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[flagged] Fuck You Startup World (medium.com/shemag8)
157 points by shem8 on Oct 11, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 103 comments

This article explains well why I avoid startups. I've considered joining some, but always get turned off by the interview phase. The ones that bug me the most...

> Fuck your crazy work hours

In my opinion, if you're working crazy hours, you've already failed, likely due to poor management of the project. The only exception I see is if you don't really have a life outside work and are working on a project that you're really passionate about, but even then it should be a temporary thing.

> Fuck your open space floor plans, You really think Zucks builds a Facebook’s 2017 roadmap while a nerf war is ranging outside

I want to get work done and move on with life, not play silly office games. Open space floor plans kill my focus.

> Fuck you startups with your extravagant parties and crazy off-site events that cost way too much money

I've never understood this. I want to work for your company. If I want to go on vacation, I'll do it with my family, not my coworkers. I have no desire to be best friends with all my coworkers.

>I want to get work done and move on with life, not play silly office games. Open space floor plans kill my focus.

I always found the people against cubicles but for open floor plans strange. In reality, it's pretty much impossible to build offices for every employee. Cubicles were supposed to be the fix for that. You have a open office with space and partitions to separate you from other people. Then someone said that open offices offer substantial collaboration for employees. The people who were drones in a cubicle farm bought into it, because I supposed it was a change from the Office Space type scenery.

But now all we get are interruptions with no recourse. We have desks that are fixed to other desks or desks that are clustered together where the only thing that separates you from your neighbor is your monitor. Everything is open, so now the collaboration areas (they're meeting areas, but calling it collaboration areas make it agile or some crap like that) aren't fully enclosed. Everyone in a 30 foot radius gets to sit in on the meeting as well!

From the other side, I get management types telling me to keep my voice down, because I'm disturbing the collaborators. Never mind that I'm trying to get work done by hammering out details with other devs and testers - their meeting that encroaches on my space in always more important. So much more important that their jokes, their laughs, their applause, their voices, and any other other form of noise have no upper noise limit. No sweat though, it's not like I'm working or anything.

Heaven forbid I do anything like open personal email, bank account info, etc. The person to my left, to my right, behind me, and that small cluster of 5 people in that collaboration area can see my screen as plain as day.

But cubicles are somehow terrible.

> Then someone said that open offices offer substantial collaboration for employees.

> From the other side, I get management types telling me to keep my voice down, because I'm disturbing the collaborators.

> But cubicles are somehow terrible.

As someone who grew up in the Eastern Bloc, I find this kind of Doublethink almost... nostalgic? Ahhh, the good old days, when we were all following Dear Leader's flawless directives!

Sorry...totally unrelated but I remembered your name fellow telescope maker ;) I think I read about your atm journey on cloudynights. Are you the one who did simple turntable grinding machine?

This feels like a bizarre mixture of sensible criticism and sour grapes.

Standing desks? Actually pretty great for those who want them! If your back hurts after a day of sitting, go find some option you like better - why should the rest of us be upset by it? Yeah, they're not an option at a lot of jobs, but demanding that everyone standardize on a bad experience because "you're not special" is a great way to make every job awful.

A book a week? Not so bad, especially if it's something light! There are plenty of books you can read in <10 hours, even content-rich ones.

Understanding complexity? Interviewing is a mess, that's a standard belief, but constant time versus exponential time isn't meaningless yet. Start by getting rid of tree reversal questions, not declaring Big-O a useless concept.

And yet there's something pretty good buried under all the impractical complaints. Putting together a "user story" shouldn't be necessary when the task is "our login page is broke, let's fix it". Adding layers of media references and cultural touchstones to every possible concept just creates useless barriers to entry. A/B testing a hundred different features in isolation isn't a viable way to build a product.

So yes: there are a lot of things to criticize, and I know this is hyperbole. It's still a weird mix of justified and left-field attacks.

>I never had to shift a bit in a C array in my life! And I never got a compilation error on a white board, when I need an hash set in Java I just use HashSet- I don’t fucking care about the complexity of this code block because I can afford another EC2 instance! So fuck you.

No, fuck you for making everything run so slow on our pocket and desktop supercomputers.

...I said, as I shared this article in a JavaScript-powered desktop team collaboration application, and went back to writing a JavaScript-powered server-side application in a JavaScript-powered text editor.

Haha, most excellent.

One thing that I'm only now (and stupidly late) realising is that tech journalism almost never critiques new trends.

Sure there are some gut "this fucking sucks" but there is never a real effort to provide some critical thinking about the PR emanating from whichever source.

