It can be drastically worse than this. When I was at architecture school in the 90's some tutors would actually compete to see if they could make students cry in presentations. Things like physically tearing up hand drawn plans in front of all the other students. I remember tutors going round the final year presentation at midnight and deciding the general standard wasn't good enough, phoning the people they thought needed to do more work, telling them they would fail and that they needed to get out of bed and work for another 24 hours. These were people that had been already been working super long hours for weeks to get their stuff done. Madness. It wasn't just my school that was like this either, it was much worse back then but there are still pockets of this culture in my industry. It is no wonder that back then architecture students in the UK had the highest rate of suicide.
The most dreaded situations, for me, were clients who would tear something apart, but offered no helpful reason why. "Jazz it up" was something repeated an alarming number of times in meetings. I can also remember someone saying that they wanted us to use more colors since they were paying for a full color ad. Because, you know, that's what cost all the money. The colors.
I'm not artistic, don't have that kind of creativity, and can't use words that would be helpful to you.
I can only tell you whether or not I like it and give a fumbling attempt to explain why.
This is why I (or my company) hired you: to do something that we can't.
It is incredibly hard to do the translation between designer language and client language. I've worked with some graphic designers who are absolutely amazing at taking my malformed mumblings and using them as effective critiques and requests. But not many people can do that and it leads to frustration on both sides.
This is why those who can do the translation can make incredible money and run their own firms. Just like how people in other industries (accounting, law, coding...) who can translate across domains make more money and run firms.
I'm asking this out of curiosity, not attacking you, since you said yourself you're not creative and rely on these people for their creative talents.
For instance, I can't cook much more than eggs and bacon, but I can sure tell whether a dish at a restaurant is any good. And I can even narrow down a dish's quality into various broad classes: disgusting, bland, okay, good, really good, and great. Most other aesthetic creations are similar.
You can no whether or not they work for you without knowing why. But the nature of subjectivity is you can't know whether they work in a more general sense without analyzing the elements of the thing in question against an accurate-enough picture of the distribution of tastes in the population.
Just because you like or dislike a particular creative piece doesn't mean that you have what it takes to dictate a piece of creative work that will be exposed to millions of people.
Is the image very busy? I may know that I'm going to want to use it along with other assets or in presentations - how is it going to affect that? How do the colors and shapes used compare to other assets it will be used beside, how will it work in different mediums? Bright yellow isn't great for projectors or for legibility.
One example - a global accounting firm introduced a new framework. They had a diagram that had core elements, supporting concepts, and overarching concerns. It would work fine at full size on a laptop but was very poor for display on a low res projector to an audience of 100. This design was core to the effort and would be used in very many situations with projectors to large audiences.
I may say that I want to look like James Bond skiing - you design me a yellow ski suit very similar to the intro of The Spy Who Loved Me. I'm horrified because I want a look similar to the all black look of Daniel Craig in Spectre. My inability to communicate about design created a problem but I can judge on whether or not you've achieved my goal.
Translation across domains is VERY HARD.
Definitely, and in my professional career I have never had my work thrown out in a way which made me feel bad. I have been ignored a few times only to be proved right a few weeks later though!
If he is only feeding his own ego by being an asshole, it's better to get away.
It can be hard to tell the difference, especially if you are young.
It was indeed a horrible place to work.
I wish this principle was adhered to across all industries where we (as individuals) get our 'work' reviewed. If you can't do your best and then be able to let go of it, it causes some serious pent-up anger and demotivation. I find myself slipping into 'brutalist feedback' mode (that I'm used to from creative work), before worrying about offending the recipient.
I'm not sure if this is coincidental, but anecdotally I found that my biggest shift in being able to let my creative work 'go' was after reading The Power of Now and The Chimp Paradox, and practicing mindfulness. Fundamentally, I think it's an ego issue as to why it's so hard to take criticism. I'm certainly not saying ego-death is a prerequisite, but instead to learn how to short-circuit your anger away from feedback as a result of taking it too personally.
It is after all, not the work itself, but how it is received that you should be striving towards!
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Now
 - https://chimpmanagement.com/the-chimp-paradox/
To instill creativity in my direct reports, I have to smack them in the face when they fail to demonstrate sufficient creativity.
I know it sounds harsh, but they're developing great callouses on their face which they would not have obtained had it not been for my unorthodox training.
A lot of people might think I should apologize, but ask them in my presence if they would rather work elsewhere!
During my short career as an in-house illustrator, it was perfectly acceptable for the art director to kick your ass and generally abuse you. You learned to develop a thick skin really quickly!
Pauses, steps back and says, “I think it can use one little change, may I?”
He then takes a white paint brush and proceeds to erase my entire drawing with it.
“Ah, much better”, he says.
He was a total asshole but had a cult like following. Those of us remaining by the end of the semester loved him. To this day I credit that class with dramatically improving my drawing skills, but it definitely wasn’t for everyone.
...harsh criticism can be hard to take, I often try (and fail) to inject some humor into the situation to take the edge off.
Even letting minor defects pass implicitly creates a culture where hey minor defects are okay.
