The company has transitioned to being the company that owns Steam as a platform (including and subsuming Vive), and not much else. People that have joined Valve expecting to develop games there end up fired in less than a year, which surely is destructive but also serves a real purpose of perpetuating the Valve culture. A major shakeup is unlikely to happen; Gabe seems to be unable to decide whether he wants to be a super-public figure that is the face and decision body behind the whole company, or if he wants to shrink into a hole and rub shoulders with tech legends hoping to determine the future of everything. The company will make money for a while, but they are open to platform disruption, even in their VR space where they have (more than Oculus) tried to be the open platform. Eventually the market will figure out that they don't need to pay Steam 30% of sales to host files on a server. If this view is right right, Steam is about to find out that the PC world wants to be even more open than they are offering. Of course, the board of investors will certainly find a way to use Valve's intellectual capital regardless of whether they stay on top.
Eventually the market will figure out that they don't need
to pay Steam 30% of sales to host files on a server
Similarly, I rarely buy games outside of Steam (or GOG) except in the cases of very indie developers who provide a steam key when I buy directly from them. The Steam service is a good one. When I build a new computer, I just need to install steam and my entire library is ready to install. Valve have rightfully found a gold mine from a service that they made that is a net value to consumers.
And even if Steam didn't exist, a non-publisher-specific store is still needed. I'd go to GOG (for similar reasons as I use Steam).
The 30% number is one that they might start to get pressure on with competition. GOG now pulls something like 10% of steam sales on the games they curate (citation needed) and I believe they are working on a stronger community/online platform.
There are also more indie upstarts like http://itch.io, which are smaller but focus on developer outreach and close-knit community.
Now I work for a company with a traditional power structure. There is a manager, he has a manager and so on. Things are simpler, less stressful, tasks are more clear. Manager is great a shielding us from the rest of the beaurocracy and letting us do our work.
I think it is human nature to certain extent. Take any number of people, put them in a room give them a task. After a while you'd observe some will start to tell others what to do and so on. Sometimes it is those with experience, sometimes it is just those who are loudest. By default the groups won't necessarily settle into a democratic, egalitarian sort of state.
I imagine flat probably works for smaller groups. A few owners + a team of 5. Everyone works directly for the owners, they settle into a set of roles and so on. Everyone sees and communicates with each other often (ideally). There is no need to call employee #2 assistant general manager or employee #4 programmer V and make him report to #2 and so on.
But as the company grows, it stops being flat really. Owners start listening to employees they play golf with. Older employees want to feel special so they'd tell new employees what to do and act as managers. Potential candidates will detect this type of environment and if they are good at manipulation and social engineering will gravitate and want to work in such a place, because they'll know they'll thrive in there (so it attracts certain personalities perhaps as well).
On a more practical level. This system is also used as an advertising tool "oh look we are flat, we don't have titles, we are better than BigCorp". That has worked rather well at recruiting from what I've seen.
It also works in another ways -- such as to supress wages. Because everything is flat, it is easy to justify not giving raises.
That might sound overly negative but I just listed all the bad things I could think of. There were many good things too. I think it can work, but it requires a significant effort on both owners and everyone to keep everything in check, to have more communication, more transparency, and so on. It is a harder balancing act so to speak. That is why in most cases I can see this failing after a while.
This is for a tournament that runs every year and is growing in popularity and size.
In a business sense, this was an innovative move only in that it made Valve tons more money, but from an industry perspective, they couldn't have done less to move the needle.
It's one of the most uninteresting safe bet moves I've seen a company make in the gaming industry since Madden.
Twitch was central to this as well, bigger tournaments meant increased viewers, increased viewers meant that Twitch could in turn sponsor even more tournaments.
Twitch was in baby shoes back in 2011 as well. Game streaming overall was still really small, and sites like own3d.tv held a large market share back then.
In addition, Valve built in-engine spectating into the game since day 1. You can watch other games live, or download replays and jump to any moment in time. League doesn't have similar tech even in 2016 , they are definitely far more focused on their casual players. League does have an extremely large playerbase in total, so their esports achievements are still remarkable due to sheer scale, but it's much more of a side-part of League than Dota.
 From what I understand there is no replay system at all, and the League spectator mode is very basic and lacks most of the features that Dota 2 has.
Any time a new feature is released, especially smaller ones, there's usually a good number of 'We got this but no <replay|sandbox> mode' comments.
