Google Makes Mistake, Fixes it, Then Blogs About it

Early this morning a few lone souls noticed that Google Search was behaving a bit oddly. Google had flagged every site returned with the message “This site may harm your computer.” The problem started happening around 6:30 a.m. PST. Several tech news sites (Ars Technica, Slashdot) quickly picked up on the problem and posted stories about the issue only a few hours later.

Luckily, Google wasn’t sitting still either. By 9 a.m. they had posted a detailed statement on their official blog attributing the problem to “…human error.”

Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

This statement was revised several times in response to a statement by StopBadware.org.

All in all Google did a fantastic job in a difficult situation. Many users were put out by this error. Imagine having your e-commerce site flagged as being potentially harmful every time someone googled for you, even if it was only for half an hour. This could lead to lost sales or at least confusion.

Luckily Google’s official statement was apologetic, detailed and accurate. They worked with StopBadware.org to clarify any misleading wording and were completely transparent about the updates made to their initial statement.

What's Up Google?

For the past 24-hours or so, all my Google services have been intermittently slow. That means Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger, Google Docs and so on. When they work they work fine, but when they’re slow they’re slow as molasses.

It’s not just me either. Twitter is all abuzz about this problem. Yet there is still no response from Google.

What could be wrong? Did someone seriously screw up a system update? Did one of Google’s server farms bite the big one? Who knows! Google hasn’t said a peep. Even the official Google blog has been quiet on the issue.

Granted, a problem big enough to affect all of these services must be keeping them pretty busy, but still. Not even a heads up? Not a smart move Google.

When Corporations get Political

Both Apple and Google have recently been getting some attention in the Blogosphere for their support and contributions to the No on Prop 8 campaign. California Proposition 8 would amend the state constitution to read “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Obviously this is a hot button issue in the upcoming election.

I think that both companies are on pretty solid ground in supporting the fight against Prop 8. Apple and Google have a history of being progressive companies. Google’s corporate philosophy even states that “you can make money without doing evil.” So all in all they might take a little heat from this, but it’s more likely to get them good press than bad. But what if they came out in support of Prop 8? Or if they weren’t such large and established companies? Would it be a wise decision for them to so publicly state their political views, especially if they couldn’t be sure all their employee’s would agree?

I think that corporations must be careful about supporting political causes, but if they decide to do so they must be sure that the cause aligns itself with their corporate philosophy (and that philosophy is strong and established).

I believe that in the future we’ll be seeing more and more corporations aligning themselves with political causes. Part of this might be related to the increased number of workers and entrepreneurs who are Gen Y’ers. Many studies have shown that Gen Y’ers tend to seek jobs that they can identify with, more than their predecessors (Gen X, Baby Boomers). Gen Y’ers want their jobs to reflect their personal views and as a result corporations get more political.

Take a look at Apple and Google’s position statements. Do you think these statements are effective? How would you change them (if at all)?

Here are some more links on the issue: