Friday, March 28, 2014

More on Ageism in Silicon Valley

I came across this post by Tim Worstall on Pando yesterday. At first it made me chuckle -- it reminded me of a topic that I wrote about recently -- clearly there is a bit of a content zeitgeist here.

While I'm not a big fan of the Pando post, it did link me to this piece by Noam Scheiber in the New Republic. The New Republic article reminds me of another one that I found in a search during some of the reseearch on my post. That article featured discussions about plastic surgery, people dying their hair, and how the clothing people wore during interviews changed improved some of their results.

Sometimes when you read these broad-brush thematic articles about how there are not enough women or minorities in tech, you can't help but feel the shadow of some academic or journalist looking for an angle to drive eyeballs. Meanwhile, a short trip through the bay area can be a vivid reminder of the reality of just how incredibly diverse the area is.

At the same time, Scheiber's piece works better as it spans hiring, culture, and even VC funding. The culture here is shifting, and not necessarily for the better.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Moneyball and Hiring: Why Businesses Don't Know How to Find Talent

By this time, most people are familiar with Moneyball, whether through the book or the movie, so it's not unfair to expect people to have applied some of the general ideas to their areas of expertise. If you were to search right now, you could find a number pieces posted on Moneyball and hiring. I think that we can safely say that the overall thematic notion has permeated our collective conscious. So why then do so many businesses suck at hiring and building amazing teams?

Forget about individuals for a minute. Instead, think about the predefined restrictions we place on the people we hire. I talked about ageism in this previous post, but there are many other ways. Google, famously, had it's brain teasers even though they later came out and said that the puzzles didn't correlate to better employees. Similarly, they have made college ranking and GPA into an important criteria. And what about all of those job listings that specify experience within a given industry -- sure it might get you off the ground faster, but are you excluding some exceptional talent because of your one-dimensional conventional thinking (e.g. Scott Hatteberg only being a catcher)?

Consider, most tech job listings tend to set Engineering or Business degrees as the preferred background, while liberal arts degrees tend to outperform them on GMAT tests. Why are we focused on Business and Engineering degrees? Conventional wisdom says that they will have the background and training needed to succeed. But what if the real secret to a great team member is the ability to learn new things, to understand complex concepts, to analyze and problem solve? And what about communication? What if communication does not equal cutting and pasting bullets from a Powerpoint?

In that way, the Moneyball strategy is looking for undervalued aspects and using that as the target criteria. If the market puts a premium on young, on engineering degrees, on GPAs and top tier schools, then those aspects are probably expensive. Meanwhile, there are probably lots of bargain talent in the pool of older, experienced workers with liberal arts degrees. And yet, so many businesses and recruiters are reluctant to consider candidates from this pool. Why? Here are three reasons that I can think of immediately:
  1. An inclination to hire "like us" accompanied by an overall disregard for all things liberal arts. Remember President Obama's art history joke? When the guy who goes out of his way to avoid offending anyone uses a demographic as the focus of a joke, it's a telling perspective on 'common knowledge perception' of a liberal arts degree. The thematic aspect of this is the idea that, during college, we worked, we were focused on our future, while those liberal arts students all just read books, looked at art, film and music, or argued about philosophy. We were real world. They were the crazy ones, the dreamers.
  2. The inability to measure or score capabilities and understanding accurately. We all want smart people who fit well in our team, but so many aspects of the interview are stacked against us. There are typical questions that we're expected to ask -- we've published a list of requirements and most interviews are like standardized tests on those topics. Meanwhile, as candidates, we review the test criteria, prepare our answers, practice our delivery and look for tactical ways to deflect things that probe our weaknesses. But companies really want thinking, analyzing, capable, so companies like Google explore techniques like brain teasers -- and candidates begin preparing for brain teasers. But the real problem is, just like in academics, somebody can go through an exercise and produce an answer, an essay or a result that matches the accepted response, but still not have thought about it, analyzed it, or understood the why behind it. But with school, you have several months to shake things up, to ask variations on structure and content in an effort to explore the processing capabilities of the student. Job candidates are typically decided in a couple of interviews, but you never really get a measure until they are on the team and under fire.
  3. Recruiters, hiring managers, and what I'd call the "not shooting at the center effect". Some time ago, The Freakanomics guys did this podcast on soccer and the penalty kick. The basic premise was that, while it was a statistically underexploited approach that should yield more goals, when they have the opportunity to take a penalty shot, few players kick it toward the middle of the goal. The reasoning behind is that, if they do and the goalie stops it, the player looks like an idiot. In that same way, imagine a recruiter saying, "I found this really talented candidate, but they don't have the background that matches your criteria -- but I think that they are amazing." Not only will the amazing candidate probably still going to be looking for work, the recruiter probably will be as well.
Of course, all of this only matters if you need cognitive skills. Just because you understand the effect of heat on proteins doesn't mean you can fry an egg. If your looking for a production person like a line cook, you're probably better suited to hire someone that has repeatedly cooked eggs over an MIT thermal engineering graduate. But in the same way that most real world problems don't look like those word problems you saw on math tests, determining how to solve a problem isn't usually a basic execution problem. Consider the problem, "we need a brochure". Or another common one, "we need to find a new product that we can sell to a new market."

