And yet the company was constantly talking about how great they were at their social media presence and using social media Analytics to keep their customers happy.
I guess a sending out a monthly PDF on social media is self-explanatory to the value of if. So many people involved in something that was zero value.
If you consult for any of them you quickly realize there are like 5 people running the entire company and 49995 somehow pushing forward through inertia.
The sad thing is when some clueless manager on a power trip, or just trying to reorganize in the most clueless way, threatens someone vital to operating the company without knowing it. It can escalate quickly as the employee realizes how undervalued they are compared to their contributions, and a small local panic may set in for other people that see the train wreck that's fast approaching and its possible ramifications for them.
Your 40,000 are the "checked out losers".
"Eventually, as value hits diminishing returns, both the Sociopaths and Losers make their exits, and the Clueless start to dominate. Finally, the hollow brittle shell collapses on itself and anything of value is recycled by the sociopaths according to meta-firm logic."
That has a sort of cynical beauty to it.
AFAICT I'm a loser-turned-sociopath as I now sell to the highest bidder on a strictly short term basis, and don't believe in anything apart from my bottom line.
The problem with small companies is... the lack of inertia! You get the CEO reading an article and decide to 'rebrand', throwing away whatever plan there was in motion to do the previous fad.
Then he goes to a show, and comes back all bouncy about the new cool stuff we HAVE to start integrating or else we won't be relevant when coming to market.
Been there, done that, got a whole pile of t-shirts ;-)
Builds another social network
I've witnessed this in gaming teams as well.
LI is a self-updating rolodex, has killed business cards. Invaluable to keep track of where people move.
Our sales people would hate for LI to go away. Happily pay themselves for Sales Edition.
You just convinced me to go kill my LinkedIn account from whenever ago.
Most B2B companies are pretty hard to get any relevant information out of.
A company that actively creates and shares interesting content on HN will have a much better brand image than one that does the same on Twitter. HN's smaller, self-selected audience will also land you better quality leads with less noise as compared to a large social platform
This is a massive driver for giving you "Bullshit Job" thoughts. If my end products are not being used, why the hell do they even exist?
Thoughts, analysyes and ruminations can be fun, but ultimately if they don't suggest an action: either initiating a new action, or modifying an action that is unfolding, then they are without purpose.
 The Buddha even suggested that they are stressful.
That movie might have been a metaphor for corporate work places.
Another thing is that in a complex organization there are many internal zero-sum mini-games - bosses that employ people only to increase their own importance, etc - then the job of these employees must be kind of useless. But the root cause of that is the same - it is the job of the boss of the boss (or maybe the CEO, or the board or the owner) to reduce that, but they don't because the complexity hides it. And then those mini-games add to the complexity itself creating a positive feedback loop.
Jobs like lobbyists or corporate lawyers or much of PR departments are also about zero-sum games - but in a bigger organization - the nation as a whole. Military is a zero-sum game on yet bigger scale.
Graeber call these jobs "bullshit" or "useless", he doesn't to my knowledge call them zero-sum (and I didn't see that term used in the article?).
My point was to agree with you that these jobs seem useless, but probably aren't, because exactly as you describe, of complexity (generally, of course, individual instances may well prove to be useless).
Having a military as a means to fight wars could then also be understood as negative-sum -- but having a military as a means to not fight a war (deterrence) can be considered positive-sum. It certainly ain't zero-sum.
Graeber seems to have a rather naive view of "goons". Yes, it would be nice if there was no need for military (or police, or security guards etc), and you can imagine a world where this is the case, and that world is certainly massively desirable. But until we do bring about that world, "goons" do serve a practical purpose.
Whether those things combined with the negatives all add up to a net positive is another question, but the point is modelling military size and spending as a game of Risk is too simple.
Somehow I cannot comment deeper in this thread - so I'll comment here.
Defending territory is not making it prosperous. If nations did not attack each other with their armies they would not need armies to defend them from that, and they all would be more prosperous.