But, that can often be what it takes.
I have had similar experiences. Once a person breaks through, the relationship changes.
What, I'm currently through this process with my Masters' dissertation. It's not exactly disheartening, but it's uncomfortable.
Bonus, the math-heavy (I'm in computational physics) 70-page documentclass-article thing has a couple of asides that are so, so wrong (1.5 years ago I didn't really understand a lot of things) and it's embarassing to have them pointed out.
But eh, I'm glad I'm going through this process.
I'm an amateur student of philosophy and often want to blog about certain ideas I think I'm beginning to have. But I'm not sure enough to put my name on them! I wish I could hire a professional philosopher (many of which will be underemployed anyway) to look over my stuff and tell me when they're embarassingly wrong rather than just out of the box.
When I started getting into the arts, I was introduced to the culture of "workshopping" pieces, i.e. have my work criticized. It was disorienting at first, but the honest feedback was very useful plus it helped me develop a thick skin. It helped me get better fast.
- an enthusiastic CEO working with the team on Sunday morning
- standing ovations from the customer on Monday
Sure, if you have a family you probably can't do that often, but I'd love a job with an occasional experience like this.
He recounted to me how he'd done this on Thanksgiving and I was just scratching my head, wondering "why would you do that?" These are people you might only see twice a year, the code will still be there on November 26th.
- An opportunity to contribute to computing history.
- To work on something new and novel.
- Not having to worry about politics because there's only one diva allowed.
Not for everyone I'd agree, but there is certainly enough unhealthy appeal, kind of like hard liquor or bungee jumping ..
In my head I was thinking of that other narcissistic megalomaniac boss Jose Mourinho, and how his style of management drew the media away from the players and allowed them to "just play".
A benefit for the top players no doubt, but I've no evidence that this was how Jobs operated ...
Xerox parc, SGI & Sun already did everything the hardware could.
Software-wise it gave us terrible things I rather not know about. Objective-C & Appstore.
The question of invention vs innovation pops up again on HN.
Literally the genesis of OSX.
Same for the other points, honestly.
You want to read some fun history, read up on what it was like to work with some of the earlier members of Lucasfilm games.
Sounds like loser talk
We've all found later versions of stuff inferior to the original, sometimes wildly and publicly so, like the Gap logo redesign, the various experimental efforts of George Lucas to modify Star Wars, windows 8, the new macbook, later versions of winamp, or whatever your personal disappointment has been with a later version of something you loved.
Evolution succeeds once again.
(From 48 Laws of Power):
"In 1502, in Florence Italy there lay an enormous block of marble standing in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. Everyone had agreed this piece of marble had been ruined and was impossible to sculpt. Friends of the great Michelangelo decided to write to the artist, then living in Rome. They were sure he could do something with the marble. Michelangelo traveled to Florence, examined the stone, and came to the conclusion that he could in fact carve a fine figure from it.
Piero Soderini, Florence’s Mayer, thought this was another waste of time to attempt to sculpt the impossible. Weeks later, as Michelangelo was putting the final touches on the statue Soderini entered the studio to examine it. Likening himself a connoisseur of fine art, he studied the huge work and told Michelangelo that while he thought the piece was magnificent, the nose was too big. Michelangelo realized that Soderini was standing in a place right under the sculpture and did not have the proper perspective. Of course he did not tell him this.
Without a word. He gestured Soderini up the scaffolding. Reaching for the nose he picked up a chisel, as well as a little bit of a marble dust that lay on the planks. Michelangelo started to tap lightly with the chisel letting the little bits of dust he had gathered in his hand fall little by little creating the illusion that he was changing the sculpture. He actually did nothing to change the nose, but gave every appearance of working on it. After a few minutes of this charade he stood aside: “Look at it now.” “I like it better,” replied Soderini, “you’ve made it come alive.
Michelangelo knew that by changing the sculpture and the shape of the nose, he might ruin it. Yet Soderini prided himself on his knowledge of his aesthetic judgement of art. So to offend such a man by arguing over such a thing as ‘perspective’ would be foolish and futile. In fact it would probably put future commissions in jeopardy. His solution was to change Soderini’s perspective (literally bringing him closer to the nose) without making him realize that this was the cause of his misconception. He found a way to keep perfection of the statue intact while at the same time making Soderini believe he had improved it. A genius move.”
A good boss will figure out how to motivate the troops. To me, it sounds like Steve Jobs found someone on the team who was motivated by 'saving the presentation.'
Is this something 'Apple' specific culture wise, I remember SJ saying Apple was the biggest collection of startups on the planet.
I personally prefer small sized teams with lots of in depth knowledge per engineer on the team. IMHO, unless you have a deep understanding of the machine you are working on, you can't make a difference. Not to say that, without it, one will suck, I guess it is that X factor in the outcome I am alluding to.
OTOH, there are other places which won't stick to small team sizes, more stakeholders, yet succeed. So there is that.
Does anyone prefer huge teams in which each person has only a shallow understanding?
