Apple culture of secrecy claimed to cause Swift lead's exit, but Chris Lattner denies repo...

Posted:
in Mac Software edited March 2017
According to colleagues, Swift developer Chris Lattner reportedly left Apple because of a culture of secrecy within the company -- a claim that Lattner denies.




"He always felt constrained at Apple in terms of what he could discuss publicly -- resorting to off-the-record chats, surprise presentations, and the like," one of Lattner's self-proclaimed colleagues told Business Insider. "Similarly, I know he was constrained in recruiting and other areas. Eventually I know that can really wear people down."

Given the relatively open-source nature of Swift, Lattner can continue to contribute to the language, to some extent even after his recently announced departure from Apple.

Lattner studied computer science at the University of Portland, Ore. After being one of the co-authors of LLVM, Lattner was hired by Apple in 2005, and was instrumental in the advancement of Xcode, Apple's OpenGL implementation, and every aspect of Apple's Swift rollout and continued development.

Lattner was hired by Tesla, and is the company's Vice President of Autopilot Software. At the time of Lattner's departure, Apple coder Ted Kremenek was selected to lead the Swift development team.

Update:
Since Business Insider's original report, Lattner has taken to Twitter to refute the claims of being stymied by secrecy.

My decision has nothing to do with "openness". The "friend" cited is either fabricated or speculating. Folk just want to make look bad.

-- Chris Lattner (@clattner_llvm)

Not just a problem for coders

Apple had a problem with secrecy in dealing with artificial intelligence academics. Until recently, Apple researchers weren't allowed to publish findings, or cooperate with colleagues to advance the field as a whole.

At December's Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference, Apple Director of Artificial Intelligence Research Russ Salakhutdinov announced that Apple employees in artificial intelligence were allowed, and in some cases encouraged to both publish, and "engage with academia."

In August, former Apple Watch heart rate sensor engineer Bob Messerschmidt pointed out the same issues. Messerschmidt claimed that under CEO Steve Jobs, stealth was employed mainly to elicit a big surprise from the public and press when a product was ultimately announced. After Jobs' death, the engineer believed that Apple uses secrecy to "maintain an empire," or make projects feel more important than they really are.

Partly as a result of Apple's secrecy culture, Apple's former global data center network manager Jason Forrester broke free, and founded networking company Snaproute. Forrester's company has the stated goal to "free talented network engineers to do their job to the best of their ability, unconstrained by vendor lock-in."

"Slowly, our desire to share our ideas with the world began to overshadow the thrill and pride of working for Apple," Forrester recalled in June. "My team and I left in 2015. Truth be told, I spent a few days crying on the couch."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    edited January 2017 SpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    And I've been, for many more than three years. So what?

    To the larger point -- I am not a making value judgment, but rather, just an observation -- in an increasingly 'social,' big data, network externalities, analytics-driven world driving the consumption of good and services, Apple's go-it-alone and keep-cards-close-to-vest strategy might get tougher and tougher to pull off. Developing more partnerships, sharing, and collaborations are increasingly the order of the day. 
    edited January 2017 SoliSpamSandwichgatorguypalominebrucemc
  • Reply 3 of 60
    prokipprokip Posts: 150member
    Are you listening Tim Cook, are you listening??  Steve has gone.  Now work out what areas and products really need secrecy and what areas do not.  Otherwise lose good people who actually give a s**t !!
    cali
  • Reply 4 of 60
    Apple's go-it-alone and keep-cards-close-to-vest strategy might get tougher and tougher to pull off. Developing more partnerships, sharing, and collaborations are increasingly the order of the day. 
    And less useful. The era of truly groundbreaking releases is over. It was very useful to keep the iPhone as secret as possible, because it dropped like a bomb. It's another thing entirely when the only "secret" is that it has 16 Mpx instead of 12. The only thing that truly surprises me at Apple announcements now is what useful feature they removed.

    anantksundaramyojimbo007
  • Reply 5 of 60
    I have been known (past) to let off steam at frustrations (sort of like a pressure cooker has to let off steam) when talking to colleagues I trust, but I don't think I have ever mentioned why I left a company and taken a job elsewhere.  If you asked them after the fact, they would likely tell you of my frustrations and how they were why I left, but in almost all cases it would be wrong.  Every job every company I have worked for I have had frustrations, but that is normal.... you rarely agree with everything.... and it can be frustrating when you know you are right and you can't do it the right way.  Of course knowing you are right, is not the same as always being right.... especially when your context may be more limited due to need to know about or other reasons why you may not be privy to certain information.