I suggest you look into https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma
> Somehow I cannot comment deeper in this thread
You can if you click the time on the comment. That will take you directly to a text box where you can reply. I never understood why HN works like this.
Britain did very well off the back and resources of foreign countries due to their military from southern Asia.
See Spain in Latan America. France in West Africa. US picking up the pieces of the remnants of the Spanish empire.
These things were not accomplished due to the kindness and beneign-ness of the dominating force - regardless of what the home country was told (Britain: civilising the natives, US: bring democracy etc etc)
The military is about as far from zero-sum as you can get.
Gear is manufactured, used, worn out and discarded, at surprisingly high cost overall.
Soldiers are recruited, trained, serve, and leave. Training funds, time, and gear are necessary but never recouped.
Every military operation of any scale uses food/fuel/every other supply imaginable - all used and lost from other productive use.
Every 'build a civilization' game ever assigns expenses to military units created, never any production value.
(Ok, military R&D is sometimes practical and useful outside of the military... a small sop in an other wise large sinkhole.)
If the other guy has no military, we need no military. If the other guy builds a bigger military, we build a bigger military.
If the other guy doesn't spend on marketing, we don't need to spend on marketing. If the other guy invests heavily in marketing, we need a bigger marketing push.
There's only ever a gain in the system if there's an imbalance. Looking at it simplistically, if everyone collectively decided to stop at once, there'd be no need for those things anymore.
You rarely buy power to really exert it, more often it's just for the possibility.
"Everybody who supports single-payer health care says, ‘Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork.’ That represents one million, two million, three million jobs [filled by] people who are working at Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser or other places. What are we doing with them? Where are we employing them?"
So it seems that Obama didn't pursue a single-payer system because keeping 2-3 million "bullshit" jobs was more important than efficiency in the health care system, or at least it was part of his reasoning.
Also, if I remember correctly, the ACA is similar to but not identical to a GOP plan from the 90's and the state plan adopted when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts in the way you describe - continuing to use existing insurance companies.
Lieberman is certainly worth of endless condementation, but trying to pretend Obama didn't do everything he could to kill single-payer and a public option in order to implement Romneycare is just wrong.
The political situation and polarization of the country certainly got a lot worse when the ACA was passed and that is arguably the biggest political problem the U.S. has had since, affecting basically every policy decision the U.S. makes.
To bring it back to jobs without purpose, not wanting to quickly rearrange an entire sector of the economy is a completely cogent reason to oppose a change you would otherwise vote for if it were applied differently.
Now it seems rare, the Maginsky Act sanctions and the Iraq War powers are the only consensus votes that come to mind.
My personal take is that a bunch of these pointless jobs would get shoved into government sector.
So I would gladly layoff most healthcare administrators and have them figure out what to do, by themselves. It's their fault and their fault only if they can't. “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.”
Fuck them, this is America, you 'own' your career. I mean, this is the universe I'm currently working in, why shouldn't they be subjected to the same thing? Especially when they chose to work in a parasitic system? If my skills lag behind, I'm unhirable in my industry. Coupled with my increasing age, IT'S ALL MY FAULT AND MY FAULT ONLY if I get fired/laid off and end up with no healthcare.
A significant reduction in overhead would free significant funds into the hands of the consumers, who would employ them to improve their lives, generating economic growth and demand in other economic areas that would pick up the slack. Granted, it's not comfortable for the workers made redundant, hence the tendency to band together as a special interest group and put political pressure to keep things inefficient (that's all assuming single payer is indeed an efficiency improvement, an entirely separate discussion).
If the facts on the ground were that it was actually possible to get single payer passed, I think those questions would have been easily answerable. It just wasn't tactically necessary to answer them in the context of what was achievable because of one horrendous (sorry Lieberman, but you really blew it) person.
The statement was clearly entirely political, of course.
"What will happen to them" doesn't have to mean preserving a broken system, it just has to mean caring humanely for those affected.
Also according to that article, former coal miners are more open to retraining where other industries have jobs readily available and/or where coal has no credible chance of comeback in that area.
