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Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers (theguardian.com)
111 points by beauzero on Nov 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments

> is perceived: as under-regulated, overly powerful companies filled with wealthy tech bros and “brilliant assholes”

I’m not so sure the industry is “perceived” like this, it’s more like old media outlets (especially The Guardian and NYT) relentlessly push this message and this piece is no different.

I get that technology has destroyed their ability to gatekeep messaging, their business model and their prestige but at some point old media attacks become too transparent and probably have the opposite effect as intended. I think technologists have reached that point. I don’t know if the general audience has yet but I’ve never heard anyone complain about “tech bros” in real life (probably because they don’t really exist).

It's perceived like that by me, and I work in the industry. You can take Levandowski, Kalanick, Jobs, Zuckerberg, or many others.

If there's no problem with Brilliant Assholes in technology then why are there such a clear pattern of them?

Paul Graham has got a no-asshole rule for a reason- and it's not because he finds it difficult to find assholes to fund.

It still feels like this approach runs on anecdote, and on equivocation between "techies" and "billionaire tech CEOs".

People with enormous power and wealth are frequently terrible across all industries. I'm still fairly convinced Kalanick has more in common with Weinstein and Miki Agrawal than your average trenches-level programmer, simply because power corrupts. (If tech has a singular problem, it's that startup culture means some people are in power for their whole careers.)

And at the trenches level: yeah, brilliant assholes are a thing in software. And classical music, and physics, and law, and... They're all specialized fields with noninterchangeable work, power-law payouts, and room to minimize human interaction in daily work.

I don't disagree with you that this happens in the field, and I definitely appreciate hearing from people in the field who might agree with this article. But it still feels like there's a pattern of comparing Silicon Valley to Wallstreet, while ignoring the myriad other fields with similar dynamics. That, not the existence of assholes, is the part that feels agenda-driven to me.

A few points:

1. The median household income in the US is something like 1/3 to 1/2 of what I understand the starting salaries are in SV. For most outside the tech bubble, economically, there is little visible difference between "techies" and "billionaire CEOs".

2. Much of Kalanick's behavior is mirrored by lesser techies, albeit on a smaller scale.

3. Anyone have any hard numbers on the size of the "techies and billionaire CEOs" class versus the total professional classical musicians and physicists in the world? Certainly, the former seems to have more actual impact.

4. Do you really want to live on the pointy end of lawyer and wall street banker jokes?

("What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?" "One is a bottom feeding scum-sucker; the other is a fish.")

What and a kid who just graduated from college with 80K of debt and is writing test automation for Google is a scum-sucker? Give me a break...

If you're discussing the reality of the problem instead of the perception of it, the median household income would need to be adjusted for cost of living. I'd need nearly double a nice salary just to afford the same lifestyle in SV, one of many reasons I'm not going to move there.

Sure but let's differentiate jackass tech CEOs from jackass engineers. Because face it, yes many tech CEOs are pseudo-psycho jerks, but then again so are most CEOs, it's just for whatever reason the CEO of comcast doesn't get personally attacked the way Zuck does.

For the record, since my first thought was "didn't they fund Kalanick?"


"pg 2632 days ago [-]

"Incidentally, we don't call it a "no asshole rule." I think what I originally said to Robert was that we try not to accept jerks, and since he'd heard the phrase "no asshole rule" he used that to describe it.

"Our criteria aren't the ones listed in this article, either. We're not trying to avoid people who make other people feel bad so much as those who are bogus, or dishonest. That's what we mean by a jerk: someone you can't trust."

Uber is not a YC company.

You are correct.

I don’t know if DC counts as “real life” but I’ve definitely encountered the sentiment among non-tech people. Most of it is due to fallout from the sexual harassment revelations. Silicon Valley is also perceived as libertarian, and with Trump there is a huge backlash right now against not just republicans, but libertarians and other third parties. The NYT writes what it does for a reason. The narrative is very much in line with what many East Coast establishment types are thinking.

I’m not saying that these characterizations are fair. But if there is anything that people are, it’s tribal, and the tribal lines are being drawn.

Silicon Valley is also perceived as libertarian

Well, it used to be. I would argue that hasn't been the case for a few years now. People today who strongly associate libertarian thought with SV are living in a memory.

I agree. But I think it’s the high profile libertarians (Thiel) that create the perception.

This is a digression, but I think it's hard to classify Thiel as a libertarian unless you view libertarianism and feudalism as equivalent.

Penn Jillette also describes himself as representative of libertarianism and he voted for Hillary Clinton. Frankly I find him to be a far better representative of the political philosophy than Thiel is.

Libertarians want both economic freedom (which includes many things Trump policies against like free trade and lax immigration restrictions) and social freedom (keeping government out of debates like bathroom use and abortion), which I would argue is more than half incompatible with Trump's aphilosophical racially charged nationalism.

I would guess less than 10% of tech workers are actually libertarian, and that there are more conservatives in tech than libertarians. Most are probably Democrats (for many varied and diverse reasons). But having them be the same as a lot of other people makes it harder to de-humanize them, so when that's the agenda on the table, they frequently all get pidgeonholed into being "libertarians" anyways because it's an excellent straw man.

>unless you view libertarianism and feudalism as equivalent.


They basically are equivalent if you go by what is typically called libertarianism in the US.

No, that's pretty much completely wrong. For example, look at one of the key characteristics of feudalism, serfdom[1]:

Serfdom is the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage, which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century. Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the lord of the manor who owned that land.

OTOH, Libertarianism is explicitly based on the idea of self-ownership and rejects the idea of that style of bondage (although certainly allowing for debt, and any kind of contractual obligation one wants to voluntarily enter into), and also supports property rights for everyone, not just "lords" and "vassals" and so forth. [2]

Individuals own their bodies and have rights over them that other individuals, groups, and governments may not violate. Individuals have the freedom and responsibility to decide what they knowingly and voluntarily consume, and what risks they accept to their own health, finances, safety, or life.

