Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Yahoo Accused Of Raiding Workers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the business-is-war dept.

The Courts 118

wellington map writes "Nuance Communications, a Menlo Park maker of speech-recognition software, has sued Yahoo for unfair competition and theft of trade secrets, accusing the Internet giant of raiding all but one of Nuance's research and development engineers. Nuance said 13 engineers from its Menlo Park and Montreal offices were 75 percent finished with a project that would allow people to search the Internet by speaking their queries into a telephone, rather than typing them on a computer keyboard. Nuance planned to sell the technology to companies like Yahoo."

cancel ×

118 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Oh! I see Yahoo's logic! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697280)

O.o

River Tam and Simon Tam are really the same person (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697282)

River Tam and Simon Tam are really the same person, Jayne is half-reaver by blood, and Mal is an Alliance spy. Oh, and the space hooker is really a man.

ok... (3, Insightful)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697288)

Its not like yahoo will benefit. All they did was screw another company over. In the end, Google will buy Nuance Comm. and life will be good :)

OT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697448)

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with the new CSS layout?

Re:OT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698223)

Dude, you shouldn't be using IE.

Re:ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697582)

Yahoo is *not* user friendly, and until it is Yahoo will stay with >1% marketshare.

Take installation. Yahoo zealots are now saying "oh installing is so easy, just do apt-get install package or emerge package": Yes, because typing in "apt-get" or "emerge" makes so much more sense to new users than double-clicking an icon that says "setup".

Yahoo zealots are far too forgiving when judging the difficultly of Yahoo configuration issues and far too harsh when judging the difficulty of Google configuration issues. Example comments:

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Yahoo?"
Zealot: "Oh that's easy! If you have Yahoo, you have to download quake_3_rh_8_i686_010203_glibc.bin, then do chmod +x on the file. Then you have to su to root, make sure you type export LD_ASSUME_KERNEL=2.2.5 but ONLY if you have that latest libc6 installed. If you don't, don't set that environment variable or the installer will dump core. Before you run the installer, make sure you have the GL drivers for X installed. Get them at [some obscure web address], chmod +x the binary, then run it, but make sure you have at least 10MB free in /tmp or the installer will dump core. After the installer is done, edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and add a section called "GL" and put "driver nv" in it. Make sure you have the latest version of X and Yahoo kernel 2.6 or else X will segfault when you start. OK, run the Quake 3 installer and make sure you set the proper group and setuid permissions on quake3.bin. If you want sound, look here [link to another obscure web site], which is a short HOWTO on how to get sound in Quake 3. That's all there is to it!"

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Google?"
Zealot: "Oh God, I had to install Quake 3 in Google for some lamer friend of mine! God, what a fucking mess! I put in the CD and it took about 3 minutes to copy everything, and then I had to reboot the fucking computer! Jesus Christ! What a retarded operating system!"

So, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what seems easy and natural to Yahoo geeks is definitely not what regular people consider easy and natural. Hence, the preference towards Google.

MOD PARENT WAY UP (0, Troll)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697932)

Great parody of a copy-paste troll!

Re:MOD PARENT WAY UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699291)

Search/Replace is *not* user friendly, and until it is Search/Replace will stay with >1% marketshare.

Take installation. Search/Replace zealots are now saying "oh installing is so easy, just do apt-get install package or emerge package": Yes, because typing in "apt-get" or "emerge" makes so much more sense to new users than double-clicking an icon that says "setup".

Search/Replace zealots are far too forgiving when judging the difficultly of Search/Replace configuration issues and far too harsh when judging the difficulty of Copy/Paste configuration issues. Example comments:

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Search/Replace?"
Zealot: "Oh that's easy! If you have Search/Replace, you have to download quake_3_rh_8_i686_010203_glibc.bin, then do chmod +x on the file. Then you have to su to root, make sure you type export LD_ASSUME_KERNEL=2.2.5 but ONLY if you have that latest libc6 installed. If you don't, don't set that environment variable or the installer will dump core. Before you run the installer, make sure you have the GL drivers for X installed. Get them at [some obscure web address], chmod +x the binary, then run it, but make sure you have at least 10MB free in /tmp or the installer will dump core. After the installer is done, edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and add a section called "GL" and put "driver nv" in it. Make sure you have the latest version of X and Search/Replace kernel 2.6 or else X will segfault when you start. OK, run the Quake 3 installer and make sure you set the proper group and setuid permissions on quake3.bin. If you want sound, look here [link to another obscure web site], which is a short HOWTO on how to get sound in Quake 3. That's all there is to it!"

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Copy/Paste?"
Zealot: "Oh God, I had to install Quake 3 in Copy/Paste for some lamer friend of mine! God, what a fucking mess! I put in the CD and it took about 3 minutes to copy everything, and then I had to reboot the fucking computer! Jesus Christ! What a retarded operating system!"

So, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what seems easy and natural to Search/Replace geeks is definitely not what regular people consider easy and natural. Hence, the preference towards Copy/Paste.

Re:ok... (1)

anysh (841375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699059)

FYI: Nuance Communications has already been taken over [scansoft.com] by its closest competitor, Scansoft. From the looks of this merger, it seems the important factor in people jumping over. I, for one, would rather move to Sunnyvale from Menlo Park, rather than Boston.