For example, soylent is the brain child of someone who has possibly crippling [OCD](http://robrhinehart.com/?p=1331) (Having been blighted by it for most of my teenage and childhood.) It looks like one of his coping mechanisms.

I'm sure its a great product, but I wouldn't want to emulate someone's OCD lifestyle. Yet we are asked to "emulate the habits of these successful XXX" without stopping to ask, are they happy?

Yet no one seems to ask the question: "is this good?" or "whats the logical outcome?" They just seem to be keen to breathlessly relay the PR line, possible with a pithy snap reaction.

I'm not suggesting a flame war for every press release, just a health helping of critical thinking, and some research.

Fuck reading a book a week. No one can read that fast. Let me repeat that -NO ONE CAN FUCKING READ THAT FAST.

Finally someone has the courage to tell the truth. I mean, I get the part about the necessary skimming one has to to do not just get through school, but be a practical, working academic (as described in the HBR article). Or the way that techies need to skim lots of tech books to stay ahead in one's career.

But that's not reading (in the sense of works meant to be read and not just "understood" -- that is, fiction, or high-quality non-fiction). Which means getting in the author's head; making their language your own (to the point of it sometimes actually does become the language you use, in ordinary speech and writing); getting to know their characters to the point where they have at least a partial feeling of tangible reality to them (like people you actually do know from the physical word); and their stomping grounds, to a point where they feel like places you've actually live in.

That's why it often takes me weeks, sometimes months (and multiple readings) to "read" a book. Very part-time, mind you -- I suppose I could make it go faster, if I made a "system" about it. Yeah, I suppose if I put my mind to it, I could get through a good-sized book in a week or so.

But then I would probably just end up "understanding" the book. Not reading it.

I read incredibly fast. Reading a book a night is no problem for me. I think it is genetic, as my mother could read at a pace that astounded even me, and she could recall everything from the book too. A 500 page novel would take her about 2-3 hours to get through, then she could recite the book back to you - scenery, dialogs the works.

Now this is talking about novels. If I'm reading to learn then you have to I must interact with the book, stop and think, go back and make connections, try something out etc.

This is where I like the statement in the book "How to read a book" about reading as fast as is necessary to complete the task you want to accomplish - fast for a quick read through maybe, then slower on another read through for making notes.

So I can read a novel a night, or a pop Sci book in a day, but I've been going through a math book for the last 2 months, and of course, I've been reading the first chapter of TAOCP for about 15 years (hence the math books now :)

Sorry that's not the truth, I read about a book a week. This week I've read 3 and started another 2. The secret is to read for enjoyment, a lot, and eventually you get fast. If it feels like a chore, you're not reading the right books: read something else. If you're enjoying it, it's easy to get carried away and read for many hours at a time.

Yeah, I get the "enjoyment" part. What it comes down to is that some people just like to read (certain kinds of things) more slowly, even though they could be reading them more quickly. Guiding principle being: it's not the number of words (or the number of books read in a year), but the intensity of the experience that they're after.

I only do audiobooks and then I can easily complete one book in a week. Although, I think most books are uninteresting so I don't listen to one each week.

I hate reading books. It's the worst advice anyone can give me.

> I think most books are uninteresting so I don't listen to one each week.

What kinds of books are you reading? I assure you, there's something out there for everyone.

I think your statement is a cop out. There's no better way to get a greater understanding of the world out thereb

I've listened to REWORK and REMOTE recently, which I liked. I think I will listen to "How to win friends and influence people" but I much rather listen to podcasts.

Well I read a lot of articles, listens to a lot of podcasts and watch a lot of documentaries so I disagree. Books in general only has one point of view and doesn't reflect the real world.

What I do is to "average" a book a week.

I mean, I listen to 3 books on audible (pretty easy to do). Light entertaining books like Predictable Irrational, Toyota Kata, etc.

At the same time the whole month I'm working / doing exercises of a difficult math or programming book.

Therefore 4 books in a month an average of 1 a week.

> Fuck your crazy work hours.


> Fuck you drinking culture too.


> Fuck your open space floor plans


> Fuck the transparency trend, the post mortem and the 5 whys.

Yea---wait, what? Those other things are reasonable complaints, but wondering why things go wrong and trying to stop them from going wrong for the same reason tomorrow is, you know, good.

To be fair, "5 whys" is more of a feel-good rule of thumb way to determine the root cause of errors, but it's rarely as effective as you'd think[1].


I concur. Incidents have many causes and different levels of failures, and "5 Why" documents make it too easy to target an easy or politically convenient solution without needing to mention the other failings.