None of that contradicts my suggestion as applied to the health insurance industry, which isn't really part of any cultural identity, and which would clearly not be about to rebound quickly in a single-payer world.
Retraining could even be pretty quick if they retrained to other forms of insurance, especially life insurance (which still cares about individual health) but there are many other kinds too.
I mean, sure, it's easy to setup negative incentives if you setup a welfare system and you aren't paying attention, but that's really a different sort of issue... and one that can be solved by looking at those negative incentives. (the earned income tax credit is a good place to start if you want to look at real-world attempts to amelerate the negative incentives that come with "you lose all benefits if you earn more than X dollars" style need-based plans. I'm just bringing it up because it's a real-world attempt to solve that problem and because there is real-world research on it.)
An imaginary way to deal with those negative incentives is Milton Friedman's "negative income tax" or even the 'basic income' people are on about.
But point being, the negative incentives are a thing that you have to watch for with welfare programs... but they don't negate the good done by, you know, allowing poor children to access medical care, food and education.
The discussion here was between welfare and bullshit jobs, not welfare or starving.
The pointless job sucks out many hours of productive hobbies and caretaking, space to think, innovate and organise.
This might be the desired effect - one of the means to control the population.
I tend to be more optimistic and think that the problems arise by our current model of unemployment rather than the idleness by itself, but I can't pretend I know the answer.
The incredible thing is that this happened without being a master plan of any government or even a cultural meme (an ideal like recycling, minority rights, literacy).
No one sat in a meeting room in the 1950s and said, "Well, we're going to have massive unemployment in the decades to come, so let's start creating lots of meaningless jobs."
It just happened. Gradually and without anyone noticing. Amazing.
Conversations, about obsolete personnel, become awkward verrry quickly, so to shift attention away from the massive elephant in the room, compromises must be struck.
The middle of the 20th century killed enough people to fill many multiple cities. All of that awkward disintigration of civility was the friction of people getting their fingers caught in the doors on the wrong side of the air locks, as the space ship fired up its jets.
People know that gobs and gobs of money filter through hands and fan out in distribution channels, so the real game isn't to sequester it all, but to properly skim incredible amounts of it, without raising eyebrows. Then, after a lagoon of reserves opens up all the essential opportunities to reinforce the system as it is, levers and control surfaces appear, and anyone without their hands on the affordances for operating guidance are basically shit out of luck in terms of bucking the system while it's healthy and strong.
It didn't just happen. Operators intervened.
Milkman, elevator operator, and Linotype operator are a few that employed a lot of people.
How many jobs do you think “social media analytics” actually creates? Probably not a 'ton'.
Everyone not beholden to a company for their living wage now gets off the treadmill of "keep employed" for its own sake.
I've never quite understood how UBI fixes the 'problem'. Can you (someone) explain why current prices wouldn't simply adjust to reflect the introduction of the 'helicopter money'?
Isn't this the very issue found w/ exploding U.S. tertiary education costs?
UBI is a compelling way to get lots of people out of that "gotta" hole and enable a much wider range of options and opportunities. Perhaps not a complete fix but certainly a helpful step.
Right, can you say more about why this is "compelling"? What I'm pointing out is that the 'savvy' business people will likely view the introduction of the UBI money into the economy as a reason to raise/adjust prices, i.e. inflation.
Having spent (too) much time speaking w/economists and the occasional central banker, who regularly debate the merits of QE (effectively targeted at the asset-rich) vs. "helicopter money", I'm not sure that society wouldn't end up right where it is now based on what I mentioned above about the 'savvy' business people.
If you're interested, someone broached the 'UBI/helicopter money' issue w/ Bernanke a couple of weeks ago as part of a broader conversation. I've linked to the video in another thread.
The increase in numbers going to higher education reduced those available in the workplace. Rather than everyone aged 16-65 being available for work (say 50 million), half of those ages 16-22 went to university, meaning about 2-3 million were taken out of the pool of available people.
