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What I Didn't Say (2013) (paulgraham.com)
96 points by lisper 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

PG seems like a good guy and there doesn't seem to be evidence or allegations. He co-founded YC with a woman who he attributes a lot of the companies success to. YC did a lot for ALL founders during his stead.

The point is, in a climate which was less politically charged He, a person who has no track record, is still painted as someone who is part of the problem.

Some ramifications:

- people find these stories less credible

- alienation of allys either directly or indirectly

- undue backlash

- distrust of media (interviewer and audience)

- lowers bar for being a "bad person" and creates noise. E.g. PGs quote vs. McClure's actions potentially grouped into the same convo.

It's so hard to see both sides of things now in a climate much more intense and does less due diligence.

Tldr: Agenda first journalism is causing more problems than it solves.

> Agenda first journalism is causing more problems than it solves.

That's not journalism. That's activism and advocacy masquerading as journalism. In other words, it's propaganda. Things were better, when pieces that were clearly opinionated were in the Opinions section of the newspaper. Now entire newspapers are opinions.

To be fair, pure objectivity is impossible unless you only present facts and avoid selective omission, but it doesn't mean we can't strive to try and be as objective as possible. Saying that it's impossible to be objective, so we shouldn't even bother trying is at the root of our current problems.

It's very disheartening. Almost every news source has become like this. (Or maybe it was this way for a long time and I never really noticed? Who knows.)

I know inflammatory editorial injections into headlines and articles can increase the amount of clicks and ad revenue, but I wonder how much of this is a marketing tactic and how much is a genuine shift towards heightened polarization among newspaper staff.

I think it's increasingly polarization and a desire to be a participant in the story. The media doesn't just want to report the story. They want to manipulate stories into something they can milk for weeks and months.

Not completely on topic, but one thing I've noticed in having my name attached to an online account is that I often start to make a comment, realize it could be considered vaguely political, and delete it.

In my mind, all my political beliefs are perfectly rational and I have nothing to gain by putting them out there for others to demonize ("give me six lines" and all that). Which of course leads to me never having my beliefs challenged and potentially having to change them.

whats worse, is a specific comment you make can be an eternal judgement about you, as if you could not change your mind since then. i say things that i might change my mind on the very same day. i say things i dont even agree with when i said them.

It's now a pretty popular idea on places like Hacker News that conversations on controversial subjects are tire fires in which no minds are ever changed. I think this is both wrong and dangerous. Minds are never changed in the moment, of course. That's not how beliefs (or the stubborn and prideful humans who hold them) operate. But my mind is changed on important subjects all the time! And heated online discussions have played a large role in that.

The belief that there's no point in talking about emotionally charged or controversial subjects says more about the rigidity of the person saying that than anything.

But in this moment where everything you say online is an indictment of character, a set-in-stone reflection of who you are in your deepest soul, I'm starting to think it's just not worth it.

I think that's a real loss.

Same. I used to talk about political topics all the time (ah, the 90s...), but now hardly do.

It always pleasantly surprises me how well PG is able to put his thoughts into words. I feel like I have had many of the same insights as him, but would never for the life of me be able to explain it to someone else or put it down as an essay for everyone to see.

Start writing, and remember to go back and improve your earlier work. Lucidity comes with experience.

Reminds me of an old Mad Magazine bit (I'm sure it didn't originate there) where someone gives a scathing review of a movie and the PR guy hacks a positive one together through creative use of ellipses.

A good version of this here:


plus some general stuff about the practice

This still happens in the book industry. A publicity person told me that it's perfectly fine to use a very short excerpt even from a critical review.

I also feel this applies to Google. It's really difficult to hire female engineers right now because there aren't enough of them.

That doesn't mean they aren't capable or able or interested, it just means if you look st, for example, the graduating classes of CS majors, they're disproportionately male. It's hard for a company (or an accelerator) to fix that.

I don't really think it'd be that hard, you just have to be willing to do introductory training like companies used to do. Bemoaning the pipeline is lazy. My alma mater (https://www.digipen.edu/about/history/) started as a simulation and animation company, but lacking a talent pool to hire from, they created their own by having a training program and then founding a school with Nintendo for the purpose of growing the video game programmer and 3D animation pools.

