselves as being victimized and oppressed comes entirely from liberals/Left... .

First, it is you using the word conservative, not me. Don't get defensive so quickly. I do not consider the alt-right umbraverse to overlap the true conservatism exemplified by, say, David Brooks or George Will. The trope of whites as victims of the cosmopolitan liberal elites is a political exploitation which the Republicans have slyly employed since Nixon-Agnew, being continued by Reagan/Bush/Bush. Trump used it openly, to the Republican establishment's gasping horror. Sure enough, it captivated and captured their Base.

"Our large family picked fields..."

You've mentioned that before, and also claimed to have dark skin. [[ Deleted: too far off-topic. ]]


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Charlotsville Alt-Right, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 13, 2017 at 10:45 pm

[[ Deleted: off-topic, uncivil, violation of PAOnline rules against using multiple aliases in same discussion,...]]


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 12:03 am

@ Curmudgeon - First of all, I don't "claim" to have [[ Deleted: If one is using an unregistered alias -- not only anonymous, but an alias that can be used by multiple people -- one cannot get upset about skepticism about one's statements about personal details. ]]

[[ Deleted: continuing some of the above off-topic back-and-forth that I didn't get to soon enough. ]]


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 3:53 am

I don't condone White Nationalism. I don't like any form of evaluating someone, positively or negatively, taking their skin color or group into account.
Rather, I evaluate one individual at a time.
Individuality over collectivism. Why is this such a difficult concept?
I daresay I am tired of the word "white" constantly being used as a pejorative. It is commonly accepted to say "white" in a negative context. Why is anti-white racism OK but we're walking on eggshells when discussing any other group.
Am I the only one who notices this glaring double standard?
(by the way I am not even white)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 11:12 am

[[ Blogger to general audience: This comment is a complaint about moderating policy.
Under the rules, it would normally be deleted, but it is too intertwined with subsequent comments.
]]

Whoa. Who is deleting part of comments with highly questionable explanations for why they were deleted? Who is this editor and why does he/she have the power to do this?

For instance, the PA Online allowed "Curmudgeon" to openly question any reference to my own "diversity" (as he/she has done again and again) yet you removed my response to him?

Moreover, you deleted the entire rationale of my response to Mauricio's post (about how "no uneducated Trump supporter would pick fruit in 100 degree weather, clean toilets or bus tables, yet they blame those who do low paying menial jobs for their plight") that stated why all my family was all of those things (and more).

Please, PA Online, come up with a better system of monitoring posts and prevent editors from being too quick with the "delete" button.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

[[ Blogger to general audience: This comment is follow-on complaint about moderating policy.]]

I don't like it when an anonymous editor from the Palo Alto Online removes something that I took the time to write -- pertinent to the discussion -- by dismissing it with an explanation (in brackets) that is is "also irrelevant." Who is this "watchman" and (to invoke Juvenal) who watches the watchman?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Read the blog, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 11:50 am

Nayeli--are you seriously claiming not to know who runs this blog. Did you actually read the initial posting? This is Doug Moran's blog. He is the one doing the editing , not "an anonymous editor from the Palo Alto Online". Perhaps you also missed his comments , found at the end of every topic, that states:

"The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one"

Perhaps you should become familiar with the rules before you let loose with your well-known righteous indignation


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 12:28 pm

@ "Read the Blog:" I did read the article. I didn't read the "Boilerplate" though. Now that I know, I will likely avoid Mr. Moran's blog in the future (particularly if he deems something that I took the time to write as "also irrelevant").

[[ Blogger: The rules are roughly that comments should be on-topic, substantive, civil and written for the larger audience (for example, not back-and-forth between two commenters. The only reason I felt the need to state what used to be obvious rules is that so many Internet discussion groups don't enforce them.
]]

Usually, I take screenshots when I post something (or when someone else does) for my own record or to later provide to them when they claim it wasn't something that they said.

As for me supposedly having a reputation to "let loose with your well-known righteous indignation:" All that I can say is that I suppose that an accusation of having "righteous indignation" is better than just being mean-spirited. Unfortunately, as the comments show, well-thought responses are often deleted while the shadows of stereotypes, mean-spirited banter or bullying remarks of others are often left behind.

However, as you pointed out, I should acquaint myself with the rules of each blogger who is provided a space and power to personally police the comments by the Palo Alto Online while using his own set of rules. Those might be sections to approach with such things in mind in the future. The irony is that this seems quite relevant with this very issue -- diversity of thought -- being discussed in the article.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm

No fair enforcing your "rules" after you change them by your own example:

"Aside: There is political science and moral psychology research stretching back decades (Jonathan Haidt is a recent prominent instance) that has proposed 5-10 key dimensions that separate liberals from conservatives, but purportedly, conservatives could understand the full range of choices -- even ones they gave little weight to -- while typical liberals had problems even understanding choices that weren't their priorities."

[[ Blogger: The primary topic of blog was accuracy and fairness of press coverage, but I allowed the comments to venture a little into the basis for such. My comment was too try to get readers to think about what might cause misinterpretation of what "the other side" was saying. And I used "Aside" to flag it as something that shouldn't become part of the main discussion.
]]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 12:36 pm

[[ Deleted. Off-topic and uncivil (taunting). ]]


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Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 14, 2017 at 1:51 pm

[[ Deleted. Off topic (commenter's opinion of the Google memo's author).]]



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