Lemme Get This Straight (5, Insightful)

monkaduck (902823) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697291)

This guy doesn't pay his employees enough, fails to include any clause in their contracts (if they signed any) that prohibits them from making off with tech developed under his banner, and he gets mad at Yahoo! for it? He should be mad at his former partner for setting this up. I get the feeling from the article that he didn't follow through with obvious business procedure (procuring the rights of all technology devolped by the company's employees under contract to said company). There must have been something to make everyone jump ship to Yahoo!.

Re:Lemme Get This Straight (1)

NexFlamma (919608) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697330)

Perhaps that something was the opportunity to work for higher wages at a large, successful tech firm with a proven track record...

Uh, RTFA and get THIS straight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697741)

Not about wages. About someone's quest for a powerful position in an organization of his own making. FTA:

'Heck ``began agitating for more authority'' as Nuance was being acquired by rival ScanSoft, of Peabody, Mass., Nuance said. But the combined company denied his request to be named chief technology officer.

Meanwhile, Heck swapped e-mails with Yahoo about joining its team. The suit says Heck then e-mailed his own résumé, a list of Nuance employees to potentially bring to Yahoo, and a proposed organizational plan for an R&D department.'

Basically, Heck and Yahoo colluded to brain-drain Heck's employer so Heck could create his dream job complete with R&D team under his control. Whether or not you think it's actionable, it does leak a trail of slime behind it.

No it doesn't leak anything. (4, Insightful)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697901)

Nuance had every opportunity to keep the guy (give him more control, better wages) and to keep the other guys (bump their wages, work conditions). If I had a good work relationship with my boss, and the execs were being trumping him over, and other company offered to encompass the whole team, I would go with him... especially if that meant a wage bump, and good work conditions.

Contract work is NOT slave work. Everyone can leave at the moment he/she wants. It's the frecking JOB of a company to keep workers interested in staying.

illegal recruitment, NOT retention failure (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698174)

Firstly, it's not contract work. Second, it's at-will employment. Anyone can leave or be fired, anytime.

The lawsuit is not about people leaving Nuance. It's about an employee colluding with his future employer to hire away an entire department at a vulnerable moment. It's a pretty serious betrayal.

If Heck couldn't get what he wanted, fine let him go to Yahoo. But Heck bringing along the entire R&D dept in his back pocket to make his transition to Yahoo a slam-dunk is clearly going to far.

Most important lesson from business school : (1)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698394)

"you see the church over there ? go the fuck out my office and go pray for the continuity of your employment ! Where doing business here, not preaching!"

You reap what you sow, etc...
Also, can you please explain how to conciliate those two sentences :
"it's at-will employment. Anyone can leave or be fired, anytime."
"It's a pretty serious betrayal"

It's not a trust party, it's a business. There is no betrayal, there is "Research unit matrix conservation"

"Heck bringing along the entire R&D dept in his back pocket to make his transition to Yahoo a slam-dunk is clearly going to far"

At least he drove his point to the ex-manager that now have a 25% unfinished project and a lone researcher that was so nerdy his co-workers didn't tell him of the switch plan.

Actually it's nice seing a company getting fucked up by it's employees, instead of the usual reverse...
You've been fucked off. Resistance is Futile, Pass the KY you will be ass-imilated.

Re:Most important lesson from business school : (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698562)

At least he drove his point to the ex-manager that now have a 25% unfinished project and a lone researcher that was so nerdy his co-workers didn't tell him of the switch plan. Or is the nephew of Nuance's CEO and couldn't leave without Uncle Joe telling his dad... :-)

"illegal recruitment"???? (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698529)

I don't know about other jurisdictions, but there is NO such thing in the laws where I live.

If I leave my current job for a better-paid, more enjoyable job, you bet I will try to take every well-qualified coworker I can take with me. Why? Because a company is an abstract entity. If I know of 15 better-paying-better-everything openings, it would be treason to my colleagues not telling them.

I repeat myself: if Nuance really wanted to keep everyone, it should have given everyone what Yahoo gave ... and some more to boot. If Yahoo offered Heck a 50% raise, and a CTO position, and the others 25% raise, Nuance could have offered Heck a 75% raise, CTO position, company car, and the others 40% raise and bigger Xmas bonuses. Simple as that.

Re:illegal recruitment, NOT retention failure (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699504)

It's about an employee colluding with his future employer to hire away an entire department at a vulnerable moment. It's a pretty serious betrayal.


I don't know the specifics of this situation, but you comment struck me odd.

Is it not true that employers collude with other companies to shit-can entire departments at vulnerable moments in those employee's lives all the time?

Trust can only function properly if it is bidirectional. If it is to a company's financial benefit to lay you off it will. If it is to an employee's financial benefit to jump ship it is his choice, and isn't a "betrayal" under any circumstances.

-Peter

Re:No it doesn't leak anything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698404)

Nuance had every opportunity to keep the guy (give him more control, better wages) and to keep the other guys (bump their wages, work conditions).

This happened to me once, I was grossly underpaid and felt the taste of boot in my mouth for broken management promises. They didn't think I would leave after 12 years. Were they very wrong!

I walked in announce my resignation and management hauls me in and says it's time to pull out the check book. I told them what the offer I had accepted was and told them not to bother with a counter offer, as I didn't want to treat the company that way. I left on good terms. With in weeks others started leaving, one by one. Decimated the environment and set them back 2+ years while they go the next crew in.

That wasn't something I wanted to do, just something I had to do out of self respect. And a a great opportunity it was.

A few stayed on management promises, and contacting them later every one who remained wished they too had left. Some were laid off in 2000/2001 - a bad year in the local area.

Am I glad I left as management like that can promise all they want but until delivered it is hot air. But one has to ask why did management let it get so bad in the first place? I am actually glad they didn't care, I left for double the money and steady employment ever since. And best yet, enjoyed the new job much more!

It's the frecking JOB of a company to keep workers interested in staying.

So you are 100% in that statement and deserves repeating.

Re:Lemme Get This Straight (2, Interesting)

neosake (655724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697943)

"[...] fails to include any clause in their contracts (if they signed any) that prohibits them from making off with tech developed under his banner, and he gets mad at Yahoo!"

IANAL, but in Canada, as far as I recall, there were a few cases of lawsuits for violation of non-competition clauses that were lost based on violation of the clauses violating human rights [un.org] . I don't recall though if they were cases of "stealing" technology though.

[...]
Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Re:Lemme Get This Straight (2, Interesting)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698331)

I did some research on non-compete clauses as recognized by Ontario courts recently and there's some nice precedents in favor of the employees.

If you sign a non-compete *after* you're already working there it's much harder to enforce. And if the contract is one-sided in favor of the employer, then the employee can easily challenge it. Seems that if you sign one, it should have as much benefit to you as it does to them.
 

Re:Lemme Get This Straight (1)

Sepper (524857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698786)

Problem is, if it's based in Montreal, it's covered by Quebec law so it's likely different... (for no other reason than because it's in Quebec... We like to do things different around here...)

But I bet the ex-Montreal employees could counter-sue the guy saying they quit because the envirronement wasn't 70% or more French-speaking...

Competition is good (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697292)

Treat your devs right and you wouldn't have this problem.

Am I the only one who is a little suspcious? (5, Interesting)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697301)

"Nuance said 13 engineers from its Menlo Park and Montreal offices were 75 percent finished with a project ..."

That sounds like they aren't very finished. Who knows if they would have finished in time, if they were at that stage. Even if I thought I was 75% finished, we know I might only be half finished -- that last bit to finish is always a huge effort, and that's typically where you blow your schedule.

You figure the business folks suing Yahoo have an interest in making it sound like they were more finished than less -- e.g. if they were 99% finished, and Yahoo! swooped in to recruit the whole bunch, that would look awful.

So perhaps they were "50% finished" -- however you measure that (sounds like their app is a totally new piece of work, so you can't really estimate it well), and they pump it up to 75% finished.

Also, why did so many of the guys split to go to Yahoo!? It looks to me like people were itching to leave. Considering this happened after a merger/buyout --and that one camper was pretty unhappy, perhaps the engineers were feeling bad and were looking to move somewhere nicer.

Re: Keeping to Schedules (1)

some guy I know (229718) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698244)

Who knows if they would have finished in time, if they were at that stage. Even if I thought I was 75% finished, we know I might only be half finished -- that last bit to finish is always a huge effort, and that's typically where you blow your schedule.
Yeah, like the old saying "The first half of a project takes 90% of the time, and the last half takes the other 90% of the time.".

It is very easy to measure (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699435)

So perhaps they were "50% finished" -- however you measure that (sounds like their app is a totally new piece of work, so you can't really estimate it well)
Measuring progress on an app dev project is easy. You just need a Project Manager who knows what he or she is doing---yes this is a huge qualifier, but we do exist.
  1. Create a work breakdown structure, down to the appropriate level
  2. Track progress of each work package (50/50 is not one-size fits all, people!)
  3. Keep Earned Value numbers updated
  4. Take appropriate corrective action to keep SPI and CPI lookin' good.
  5. Rinse, repeat

Well. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697303)

I guess the cat is outta the bag now, eh?

We were THIS CLOSE!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697310)

I swear!

We deserve money! If it weren't for this and that, we'd be rich right now!

LAWSUIT! LAWSUIT! LAWSUIT!

Typo, or Useless? (2, Interesting)

darklordyoda (899383) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697326)

Do they mean "microphone", or is this some sort of weird unholy spawn of VoIP and Internet search?

Re:Typo, or Useless? (1)

darklordyoda (899383) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697332)

Never mind, I didn't RTFA. People could use the telephone to search email. It just doesn't seem to make much sense to search the internet by telephone, unless it's email.

Re:Typo, or Useless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697365)

That's the first thing that startled me as well. Damn, I need a 56k modem for this?

Re:Typo, or Useless? (3, Interesting)

blanks (108019) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697672)

My first thought by the word microphone was cellphone, speak a name like a resturant or movie, and the top queries are displayed for you.

Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (4, Insightful)

wfberg (24378) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697331)

So, these people realise their on a sinking ship and get out, taking a job with another company. Apparently, conditions are bad enough that once one guy got the idea, everybody sees fit to join him. Probably they forsaw the product never getting finished, the company being unable to attract new hires, and tanking. So then the company gets in trouble, isn't able to get people to fill the positions left vacant, and who's to blame? Of course, the people who saw it all coming and got out of there; and the company that hired them..

Would I be wrong in thinking these engineers probably warned management multiple times that they weren't happy, that their employer should be doing a better job, that they should be getting the sort of facilities they now have at yahoo? And would I be wrong in thinking their employer just shrugged and said "meh", since what do these engineersy, non-MBA type people know? In other words, that they're a really shitty employer? I think the fact they're sueing their barely ex-employees almost proves it.