I think everyone that plays dota is actually happy about that.
I think your point of view is biased by the fact that you do not play dota, or do not like this genre, etc... It was a pretty big revolution in the dota genre.
That's nothing like the DotA acquisition - DotA was more popular as a custom game than WC3 was itself and had been for nearly a decade. DotA is pretty much the genesis of the entire MOBA genre. There's no way you can discount that just because it ran on top of another game.
I played DotA for many years and am a huge fan of MOBA's. I don't disagree with you that it was a big revolution in the DotA genre, but if that's as high as Valve was aiming with the game, it's very disappointing given Valve's history of doing so much more than that. That's my point.
It was a boring, uninspired safe bet by a company that can do a lot better.
DotA is older than League of Legends, Icefrog was even screwed over by Pendragon (Riot Games cofounder) and Pendragon replaced the DotA-Allstars website with a LoL ad. Riot are also known to have taken many ideas from WIP heroes from DotA. If anything, Riot themselves surfed on the popularity of DotA and innovated very lightly.
I'm not saying Valve innovated by picking up Icefrog and making Dota2, but it's laughable to think that it was built on the back of LoL.
Publishers have tried to avoid this and people have whined endlessly about how horrible their alternatives are (eg. origin) while steam continues to be a mediocre at best experience.
Steam Chat exemplifies this.
Despite the fact it's been around for 12 years, there's no file-based logging capability. When adding mobile clients into the mix, message delivery becomes abysmal. As of nearly a year ago, one rather infuriating bug was introduced that causes chat buffers to sometimes truncate at random.
"Any information that is disclosed in chat, forums or bulletin boards should be considered public information,"
The fact Steam is well north of 100M active users, and yet they allow certain critical aspects of their platform to not only retain their abysmal quality, but even regress—is simply mind boggling.
I don't have enough information to place the blame squarely at the feet of Valve's flat organizational hierarchy, but it seems likely that it's a contributing factor.
steam vr? dota 2? csgo? virtual economies? source 2? the steam workshop? the crowdfunded compendiums?
Valve has been throwing money and man-hours at Dota 2 relentlessly, but the game's playerbase is still tiny compared to LoL. I imagine they have only a couple more years to try to figure this out before the gaming zeitgeist moves away from traditional MOBAs completely.
CS:GO has been in an alternating state of either complete neglect or completely tone-deaf changes. Most patches from recent memory have been despised by the community and quickly reverted. The game seems to be the red-headed stepchild of Valve properties, run by a skeleton crew of people who don't really understand the game.
Meanwhile, Blizzard just blew the doors off the market by revitalizing a game format that Valve invented. I suspect there is a huge internal struggle at Valve right now to determine whether the company will be a content producer or a platform.
I also agree with parent in that 'Blizzard just blew the doors off the market by revitalizing a game format that Valve invented' - I honestly think it's hard to argue that point. Overwatch is conceptually very, very similar to TF2, and must be doing some damage to its playerbase (though I haven't checked any stats on that at all so I might just be talking shit).
If their handbook is to be believed, Valve has a much more flat management structure, where it's basically Gabe at the top, sortof, and everyone else doing whatever they think is best for the company, and there's a fluid system where people can move between groups according to their interests and how they perceive they can add value. So, unlike in Microsoft's case, Valve's people have an easy avenue towards putting 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' into practice.
Valve has a radically different corporate culture from most other companies in it's space. It doesn't come from the 80s, or indeed almost any other time. Perhaps the stack ranking works a lot better because of it.
I could see why - dealing with support tickets from irate people is not a particularly interesting (or judging by Steam's runaway success: particularly value adding) activity.
Not that I mean to hijack this to complain about Steam, but you have to admit it's a benefit of a traditional management structure: someone is making sure the shitty-but-necessary work gets done.
I suspect that if Valve wanted to, it could easily hire lots of people who would be happy to man the customer service helplines and who wouldn't be either able or willing to try to make TF2 levels or whatever.
Maybe the management structure is what limits the size of Valve, though.
All they did was recreate a city full of assets and added game mechanics to it in five years and made the most expensive (at the time) game product in history with more than 1000 people involved in production and the fastest selling entertainment product in history. A game that broke eight Guinness world records and sold more than 65 million copies and well over $2b in revenue. And that's only GTA 5.
All they did, numerous times so far, was to create vast games full of created digital assets. Games that hold record-breaking sales numbers and hold positions in all best-selling video games charts. That's all they did. Nothing to write home about, really. Bunch of slackers.
Rockstar has an army of artists working on those assets for that game. Valve is a multidisciplinary house where they dabble in a lot of stuff, split in smaller groups, but their primary vehicle is Steam and a couple of (successful) games where each project does not need as many people. It's comparing apples to oranges.
What Rockstar does demands an army of artists. If Valve were to do same type of game world, they would have an army also. They do not do the same thing though.
If Rockstar were to do what Valve does, they would also have a number of people split into smaller teams working on their own things. They do not do the same thing though.
That's why you can't say it's all Rockstar does with same number of people. Those people are not the same skill and those projects are not the same.
Rockstar's yield, if you're comparing the game industry, is a level above Valve. It's a level above most. It's really not a good example to compare to. They are on the leading edge of what they do. An area Valve isn't in. Maybe if you've compared Avalanche Studios and Just Cause 3. They had 75 core-member team in a studio of 250 and, who knows how many, outsourced people.
There is no denying Valve does great with the number of people it has, but of all the badly managed companies they could be compared to, Rockstar really it is not a good example...
In the last few years, Valve has developed multiple new pieces of hardware with software support; the Steam Controller, Steam Link, and HTC Vive. They've also developed and supported a new platform, SteamOS, and rolled out hardware with manufacturing partners. Besides this, the Steam platform has added live-streaming (like twitch), family sharing, big picture mode, the VR UI, and other features. They were also involved in the development of the graphics API Vulkan, which they need for their Linux-based SteamOS to become a better platform.
These are just what I can think of off the top of my head and don't even explicitly involve any games (though they released a collection of 11 small experiences for VR as well).
Interesting thought experiment: Break the sales for DOTA and TF2 into ~$50 increments and compare that number against total sales for the last two GTA's put together. I suspect Valve will beat them at least twice over.
> It has something like 330 employees servicing 100 million customers on the go-to PC gaming platform
Actually there is a lot less people who actually have any connection to userbase at all. Most probably never even publicly known.
Few years ago one producer who visited Valve commented that in office there was one of areas where he was told something like "and here is our Steam department". And back then that was like 20-25 people at most include both partner relations and marketing.
You mean Half Life with it's last full iteration from 10 years ago, and the second episode with a cliffhanger from 2009? Or the Source engine (HL2) which evolved from GoldSource (HL1) which was based on Quake 1 engine (with some parts from Quake 2 engine) - even the Call of Duty engine which aged well too is based on the more modern Quake 3 engine, and I wouldn't consider it shiny in 2016. Rockstar's RAGE engine as well as Crytek engine (StarCitizen, Crysis), and the Frostbite (Battlefield 1) are light years ahead and far superior in every aspect and that's what I would consider shiny tech.
Valve is what Valve is today because of the success of steam. They produce little games like Dota2 more for fun than anything else, they gt rich with steam.
Those 'blank' 10 years saw the release of Left 4 Dead 1/2, Team Fortress 2, Portal 1/2 and CSGO, for instance, as well as that 'little' Dota2 (which is clearly a large game by any metric you care to choose). At least three of those games involve regular ongoing content infusions. Add in the development of the Source 2 engine, and the Steam Controller, and the work on the SteamOS platform and whatever else on Steam Machines.
This is out of the 330 employees that also support those >100 million customers using the service on a regular, possibly daily, basis. As I pointed out, Rockstar uses more manpower than Valve just to create essentially one game every few years. The last GTA game I bought (San Andreas) did have graphics well behind the state of the art too.
Even if we assume that those 330 employees are doing nothing but working on Steam, it's still a tiny number compared to the customer base. AirBnB, for instance, has had 2 million listings in it's lifetime, and it has about 2300 employees. Uber has over 6000 employees on about 8 million customers, and both those cases are ones where people aren't typically regular users.
It seems that Valve has serious problems actually pushing their games to completion since they started printing money with Steam and pressure to actually release went away.
TF2, CSGO and Dota 2 are regularly, and visibly updated constantly. In no way are these moribund or 'stopped in development'; the latter two are still among the most played and watched competitive games online.
It's also stretching things to say that Valve 'acquired' Portal and it was dropped 'after acquisition', since Valve essentially bought the team that made a small gameplay prototype and fleshed out the mechanic into two full-fledged AAA games.
So that just leaves 'Left 4 Dead', which was a case of Valve buying a company, publishing it's game and then putting out a full-on sequel. Given how similar L4D2 was to L4D1 (to the point where the first game was essentially contained inside the second, and there was even a threatened boycott by fans), would it really have been a smart move to make a third so soon?
Sure, it's been, what, three years since the last full game release by Valve. That's quite a long time, and there is no doubt less pressure to release sooner because they're sitting on their money-printing machine, but that sort of timeframe isn't exactly unprecedented in this business. The Rockstar studio I mentioned is on a 5-7 year turnaround for it's one main title - though it does aid and abet Rockstar's other studios.
I suspect part of what's going on is that Valve is uber PR-conscious these days, given it's position in the market and can afford to be a ultra-conservative about quality control (though hopefully not in game design) in any new game it's going to put out.
Left 4 Dead, company was bought.
Team Fortress was a Mod for Quake. Through a aquire hire transfered the Mod to Half Life 1 (GolgSource engine based on Quake 1 engine). Team Fortress 2 was planned to be released in 1999/2000. Though it took additional 11 years and at least complete restart to release Team Fortress 2 based on Source engine.
CounterStrike was a free Mod from fans for Half Life 1. They aquirehired the team around CounterStrike 0.9. Some say it went downhill from there. CS 1.4 was the last classic CS.
CS Source was a port from GoldSource to Source engine. As Source engine is just an incremental evolution, it was just a matter of building the game again and later replacing textures and models with higher ones, etc.
CS Go is a rehash of CS Source simplified for console gamers and ported to consoles.
Dota was originally a fan-made Mod to WarCraft 3. Valve aquirehired them to create Dota2, a standalone version based on Source engine. Blizzard wasn't amused and announced a similar game a few days after Valve announced Dota2 back then.
Half Life 1 (GoldSource) is based on Quake 1 engine (with small parts from Quake 2 engine), and of cource evolved. Half Life 2 (Source engine) evolved from GoldSource engine. Videos from HL2 beta show clearly the old DX7 renderer and loading older HL1 map format. Valve worked on HL2 episode 3 and Warren Spector (Deus Ex, System Shock) and his former company worked on HL2 episode 4. But Valve decided to shut down both. The unclear situation for several years makes HL fans angry. HL2 episode 3 / HL3 is the new Duke Nukem Forever, at least that one got released after 11 years - we will see about HL2. We all remember also the shitshow around the HL2 release. The infamous HL2 demo at E3 2004 was faked and the game was nowhere to be ready. The leaked video footage a year later showed how far behind Valve was behind the announced release schedule. Half Life 2 was finally released another year later with heavily shortened gameplay and many previously features removed. Making it basically a different game that feels very differently to the original Half Life 1.
Little games like Dota2? It's the biggest title on Steam in terms of players by a large margin and probably the 2nd most popular game worldwide on PC to ever exist (behind LoL)
It also generates a significant amount of revenue for Valve through the sales of tournament ticket and cosmetics.
Sure the Battlefield team has made Frostbite which is shinier than Source. Did they also make their own store, gamepad, and VR headset?
Wii minigames in VR are still just Wii minigames, whole thing feels like something I'd expect from a hackday from a company as supposedly prolific as valve.
Got a strong feeling the talent is long gone.
I've never used Steam's customer support; do they outsource any of it to contractors and/or offshore?
Yeah they actually manage to ship games (that manage to make back the entire production budget in pre-orders alone), not just sit on their hands running an online store with an outdated and clunky client.
This is a common story with people trying something new. If you do the old-fashioned thing—buy IBM, so to speak—and fail, well, these things happen. A lot of factors could have contributed to the problem. But if you try something new, the new thing must be at fault—even though all those other factors apply just as much now as they did in the IBM case.
Support still gets done, because when you hire you specifically hire people who love doing support. Those people exist, and they get tremendously emotionally involved in the quality of their work, just like anyone else.
In every department there are people who struggle with the flat hierarchy and free range to work on what you like, who have a strong emotional need to know who is in charge, and to be told what needs doing. Those people struggle, but they are by no means relegated to any one department -- plenty of them are engineers.
So, depending on how you interpret the term "stack ranking", you can either look at it as "forced removal of the bottom x% of the company" or "people aren't ranked / bucketized". In the MSFT case, I believe that the former has been removed. But the latter definitely cannot be removed if you are to have performance-based compensation.
> At any company (Microsoft included) where performance-based
> compensation exists, there is a budget for that line item.
