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Jim Black's Steve Jobs Story (facebook.com)
455 points by tzhenghao 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 273 comments



What Jobs does here is truly impressive, for the following reasons:

* he listens carefully to the customer - not just pretend, but truly understand the issue from the customer's point of view

* he then allows his engineering manager to present the counterargument - to understand what the current situation is

* he's able to then follow the back and forth of what is presumably a highly-technical conversation. Most CEOs would at this point defer to their technical person's opinion, as they would be unable to follow such a nuanced conversation.

* he then makes the call - you'd be surprised by how rare the simple ability to make a quick decision is

* he then has the power to make the internal team do what is required - again, you'd be surprised how in some companies internal teams ignore or subvert the leadership's directions

What this incident shows is his singular ability to listen to customers, conceive of the ideal product in his head and make the team deliver it. That explains a lot of his success.

PS None of this should be construed as absolving any of Jobs' negative personality traits.


It didn't seem to me like he followed the back-and-forth so much as he just cut off his own guy, screamed at him, and humiliated him in front of one of the most legendary programmers in the world.

To paraphrase The Dude, Steve Jobs wasn't wrong, he was just an asshole.


I wonder whether in fact the Apple engineer was glad to have official permission from the boss to do the Right Thing.

It's not exactly uncommon to have the choice between one option that's clearly better technically, and another that's easier to implement with the limited time and resources you have, or more compatible with customers' peculiar needs, or a better fit for now-clearly-unwise decisions made in the past.

And usually you pick the technically inferior decision with a little sigh and a feeling of regret that the right business decision isn't the right technical decision.

But if the CEO has just shouted at you that you have to do the technically right thing ... well, getting shouted at is seldom fun, but it's got to make a pleasant change to be not just allowed but instructed to do whatever it takes to go with the design you think is "ideal".


I think you might have hit upon why Steve Jobs was so successful despite seemingly having poor social skills "being an asshole": his product/business decisions were very good.

And I have to say, I think I'd rather work for someone who shouted at me when I'd genuinely got something wrong, but listened to me when I was right than someone who was always polite, but made bad decisions.

Of course this wouldn't work for everyone, and of course it would be better if he was nicer to people, but still...


I think you're over-romanticizing. I've read his biography and Steve Jobs was extremely friendly to people higher in the hierarchy, and humiliated people lower in the hierarchy. He also had a habit of dismissing your idea as terrible, and presenting it as a brilliant idea of his own later.


To take it one step further -- I wonder how likely it is that a fairly smart programmer, who has showed enough managerial aptitude to become an engineering director, might drop words like 'ideal' in front of Jobs to get the marching orders they wish they had.


yes yes yes


Yeah - he could have been nicer. No question. But notice his guy didn't quit. People who worked for him seemed to actually admire his ability to be dedicated to the product and make decisions based on what was best for the product. That's pretty rare. And it was not personal with Jobs - he was just so upset that reality differed from the ideal.

He was deeply technical. He began his career as a programmer at Atari.

[Edit] Jobs had many traits that would lead a psychiatrist to classify him as sociopathic - not mass murderer type, but the psychological type. For example, his complete lack of empathy towards his daughter, who he refused to acknowledge for a long while. One of the weird traits of sociopaths is that to navigate world that requires understanding of empathy and emotions, an understanding they don't have, they build models of human behavior and can choose to deploy those models when required toward their aims. What's interesting also here is his ability to be singularly brutal to his subordinate, while at the same time be completely empathetic to the customer's view point. Just my amateur psychologist 2c, but that combination of brutality on one side with solicitousness on the other adds weight to my view that he was a high-functioning sociopath.


Steve Jobs was not deeply technical, nor was he ever a programmer. And in a way, that makes his accomplishments even more impressive.

I think one of his key strengths was the ability to know if someone knew what they were talking about and to recognize outstanding people - in any field. So many Apple stories, from early times to more recent, are about how he always hired the very best people, and then somehow made them do the best work they ever had. I think he could just tell if someone had the fire inside them, and knew how to fan those flames.


Jobs was not deeply technical.

If I remember correctly, Steve Jobs got hired at Atari because he showed them a board for some arcade game that Steve Wozniak had designed and conveniently forgot to tell them that he didn't actually design the thing.

I also think I read that Steve Jobs lied to Woz about how much Atari paid him for it so he could cheat Woz out of the money.

I'm pretty sure I read about this in a book called "The Ultimate History of Video Games". [1]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-History-Video-Games-Pokemon/...


I've heard both of those stories from multiple places. I don't know exactly how you'd define "technical," he clearly wasn't a strong engineer, but I have heard multiple examples of him managing technical things. I remember around the same time he was known for memorizing chips and vendors very very well that he could source them very cheaply.

I think a good firsthand example is a one hour q&a with developers he did in 1997 soon after returning to Apple: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ16_YxLbB8

He doesn't necessarily show off deep technical knowledge, but he is able to discuss strategy about technology directly with developers. Managing technology is his competitive advantage.


Not the OP but I don't define "technical" as "being able to manage technical things".

It's absurd that anyone would.


I can’t help reading your first paragraph as what someone might say when a boyfriend is abusing his girlfriend: “He could’ve been nicer, but notice the girl didn’t leave.”

There might be reasons why he acted like an asshole, but he still acted like an asshole, in my opinion.


Jobs was a known quantity, though. I don't think you became a senior manager at Apple during his career if you didn't accept the risk of being emotionally abused from time to time.


Eventually you have to join the club to not get a split personality?!


You can’t infer empathy from someone’s outward behaviors. People can do terrible shit and feel awful about it at the same time.


> Jobs had many traits that would lead a psychiatrist to classify him as sociopathic - not mass murderer type, but the psychological type. For example, his complete lack of empathy towards his daughter, who he refused to acknowledge for a long while.

IIRC, Walter Isaacson talked about Steve Jobs' childhood -- he struggled with the emotion that he was an adopted child for years. He felt like a total liability for him to have been put up for adoption, that he wasn't wanted. He felt that was an incredibly cruel thing to do to a child.

As a form of "revenge" for being put up for adoption, he denied paternity of his daughter around the same age his parents put him up for adoption, so that he could "experience" what it felt like when the direction of cruelty was reversed (from victim to oppressor).


Steve was an asshole, but an amazingly smart, perceptive and brilliant one. He listened, realized that there needed to be a change and told the team to take care of it. It is clear that it could have been handled nicer but, it was Steve. You got the whole package good or bad. For the most part he got it right, delivery not withstanding. I was privileged to have known him, even if he was an ass.


Clearly, it made an impression. I wish everyone took software as seriously as Jobs did and shouted at others when a point needed to be made. Say what you will about a shouting boss not being nice or fun to work for, but I think getting shouted at undeniably makes you more attentive to an issue than if steve had tried to instruct him calmly.


It worked for Steve, for sure, but it's definitely not the only way.

There's the famous Tim Cook story where he gets his point across, but instead of shouting, he's just ice cold:

> ...One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia.

> “This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?”

> Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/24/technology/cook_apple.fortun...


That sounds like stupid management. You can say in a similar number of words what you want, but you prefer other people to try to read your mind and guess what you want? Or was that a test (yea but most people would wait till after the meeting even if implicitly they knew that was what he wanted, right?)

I prefer Steve Jobs' shouting, but direct management anytime.


I’ve been in so many meetings where a “someone should...” statement got quietly dropped and never acted on and then forgotten. Establishing that “someone should do X” is an executive decision to be carried out ASAP, in a way that’s clear to everyone in the room, is effective in the long run.

I’m willing to bet everyone else in that room, from that day forward, whenever they heard Tim Cook say “someone should” take charge of a situation that they were responsible for, just said, “I’m on it”, immediately stood up, left the meeting, and made it happen. And that’s a scalable, sustainable, well-oiled machine. The fact that Tim could set that up with a single cold, pointed comment to demonstrate how he expected his staff to respond to him is what makes the story.

The meetings where Tim said someone should do something and someone just did it without any further bureaucracy or follow-up emails about action items or specific allocation of tasks to individual people: those meetings don’t make a good story.


> Does the boss want me to stay through the meeting and get all the information, or does he want me to leap up and get on a plane... so hard to know... if only there was a sign... now I'm not even listening to the rest of the meeting... so nervous... what to do...


I'd argue though that given the current buggy state of macOs and ios, the awful keyboards on the recent mbps, the late release of a decent mac pro that Tim Cook is not demanding enough or doesn't actually get people to produce good work...


Or maybe Apple doesn't care about the desktop anymore.


Then the correct thing to do would be to stop making the things that they don't care about.


They're in an awkward position where the entire company does their work on a platform that is not remotely strategically interesting to the company itself.


Then at minimum they should be interested in making their own tooling better.


The most powerful reaction I've ever seen from others to someone in power was a little old lady that quietly thanked everyone who was doing the correct thing. Which caused deep shame and reflection in all of us not doing the correct thing.

There are ways to be make a point powerfully without screaming or being rude.


That was your own self imposed guilt because she was female and old. Someone of your own age and sex probably would not have the same effect.


How is being passionate about making the right decision being an asshole? He didn’t call his engineer any names, he criticized he decision.

At my last job a director (that eventually became my boss) got angry with me because I called the product I worked on a “piece of shit”. He said while the product was “suboptimal”, my language was offensive. I told him that what I found truly offensive was the millions of dollars a month our company was losing because of this “suboptimal” product, and that no one would let me fix it.


That is the kind of honesty that I'd hope my employees would grace me with instead of sugarcoating and telling me things I want to hear. IMO that director is an idiot.


First hand accounts of 20 year old conversations are likely over dramatized, but I find a first hand account to be much more credible than someone reading a first hand account and deciding the first hand account just got it totally wrong.


We don't know the specifics of the work environment there. I mean if you were working on a trading pit on Wall Street would be offended when your boss/co-workers yell at you "f- off" or "get the f- out"?

The reaction of the same person should be different if the work environment never had the f- word pronounced though. That would mean trouble.


> We don't know the specifics of the work environment there. I mean if you were working on a trading pit on Wall Street would be offended when your boss/co-workers yell at you "f- off" or "get the f- out"?

Uh, yes? I mean, that's only one of the many reasons I wouldn't work in a trading pit on Wall Street, but unless they've just killed someone there's never a good reason to cuss out your subordinates. If it's "just part of the culture," then that culture sucks.


Wow, to me this read completely differently. More like a primadonna, making knee jerk judgments and contemptuously bandying about his authority.

The impressive character was Carmack.


Any CEO who makes a blue box and pranks the Pope with it is ... atypical. (more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_box#History)

God, I miss the mythos of Steve.


