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Staffers quitting Google Car project… because they’re being paid too much

(TECH NEWS) Wait, Staff members are leaving the Google Car project because of too much money? What?

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google car vandalized

The Root of the Problem

Competition, poor management and lack of inspiration aren’t the only culprits in the tech talent drain. Times are surely changing, and now being paid too much can drive away top talent. No you didn’t read that wrong. In a recent Bloomberg tech report, overcompensation was cited as one of the reasons Google’s car project lost early stage employees.

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The problem stems from a compensation structure devised in 2010, during the project’s early days. Like several tech companies, Google agreed to pay key employees bonuses and equity along with the typical salary. However, a multiplier was also added on top of these awards. This multiplier was based on valuation of the Google Car division rather than the company’s overall performance.

In 2016, several key team members left the car project. Some suspect that the combination of awards and multipliers had peaked enough to make some early employees multi-millionaires.

Staff Chase Innovation Elsewhere

While I don’t think these hefty payouts were the sole reason for staff leaving, it sure didn’t incentivize them to stay. Honestly, I don’t look down on any of these employees for jumping ship.

My theory is that after reaching a certain threshold of financial security, monetary incentives meant less and the chance to pursue innovation elsewhere meant more.

In fact, in 2016 director of hardware development Bryan Salesky left Google and became CEO of Argo AI, which was recently awarded a $1 billion investment by Ford. The Google car project’s co-founder Jiajun Zhu and software lead Dave Ferguson went on to start Nuro.ai, another self-driving car startup to keep an eye on.

New Compensation Structures

While Google’s experiment backfired, I do applaud their attempt to try a different compensation structure.

In August 2015, Google reorganized itself under Alphabet. Under Alphabet, Google became one mega ad business combined with several “moonshots,” or smaller innovative projects such as the Google Car project (now knows as Waymo). However, Alphabet needed a way to tie incentives to the performance of an employee’s own project, rather than Alphabet’s overall ad business. Thus, an equity compensation system based on each project’s valuation was created.

As opportunities to explore VR, drones, and even soft robots increase, more companies may need to devise their own unorthodox compensations structures to incentivize employees within their own exploratory projects. Verily (another Google moonshot) is already using one of these unorthodox compensation structures.

go speed racer

In theory, this type of compensation system makes sense. However, I think in the Google Car project the addition of a multiplier was poorly executed. I also blame poor planning on Google’s part. From the get go, the Google Car project aimed high. The goal was a fully autonomous vehicle. I’m no engineer, but the loop of researching and testing this requires must be the equivalent of a marathon.

Google’s lucrative compensation system mistakenly set up a comfy exit point miles before the marathon finish line. Click To TweetI still hope Google finishes the race with a better version of their current self-driving minivan, but I don’t blame veteran staff for taking their cash and leaving a few miles early.

#googlecar

Staff Writer, Arra Dacquel is a San Francisco based writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Davis and is currently studying web development. She’s obsessed with tech news and corgis, but not in that order.

Tech News

Which security company (that knows better) is actively selling your data?

(TECH NEWS) Maybe you can’t even trust your antivirus software anymore. Avast is protecting your data from all outside threats, but ignores the wolf in the hen house.

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Avast sells data

A company designed to protect users from online harm is at the center of the latest data scandal, except this time it’s not hackers we have to worry about. Avast, a popular antivirus software used by people around the globe, has been selling users data through a subsidiary company.

A new investigation by Motherboard and PCMag has found that Avast has been taking user data from its antivirus software and selling it through a subsidiary company called Jumpshot. Avast used the subsidiary company to pass off the data collected from users of their antivirus software and then sell it for millions.

Some of the biggest companies out there, names you recognize and see everyday, are on the list of past and current customers. A few of the companies we know have worked with Jumpshot to purchase user data are Google, Home Depot, Microsoft, Pepsi, Expedia, Intuit, Keurig, Conde Nast, Sephora, and Loreal.
What is still unclear is which of these companies are current and which are past Jumpshot clients. Yelp, another big name on the list, has already admitted to using the company to purchase data, but insist that it was on a “one-time basis.”

While users of Avast’s antivirus software were required to opt-in to sharing their data, the investigation found that many users were unaware that their data was being sold. This is unsurprising.
We’ve all been there, you jump onto a new website and it asks if they can collect data, use cookies, sell your left kidney, or whatever they need to better serve you. You don’t really understand what they’re asking, but you click the little yes box because if you say no then you’re taken to a new screen with a pile of legal jargon in tiny text to sort through.

Companies know that you don’t want to deal this. You’re just trying to read an interesting article on your lunch break or do a little online shopping. Companies like Avast know exactly what they’re doing when they convince you to sell your data. And make no mistake, your user data is valuable.

One of Jumpshot’s products called “All Clicks Feed,” sells for just over $2 million. This product allows the buyer to see everything from Google searches, Google Maps locations, LinkedIn page activity, YouTube video views, visits to porn websites, and more.

In a statement to Vice, Avast said, “Because of our approach, we ensure that Jumpshot does not acquire personal identification information, including name, email address or contact details, from people using our popular free antivirus software.”