As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest) are abridgements of such fundamental rights. For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom

[2]: https://www.lp.org/platform/

> Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property

This fascination with property rights is why libertarians are so often dismissed. Liberty should mean a lot more than base selfish "get your hands off my property." It's also not workable in a vastly unequal society. With a lot of the world's wealth having been accumulated by birth, status, or cultural capital, all diametrically opposite of any notion of having earned that wealth, it's a non-starter to suggest that the rest of us "have-nots" dare not place any limits on what the haves can do with the property they magically acquired.

You want absolute property rights? I'd be fine with that if the inheritance tax was 100% and everyone started off on equal footing, with an equal chance to succeed based purely on their own hard work. That'll never happen, and that's exactly why we need to place serious controls on excessive wealth accumulation.

Exactly, every instance of property ownership in the world without exception started with someone at some point in history staking a claim to it by keeping everyone else off of it through the threat of violence, but then libertarians come along and decide that any attempt to remove that claim to property ownership and return it to the natural state of not being exclusively owned by anyone is unacceptable violent coercion.

The whole philosophy is self-contradictory nonsense. They claim to be against all forms of violent coercion, but then enshrine the largest and most widespread system of violent coercion ever to exist as a sacred right.

it was my understanding that sv is very liberal, or at least they try to claim to be.

Socially, yes, that's the picture I get. On the other hand, economically, libertarian seems to be the right note. (How many times have you seen the sentiment here that those who are struggling simply need to learn to code and move to the coast?)

In Boston at least, when my friends are acquaintances are discussing places to work, how "tech bro-y" a place is comes up a lot. Some people like that environment and some hate it but I've definitely heard phrases like, "I interviewed there, one of the guys was alright but the rest we're tech bros"

I live in a small city in the midwest. I've never heard people complain about "tech bros" here, probably because any we might have are basically invisible, but there are a lot of people who really dislike and distrust the companies and some of the people mentioned in the article (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Uber). The article actually does a great job of capturing what regular folks think about SV.

Bill Gates (I know, not SV, but still tech) is another who is still despised by a good number of ordinary people here, though he has done a good job of aligning himself with Warren Buffett in their minds. For some reason, a lot of people around here admire Buffett. Gates' Q rating has risen accordingly, I'm sure.

my biggest problem with big tech is they leave people not born / went to a school on the extreme coasts completely out of the hiring process.

The midwest charged forward a large share of human innovation and large tech basically says: do not bother applying.

> The midwest charged forward a large share of human innovation and large tech basically says: do not bother applying.

UIUC, Wisconsin, Michigan are all awesome CS programs, with tons of alums in big tech companies.

It's difficult to hate what you don't know.

People in small midwestern towns don't know tech bros. They do know Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. Uber is probably a mixed bag.

> (probably because they don't really exist)

Really? Uber isn't a thing? All the scandals about terrible sexually charged behavior and aggressive "bro" behavior aren't real?

They really exist.

I don’t think when people say “tech bro” they mean executive (who happens to work at a tech company). They have been known sociopaths since the term existed.

Instead, “tech bro” is supposed to mean some mythical programmer-douchey guy. I’m sure there are people like that but not at the scale where it matters or implicates all developers as an occupation.

It isn't just the executives. It's the entire culture. That includes the individuals working there.

That’s a lot of guilt by association and blaming people for the misdeeds of others.

I know developers at Uber. They’re just regular (smart) people trying to live their lives. Unfortunately they’re regularly attacked by the media but I think most let it roll off their backs at this point.

I know a fair few police officers; they're just regular people, too. But still...

Less than Hollywood, which is considered a progressive industry.

Completely irrelevant.

I think this is a regional thing; I definitely tried to avoid talking about what I did for work in the last few years I lived in the bay area; it's less of an issue in NYC.

"I’m not so sure the industry is “perceived” like this, it’s more like old media outlets (especially The Guardian and NYT) relentlessly push this message and this piece is no different."

Are you blaming the messenger, or do you have an independent source of knowledge from outside the tech bubble?


Tech companies still have exceptionally high public favorability compared to other major businesses. They don't even show up on most-hated lists, but get much higher-profile media negativity than loathed companies like Time Warner.

A particularly interesting metric from that article is watching how favorability tracks media coverage. United and Volkswagen abruptly lost significant favorability during their recent scandals, but Facebook's favorability is completely stable. That looks to me like a sign of the media pushing a view that isn't resonating publicly.


I have no stake in this debate, but "the trumpist playbook" remark was unnecessary. There's no need to politicize this, and Trump does not have a monopoly on ad hominem attacks or fallacies in general.

Yes I went too far there,I did not intend it as an insult,I only attempted to draw a parallel. Sorry.

No problem -- I appreciate your apology (hopefully others do as well). Thank you for responding reasonably.

My response was about the article the topic of which is the perception of the tech industry. How is that an ad hominem?

You calling me a trumpist on the other hand...

I may have gone too far with the trumpist remark,I just saw a close paralell. I did not mean you were one.

Anyways,you tried to make the story about the media,how this article is some sort of retribution.

I am very happy to see i am not the only one noting that every nyt article posted has been a neg pr piece on silicon valley.

For a while i felt like i was on crazy pills

I've been in the computer industry for 30 years now. Back when I started we were all looked down on as underachieving losers who couldn't talk to 'normal' people, couldn't get laid and would never amount to anything in 'the real world'. Look at the world now, look at programs like The Big Bang Theory - the world has change and the geeks have truly inherited the earth. How they are behaving is as clear an example as you can possibly get when the originally downtrodden get power, wealth and influence - they use it and say 'F*ck you' to those who laughed at them and are now no longer at the top of the pile. Go figure.