That's about Steve Wozniak (who actually made the product that made Apple great) though, not Steve Jobs. Steve Wozniak seems like a great person. Steve Jobs... not so much.


A playful joke like that would land someone in prison for a decade today.


Interesting. I've read it more like he winged it by following his gut which told him there is a person here who has utmost respect of people he trusts, so he should probably follow that lead.


> Most CEOs would at this point defer to their technical person's opinion, as they would be unable to follow such a nuanced conversation.

I mean, he has had almost complete knowledge of the stack along the years. Whereas a lot of CEOs just get in large companies at some point of their life because a new CEO is needed.


In the story, Jobs acts as a rational ( screaming aside) adult. Is there anything else?


Without knowing the details, I'm curious if Jobs made the decision based on a deep understanding of the issue, or if he just trusted John more than the Apple engineer.


It sounds like he made the call immediately after the Apple engineer admitted Carmack’s solution was “ideal”. That may have been the culmination of Carmack making the more convincing points (not recounted in TFA) but the fact that Jobs pounces on this admission and ends the back and forth immediately seems like that is a big part of what he was looking for or how he made up his mind.


This is a typical situation for most companies. I've been in the position of the "trusted engineer" several times where conversations with customers can very quickly change the direction of engineering. Fortunately, in all of those situations my boss wasn't an asshole. Honestly, all these recent stories about jobs really just paint him in a negative light.


There is a missing piece of complexity here and other comments regarding "asshole" behavior.

The story recounted here is a concise demonstration of some aspects of leadership — decisiveness, fairness of discussion, and as mentioned the confidence to steer a large company.

But in these stories the means by which those aspects are demonstrated are colored by toxic masculinity. The rage with which Steve is attributed, the combative or abusive belittling he was known for & demonstrated here is the the very same toxic interpersonal dominance normalized by mass culture as essential male behavior.

There are emotionally supportive ways of doing exactly what Steve did. Perhaps his success could have been even greater had he executed what seems to have been an innate wellspring of leadership ability with a supportive disposition.


To be honest, all of that is considerably less frustrating than the kind of passive aggressive bullshit I generally see it’s place. I’d rather have someone be honest and yell at me than engage in passive aggressive nagging and slithering around behind my back whining about things. It doesn’t seem realistic that the default fallback in the absence of “toxic masculinity” is “emotionally supportive”.


lol this is the first time I've heard toxic masculinity used seriously


It is stupid phrase. Men dont have exclusivity on toxicity. I’ve known plenty toxic people of all sexes. There is danger to accepting these kinds of terms that are associated with malformed world views.


It's neither stupid, nor indicative of a "malformed world view". It denotes the aspects of masculinity which are toxic. You can't even pretend to tell me that's the empty set.

You're absolutely right there's toxicity everywhere. To infer from the presence of toxicity in a given domain — say, "masculinity" — that the phrase "toxic masculinity" somehow means "all masculinity is toxic" is, I submit, more reflective of your worldview than it is of the term's legitimate users' views.


This just doesn't include enough context. Clearly the existence and popularity of the phrase in contrast with the absence of "toxic femininity" points towards what the parent was referring to.

Additionally, the central claim of toxic masculinity is basically that certain aspects of masculinity are universally toxic, which is really the only reason for such a term to exist. Aspects of most things are sometimes toxic, and thus don't deserve their own term.

IMO, the level of general acceptance that the concept of toxic masculinity has is mostly a product of the moral high ground that it's proponents currently hold in the culture and not because of serious intellectual underpinnings. The whole thing requires very specific framing that seems to have been constructed by starting with the conclusion and working backwards from there.


Do you think it's somehow not "universally toxic" to be inculcated into the notion that the only legitimate (as in socially sanctioned) forms of emotional expression available to you are lust and rage?

And then to be told those are "bad" too?

That's absolutely universally toxic to men's mental health, unless you can suggest to me a circumstance in which that's healthy, correct, and appropriate?

Regardless, that's a straw-man notion of the term. Healthy aspects of a thing, over-valued or under-corrected, can become unhealthy, too.

For example, "Boys will be boys." There's a legitimate idea behind that phrase: we want to encourage boys to be risk-taking and adventurous. It's also used to excuse a lot of shitty behavior, which teaches boys that (their) shitty behavior is tolerated.

Please tell me how that's not inherently toxic.

EDIT: And maybe you're just talking to the wrong people; the folks I talk about these things with absolutely talk about toxic femininity.


Personally I don't think your example is even an issue, even in a much more restrictive time men openly had a much broader range of emotions than that. But regardless, if toxic masculinity had such a narrow scope then sure, there'd be no point in arguing about it at all. But it's not, it's a heavily politicized term which is often used to attack masculinity in general, or any aspect of it that happens to be convenient at the time. A lot of the value it might have had as a term has been taken away by how it's ultimately been used. It's largely boiled down to a sort of slur.

But in regards to your edit, yes it's very possible that we're just talking to very different groups of people. I have to admit that I typically interact with people who either have no interest in this at all or who are taking it too far and are overly zealous. And of course, I'm not going to get a great picture of things as a casual observer on the internet either since that tends to bring out the worst in people.


Not the OP, but "male toxicity" does not imply that men have an exclusivity on toxicity.

If anything, it implicitly suggests the opposite. Otherwise the "male" adjective wouldn't be necessary.


An interesting aspect of the phrase is that there's no oft-used counterpart. "Toxic femininity"?

Some terms are needlessly specific.


The reason why the term is specific is because it’s trying to bring up a point: we live in a society that has mostly been shaped by and around men’s needs and wants, and consequently sees male behavior as the “norm”. That allows certain male traits to be seen as benign, even when they aren’t. The whole “boys gonna be boys” thing: “oh well, so he grabbed your ass you and made you uncomfortable! what’s the big deal? boys gonna be boys!”

That same lenient view extends to other behaviors. Think how many times you’ve seen men described as “assertive” and “commanding” when women with similar personalities are described as “bossy” and “demanding”. That is what the term “toxic masculinity” tries to convey: behaviors that would otherwise be seen as obnoxious or outright abusive are applauded or tolerated because Steve Jobs was a male CEO. He was enabled, by the simple fact of owning the right set of genitals, to get away with it and be widely remembered as a “genius” rather than a pushy boss.

Now, does that mean only males can assholes? Absolutely not. But we do get a lot of slack before judgement kicks in.


"oh well, she just smacked the waiter on his ass. What is the big deal? man up!"

And how many time have you seen men describe as sick or under the weather as being "weak" or "faking" with women under similar situation getting support and sympathy? What term should we use when the simple fact of owning the right set of genitals dictate if someone is a risk or an asset?

The only terms we really need to describe this is gender roles and gender expectations. "toxic masculinity" and "toxic feminist" belong in the same bucket of political slurs that server no benefit over the more political neutral terms other than expressing abuse towards 50% of the population.


> "oh well, she just smacked the waiter on his ass. What is the big deal? man up!"

I don't even know how to reply to this straw man. Have you ever had that happen to you or any of your friends? I know a lot of my female friends, sisters and girlfriends have been assaulted or harassed. My female friends? Can't think of a single one.

> And how many time have you seen men describe as sick or under the weather as being "weak" or "faking" with women under similar situation getting support and sympathy?

That's kind of the point, isn't it? This expectation that everyone needs to act like the idealized "man" makes people judge harshly people who aren't. That's pretty much the definition of toxic masculinity.

> What term should we use when the simple fact of owning the right set of genitals dictate if someone is a risk or an asset?

Sexism.

> toxic masculinity" and "toxic feminist" belong in the same bucket of political slurs

If you take it as a slur, that might tell you more about you than about the term. Personally, I'm a heterosexual male and I don't take either term as a slur. Maybe it's because I've been affected by it (e.g: not playing soccer while growing up in Argentina made me a "pansy" or "effeminate") so I'm aware of the nuance.


Ask your friends if they ever heard the phrase "man up" being said, and then in what context. You will get some funny looks because its a common phrase but it also extremely sexists.

Do I know a specific case where that happened. Yes. Is it documented, yes. Was there a police report, no.

> "That's pretty much the definition of toxic masculinity."

So sexism towards women is "toxic masculinity" and sexism towards men is also "toxic masculinity". That is a nice loop.

One could easily make the same argument that the expectation that women needs to act like the idealized "woman" is toxic femininity, or can we only blame the victim if its men and not women?


> Ask your friends if they ever heard the phrase "man up" being said, and then in what context.

Of course I have heard the phrase, I don't live under a rock. It's mostly in the context of relationship strife either at work or at home: "you should man up and tell them X, Y or Z".

Again, it's the perfect example of toxic masculinity: the person saying that is assuming that a "man" would do this or that, just because of their gender.

> So sexism towards women is "toxic masculinity" and sexism towards men is also "toxic masculinity". That is a nice loop.

Notice that I haven't brought up sexism, which is a more general topic. The reason the term applies to both men and women is because "toxic masculinity" is not about "men vs. women" but about "society vs. anyone who doesn't conform to norms". The same applies, if you will, to "toxic feminism". The main difference is that - going full circle - our society was built on the needs and wants of men so suggesting that things like "women need to look like barbies" or "women shouldn't be bossy" were concocted by feminists is a bit of a stretch (that's why the term "toxic feminism" doesn't make much sense).

I'm really not following your accusation that I'm "blaming the victim". How is saying "hey guys, this society has some really bad ingrained behavior" blaming anyone, and in particular, how is it blaming the victim?


This is the kind of logic that can attribute anything to "toxic masculinity". Terroism! It exist because our society was built on the needs and wants of men. Low birth rates in wester countries. Its because our society was built on the needs and wants of men. High birthrates in other countries. Must be because our society was built on the needs and wants of men. Cancer, earthquakes and global warming. Toxic masculinity.

I don't just find such theories utterly tiresome just because they don't have any anchoring in history, but untestable theories are worth exactly as much as any other untestable theory.


It's kind of hilarious that you are trying to dismiss the notion that societal issues might be the consequence of how society is structured. Who in their right mind would suggest one might cause the other, right guys? /s

BTW, I don't try to attribute cancer, earthquakes or global warming to toxic masculinity. That was a pretty lame attempt at "reductio ad absurdum".

Maybe if you were able to divorce yourself from the massive chip you seem to be carrying on your shoulder, you would see that I'm not even "accusing" males of doing this or the other thing, just presenting an explanation to a term.

(BTW, I'm also fascinated by you worrying about birth rates in Western vs. other countries as a "problem". Very, very weird.)


Its absurd to contribute a problem to untestable theories. Gender roles and gender expectation has exist for as long as archeology can dig up information about the past, and its rather ridiculous to blame that on men.