Years ago I was in Las Vegas as part of our company's team to help set up a networked product demonstration. We'd broght along a number of sample products, plus a product manager, an application engineering manager, our ace networking guy, and myself. On the night before the event, we spent several hours trying to set up this demonstration that involved a complicated bit of network routing. For hours, the network guy was trying different things to make it work, without success. After letting the experts bang away at it in frustration, at one point I asked some questions to better understand the problem. Shortly thereafter, I had to ask the question, couldn't you just do this? It was like a light clicked on for the network guy, and suddenly a solution to the problem became apparent. While, at the time, I lacked the specific vocabulary to detail the solution or the technical chops to implement it, I understood enough of the problem to spark a solution.

It's a different kind of thinking that enables these kinds of solutions. You may not need this kind of creative thinking if you're banging out eggs, but if you're an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty, then you need to be able to learn, adapt, and travel down new paths.

Moneyball Versus The Cheapskate
There are some businesses that look at the idea of bargain candidates as people that we don't have to pay very much because they will be grateful to get paid something. These types of businesses keep the threshold on salaries so low that only the most desperate will accept the salary and working conditions involved.

While you might be able to read this strategy into a Moneyball philosphy, it misses a key element in the psychology of enabling talent. Specifically, in order to get the best performances out of your team, you need people who are engaged, motivated, and want to participate. I could be the Albert Einstein of solving your business problem, but if you ask me to spend my day changing diapers, I'm relatively unlikely to direct much energy or passion into anything you put in front of me.

In that way, while Moneyball may seem like it's all about not paying people very much, what it's really about is finding undervalued talent. With the Scott Hatteberg example, the market was said you're worth zero as a player now and the A's said, we value you. From the mindset of the person being hired, they are being valued at more that their perceived market value versus not less. In practical terms, that means that you are offering them an opportunity, not exploiting them, which also correlates to engaged, involved output.

Moneyball and Your Hiring Strategy
So, if you're not thinking Moneyball in your hiring strategy, perhaps you should ask yourself why. More to the point, if you don't say anything, you're hiring team is also probably avoiding shooting at the center. Somebody like me -- I would probably never make it through even your first round of screening. So, the question is, do you want to keep playing to conventional wisdom or do you want to explore new approaches to building something great.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ageism, Statistical Discrimination and The Lost Civilization of Silicon Valley

With all of the back and forth about the cost of housing, Google buses, economic class warfare and other symptoms of something horribly wrong with things these days, I want to pull together something that is sort of a synthesis of several items to help fill in a few more dots on the changes in Silicon Valley. You might call this Part 2 of my endless rant on Silicon Valley Lost.

As I spent time reflecting on why the culture has changes so much, I was reminded of how much aspects of age have changed around here. When I first began working in tech back in the 1990s, I was one of the younger members of the staff. Demographically speaking, the workplace was reasonably well distributed in terms of age; young workers just out of college, middle aged workers that had been in the workplace for ten years or more, and older workers that had been around for a long time.