> they use it and say 'F*ck you' to those who laughed at them

Except that the "fuck you" goes less to people who laughed at nerds years ago and more to the local community, regulators and software users.

I agree with this for the most part, but The Big Bang Theory is a bad example imo. It is still laughing at geeks, not with them. I think that's why it rubs a lot of people (myself included) the wrong way.

There's certainly a reason Silicon Valley got away with duplicating the components of Big Bang exactly.

Like, they've both got the stereotypical awkward Indian engineer who can't talk to women, but SV took a novel approach by not hating him. SV's weird-by-engineering-standards characters are weird for reasons outside of their nerdiness (e.g. Jared's German-language night terrors), BBT just turned Sheldon's nerdiness up to 11. (And created a really nasty autism stereotype in the process.) And so on.

(Can anyone imaging BBT finding a stereotype as obscure as Gilfoyle's occultist thing? Because that's definitely a 'thing', but it's some serious inside baseball.)

If anything, you might argue that the transition from Big Bang to Silicon Valley is a display of the changing position of nerds. More realistically, though, I think they're just aiming at different demographics.

I thought the Indian guy on BBT was one of the more sympathetic characters. He is a bit sheltered, but seems to do significantly fewer stupid things than the rest of the cast. Also seems to be a good friend. But I've only seen a few episodes.

Nerd blackface with a stereotypical understanding of nerds.

It's usually a disaster when writers try to create characters smarter than themselves. You get word soup based on how the writer imagines smart people communicate, filled with weakly used jargon and unnecessarily long words.

My coworkers still accuse me of using complex language even though I have worked to simplify and clarify my communication.

It blows my mind that in an article about income inequality, someone who I’m perceiving as a white affluent male can paint themselves as the underdog and then cheerfully refer to The Big Bang Theory as “nerd black face”. Seriously?

Well, the two aren't necessarily incompatible.

Although, strategically, we should be supporting the "nerd black face" image.

> someone who I’m perceiving as a white affluent male

Of course you are.

Hmmmm... Especially in the earlier seasons, I'm not sure there's ever been a mainstream television show that incorporated so many technically nuanced jokes.

The jokes are validated by David Saltzberg, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA.

I think if the jokes were superficial and lazy, I would perceive that as mean-spirited. But they seem to get the details correct.

The Heisenberg uncertainty joke was pretty good. https://youtu.be/F6LIo-FfpKs?t=11s

It's a weird mix, because some of the jokes were pretty intricate and clever. The background stuff (e.g. writing on whiteboards) is also correct; a bunch of it is apparently equations pulled from old physics papers.

The characterizations, meanwhile... well, Howard and Sheldon both struck me as pointlessly mean-spirited portrayals, while Rajesh was just a really overwrought stereotype. It felt like the technical side of things ended at input on specific jokes, and in response everything else was hammed up to ensure it would maintain mass appeal.

Of course, that's a pretty common pattern - could-be-good works getting diluted to ensure they won't drive away any viewers. I wouldn't be surprised if it boils down to a good idea plus executive meddling. The later seasons also seem to have a really bad case of Flanderization, where writing novel jokes got hard so "hah, nerdy talk!" came to the fore.

I always just read it as dysfunctional people getting into comical situations. I see the show sometimes at my parents' house, and it doesn't seem that bad.

I think your comment (albeit exaggerated) is a major part of the equation. Society never viewed such people well, and that's missing from the article.

When I was younger, I tended to have roughly equal sympathies for everyone, regardless of wealth, race, career, etc. As I get older, I think I've become a bit more hardened and "preferential". I'm definitely a lot less sympathetic to people who I perceive as prejudiced - and I tend to see a lot of prejudice against tech folks - not related to the current sentiments, but the more common antisocial behavior towards "geeks", "nerds" and the like that's always existed.

To me, it's the same as one who is overtly racist. Why would I want to help a jerk like that? Except when it comes to prejudice amongst "geeks" and "nerds", it is much more prevalent than overt racism.

Of course, it's not as black and white as I put it, but I can understand if others in the tech industry are leaning that way. I've seen first hand wealthy tech people do a lot of good for people around them, but they're still treated poorly by them because "nerds" and "geeks".

In fact, I think it's had a much bigger impact on me observing this over and over again than it has on the people involved.

While the status quo may not be good, I prefer it to the world before the Internet giants. At least people have alternatives to joining a law firm or the finance industry.

(Written by someone who does not live in SV, does not work for any of these SW giants, and does not make a lot of money).

Well, I think the people who are most harmed are those who never were near the top of the pile. Unless I don't understand what pile you mean.

Honestly I see the industry being increasingly taken over by the very people who looked down on you/us.

The econ major banker/consultants are now CS majors and PMs.

Nothing to do with downtrodden, this is how people behave when they get power. Loss of core values when you get power suggests you didn't have any values to begin with.

Those with integrity behave with integrity. This is the biggest betrayal of the people by those who spent the first 10-20 years incessantly posturing about freedom and liberty, at least the bankers are not hypocrites.

You are making the typical reasoning error of assuming that all people match a stereotype exactly, that all these people are exactly the same.

Last I checked FSF and some very powerful nerds who aren't assholes still exist.

I believe you have the order reversed. It's not that people behave like this when they get power, but that behavior like this increases the likelihood of gaining power, causing those with these behaviors rise to power disproportionately.

Examples: Trump, SV Bros

"“You wake up, get the shuttle bus, go to the bubble of campus and order food via an app when you get home. You are not a citizen, just a bizarre leach who makes money,” he explained."

I'm not sure I understand. The whole article is just describing literally anyone in any industry.

