Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Blog at Google at your peril

A Google employee, who blogged about the company's activities, has left Google, according to John Battelle. The ex-employee, Mark Jen, wrote on January 26th:

i goofed and put some stuff up on my blog that's not supposed to be there. nothing serious and they didn't ask me to take anything down (even the stuff where i'm critical about the company). i'm learning that google is understandably careful about disclosing sensitive information, even vague financial-related things. the quickest way for me to fix the situation at the time was to take it all down. now i'm back up. just so you know, google was pretty cool about all this. thanks for and sorry for the frenzy of speculation.
Apparently Google wasn't as cool as Mark thought. Fired, quit, or something in-between? We'll probably never know for sure.

Google was the second super-secretive company I worked for (as a Google Answers contractor. Google would take the position I never actually "worked" for them), so paranoid about revealing any information that in my year's employment, I never knew the names of anyone at Google I worked for/with. The Google Answers editors -- themselves rumored to be contractors - preferred to hide behind the portmanteau "Google Answers Team" title and email address and used much of their anonymous correspondence to remind researchers that we were never, ever to reveal any information about GA or Google itself that we might become privy to.

About the only pieces of information I can remember that I did discover were that the engineer charged with maintaining the GA system had a pair of ferrets and wasn't good about doing her laundry, and that I didn't want to work for Google, either as a contractor or otherwise.

To my knowledge, at least three Google Answers Researchers (or "GARs") were either fired/suspended/quit over Google secrecy paranoia. Again, with Google you're never completely sure what is going on. At least one of those people thought she had been fired from Google Answers, but they claimed a suspension/misunderstanding and that she could regain researcher status by acknowledging that she'd never write about Google Answers again without first being vetted by Google. She refused.

Me, I just got frustrated with GA editorial incompetence, finally said the Bad Word to an editor in an email, and quit shortly thereafter.

The CEO of the other super-secretive company I worked for, which is now out-of-business but still shall remain nameless, once told me when I complained about the virtual information vacuum everyone labored under, "I like not revealing too much. I think it makes me more... intimidating."

Personally, I thought she was an idiot.

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