    Apple is secretive, but then most companies I have worked for don't really appreciate you discussing ongoing projects with people outside the company.... so if that is the reason.... he might have to eventually move to an open source company (and even then there might be some secrecy) or back to academia.
    macplusplusmacxpressGBannisbrucemc
  • Reply 6 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    And I've been, for many more than three years. So what?
    My point is the regular Apple hand-wringers have been all over the interwebs trying to paint this as more DOOM, a Cook failing, yada yada, when the reality is most people don't stay w/ a tech employer for over a decade as these last two guys in the news have. Most people change jobs more frequently. In 17 years of Fortune 100 tech employment I can count on one hand the guys I know who put in a decade w/ one gig.
    edited January 2017 brucemc
  • Reply 7 of 60

    prokip said:
    Are you listening Tim Cook, are you listening??  Steve has gone.  Now work out what areas and products really need secrecy and what areas do not.  Otherwise lose good people who actually give a s**t !!
    What absolute nonsense, a true low value post. Also, pro tip: Cook doesn't read these forums.
    edited January 2017 mike1brucemcleavingthebiggstanthemanroundaboutnowIcisz
  • Reply 8 of 60
    mubailimubaili Posts: 399member
    bkkcanuck said:
    I have been known (past) to let off steam at frustrations (sort of like a pressure cooker has to let off steam) when talking to colleagues I trust, but I don't think I have ever mentioned why I left a company and taken a job elsewhere.  If you asked them after the fact, they would likely tell you of my frustrations and how they were why I left, but in almost all cases it would be wrong.  Every job every company I have worked for I have had frustrations, but that is normal.... you rarely agree with everything.... and it can be frustrating when you know you are right and you can't do it the right way.  Of course knowing you are right, is not the same as always being right.... especially when your context may be more limited due to need to know about or other reasons why you may not be privy to certain information.

    Apple is secretive, but then most companies I have worked for don't really appreciate you discussing ongoing projects with people outside the company.... so if that is the reason.... he might have to eventually move to an open source company (and even then there might be some secrecy) or back to academia.
    yea, plus LLVM and Clang etc have been opensourced for many years, and Swift is opensourced too. it seems CL's area is the most open part of Apple. anyway, he got a much deserved promotion moved to TESLA. So congratulation to him.
  • Reply 9 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    And I've been, for many more than three years. So what?
    My point is the regular Apple hand-wringers have been all over the interwebs trying to paint this as more DOOM, a Cook failing, yada yada, when the reality is most people don't stay w/ a tech employer for over a decade as these last two guys in the news have. Most people change jobs more frequently. In 17 years of Fortune 100 tech employment I can count on one hand the guys I know who put in a decade w/ one gig.
    Oh, stop with the "hand-wringer" strawmen. I could care less what your "interwebs" say. I am interested in the conversation here. 

    The fact that you've seen something in your career amounts to a hill of beans. Why don't you then explain Cook, Ive, Schiller, Cue, Frederighi, pretty much every board member of Apple, etc. and how much they "...put in w/one gig"? 
    avon b7gatorguycalibrucemc
  • Reply 10 of 60

    prokip said:
    Are you listening Tim Cook, are you listening??  Steve has gone.  Now work out what areas and products really need secrecy and what areas do not.  Otherwise lose good people who actually give a s**t !!
    What absolute nonsense, a true low value post. Also, pro tip: Cook doesn't read these forums.
    Unless you are Tim Cook you have no idea if he reads this forum or not. The post that you berate is spot on.
  • Reply 11 of 60
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,954member
    I wonder if the difficulties that Apple has had in winning patent lawsuits led to the "doubling down" on secrecy. Perhaps management concluded that by keeping things secret for as long as possible, they can make money off of their innovations a bit longer before the copycats catch up. 

    That would be a pretty understandable motivation, but they might have taken things too far. Perhaps they need to find a better balance. 

    One good thing about Cook (and Jobs before him) is that he shows a willingness to change course when things aren't working. A great example is when he quickly replaced that terrible guy he hired to lead the retail operation. Now he's got Ahrendts and she seems to be doing a good job. 
    cali
  • Reply 12 of 60
    mytdavemytdave Posts: 438member
    Secrecy might not be the best idea for a project that's going to be open sourced, but for most other stuff it's absolutely critical for Apple, especially since their competitors are going to rip off everything they make once it's released. Product must remain secret during development so their competitors don't steal it before it's even out of the gate.
    StrangeDaysrob53palominebrucemc
  • Reply 13 of 60
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,012member
    Without secrecy/confidentiality is ket to every corporation. Otherwise, you let your competitors give information sooner before product launch that can hurt your company, your job..
    calibrucemc
  • Reply 14 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    And I've been, for many more than three years. So what?
    My point is the regular Apple hand-wringers have been all over the interwebs trying to paint this as more DOOM, a Cook failing, yada yada, when the reality is most people don't stay w/ a tech employer for over a decade as these last two guys in the news have. Most people change jobs more frequently. In 17 years of Fortune 100 tech employment I can count on one hand the guys I know who put in a decade w/ one gig.
    Oh, stop with the "hand-wringer" strawmen. I could care less what your "interwebs" say. I am interested in the conversation here. 