What people can't seem to grasp is that tech in SF/SV simply created a massive insular culture that doesn't contribute to the culture that was previously there. It just took over ruthlessly. All previous artistic beauty that was in SF is just gone now and replaced with tech kids that get paid a ton and would rather spend it on cryptocurrencies and music festivals than participating in the city's artistic scene.

Its no wonder at all why people don't like tech people. Its not because they get paid a ton. Its just because they get paid a ton and have no care for anything that was previously there.

But I mean, its a tiny city and the city's building regulations don't do much in the way in helping with gentrification at all. Not sure what else could have possibly happened.

> I'm not sure I understand. > The whole article is just describing literally anyone in any industry.

Teachers. Surgeons. Physiotherapists. Soldiers. Artists. Grocers. Cleaners. Miners. Forestry. Farmers. Elder care. The people who drive your shuttle bus.

Most industries require contact with other humans, and implicate you in their happiness. In techland, we are already a step removed from our customers (because we create autonomous artifacts.) But beyond that, now we’re powered by overwhelming amounts of capital. And the whole point of that capital is to create vast power imbalances between you and the people you’re allegedly serving.

In a previous decade, computer programmers could have counted themselves as citizens. Connecting and empowering people. Maybe a lot us still are. But lately, a lot of what we’re doing is finding new ways to yank Jenga pieces out of society, in hopes that all the pieces will fall into our bosses’ laps.

> Most industries require contact with other humans, and don’t rely on overwhelming amounts of capital to try to create vast power imbalances between you and the people you’re allegedly serving.

I agree with the statement, but I'm not sure it squares with your list? Tech and banking aren't unique in offering the chance to sit alone in an office and turn early advantages into ludicrous excess.

Broadly, we're talking about jobs that have power-law payouts among their practitioners, require highly skilled (and hard to interchange) labor, and don't intrinsically punish jerks (meaning limited interaction with coworkers or customers). Not all of them make billions, but they get something exponential that encourages them to compete - fame or professional power or job security.

That's a lot of careers. Orchestral musicians fit, lawyers fit, surgeons fit in spades, artists and mathematicians and philosophers all fit.

Obviously tech and banking are not equivalent to those things - heart surgeons have never destroyed the economy. But I think it's a catastrophic mistake to try and understand why tech and banking cause these problems by acting like the professional demeanor is unique. That is at best a starting point, a way of acknowledging that if yanking pieces out of society is easy and rewarding it will happen. The question from there is "how do we stop that from happening?"

(I'm not sure how much we honestly disagree, I just think the distinction is important. That Jenga metaphor is fantastic.)

Something of an aide from the main thrust of your argument:

> Orchestral musicians fit

My friend who was in the Boston Pops disagrees - the pay was crap (he had to provide music lessons on the side to maintain a reasonable income), the pressure was humongous, and their off-hours practice to keep at the top of their game puts our own hobby programming efforts to shame. Like video games, all musicians want to perform in the big orchestras, creating a highly competitive supply glut.

I'm also fairly certain that most mathematicians and philosophers come nowhere near to our power distribution curve.

That leaves us in the company of bankers, lawyers, and surgeons. Not the highest prestige group of people to exist alongside. Especially since, while well off, we're making nowhere near their "Fuck You" levels of money.

From the responses here, I think I was unclear with the power law part.

I don't just mean "the pay distribution is exponential". I mean any system where the rewards of the work (as judged by the people doing it) accrue primarily to a small fraction of the workers. This isn't about the size of the payout, it's about a system where competition and potentially ruthlessness within the labor force have substantial benefits. (Contrasted with careers like factory labor where getting 'ahead' of coworkers doesn't have much to offer.)

So for orchestras, "all musicians want to perform in the big orchestras, creating a highly competitive supply glut" aligns nicely with what I mean, even if that supply keeps salaries down. Most talented musicians don't make it into a career, most career musicians teach in schools or play weddings or otherwise don't make it to the Pops. Video game design is another power-law return - most people don't get to lead teams, most team leads don't make hit games. The same for mathematicians - the payouts are largely status, tenure, and prestigious institutions, but they're still exponentially distributed.

A decent definition would be any profession where the stereotypical example and the prototypical example are completely out of sync. The prototypical truck driver is basically what we imagine them to be. The prototypical software engineer works on an inventory system for a non-tech company someplace outside the Valley, and has nothing much in common with the 'techie' stereotype.

Even in banking people go out onto the street at lunchtime. The whole campus thing is pretty unique to SF tech culture.

Bankers also ride the subway not private shuttle busses. It’s a stupid thing to focus on but optics matter.

I think the truly toxic thing is people not spending money in their communities. One of the things I pick up from anti-gentrification stories is that when new people move in, the existing shops lose customers. No-one goes to the corner store, they get food via an app or wait for a Whole Foods to open.

The (completely unintended) effect of this is that the existing community gets poorer, not richer, when rich people move in.

I think your analysis is great too. The power law advantages are what’s both wonderful and terrifying about this field.

Although surgeons aren’t really in the power-law game; at best they can do a handful of surgeries a week. But yes I chose that example specifically because many of them are tempermentally detached from people, get paid a lot, and are often workaholics. But we don’t see people revolting against surgeons.

Sorry, I was a bit unclear on power law - I was thinking about the career side, not just the outcomes.

So power-law for surgeons would be doing the hardest surgeries in the highest-stakes fields, heading up a clinic, ending up rich and famous. A great brain surgeon doesn't save vastly more lives than an average one, but people like Ben Carson and Sanjay Gupta get exponentially more fame and status.

I think we agree though - it's a great example of a field with similar social dynamics to programming, and a very different societal role.

>Most industries require contact with other humans, and implicate you in their happiness.

Most do, but many don't. Including some that were considered prestigious jobs (Wall Street, law firms, etc). A number of these jobs involved really boring grunt work with minimal contact with others.

