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Activision Blizzard Sued by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Over ‘Frat Boy’ Culture, Harassment


Maeve Allsup, reporting for Bloomberg Law:

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “cube crawls,” in which male employees “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things.

Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says.

Some seriously fucked-up allegations, to say the least.

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11 days ago
West Coast
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Chair of Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Committee Arrested on Charges of Being a Foreign Agent

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The AP:

The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking “at the very heart of our democracy.”

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as they tried to influence foreign policy while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president. […]

Prosecutors said Barrack not only agreed to promote UAE foreign policy interests through his unique access and influence, but also provided UAE government officials with sensitive information about developments within the Trump administration — including how senior U.S. officials felt about the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

I’m starting to think Donald Trump didn’t surround himself with the best people.

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12 days ago
How long before people accidentally on purpose conflate “Tom Barrack” with “Barack Obama” and blame Obama for this?
West Coast
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Going Full Pascal

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First-year of college at UCSC. First computer science class. Introduction to Programming. The language: Pascal.

Failed it. Failed it badly. Knew I was going to fail it halfway through the class.

This was my chosen profession. I’d been a grocery store clerk, a butcher, a video store clerk, the guy who backs up the system to tape drives on Saturday, and a bookseller. I wanted to be a computer scientist, and I failed my first class… badly.

There were situational reasons. First-year in college. Adjusting to living in a dorm. Meeting all sorts of strange new people. The distractions were innumerable, but the real reason was character.

This is how I work. I walk into a situation, and I’m furiously trying to figure it out, “Which situation is this?” I am parsing the people, the words, and the mood, and I’m searching for familiarity. I am not calm until I find this familiarity, and when I do BAM Ok, what’s next? How do we make progress from here? Let’s go. Like… now.

You think this results from years of being a leadership type who is constantly thrown into random situations where I am required to build situational awareness quickly, and you’d be partially correct. Here’s the rub: I’ve always been this way.

Voracious consumer of information, professional introvert, and ownership of a painfully short attention span. Combine all those, and you get me: usually well-informed, very aware of what those other shifty humans might be plotting, and probably already thinking about something else. Ta-da.

There are situations where this particular set of skills is advantageous, particularly in situations where I have relevant experience. In these situations, I can hit the ground running, quickly assess, and equally quickly get us moving in a credible direction.

There are an equal amount of situations where my skills/habit put me at a disadvantage. Which takes us back to Pascal.

Incapable of Achieving Your Dream

I’d programmed a bit on my Atari 400 and a lot on my Apple ][ and IBM PC, but this was hacking. Slowly trying to figure out how it all worked, copying code snippets out of magazines, and attempting to convince myself that I understood how a computer worked. When I arrived in my first computer science class, my prior experience gave me the impression that the class was “been there, done that.” It looked like code, so, yeah, I understand what’s going on here.

When it quickly became apparent that I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t ask for help (introvert), nor did I focus on solving the core problem (short attention span). I missed the basic rules of how a programming language is structured. Essential details that I’d never seen before. When it came time to demonstrate applied knowledge, my YOLO shenanigans failed me. Worth noting: I was moderately successful in high school with YOLO shenanigans. Hustle. Bluster. Call it what you want; you can’t hustle your way through the necessity of hard work.

UCSC at the time had an option where there were no grades. You could select a written evaluation, and while I do not remember the specific words, I vividly remember how it made me feel: “The thing you’ve wanted to do all your life. You are incapable of understanding, let alone doing the work.”

Deep breath. New strategy.

Next semester. Different professor, but same course. First day and every day, I took copious notes. First homework assignment. 25 problems. I answered every problem, and if I had a hint of confusion about my answer, I went back to the book and re-read the section to make sure the answer was understood and defensible.

Next week, the professor announced a separate extra credit lab where we’d learn a new language called “Scheme.” Totally optional. I signed up. First tutorial, there were 10 of us in the lab. Scheme, a language based on recursion, was confusing. I never missed a lab.

Next week. First programming assignment, which included a bonus objective. I wrote the code, and I obsessed about the bonus objective. Ten points for the assignment. I got 12 total with the bonus. Eventually, our first test. 100 points possible. I got 110 for answering the Scheme extra credit question.

Every week.