That's not just a personal preference: if you have people that are poor team players who have near-total-overlap with everyone else's skill areas, the quality of the output suffers. It suffers in the long term because everyone wants to leave their mark and has an architectural idea in mind (compared to the a functional high-expertise team's behavior of collaborating at the architectural level and agreeing on a compromise for design direction). It suffers in the short term because burnout, intimidation, and political wheel-spinning become common (compared to a functional high-expertise team's behavior of bringing even comparatively unskilled people up to the team's expertise level surprisingly quickly through a combination of humility, mentorship, and infectious enthusiasm and camaraderie).
The reason I prefer this approach is something Apple seems to be struggling with: lots of small teams breed lots of small solutions that don't add up to one big solution.
Case in point: I have a latest-gen iPhone and iPad. The iPhone has a touch-sensitive home button, while the iPad has a real actual click-button. The iPhone has no headphone jack, the iPad does. The iPhone is waterproof, the iPad is not. The iPhone has stereo speakers in landscape, the iPad does not. The iPhone has force touch, the iPad does not. The cheapest iPad has support for the Pencil, the most expensive iPhone does not. Moving on to the Macbook, the iPhones and iPads use Lightning to charge, while the Macbooks use USB-C and have never in their history ever even included a Lightning port. The Pencil exclusively uses Lightning to charge and has no other way of connecting, and even helpfully includes a Lighting-to-Lightning adapter in the box, still rendering it completely incapable of charging from a Macbook without yet another adapter to convert Lightning (male) to Lightning (female) to USB-C (male).
There's no real reason for these differences except to say the teams don't work together to synchronize their engineering efforts. Individually each one is a great engineering achievement. Combined, it's a mess of small solutions that don't add up to one big solution.
iPhone is used in more active situations. Not running in rain with iPad strapped to arm. On iPhone stereo speakers in landscape, not sure what that one means; for me it’s the iPad with speakers on both sides while in landscape. Force touch requires force, easy with a phone in your hand, less easy if iPad propped on origami Smart Keyboard. (Could be reason for button diffs too, light touch with haptics vs. real touch, or just a very common use of home button on iPad is while landscape so you squeeze a “real” button between your thumb and forefinger.) The phone is not slate sized, why should it try to be a slate? Don’t know why you’d be charging a pencil from a MacBook some way you couldn’t charge an iPad with.
To me, seem to be plausible reasons for every one of these differences beyond just “teams don’t work together”. Certainly both are possible, just saying the device modalities are different. ATV, HomePod and Watch UIs are different too.
Re: the stereo speakers. The iPhone uses the earpiece as one speaker and the bottom speakers as another, so when it's on its side and you're watching Netflix, sound comes out of the top and bottom. The iPad (except for the iPad Pro) only has speakers on the bottom, so when you're using the Smart Cover and watching Netflix, all the sound comes out the bottom. On a device far larger than the iPhone, this really makes a difference.
I don't think a device needs to be a slate in order to be worth writing on. Scribbling notes is easier on an iPhone since you can hold it in your hand, and since you have unlimited pages the increased size of the iPad doesn't matter.
Especially once you add in the incentive for individual managers to grow their own teams.
I felt terrible for them; it would've looked a lot better if they just fell back on something else. It was boring watching them write code, people were getting up and leaving, it made it look like they were wildly unprepared. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire company went kaput after that.
DBKit was later rewritten with a real architecture which became Enterprise Objects Framework (EOF).
"he looked at the demo for 5 minutes and told me I had "ruined NeXTSTEP" (the software platform)" -> overly dramatic, exaggerating.
""Unless...", he paused with a twinkle in his eye, "there is a way of making it work like the old way,"" -> of course that way exists, but it requires working on saturday. He's not asking that directly though. Manipulative.
""This is 10 times, no 100 times, no 1000 times better!!!"" -> Overly dramatic, exaggerating.
It is quite the skill to be able to do that in a way that is motivational.
EDIT: My bad I meant Thursday instead of Friday, so that it could've been fixed on a regular Friday.
So you think it speaks well of management to check up on a very important demo the last few days of a three months preparation? And make huge changes? That should have been known long in advance. Instead of a smoke-and-mirrors demo they could have produced the real thing had Jobs communicated what he wanted from the beginning or half-way through.
Nope, I think that's terrible, but that's an easy judgement to make. Who knows what a stressful mess management was in.
My point is that its part of a facade (broadly called "reality distortion field"). I quoted 3 examples of clearly manipulative behaviour.
Jobs could've made it easier for the engineer by checking out on Thursday. Why didn't he? Perhaps he just had high expectations and was very much disappointed? Has he ever published memoires where he went into examples like these?
For instance, even after getting a hairline crack on my iPhone, I haven't bothered to replace the screen because I can use the device just fine, in most cases.
Contrast that with my 4yr-old Nexus 7 device which got a hairline crack about 1.5months ago, and the device is completely unusable, because of the design decision to use a resistive touch screen!
Anyway, the digitizer/touch screen build quality is brittle as plently of people have reported similar usage difficulty from hairline breakages .
Thanks for the correction though.