Re:Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (0)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697408)

Or perhaps they just saw how useless and pointless the technology was. So you get some search results by using your telephone. You now have to type them into a computer to actually use the search results - so it's slower, more expensive and worse than typing the query. Unless the system was also going to read you the resulting web page over the phone, too. In any case, I thought that sort of thing was already being done by systems developed for the blind.

It can't be just that (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697574)

I've personally seen only one company before where the employees pulled a mass exodus like that, and let me tell you the boss was a _total_ asshole. He treated people like dirt. He just had to remind everyone that he's the boss and you're the peon, he pulled unreasonable demands like that everyone brings a sleeping bag and noone leaves until they're ready with some piece of software that the idiot fancied he wanted until tomorrow, he overrode any decision of those he delegated to do something, and berating was for him apparently like breathing.

It was one experience that made me feel a _lot_ better about my own employer at the time. I mean, geesh, whatever minor complaints I had, by comparison to that asshole... ooer, I was having a dream job.

And that's the thing that's IMHO necessary to really see an exodus like that.

Otherwise people leave, yes, but gradually. Just being in an useless project takes some time to sap your will to go on, and it takes different time for different people. People can go on for years just being comfortable in one place. And while there's a visible minority that just jumps from job to job for more pay with no regrets, a lot of us nerds prefer not taking a risk if we don't have to. A workplace that's not quite perfect can be preferrable to plunging into the unknows. So again, any turnaround for minor grievances and boredom will tend to be slow and gradual.

What we have here is basically a situation where everyone leaves as soon as the first one tells the others "hey guys, I got hired at Yahoo and guess what? They're hiring! Blow that joint and come over here." That tells me that they already wanted badly to leave, and probably just uncertainty kept them there.

The wake of a dot-com bust has left a lot of people just too affraid to leave even a bad job, and has given a lot of managers the idea that they can finally be the assholes they always wanted to be. And it even works for a while. But it just begs this kind of situation to happen: it only takes one "hey guys, this other company is hiring and they're not assholes" to just remove that barrier of fear, uncertainty and doubt keeping everyone in.

And much as I'd like to think that at least one manager has now learned a valuable lesson, he didn't. He'll blame it on Yahoo, he'll blame it on the employees, etc, and the go back to doing the same again.

Re:It can't be just that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698109)

I think you hit the mark. I've been working for a mid-sized company that has had three rounds of layouts. On every round the company has lost more of the workforce than they bargained for. In addition, some really talented employees have left the company over the last couple of years, probably in part because of these layouts.

Still, there has been no mass exodus. Some people are quite unhappy, but they're staying.

A friend of mine worked for a small company that had to close down an office. The developers really liked the work and the code ("their child"), and many of them wanted to continue even if they would have had to drive to another town. Unfortunately, their boss was an asshole. Most of the time they had been succesful in keepin him out of the way of the daily operations, but he really fumbled the "keeping the employees in the time of crisis" part. He started giving orders ("You do what I tell you!") and suddenly had a buch of unhappy developers who just wanted out. They lost most of the development team.

Another company even offered to hire the whole team, which I think is what happened on this case.

Re:Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699487)

You now have to type them into a computer to actually use the search results - so it's slower, more expensive and worse than typing the query.

Actually I would presume that Yahoo! is building some sort of VoiceXML [voicexml.org] application.

Re:Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697455)

...realise their on a sinking ship...

"their" is not short for "they are". "They're" is, however.
I provide this simple service for free.

Re:Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (1)

deesine (722173) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699199)

Well done.

May you live a long, and hopefully not lonely, life!

Re:Survivors, lifeboats blamed for shipwreck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699700)

these people realise their on a sinking ship

"they're".

Raid 10 (0)

billieja2 (848397) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697337)

Did they mirror and stripe them?

Re:Raid 10 (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697681)

No, but they defected because of a compensation parity error.

What else do you do? (4, Insightful)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697394)

OK, for whatever reason, all your engineers desert one day.

Do you look in the mirror and figure that you really fucked it up big? Are you really going to tell that to the shareholders --- sorry guys, I lost your company.

No -- you reach for your lawyer, claim you got "raided" and try to build the biggest sympathy case you can.

And if it works, when you are over, you tell folks, "I went up against Yahoo!. They got horribly dirty and tried to raid us. They succeeded in raiding 92% of the staff. But I fought back, we settled and the investors were happy. The only reason we didn't lose everything was due to my nerves of steel."

Re:What else do you do? (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697714)

You missed the part where a year later you get hired away by another company in an unrelated space because of your "superior reputation for team-building".

Unless... (1)

IWorkForMorons (679120) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697735)

Having recently been part of a mass exodus after a substantial layoff, there might be another scenario to play. He may say "I went up against Yahoo!. They got horribly dirty and tried to raid us. They succeeded in raiding 92% of the staff. But seeing as we were totally screw, we sold the company and the investors were happy. The only reason we didn't lose everything was due to my nerves of steel." Anyone left with the company below top brass will be screwed, but the investors will be happy and the boss will get a nice big bonus for salvaging a bad situation. It's a sad event to see, but all the signs are there for people to take a hint. Anyone who doesn't get out of that situation has only themselves to blame. I really hope anyone left at that company has plans to move on.