When you use those concept like blank permissions to explain any problem than what you have done is presenting your bubble as truth. Its pretty lame of you so some sarcasm was prescribed as a needle.

If you are indeed fascinated that there exist writing that both complain about low birth rates and high birth rates the I guess read more? Not sure why you attribute that as something I worry about.


> Its absurd to contribute a problem to untestable theories.

Can you point exactly where I did that?

> Gender roles and gender expectation has exist for as long as archeology can dig up information about the past, and its rather ridiculous to blame that on men.

Again, you keep using the word "blame" when nobody is blaming anyone. Why do you have to take it personally? I am a heterosexual male. I don't take it personally. Why would you?

> When you use those concept like blank permissions to explain any problem than what you have done is presenting your bubble as truth.

I never said this or that generated all problems, I just gave you an explanation of what the term "toxic masculinity" was, you felt attacked and then tried to put words in my mouth.

> Its pretty lame of you so some sarcasm was prescribed as a needle.

You are the who used sarcasm (what do you think reductio ad absurdum is?) to try to invalidate an argument. I wouldn't go around riding that high horse if I were you.

> Not sure why you attribute that as something I worry about.

Well, you clearly used that as an example of a "problem". I usually don't include things I don't worry about when I make a list of "problems". But hey, to each their own!

I never even questioned the facts about birth rates, just said it was weird for you to worry about it. The fact that you are patting yourself on the back about "reading more" without actually reading what I wrote speaks volumes.


> Can you point exactly where I did that?

Easily: "our society was built on the needs and wants of men" - dguaraglia

Blaming men for the creation of gender roles and gender expectations holds no anchoring in reality. When it is used as an excuse to explain all negative gender roles for both women and men as "toxic masculinity" then I will call that bubble out for what it is. A untestable theory with nothing to support it, but that is instead used as an term of abuse.

Gender roles and gender expectations is ancient, and if someone is honestly interested in whom caused those to exist then we have to follow research from archeology, anthropology (with its many subfields), sociology, and others. To explain why "women need to look like barbies" and "men need to look like providers" we got to do better than say that its because of men.


> Blaming men for the creation of gender roles and gender expectations holds no anchoring in reality.

Again, using that word: blame. Where did I blame anyone? Stating something is very different from blaming.

How can you claim "it holds no anchoring in reality" when to this day there are huge swathes of the world where women are considered second class citizens or even property? Explain how female genital mutilation or how "honor killings" are done with the woman's welfare in mind. To this day, most religions don't accept women in positions of power. Even in our secular institutions (like Congress) men are overrepresented by a huge margin. The best example of how lopsided the whole thing is was that famous "Senate health panel" that was in charge of redrawing the whole healthcare policy for Trump... not a single woman in sight. Until very recently women couldn't vote, work or even make decisions over their own health.

Heck, if you want to get whacky, read on the "men rights" movement. You'll realize there's a substantial number of males in our own country that think women should be subservient to men and stop asking to be treated equally. Just look at the crap published by sites like Breitbart talking about "setting limits on how many women should be allowed to study STEM".

I could buy the argument that gender stereotypes evolved together with us, blah blah. But that doesn't explain why in a society like ours where food and shelter are no longer a concern, people are still so reactionary. Seems like a fear of losing power, if you ask me.

> To explain why "women need to look like barbies" and "men need to look like providers" we got to do better than say that its because of men.

What's your working theory? For someone so reluctant to accept that men might have something to do with it, you present very little in terms of alternatives.


In classic scientific method you propose a theory which lead to testable predictions. Gravity is a force that pull objects towards each other, this predict behavior and experimental tests validates it.

If men created gender roles and gender expectations then a few predictions should be made, so I will state three. 1) During war women should be drafted into the military and put in the fire line before men. 2) gender roles should change during historical time when a queens hold power. 3) as creator of gender roles they should be able to change gender role as is seen fit.

Through history its common that those in power draft proportional from subjugated groups during war. Slaves, criminals and unwanted was put forward as cannon fodder in many wars, Africans was the majority of the fighting forces during the colonial times and African-Americans were often disproportionately drafted in the US between the period of first word war and Vietnam. Slave labor is also a common theme between the powerful and the subjugated and used in almost every place in the world

An other prediction is that we should expect to see changes when the gender of those in power are changed. The Victorian era is strongly associated with gender roles. The era is named after Queen Victoria's reign and there is nothing to imply that gender roles was somehow reversed during this era. There is no identifiable pattern in history that the gender of those in power has an impact on gender roles.

The third one is rather long story but I will describe a anthropology writing about a famous African tribe that managed to stay fairly isolated and static until the 90s. Children of both sex stayed with their mother until around 10 years, after which they were split into male and female areas. The boys had their genitalia ritualistic cut by the elder men during which if they made any sound they would cast great dishonor on their family. The researchers were not allowed in the female sections but reportedly similar rituals was held by the elder women. After which the boys was group into semi-similar age groups and teached the way of the warrior, ending with a test where they went in alone in the forest without anything except a spear and was only allowed to return if they killed a lion. If they survived the trial they where given the title warrior and a wife that the female elders selected. The warriors then regularly raided every few years with machetes and spears and died usually rather young.

Now setting aside which life was worse, who held power in this culture? Could a man dictate who married who? No. Could a man decide that he was not going to get ritualistic cut or that he choose not to enter the jungle? No. Could a man decide that he did not want to go and raid? No. Could he dictate who married who? No. Similar a woman could not decide to go hunting. A woman could not decide to eat meat. A woman could not decide to not get ritualistic cut. The roles was laid out with almost a literal line in the village between women and men. The elder men held power of the men and the elder women held power over the women.

Then during the 90s a change did happen. The elder men changed the details about what the men in the village would do. A civil war had killed a massive number of the men, and later tourism started to compete as primary source for food. This resulted in a stop in the warrior culture and boys were no longer required to go into the jungle and kill a lion or raid. The elder women also change their side a bit, primarily by putting children of both genders into school. genital mutilation is still common for both genders and it is still the elders that decide who should marry who, but slowly those things are eroding through cultural homogenization.

Which gender held a position of power in that village in the past, and which gender holds one today? A major part of gender roles is that they split power along gender lines where crossing them is forbidden. Taking a historical perspective, the feminist movement spearheaded the movement to abolish gender roles but it sadly gave up on those around the 70s and is today more focused on who holds positions of power. This has resulted in very little progress to eliminate gender roles in the last 50 years. "Men rights" movement is both young and split with parts that is competing with the feminist movement about positions of power and the other that tries to take up torch against gender roles which the feminist movement abandoned. Examples of the later is those that fight for more women in the military, equal rights for adoption (and the right to start a family), the elimination of alimony and child support, and gender neutral efforts to reduce gender segregation.

> What's your working theory?

The two cores in gender roles is that women raise families and men support the raising of families. We see this in dating and in studies of inter-sex competition. A prediction of this is that we see exaggerated gender role behavior when a individual is among their own gender. Since it is about social rank we should expect to see the behavior starting at very early age and much earlier than puberty. Dating statics also show a identical correlation along those gender roles, where male success is about showing how they can support the raising of families (job, wealth) and female success is about showing how they can raise a family (hip size and so on). If we want to stop those gender expectations then we have to eliminate those gender roles, and I would predict it would cause a huge change for gender segregation in the work market.


> If men created gender roles and gender expectations...

I'm actually kind of surprised by your ability to misreading the same thing over, and over, and over again. You are still pushing this idea that "men created gender roles" and throwing a wholehearted defense against it. Why don't you try "society normalized gender roles around the needs of the physically stronger sex" and see if that removes the edge?

> ...then a few predictions should be made, so I will state three.

I could come up with 20 predictions that do match the hypothesis. In fact, I did in my earlier post, just make my statements into predictions: "in a society that revolves around the needs of men, women wouldn't be allowed into positions of power", "in a society that revolves around the needs of men some form of genital mutilation that discourages women from exploring their own sexuality could be used as a method to subjugate them", etc. etc.

It's also hard to follow your example of "disproven predictions", as sometimes their link with the topic at hand is very tenuous. But let's take for example your first two:

1) You claim women were not used as warriors, so that's proof "men" don't control the narrative. There's plenty of arguments against your point:

a) maybe that's more to do with the fact that women as property are valuable, whereas sending a street urchin to war doesn't hurt the powerful people at all?

b) in modern societies being a "warrior" conveys power and a social position; just think about how many men in power come from a military background and connect that with the constant conservative movement to keep women out of the military

c) a battle might be won by brawn, but war at large is won by logistics; I'd recommend you read about the "home front" and how women have always played a major role in keeping the war machine humming along while the "warriors" kill each other. Maybe the "laborious home maker" gender stereotype serves its purpose better than sending women to the frontline?

2) You claim that gender roles didn't change during Queen Victoria's reign. And yet, that's exactly the timeline of her reign matches almost exactly the timeline for the Suffragette movement in the UK: https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/womens-suffrage-t.... The Suffragette movement wasn't just about putting pieces of paper in a box, but largely about recognizing that women were equal citizens and as such should have the same rights as men.

3) I can't for the life of me identify where your long exposition about this African tribe intersected with your third point.

> "Men rights" movement is both young and split with parts that is competing with the feminist movement about positions of power

Again, our Congress is largely male. How are these "men rights warriors" trying to "regain" terrain, when they are still winning by a solid 30 to 40%?

> and the other that tries to take up torch against gender roles which the feminist movement abandoned. Examples of the later is those that fight for more women in the military, equal rights for adoption (and the right to start a family), the elimination of alimony and child support, and gender neutral efforts to reduce gender segregation.

I really can't follow what you are saying here. Are you saying that all those are feminist positions and now the "men rights" movements are trying to destroy them? I guess I have issues with some of those points being actually feminist positions (right to adoption? The elimination of alimony? When were those feminist issues?) If so, what do you think is the motivation for the "men rights" movement to attack those positions?

> If we want to stop those gender expectations then we have to eliminate those gender roles, and I would predict it would cause a huge change for gender segregation in the work market.

How so? You are saying that removing the stereotype somehow will broaden the breach that extends along the stereotypes? Sounds very, very far-fetched to me. It's like saying "letting black people work in desegregated workplaces will generate even more segregation".


> I'm actually kind of surprised by your ability to misreading the same thing over, and over, and over again.

And I am surprised by your ability to miss the point over, and over and over again.

If "society normalized gender roles around the needs of the physically stronger sex" then that mean society should maximize safety needs for the stronger sex. For every step we should see men having it superior and better than women. This is not true and has never been true.