These days, much of that has shifted. Consider this data from research by Payscale:
  • While the overall median age of American Workers is 42.5, the oldest median age in the Payscale survey of technology workers was at Hewlett-Packard at 41 years.
  • The other five companies with older workers, in descending order of median age, were I.B.M. Global Services (38 years old), Oracle (38), Nokia (36), Dell (37) and Sony (36). Note that from this list Oracle is the only business that's primarily here in Silicon Valley.
  • The seven companies with the youngest workers, ranked from youngest to highest in median age, were Epic Games (26); Facebook (28); Zynga (28); Google (29); and AOL, Blizzard Entertainment, InfoSys, and Monster.com (all 30).
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only shoe stores and restaurants have workers with a median age less than 30.
You can look at that data and the companies and draw a lot of conclusions, but one that's noteworthy factor is that most of the companies in the youngest end of the rank are Internet and post-dot.com companies. Some of that probably goes back to a shift in thinking that took place back in the days of the dot.com era when part of the world wanted to invest everything in Internet clicks, and the brick and mortar world kept asking where the money was going to come from. Sure, some companies found ways to make money, but the conventional wisdom take-away was that the old guys just don't get it.

Perhaps, like this story about the economist on the dating site, hiring youth is more statistical discrimination than it is anything else. When I heard Stanford Professor Paul Oyer on the radio promoting his book, he also described some of the significant similarities between the dating world and the job market. To paraphrase something that he said during his KQED appearance, "like dating, both the employer and the job candidate must like each other and be interested in the relationship."

Whatever the reasoning behind it, working from a general recognition that today's emerging companies are less likely to hire older workers, you can draw some other conclusions; specifically, if there is a surging economy in the world of tech start-ups and if you don't belong to a specific demographic, then, like a Google bus, you're probably not getting on in. It matters little whether you are a nice person with a great personality, whether your interests are aligned, or even if you've been waiting at that public bus stop for a long time, you're not going to get on that bus.

Want to see what the impact of this trend has been? Here are a couple of links:
What you can see is that there isn't nearly the kind of growth out in the Avenues and the Sunset, the areas that tend to be older, quieter, more families. In that way, this is not a story of the awesomeness and desirability of the geography of San Francisco. Instead, it really highlights the demographics of this economic surge -- and the bystanders, or casualties, depending upon where you find yourself in relationship to that trend.

Today's Silicon Valley is trending Logan's Run. It's an Amazing place. There's just one catch. You are only allowed so many technology cycles before you're replaced by an H1B visa, an Ivy League intern or perhaps someone with not less than 4.6692 Likes on Facebook. Then, it's carrousel. Or you can run.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Comcast Comedy and my Cable Internet

Following my previously mentioned move, I had to select a new Internet service provider. After looking through the options for cost and bandwidth, I wound up with Comcast and their Xfinity cable service again. Just Internet though, no TV. I even decided to try their 50 Mbps service in order to gauge the performance, but the entire time I was wishing that I had other options for reasonably priced higher bandwidth connectivity.

So last week, I was trying to pay my bill. As we often do these days, I started with trying to pay my bill online at work. As I worked my way through the login screen and trying to get to my account, the first thing that I realized is that I would need the account number that was listed on the initial paper bill that they had sent me. It was also the only paper bill that I expected to receive from them, since I had signed up for electronic billing during the activation process. I should note that the self-activation and the bring-your-own-modem process were both pretty straightforward, and didn't leave me too frustrated. Anyway, realizing that I needed that account number, I delayed paying until I got home.

Once at home, I tried to log in using the account number, but Comcast's network insisted that I had already created an account. Since I didn't set up the account and didn't have the password, I tried to do a "I forgot my password" reset, but the system wouldn't let me and directed me to customer service.

BTW, a note for you prospective Comcast customer service users: after going through several communications channels, I recommend Online Chat. It's actually much more direct. While you might think phone would be quick or quicker, working your way through the phone system will frustrate you before you come close to interacting with a human -- unless you're calling sales.