Only morons ... (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697929)

would fall for this BS. If there is a mass exodus, if I was top brass, I would be certain that the boss is at fault. I've seen good (as good as possible) PHBs retaining a group of 20 developers, 3 months salary behind, for one year, everyone with work proposals outside doubling their wages.

Re:Only morons ... (1)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699629)

Exactly. Think about the enthusiasm at a startup that is doing well, but lacks money. People fucking make sacrifices until it is clear that it is a dead duck. They don't have much to lose but a few months pay and some time. If anything, they improve their marketability as they finish.

I have to figure the guy in charge of managing those folks drove them all out.

Looks like (0, Troll)

metricmusic (766303) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697414)

another corp has ripped a page out of microsoft business practices.

Completely overblown (3, Insightful)

sfcat (872532) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697425)

So Nuance already has a speech engine with telephony support. And they were going to tie it in with a Yahoo web service. It is both an easy thing to implement (ignoring the speech recognition for a moment) and an impractical use of the technology (from both a marketing and engineering perspective).

The problem is accuracy of the speech recognition which is known to be less than usable. And it is expected that anyone, with no previous training of the speech recognition engine is going to be able to speak any query including proper names into a low bit rate channel (telephony) and the engine will work? I think a few people are getting the cart before the horse on this one.

Speech recognition is really, really, really, really, really, really, really hard. And only usable under optimum conditions and when you can give the engine hints on what the user might say. Neither of which will be true for this usage of the technology. So this is a tempest in a teapot to be sure.

And do these guys get to leave with the entire speech recongition engine? That doesn't sound right. It is Nuance's flagship product. I would imagine that Yahoo will still have to license a SR engine from Nuance (since they just merged with Scansoft) or IBM.

And finally, why is this better than some WML or similar application designed for a phone that can leverage graphics and text on the screen? It seems that this is a complicated piece of technology looking for a problem to solve.

Re:Completely overblown (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699895)

And finally, why is this better than some WML or similar application designed for a phone that can leverage graphics and text on the screen?

Because WML sucks rocks, not all phones have screens, and because many more people (at least here in the mobile-backwards US) are comfortable talking into a phone than puzzling their way through tiny screens.

It's not at all clear from the article what sort of application Yahoo! has in mind, but I know that Nuance has been working with speech reco in telephony applications for many years.

I integrated the Nuance reco engine into an IBM voice browser project for Sprint about three years ago, though I don't know how far the project ultimately got. It was ultimately supposed to re-implement Sprint's "Voice Command" feature as a VXML application. You did have to provide a grammar for possible utterances (and writing the code that generated the propriety format grammar that Nuance wanted from the JSGF that was the first VXML standard was some interesting hacking), but it was usable under non-ideal conditions.

I wonder what happend to the one engineer... (2, Funny)

xquark (649804) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697429)

I feel sorry for the guy, yahoo should pick him up too and be done with it.

Arash

Re:I wonder what happend to the one engineer... (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697536)

I wonder what happend to the one engineer...

I would imagine that his workload has increased, and he's now facing one *heck* of a deadline. On the plus side, he's on a good footing to demand a raise.

Re:I wonder what happend to the one engineer... (2, Insightful)

Almost-Retired (637760) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697701)

I doubt that yahoo would be interested without more time to investigate. Who knows, maybe he was part of the problem.

I've seen this happen before and the one who commented that it was probably slave driving management that caused the exodus is usually spot on. I mean come on now, Nuance just got bought, and these guys don't have a clue if they have a job next week. Refining your running skills just plain makes sense. As to taking their knowledge with them, as long as its not in the hardware form, and only wetware, I can't see as Nuance has a good leg to stand on.

--
Cheers, Gene

Raided? (5, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697436)

Okay, I must be behind on the current lingo... because when I read "Yahoo raided 12 engineers", I get an image of them hooking 12 engineers together to make some sort of Super Redundant Engineer.

Re:Raided? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697751)

If the price is right this could be a 'killer app,' allowing companies to hire one Super Redundant Engineer to replace that 90% of their current engineering staff who are redundant already.

KFG

Re:Raided? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698077)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of those engineers.

Re:Raided? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698199)

It's usually the lawyers that are redundant!

Re:Raided? (1)

David Rolfe (38) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699562)

Okay, I must be behind on the current lingo... because when I read "Yahoo raided 12 engineers", I get an image of them [...]

I got the picture of them sending in armed tac-squads... kind of like the intro movie to System Shock: Laser sights, rifles, scared hackers with their hands up, scary phrases on their computer screens like "REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE".

Less fictionally, to me raided still means what happened to Steve Jackson Games [sjgames.com] .

Re:Raided? (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699913)

Ooh! I want to be the hot spare in that array. That would be a sweet job.

work for however you want (3, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697460)

the thing is, people will work for whoever they want. fair enough they can't steal idea's and tech from their former employers. but companys do NOT have the right to devalue you through overly strict non compets in order to prevent you improving your position in life. that goes against every ideal of any capitalist nation. increasingly i see corperations attempting to turn employment into the new serfdom. they demand total loyalty from employees while reserving the right to lay off 1000's just to pump up profits a few %.

bottom line, is if i have experience in something and i'm good at it, i'll work for ever i want and anyone who has anything to say about it can just fuck off.