> and the introduction of tuition fees
Tuition, when Labour first introduced it, was charged upfront - albeit at £1700 a year (in today's money).
When they tripped it in 2005, to £4300 a year, it started being repaid on every penny over £18k (in today's money). However this came from the same repayment as the cost of living loans, which meant the treasury only got a return on the tuition when the graduate was earning a decent wage when they were much older (if tuition was £100k or £0k, you paid the treasury the same amount per year until you'd repaid your £20k of cost-of-living loans)
When Cameron changed them to £10k a year (in today's money) in 2012, the repayment threshold was higher - if you unless you earn an average of £40k (median salary is £27k) you don't pay a penny back in tuition.
Since Labour introduced the 2005 tuition increase, tuition has been a graduate tax in all but name.
> was intended to keep unemployment down and get people to take on the financial burden of keeping themselves off the dole.
The number of unskilled jobs will only decrease in the future. However undergraduate degrees isn't the solution. While jobs on a supermarket checkout vanish, and jobs assessing insurance claims, an even legal jobs, electricians and plumbers aren't going to be automated away any time soon.
A big problem is that there is still a mentality that you need a degree to do a job of a given level - even if you're age 40.
My own company seem to be doing well here, we employ apprentices at age 18, and giving them a lot of training and some university based education, and at the end they come out as a qualified broadcast engineer, with a degree. They've had 3 years of real world experience, but also have the piece of paper which serves as an insurance for obsolete companies in the future who won't look at a CV which doesn't have 'bsc' at the top.
My favorite excerpt:
> Overall, I fear that Graeber’s managerial intelligence is not up to par, or at the very least he rarely convinces me that he has a superior organizational understanding, compared to people who deal with these problems every day.
Daydreaming here a bit, but suppose the 3 developers banded together, went to the top decision maker in the company, and proposed that they fire 8 or 9 of the managers, keeping the best 1 or 2, and that the developers' salaries be immediately doubled going forward. It could be stated or left unstated that the developers are willing to quit (which is still better than being eventually fired if the project fails, or becoming burnt out). If the project is truly important, and the situation really is 10 non-technical managers pushing 3 developers, why not try something audacious?
When people started quitting after being demoralized by repeated benefit cutbacks and layoffs, they said "We heard you, you said you want raises (after a year of no bonuses and two years of no raises), we're going to get them to you!"
With all that money you saved by laying off like 30% of the entire multinational corporation? Great! These should be decent raises! After the raises were finally granted, it wasn't even enough to cover a cost of living increase for a single year, let alone the two years that had passed with frozen salaries. And then they congratulated themselves in a corporate email sent to everyone for "listening to their employees and giving them what they ask for".
Oh, and they're still closing offices and laying people off, and expecting everyone to still keep serving paying clients (other corporations) at the same level of service they did with 5%-50% of the staff they had beforehand.
Any money they save, just stays in the corporations' hands. They don't care to give any of it to the peons. They're totally interchangeable cogs anyway, right?
The people at level n+1 to you in an organisation are there because they have the support of people at level n+2 and so on.
If you want to pull a stunt like this you need the support of someone level n+4 in a different department who hates whoever is n+3 in your own reporting line.
Which, true, means they would be better off than before.
Management are like a cult. They've all gotten to where they are because manager A has dirt on manager B, and so on. There should be no non-technical management in tech, and they should be the first to be automated.
Even if the managers like your idea and follow through with it 1) the friends of the lower-level managers take umbrage at having been bypassed;
2) the top decision maker might choose to view such bold action-takers as a threat to his/her own position.
This also goes for product suggestions, process improvement ideas, etc. People like hierarchy and don't want it (their place in it) threatened.
So, if the 3 developers are willing to band together, they should just do so to quit and form their own company.
I've done that exact project for like 6 giant pharma companies.
It isn’t, of course. It’s made up of managers who want to look like they’re doing something big so that they gain status and get a pay raise (“I led the company’s first blockchain initiative!”). It’s made up of employees who want to cover their own asses by recommending that a brand-name consultancy be added to their project. And so on.