Postmortems in general are fantastic, though. "Here is what (not who, what) went wrong, here is the list of things that made it go wrong, and here are the steps we're taking to make sure that this can't happen again or will not be as bad when it happens again."

Shh, they're on a roll. :)

I first read that as "Shh, they're on a troll"

I guess the complain about it is because to founders this is easy to do and gain some juice after failure while employees still get nothing. If it is só I agree with him. Glamourization of failure (privillege of few).

The irony of the fact that I read this during my morning 30 minute read through of tech news—at Hacker News, the über site, no less—is not lost on me.

Although a funny essay, there's a great deal of truth here, and should make us ask some hard questions about how, why, and when the technology world and its culture should infiltrate the everyday.

Now that the 30-minute routine of tech news is done, we shall reflect on this essay during the 30-minute meditation session and add appropriate actionable items to our quarterly and yearly goals.


I don't work or live in the valley but that was hilarious and based on the blogosphere probably on point too. Except for the part of the hash map complexity. In fact as the volumes of data grow the complexities become more important, not less. You simply cannot brute force your way out of a bad complexity.

Hoping this is the vanguard for a new rebellion against toxic SV-style startup culture, and the nitwits that propagate it

Toxic SV culture is ripe for parody, but words won't stop it. What will stop it is when the money stops flowing so easily and the wider economy improves so that it's no longer the place to be for the greedy. Not sure I see both those things happening any time soon, in the meantime Tech is sadly the new Finance.

Or, we (engineers) could all take a cue from workers of the past and organize to demand an end to abusive labor practices.

Seriously guys, just because we're making 10x the salary of a miner doesn't mean we're not also generating 100x the money for our employers without being allowed to take part in decisions that effect our lives.

You probably aren't making 10x what a miner makes. Mine foremen make around 95K[1]. A regular miner makes somewhere in the range of 40k-55k. Do you make 400k as a software developer? I'm making a broader point here, in that you aren't as seperated from blue collar workers in terms of your economic interests as you may think.


Yeah, but you get to make it without hugely-out-of-your-control health complications. Developers can get fat eating a lot of pizza, but they can run it off. Harder for a miner to avoid all the hazards with the job. As much as I hate the open workspace, I also would prefer being at a computer than doing manual labor in a claustrophobic mine.

Yeah, of course. I meant you income -> social position relative to the people who own the capital. There are interesting parallels. Mining companies operate on leased land with leased equipment backed by institutional investors... they keep it lean. The contemporary mine operator isn't totally dissimilar to the CEO/founder of a largish startup in how they approach their business. Yeah, of course writing code won't give you black lung, but you're still working for the man. The coal mine machine operator is a lot more like me than I am like Jack Dorsey.

Huh. Didn't realize this.

Why else would people walk into the black ground full of choking gas?

The IWW has a section for software engineers. Somehow, I don't think it's being filled.

This was so much fun to read. You know why it's funny? Because it's so true. That's why.

Seriously, there are so many great points in there hidden between the expletives. Here is one that really touched me:

> And what the fuck all those parties after raising money. Don’t you get it? You just dug your grave a little bit deeper. You should celebrate any day that you don’t have to sell off another part of your company.

Although I genuinely miss Valleywag and all the absurdity that it covered (e.g. Clinkle), I'm not sure if this is a fair critique of startup culture outside of having the excuse to say the F word a lot. As someone living in San Francisco, I can say that there are more to startups and startup culture than the stereotypes seen in Medium thought pieces and the Hacker News front page, although given the end of this particular Medium thought piece, that may be the point.

>I can say that there are more to startups and startup culture than the stereotypes seen in Medium thought pieces and the Hacker News front page.

Yes, but not much.

He either completely misses the point, or completely gets it.

Every single one of these "benefits" are very well thought out and calculated shams meant to deceive and manipulate impressionable kids into working insane hours for less than a realistic living wage. That's the whole point.

It's just like that circus in the Pinocchio movie.

Not quite as exploitative as the music industry prefers to behave in pursuit of profits, but I concur the general top-down structuring of environments like that is not particularly an accident. Like hard seats in a fast food restaurant - they're not supposed to make you want to stay for an extended period of time, in theory.

The only takeaway for me is the wondering whether or not the author really thinks you can't read a book a week. I mean, yeah, you have to make time to read the books, but an average length book takes something like 6-8 hours to read, so if you allocate an hour a day (which I maintain is worth doing), you're generally going to be able to comfortably knock out a book a week.

Sure, you're not churning through War & Peace every week, but for regular books, it's really not that hard.

His point is that reading is about the journey not the destination. Better to read less books but savour and enjoy them (or if non-fiction is your thing take the time to learn the materials properly) then finish them to say you finished them.