Re:work for however you want (2, Interesting)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698148)

So lets say I have an idea. Its a good idea, maybe a great idea. And lets say I hire a couple of people who know what they are doing to research it, check out the competition. Then I put in the money to get a premises, get equipment installed, and get some HR people to find and hire some engineers to implement the idea. Using their training and skills to complete it, while collecting a healthy wage every week, and being instructed on what exactly these ideas are. When the work is done, the marketing and sales people swing into action, to let others know about my good and valuable idea, and advertisements are paid for on a wide variety of media.

Before I can get the last part going though, some nimrod middle manager decides he isn't getting enough attention and power, and takes the whole kit and kaboodle to a much larger and more powerful company, with marginal interest in my field. In fact, I had been negotiating with them to licence my idea. This fucknuts then decides that since he by himself doesn't really know a thing, he needs to pull along some others to pump up his wages, and circulates around an email. Since these people are used to doing what he tells them anyway, its easy to just go with the herd.

And this is what has happened here.

Now what you are saying has merit, no doubt. But if you want to play the game of doing the work on the projects and then skating off to the competition, you won't get work with me or anyone else. Here's what I suggest you do. Get your own ideas, pay for your own research, plant, and equipment, do your idea yourself, if you can, and then pay to market it. Then you can tell anyone you like to fuck off. Until then, fuck off.

Re:work for however you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698978)

The "nimrod middle manager" here obviously had quite a bit of power. Upper management at Nuance/ScanSoft made a grave miscalculation. If this technology and the people making it were as important as they say, they could have done more to keep those people around. Instead they were taken for granted and now Nuance needs to just suck it up and accept that this is the consequence of mismanagement. Going crying to the courts to try to clean up their mistake is just pathetic.

Re:work for however you want (1)

jadavis (473492) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699164)

I think that's what non-compete clauses are for.

The article didn't say anything about a non-compete clause. There should have been one, and if there is, it's actionable, and if not, it's not actionable.

Non compete clauses are basically OK as long as:
(1) They are not overly broad;
(2) You still have avenues for a similar level of employment; and
(3) It's not for an unreasonable duration

OR they pay you a huge severance in one way or another to compensate for your unemployability.

Re:work for however you want (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699436)

Before I can get the last part going though, some nimrod middle manager decides he isn't getting enough attention and power, and takes the whole kit and kaboodle to a much larger and more powerful company, with marginal interest in my field.

If you have been treating your employees right, then most of them won't follow that "nimrod middle manager". If they do, then that means that you were the "nimrod top executive" who shouldn't have been allowed to run a company in the first place, no matter how good your idea is or how hard you've been working.

Re:work for however you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699756)


What makes you think it's people like you who have the ideas in engineering companies?

In any non-startup situation it's usually the people on the ground who have the ideas, at least the technical ideas that we're discussing here. Management and investors may have the idea for a market niche, but everyone in the industry will be aware of that sort of idea as soon as the job listings or business plans go out.

If any of these engineers are taking any specific invention with them to Yahoo, well, that's what the patent system is for. More likely, all they're taking is some general expertise in how to build speech recognizers and their interfaces.

I work in speech. Industry ideas lag academic ideas in this field by a fair margin, and all the interesting approaches are widely published and have been tried by a dozen groups. The real value is in having a large integrated (and debugged) system and a lot of knowledgeable people who know the code. They're taking the people (who don't want to work for Scansoft), but they'll have to start over with a new codebase they have no experience with.

Businesses owners complain about unions, minimum wages, and about any job security laws that restrict their ability to lay off entire teams at once, and they demand everyone sign "at will" employment agreements. How many times have you heard some free market libertarian say, "If you don't like the way $company is treating you, quit"? You can't have it both ways. If you can fire them as a group because they cost too much, they can quit as a group because they're getting too little.

I've always felt that engineering companies should be organized more like law firms or Wall Street banks. If the workers are that valuable to you, you should have made them partners. If the entire dev team at a company that was just acquired by a rival doesn't have enough equity to keep them tied to their jobs, then it was incredibly arrogant of senior management of both companies to think they could get away keeping such a big share of the pie for themselves.

What about the output? (2, Insightful)

Bad to the Ben (871357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697479)

If they were going to allow querying of search engines via telephone, how where they going to have the results returned to the customer? Where they going to have the computer at the other end "read-out" the results? Surely that would take a large amount of processing power, be hard for the user to take in (too much information being spoken without the ability to ask to repeat, like you would with a human), and take forever (computers talk slow: "You...have...(pause) [new voice]three[/new voice] (pause)...search...results. (pause)To...read...aloud...press...). If they were planning on using it with mobile phones and displaying the results on the screen, why not just browse with WAP (or a similar tech) to Yahoo's site and search the normal way?

Unless, of course, they meant for users to query by microphone whilst sitting at the computer. In that case, why not just use existing voice recognition software to tell your computer to go to Yahoo! and search for what you want?

Doesn't make sense to me. IMHO, it's redundant and it's not even finished yet. I can see why the engineers left.

Re:What about the output? (1)

Jeff85 (710722) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697516)

computers talk slow: "You...have...(pause) [new voice]three[/new voice] (pause)...search...results. (pause)To...read...aloud...press...

... Please... be... reminded... you... are... being... charged... a... small... [new voice] large fee of $5.99 [/new voice] a [new voice] minute [/new voice]... for... this... service. (pause) Have... a... nice... day...

Re:What about the output? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697576)

There are other ways of sending information to a mobile phone: SMS would be the logical alternative.