> I'm not sure I understand. The whole article is just describing literally anyone in any industry.

The fact that you think that really underscores how much of a bubble you must live in. No, that's not any industry. Indeed, the only people who live like that in my mid-sized town are college students. College is cool, but it's kind of a half-way house for real-life, not something to be extended indefinitely like the tech firms do.

And isolating yourself from your fellow citizens in this way is a particularly bad idea when you're creating products that have outsized influence on our free time, relationships, health, and elections.

It is _any_ industry. San Francisco has a ridiculous problem where the city has become so tech-centric that your entire life will be tech even if you try and distance yourself from it. Your friends will all be in tech. People you meet on the street will be in tech. Your uber drivers will pitch you ideas. You'll overhear the next big ICO at every party you go to. Your life is changed by every small startup trying to remove any small inconvenience in your life. And this becomes one _humongous_ bubble within the city. So then you have this entire world that is just completely and entirely oblivious to anything outside of it.

If you travel to cities which are known for specific things, you'll often find these culture pits. SF is just a really special case. Its just the size of the city that exacerbates it so much there. Its tiny. Theres no room for growth. Anyone not in tech got pushed out. And now you have a culture silo.

I specifically moved away from San Francisco to Toronto to avoid this very problem. I'm still in tech. Theres no shame about it here at all. Hell, I get excited if I meet someone also in tech now. The city is so big and has so much space to sprawl and have startups anywhere that tech simply doesn't define anything here at all.

It doesn't have to do with the industry entirely. The tiny city is the problem IMO.

"All previous artistic beauty that was in SF is just gone now and replaced with tech kids"

What "artist beauty" are you talking about?

Some of the areas that "tech kids" took over were basically slums (like around the Tenderloin), or (much more frequently) industrial eyesores in SOMA. None of these had the least "artistic beauty" about them that I could discern.

Now opposite the rows of shuttered businesses around the Tenderloin and warehouses of SOMA there are some nice, new, open businesses, with employees that spend money on other local businesses, helping to revitalize the area.

Speaking of "artistc beauty", have you looked in to the lobbies of some of the office buildings on Market St around the Civic Center BART? Some of those have truly impressive, beautiful, and creative art displays inside. Some artists were hired to create those. Money that would not have been spent and artists who would not have been hired had the "tech kids" not come around.

Anything that was previously there or anything that might enrich the lives of those outside our bubble. As the infamous Dropbox soccer bros video[1] suggests, "we're part of the community" often means something more like "our money and presence entitle us to have our way here" than "we'd like to share in your way of life."

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awPVY1DcupE

I pay my taxes and abide by the law therefore, I'm a citizen </END>

The video of Dropbox employees trying to kick local kids off the soccer field is exactly how I picture most of the failed social interactions in Silicon Valley. Utterly clueless, then they wonder why people say they dislike them.

Ya, how dare some people want to use a field they had reserved ahead of time!

Sometimes I wonder what bizarro world other people are living in. Every city in America has public spaces which can be reserved - playing fields, gazebos, park areas, picnic spaces, museums, art spaces. Only because it was tech workers in SF does anyone suddenly pretend like first-come first-served laissez faire is the only acceptable use of shared resources.

Obviously the kids that were there had no idea that it could be reserved. See another comment here about that reservation being available only on an app, not the website.

The cluelessness is in the aggressive assertion of their "rights" and their complete failure to listen to what the local kids were saying. Hell, they couldn't even be bothered to play a pickup game with them.

The frightened / annoyed looks of the two Dropboxers when they realized they were on video adds to the hilarity. I was pretty sure they wanted to be cops asserting some bogus right not to be filmed in a public space at that moment.

>Hell, they couldn't even be bothered to play a pickup game with them.

That would've been the emotionally intelligent thing to do.

One party paid the money for reservation, other party is ignorant of the rules. Situation is pretty clear to me, but I'm programmer and have trouble noticing subtle unwritten social rules.

Sure, the rules are simple, but if you listen to the guy who says that he grew up here, he explains that field has NEVER been reserved. It’s easy to imagine how some bureaucrat updated the rules and accidentally destroyed a nice social space by turning it into a field that people pay for, use, and leave (opposed to a more spontaneous meeting place for young people who aren’t that organized).

You can’t fault the Dropbox people there for making a reservation and expecting that it would be valid. They’re a bit clueless in how they respond, though, not realizing that those rules are clashing with the unofficial social dynamics happening there.

(Semi-related : That’s why we might feel that banks are assholes for foreclosing houses that belong to deployed soldiers. Legally they can do it, but it sounds like it’s the shittiest application of the law.)

Please don't blame your failings on your membership in a heterogeneous group of people.

As a kid, the neighborhood basketball court had norms for use that developed over generations. If you wanted to play and a game was in progress, you’d call out, “Got next!” (If someone else on the sidelines had already called it, they’d let you know and you’d wait your turn.) When your turn came, the winning team stayed on the court and you went onto it with your team, picking up players from the sideline as needed. In this way, people from the outside still had their chance to play, but they integrated into the system. (They were probably made better players as well since they had to play against a wide-array of competition.) The system was true of any urban court I visited around the US.

If our neighborhood court suddenly had to be reserved, it would be a major disruption to norms established for generations. Neighborhood kids, who knew nothing about local government and how to work with it, would have suddenly felt pushed out. Worse, assuming they observed the reservation made by the “outsiders”, they would have been left with nothing to do except wander the streets. That’s often the scenario courts were built to prevent.

I understand that leagues need to schedule ahead. I also understand that local governments need supplemental income to maintain neighborhood facilities like basketball courts and soccer pitches. But, neighborhood kids need open time during after-school hours and weekends to meet with other kids and play without the formality of a reservation process. The Dropboxers in the video would have been a lot smarter if they explained to the locals about the reservation and offered to have a big game “subbing in” as needed.