So I'm in the online chat with the Comcast discussing this issue, and this is what the Comcast rep informs me:
Comcast Rep: Just to set proper expectations, in order for you to pay your bills online, you will need to use the Comcast Email, to manage your account.
Me: seriously?
Me: There is no way to change that?
Comcast Rep: We can attach your email only to receive the billing statements that is sent to your Comcast Email.
Comcast Rep: But to manage your account, we need to use the Comcast Email.
I then proceeded to explain how AT&T doesn't require that I create or us an AT&T email in order to manage my iPhone bill, nor does PG&E. And my customer service rep explained:
Comcast Rep: Please understand that this is to make sure your informations will be safe. This is for your own security.
That's right. Even though my bank, credit card companies and a host of others are comfortable with the security of me using a third party email address to manage my account, Comcast is not. Comcast would rather have me set up a new email account so that I am forced further into their system. Rather, let me correct that -- by default they set up an email account and they were so convinced that I would use it right away that they began sending my bill to that email address.

Ultimately I think I was able to get this sorted out. If you replace the term "Comcast Email" with "User Name", you can closely describe their system; it just has an email attached to it. Oh, and it starts out as the default email address for all of your account interaction. Imagine if you changed the communication above to "you can't manage your account without a Comcast user name." That would be one of those "duh" moments. Short answer: Comcast User Name should not equal Comcast Email Address.

In the end, I probably narrowly avoided another customer service call with them in a few days, trying to figure out why my Internet had suddenly stopped working, only to discover the root cause being the unpaid bill sitting in the email inbox of this unused account.

Recently, Google announced plans to build out Google Fiber in a number of cities here in the south bay. I, for one, can't wait. A high-bandwidth broadband service that's reasonably priced and not one of the entrenched monopolies carriers -- and they probably won't tie their managing your account to a Gmail account. Then again, they may use it to force you to into Google plus (sigh). We see. Still, more options can't come soon enough.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Even Techcrunch is Writing About Housing

It's been a long time since I looked at Techcrunch. After the AOL acquisition, then the terrible redesign, I found it rather frustrating to look at. I think Pandodaily serves up content better most of the time. Anyway, I found my way back there on Friday afternoon and I came across this post, It Doesn't Have To Be This Way by Kim-Mai Cutler. I found it eerily similar to the post that I published -- supported by a host of facts that probably help reinforce the story.

It's an interesting read, but the idea that the reason that BART doesn't span the Bay Area being that San Mateo county didn't want to pay to transport lucrative Santa Clara county residents through their district is a bit off. If it were that simple, you probably would have seen BART into San Jose 25-30 years earlier. But regardless of whether you buy the historical explanation or even whether you see BART as decent mass transit, the reality of "not enough regionally integrated rapid mass transit" is undeniable.

For me, the biggest difference between Cutler's piece and my own is that the Techcrunch piece is more of a "Can't we all Just Get Along" theme meets "Build More Houses". To me, it seems like there's a lot of that going on already and, as I mentioned in my post, I'm not sure that it's helping. Anyway, interesting to see the dialog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Moving On: Tales from Silicon Valley Lost

We've reached the end of 2013 and it's been a year filled with changes. In my world, one of the bigger changes underway is moving. It's with some melancholy that I find myself leaving Mountain View and the apartment where I've lived in since 1995. And, as we wrap up the year with packing, sorting, and throwing away things that have accumulated over the years, I find myself looking back over the years and the changes that we've been through.

There are many different reasons people move, but in one respect, there are really just two rather polar kinds of moves. One, where you find yourself launching into a new world, embarking on new adventures. And the other, where the ground beneath you drops away and you find yourself falling towards your new destination. One is full of hope and optimism. The other carries the sense of loss, of unrealized opportunities and unfulfilled dreams.

When I first moved back to the Bay Area back in 1991, I came out here with a handful of clothes, a sleeping bag, my bicycle and my electric guitar -- my amplifier got lost in the Greyhound luggage process. And now, twenty years later among all of the other stuff I need to move, I find myself with two bikes, a third frame, tons of loose bike parts, four guitars, an amp, various music electronics, and two sleeping bags with a host of associated camping gear.

