“99 Problems (the Google Re-mix)”

Given so many Microsoft employees blog, I know it’s always a concern when it comes to what we say and how we say it.  Some blogs that make bold suggestions (like mini-Microsoft, the one-man mission to downsize Microsoft) are done anonymously, while others (like Scoble) are comfortable with their limits and don’t mind being pretty brutal.  I know Microsoft is still trying to determine how to keep their bloggers open but respectful and I will admit that I err on the side of caution out of respect for the company.  But for all the Microsoft blogging, I’ve never heard anyone getting reprimanded, much less fired.  So it was quite a shock to hear about the guy from Google that got fired due to his blog.  Mark Jen, an ex-Microsoft guy that left for Google (I personally didn’t know him), had some less-than-stellar things to say about his new employer after leaving Redmond to join their offices down in California.  Although 90% of it seemed neutral-to-positive (he still believed that Google was a better place to work than Microsoft), Google didn’t like it and fired him.  Wow.  Given Google’s perception of being this cool, open, creative place, I am a little surprised that they would be so uptight.  After all, they seem to take pride in the fact that they aren’t Microsoft.  I guess they’ve separated themselves again.


Given Mark’s blog’s title (“Ninety Nine Zeroes”), the Jay-Z song “99 Problems” popped in my head.  While I was going for run the other day, I had this burst of inspiration about a verse of that song and how it sorta applies to Mark Jen.  And since everyone else is re-mixing Jay-Z’s Black Album, I thought I’d join the party.  So, with major apologies to Jay-Z, here is “Ninety Nine Problems (the Google Remix)”:



The year was '05 and he was a bloggin’ Google fan
But in his rear view mirror was the angry HR man
He had two choices: apologize and rescind his words or
test his bounds and see if they were really open nerds.
Now he ain't tryin to lose his job near the beach
but he lives in America and knows about free speech
So he keeps the site until they got real sore
And hears "Son do you know what we’re mad at you for?"
”Cause I’m young and I’m honest and my audience has grown

Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don't know
Am I terminated or should I guess some more?
"Well you was saying Google’s not as cool as people think we are
 Looking at your resume, you were a Microsoft star.
 Were you plant by Bill Gates? I know a lot of you are"

I’m here cuz it’s hip and my site is legit”
"Do you mind if we look around your blog a little bit?"
”Well my blog is on Blogspot and Google owns my lock
  So go ahead and look—most of it says that we rock
"Aren't you pretty cocky are you Sergey or Larry or something?"
 Or somebody important or somethin?"

"Now I ain't a founding father but I know some PR
  Enough to know that you won't fire a blogging star
"Well see how smart you are when the paychecks don’t come"
He got 99 zeroes but his job ain't one.

Comments (18)
  1. Xavier says:

    This is hilarious. I have to commend you on your lyrical skill.

  2. Mark Jen didn’t get fired for just saying some bad things. Likely the problem was that he made specific comments about financial information that had not been publicly disclosed. You can’t do that and remain in good standing with the SEC. If a Microsoft person did the same thing, they’d be looking for a job as well.

  3. Dara says:

    Nicely done.

  4. Mark Jen says:

    Props where props are due! I’m linking this on my blog, hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Aaron – Although I do recognize that the comments about financial performance were unacceptable (and thus, they were recinded), AFAIK there was no SEC involvement in my termination.

    Additionally, I did not have access to any non-public information and anyone at Microsoft could blog about the same stuf I did – and many people do.

  5. Sud says:

    Amazing…. The google guy http://99zeros.blogspot.com) has blogged about this , but he hasnt commented here. He claims that it aint completely right though. But, you have poetic license u see!

  6. fejoma says:

    As I understand it, Mark Jen was fired not for blogging in public, which other prominent Google Employees (Dibona, Goodger, etc) do happily, nor because he was too brutal regarding Google.

    No, it was because based on his blogging he obviously lacks common sense, respect and restraint. He got over 400 complaints by other employees.

    It seems stupidity isn’t tolerated much at Google.

  7. Adam says:

    Hey Sandy,

    "But for all the Microsoft blogging, I’ve never heard anyone getting reprimanded, much less fired."

    Check out this story:

    <a href="http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3341689/">http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3341689/</a&gt;

  8. Just a couple of points on this:

    -To Adam, excellent point. That was so long ago that I (selectively? :>) forgot about it. That said, I would throw in a couple of notes. That was a temp so removing him is much different than moving a Microsoft full-time employee. Also, he did something that wasn’t providing an opinion as much as trying to embarass the company. Mark Jen never intended to embarass Google. Heck, he still seemed happy to work there. He just questioned some policies (no more than what Scoble does on a regular basis). I’ll admit I didn’t think the picture itself was a big deal. Microsoft makes Mac Office and Virtual PC for the Mac (two products I own and love as among my seven computers, I do own a Cube), so I hope there are plenty G5s on campus to make MS the best provider of OSX software out there.

    -To fejoma, wow, 400 complaints? About what? What were they worried or upset about? Respect and restraint? Did Mark Jen take potshots at any specific employees? Or worse, Larry & Sergey? From what I recall reading, it was mostly compensation and issues of that nature. What’s with the sensitivity? Apparently Mark wasn’t assimilated to the culture that prevents controversial comments. You say it wasn’t because he was brutal, but then say he lacks common sense, respect, and restraint? I didn’t see anything disrespectful about it. He wasn’t trying to embarass the company or take away recruits. It amazes me how everyone wants to paint Google as Shangri-La. I refuse to believe it is and Microsoft isn’t either. Both are great places and both have their flaws. I wish both companies (and their employees) accept it as opposed to whine about someone spilling the beans.

  9. Brian Sexton says:

    > No, it was because based on his blogging he obviously lacks common sense, respect and restraint.

    Or perhaps he merely values honesty and his particular notions of what constitutes common sense and respect and what actions and restraint are appropriate in light of those notions happen to differ from yours.

    > He got over 400 complaints by other employees.

    That seems unlikely. Are you certain that number is correct?

    > It seems stupidity isn’t tolerated much at Google.

    Lucky you, though, that presumptuousness is well-tolerated in blog comments.

    For the record, though, stupidity seems to be tolerated almost everywhere, including Google; if you don’t believe me, try searching Google a few times with a few different non-alphanumeric characters as a programmer might (even within explicit quotes), inspect the results, and decide for yourself whether they are the result of some algorithmic stupidity. (I use Google all the time and this particular issue–terrible search results because of ignored characters–is a regular occurrence.)

  10. Randy says:

    Sounds like 400 employees take themselves too seriously….

  11. zzz says:

    Brian: Same thoughts over the non-alpha stuff. Finding C# related info was a pain some years ago when Google still hadn’t manually added C# to the indexing.. Or perhaps they added #, I am not sure.

  12. Snee says:

    This is corporate sabotage of the most overt sort. A 21st-century PR scheme perpetuated by MS against Google! What a joke!

    Google Desktop rulz ballahz

  13. Raja says:

    No comparision between the Great Google and microsoft in any regards.

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