Fast forward to the end of the semester. Our final programming assignment was a contest to see who could design the most efficient version of an algorithm. Work together as a team. Ask for help. I took the assignment to my extra credit lab, which was now just the Teaching Assistant and myself talking about Scheme. I told him about the contest, and we spent the lab whiteboarding different approaches. The result: a contest win and more sweet, sweet extra credit.

My grade-less report card still sits in a drawer in the cave. The phrase I remember, “Best in class.”

Deep Vertical Knowledge

This article is not how I became an amazing software engineer. My academic ups and downs at UCSC continued. Data Structures blew my mind. C++ blew my confidence. When I started at Borland, I was a below-average junior engineer. Improving steadily over the years and in awe of those talented humans around me who made it look so easy.

Seven years later, when I became a manager, I was average again. The learning cycle restarted. Sitting here now, years later, I am very clear I have strengths and areas I need to invest in. Took years to figure that out.

As a leader, these days a senior leader, I preach delegation a lot. It’s the complicated act of giving accountability for the work to others. You often delegate works you know you could complete, but your job as a leader is to give others opportunities while also learning how to coach and guide them towards the essential lessons better learned via experience than lectures.

Delegation is an art. When handing off a set of work to another human, it needs to feel like support, not avoidance. Well-executed delegation feels like a vote of confidence. Poor delegation looks like abdication. Great, my manager just handed me a disaster. Now what? Poor delegation re-enforces the perception that managers are out of touch and unaware of what is going on.

This article is about preventing this perception and understanding when it is in your best interest to Go Full Pascal. Contrary to what I suggested earlier, Going Full Pascal isn’t just hard work because the work should always be some version of hard. Going Full Pascal is when it is necessary to work hard and acquire deep vertical knowledge so that you understand every single nook and cranny of the complicated situation in front of you.

This is not a move you attempt in every situation; it’s the one you keep in your back pocket for when the sky is falling, and you don’t need to prop the sky up; you need to prevent it from falling ever again. You’ll know you’ve done this when you’re done, and everyone sees the solution, and they clap. Loudly.

Not Micromanagement

A few years ago, I revised my thinking about managers continuing to code. I went from “No way” to “Stay programming limber.” Like coding, you can send deeply confusing messages to the team when you Go Full Pascal. You’re always one poorly formed sentence from signaling to the team that you’ve Gone Full Micromanager.

How to avoid the micromanager label? That’s another important article. Today I want to remind you that just because it says manager in your title doesn’t mean you are absolved for doing the hard work of deep vertical knowledge.

I’m built to be a competent leader. I seek information so that I understand how the world works. My introversion has made me into a good listener because you talking is less scary than me talking. My short attention span means that chances are, when you speak to me about what I’m working on, I’m giddy excited because I seek stimulating situations that hold my attention.

I’ve become a better leader because I know when my skills and habits are a detriment. I’ve come to understand bias and how it impacts my team. I’ve worked hard to be a good public speaker who conveys excitement and speaks slowly and clearly. I have objects on my desk right now that I hold in my hand to remind me to focus my attention when it wants to wander.

And I know when to Go Full Pascal.

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50 days ago
Good article. And a good reminder of when to push yourself.
West Coast
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Trump Department of Justice Subpoenaed Apple for Records of Democrats and Their Family Members

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The New York Times:

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed. […]

Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.

Adam Schiff:

Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies.

It’s clear his demands didn’t fall on deaf ears.

This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump’s corrupt weaponization of justice.

And how much he imperiled our democracy.

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51 days ago
* is imperiling. There I fixed that for you.
West Coast
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Developer relations

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Apple’s leaders continue to deny developers of two obvious truths:

  • That our apps provide substantial value to iOS beyond the purchase commissions collected by Apple.
  • That any portion of our customers came to our apps from our own marketing or reputation, rather than the App Store.

For Apple to continue to deny these is dishonest, factually wrong, and extremely insulting — not only to our efforts, but to the intelligence of all Apple developers and customers.

This isn’t about the 30%, or the 15%, or the prohibition of other payment systems, or the rules against telling our customers about our websites, or Apple’s many other restrictions. (Not today, at least.)

It’s about what Apple’s leadership thinks of us and our work.