The items that we accumulate all seem so important and necessary at the time. And yet, they can feel like such a burden when, looking back, you are faced with the reality that you haven't touched them in years. Even then, it's hard to let go of something when your mind tells you that you might use that again if you just get the right window of time. Even in the present day, it's hard to measure utility in your imagination.

Marking the Passage of Time
The great purge of stuff is a reminder of the many changes that have taken place over the years. Having experienced the desktop publishing revolution, the Internet, and then the cloud and Web 2.0, you can almost track the history of technology in the five or six outdated computers that I've had to get rid of. During the move, I finally decided to let go of my old Macintosh Quadra 840av. While I'd used school and work computers for several years before then, the 840av marked the first computer that I owned (not including the old Timex). Innovative for what it was at the time, it featured an on-board DSP to accelerate processes like Photoshop filters. It could also be used as a software modem when coupled with a Geoport adapter. I think it was the last of Apple's 68-series processor Macs. You can also mark all of the technologies that have gone away since that system: floppy drives, SCSI drives, the Apple display connector, modems, dial-up, and the capacity -- my iPhone has more storage than that system ever had, even with both of it's hard drives and the Syquest drives that I used to depend on.

And then there's the story told through the software. Stacks and stacks of original install floppy disks. Variations on desktop publishing tools -- Quark, Pagemaker, Freehand and Illustrator, software to rip Postscript on an inkjet printer so that you could proof your work. And who could forget all of the software from Kai Krause -- while the Internet generation still uses Photoshop and may have heard of Kai's Power Tools, few of them probably remember the days when he was a rock star at Macworld or the Seybold Conference. And then, there were all of my other software tools, the 3D rendering software packages, the various generations of Fractal Design Painter, software that no longer runs on the current OS versions, even as the processing power has dwarfed it's requirements. It's ironic that my old set of water colors has retained more utility.

Looking back at marketing, there are all of those things that used to be important but matter so much less now. Take printing -- having finished shredding documents that amounted to more than 12 trashbags of paper and materials, there's part of me that doesn't want to produce another piece of paper ever again. And graphic design -- in the world of web publishing, with A/B testing and SEO, I always try to explain that aesthetics takes a back seat to performance, measured analytically. Or tradeshows, most of which struggle to bring a fraction of the attendees that they might have 15 years ago -- why go to a tradeshow when you can get better information on the web? For every one of these, there are a host of companies in the support chain that have faded or disappeared, jobs that have come and gone.

Sometimes you hold onto the bits and pieces of stuff, the props for that moment you imagine when you can tell that story, "here is how this idea came together." And then when you find yourself looking at the pieces 15 years later and realizing that, not only is there no audience for your message, the medium is obsolete and the industry is gone.

A Home is not a House
For all of the changes in technology and industry, time has brought a cultural shift here that feels like a deeper loss. In many ways, the notion of community is gone -- ironic when you consider how frequently that term is used in social network software. You might argue that it's just me looking through the lens of time, but there is more too it than that.

Take the story of my apartment complex as an example. When we first moved there, way back when, there was a strong community there. There was a mix of young professionals and older residents, with a significant percentage of the community that were, by some apartment standards, long term residents. And they weren't long term residents because of rent control or they were trapped by the terms of a lease; they were there because it was a good place to call home.

The resident manager at that time was also a long term resident who lived there like she was part of the community. Several years after I'd moved in, I worked at a start-up with a guy who'd lived in the complex before I'd moved there and before he'd bought a house. He remembered the complex and the resident manager fondly. This is the essence of word of mouth.

But sometime around 2006 or so, they brought in a new resident manager. Instead of participating in the community, she managed the place like a gun-for-hire-CEO. Locked in her office and only accepting limited audience during business hours, she ran around the complex like Eric Cartman, making up rules and trying to impose her authorit-eh. She seemed to be on a strategic campaign to alienate and run all of the long term residents out of the community. In the months before we left, she forced us into new rental agreement terms and my roommate said she was threatening to give us a 60-day eviction notice sometime in early 2014. The business shifted to a bare-bones customer service model with outsourced facilities management. They're goal shifted to customer churn.