If this is what it takes to succeed in our industry, then I accept that I will not. I just simply do not have the stamina for it.
I am not trying to be flippant. I am genuinely amaze how driven some people are.
I started gradually reducing the number of hours I worked for 'real' until, a few years later, I found myself working for two hours a day, choosing to spend the rest on things that contributed to my sanity and self-development (on company time). To fill the gap, I would work on my own software projects, socialize with co-workers, do research on things I found interesting and read books.
Needless to say, nobody noticed. I kept this up for a number of years and then I quit. Looking back on it now, those were some of the best, most carefree years of my life. There is nothing like getting paid a competitive six figure salary to mostly do the things you enjoy and not care one iota about corporate management structures.
The thing that was important in my situation was that my working hours were becoming increasingly erratic, and a lot of my coworkers had no idea what I was working on. For instance, there were days when I'd come in at noon, put in four hours at my desk, then drive to the data center and work until three in the morning.
So I was working about fourteen hours but it looked like I was working four.
If you're working for a small company, people will probably be aware that you're burning the midnight oil. But if you're working for a large company, there's a lot of good reasons to be present at your desk from nine to five.
When you're a software engineer, you get a lot of leeway in terms of expected behavior. Especially in silicon valley companies the size of Google, it's easy enough to seem like you're working your ass off, while doing your own thing on the side. It's all about cultivating an image in the beginning and projecting it. People are mostly busy with their own anxieties and career concerns to scrutinize you.
My employer may not have cared about the things I worked on but that's fair game. After all they hired me and they were happy to have me there for years. I don't see the 'extreme' in what I did, more like common sense or self-optimization.
It's a matter of what success means to you. I don't value a fancy job title or a higher number on my bank account (above the 'basic' software engineer pay grade I am at already) enough to do this kind of mentally back-breaking BS work. I do the job I was hired for and get paid for. I do that job to the best of my ability 9-5 (well, 8-4) and then I leave.
For me, that constitutes having succeeded at the school, uni, job hunting and employment challenges. I expect most future successes in my live will come from my family/social live or will be personal triumphs like getting into shape and learning interesting new skills.
It amazes me how many people in our industry will eagerly work seven days a week without pay for an employer that:
A) Won't do it themselves.
B) Can easily afford to pay for it, but won't.
It won't help you get ahead, either. It shows gullibility, not dedication. That's not the kind of quality you want in a leader of anything. It's for this reason I would disagree with your premise that by not allowing yourself to be exploited you're forgoing future career success. You've learned the first lesson in success which is, crassly, don't be a punk.
Oh man, I've recently gone back into contracting and absolutely love this aspect. Sure, contracting has its downsides, but if you don't want to deal with being bossed around contracting is brilliant.
Then, no matter what crazy things are going on, he's insulated. As he says, "full time is full time, but 32 hours is 32 hours."
I did this early in my career for a few years, and it was absolutely worth it for my career in the long run. It wasn’t a one sided deal either. My boss allowed me to have all sorts of responsibilities that at the time, I absolutely didn’t have the experience to back up. I got through it entirely based on perseverance and hard work, and when I left that company I landed a much nicer job that was years ahead of what I would have otherwise been able to get. Now I’ve learned and done enough that I largely get to set the terms for my own employment. I haven’t even had to properly apply to a job since then.
It worked for me at the time, because I was young and didn’t really have any responsibilities outside of work. Situations like this are only really a problem if you’re not getting something bigger out of it, or if you have too many personal responsibilities to manage it.
You only think of yourself as weak, because you compare yourself to people working 12-15 hours every day for years, because they want to "make it" in the software world. In the end, most of them are going to be burned out and depressed, with no family or friends around, because they simply didn't have any time developing that part of their lives. Hopefully, some of them will continue on to do that then later in life.
I'm okay with 7 hours of sleep every day and can function well for 8 hours of work in the work week. But then I need time on the weekends with my friends and with myself to recover. When I'm doing a lot of overtime, the first thing I do on Friday evening is come home, get out of my shoes and fall onto my bed. It's completely normal to be tired after 8 hours of work and needing sleep. Our super-fast, ever changing society puts a lot of pressure on us, and at some point, people will not function under that pressure anymore. Which is why mental health issues are on a high rise.
You may just be getting older. These started for me at 40. And it's not just the physical symptoms: the multiple days of depression and low motivation after they've subsided are deeply unpleasant as well. Drinking to excess just isn't worth it any more, if it ever was.
They (we) earn an above average salary, at maybe non Forture 500 companies, 40ish hours weeks, still enjoy what they do at work, but can find fulfillment in other domains outside of it.
At a previous job, I was at one time working on a large project under a enthusiastic, but hard driving project manager (he is a karate coach in his spare time). At the beginning of the project he pulled the entire team aside and held a pep talk, talking about how important this project was for the company, how hard he himself planned to work because of it, and finally how hard he expected us to work. He was upfront about the fact that there would be many days with very long hours, and he said the company was committed to doing what it would take to make it work for us: Paying taxis to get home from the client late at night, paying for meals and doing whatever to help those who had families with children (I don’t remember the specifics, as that didn’t apply to me at the time). Because of the personality of this project manager, it worked. He got us riled up, and for many weeks the whole team worked from early morning to late in the evening. At the end of the project, we received a small bonus and were commended in front of the rest of the company. During it all, the manager did what he had said he would: He worked as hard as any of us, staying each day until the last of us left, to the point where we worried about his ability to drive himself home safely.