You are describing what happened on the soccer field.

Watching the video in full, it was not clear that the two parties played together. They seemed to head that way until the guy with the permit arrived. Then it became a territorial standoff again.

What would be truly interesting is how the Dropboxers handled the situation afterward. Did they get local authorities involved? Did they come back the next week, without a permit, and blend in the way the guy from the locals suggested? The answer would be a good measure of their Social IQ and value systems.

Specifically, as I recall when the event was originally reported,

"As a kid, the neighborhood basketball court had norms for use that developed over generations. If you wanted to play and a game was in progress, you’d call out, “Got next!” (If someone else on the sidelines had already called it, they’d let you know and you’d wait your turn.) When your turn came, the winning team stayed on the court and you went onto it with your team, picking up players from the sideline as needed. In this way, people from the outside still had their chance to play, but they integrated into the system. (They were probably made better players as well since they had to play against a wide-array of competition.) The system was true of any urban court I visited around the US."

describes the situation on the field when the Dropboxers arrived.

"If our neighborhood court suddenly had to be reserved, it would be a major disruption to norms established for generations. Neighborhood kids, who knew nothing about local government and how to work with it, would have suddenly felt pushed out. Worse, assuming they observed the reservation made by the “outsiders”, they would have been left with nothing to do except wander the streets. That’s often the scenario courts were built to prevent."

And that was the community's reported response.

> ... how dare some people want to use a field they had reserved ahead of time!

Even if they had the permit, maybe they should just play pickup with the neighbourhood kids.

Sounds like a lot more fun than arguing for ten minutes and it would allow them to form bonds with the local community.

That they overlooked this obvious solution is an example of exactly the kind of cluelessness that silicon valley tech workers are bing criticized for.

As tech workers, we are good at creating little sandboxes for others to play in and we really like our rules. Tech workers are actually very conservative in a way despite the proclamations of liberating the masses.

A good opportunity was lost to make friends with he local kids. Sport is a great way of bringing people together.

~I didn't believe you~ (Update: the video was at the very bottom in the linked article, I'm sorry): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awPVY1DcupE

Description below the video:

UPDATE: After public uproar, SF Rec & Park removed the policy that allowed this encounter to happen. The City - without posting the availability of the park rental on their public website - had been marketing the Tuesday and Thursday slots initially only through an app so that the demographic portrayed in the video - a tech league - was taking the space from neighborhood kids twice a week.

i would blame the parks department more than the employees. My 8 year old has had this happen to him (we live in Dallas) and his friends. Poor communication about reservation availability and who has reserved what and when is always the issue, especially if a YMCA is involved heh. If the employees were being jerks about it though is another thing.

I don't understand, why wouldn't the Dropbox employees be entitled to a field they reserved fairly in advance? If anything the Parks and Recs department is at fault for not making rules clearer.

Using money to push others out is poor behavior, but so is using the tired 'how long you've lived in SF' (like one of the people mentioned in that video). Once again 'techie' hate is misguided and most of the scorn should be focused on city hall for poor policy.

> Using money to push others out is poor behavior, but so is using the tired 'how long you've lived in SF'

IMHO $27 gives the the tech workers a lot less claim to that field than the entire lives that the kids have lived there, regardless of the piece of paper.

If they didn't want to play pickup, then the right thing to do is to go and play on the dropbox campus. It's not fair or logical, but it's the right to do.

I'm sure with the billions of dollars the company has it can build it's workers their own football pitch.

  If they didn't want to play pickup, then the right
  thing to do is to go and play on the dropbox campus. 
When it comes to busses, people don't seem keen on tech companies having their own private facilities no-one else gets to use.

> people don't seem keen on tech companies having their own private facilities no-one else gets to use.

I agree, so it seems to bring things back full circle: just play pickup with the local kids, have a good time and make friends.

>It's not fair or logical, but it's the right to do

It's not fair, but it's right?

At this stage, what do those words even mean? It very much seems you have your desired outcome firmly in your mind, and are merely playing verbal gymnastics.

Why are we advocating for something that we are agreeing is unfair?

Just imagine the phrase being used for all manner of unfair acts that society at the time deemed to be "right".

There are two instances of unfair.

It's unfair for the dropbox guys to lose $27 on the permit.

But it's also unfair to have your neighbourhood change too quickly for you to be able to adapt and continue living there.

What I'm saying is that there are moral categories to strive for beyond fairness.

IMHO, humans are too caught up on fairness. In a way nothing is 'fair'. Morality has to be situational, and trying to impose a top down moral framework is only a necessary evil.

We should strive to do the right thing in the moment.

If you want moral certainty, then you'll never get it. No one can give you that.

>We should strive to do the right thing in the moment

That's both a circular statement, and an ambiguous one. Both sides were doing the right thing at the moment.

The only party that was clearly in the wrong were the people who were renting out the space. The reason this whole thread exists is that there is not a consensus on what the "right" behavior should have been. Pretending there was one right way to go is adding to the disconnect and gap between the two parties.

Maybe it's not the 'right' way, but to it seems like there was an attractive alternative (play pickup with the local guys) that could have had a transformative effect on the situation.

Perhaps you're hung up on my using the 'right thing' in my earlier post. Hey, I'm speaking colloquially here as most of us are. I could have rewritten that using formal logic symbols perhaps, but the no one would read it.

The crux of my argument is that there was an opportunity to look beyond who had the 'right' to play on that field at that time.

Living somewhere for a while gives you no special claim to that location.

Humanity seems to disagree, almost universally.

How should they have handled it? Called the police? What if it had been the Dropbox folks playing pickup and a family had rented the field for a birthday party and the Dropbox folks refused to leave? My guess is you wouldn't be criticising the family even though the only difference is the identity of the players. That speaks loudly to your biases.