Re:What about the output? (1)

Bad to the Ben (871357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697621)

The results wouldn't necessarily fit in a single SMS though, if you include a summary, an address and some kind of code that the customer can quote to indicate which result they want to browse to. I mean, "best pizza in new york" (including quotes) yields over 6000 results. There's no way you could include all of them in one SMS. Even 100 messages would be stretching it.

Re:What about the output? (1)

HidingMyName (669183) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698094)

What about using WAP or some html based response. Just because the user uses voice input does not mean that has to be the output.

Re:What about the output? (1)

magicchex (898936) | more than 8 years ago | (#13699580)

Google already does this.

Re:What about the output? (1)

eraserewind (446891) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698166)

Probably because using a numeric keypad is hard to enter stuff with. If the voice query worked well it would be a lot faster especially for > 1 word searches. It would of course have to work very well for it to be anything other than a gimmick, but hey, maybe it does.

What is obsolete ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697480)

I wonder what Paul Graham would think about this case after his essay "hiring is obsolete", maybe sould he renamed it "being hired is obsolete" ?

Re:What is obsolete ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699132)

Paul Graham would think about this case after his essay "hiring is obsolete"

Since this case includes Yahoo we'll be treated to how he sold Viaweb to them. Even if it didn't include Yahoo he'll find a way to include it.

I'll bet Nuance's HR manager.... (3, Funny)

stygar (539704) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697498)

...is really regretting the number of times he used the "I think 3% is a pretty good raise in the current business climate" line during the last performance review cycle.

Hmm, an HR drone on pogey - I like the sound of that.

Re:I'll bet Nuance's HR manager.... (1)

RealisticCanadian (850967) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697518)

Yeah. Love that image, dude.

PS: For any of us not up to snuff on employment lingo, pogey is employment insurance, unemployment insurance, or whatever name for a social assistance program your respective government cooked up.

/end useless addition to the discussion

Dogbert! (2, Funny)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697584)

Dogbert, evil HR manager, finally gets his due. Gotta love that!

Re:Dogbert! (1)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697731)

You mean Catbert!

Re:Dogbert! (1)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698235)

Oh, yeah. Geez, I feel dumb.

Dude, you lost! (4, Insightful)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697546)

Scenario: this startup approaches Yahoo to be bought out. Yahoo, being a survivor of the Bubble, feigns interest (or perhaps is genuinely interested - we may never know). Nuance previews the technology they've developed to apply search queries over the phone. Yahoo doesn't care for that particular technology, but likes the engineers. They don't like all the engineers, and they don't like the management.

Rather than fund technology that won't fly, paying millions of dollars to a bunch of know-nothing empty suits, they decide to hire the engineers to work on something else, or on a better way to do the same thing.

The reason we may never know whether this was an underhanded theft of technology or a bunch of valiant sailors deserting a sinking ship is that Yahoo may now offer a settlement to the Nuance suits. They'll get their money, shut up, and go away. Yahoo gets the good parts of Nuance, but doesn't have to pay really big bucks to the parasites.

Or Yahoo could play hardball and stick to the story I've just painted. They could end up paying less to the lawyers than the Nuance suits would cost. And any publicity is good publicity.

75% Business Plan (1, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697635)

I think I've figured out where their "75%" figure comes from:

1. Purchase speech recognition software
2. Purchase telephone
3. ???
4. Profit!

Re:75% Business Plan (3, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697687)

3. Implement real-time interactive phone sex engine based on vocal likeness of Jenna Jameson

Supprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13697680)

After all Yahoo is in the search business ...

Stop whining (4, Funny)

oman_ (147713) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697697)

Oh come on. This just gives them an excuse to get even CHEAPER engineering talent from places like India and Russia! These self-important engineers are doing them a favor by leaving. I mean they still have all the money-counting talent in house which is what's really important right?

Couldn't help but notice this... (1)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697736)

...but when I viewed the page, there was this topical ad [freeimagehosting.net] beneath the article. Do you think that someone is hoping to jump in and pick up the pieces when these two flame each other out? :)

What happened to the article... (4, Insightful)

Tarwn (458323) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697779)

I was going to respond to one or two other posters, until I realized that about 90% didn't make it past the first section ofthe article...either that or we are reading completely differant articles...Somehow I am missing the "they should have gotten a raise", "the company was a sinking ship", "the company was looking to get bought out by Yahoo", etc comments that I have seen so far...

Tech company that already has speech products on market and is working on better one, is bought out by competitor. VP of R&D ``began agitating for more authority'' as company is being acquired. Denied. Pissed off VP. Said VP then emails his resume and list of 13 coworkers to himself as well as a proposed organizational plan for a new R&D dept. Also starts swapping emails with Yahoo. Goes off to a job at Yahoos brand new speech lab, soon followed by all of the people on his list...

To me this sounds like they were gutted by yahoo, but passively. It doesn't look (from this one article) that Yahoo actiavely recruited them away, but that one pissed off manager asked Yahoo to more or less bribe him, then took everyone he needed to build a new speech lab...I think, if this article portrays things acurately, that the VP is at fault, but that Yahoo might be a little complicit for accepting his plan.

As far as the article claiming this type of litigation is "emerging over the last year", I have to disagree. Maybe it was only newsworthy for the past year, but it was going on before that. Hell, my company was sued two years ago because one of our guys got two other previous coworkers hired on. Their original company attempted to sue us, though I believe it was thrown out since we are in another field completely, didn't actively recruit them, etc. Kind of the opposite of the article in fact (even numbers wise, we hired 3 out of 30+ I think).