I mean, sure, and of course that's right -- but you can do that and still easily read a book a week at the same time.

Yeah but don't make that the target. Make having time to read and enjoy it the target.

I've known a number of folks who have done "read more" challenges, whether 50 books a year was the target or some other number, and while this is surely anecdotal, the real goal wasn't hitting some arbitrary number, but simply to encourage reading more, and prioritizing reading as a hobby.

As someone whose greatest pleasure is a day off with a good book, it's hard to balance reading with all the grownup responsibilities we have, and as a leisure item, it's usually the first thing cut from a busy day's schedule. Reading a book a week isn't as much about the number, but by gamifying the outcome, you prioritize it above things you might otherwise not.

People say that, but the destination is important. "Journeys require endpoints, otherwise you're not Frodao, your just a homeless guy wandering around with stolen jewelry" - The Oatmeal http://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy

Not really applicable given I was using a journeys as a metaphor.

So was The Oatmeal. And Tolkein.

> Fuck your eating disorders, why the fuck does everything has to be so extreme with you? On one end of the scale you’ve got the pizza-guzzling, office-snack hoarding monster, and on the other end you have the ‘I-must-optimize-every-living-second’ douche that only drinks fucking Soylent. Seriously, what the fuck?

And from me: also fuck your third extreme, of eating fucking hipster fruit salads all day every day, because everything has to be healthy and natural and organic and stuff. And fuck the way you force it on the industry events, so that I can't get a goddamn pizza on a programming conference because everything now has a catering company providing various kinds of weird-ass vegetarian food. I can eat healthy at home; I come to industry events for the fucking pizza.

There, I said it. I feel a little bit better.


As for the rest of the essay, it's a little heavy on the expletive side, but pretty much spot-on if you look at the media side of things. I'd say things aren't so bad in individual startups, but the overall culture - the blogosphere, the professional publications, etc. all feel like encouraging and glorifying this kind of nonsense.

> I come to industry events for the pizza

That's an odd reason to attend an event/conference.

> I can eat healthy at home; I come to industry events for the fucking pizza.

Really? In most realms outside IT, that's the food you buy when you consider the people eating it not worthy of actual catering. I can understand wanting pizza if the alternative is salad and water, but still.

...And where do you live? If you live in a town with good pizza (New York, New Haven, Chicago, etc.), trust me, pizza shows up at events.

I stared coming to hacker news for the tech conversations reading this made me realize how much I have been sucked in to the dark side of it.

I keep thinking it's time for the next dot-com collapse. The level of excess is too high. But we haven't had the first really big failure yet. Yahoo and Twitter are almost ready to collapse. Uber is still iffy, because they subsidize rides with investment capital to buy market share and lose money.

Theranos was a pretty huge investment (~700M). Would that count?

I don't think so, because its failure didn't precipitate a crisis of confidence in the Web 2.0 economy.

awesome. so awesome. (actually I did have to shift bits once in a C program..I did some AND'ing and OR'ing. I felt like a man.)

You should look into getting an embedded systems job, those programs are full of shift / AND / OR / bit twiddle galore. You'll feel awesome for awhile, but trust me, all that low level bit stuff is sometimes a huge pain.

Now UI stuff, that's where the real fun is!! ;-)

I think that I last had to shift bits in a C program back when WordPerfect (4.2 and 5.1) used an XOR cipher for encryption, and used bit-shifting and (I think) XOR-ing to give you a 16-bit key for quick rejection of bad passwords. (At least, I think that's what the key was for.)

On the other hand, I last read a book in a week last week. It was a novel, not very long or very complex; but it was a book and it took less than a week.

I feel like most of the people commenting here missed the closing line.

> But more than all, start-up world, fuck you for making me one of you.

Am I... on your lawn?

I'm on your lawn, aren't I?

I should get off, shouldn't I...

"Get off my lawn" implies some curmudgeon against newness and progress.

Doesn't say anything for people against things that legitimately suck though.

This article is trying to point out the absurdity of the current culture of the area, which I don't think makes him a curmudgeon. Also, reading HN (which I doubt is a terribly accurate characterization) makes Silicon Valley seem like an absurdly pretentious and expensive bubble.

This is pretty much exactly how I felt when I left the startup scene in Denver. So much bullshit.

which industry may I ask?

I was doing software development for a couple of different tech startups

" You should celebrate any day that you don’t have to sell off another part of your company."

I can't wait to watch this video at the top of Hacker News. I imagine something a la Ed Norton in 25th hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgL_5QcZCMo

> you’re not going to get to space


Seriously, why'd he have to go there! I've had that dream since the day I was born, and now it's shattered.