Each individual in a corporation acts in accordance with her or his own incentives, which may or may not be well aligned with those of the company’s shareholders.
That's not dissimilar to the food you buy and throw away, the antique furniture you bought planning to restore but never got to it, the stack of book you wanted to read but other things occupy your time.
When you as an individual don't feel any sense of doing better for your organisation. How can an organisation composed of diverse set of people think of your cause?
But the organization itself? Nah. Corporations aren't people, no matter what the courts say.
So much this!
I've seen many outsourced multi-million-pound projects that would have been quicker, cheaper, and better as in-house projects for a few hundred thousand.
A senior manager doesn't want "In charge of a £100,000 3-month project" on their CV. They want to be able to write "In charge of a £20,000,000 2-year project". It doesn't matter that the cheap one works and the expensive one doesn't.
The true currency in the work world isn't money it's status.
Money is only important as a proxy for status.
Having a lot of people reporting to you confers status.
It's a different story to say "we analyzed a market and decided against pursuing those opportunities because of x, y and z" (an activity that produces lots of shelves full of reports) than to say "we didn't pursue some opportunities and we never bothered to look into it" (an activity that never occurred because nobody was filling shelves with reports).
"Give me everything we know about foo" is only possible if somebody has been collecting shelves full of things over time.
Step 5. Consultants get hired to digitalise the process of reporting.
Now a good consultant can make the leap to step 1 and start redirecting value to something else. A shitty consultant milks the company for $ without ever undermining the sorry people stuck at step 3.
Probably a difficult thing to study, though.
If, on the other hand, your company of 500 employees introduces profit-sharing, then there's probably no point to even trying. Too many decision makers pulling in too many politically motivated directions.
For the latter, putting a spotlight on people's jobs will send a message to all other works.
The large consultancies think that they’re the ones who’ve managed to crack this code. “We only hire The Best!”, they say. But once you get past a certain size, that’s just not possible.
You might have The Best front-line customer-facing champs, but Bob down in Payments Processing still lives with his mom and he’s dragging the whole lot down with him.
We joked that the big 4 just had a Markov chain managerial speak program, and all they needed to do was enter the number of pages they produced, and it would spit out pre made reports with the latest buzzwords of the required lengths.
So I printed off random "techy" stuff and some cat pictures online and gave it to them to see if they even opened the document up. To this day they never noticed anything and I did that for 2 years before I left. I still did what I could at my job, but the time spent on those reports dropped to nothing after my test.
The was government though, but I have seen the same thing at many schools I worked at before.
I agree that it would be better if someone would read them and give actual feedback based on your actual performance. But looking at my own little episode in academia, the most was learned while writing stuff.
I've accidentally participated in making their lives more tedious for the sake of generating numbers people look at but do not use for anything but complaining about the numbers. And now all my development time on that tool is spent rearranging the numbers. We could at least be using that data to make actionable decisions, but no one is interested in that.
And lots of travel in my experience.
This is the most irritating aspect of any company I've worked for. I can deal with the fact that certain people are "duct tapers", people who take pick up the slack, "box tickers", etc. But people's belief that others need to be managed, especially when those others are already motivated, is demoralizing and destructive on so many levels.
The bias of management creates a feedback loop when the employee does the work the way they would have done it had management not been looking over their shoulder, and the manager thinks to themself "It's a good thing I'm here, because nothing would get done!"
My role is often times just to ask people what they think they need to do. often they know, often they just need to speak to department x and work together. for whatever reason they don't so my department herds the cats together and works to focus on what is the right problem to solve.
Feeling good about "making money" isn't something that lasts. Eventually it's just that thing you have to do to maintain your completely normal lifestyle that you now take for granted. At that point you'd better hope the thing has more meaning than just "making money".
I freaking love my job and would do it for funsies of there weren't companies prepared to pay me to do it, but my job has been completed bullshit for as long as the role has existed. When the revolution comes I'll be the first against the wall against the wall alongside the digital marketing managers and the agile coaches.