Re:What happened to the article... (3, Insightful)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698487)

And the moral of the story is : If your VP of R&D has an excellent working relationship with all the Senior Software Engineers working on the flagship project your company is developing (this guy is known as Enterprise Technologist where I work) - don't piss him off.

Pretty simple.

Lets face it - most hard core tech geeks don't work for a specific company or even a specific technology ... we work for a great alpha-technologist. I would follow my alpha-tech into a burning building and not even ask why until after the fact. Those of you that are truly happy at work know the guy I'm talking about - those of you that don't know what I am talking about are either the alpha-tech with a devoted following, or probably pretty unhappy at work.

Sounds like Nuance should have made the guy an executive.

Good for the engineers! (5, Insightful)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13697816)

I have a feel for what was happening here, reading between the lines of TFA. Top management was busy negotiating a merger with ScanSoft under which they stood to make a fortune. To maximise their profit from the deal, they wanted to make the company's financials look as good as possible. So, postpone any remuneration increases for staff and any capital expenditure on new equipment. Basically, the executives could not have cared a dime for whether the staff was happy provided they got their dream deal.

The R&D department, after bitching about what is happening for months, finds a way that they can cut themselves a much better deal. Now the executives are bent out of shape because the employees will not agree to get shafted for their benefit.

Key Point: Nuance was being bought by Scansoft (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698283)

When the 13 engineers went to Yahoo, Nuance was being acquired by Scansoft. That acquisition has since closed and Nuance is now part of Scansoft. Scansoft is infamous for buying out its competitors, "laying off" all the acquired employees, and "retiring" the acquired products. They've done it over and over again.

For example: Last year Scansoft bought a company called Rhetorical. Rhetorical sold a speech synthesizer that was better and cost less than Scansoft's. Just one year later Rhetorical is a dead product. Scansoft has fired all but one Rhetorical employee and they are pushing Rhetorical customers to buy the less-capable Scansoft RealSpeak speech synthesizer for a higher price.

Thanks to this notorious reputation, the Nuance engineers knew they had at most one year of employment left after Scansoft takes over. Scansoft would probably pay them to finish the project - but they almost certainly would then get canned.

Would you stay in these circumstances? I wouldn't.

PS: Yahoo isn't the only one hiring speech research engineers left and right. Google has hired dozens of speech engineers from Nuance, Scansoft, and other companies in the last year. Remember the guy in China Google hired that Microsoft got all pissy and sued Google about? Guess what he and many of his Chinese co-workers were hired to do at Microsoft originally: Speech research.

Would this qualify as forced retention? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698287)

There seems to be an increasing amount of forced retention [wikipedia.org] in the industry, where employees get sued over leaving. Microsot seems to be doing it wholesale, and now some startups are too... Usually, if employees leave, it means that the company they left has a problem -- not that the new company is doing something wrong (although there are examples of the latter). I've seen mass exoduses where a big company wants to kill a little company, so they hire away key employees (often making up jobs). It is a way of throwing money at the problem of a startup undermining your business. Microsoft did that to Borland, if I recall correctly. I'm wondering which this is.

Oh the joys of non free software! (2)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698472)

Once again, emotional attachment to code evaporates when exposed to a paycheck. That 75% finished code will never see the light of day and 12 of 13 developers don't care.

Once again, code ownership will spawn lawsuits. How much of this can society really afford?

While I'm ordinarily inclined to feel bad for the victim of such obviously anti-competitive practices, it's hard to feel bad for software owners. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

Here's a good reason to use free software: It can't be stolen out from under you.

Re:Oh the joys of non free software! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699863)

Mr. Twitter you are a nitwit. Slashdot has been ruined by idiots like you.

Relationship Nuance and the people who quit (2, Informative)

thallgren (122316) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698551)

If they had said "co-owners" I would have understand why they are upset, but the wording "worker" make the whole thing sound like, "we can get them in droves, so don't pay them too much".

Regards, Tommy

I wouldn't want to work for ScanSoft either. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13698784)

I was a long-term intern at another company when they got bought by ScanSoft and ScanSoft tried to screw me over too. Interns don't get any benefits, but I had negotiated with the company that was being bought to get paid holidays (not vacation, just holidays). ScanSoft tried to take that away. Unfortunately for ScanSoft, they didn't make me sign a new contract when they took over, so I just stomped my feet a little and they gave in. It couldn't have amounted to more than a couple hundred dollars overall, so I'm not sure why they chose to be difficult. The corporate culture at ScanSoft is very dreary. Not to mention the fact that they've bought what amounts to about ten different speech technology companies over the past 5 years, so the whole place is a technology and corporate culture integration nightmare.

I applaud those Nuance engineers for getting out. Yahoo is probably a much more exciting place to work, because Nuance has been a sinking ship, financial speaking, for quite some time.

1-800-TELL-ME (1)

telstar (236404) | more than 8 years ago | (#13698973)

You mean you can get information? For free? On the phone?
No way!

Interestingly enough, this tells us a LOT about what services Yahoo! plans! to! offer! in the future. It was an obvious next service offering, but this lawsuit confirms it.

Re:1-800-555-TELL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13699099)

Parent means 1-800-555-TELL (1-800-555-8355)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>