In that way, leaving the apartment was a mixed blessing. While aspects of it stand as home with the familiarity and foundation that you know; given the choice, I would not move there today. Nor would I wish it upon someone else. Their management strategy hasn't just destroyed the community, it's shifted to slum-lord. Sure, there is now modern exercise equipment in the exercise room, but it's window-dressing on a product that no longer includes support for plumbing, appliances, carpets, or any of the other things that there were once included. No, I wouldn't recommend it, nor would I wish it on anyone.

It's difficult to explain the how the culture has changed in one simple example. Everything that seems so broken could also be explained through the lens of progress. More density could be more housing available. Crowded bike cars and overwhelmed trains could also be more people taking public transportation. More people from different places could be more diversity. It reminds me of a discussion about the (now long gone) San Jose Live. "I like it because there are so many different types of people there," said one. "Aren't they all really the same type of people," said the other. 

It's Getting Ugly Here
We have a lot of names for it -- or aspects of it. Sometimes it's gentrification, sometimes it's income inequality, and sometimes it's just the Google Bus. It's often defined by the fashionable places to live and centers where there are jobs. In the late eighties/early nineties, that was Scott's Valley. Most of the people clamoring to live in the City now probably don't remember the period when rents in San Francisco were lower than the desirable places in the South Bay.

Two or three times in the past month, there have been reports of people in San Francisco and Oakland protesting the Google Bus. They've stood in front of them, yelled at the people inside -- even thrown a rock through one in Oakland. San Francisco is talking about charging all of these non-city transports $10 per stop for using -- and blocking -- the official city-operated bus stops.

Them and Us
In the early days of the Google Bus, it seemed like an interesting solution to a broader problem. At the time, there were still a lot really smart software people living in the city, working at start-ups, freelancing, and telecommuting. These were the people that preferred lofts and crowds to the quiet life in the Mountain View area. In those days, the bus seemed like a convenient solution -- picking people like that up, giving them a ride down 101, provide wifi and eliminate a bunch of cars. After all, when you think about how long it took for Caltrain to allow bikes on the train, it might be decades before they made power or wifi available.

But the Google Bus has expanded like crazy. And the animosity has grown. Nobody perceives these companies as local companies. It's not like the old days of factory towns, hiring locals, creating jobs, and generating wealth in the local economy. The tech companies -- as championed by Google's great hiring-only-from-top-schools-with-top-degrees-and-GPAs-philosophy and echoed in other factors like the H1b Visa -- hire people from other places and they drop them here. Instead of being members in one community or another, the various tech workers seem more like gypsies in both their community of residence and their community of work. Your neighbor didn't get hired by Google, but they might have been supplanted by someone that works at Google. 

Home is not a House -- Even if the Rent is Too Damned High
Sarah Lacy at Pandodaily just published this post pointing to the issue as a San Francisco housing problem. While I agree with aspects of her article -- there is a problem with housing and density -- I still believe that there is an aspect of the culture that is eating our area like a virus.

Housing prices have always been high here. In 1992, for the rent that I was paying for my one bedroom apartment, I could have lived in a large, three or four bedroom house back in Memphis. And while the senior management at the Semiconductor company that I worked for all owned beautiful houses in Saratoga, Los Gatos, and the San Jose hills, for most of the employees, owning a house was a stretch goal, something that was always a couple of steps out of reach, waiting for a financial windfall. So, while most of us weren't buying houses in Palo Alto, Atherton, or Los Altos Hills there was still a sufficiently affordable apartment community to support living here and making it home. Life on the edge, riding the start-up wave from rise to collapse wasn't a problem -- you simply needed to accumulate enough resources to carry you through until the next wave.

Years ago, one of the reasons why I moved to the Bay Area was that there were a lot of opportunities to work and build a life here. In some ways, this is the story behind the story. While we like to see the world through all of the exciting opportunities that we have here in the Bay Area, what's missing in the story is the collapse of opportunities elsewhere. Years ago, for people living here in the crowded and expensive bay area, there were still significant job options in the Sacramento area where you could go, afford a big house, and still be paid well and respected for your skills.