In an environment such as this, I would expect many people who normally wouldn’t think they had it in them, would find that they also were able to perform to a level far higher than they were used to.
Steve Jobs was a singular character, who could pull off stunts like that and succeed. Achieving results consistently in that manner probably is more of an outlier rather than the norm. If you’re not Steve Jobs chances are this might work occasionally but in the long run you’ll ruin your company.
Being successful in most cases is a marathon, not a sprint.
I'm sure some of the UX developed during the period described by the poster eventually made its way into the iphone, but it didn't need an overnight thing. I think. Unless the money they got from Oracle ended up saving the company and allowing them to invest in their platforms, IDK.
DBKit was basically discarded and redesigned as EOF, which did make it into the Mac. I'm not sure EOF made it into the iPhone, but the tech lead on EOF Richard Williamson, became tech lead for the first iPhone application stack.
Also remember, Jobs was the driving force behind the AAGI wage-fixing cartel.
To your iPhone.
> Working at NeXT was the most exciting software engineering job I ever accepted. NeXT was like graduate school, bringing together a high concentration of some of the brightest and most innovative technical minds...
He loved it. Stressful as it surely was, he looks back on that weekend as a great memory.
I think probably everyone here on HN enjoys hard work, the good burn at the end of a productive and worthwhile day. It's the useless slog for unclear pointless goals that brings us down.
I personally love the times I'm so into what I'm doing at work, that I get up on Saturday morning and start coding away.
Then you get to the next week completely unmotivated having had no rest and feeling like crap
Tuning out of work is needed
Also there's a frequent confusion between "working longer hours" and working more (might not be the case here)
That said, Steve's intuition was right. We pushed on the impossible for a while and found a way to make the actual technology work the way he liked, by using an entity-relationship model to object-pointer mapping. And that approach later became the standard paradigm for database application building tools across the industry.
Steve made unreasonable demands, but he was on the right side of history sufficiently often that top people wanted to be on his team and tolerated the craziness of it.
I don't think anyone at NeXT or Apple that worked on a successful product minded they had to work at night sometimes.
Most people that need help are in the latter category. It's the same for jobs. Jobs that get posted online most likely are bad jobs.
Demanding last minute changes to a design that's probably been presented and approved by you at least a dozen times in order to lie to your future customers at the cost of your engineer's weekend while telling them they ruined the whole thing. What? I mean, seriously? Who could possibly excuse that behaviour?
I don't think Jobs was so much a charismatic leader as he was lucky enough to encourage trauma bonding between the right people while just barely managing to maintain control.
It's well known that Jobs wasn't perfect, but he did have vision and an amazing capability to develop and sell products.
I wonder what he'd say to the current MacBook team for example? Broken keyboard and problems with overheating?
Apple is seriously lacking vision these days and it shows. This time Steve is not around to save them like he did after NeXT.
G4 cube at least worked, although it was far too expensive. No doubt Steve was wanting another cube and it was purely "art".
His strategy was demanding an unreasonable level of excellence and being indifferent to how the people who worked for him might be impacted. Those that survived got to work at a company where everyone was extremely talented. People who couldn't stand the heat were free to work elsewhere. It's arrogant, but it did allow him to create a uniquely creative and effective environment.
And keep in mind that if the Apple acquisition of NeXT hadn't worked out -- an acquisition that Steve was opposed to, I believe -- NeXT could have ended up in the dustbin of history, and there would be no OSX, iMac, iOS, iPod, or iPhone. So in many ways, the approach could have backfired, but in this case, it didn't.
You are ignoring the whole other side of him that made him effective and revolutionary: His vision of the future was second to none.
It doesn't make Steve - or people who act like Steve - in the right. But his genius wasn't just pissing off a bunch of people to get them to "trauma bond." The iPhone didn't get made that way.
His reportedly preferred means of achieving it: legendary abuse, ever changing requirements, pop "explain your job in the lift or you're fired" quizzes and removal of choice for consumers (when it suited his tastes) is simply repugnant. Who knows how many engineer's sanity, awesome hacks or creative careers his vision quest cost?
I am not downplaying his accomplishments -- I'm saying that giving Jobs credit for what Apple accomplished is like giving credit to dust in the air for a rainstorm and acting as though that's the only way a rainstorm could happen.
The iPhone happened because thousands of engineers threw themselves into a machine and ground themselves into a fine mist in order to produce it to Jobs's deadline and ever changing liking. We almost certainly would've had it or something like it -- with or without Jobs and his imminently destructive vision.
Jobs didn't invent the iPhone from whole cloth, fully formed. He didn't magick up a whole new product category or new approach. At best, he (or more likely his market research team) extrapolated market demand. Palm and other feature phone manufacturers had been trending towards what the iPhone would become for years.