I think they should have played a pickup game with the kids. They could have had some glorious "team-building" experience and built up the community at the same time. Like, get to know the neighbors before they are displaced because rents are going up.

And it's funny, I really was waiting for the cops to show up because one of the Dropboxers had called them. Their desire to avoid having any real interaction with these kids is so painfully obvious that it makes me embarrassed for them.

As far as your hypothetical, it's just that: hypothetical, as is your perception of my hypothetical biases. It's actually hilarious, because in the hypothetical my mind conjures up, I'm sure if we met in some real-life context you would end up calling me a nazi.

FWIW, when I was younger, I knew and hung around with people who are just like the Dropboxers, and was probably like them in many ways. I've gotten to know and work with a lot of different kinds of people since then, so now I would intuitively know a better way to handle this situation than these guys did. Step 1 is to recognize that they are valuable human beings and neighbors. That's where this exchange broke down, so no need to go on to subsequent steps till we get that part right.

These people reserved a field using correct, official channels. Why should they have to change their plans because some other people squatted on the field? Why should the Dropbox people have any moral obligation whatsoever to play a game with people they didn't choose?

Because they are nice people who are willing to make concessions to accommodate others, finding a compromise that doesn't particularly upset anyone, even when they have the right not to do that? Ok, that's not what happened in this case, but I'm sure they are still nice people who just had a bad day.

Why would you make concessions to a society that didn't make concessions to nerds? Arguably the tax money paid by those workers did more to pay for that field than the tax money from the kids, but even setting that aside, I am tired of being told constantly to play well with others, when they don't play well with us.

If I come back from vacation and find that a squatter has broken into my home, should I find an accommodation with him? Compromise on living arrangements? There is no moral obligation to compromise in the case where one party is flagrantly violating the social contract.

And if the squatter had reserved your home to which you'd asserted rights through an informal but generations-long local accepted social arrangement, via some new app you don't have, and a distant home and residence government agency?

mmm.. well..., this happens everywhere outside sillicon valley and it is normally handled playing together. King of the field.

Sometimes bias is justified. These people lived there their whole lives.

They grew there, we flew there.

Localism isn't good either, but a bit of respect and give and take for people who, let's face it, will soon be pushed out of their neibourhoods to make way for tech workers, would be nice.

In fairness they had a permit the other group didn't and the city put in place a permit system to deal with these issues.

If that happened in a less high profile city the other party would be the one who was assigned blame. There are only so many soccer fields here if people started to ignore the permit system it would make it more unfair to the more disadvanged groups.

If you read the video description, the blame should really be on the city for having an obscure system where you can rent the field that no one actually uses.

Let's be honest here, lot of people should be, there are too many jobs in tech that are morally questionable and people just do it because they get a 6+ figure salary. I had a personal experience with that in a new company and within the first hour some upper head stated "we don't like opensource, opensource is a problem" (silicon valley company). Lot of other related issues, see the threads on the homelessness issue that was posted today. Silicon Valley is living in a bubble

I don't get it. How is stating "we don't like opensource, opensource is a problem" considered morally questionable or bad? There are lot of companies out there, outside SV, which don't really care for open source for various reasons. Whether they are correct or not, is a separate matter.

You can tell a lot about a company by their attitude on this. The fact that "you should let your users have freedom" is still a controversial statement in those type of companies should tip you off as to how they treat their customers.

Also, the fact that we still often have to use "open source" as a euphemism for "free software" in these type of situations illustrates the point even further. Freedom or liberty does not matter to these companies. It's not even about money or greed to them as they often give away their software/services without charging. All they care about is establishing complete control and dominance of the market.

I think you are conflating two different things here. I am not debating the first paragraph on how companies treat users but I really doubt the 2nd para.

Not using "open source" doesn't mean what you are implying. There are a lot of considerations companies go through on selecting to work on OSS or not.

That said, the quoted example is confusing at best. Companies are made of people and people have biases. You never know what kind of bias or consideration the hiring manager had in mind. Normally, for me if someone makes a statement which I don't agree with - I do make an effort to ask "Why?". I don't simply walk off because someone has a different opinion. But maybe, that is my idea of getting hired - understanding what and why of things I might end up doing.

This is exactly what I mean though. The term "open source" has become so incredibly politicized that it doesn't mean anything any more. I used to use the term in business contexts but I don't anymore because of this. The real issue is how they treat others. For me a good metric has been if a company is willing to focus on empowering the customer and giving them freedom and liberty.

I've noticed that hammering "why" only seems to work at mid-sized companies -- in the case of a fortune 500, then the whys are usually significantly disconnected from what most employees are doing, unless you're talking to the board or senior management, in which case you are probably being paid to determine the why. In the case of a startup, everyone seems to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off frantically trying to determine the "why" but no one is really sure of what it is.

>The fact that "you should let your users have freedom" is still a controversial statement in those type of companies should tip you off as to how they treat their customers.

Apple is well known for not giving its users freedom. And their products are preferred by the majority.

I should have separated that better. Those were 2 different points, although I really didn't like what they told me there and that's the reason why I did not take their offer (very generous) and left. My point was that many don't do that because the money is too good.

I personally don't know anyone who works in finance, but I doubt that many of them are ashamed of what they do. And I know plenty of people in tech, and most of them are actually proud and well respected by their peers for it. So I guess it's just wishful thinking from the Guardian.

Anecdotal, but I actually work with someone who was in finance making 10x what the average programmer makes who gave it all up in his late 20's to code because he felt at the end of the day he was just ripping people off and morally hated it. Probably not the usual case, though (I'd like to think I'd do the same, but man, that was a lot of money to give up)

"Some of these folks aren’t the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self importance and entitlement." ... ahah, there are socially awkward people in every industry, this is just blatant generalization.