That would be far from perfect, there will be free loaders, and most likely than not it will be slightly unfair to everyone. But at least you have removed the perverse incentive to sabotage coworkers in order to look yourself better.
For example: you write an algorithm in your spare time that more efficiently packs together a good that your company produces, such that shipments take up 10% less volume thus saving ~10% on shipping.
My sense is performance evaluations should be banished from the corporate world, for the most part. Usually a waste of time, but that is where managers can be helpful as they are carrying an ongoing assessment of the value of each of their employees at all times.
Actually there's a lot of research that contradicts this. Essentially as long as people have enough money that they don't worry about money ie a comfortable middle class lifestyle for country/area, and they don't think they earn significantly less that their peers, money is very inefficient and occasionally negative incentive for tasks that require a decent level cognitive ability.
- The average engineer there makes at least $400k/year with bonuses, although it could be much more (or less, if they somehow wind up in a bad project). IIRC Valve makes around $2m of profit for every head in the company (they only have ~300 employees or so).
- In spite of the seemingly ideal flat organization, many people find themselves unhappy there. One former employee hints at some reasons here:
From other employees, I have heard that the flat organization and bonus structure leads to unnecessary drama/rivalry, poor communication (or even fear of communication), lack of innovation (creating your own project is discouraged, and teams have financial incentive to stick with projects that pay the highest bonus), etc. This is not to say Valve is a "bad" place to work at, I am sure it beats the hell out of many other job environments, even ignoring the excellent pay.
- If you do want to work there, you will probably have had to shipped multiple titles AND be recommended by an existing team member (alternately, writing a popular mod is equally lucrative). Typically, applying through their website will not get you a job - they usually hire by actively looking through a pool of candidates that they already know of. They also look for candidates who are good at producing high amounts of customer value - they care more about this than technical ability.
Why does this seem ideal? A flatter hierarchy is almost always preferable, but taken to an extreme it seems like inevitable chaos.
Dan Luu's numbers are very conservative - keep in mind that the kind of people who get hired at Valve are far above the bar that Dan Luu sets for the "not particularly unsuccessful" senior engineer.
I've worked with a couple of ex/current Valve people, they're effing sharp/creative.
In American culture, unless you're financially constrained, you grow up with someone hammering down the idea that you have to be doing something productive and getting better 100% of the time. If you're a kid, you have to be involved in clubs or teams for everything. You have to make friends. You have to be good, you have to be popular. You have to get awards. You have to play a couple of sports competitively. On holidays, you have to go to summer camp, shock full of controlled activities. You have to do a lot of "voluntary" work because it will look good in your resume, not because it's helping someone .
As a result, your schedule is controlled, you are being judged 100% of the time, and the loudest, more outwardly energetic people are the ones who strive. The idea is that if you're not having Mandatory Fun, you're doing something wrong.
It creates this idealistic culture where everyone is trying to be better all the time, or pretending they are. The reality is that most people live in a constant state of anxiety. For the most part, it's very hard for kids to find what they like, and get better at it by sheer initiative; they never have time to do it. Instead, they do what they do because they're told to.
Little surprise kids have no time for introspection, and that's the way people can actually get better.
Science is just starting to understand that Rest is not Idleness . The idea is not new . But our culture, specially the fast-moving tech culture, is not ready for it.
As someone who dropped down from honors courses sophomore year of high school to "college prep" and earned a thoroughly mediocre GPA in an easy major at a state school, I'll just say that there are allllll kinds of America out there in addition the one you describe. I don't have the numbers at my disposal but I'd be willing to bet that even that level of academic attainment puts me ahead of more than half of the population.
Just a different perspective on the matter.
We try to make sure we carve out time for them to strategically be bored. Forced to explore, use their imaginations, build a fort, stomp on bugs, make shit up.
This hits close to home. I've been living in America for ~3.5 years now and my wife and I were just talking about this the other day. In our home country (Brazil), people are a lot more genuinely interested in other people. Here, it is very clear to us that people judge whether we're worth their time and attention, and that judgment is clearly based on achievement and how important/great/awesome our lives are.
We are extreme introverts, not "people people" at all, but we've learned to appreciate our own people a lot more than when we were living back there. We used to be annoyed at most Brazilians' extroversion and warmth, but now we appreciate it because it is a very genuine sentiment of just wanting to know new people, no matter who they are or where they come from.