Apple simply happened to be first to market and arrived with a barely passable product. The real innovation, the app store, was not a launch item. If I recall correctly, the web browser was supposed to be the future and was the only way for third-party "applications" to run on the device at launch. There is zero reason to think that vision was singular or complete.
Jobs is not and never was a role model. He succeeded in spite of his flaws, not because of them -- or because of some ineffable genius.
I suspect you have never even seen a Microsoft CE phone.
Who do you think negotiated with the record labels? Hollywood?
Hate to say it but engineers that aren't pointed to a goal and kept on task are worse than useless.
Go ask anyone about Nokia, RIM and even the once mighty IBM and Microsoft how good is lots of engineers if they are blind and directionless.
Jobs set out to change the world, and did for a while.
Now professional users are shunned with 5+ year old machines at full retail.
Microsoft - they were invested in making a Windows based phone.
Google - the first concept of Android was a BlackBerry like device.
RIM - RIM was poo pooing the idea of a touch screen phone two or three years after the iPhone was out.
The App Store wasn't really that much of an innovation. The carriers had app stores selling downloadable J2ME apps before the iPhone came out. I was on Sprint back then.
Well, it's easy to say this after-the-facts.
The iPhone in my opinion was a HUGE gamble, and also in my opinion, was successful due to a stagnant smart/cell phone market and the desire to bring internet to the mobile world.
Nevertheless Jobs had the luck to launch the iPhone at the right time, when no other manifacturer was daring to do that. And it was clear, when shortly after iPhone announcement, several other manifacturers released similar looking devices (Blackberry Storm, Nokia 5800)
How do you know? Were you there? With each Steve Jobs story I read he seems less of a genius (though I never was in the "Steve Jobs is a genius" camp) and more like a mad man with incredible luck.
That word is Woz. If Jobs had not met him, he (Jobs) would have died penniless and alone.
Jobs - the Mac, Next, Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad, the physical Apple Stores....
Woz - the first universal programmable remote.
Woz - Breakout for Atari, the first universal programmable remote, the Apple I, and so on
Jobs - ... (had a strong opinion about buttons and money he made off of Wozniak's inventions and his ability to sell them)
An idea is nothing without execution. Jobs proved that he could successfully change multiple industries (animation, music, mobile) without Woz. None of Woz’s ventures have been a success without Jobs.
If it was so easy, why couldn’t anyone else in the PC industry do it including companies that were in a much stronger position when Jobs came back in 1997?
Even in the animation business, Disney could barely produce a hit while Pixar was producing a string of successes.
Dell (just in time supply chain design and driving the cost of the PC down), Pixar (not related to Jobs until acquisition, certainly not driven by him), Woz (breakout was certainly a success - Jobs was assigned to build the prototype at Atari and essentially stole a large part of Woz's compensation and even then Woz is given credit for the design alongside Bushnell; in a sense it was assigned to Jobs essentially because he was Woz's friend) are all counter examples to your statements.
In 1997, anything computer related was experiencing the dot-com boom. It would've been hard to screw up Apple's increasing valuation then, for anyone.
Dell never shipped as many products in their heyday that Apple was shipping by 2010. No one would ever say that Dells logistics were better than Tim Cooks even when shipping 50 million iPods a year, let alone iPhones.
Pixar was bought from Lucas and their grand ambition was to make special effects for other movies and commercials. Definitely not to make full length theatrically released movies.
In 1997, the Internet was the big thing, but not Apple. Apple was near bankruptcy and didn’t announce its first profit until 2001.
Breakout netted Jobs around $3000 from the stories that were told. Not exactly billionaire material.
That said, I do grant that Jobs certainly had skill in gathering the right people and ensuring things got done.
What I abhor is the manor in which that was accomplished and the canonisation of Jobs as an individual singularly responsible for everything created by Apple without regard to the hard, bloody work of the hidden legions of staff and burnt out engineers beneath him.
For me, personally, the human cost of Jobs's methods far far outweighed the value of what was created; especially when it was likely to have been arrived at independently by others through less destructive methods.
Why couldn’t Microsoft, RIM, Motorola, Google or Nokia do something similar to the iPhone?
Even today, with dozens of companies making Android phones, none can create a phone compelling enough that people are willing to pay enough for to make them profitably.
But as far as what Jobs did with iTunes, Bill Gates himself praised Jobs....
Steve Jobs ability to focus in on a few things that count, get people who get user interface right and market things as revolutionary are amazing things.
This time somehow he has applied his talents in getting a better Licensing deal than anyone else has gotten for music.
Apple without regard to the hard, bloody work of the hidden legions of staff and burnt out engineers beneath him.
All of the “burnt out engineers” who worked on the original iPhone could easily write their own ticket for the rest of their life. Given a choice between being able to say that I worked on the original iPhone and that I did yet another software as a service CRUD app, I would much rather have been able to say I worked on the original iPhone.
The iPhone launched around June 2007, iirc. The T-Mobile G1 launched around September of 2008. The iPhone did not receive an App Store until v2 of the device a year later. Android launched with all core functionality.