All the data Jumpshot sells is anonymous, meaning users personal information and possible identifiers are scrubbed, but experts are skeptical about the security of anonymized information.

The safety of your personal data and the frightening power that comes with holding millions of users data is already enough to keep a person up at night. Perhaps the most troubling part is that this type of behavior doesn’t necessarily call for legal action.

At most, we are looking at an ethics breach for not making it clearer to users precisely how their data is being used. Avast claims to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and until someone can find direct evidence of a legal misstep, they’re free to continue selling user data to the highest bidder.

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Tech News

WTH is ‘Green UX’ anyway?

(TECH NEWS) Earth-saving green UX? It’s a green new deal, for real, and can actually create a more environmentally friendly company.

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green ux, green Earth

Remember that time a 6th-grader proved you could save a metric butt-ton of ink by switching from Times New Roman to Garamond?

I’m a nerd, so I found that unbelievably cool. Cooler still is the fact that the spirit of Suvir Mirchandani’s experiment isn’t just for physical press!

Enter “Green UX.” It’s a website-building methodology that slightly offsets polluters’ near cartoonish levels of choking the planet, and the dent it makes isn’t just saving the whales, it’s saving users a hell of a lot of hassle! So how do you do it? I have you covered with a few steps.

1: Don’t clutter your interface with a lot of crap. That means ads everywhere, a subscription pop-up on entering and on leaving, and a bunch of ill-curated “sponsored stories”. The more of that you cut out, the more carbon you cut down, the more of a green ux you will have.

2: Emphasize accessibility. Building things the right way, with everyone’s needs in mind is always the most efficient thing to do. Think about getting a commercial building ready. The person in charge of the purse strings might not be swayed by doing the right thing. What will give them a push is the idea of a well-deserved ADA lawsuit smackdown, closing for days due to construction, and hiring a rebranding professional to wipe down all the bad press.

And in terms of environmental assistance, everything involved in repairing, company image included, is sucking resources. Your website is the same way. The more users need to add their own image descriptions in shares, host alternative videos with captions, and click back and forth because they can’t read your ‘edgy’ white print on a yellow background for more than .01 seconds at a time, the more okapis you may as well be punching straight in the face. Keep everyone in mind, keep the earth happy, and keep off of African ungulates’ hit lists.

3: Optimize EVERYTHING. Text? Wrapped. Gifs? Clipped down by HAND, not by automation. Pictures? Compressed. When everything loads faster, everyone’s happier. When everyone’s happier, they tend to buy more.

When they buy more based on your website being easier to navigate than everyone else’s, you get to spend less money on ads, less money on new campaigns, and more money donating to foundations that turn air pollution particles into ink for needy children. See how this works?

In a SHOCKING turn of events, doing what’s best for the planet is best for the people making a living on it!

Who would have thought, right?

Now some of our regular readers might recognize most of these from when AG boosted news about how to slip past Google’s potential ‘SLOW SITE’ stamp.

That’s for good reason.

A fast, convenient website is literally better for the environment! The less processing power they draw, the less electricity they pull, and the end user saves enough time in their day not waiting on any variant of the circle of doom to go plant a tree or something. So it’s best to have a green UX.

Big Momma Earth wins? We win! It’s literally that simple.

Let’s see some innovation as we race UPWARDS this time, shall we?

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Tech News

Soma AI + ML = security system to reduce the number of mass shootings

(TECH NEWS) Soma robotics has a new plan and new devices for protecting schools from the rising dangers. They have heard the thoughts and answered the prayers.

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Soma robotics anti shooting device

In an age where everyone is separated in the debates between the security and the rights of the American people’s future, there is a company out there who is looking to upgrade our security systems to combat with the current issues of today with technology.

SOMA Robotics, a houstonian company at heart, has built a security system “using non-lethal AI (artificial intelligence) powered technology” with MI (machine learning), to allow these situational victims a chance to either “fight, or hide, or run”.

According to their website, the system essentially engages with the attacker through a blinding spotlight that then follows them much like a real spotlight on a stage. Although this system might not be the end of all new-aged attacks, it can at least be a mitigator of the impact these attacks have on their victims.

To be as blunt as possible, “at the end of 2019 there were 417 mass shootings” of which “31 were considered to be mass-murders” stated CBS News. 2019 was reported to be the year with the highest rate of mass shootings.

It seems SOMA Robotics is actively trying to lower those statistics, at a time when, sadly, this is a huge public safety issue impacting over 39,000 people in 2019 alone, posted Gun Violence Archive. I would even say, SOMA Robotics is tired of seeing “Thoughts & Prayers” on social media, and trying to put up a fight for us since we cannot agree on how to protect ourselves.

Currently, SOMA Robotics’s Founder and CTO, Ed Schipul, is seeking investors to support their mission of “peace of mind”. In a posted interview on SOMA Robotics’ website, Schipul discusses how this technology could be a “game changer” for “soft-targets”,places like schools and airports.

Schipul even discusses how hopefully the costs to the product is inexpensive enough to all others to affordable purchase this technology, and even possibly releasing the open-source code for others to use.

Be like SOMA Robotics, be good.

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