For example: if I'm getting my degree in underwater basket weaving I'm being productive because I'm going to college. If I'm at work on reddit all day I'm being productive because I'm at work and getting paid.
The problem to me is on the metrics some parents use to define growth. I do agree with you that quiet reflection is some valuable time. Personally, some of my most valuable ideas and projects came out of the blue, during leisure time.
But my experience is one of seeing parents who think everything should be scheduled to their correct dosages, and that "quiet reflection" is rarely considered as part of the equation. At least in my limited observations, it seems to be there's a certain need for constant measurable growth (or measurable fun), and everything that doesn't fit that framework is to be shunned.
To many parent, "growing" is to be sure to be always moving forward. You need to always have the speedometer at a certain minimum speed. While in reality the twists and turns of healthy learning and healthy living often requires stopping and slowing down at times.
Again, from my limited perspective.
Anything else would just be setting yourself up for burnout and surely that's not the path to be on when your goal is to be "100% dedicated 100% of the time".
The problem is that people want to appear to be dedicated but don't actually care about being dedicated. Combine this with lack of education and you have people trying to appear dedicated while being dedicated only to the destruction of their mental health.
The way I interpret it, do you solve the small problems that are all around you. Are you a willing leaner and applier of knowledge on things around you. When you look that way, its less intimidating or honestly much more human. Its more about awareness and doing something about it.
Valve has some of that written in, massages and whatnot. I think the key is that you have to be internally motivated to work at valve. They have to lay the social groundwork for people to be motivated without direct managers.
Personally, I really don't know anyone with this extreme mindset and work cultures in places like Korea and Japan make the US look like a walk in the park. I think you're overstating the case here more than a little. Its just rhetoric. If anything shops like Valve has all sorts of perks that most offices don't. I think there's a bit "feeding of the ego" with these materials here. Their engineers are good but they're normal people with kids and families and such. They aren't literally "optimizing themselves 24/7." They just like their assess kissed once in a while for staying current and competitive. Being told you're amazing during the on-boarding process is pretty common.
But that's the important thing to consider on the other side, some people enjoy their jobs, or the fields they work in even if their job is currently annoying, and they may choose to spend their own time in ways related to their day job. This doesn't have to ambition or someone driving themselves to improve (but it can be). It can just as easily be someone that got a job doing something they love, so they do similar things in their free time.
Maybe not the TV part, I suppose depending on what it is exactly, but the others I would count towards bettering yourself.
Three years into my job, I'm mostly over it. I still have to deal with coworkers laughing that I use Windows on my personal computer, but at least I can eat the cake I made this weekend.
Besides, what are your coworkers doing, playing computer games on Wine? The paltry selection of osx Steam games? Do they have (shudder) _consoles_?
There's definitely people in the field who don't put in unpaid overtime all the time, who don't go home and write Markov Chains in Haskell to make William Burroughs-esque poetry. There's a lot to be said for having some balance, where your entire life isn't devoted to one topic or to your career.
In America, to a greater extent, it's just you. Your bad grades are yours, it's not connected to your parents, or your class background, it's just you. When you go out into the world, you are in the driver's seat, your success hinges on your decisions. And when you achieve something, it's your achievement. Not your family's.
That is a HUGE overgeneralization, as this is very subculture specific. You'll find families where "You got a D?! How could this happen? What terrible thing must I have done to you that you would stab me in the heart with such a grade?" and/or "My son, the doctor! Ah, he got his smarts from his grandfather.", and so on.
Note that while taking the credit and the blame do tend to go together, I've definitely come across families where parents take the blame but not credit, as well as families where parents take credit but not blame (and plenty where each parent & grandparent does their own thing entirely).
> That’s why Valve is flat...You have
the power to green-light projects. You have the power to
Is this really the case? On paper this sounds great. I've worked at companies that have a similar motto. Power to the employees, power to the developers. But it usually just means the hierarchy is unspoken and assumed. No structure means no one to go to with disputes about your job, problems with co-workers, etc. It can be worse than a traditional hierarchy because everyone sells the "flat" motto to newcomers, but as soon as you join you learn the hidden politics. The cognitive dissonance can be soul crushing.
So is Valve truly flat? Are there any examples of relatively new employees spinning up teams and shipping unique ideas? If it works, how do you handle inter-personal employee issues?