    The fact that you've seen something in your career amounts to a hill of beans. Why don't you then explain Cook, Ive, Schiller, Cue, Frederighi, pretty much every board member of Apple, etc. and how much they "...put in w/one gig"? 
    It's not a straw man -- even on AI there are plenty of people in the original story comments who used this as an opportunity to wring their hands over the sign of impending DOOM this surely means.

    Like I said, I work in big tech and a guy staying for over a decade is rare. Citing the very top echelon of executive leadership with their millions upon millions of personal stock investment has very little bearing on the conversation of what is normal. You get that, right?
    edited January 2017 brucemc
  • Reply 15 of 60
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,744member
    With a few very specific exceptions, Apple's culture of secrecy is key to their success. Whether they're particularly good at that secrecy *today* is beside the point. The reasons for it are understandable.

    Those who don't fit that culture shouldn't stay. It's just that simple. 
    StrangeDaysLoneStar88calibrucemc
  • Reply 16 of 60

    scottkrk2 said:
    Apple's place in the world has changed, under Steve Jobs Apple was an innovator and a leader, now it has become a follower with a great legacy of design, retail, engineering and supply chain management that Jobs built up over a decade.

    Apple management needs to change it's approach to adapt to its new place in the world and ditch the secrecy.

    PS Could someone please tell Phil Schiller that he is not channeling Steve Jobs or being 'courageous' by dropping 3.5mm headphone on the iPhone 7 (Apple should have waited to next year's new design), neither was ditching USB-A ports, magsafe, etc on the new MBP (should have just replaced the two TB ports with USBC/TB3 ports).
    Sour grapes nonsense. Apple isn't following with the best smartphone, tablet, notebooks, desktops, payment system, smartwatch, and now wireless headphones. Each of these devices has a mind-blowing amount of hardware engineering innovation, much of it invisible from the outside and thus overlooked by most. And you cite supply chain management but you do realize they're still king of JIT supply chain and Cook brought that.

    But oh, not enough legacy USB ports. Uh huh.
    LoneStar88calitmaybrucemcroundaboutnowIcisz
  • Reply 17 of 60
    twa440 said:

    prokip said:
    Are you listening Tim Cook, are you listening??  Steve has gone.  Now work out what areas and products really need secrecy and what areas do not.  Otherwise lose good people who actually give a s**t !!
    What absolute nonsense, a true low value post. Also, pro tip: Cook doesn't read these forums.
    Unless you are Tim Cook you have no idea if he reads this forum or not. The post that you berate is spot on.
    It is a spot-on troll trope, yes.

    If you think the busiest man at the biggest public company on earth is reading your posts on a rumor site, well....that's a pretty nice bubble.
    cali
  • Reply 18 of 60
    Maybe who "feel more important than they are" are those very people themselves?
  • Reply 19 of 60

    scottkrk2 said:
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    So what does your employment history have to do with Apple losing high calibre people like Chris Lattner because of secrecy?
    You have six posts and they're all whining about Apple. Forgive me if I weight your input accordingly low.
    brucemcroundaboutnowNotsofast
  • Reply 20 of 60
    I've never been with a single job for more than three years. 
    And I've been, for many more than three years. So what?
    My point is the regular Apple hand-wringers have been all over the interwebs trying to paint this as more DOOM, a Cook failing, yada yada, when the reality is most people don't stay w/ a tech employer for over a decade as these last two guys in the news have. Most people change jobs more frequently. In 17 years of Fortune 100 tech employment I can count on one hand the guys I know who put in a decade w/ one gig.
    Oh, stop with the "hand-wringer" strawmen. I could care less what your "interwebs" say. I am interested in the conversation here. 

    The fact that you've seen something in your career amounts to a hill of beans. Why don't you then explain Cook, Ive, Schiller, Cue, Frederighi, pretty much every board member of Apple, etc. and how much they "...put in w/one gig"? 
    It's not a straw man -- even on AI there are plenty of people in the original story comments who used this as an opportunity to wring their hands over the sign of impending DOOM this surely means.

    Like I said, I work in big tech and a guy staying for over a decade is rare. Citing the very top echelon of executive leadership with their millions upon millions of personal stock investment has very little bearing on the conversation of what is normal. You get that, right?
    Yeah, I "get that."  Not sure you do, if you think people like Cook and Ive are staying on at Apple because they have "millions upon millions of personal stock investment."  That's pure, unmitigated nonsense made up to support your false premise. Please move along...
    brucemcroundaboutnowavon b7
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