We see more men being put in jail them women, but its the opposite for african american and white.

If "society normalized gender roles around the needs of the physically stronger sex" and we look at the results, then we could almost use the exact same data to prove that society normalized race around the needs of the african americans. They get put in jail more. They got drafted in the army more. According to you that is a sign of power and social position.

> just make my statements into predictions

That is not how predictions work. A flat earth person could say "if I predict that looking out at sea I will see an edge" or "if I look at the sun I see the face of god". Predictions need to be testable and falsifiable.

> b) in modern societies being a "warrior" conveys power and a social position;

So white men conveys African-Americans power and social position when they disproportionately drafted them? That is an interpretation that the african-american will disagree with you on. Power and social position is not granted when by force someone is put into the fire line.

> War at large is won by logistics

Its ridiculous argument that it servers men to be forced to stand in a fire line rather than be protected at home.

> You claim that gender roles didn't change during Queen Victoria's reign.

Your ability to misreading caused trouble for you. Queen Victoria's reign is infamous for rigid gender roles and trying to paint that period as a time of progressive change in gender roles flies against common knowledge.

> Again, our Congress is largely male. How are these "men rights warriors" trying to "regain" terrain, when they are still winning by a solid 30 to 40%?

They don't. "Mens rights warriors" fighting against "social justice warriors" is a boring side show and thankfully the wast majority of the population seem to not care. When they do care its because media loves to focus on it with the sad effect of increasing polarization.

The feminist position is currently define as post-modern feminism, which came from modern feminism that came from diversity feminism that in turn came from equality feminism that ended around the early 70s. Equality feminism held the idea that men and women are more similar than not and thus gender roles are an hindrance for equality. Diversity feminism holds the opposing view, and want to focus on the diversity but still keep equal outcomes. Diversity feminism won over the movement, and modern feminism is derived from that point of view. Post-modern is still being debated.

> what do you think is the motivation for the "men rights" movement to attack those positions?

The part of the movement that want equality is mostly copying the views that the equality feminism held 50 years ago. Gender roles are bad, there is more in common than differences, and anything that differentiate on the basis of gender is inherently immoral.

Example: Should all children have a human right against religious genital mutilation? Currently only one nation has such law and that is island. Here in Sweden when the political leaders was asked if they wanted a similar law, only one out of 8 established parties said yes and that was the representative for a center-right party. By happenstance she is also the only female political leader that explicitly do not define herself as feminist. I find it strange that in order to support such law the only choice for voters is the conservative right block.

A gender neutral human rights law for children against genital mutilation is directly opposed by political leaders in Sweden that identify as feminist, including the minor feminist party. Instead its a mens right argument and center-right on the political plane. The mens right argument is that the gender of the victim is irrelevant when someone is putting a knife to a child and starts cutting. It should illegal regardless if its a boy or girl. The feminist movement disagree.

> feminist positions (right to adoption? The elimination of alimony? When were those feminist issues?)

Guess which political movement and which decade that Sweden eliminated alimony among other law texts that had the word "woman" or "man" in it. If the guess is the "feminist movement" and "around the 60s" then you would be right. Currently only a handful of laws still exist which treat women and men differently, one which sadly have a profound effect on how victims of crimes get treated.

> You are saying that removing the stereotype somehow will broaden the breach

I am not sure if you intentional are misinterpreting here. Eliminating gender roles would turn the tide and finally reduce gender segregation and make society more equal. The trend for the last 50 years is an increase gender segregation in the work force, where currently only 10% of the population work in a profession which has better than 60:40 in gender segregation.


Awful straw man argument


Not disagreeing with you, but unless I misunderstood something, it seems Jobs sided with John because it was obvious that the design they were going for with MacOS Graphics was wrong, and Jobs was pissed that the Apple engineer tried to defend it. If you ask me that's a perfectly reasonable scenario to get pissed.


Except we have no idea WHY the engineer was trying to defend it. He might've been told previously by Jobs himself that their solution was "the" solution and that they wouldn't entertain alternatives.

Imagine how the conversation could've gone if the engineer had agreed with Carmack and Jobs didn't. "Well, yeah, that approach could be better...". Jobs would've probably cut him off for not towing the company line and fired him.


THIS. there are countless stories of this happening inside Jobs' Apple. In fact it was a well known ploy that to get something contentious approved you presented it to Jobs who immediately torpedoed you, then let him stew on it until he later presented your idea back as his own.


Do they paint him in a bad light? I guess they all seem to match up to my internal image of who Jobs was. They don’t make him look worse, they just confirm how bad it was.

I guess I kind of assume everyone knows Jobs was insufferable at this point.


>> Honestly, all these recent stories about jobs really just paint him in a negative light.

Not really. That's not my interpretation of the story at all. People who judge others for being a jerk in isolation lose the fact that it often comes with the territory of being a visionary or extra-effective at their job.

Sure, it'd be great if Jobs was nice. It'd also be nice if your middle manager who knows your dog's name and loves his family was as smart as Jobs. But skills are finite and scarce, and almost no one develops them all, a lesson many D&D players learn immediately after rolling a character.

Jobs was a dick. But that was the price. If someone is a dick and half as smart and effective as Jobs, yeah, that's a negative. For someone like Jobs, Carmack (plenty of stories about him that are "negative" as you say, I might add), and other 4+ SD talents, it comes with the package. Expecting otherwise is folly.


Talent allows some people get away with being jerks. If you think talent and bad behavior go hand in hand, you should meet some new talented people.


Can you clarify your point here? That Jobs shouldn't have listened to John?


Jobs could have made his point without shouting, i.e. being an asshole.


That’s not really as effective though. Sometimes you need to be an asshole to get your point across. Civility will make you look like a weakling and you will be continually passed on promotions.


> Sometimes you need to be an asshole to get your point across.

That's certainly what all the assholes claim.


They're right, too.

... if the people you're trying to make a point to are also all assholes, because the assholes are in charge, and have exclusively promoted assholes to leadership roles.


Definitely. And my real issue with Jobs is more the ripple effect. So many people read stories of Jobs being an asshole and think, "Oh, this is how you success." Ignoring the many assholes who weren't as brilliant or as thoroughly lucky.

Look at Theranos, for example. The CEO was practically a Jobs impersonator. From the turtlenecks and the air of brilliance to the controlling, abusive, and secrecy-oriented behaviors. How many people fell for the fraud? And I can't count the wantrepreneurs I've come across that had similar theories.


> thoroughly lucky.

Jobs made a huge success 3 times:

1. the Apple II

2. Pixar

3. return to Apple and transforming it from 90 days to bankruptcy to the biggest corporation in the world

You can ascribe one of the above to luck, but faced with all three, Jobs was just that good, and made his own luck.


You have to be able to separate the things that were good about Jobs (e.g. design sense, marketing instincts, etc.) from what was bad (i.e. being an asshole).

It's the difference between being effective and being Cargo Cult Steve Jobs. Far too many baby entrepreneurs try to mimic Jobs' behaviors, but fail to couple it with any sort of skill or good taste.


This is a false dichotomy. I already said he's brilliant. But that doesn't mean that he wasn't also very lucky.


No success is without a good degree of luck. Repeated successes show it's less likely that the "luck" is the main factor.


I don't think "main factor" is even a useful description. With billions of people on this planet, many will score high on brilliance. Steve Jobs could score equally highly on luck. Both could be entirely necessary for this level of success.


1. Wozniak 2. Lasseter (and others) 3. Ive

His success was being involved with people with genius and vision that were willing to put up with his shit.


I love Woz, but he's demonstrated no ability to create an impression in the marketplace since his time working with Jobs (arguably an unfair assessment as he largely retired). Jobs turned Pixar into an animation studio and gave Lasseter a place to practice his talents. Ive was working at Apple for years before Jobs came back and put his talents to use (not to mention that Ive's design efforts are only one of a huge swath of things Apple started knocking out of the park after Jobs was back in the chair). That's not just success-through-association.


Woz had the ideal of giving everything away for free. Of course he had no business sense.

Pixar wanted to be a studio, Jobs wanted it to be a hardware/software company. The people of Pixar forced Jobs into letting it be what it is today.

Jobs recognized Ive for what he is and then Apple became what it is today.

Like I said, Jobs was good at latching on to people with vision and genius to make what him what he is.


> The people of Pixar forced Jobs

Jobs had a controlling interest in Pixar. Nobody forced him. Pixar would have gone bankrupt without Jobs. Apple would have gone bankrupt without Jobs. Apple would never have existed and we'd have never heard of Woz without Jobs.

Nobody is that lucky. It's like winning the lottery 3 times. Once is luck. 3 times means there's a guiding finger on the roulette wheel.


Latching on is an odd way to describe something that happened repeatedly. You're dismissing Jobs singular talent: assembling groups of skilled people and giving them an environment that let them create incredible things. He was genius level at this.

I think Woz is down on Jobs, but Lasseter, Catmull, Ive, Cook, Fred Anderson and others all spoke highly of him.


I'm not dismissing that talent, I'm pointing it out.


It was his vision that made him such a joy to be "latched onto." It's too easy to dismiss building collaborative environments with extreme talent underneath you. People aren't just cattle you can find and latch onto. It's often a reciprocal relationship.


This claim is delusional. The stories about Jobs' vision, product/engineering judgement, and ability to get others to share it are very convincing. They stretch for decades. He basically worked his entire career to put creative computing tools into people's hands (Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad). He did not just happen to get lucky to "be involved with people with genius and vision."


The iDevices are not really creative computing tools. They're mostly about consumption and, in the case of iPhones, communication.

Really expressing creativity in computing requires a richer interface, at least a keyboard and a mouse.


You're saying like it's easy to just find a talented person and associate yourself to them and everything else will just work.

BTW things that Ive wasn't involved in when SJ returned to Apple:

- Bring Next software to Apple and create OSX from it

- Software UI/UX design (Ive is mainly a product designer. And it's much more than "let's make colorful plastic" but how to do it so that it looks right, in which colors or how do you actually build this so that it is thin but resistant)

- Simplify product lines and improve focus

- Be involved in the "Think Different" campaign (the bozos at the top level wanted to go with a "We're back" campaign that was proposed to them)


"His success was being involved with people with genius and vision that were willing to put up with his shit."

Which was in no way an accident.

Jobs talent was identifying these people, and building environments around them that maximized their talents, while also identifying how to translate those ideas into products people wanted to pay money to buy.


All three of those guys were/are clueless about business until Jobs made their ideas work.


I believe that I made that clear. He was a salesman, obviously a great one, for other people's ideas.


No. He was a businessman and a product guy.