Here I say, fuck him, I'm going to space no matter what. Low Earth Orbit is the minimum I aim for in this life.

Really? but...


Cookie for anybody who gets that semi-obscure reference.

> Fuck reading a book a week. No one can read that fast. Let me repeat that -NO ONE CAN FUCKING READ THAT FAST. How about actually reading that god damn book?!

What the hell are you even talking about? Can't read one book a week?

This one was pretty strange. I often read several books a day...

Yeah true, I've read several while writing this comment.

Reminded me of this from 25th hour.


I was hearing Ed Norton say "fuck you!" as I read this.

Aside from what others have said, I got a great laugh out of reading it.

Stereotypically entertaining.

Living in the bay area and working for a startup it's easy to relate and it's funny, i'll five the author that.

After the second paragraph it starts getting pretty old though...

I don't think you need to censor titles on Hacker News.

I wasn't entirely sure. But, hey, this version got to the front page while at least two others didn't -- so I guess it worked.

Yes. Censoring a vulgar word makes it seem more naughty than if you spell it out.

> Fuck you and your stupid interview questions. Who the fuck thinks of these stupid fucking questions? I never had to shift a bit in a C array in my life! And I never got a compilation error on a white board, when I need an hash set in Java I just use HashSet- I don’t fucking care about the complexity of this code block because I can afford another EC2 instance! So fuck you.

Startup or not, I wouldn't hire that guy.

> Fuck you startups with your extravagant parties and crazy off-site events that cost way too much money, you’re supposed to buy some fucking servers instead!

So he can continue wasting CPU cycles out of pure ignorance ;)

Serious question, what's wrong with deploying 100 times per day? I'll take that over one monstrous semi-weekly deploy.

Look, I get the issues with startup culture but this guy doesn't offer any reasonable suggestions on how to fix them and just uses his Medium soapbox to throw a tantrum. If you want things to change, writing an article with 35 "fucks" is not the way to do it.

There's a system that more or less works, and generates a much greater innovation to hype ratio. And, that's the system of normal small businesses. The alternative shouldn't need to be mentioned, because everywhere other than SV, it's omnipresent.

I agree with you, but it is clear here that he is using Medium as his outlet to vent, and I think that is fine. Whether or not his tantrum is valid or even rational is not so much the point, in my opinion. He recognizes that he himself is a participant in the cult-like behavior that plagues the tech scene, and recognizing there is problem in the first place is a good start.

I'm going to finish building my solar panels cell by cell and learn to live off the land.

Hey I like my standing desk :(

it's one of the automatic deals and has presets and --

i don't even eat doritos

Funny read. It was certainly comprehensive. I don't think they missed anything.

fuck your anger. :)

Sometimes anger is justified. And sometimes it calls for a good venting. Sometimes it even calls for a little activism. And sometimes all of these are just futile, because richer people are in control of what you see and hear, who have interest in keeping their pockets full using the hard work of young impressionable kids who don't know the real value of their own time. It's sickening, and the anger is justified. The rant is probably going to be forgotten tomorrow though, and unfortunately won't save a single soul from the startup world.

That is so punk rock.

I stopped reading at “dwont”.

I fucking love this post!

> Fuck reading a book a week. No one can read that fast.

Now the rest of the complaints are... well at least reasonable to rant about (well, the technical ones are kinda crap, but culture ones are apt).

But this? This is just silly.

Reading a single book shouldn't take someone a week. A good sized book can be read in weekend afternoon if you're really into it. But 3 days of occasional reading should get most writing that isn't incredibly dry polished off.

All that complaint is is the author saying "I don't want to, and I won't make the time to."

really? try to read the joy of clojure in one weekend.

thanks for reminding me I have to continue reading that book :D

Upset ratio means something? Because you irritated a lot of people here in HN.

Great article. He knows what he's talking.

Meh. I could write this same post about the corporate world stereotypes, but that would be dumb. This person has a problem with healthy people, fat people, people who have an interest in their field, people who work hard and overachieve, just an absurd breadth of random adjectives and interests that make people unique.

It just seems like they wish everyone was the same so they wouldn't be compared to the tons of people who've found success in the 'startup world'.

2/10, barely entertaining.

Maybe we need a HN edition.

Fuck you HN, and your overly critical and serious comments complaining about how the article isn't new, isn't cool, isn't specific enough.

Fuck you HN for feeling the need to comment just to get your voice out there, just to put something down, just so you can add your snide remark at the end to prove your own intelligence to your peers.

And fuck me, for doing all of the above in pointing that out.

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