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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

New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper

(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.

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Apple Watch being worn on wrist showing weather for Montreal.

The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.

Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.

Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.

More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.

Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.

It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.

And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.

The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.

Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.

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Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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Tech News

What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!

(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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