He could sell, but as a side effect.

I see this too often from fellow developers - anyone pushing business objectives and strategy instead of engineering choices is a "salesman". It's not true at all.

Calling Jobs a salesman is like calling Einstein a Civil Rights campaigner. Certainly they both did that, and did it well, but it sort of misses the major thing they were good at.


How the heck did you come up with Ive as being #3?

Did Ive make the brilliant decision for the 4-square powerMac/iMac product strategy abandoning the dozens of previous models?

I'm guessing no.


That's in no way a counter-argument.


Look I see your point and I agree. However, having worked in a number of big companies I am really at a loss as to what is the right way to coerce a number of humans into the "right" direction. I have sat in meetings where ignorant executives have blabbered on and on about nothing because the company and CEO felt it was important to hear everyone out. This works if everyone at the table is knowledgeable and able to swallow their ego. You get people making ridiculous statements like we need to replace our database that runs the whole organisation. I have also worked in a company where the CEO cut people who were blabbering short, mostly rightly but rudely so. I think the two approaches have a time and place. There is probably no need to be rude but I don't know how one cuts someone off without being rude.


What if there were right ways that don't involve coercion?

What if we can't find them because we let coercive assholes run amok, seizing advantages and damaging people in ways that make it hard to create non-coercive structures that are also highly creative and productive?


I wish I had an answer. It seems to be getting worse or I am just getting old. From where I am standing, management .i.e. "coercion" is considered a stand alone skill. I understand management but I don't buy that it is a standalone skill. Most IT people will not be able to manage a hospital well. I use the word most because I don't want to use the word all and derail this argument. There are off course exceptions, but these are very rare. The number of people who can effectively manage in an industry/business unit they do not understand is less than the number of people currently managing an industry/unit they do not understand. Money, ego, selfishness ... you name it, humna traits get in the way. We all have these one of these traits and we are all affected by these traits.

One of the issues with modern world is that big talkers are rewarded over reserved more knowledgeable people. The more you appear online, the more you talk in meetings and the higher profile you appear the more likely you are to be promoted. It is the way of the world.


There's a line beyond which Jobsian behaviors will ruin the productivity and happiness of the Woz. Holmes/Kissenger and friends flew over it and landed in "scientists are being forced (and encouraged) to lie to keep their jobs," territory.


I googled her images after reading your comment and it is so funny to notice the impersonation.

Also, every C level guy(also middle management wannabes) impersonates Jobs.


> I googled her images after reading your comment and it is so funny to notice the impersonation.

Well, it's not like she made any effort to conceal it. In fact, she was very public about her desire to appear like Jobs.


A Jobs impersonator...but without the talent, taste for design, passion for products, or virtually any other positive quality that he had. IMO Holmes has more in common with Jordan Belfort than Steve Jobs.


I think Elizabeth Holmes belongs in prison. However, I read her bio and she was a genius on par with Jobs.


> However, I read her bio and she was a genius on par with Jobs.

In short, why do you believe that Steve Jobs was remotely close to being a genius, and what made Elizabeth Holmes do to lead you to believe she also met you definition of a genius?


https://www.wsj.com/video/reporting-on-theranos-and-elizabet...

At 4:00 in this video they talk about Holmes fake "deep voice". I think its pretty clearly her fraud tendencies run really really deep. I don't think you could trust anything you think makes her a genius. The only things we actually know about her is that she could get into Standford, where she dropped out. She could also raise money really well.

I don't think she is by any means dumb. But there is absolutely no evidence of genius.


Funny, lowering the pitch of your voice is a tropey power move that gets zero criticism when practiced by men.


Any "tropey power move" should be criticized.

Didn't you just criticize it by the category? When I was raising capital I definitely heard VC's making fun of men who spoke in a false voice, practiced their handshake, or artificially held eye contact way too long.

I'm fine if you want to say my criticism of Holmes is influenced by sexism.

But to make the statement that men speaking in a stupid fake voice get zero criticism... is hyperbole to point ridiculousness.


To be sure it can be overdone, but that doesn't detract from its utility and popularity.


This knee jerk reaction is part of why she was able to get away with it for so long.


>> gets zero criticism when practiced by men

This was literally made fun of in a meeting two days ago for a vendor I work with.


Honest question:

Is raw intelligence or wisdom more important for success in biotech? It seems to me that raw intelligence is useful when studying systems that are either designed rationally or can be understood easily from a mathematics perspective. On the flip side, I think experience is important when dealing with biology which is often messy and not easily understood because so much is still unknown and everything is the result of an accumulation of random variations.


Most biologists I know are very high in raw intelligence. However there's a distinction between biology as a science and biotech as an industry. The key insight that starts development of a new drug often comes from pure molecular biology, but after that, a different type of biology, as well as chemistry and pharmacology quickly become very important.

The industrial drug development process is one of the most technically complex, risky and highly regulated processes in industry. You basically need PhD level experience in almost a dozen distinct technical domains to get a drug approved. Most biotech VCs prefer CEOs with decades of drug dev experience because they know where the pitfalls are and how to execute better

That said, Ive heard a very experienced biotech VC / former big pharma drug developer describe the process of developing a drug as "hanging on by your fingernails", and the traditional dyed in the wool drug industry strategy has pretty much put the industry on a long term declining trend, so maybe experience isnt as powerful as the industry tells itself


Genius isn't enough. In fact, it can be a detriment in the right (wrong?) environment resulting in stunted emotional and social development. The problem with geniuses is that they tend to think their aptitude is enough to grant them magical ability to be correct. It takes experience and humility to learn that it's not the same, but a life of being pampered and put on a pedestal limits the genius' opportunity to learn this life lesson.

The self-serving genius is roughly equivalent to the pychopath. Once you begin to look for these antisocial behaviors among so-called geniuses you'll see a frightening pattern.


People thinking they are smarter than they are, and that this entitles them to run other peoples' lives, is hardly limited to geniuses.


>I read her bio and she was a genius on par with Jobs.

What were either of them geniuses at exactly? Psychology?


Sure. People with certain personality disorders are extremely good at reading others, and convincing them to do what they want. Two common (and apt) terms I see thrown about are "social chameleon" and "reality distortion field".

You can also learn how to do it if you don't have one by studying those who do.

Regardless of how someone ends up with the ability, I don't think it's unfair to refer to it as genius, even if it's specifically based on emotional intelligence. They're just on a completely different level in comparison to the general population when it comes to bending others to their will and getting their way.


I've unfortunately been very close to people with cluster B personality disorders, and I think "savant" is a better term than "genius". In many cases, these people don't even realize how manipulative they are; it's just an unconscious reflex.


For breaking what law(s)?


Fraud? The kind of fraud that can get someone hurt or killed like the bogus diagnostic tests which could mean a patient ends up taking the wrong drug and/or dose which hurts them.


Do you think Elon Musk should be in jail for the misleading content on this page:

https://www.tesla.com/autopilot


No because as far as I am aware Elon has not tried to actively hide the problems even if he sometimes paints a rosier picture than reality. That is very different from telling everyone, including regulators, that the diagnostic tests work great, safe, effective. And there are documents showing they knew it didn't work. Theranos is like Enron.


Human drivers kill over 1 million people per year

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic...


Fraud, theft.


> Honestly, all these recent stories about jobs really just paint him in a negative light.

These tend to coincidentally crop up every year just before a WWDC and the September iPhone drop.


In his story about how Steve Jobs told the engineer point blank to make changes and how impressive it was. I think a lot of people underestimate how effective Steve Jobs was as the CEO because he was Steve Jobs.

A CEO of a company has role power, but that's really the least effective. If the employees don't respect thier managers, the managers can't be effective.

It's usually used by production workers, but developers will also Work-to-Rule (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work-to-rule) and do the bare minimum.

I don't know of any non founder CEO that can inspire workers (or investors) to follow them in a completely different direction.


I wonder how long that guy stayed at Apple afterwards, does anyone know?


Why wouldn't he stay? If the decision was technically correct and he may be able to talk to Carmack directly to ask for advice, that would be a rare opportunity to learn.


Edit: oh wait, you're probably asking about the Engineering Directory, not Jim Black.

Jim Black's facebook page says he's VP at Magic Leap, so this must be him:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimblack2

Looks like this was during his second stint at Apple, where he stayed for just 1 year, before going to NVIDIA for 16 years.

He did have a previous stint at Apple from 1992-1997, so 5 years.


"On Day 2, John was to meet with Steve. I never knew whether it was by design or not, but on that day John wore a T-shirt that featured a smiley face with a bullet hole in the forehead from which trickled a few drops of blood."

Was it the watchmen comedian logo?


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thresh.jpg

John Carmack in 1997 wearing what is presumably the exact shirt.


I think the guy in the car is Thresh, who won Carmack's Ferrari in a quake tournament:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Fong

You can download recordings of his tournaments, where you can freely change your POV to thresh, or his opponent, or just fly around, and watch him play. Pretty amazing skill!


I don’t think anyone could ask for more than this post provides.


Great find!


I think it's a similar design, but I have a vivid memory of a kid in my elementary school (~1995) wearing a shirt like this: black t-shirt with a big yellow smiley face with gory bullet-wound to the forehead. It was a strong image especially for kids. The Watchmen logo is spattered on the side. I can't find the t-shirt I'm remembering but there are similar current examples: https://www.amazon.com/Smiley-Bullet-Black-Adult-T-Shirt/dp/...

> Watchmen Smiley Face: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen#/media/File:Watchmen,...


When I was a kid I made an animation of that on an amiga 500. Yellow smiley face, gunshot in the forehead and blood dripping down.

I showed my dad and I still don’t know if he was impressed that I figured out how to do that or thought I should see a psychiatrist.


Does anybody remember the interface from Plan9 or Inferno where the "kill process" button was originally a smiley face with blood trickling from a bullet hole in the forehead? Then they fixed it to be more bland when it started shipping more.

Oh, and the Comedian just wore a regular smiley button. The blood was his own, spattered from when he was thrown from a building. No bullet hole.


The yellow smiley face was a prominent early-90s late 80s acid-house/rave subculture symbol, and a version with a bullethole in the head was common.

https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/a337mb/history-smiley-...


That seems likely from the description. I don't know if Jobs knowing that would've changed much for their interaction though.


Anyone here ever work with a genius who wasn't an asshole? I did and he'll always be a key part of the template to which I both aspire and measure others.

It's not like the stories about Carmack make him out to be a saintly, fuzzy human but I will definitely give him credit for standing firm on some big ideals/principals, even if I don't share them.

I guess I just hope that you can (a) be really good at your work - like -genius good - and also (b) a decent, empathetic human being.