Maybe your product sucks in your eyes? What about the frontend for couch surfing? Helps people connect with locals when they travel. Or OkCupid? People have been married through it.
However as far as modern frontend work goes? somebody with a grasp of XML could build a perfectly functional frontend. Everything else is tinsel and glitter.
We used to use Fraedom for our expense software. Everybody hated it. Now we use Concur. Everybody loves it.
Same functionality. Radically different outcome. It affects people! My boss' quality of life improved measurably.
Full-time SCRUM-masters won't last the first 30 minutes of the revolution.
The fact that I used framework x over framework y? Pretty irrelevant on the grander scale.
A lot of it boils down to the Protestant Work Ethic having no place in the modern world. It made sense for situations where 'work' was physical labor. That benefits from perseverance and endurance. Mental work does not benefit from perseverance and endurance. It suffers tremendously from them. The brain simply does not work that way.
(One of the things that pisses me off in modern UI design on the frontend is designing resource-intensive pretty UIs. They look great on mockups. They work well on testing. Throw some actual, real-life data at them, and they slow your browser to a crawl. This directly limits the usefulness of a product.)
Consider that even small sandwich shops consider it worthwhile to hire a guy to stand on a street corner waving a sign or dressed as a pickle.
I suppose we as a society have decided to do this rather than guaranteed minimum income or any other livable social safety net.
Is it necessarily true that a bullshit job has to server no purpose? I think a doorman is like the safety video. It makes the product feel more expensive. I agree it's a bullshit job, but it contributes to the impression your company is making. Maybe a well produced Analytics Report makes a sort of impression like this too. At a glance you can prove you are a high end company that has everything together, and produces sophisticated reports as evidence. Even if it's a bullshit report, spending 5 figures to make the report is worth it, if it secures a bunch of 6 figure customers.
I'm not saying we should secure bullshit jobs, I'm just trying to voice some more perspective.
I'm only familiar with Air New Zealand's productions, but they are totally marketing / patriotism / more marketing. In that sense they form a very important function: they do some crazy video that gets them in the news again, reminding people they exist and solidifying the idea that they are a fun airline you should totally pay slightly more than the competition to fly with.
(full disclosure, I am a New Zealander who will fly AirNZ if given the opportunity, so clearly it worked on me!)
This passage starts getting into why these jobs have to exist.
1. There are fewer useful things that need doing than employable people, so not everyone can get a useful job.
2. Everyone needs some kind of income.
3. Basic Income and welfare are politically difficult because of our Protestant cultural belief that income must be earned through work.
If 1, 2, and 3 are true, then bullshit jobs must be created, or people starve/riot.
I think it's shit - down with private property and all that. There is going to be a point in the next hundred years where we won't be able to justify millions of jobs, and none of my representatives seem to have any sort of plan in mind for when that happens.
And how does he think disputes between companies or between companies and consumers should be handled?
Money managers are a good example of this. At the end of the day stock picking truly is a zero-sum game, and all money managers can produce in total is the negative effect of their fees on their clients money, yet people pay them because they take the chance that their money manager will produce a better than average return.
Similarly, the vast majority of marketing jobs are zero-sum jobs. True, a teeny minority do inform the public about a new product or service they wouldn't otherwise know about, but the vast majority are just trying to convince the public to use your widget over competitor's (actually very similar) widget. But any individual firm needs marketers, otherwise the competitors would take all of their business.
This assumes that the same stocks are issued and purchased regardless of the efforts/nonexistence of money managers. Do you think it's possible that scams might be more numerous or more successful if there were nobody at all trying to determine the worth of individual stocks?
If you do think that's possible, then money managers can collectively produce positive value.
If stocks give dividends, then stock picking isn't a zero-sum game.
I don't understand this. "Stock picking" traditionally refers to buying or selling stocks through the stock market. It doesn't create or destroy any stock, and the dividends are invariant with respect to who owns the stock.