I think it's safe to safe that if they had waited until the product was fully baked -- they would've launched at about the exact same time.
I don't really care what Bill Gates's opinion of Steve Jobs is, his opinions don't hold much weight with me.
As to burnt-out engineers "writing their own ticket" ... well, if they're tired of working at a place like Apple -- I seriously doubt they'd enjoy working for a place that wants to be just like them and hires people with a history of working there in an attempt to emulate them.
Saying the Nomad - a larger player that used a 3.5 inch hard drive, with a worse interface was “just like the iPod” so not gets why the iPod was better it’s actually a famous Slashdot Meme on why geeks can’t release great products.
“No wireless, less space than a Nomad...lame”
As far as the G1 coming out a year after the iPhone and would have come out about the same time, you don’t know the history of Android. Android was originally designed to be an BlackBerry clone. After the iPhone came out, they completely went back to the drawing board.
Also, yes, the iPod was lame. It was worse than the nomad in many many technical respects. Now, what the iPod did have over the nomad was the only best-of-class thing Apple has ever sold - the perception of cool. It was smaller, it was silver and white... it had one button (well, later anyway...).
Apple tech is very much a fashion accessory in addition to being a technical instrument but that does not make it visionary or superior. Often, quite the opposite (butterfly keyboard failures, poorly spec'd expensive pro everything, insufficient flawed VRM design on the latest core i9 macbook, etc etc). However, the superior product, in the functional sense, doesn't always win in the market place.
Actually, now that I think about it, Apple is not really a tech company; they're a fashion company that makes products who's primary purpose is as a technical fashion accessory. It performs its purported function perfunctorily, if not unreliably or begrudgingly and, of course, if it can't do something or doesn't work right you shouldn't have wanted to do it at all ("you're holding it wrong"). However, what it's real function, what it is best at, is permitting membership to a cool kids club - the club of owning and displaying Apple products.
When you think about it like that, their attitude, the lacklustre functionality of their products in deference to appearance, and the behaviour of their customers makes much more sense.
Jobs reportedly acted far more like a stereotypical fashion designer out of a fantasy than a reasonable human being or typical Tech-firm CEO.
Granted, perhaps a stereotypical fashion designer who's never really sewn competently in their life nor can design by drawing up real plans for others to build. But, of course, they've had armies of competent fashion engineers working themselves to the bone to produce design after design and the designer really knows what they like, once they see it anyway, maybe, so there's that. Naturally, nobody cares about where those plans come from and at what cost - it only matters that the blessed one chose them as the true way.
Apple is very much like a Warholian art factory, now without a Warhol; but I digress.
It's no wonder firms trying to imitate Apple fail. Apple doesn't have to be superior or right - they just have to play cool. The perception of cool is built by luck and timing and maintained by luck and skill. Jobs was an outlier in these areas, and so, we see the exception rather than the rule. Jobs and Apple are little more than anomalies maintained by the efforts of a cast of millions, the public included.
Ah, and it all falls into place. There's no point to arguing with people who have bought into Apple or the Jobs myths. One may as well debate the meaning of Duchamp's Fountain in the context of the semiconductor. It's pointless masturbation with little to no possibility of real change or outcome other than increasing local entropy, for these people have already chosen willingly the Apple option - to think different, as it were.
And with that, I resign from this particular thread of discussion knowing that at the least I have explained and explored why I feel so strongly with regards to the façade Jobs built in Apple and its influence on how people both see and do not see the manipulation beyond the technical in technical products.
A suitable explanation for myself, at least, if no one else.
This was no secret that Google retooled the entire Android form factor after the iPhone came out. This story has been told a million times.
And this is why geeks (not an insult, I proudly consider myself a geek) who think like Woz will never bring a successful product to market. The Nomad was a big bulky portable device with a large 3.5 inch hard drive, a slower transfer mechanism than FireWire, less battery life, and a clunky method of transferring files.
By the time the iPod became popular in 2004, iPod + iTunes was a easy way to get music on a device that consumers enjoyed.
Actually, now that I think about it, Apple is not really a tech company; they're a fashion company that makes products who's primary purpose is as a technical fashion accessory.
You realize that Apple has the best ARM processor designers in the industry?
If all Apple has is “cool” tech then why is the rest of the industry failing? All of the computer manufacturers that were around 20 years ago are either dead or barely surviving, the phone manufacturers are not doing much better.
Like the old saying goes, “if they are so smart, why aren’t they rich”?
This term "luck" is often abused in the gaming world. "I wasn't lucky" is a bullshit excuse to deal with bad RNG. You work around bad RNG and make the best of it. Calling others lucky is a way to deal with envy. "It isn't my lack of skill, he was just lucky."
Personally, from what I gathered Jobs had some severe flaws which are fairly well documented in the movie made about him. Consider for example the way he dealt with his child (Lisa). Its interesting to learn more of his personality in his youth (same with e.g. Holmes, Gates, or any person of interest who seems flawed). Steve Jobs used LSD. Steve Jobs did phreaking together with Steve Wozniak. They even sold blue boxes.