A few years ago there was a lot of news articles coming out about a shakeup at Valve where a lot of people were fired, allegedly due to internal power struggles. I'm having trouble with finding them on Google due to Valves name but the gist of it is that Valves culture resembles that of a high school with distinct social "elites" and their cliques . There is also a wealth of HN comments that provide some insight .
This is a nice metaphor. I try to be T-shaped, but I wonder how useful I am becoming... My expertise in high-precision mass spectrometry is not something companies are looking for....
After all, there's a star naming registry that will name a star of your choice to be recorded in their books for a nominal fee.
I wonder if they have any internal initiatives to remove cognitive biases that causes many of the negative parts of office politics.
There's a reason all Olympic sports where you can interact with your opponents only have 2 teams/opponents facing off at the same time.
Many track cycling events
Every track event
in particular, if there are multiple runners from one country, they can/will take turns running in front of the other. this allows them to share the cost of breaking wind and creating draft, allowing the other to coast. if you have this kind of relationship you conserve energy which is sort of important when you need to run 26.2 ~4:40 miles in a row.
You can't interact with the real opponents, as far as I know.
1. Drafting has benefits
2. Different runners have different strengths. Some have a stronger kick at the end of the race, some have a weaker kick but can maintain a higher pace.
One example of how this can play out in a marathon (and, to a greater extent, in something like the 5000) is that a runner who has a faster overall potential but a weaker finishing kick wants the pace to be run at a higher tempo. However, if the runner tries to do this unilaterally, weaker athletes may be able to draft and use the physical and mental benefits to hang on, before winning using their kick.
However, if there are multiple endurance oriented athletes, they're typically more able to enforce a higher tempo throughout the run that will drop those athletes that have a stronger kick.
You'll often notice this in the 5000, where the winning time might be well below the personal or seasonal bests of many of the participating runners. Tactics prevent them from running their optimal race, and then a stronger kicking runner wins.
rabbits in marathons are pretty rare (to my knowledge?) though
The Tour de France, on the other hand, like Formula 1, is very political.
Agree with your statement on its own. In this context, "political" likely means loyalty is valued over competence.
When you've got a limited resource (eg, the time of 300 employees), allocation of that resource is guaranteed to be political, precisely because there will be competing interests which need to be resolved. The question is whether the company comes up with healthy method for making these decisions.
It wouldn't even make sense to involve politics in sports (yes i know football, basketball and such..) as the competition is to find out who is the best and not who is the best connected.
By politics I mean that you can cooperate with a part of your opponents to side line some of the other opponents.
Words can hurt more then an oar. :)
Either way you'd have to hit them really hard for them to care (they train insanely hard).
>By politics I mean that you can cooperate with a part of your opponents to side line some of the other opponents.
I feel i can safely say that that doesn't happen in rowing. At least for the team i know i am sure that they wouldn't "take a dive" (or even think about it; same for their trainer).
edit: And I can confirm this with my backed up version from 22 april 2012. This is the same PDF.
Can anyone make it happen?
As another aside I do not think there is causal evidence that Valve became successful because of these ideals. On the contrary they seem like the result of success.
In the following link, Gabe Newell explains some of ideas behind how Valve works. He argues that the way Valve works has been a conscious decision based on his experiences while working at Microsoft and interacting with other companies at that time.
This sounds like a terrible environment to develop in.
It might be different if the new hires did have day-to-day work with these old software or video game developing fogies.
what happens if i'm really talented AND come from totally different culture?
Another way of thinking about it is that any and all power structures are allowed, they just have to be opt-in. If you want to be a 4th tier worker in a 6 tier command-and-control structure, that's fine. You just have to be there by choice.
Although I am curious why do you think that this setting is more likely to attract manipulative personalities, since there is no recognition, status, etc?
One thing that stuck out to me was multiple mentions about "raising the issue" for the tough topics (compensation issues, feeling uncertain) -- who is the issue "raised" to if there is zero hierarchy and I have no manager/adviser/councilor? Does the flat structure only apply to "individual contributors" and is there a more traditional HR/operations structure that is not shown?
It's a great place to work for three or four years if they're doing something you want to learn. You wouldn't want to stay too long, though.
I do agree that the USA isn't a cult though. Too big/diverse.
"Oh my god, did they make you 'pledge allegiance' to that fucking flag too!?  That was so fucked up! And over 4 in 10 of us believe the earth was created 10,000 years ago???  We're gonna kill the Earth, aren't we?"
Here's a better explanation of the concept:
Plus... the concept of sin depends on the religion.