That makes dividends perfectly zero-sum. If I buy a stock from you, my gain from getting the dividend is exactly equal to your loss from losing the dividend.
What am I missing here?
Dividends do not alter that argument in any way. The trade is described as zero-sum because the total amount of value it produces is zero -- in the trade scenario, I gain X, and in the no-trade scenario, you gain X. X minus X is zero. My gain is your loss.
The tax code in America messed with this dynamic with taxing stock buy backs(capital gains) less than dividends (income). Giving large chunks of stock options to the company execs also didn't help.
This part of it all, in particular, reminds so much of “Meditations on Moloch” . If anyone hasn’t read through this, I highly recommend it. It’s an inspiring look into how human society gets trapped into these games where no one wins, but to stop playing is much worse.
Perhaps a solution would be to ban them by law. So if corporate lawyers were banned then the executives would settle their disputes personally at a fraction of the cost.
A common "cost saving" measure in companies is to get rid of various admin staff, people like PAs and the ones who book travel etc.
Now everyone has to spend a bunch of time doing work that a £20KPA first-jobber could be doing.
In some cases (e.g. scheduling meetings), the amount of time doing that gets bigger the higher up you get. This means that a £200KPA executive probably now spends a fifth of their time on grunt work.
In other cases (e.g. international travel booking), someone who has it as their day-to-day job will get it done correctly in a fraction of the time of anyone else.
Like feathers on a peacock.
I think that voting and calling your representative should be the maximum effort necessary to be fairly represented.
That isn't reality, nobody should take this as an opportunity to condescend to me as a fair weather child. It SHOULD be reality.
But in other cases, jobs that seem to be superficially necessary turn out to not be needed at all. I just said goodbye to a colleague last week and after they left we went through their entire list of tasks and responsibilities -- things that kept an intelligent, highly educated, adult human fully occupied for more than 40 hours a week and paid well into six figures -- and entirely eliminated or rolled over all of those things with no specific impact to our work. The scary part was that much of it was work producing material that was highly demanded of by one of our customers -- the bulk of those 40+ man hours were reports and other deliverable. We simply told the customer that they wouldn't be getting some of that stuff anymore or it would take a different shape to satisfy the need and they were ultimately fine with it.
What really concerns me are those jobs that need filling and nobody knows they exist and there's nobody doing them. Things that would eliminate waste, consolidate work, or expand business, but some collective blind spot prevents those positions from being realized. The classic examples in software are good QA people or in many small companies, good sales and business development people.
If this still doesn't make sense to this tech crowd. I'll pose this, in the 90s the revolution was "making software useful to people by making the functions of the software discoverable in a well designed GUI". How many of us sit in front of entire screen fulls of discovery-free GUI-less command-lines all day typing out things that took thousands of hours to master and would be bulk eliminated if somebody just put a nice usable GUI in front of it?
> How many of us sit in front of entire screen fulls of discovery-free GUI-less command-lines all day typing out things that took thousands of hours to master and would be bulk eliminated if somebody just put a nice usable GUI in front of it?
We sit in front of "discovery-free GUI-less command lines" to do stuff that is either impossible to be fully and properly captured by a pointing-device operated GUI, or would become orders of magnitude less efficient if operated through such GUI.
The discoverability problem is overblown, IMO - the actual problem is that we've trained people to no longer feel expected to learn a tool before using it. The example I usually give is this: no one in their right mind expects to be able to enter a car for the first time in their life and be allowed to drive on public roads. It is expected of them to go through a couple-dozen long training course and learn a bit of theory. People don't complain about that, because there's a social expectation that you need training. Compare that with people whining that a program is "unintuitive" because it requires you to spend 5 minutes in a tutorial to acquire basic operational competency. Compare that to video games, where again there is an expectation to learn, where people don't complain about tutorials.
The only way to make software that can be mastered in 10 seconds from first exposure is to make it have flat learning curve - that is, you can't use it for anything more powerful than what you can learn in those 10 seconds. This approach gives you simple toys, not actual tools.