We don't need to be there to know that there are a lot of assholes like SJ around. But none of them shipped the iPhone.
Emulating that part of SJ is easy and is done in several places. But that was not all he did
Much more onerous things happen regularly in lots of white collar jobs. People in medicine, law, finance, etc. A weekend with an all-nighter before some big deliverable? College students do this.
The only reason it happens in those other white collar jobs is because it's cheaper for management to work a few people really hard than hire enough to the job with reasonable working conditions.
If you work like that you're literally sacrificing your free time and health for the benefit of the company's bottom line. Maybe if you're lucky you'll get a small bonus and 'recognition'.
I just watched "wild wild country," so my mind is on a different flavour of euntrepreneurship and euntrepreneurship. But...
Jobs, Kalanick, Gates... By all accounts were very difficult people personally & professionally. By most accounts, they crossed all the lines to get where they were trying to go. Can someone who doesn't do that get where they got to?
Uber is a good example. They're model of expansion led to Uber being all over the world. Ubers' product meant ignoring, bending & breaking "taxi laws" all over the world. It just couldnt have been done legally, especially given that these are often municipal rules, and Uber operates in thousands of jurisdictions. On the labour side, a standard labour model wouldn't have let them take over the world.
Ubers' "gigging" labour model didn't/doesn't have a legal or normative framework. Without bending these rules, they would not have gotten so big, so fast either.
These are just the most legible, concrete examples. By all accounts this mentality permeates everything. Move fast and break things, I guess. Break rules, conventions, people....
Some people want to fight for Fabien. Some people want to fight for Xenophon.
If, on the other hand, we tested everybody for sociopathy before they were allowed to manage other people or manage other people's money, I believe we'd still get at least as much innovation. Probably more, as monopolists like Gates and Kalanick were happy to work to crush competitors. See, e.g., a small sampling of the companies Microsoft screwed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_litigation#Private
They did break rules though, sometimes laws. More notably the trailblazed rule/law breaking. In some cases this led to rules or laws being renegotiated. I think both taxi laws and labour laws are currently under review in a lot of places, owing to Uber's bulldozing.
I'm not making any normative judgements. I'm just correlating such a personality type to certain businesses, at a certain place and time. If you are going to be part of an uber-like story of nothing to global generic within a few years... You are probably working for a rule breaking, screaming unreasonable Jobs type. But... You get to go on adventure in Persia.
Whatever your intent, you are in effect justifying their actions. My point is that you can use your exact logic to justify anything that succeeds at the expense of others. It's used all the time with political leaders in other countries who succeed through violence.
Instead of justifying it, we can work to change things. Sexual abuse was perfectly acceptable for decades, probably centuries. But the #MeToo movement shows that standards can change, and that abusers can face accountability. The same sort of change is possible if we want to limit other kinds of abuse. It's up to us.
I don't think we're talking about the same thing, but even if we are civil conversations end when metaphorical accusations start, so... I guess there's no way to right this ship.
Why is Gates on that list?
" ... “Four,” announced the f[uck] counter, and everyone said, “wow, that’s the lowest I can remember. Bill is getting mellow in his old age.” He was, you know, 36.
Later I had it explained to me. “Bill doesn’t really want to review your spec, he just wants to make sure you’ve got it under control. His standard M.O. is to ask harder and harder questions until you admit that you don’t know, and then he can yell at you for being unprepared. Nobody was really sure what happens if you answer the hardest question he can come up with because it’s never happened before.” "
He's such a sharp pen. Too bad he isn't blogging. I wonder if he's got some new takes. He was a small codeshop CEO when he wrote that. Now a multiunicorn CEO.
"I don't know," I replied. I was finally beginning to see where he was coming from. Bill was trying to get me to brag that I could write the application switcher really quickly, so he could justify paying me a lower price for it.
"Well, I don't think that you could expect to get more than four thousand dollars per week, tops. Actually, I think that's too much, but let's go with that. If it takes ten weeks, and you get paid four thousand dollars per week, that means you should get paid $40,000 for writing it."
$40,000 didn't sound like very much to me, especially if it was as strategic to Microsoft as it seemed to be. I think Bill was expecting me to make a counteroffer, but I wasn't very enthusiastic about selling it to Microsoft regardless of compensation, since it really should eventually be part of the Mac OS.
Anyway, better than a company run by "the clueless". See the MacLeod Life Cycle of the Firm, in:
"The defendants are Adobe, Apple Inc., Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar, Lucasfilm and eBay"
- A Sr. Marketing staff member saw technical deficiencies in the project and pulled a _complete 180°_ literally days before showtime in front of a huge client, successfully.
- Jobs pushed his workers hard.. though the ends justify the means
- The NeXT computer pioneered nearly everything we take for granted today (mouse, networking, Objective C) in a package targeted at the high end consumer. Sound familiar?
[edit: clarify meaning]
Jobs said later that he took away the GUI and the mouse, when he really should have taken away the networking and Smalltalk. That's why NeXT used BSD under the hood and Objective-C as its development environment.