*     *     *

It isn’t the App Store’s responsibility to the rest of Apple to “pay its way” by leveraging hefty fees on certain types of transactions. Modern society has come to rely so heavily on mobile apps that any phone manufacturer must ensure that such a healthy ecosystem exists as table stakes for anyone to buy their phones.

Without our apps, the iPhone has little value to most of its customers today.

If Apple wishes to continue advancing bizarre corporate-accounting arguments, the massive profits from the hardware business are what therefore truly “pay the way” of the App Store, public APIs, developer tools, and other app-development resources, just as the hardware profits must fund the development of Apple’s own hardware, software, and services that make the iPhone appeal to customers.

The forced App Store commissions, annual developer fees, and App Store Search Ads income are all just gravy. The “way” is already paid by the hardware — but Apple uses their position of power to double-dip.

And that’s just business. Apple’s a lot of things, and “generous” isn’t one.

But to bully and gaslight developers into thinking that we need to be kissing Apple’s feet for permitting us to add billions of dollars of value to their platform is not only greedy, stingy, and morally reprehensible, but deeply insulting.

*     *     *

Apple further extends the value argument, and defends their justification for forced commissions, by claiming responsibility for and ownership of the customer relationship between all iOS users and each app they choose to use.

This argument only makes sense — and even then, only somewhat — when apps are installed by a customer browsing the App Store, finding an app they hadn’t previously heard of, and choosing to install it based on App Store influence alone.

But in the common case — and for most app installations, the much more common case — of searching for a specific app by name or following a link or ad based on its developer’s own marketing or reputation, Apple has served no meaningful role in the customer acquisition and “deserves” nothing more from the transaction than what a CDN and commodity credit-card processor would charge.

The idea that the App Store is responsible for most customers of any reasonably well-known app is a fantasy.

It isn’t the App Store that has enabled all of the commerce on iOS — it’s the entire world of computing and modern society, created by a symbiotic ecosystem in which Apple played one part alongside many others. The world was already moving in this direction, and had Apple not played its part, someone else would’ve. The App Store is merely one platform’s forced distribution gateway, “facilitating” the commerce no more and no less than a web browser, an ISP or cellular carrier, a server-hosting company, or a credit-card processor.

For Apple to continue to claim otherwise is beyond insulting, and borders on delusion.

*     *     *

At WWDC next week, these same people are going to try to tell us a different story.

They’re going to tell us how amazing we are, how important our work is, and how much they value us. And for thousands of Apple employees who’ve made the great products and platforms that we love, including the hundreds of engineers presenting the sessions and working the labs, it’ll be genuine and true.

But the leaders have already shown us who they really are, what they really think of us, and how much they value our work.

Please forgive some sloppiness in my metaphors or phrasing — my writing skills are pretty rusty — and I’ll return the favor to anyone who responds.

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59 days ago
Filed under "Actions speak louder than words." Yes, Apple needs to find some humility.
West Coast
60 days ago
Excellent takedown, I 1000% agree and I also suspect that Apple won’t be listening to the ATP boys going forward as it would introduce them to “uncomfortable” facts.
Space City, USA
59 days ago
Washington, DC
60 days ago
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★ New York Times Report on Apple’s iCloud ‘Hard Bargain’ in China

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Big feature story reported by Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong, and Daisuke Wakabayashi for The New York Times, “Censorship, Surveillance, and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China”:

But the iCloud data in China is vulnerable to the Chinese government because Apple made a series of compromises to meet the authorities’ demands, according to dozens of pages of internal Apple documents on the planned design and security of the Chinese iCloud system, which were reviewed for The Times by an Apple engineer and four independent security researchers.

The documents show that GCBD employees would have physical control over the servers, while Apple employees would largely monitor the operation from outside the country. The security experts said that arrangement alone represented a threat that no engineer could solve.

“Chinese intelligence has physical control over your hardware — that’s basically a threat level you can’t let it get to,” said Matthew D. Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University.

It’s a big report, but the above is fundamentally true and gets to the heart of the conflict: physical access to the hardware in the facility is game over. But what’s missing from the whole piece is any serious discussion of what else Apple could do. Apple has no option other than to comply with Chinese law, or else stop selling products in the country.

Option A: Apple does what it did — store all Chinese users’ iCloud data on servers in China, under the ultimate control of the Chinese government.