As for discoverability of CLI tools, skimming its manual and looking at usage examples is equivalent to taking a GUI program and quickly skimming through all its menus and buttons. The whole problem here is purely of individual emotions. It's as if some people were simply afraid of reading.
I don't disagree. The reason for the re-rise of the CLI is that it's just faster to get stuff executed and easier to script and coordinate things. But there's also a great many CLI tools that don't have obvious command-line uses, or the docs are poor and users of those tools just "know" how to use them because of many hours spent learning them. But new and infrequent users spend lots of time reading docs or rereading them, or looking up examples on the internet and in many cases those uses would be immediately obvious with some radio buttons and a couple buttons. There's also the cases of unbreaking things or unexpected results because of typos.
GUIs make the trade-off of learn-ability with operational efficiency and frankly, many of the tools we use don't benefit from being able to type them out quickly and would benefit from just having some buttons to click with all the options specified.
Also don't think I'm talking only about mousable GUIs. There's plenty of very good examples of keyboardable GUIs with very fast and efficient use-cases that also maintain good discover-ability.
Good point. GUIs of old were heavy on keyboard shortcuts; the web era seems to have forgotten about this concept.
Incidentally, the best keyboard-only-but-still-GUI I've seen is Magit - https://magit.vc/ - it's operated entirely via keyboard, but is very discoverable, with visual popups listing keys you can use and values of various switches. See e.g.  - the bottom part of the screen is the popup that shows when you press 'd' once. For operations you often do, you quickly learn the mnemonic - e.g. for typical diffing, you'd press 'd d' quickly. And the list of all command groups is available under '?', as yet another popup.
 - https://magit.vc/screenshots/popup-diff.png
Obviously, that task is extremely difficult so a lot of games instead opt for the tutorial.
Smart! I never thought of it that way! I'm a remote part-time engineer and I totally do cram-and-slack. It should be a management style.
In software, your mental capacity is the most real limit, and it's limited to about 5-6 hours per day for the most demanding part of the work. You get the most out of it by using it every day. Having just the right amount of work to do is hard, but working creatively for more than 6 hours per day is impossible. I have talked about this with many people and everyone seems to agree with 5-6 hours. (As somebody with a home office, I find that a very long break in the middle of the day may allow an extra hour or so)
Sure there is software in agriculture today, mostly "ERP"-type, but I don't think there is an opportunity better than in other industries. Things are getting more exciting with autonomous tractors and drones and selective herbicide application based on image recognition. But the underlying technologies have applications in areas with more turnover.
Farmers with cattle are more constantly busy. My parents got rid of the few cows they had based on economic calculations and, frankly, a desire to have vacations sometimes. Some old farmers thought they were crazy (it was a few decades ago). Of course, it went just fine.
I've never been so happy at work. I fix challenging problems every day. I'm part of a really small team and I'm able to bring skills to the table that they are missing, which is fulfilling because I'm really having an impact.
In the past, I've worked at shitty jobs where my work meant nothing and was even resented by my peers -- mostly because we were an "Agile" shop doing all the wrong things (death by meetings, retarded micromanagement, un-meetable deadlines).
I'm super thankful for my current gig.
He gets paid about $16/hour to stand by the camera for up to 20 hours a week to make sure it doesn't fall over, which costs around $10k/year. A new tripod would cost $1500 and could last for a decade, so $it's 100k vs $1500.
Justify that, if you can. I can't, and I'm not being sarcastic or bitchy, I really want someone to explain it.
This is the most common case for smaller companies - it's all hand-to-mouth, and you barely squeak into profitability, so you minimize one-time expenses that shorten your runway. (What we around here like to call "Ramen profitable")
There's also the fact that even with a tripod, you probably want somebody around - assuming they use high-end movie gear, a camera runs between $100k and $500k. Spending $10k a year on somebody who catches it in case of accident makes sense.
I'm sure there are other explanations. I'm sure there are places that make stupid decisions, too :)
But I agree there could be some merit behind the premise.