Wishful thinking? maybe, but I don't really want to be top-level successful if you've gotta choose.


Most geniuses aren't assholes. But no one writes news stories about individuals that have no drama and are pleasant to work with.


Woz is a notable exception to your rule.


Er, John Carmack?


I maintain that my cofounder is a genius (computer vision and signal processing), and he's one of the kindest nicest people I have known.

Being good at something and not being toxic to humans you interact with are absolutely orthogonal -- it's just that a lot of geniuses can get away with being douches, that we let it happen.


One thing a lot of people seem to miss is that being nice is a choice [0] -- nicety to others is a learnable skill.

[0] https://www.princeton.edu/news/2010/05/30/2010-baccalaureate...


>Anyone here ever work with a genius who wasn't an asshole?

Absolutely. Those are the people we should want to work with and strive to become.


Knuth?

i mean, i've never worked with him, but he's apparently great.


He doesn't consider mathemetical flaws to be bugs. Not saying that makes him an asshole, but as a product person, this has has harmed TeX's ability to complete it goal of allowing anyone to create typeset documents.


Would you care to elaborate?


Knuth's stance on bugs and TeXs goals are pretty well documented online.


Correcting self (post obviopusly doesn't make sense otherwise):

Knuth doesn't consider NON mathemetical flaws to be bugs.


John Carmack himself? He seems like a great guy. Or wouldn't you call him a genius?


Hal Finney.


Great comment about the mouse at the end.

    John replied, “I wanted to ask him what would happen 
    if you put more than one key on a keyboard. 
    But I didn’t.”
The first thing I do when I get a new Mac is throw away their crappy mouse, and replace it with a decent three button mouse.


Carmack comedic skills seem as high as his engineering skills.

I would pay to see his happy deadpan delivery of that question to Steve Jobs and enjoy the pause after that.


Kind of an apples to oranges comparison on Carmack's point though (no pun intended). Keyboards were invented 100 years earlier than the mouse. People, especially older adults, instinctively knew how to use them.


I don’t think it was remotely serious, he probably just wanted to say it to tease him a bit


When the first keyboard type interface was invented for typewriters and such, did people instinctively know how to use them immediately? Besides, at that time the concept of a two button mouse was not new and had been in use with computers for years.


I don't know about when typewriters were new, but up until recently, many people were actively scared to use a computer. I worked with people who would physically shake when they would use a computer because they terrified of breaking something.

The mouse, while designed to help quell those fears, was still a part of the computer and still scary to those people.

The number of buttons probably didn't matter in the whole scheme of things. They would've been afraid of it regardless. But his instinct was already to remove anything from a design that wasn't absolutely necessary. So it fit with his way of thinking to suggest that people wouldn't use a mouse with two buttons. If eliminating one button could make those people less afraid of the computer, then that was the way to go.

All that said; I too thought that mouse sucked. But I was a power user by then and it wasn't designed for me.


> because they terrified of breaking something

Not really. More like they were terrified that the keyboard would shoot out sparks and fire, and throw them across the bridge of the Enterprise.


Also, keyboards have letters


Funny how people can such a different taste for these things. I've switched back from Mac to Windows some time ago, and the thing I miss the most is the touchbar.


You can't possibly mean the touchbar. Are you talking about the touchpad?


Yes. Thanks for the correction; I can't imagine anyone who enjoys this abomination.


Ha, even as a 10 year old kid in '96 I found the Mac's decision to have a 1 button mouse to be painful (coming from windows). I remember not having much of a concept of how companies were ran but instinctively felt there had to be someone stubborn somewhere.


But new Mac mice have two buttons and a scroll wheel. Then have for at least a decade.


No friggin' middle mouse button though. You can't even configure their mice? to behave as if it had a middle button. Go ahead. Try.


Maybe get the touchpad instead then.


You throw away an $80 mouse?


No different than throwing away a $100 OS when you buy a computer. Sometimes there simply isn't a way to purchase it without the undesired item included.


> You throw away an $80 mouse?

If it doesn't do what one wants it to do, it's worth $0 to them.


But potentially worth something to someone else, which is an argument for selling it or even donating it. Throwing it away seems downright silly.


> Three weeks after I sent him development hardware (an iMac) he informed me that the PC and Mac versions of Quake III Arena were in “feature parity.” I still recall my shock upon reading that email from him.

Weird how “writing portable software” was (and in many places still is) considered deep wizardry. I remember the timeframe described here and indeed “porting our software to a non-Windows platform” was on every company’s list of things they’ll never have time to do, because everyone’s code base was so thoroughly (often unnecessarily) tied to Win32. The bad ol days...


It's a bit easier in a game that renders its whole UI custom, though. A standard desktop app would be heavily tied to Win32 simply because of UI controls. Similarly, a server app, if designed for performance, would likely be using overlapped I/O.


Yea I should have qualified that I was mostly talking about games companies. Games should be among the easiest software to release on multiple platforms for to not needing platform specific UI controls. Actually I struggle to think of a single major component to a game that must be platform-specific. Yet, of all the software I use, games tend to be the ones stubbornly stuck on Windows.


If this story inspires you at all to troll old John Carmack .plan files and interviews, I believe you'll discover that id software stopped doing Linux versions of their games for reasons that had little to do with the technical difficulty of porting.


> Actually I struggle to think of a single major component to a game that must be platform-specific.

Different platforms often have totally different graphics APIs. Even when platforms share APIs, driver quality, compliance, and fast paths vary greatly. The Mac still used a completely different processor architecture from the PC at the time of this story, requiring platform-specific optimizations and approaches.

Games, particularly cutting edge ones that demand performance, and especially from that era, are much more likely to need to be tailored to their platforms.


These are semi-good reasons for games of the past but I thought this was actually less of a problem these days with the rise of cross-platform game engines. If you use Unity or something, porting your 2018-era game to Mac or Linux should be a recompile at most.

The other thread mentions the business cost of releasing and supporting these other platforms, which I totally understand.


To be fair if you’re doing all your own UI it’s a bit easier. Porting a bunch of Win32 GUI to Carbon/Cocoa would be a big deal.

But I agree. I remember being impressed at seeing boxed Linux copies day one.

Yet today we can still wait YEARS for Mac ports of games, if we get them at all, even though they’re using a cross platform engine.


The Linux edition of Q3A also — remarkably — came in a collector's tin, which I severely regret not buying at the time.


That was the box that lasted the longest at my local computer store, long after almost all other boxed Linux software disappeared.


By committing to making the software portable to, and available on, other platforms, you are also committing your company to incur the testing and support costs for each platform. Many of these costs are fixed, so the more obscure the platform, the bigger proportion of your revenues on that platform will be eaten up in costs.

For this reason, from a business perspective, it makes sense to write games only for Windows. Anything else is bad business.


This is a great argument against releasing (or more specifically, offering support) for multiple platforms, but not an argument for writing your software non-portable in the first place. I’ve worked on projects that technically could have easily been recompiled and released on multiple platforms but were not, for valid business reason.


> Weird how “writing portable software” was (and in many places still is) considered deep wizardry

Well, at this time most code had OS-specific hacks for performance reasons…


Can anyone with knowledge of the "OpenGL permissions and security" issue explain the problem?


You'd need knowledge of the beta version of Open GL on OS X, from twenty years ago, as well.


Probably the ability to read memory from arbitrary places in the kernel via DMA. It's continued to be a challenged for DMA devices...


Carmack worked on the Linux Utah-GLX drivers in the runup to q3's release and would have had a lot of thoughts on the low-level GL implementation details.


I've no knowledge of OpenGL but based on the content in the story I'd take a stab that they weren't implemented fully for performance reasons. I don't know why a game developer would be so concerned with that though. But I know nothing about game development either ...


What was so impressive to me in that meeting was not the drama so much as it was that Steve Jobs made a decision on the merits to side with John on a technical issue rather than his longstanding and trusted graphics engineer. He overcame his original distaste for the T-shirt and made the right call. Most CEOs would have dismissed John’s comments or paid them lip service.

In terms of diplomacy and tone, Steve Jobs doesn't do well in this story. However, for intellectual and engineering integrity, he's in entirely different league from most US politicians. From what I've seen, the typical US politican would rather puff up and pretend their constituent's majority position is scientific fact than actually engage with science, fact, and expertise.

I think this is a good way to sum up his genius abilities: 1) An ability to see past consensual illusions to engineering and design truths and first principles. 2) A low ability to transmit such insights in a diplomatic way. (Though, given a position of power, his messages are unambiguous and highly persuasive. Effective != moral, however.)


There's enough stories where Jobs could be persuasive when he wanted to; it's just a lot easier to scream at someone if that would work, too. I'm reminded of Lyndon Johnson, oddly enough.


'Tis true we don't know the backstory - but Steve may have tangled with his guy before, he may have tried diplomacy with him and before and found it just didn't penetrate his defenses, or he may have felt the display was necessary to nudge another one or two of his troops who were present. Or he may have wanted to create a viral story to prod his troops and the situation provided him the perfect opportunity. I've known bosses who planned and scripted their explosions (and the topic of them) days or even weeks in advance and then waited for the right moment in front of the right crowd to present itself, if the issue was sufficiently critical, to pop their cork spectacularly. So we can't necessarily assume Jobs was impetuously undiplomatic or just fumbled the diplomacy aspect. I do believe there are instances of Jobs exhibiting diplomacy and politess.


John Carmack's reminiscences about Steve Jobs: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2146412825593223...


I was reading Ben Horowitz's book The Hard Thing About Hard Things the other day, and the stories about Jobs and Carmack remind me of this passage:

>"When do you hold the bus?"

>The great football coach John Madden was once asked whether he would tolerate a player like Terrell Owens on his team. Owens was both one of the most talented players in the game and one of the biggest jerks. Madden answered, "If you hold the bus for everyone on the team, then you'll be so late you'll miss the game, so you can't do that. The bus must leave on time. However, sometimes you'll have a player that's so good that you hold the bus for him, but only him."

>Phil Jackson, the coach who has won the most NBA championships, was once asked about his famously flakey superstar Dennis Rodman, "Since Dennis Rodman is allowed to miss practice, does this mean other star players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin can miss practice too?" Jackson replied, "Of course not. There is only room for one Dennis Rodman on this team. In fact, you really can only have a very few Dennis Rodmans in society as a whole; otherwise, we would degenerate into anarchy."

>You may find yourself with an employee who fits one of the above descriptions [heretic, flake, or jerk] but nonetheless makes a massive positive contribution to the company. You may decide that you will personally mitigate the employee's negative attributes and keep her from polluting the overall company culture. That's fine, but remember: You can only hold the bus for her.

Really exceptional people often get exceptions. One challenge may be that more people think they are really exceptional, than really are really exceptional.


Fascinating counterexample about Dennis Rodman, though: Gregg Popovich famously decided Rodman was too much trouble and got rid of him after only one season, vowed that he would never tolerate a player like that again, and ended up winning five championships and counting, while building a team that remained a serious contender almost continuously from 1999 to, frankly, the moment Kawhi Leonard got injured last year.


If the Bulls kept their roster, they would highly likely get one or two more championships. The Bulls roster was more diversified and hard to froster from a builder's point's of view.


That is a huge if. By 1998, the big three basically couldn't stand each other anymore and only kept showing up because they wanted to finish out the second threepeat. If they managed to keep the wheels from coming off in the 98-99 season, they possibly could have beaten the Spurs, even though Rodman was definitely declining by then and the Spurs had two Hall-of-Fame big men and the Bulls had Luc Longley. In 2000, they'd run into Shaq and Kobe, and by then, Shaq was unstoppable.


Spurs is always a very well engineered team. It's a beautifully crafted team. That's why they last long as a team. Personally, I'd put Barkley and Malone above Tim due to their options to create space and finish. Bulls core members are all very unique and top specialized in their own domains while all held very high bball iq and passing skills. Your words let me notice how diversified that Bulls was both in terms of basketball ability and their personalities. That's beyond engineering. I can't believe I'm talking about bball on HN and found out a new angle.

Thank you. That is definitely a huge if. And shaq vs MJ's Bulls in 2000 could've been a must watch. Bulls would definitely make some adjustment to get some fresher blood. But just as they went through big man's era, their answer would probably not get one or two big men to go head to head against shaq. They played in their own way and took advantage of opponent's weakness.


Here's that story for those that don't want to go to FB too :)

John Carmack

14 May at 17:27 ·

Steve Jobs

My wife once asked me “Why do you drop what you are doing when Steve Jobs asks you to do something? You don’t do that for anyone else.”

It is worth thinking about.

As a teenage Apple computer fan, Jobs and Wozniak were revered figures for me, and wanting an Apple 2 was a defining characteristic of several years of my childhood. Later on, seeing NeXT at a computer show just as I was selling my first commercial software felt like a vision into the future. (But $10k+, yikes!)

As Id Software grew successful through Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D, the first major personal purchase I made wasn’t a car, but rather a NeXT computer. It turned out to be genuinely valuable for our software development, and we moved the entire company onto NeXT hardware.

We loved our NeXTs, and we wanted to launch Doom with an explicit “Developed on NeXT computers” logo during the startup process, but when we asked, the request was denied.

Some time after launch, when Doom had begun to make its cultural mark, we heard that Steve had changed his mind and would be happy to have NeXT branding on it, but that ship had sailed. I did think it was cool to trade a few emails with Steve Jobs.

Several things over the years made me conclude that, at his core, Steve didn’t think very highly of games, and always wished they weren’t as important to his platforms as they turned out to be. I never took it personally.

When NeXT managed to sort of reverse-acquire Apple and Steve was back in charge, I was excited by the possibilities of a resurgent Apple with the virtues of NeXT in a mainstream platform.

I was brought in to talk about the needs of games in general, but I made it my mission to get Apple to adopt OpenGL as their 3D graphics API. I had a lot of arguments with Steve.

Part of his method, at least with me, was to deride contemporary options and dare me to tell him differently. They might be pragmatic, but couldn’t actually be good. “I have Pixar. We will make something [an API] that is actually good.”

It was often frustrating, because he could talk, with complete confidence, about things he was just plain wrong about, like the price of memory for video cards and the amount of system bandwidth exploitable by the AltiVec extensions.

But when I knew what I was talking about, I would stand my ground against anyone.

When Steve did make up his mind, he was decisive about it. Dictates were made, companies were acquired, keynotes were scheduled, and the reality distortion field kicked in, making everything else that was previously considered into obviously terrible ideas.

I consider this one of the biggest indirect impacts on the industry that I have had. OpenGL never seriously threatened D3D on PC, but it was critical at Apple, and that meant that it remained enough of a going concern to be the clear choice when mobile devices started getting GPUs. While long in the tooth now, it was so much better than what we would have gotten if half a dozen SoC vendors rolled their own API back at the dawn of the mobile age.

I wound up doing several keynotes with Steve, and it was always a crazy fire drill with not enough time to do things right, and generally requiring heroic effort from many people to make it happen at all. I tend to think this was also a calculated part of his method.

My first impression of “Keynote Steve” was him berating the poor stage hands over “This Home Depot shit” that was rolling out the display stand with the new Mac, very much not to his satisfaction. His complaints had a valid point, and he improved the quality of the presentation by caring about details, but I wouldn’t have wanted to work for him in that capacity.

One time, my wife, then fiancée, and I were meeting with Steve at Apple, and he wanted me to do a keynote that happened to be scheduled on the same day as our wedding. With a big smile and full of charm, he suggested that we postpone it. We declined, but he kept pressing. Eventually my wife countered with a suggestion that if he really wanted “her” John so much, he should loan John Lassiter to her media company for a day of consulting. Steve went from full charm to ice cold really damn quick. I didn’t do that keynote.

When I was preparing an early technology demo of Doom 3 for a keynote in Japan, I was having a hard time dealing with some of the managers involved that were insisting that I change the demo because “Steve doesn’t like blood.” I knew that Doom 3 wasn’t to his taste, but that wasn’t the point of doing the demo.

I brought it to Steve, with all the relevant people on the thread. He replied to everyone with:

“I trust you John, do whatever you think is great.”

That goes a long way, and nobody said a thing after that.

When my wife and I later started building games for feature phones (DoomRPG! Orcs&Elves!), I advocated repeatedly to Steve that an Apple phone could be really great. Every time there was a rumor that Apple might be working on a phone, I would refine the pitch to him. Once he called me at home on a Sunday (How did he even get my number?) to ask a question, and I enthused at length about the possibilities.

I never got brought into the fold, but I was excited when the iPhone actually did see the light of day. A giant (for the time) true color display with a GPU! We could do some amazing things with this!

Steve first talked about application development for iPhone at the same keynote I was demonstrating the new ID Tech 5 rendering engine on Mac, so I was in the front row. When he started going on about “Web Apps”, I was (reasonably quietly) going “Booo!!!”.

After the public cleared out and the rest of us were gathered in front of the stage, I started urgently going on about how web apps are terrible, and wouldn’t show the true potential of the device. We could do so much more with real native access!

Steve responded with a line he had used before: “Bad apps could bring down cell phone towers.” I hated that line. He could have just said “We aren’t ready”, and that would have been fine.

I was making some guesses, but I argued that the iPhone hardware and OS provided sufficient protection for native apps. I pointed at a nearby engineer and said “Don’t you have an MMU and process isolation on the iPhone now?” He had a wide eyed look of don’t-bring-me-into-this, but I eventually got a “yes” out of him.

I said that OS-X was surely being used for things that were more security critical than a phone, and if Apple couldn’t provide enough security there, they had bigger problems. He came back with a snide “You’re a smart guy John, why don’t you write a new OS?” At the time, my thought was, “Fuck you, Steve.”.

People were backing away from us. If Steve was mad, Apple employees didn’t want him to associate the sight of them with the experience. Afterwards, one of the execs assured me that “Steve appreciates vigorous conversation”.

Still deeply disappointed about it, I made some comments that got picked up by the press. Steve didn’t appreciate that.

The Steve Jobs “hero / shithead” rollercoaster was real, and after riding high for a long time, I was now on the down side. Someone told me that Steve explicitly instructed them to not give me access to the early iPhone SDK when it finally was ready.

I wound up writing several successful iPhone apps on the side (all of which are now gone due to dropping 32 bit support, which saddens me), and I had many strong allies inside Apple, but I was on the outs with Steve.

The last iOS product I worked on was Rage for iOS, which I thought set a new bar for visual richness on mobile, and also supported some brand new features like TV out. I heard that it was well received inside Apple.

I was debriefing the team after the launch when I got a call. I was busy, so I declined it. A few minutes later someone came in and said that Steve was going to call me. Oops.

Everyone had a chuckle about me “hanging up on Steve Jobs”, but that turned out to be my last interaction with him.

As the public story of his failing health progressed, I started several emails to try to say something meaningful and positive to part on, but I never got through them, and I regret it.

I corroborate many of the negative character traits that he was infamous for, but elements of the path that led to where I am today were contingent on the dents he left in the universe.

I showed up for him.


"Part of his method, at least with me, was to deride contemporary options and dare me to tell him differently."

This was Ibsen's method as well. Notoriously, if he needed a private tutorial, say on an aspect of physics for a play he was writing, Ibsen would make outrageously false statements about the relevant physics in front of a Nobel laureate in physics in order to provoke exactly the energetic private tutorial he needed, from an expert. Didn't give a shit about embarrassing himself.


This is like the correct way to ask for help on Linux forums. If you simply go and say "How do I do X on Linux?" you'll get rude responses of the form "RTFM, n00b." To get any help you have to go to the forum or IRC chatroom and loudly announce "Linux sucks because you can't do X!" Then watch as the nerds fall all over themselves to help you, thereby proving you wrong.


I too was struck by the similarity.


I'll do this on internet help forums. If someone's question is languishing with no answers, I'll write an answer that's probably incorrect, because you know someone will them quickly show up to correct this injustice of someone being wrong on the internet.


That's more candid and balanced, and consequently more moving, than maybe anything else I've read about him.


I find nothing remotely special about a C-suite operator siding with an outside voice against a "trusted" internal resource. Even if the operator is the legendary Steve Jobs. C-suite operators, honestly, tend to just not really trust their internal resources. Often to their detriment.

I'm a tech consultant and am typically brought in by C-suite operators to assist them with deeply technical decisions. I tell clients out of the gate that what we're going to recommend will probably be 10% my firm's ideas and 90% ideas gleaned from interviews with their own personnel, slightly repackaged, better sold, but always attributed to the originator.


Jobs comes off as quite an obnoxious dude.


I love the incessant deification of Steve Jobs, regardless of his mistakes, juvenile behavior, and constant stories about his abuse of his staff. In this story Jobs mistakes the wrong person for John Carmack, becomes deeply offended by a silly t-shirt, screams at his staff and slams his hands the table like a 2 year old. But the author is impressed with Jobs and makes him out to be the hero. At my work we would call this a hostile and abusive work environment, but within the Jobs cult of personality it's a net positive.


I don't disagree with your assessment but, right or wrong, Steve Jobs was on another level.