Option B: Apple refuses to do so, and the Chinese government shuts down iCloud in China and probably bans the sale of Apple devices.

Is there an Option C? I don’t think there is. So one way to look at Tim Cook’s decision making on this is that Apple chose the option which allows them to continue making $50 billion a year in sales within China — that Apple’s decision making on this is driven by avarice over principles — principles that the company, and Tim Cook personally, emphasize as a pillar of the Apple brand.

So the argument against Apple’s continuing business in China is that if the company really believed what it says about privacy — “Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values.” —  they would refuse to comply with the law and effectively pull out of the market, tens of billions of dollars be damned.

But what about Apple’s customers in China? What would I want Apple to do if I were a Chinese citizen who wants to use an iPhone and iCloud? (And if I were a Chinese citizen, I would very much want to use an iPhone and iCloud.) There’s no hiding the fact that Option A is a gut-wrenching decision that goes against Apple’s stated brand values. Mark Zuckerberg has made Apple’s position in China his main argument that they’re hypocrites on privacy. But Option B is Apple’s only way to do right by their own customers in China. Chinese iCloud users have less privacy than iCloud users everywhere else in the world. But that’s true of every aspect of life in China. The Times article even points this out:

People close to Apple suggested that the Chinese authorities often don’t need Apple’s data, and thus demand it less often, because they already surveil their citizens in myriad other ways.

Even with the multiple significant compromises Apple has made to comply with Chinese law, it feels entirely possible that using Apple devices and iCloud is one of the most private things anyone outside government leadership can do in China.

I can see the argument that Apple should have chosen Option B, and pulled out of the Chinese market on principle. But you’re living in a fantasy world if you think Apple taking a principled stand against these laws would have resulted in the Chinese government capitulating to Apple. China would have simply told Apple to get out. If you parse the details of this Times report, what we’re seeing is the negotiated middle ground. It’s hard to imagine another Western company being granted as much autonomy over its servers and services — even if, objectively, it’s an insecure level of control and an unacceptable amount of App Store content censorship.

Yes, it’d be principled for Apple to say it only operates its services in countries that allow a minimum level of privacy and that China doesn’t meet that standard. But it’s also principled to say they’ll provide Chinese users with the most privacy that Chinese law allows. They’re just different principles. What’s more important: abstract ideals or the actual lives of actual people using these devices?

The elephant in the room is Apple’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing. Apple could stop selling iPhones in China, and could pull the plug on these new managed-by-China iCloud data centers. The revenue hit would be a very tough sell to Wall Street, but I think Apple could make the case. (Or at least they could have made it a decade ago.) But what happens to Apple’s enormous can’t-be-replicated-anywhere-else-in-the-world Chinese supply chain operations? Maybe the Chinese government would simply allow Apple to pull its products from the Chinese market but allow their supply chain operations to continue, unabated — “No hard feelings”.

(Xi Jinping doesn’t strike me as a “No hard feelings” sort of guy.)

It’s disingenuous to argue that Apple’s compliance with Chinese law on data centers and App Store content is wrong or mistaken without offering up a plausible scenario for what else they could do. Or acknowledging that Chinese iCloud users would not benefit in any way by Apple pulling out of the country.

Does it help Apple feel comfortable with the path they’ve chosen that it’s the path that generates $40-50 billion in annual revenue? I’ll bet it does. But there’s got to be a sinking feeling within the company’s leadership that they’ve painted themselves into a corner on this. Apple can’t do what it does without the Chinese supply chain, yet China is an increasingly hostile power on the geopolitical stage.

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77 days ago
Back a decade ago or so I worked at a game company. We specifically barred the employees in China and India from having admin rights on our servers. Not because the employees couldn't be trusted. Because we didn't want them or their families blackmailed for the login info.
West Coast
74 days ago
One of my current clients is a large investment management firm. Their IT group considers any computer that is in their HK office or has traveled through Chinese-controlled territory (and a few other places) to be potentially compromised. I don't know the specific policies applied, but I believe they will not let staff take their normal laptops on trips through HK/China (I assume they have to use a VDI and wipe those machines after the trip). I only discovered this because I was tangentially connected to a project where it came up as an issue because they were planning to put SIM cards in the laptops of employees who do substantial travel/remote work.
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