But these days, the economic collapse of everywhere has been profound. It's hard to fault someone for wanting a job and needing to go where the jobs are. But it seriously frustrating to sit and watch the politicians from other regions of the country stand on the throat of the economy and choke the life out of the economy -- or any potential recovery. Adding insult to injury, these are often the same ones that, standing at the threshold of the collapse, mocked California for the state's financial situation, mock the Bay Area for its culture. Their doctrine and practice is closely interwoven into the broader economic collapse.

Mark Zuckerberg and the Treasure of the Lost Temple of Pets.com
There is a mythology that hangs over Silicon Valley, driven by the days of the dot-com era. It is a dream, sold around the world and perpetuated by movies like The Social Network, Bravo TV's Start-ups: Silicon Valley, or even Amazon's Betas (a show I actually find amusing) -- you move to the Bay Area, work at a start-up, go through an IPO, and be rich. Except, in the media the work usually involves a whole lot less work and a whole lot more parties, Nerf-gun wars and fun -- but success is always big. And it's punctuated by a lot of scenic B-roll footage of San Francisco. 

Sarah Lacy's comment on the Bravo show touches on the broader trend that has shaped the Bay Area in many ways:
But I was wrong about one thing: I dreaded that it could unleash a “Wall Street”-like torrent of wantrentrepreneur douchebags flooding Silicon Valley. Turns out it won’t, because no one watched the horrid mess.
The reality is that, going back to the dot-com era, from the very moment that people started shouting out, "there's gold in that there valley", our area has been deluged with "we're only in it for the money" douchebags and the people that look up to them as fashionable. It's those people that read the Steve Jobs story and only see the businessman, where so many of the other aspects of him -- designer, scholar, hippie -- are more fundamental to the essence of our Bay Area culture.

Today's Silicon Valley grows increasingly intolerant not because we don't like different; rather, the greed-heads exploit the mythology of Silicon Valley to alienate us and crowd us out of the places that we like to think of as our home.

Save Silicon Valley Before all is Lost
It used to be that when you saw all of the new housing going up, you thought -- finally, with a few more houses, maybe things around here will be more affordable. It never quite works out that way. In the years following the economic collapse, many homes around here sat empty, closed by foreclosure, locked out of the market waiting not for long term local residents, but rather for the return of the speculators and the deep pockets of new money descending on the area. When new construction is goes up, most is houses and condos -- not apartments -- because strip-mine-style extraction of cash is easier than building a long-term residential apartment business.

Are we building new schools? Are we building new transportation lines? Are we adding transportation infrastructure options like more frequent trains on our existing systems like Caltrain? No. Because this isn't about making the area better for everyone around here. It's about exploiting the existing market, extracting cash, and moving on.

To quote Hunter S. Thompson from his mayoral race in Aspen, "change the name Aspen, Colorado to Fat City. This would prevent greed heads, land rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name ‘Aspen’. These swine should be f–ked, broken, and driven across the land."

Maybe we should consider rebranding Silicon Valley as 'Fat Valley'.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Google Glass - Here Comes Trouble

I must say, I was reading through the news headlines today and I came across this tidbit about somebody getting arrested in a movie theater for wearing Google Glass. Of course, it's one of those surprising stories that isn't all that surprising.

These days, it's difficult to go for more than a few days without hearing yet another story about someone wearing Google Glass and getting into trouble -- trouble that's a result of wearing Google Glass. From the woman that got busted for driving while wearing Google Glass, to people in bars and even people in the bathroom, people wear the device and trouble quickly becomes their next fashion accessory.

I have to wonder whether this is the kind of pre-launch product coverage that you want to have. Unlike the early hype on Google+ (before people really got a chance to use it), I'm not running into people that are anxiously anticipating owning the product. In that way, if these kinds of stories were post-launch, it might seem more like a "News of the Weird" episode than an ominous harbinger of unexpected problems.

In that way, I'm hard pressed to think of a compelling reason why I want one.