So instead of whiteboard hazing, companies like Google could open up some positions to anyone interested (not just those with relevant degrees or experience), filter with a quick IQ test (or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderlic_test), and if the person passes a threshold, welcome them aboard and start training. There's no pipeline issues now, the only thing that could account for a non-50% split of male and female applicants is an average difference of interest, wherever that comes from.

Even if you start a program to train people because the current pipeline is inadequate, how do you do you achieve a specific ratio of men to women without being willfully discriminatory.

Admission criteria should be blind to protected characteristics like gender and race.

nobody said it would be easy.

fight to hire minorities by at least having one representative in each round of interviews for every opening.

with time, you might be the one company that hired that one role model that fixes the problem down the road.

but if you just go ahead and shrug that no minorities applied when you only advertised your opening in your facebook/linkedin, instead of taking the time to post in job sites, newspapers and other medias, then you are part of the problem.

This attitude of "non-action makes you part of the problem" is counter-productive as it relies on shame to achieve it's goal and shame as a tactic is one that many are adverse to and actively reject.

It's perfectly okay to remain neutral and not get involved. In fact, if more people remained neutral (and were allowed to be neutral), the quality of discourse today would be a lot better because we would be allowed to be individuals instead of being forced to choose sides in an "us versus them" conflict. Furthermore, not allowing people to remain neutral is often a bedfellow of demanding ideological purity.

you are still using excuses to not do more work to include minorities. so, yes, you are part of the problem.

Well I just informed you that shaming tactics and forcing people to choose sides (as opposed to convincing them to participate) is counter-productive to your cause, so that actually makes you part of the problem.

The issue at hand, "do more work to include minorities", is red herring. The cause celebre involved is irrelevant.

yet the time you spend on those replies you could have posted a few jobs you have open on boards that older unemployed programmers frequent, or black community forums, etc.

The grand irony of your comment is that I am out of San Francisco right now in another American city doing 4-6 engineering interviews a day for a week. A little over a month ago I was in Latin America doing the same. So I am in fact going to places to recruit engineers not representative of Silicon Valley.

That however still doesn't change the fact that your toxic approach of "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" makes you part of the problem. Forcing duality is highly counterproductive.

Not much has changed, unfortunately. =/

I think journalists are snakes in general, but I don't see PG's argument that his statement is not sexist. His expanded argument seems to be:

1. A hacker ethos from a decade of programming is required to start a company like Facebook.

2. There are few women who have the hacker ethos already

3. YC can objectively determine who has a hacker ethos

4. YC cannot teach the hacker ethos in 3 months

5. This is the main reason YC does not accept many women

I think that there are a number of problems with this series of arguments, some of which are rooted in systemic sexism:

1. There are many great companies started by non-programmers. What PG calls a "hacker ethos" and his decision that it is necessary are both based on observing the output of a biased system that favors white males.

2. This doesn't seem to line up to me. >20% of CS grads are female yet <10% of YC founders are female (lower rate in early classes).

3. We know this is not true, as we all have cognitive biases. Some adjustment for this bias should be implemented if we want to have a fair system.

4. Maybe. But why not even try?

5. See #2. Maybe there is another reason, but this doesn't explain the very small number of female founders on its own.

You completely and utterly misrepresented what he was saying in this post which makes me question whether you read it in the first place.

Let me roughly refute your points (I don't have time to go more in depth right now, sorry):

1. He never said a hacker ethos is required.

2. He's saying he believes that development of a hacker ethos takes significant time and that may explain why there are few women at the time of his statement who seem to have it. Point being that cultivating it en masse is generational.

3. He never makes this claim, you seem to be extrapolating it heavily.

4. This point is accurate but you stripped the context.

5. He's saying the skewed funnel doesn't allow for YC to have a higher ratio of women. Phrasing matters, and I think yours is inaccurate. You also injected the phrase "main reason" which he never claims.

From The Information interview:

You can tell what the pool of potential startup founders looks like. There's a bunch of ways you can do it. You can go on Google and search for audience photos of PyCon, for example, which is this big Python conference.

That's a self-selected group of people. Anybody who wants to apply can go to that thing. They're not discriminating for or against anyone. If you want to see what a cross section of programmers looks like, just go look at that or any other conference, doesn't have to be PyCon specifically.

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