Most great leaders have character flaws. Some of them are very obnoxious petty people. See Nick Saban or Michael Jordan.

Steve Jobs pushed people to achieve extraordinary things. My guess is they would not have achieved many of those things without his influence and authority. That's what great leaders do.

But it's true. If you are a selfish narcissistic jerk people remember that too. Maybe more than what you accomplished.


Actually I wouldn't be surprised if anyone else at Apple behaving like Jobs would quickly receive a warning from HR if not shown the door.


> behaving like Jobs would quickly receive a warning from HR if not shown the door

Jobs was constantly called by HR for meetings during late 80's due to his behavior. Source - Steve Jobs book


For example, You may note that Scott Forstall doesn't work at Apple anymore.


* Scott Forstall doesn't work at Apple anymore*

and neither does software ...


Ouch


Yeah, I have interactions with managers all the time where I state my ideas, someone else disagrees and then my boss makes the right call.

For some reason that doesn’t sound dramatic without the possibility of someone being yelled at or fired.


The negatives are over exaggerated, just like the positives. Its ridiculous to reduce someones entire career 20 incidents out of the hundreds of daily interactions over a few decades amounting to > 1million.

Ironically, your approach is no different than the persons you're criticizing. You're also basing your opinion on 1% of the dataset, just a different 1%.


This story, to me, highlights Jobs' notorious ability to change his mind when presented with information that pointed to the right way of doing something, even in the face of social pressure to do otherwise. He could've been more diplomatic about it for sure. But so many people of his ilk don't have that capacity that it makes me think its more a facet of that personality type than a character flaw in particular to Jobs.


There's a fascinating amount of shamelessness and unwillingness to admit when you're wrong, though, if you're willing to drive people 100% in one direction one day and then completely reverse course the next while making it sound like it was their fault.


Completely. You could have had an identical story without the drama, which seems to have been completely due to Jobs. Had you let Carmack talk to the lead engineer for about fifteen minutes, I'm sure he would've come around entirely for objective reasons, rather than because the boss screamed at him.


> Had you let Carmack talk to the lead engineer for about fifteen minutes, I'm sure he would've come around entirely for objective reasons

I wish this were true. Yet I've been so many projects around me go months and even years down some very-clearly wrong direction, because the engineering lead refuses to course correct. Typical patterns are:

- The system design attempts to address "future" issues, making it two orders of magnitude more complex than necessary.

- The eng lead wants to "get it right from the beginning." So months later, you have a beautiful CI pipeline, coding standards, base classes, etc, and still no usable prototype.

- Trying to solve all possible use cases, with one system.

- The above, but then focusing on just one use case so narrowly, the rest have to be crammed in.

I could keep going. These are cases when you need a decisive (and technically sharp) manager above to call bullshit and rip the bandaid if necessary.


tldr; People tunnel, and then need to be really jarred before they untunnel.

(but that's not to criticize your details, I love those details.)


And this story leaves unanswered the question of why they compromised on a suboptimal architecture in the first place. In my experience, 95% of the time it's due to some other constraint imposed by an executive. E.g., a made-up ship date.

So it's perfectly possible that had the head of graphics gone for what he knew was the ideal solution in the first place, he would have been yelled at by Jobs for that. It wouldn't be the first time that a HiPPO caused a boss to do a 180 and implicitly blame the underlings rather than own up.


That's actually what happened according to the story. The lead admitted that Carmack was right, and then Jobs got angry at the lead for not making a good technical decision from the outset.


Without knowing what were the requirements and why that decision was made, it isn't possible to infer whether the original design was even the ideal solution to the problem stated by the original requirements (see chesterton's fence).

Managers such as steve jobs don't make technical decisions. They specify requirements which then need to be met by the tech guys. This anecdote sounds an awful lot like a manager changing his mind regarding a requirement after he was pointed out a technical consequence.


We also know Jobs could turn on a dime.

It’s entitely possible he previous shot down the correct way because it would take too long for too small a benefit.


That's what I believe as well. To me this whole episode shows an erratic manager being abusive to staff once he was faced with the technical consequences of having imposed a design requirement.


This is certainly possible. But Jobs decision to impose a design requirement earlier (if that was so) might have been excellent given the data he had; when he got more data (or logic) from John, he made a better decision and knew that it would take a big shove to get everybody else to change direction on a dime. It generally does. The anger wasn't necessarily about the previous decision, all sorts of engineering decisions turn out to be "placeholders": it may have been about not being willing to alter course quickly enough, or just intended to ensure everyone knew the direction had changed.


If you read some biographies of influential people, they were often very obnoxious and uncaring assholes in person. When the culture is obsessed with personality cults, there is tendency to to worship them or completely dismiss their achievements.

Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Mahatma Gandhi, John D. Rockefeller, ...


Do not forget Jack Tramiel, known for "Jack attacks", "I don't believe in compromising, but winning" and his intense micromanagement where every spending over 1000 USD had to be signed by him and he refused budgets, because they were a "license to steal". What do you think happened when he went on vacation :-)


Except maybe in his testimony, I don't remember that from reading about Bill Gates.


Read Paul Allen memoirs. Bill Gates was a bully and very unprincipled. When co-founder had a cancer, Gates forced him out to cut his share. He also constantly bullied employees and cursed at them. You can also read a lot about his business practices in general. Totally unethical.

Gates has himself admitted himself that he was a bully, so I think we can all agree that he was not a nice CEO.


This YouTube clip (at ~2hr into the video) ties in with the original story that Carmack told about his wedding and is where Steve chronicles the story from his angle: https://youtu.be/SjlLG1EzJ2k?t=7223


>As a comical aftermath to the story, John next told Steve point blank that the iMac mouse “sucked.” Steve sighed and explained that “iMac was for first-time computer buyers and every study showed that if you put more than one button on the mouse, the users ended up staring at the mouse.” John sat expressionless for 2 seconds, then moved on to another topic without comment.

Sounds like John Carmack and Doug Englebart are on the same page:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/douglas-engelbart-...

How Douglas Engelbart Invented the Future. Two decades before the personal computer, a shy engineer unveiled the tools that would drive the tech revolution. By Valerie Landau, Smithsonian Magazine, January 2018.

>In 1979, Xerox allowed Steve Jobs and other Apple executives to tour its labs twice, in exchange for the right to buy 100,000 shares of Apple stock. Once Jobs began working on these ideas, they became even more streamlined. Engelbart’s mouse had three buttons, which he used in different combinations to perform a range of tasks. After licensing this invention from the Stanford Research Institute, Apple decided it would be simpler to give it just one button. Engelbart lamented that the mouse’s capability had been dumbed down to make it “easy to use.”


Interesting. I’ve seen other Jobsesque CEOs in action. One was the only person in the company who could overrule an internally focused CTO. I couldn’t figure out if it was “Thank God we have him to defend the views of our partners or customers” or “A great CEO shouldn’t set up an org that needs this kind of intervention.”

The “Only I know best” types tend to flame out before they get the Jobsian Success. (Even Jobs needed to crash and burn one and a half times)


was there ever a cto at apple.


Indeed, it is wise (if you have the capital) not to let things fester, especially when you know you're doing the wrong thing.

Perhaps if you want to build the kind of good will that allows Neo Apple to sell the torture devices they today call products at the rates they do, you should be more concerned with the direction of your engineering department, and less with who is or is not an "asshole". I don't even like Steve Jobs, in fact, I think Steve Jobs' life may be a net negative for my life, if not the world at large, and I think that the way he treated his kids is unconscienable, but it is not acceptable to let compromise be the norm in your engineering department. Just look at the situation now, as it relates to graphics drivers on OS X, and you'll see why the whip must be cracked.

Regarding the fact that your petty compromises add up to a broken product, ignorance is not an excuse. It is not "empathic" or "compassionate" to allow the ego of one person (the compromising engineer) destroy the efforts of thousands (everyone else who depends on the success of the product).

Empathy without foresight is somehow even worse than greed without conscience.


Was Jobs actually technical enough to understand the substance of the technical discussion? I had/reported to a couple of not-so-technical managers for short stints in my 20 yr career and I always found it supremely annoying that they were often making misguided technical/business decisions based on most recent buzzwords and sales pitch from software/hardware vendors).


You don't always need to understand the specifics. Even without hearing the actual argument we know this about it:

These two people know what they're talking about. One if them is arguing against his own interests because he's convinced it's the right thing to do. The other one agrees, but thinks that it's impractical.

So the decision comes down to: Would I rather do it right, or be practical? And that's entirely at the discretion of the guy in charge of the project.

It's worth noting that no one was trying to sell anything here, unlike the situation's you're describing.


Yes, Apple's graphic engineer and John probably knew what they were talking about, but I suspect that Jobs did.

It seems like based on that vague description, John wasn't necessarily arguing against his own interest and Apple engineers might have had to consider constraints that neither Steve or John was familiar with. Take for instance Steve's response to John's disliking for the iMac mouse -- in this case, Steve quoted "every study" that there were usability issues with first-time users. But on the topics of OpenGL security, his trigger word, it seems, was "ideal."


> Yes, Apple's graphic engineer and John probably knew what they were talking about, but I suspect that Jobs did.

I'm going to assume you meant "didn't". My point is that he didn't have to. Decision makers rarely have an expert understanding of what they're deciding on, but that's ok, because their value in the process is making a decision. For the most part I'd go so far as to argue that it doesn't even matter that they make the right decision, just that they make a decision.

Look at the Linux Desktop, my favorite whipping boy. How many different implementations are there of pretty much every layer of that monstrously fragmented beast? Is this because everyone who made these things is stupid? Probably not, they just all have (sometimes vastly) different opinions on how things should be. If, in the early days of the Linux Desktop, someone had been able to say "this is the way it will be done, end of discussion"* and have people listen we might have a stable and consistent free desktop os today. What if all the effort that was spent endlessly reinventing the wheel had instead been spent on a singular vision? It would still have its warts and quirks sure, because sometimes bad decisions would get made, but I'm pretty confident it'd be a damn sight better than what we have now.

*Some will argue that the value in the Linux Desktop is precisely because no one can do this. They're not wrong, they just shouldn't be surprised that most other people want something different from their desktop os.


[rant] Why are these stories posted on Facebook, of all places? [/rant]

You would guess that people of this stature would know better...


Carmack is CTO of Oculus, which is owned by Facebook. So I imagine that's part of why a lot of his social media presence is there these days.

Not sure about Jim Black.


Here's a link to the original John Carmack story in case anyone missed it: https://m.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=214641282559....


For those of you who don't want to go on FB, here's a Pastebin: https://pastebin.com/wTMW1q13

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