But yah, Silicon Valley is becoming the next Wall Street, I can't count the number of MBA's at work anymore. I doubt things will get better with tech and cypto potentially getting bigger.

This video is pretty strong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYNuR1oaQts

I don't mean to disparage him but I can't relate to the guy. Maybe I'm cold or detached, but I feel little to no attachment to the places I grew up in as a kid, so I personally don't feel like they need to be preserved.

I see it not as a loss, but more like a change.

Also no-fault evicting is not a terrible travesty. It sucks, but usually there's compensation to help with moving expenses. If the land owners don't have the ability to do this, renters can hold them by the balls (preventing a sale) and it would drive rent prices through the roof to compensate for this.

'“Being in tech puts a badge on you. Things are going bad for a large section of the economy in this area and here’s a shiny beacon of people getting paid far too much for what they do."'

While I agree that the execs are paid way too much, this isn't exclusive to tech. And if they're talking about your run of the mill software engineer (like me) then I disagree completely. There are multiple logical reasons why tech salaries are "high" (though really they're not that much higher than many other engineering disciplines' salaries). Another way to see it is that all other salaries are too low, but that's beside the point. As someone with tech skills, I can leave tomorrow and start my own business. If the salaries weren't high enough, I would either do that or work in a completely different career. Why would I do software if I could work an easier, less-stressful job for the same amount of money? And finally, let's face it, most people cannot write software and will never be able to write software no matter how many coding camps or classes they attend. Writing software isn't like making coffee, a process anyone can learn. So people who have never written software, and probably don't have the capacity to do so if they wanted to, complaining that run of the mill tech engineers like me are making too much money have no idea what they're talking about. I challenge them to learn tech, get into the industry, do real-world work, and then do that for 1/2 or 1/3 of your typical salary, if that's what they think the jobs are worth. Either that or shut up and stop being jealous, judgmental children.

> referencing his time at Dropbox when people would “fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards”

Why are techies being shamed because they’ve worked hard and spent it on something they like?

This is why tech has a diversity problem. It’s not the inner culture. It’s the outer culture and the shame attached to it.


I don’t own one of those skateboards/scooters but I do appreciate working in a culture where people similar to me finally feel comfortable to be themselves without judgement.

I feel that the people quoted in this article are a bit too manipulated by other’s opinions.

In the end you have to ask yourself: are you happy doing the work here? If not, then change. But if you yourself are happy and you leave because of the media’s opinion then you’re setting yourself up for a miserable life.

Why are techies being shamed because they’ve worked hard and spent it on something they like?

Cause the powers that used to be (newspapers, the established parties) are scared. More and more power is in the hands of the tech industry and it is reasonably popular (last numbers I read was that google had 88% approval, whereas the approval of congress compared disfavourably with AIDS). Tech was the wunderkind and underdog in the 90ies, mostly harmless and a producer of shiny toys.

Tech now has some amount of power, but because we are still outsiders we get stupid articles like that. My hope is that google figures out how to run an AI newspaper (so the articles can be made free) and use it to remove the rest of the power from the incumbents because they do too much damage to us.

Until Google joins Goldman Sachs as yet another unelected branch of the government, I think they're overstating it a bit.

I'm sure Google's working hard on it though!

Google and Facebook have already taken a good chunk of the fourth estate

When they get their $1T+ bailout at a moment's notice, I'll agree with "became". For now, they're just evil Jr.--still in the process of becoming.

I get your point about government intervention, but you spoke about an unelected branch of the government. They are the new media and the media has traditionally been considered an unofficial branch of the government

Still a long climb up evil mtn. if they want to push the bankers off their spot.

Most poor people I know are only poor because of finance--title loans, student loans, rent-a-center, medical debt, credit cards, etc., and it's a race to the bottom for everyone since the banking system diminishes the value of cash faster than most people can accumulate it.

At least Google is providing some kind of benefit to mankind alongside their fuckery.

From one poison to the other.

The Guardian has a clear anti-tech/SV bias, I'll take the lot with a desert spoon of salt.

And once upon a time it had an almost sycophantic pro-tech/SV bias.

Think about what has changed instead of just dismissing an argument outright without addressing any of its points.

I honestly don't remember that. I could easily have predicated what would come up in the article, the G have a bizarre fascination with that mini-shuttle protesting story. It comes up in pretty much every tech/SV story. Throw in a bunch of anecdotes, a few jabs at gentrification (because it's only tech people who are responsible for it, not planning etc), the hilarious implication that most techies work for the big companies listed when you and I both know that bs, a video of a few morons from Dropbox and somehow that all equates to techies being the new bankers? Really? That's got past an editor?

It didn’t have to be this way and it still isn’t the only path we have. It’s possible to build technologies that are fundamentally more socialist and redistribute wealth back to their users. Social media is disruptible in this fashion and so is gathering data for training AIs.

San Francisco’s poverty and squalor is already a concrete example of where this Wall St 2.0 mentality leads. Let’s work on escaping this path.

Your argument would hold more water if the homelessness issue were not a problem all across coastal cities in California. I don't know what the cause is, but it isn't the technology industry, and I'm not a huge technology induestry booster.

Extreme wealth inequality is the source of the problem everywhere. In SF, that inequality is driven by tech.

you're talking cyberspace but homelessness is a meatspace problem. No technology is going to solve homelessness, it's an "assholes and elbows" problem. It takes real, hard, physical and emotional work to solve.

Solving both meatspace and cyberspace problems requires a fundamental change to how we distribute wealth in this country. Since the economy isn’t going to become less tech-oriented any time soon, making sure that technology is more economically democratic is incredibly important.

Far less people in SF would be homeless if the tech economy wasn’t so focused on pushing all its gains to the wealthy (and less so to an engineer class that enables them).

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