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Tech company patterns (richg42.blogspot.com)
389 points by Impossible 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

Nice post, I would like to ad a super-category/type: companies of various kind that think to be independent companies in a "free market" while are only slave that works for few bigger one.

To explain this mega-pattern I start to the bottom: in the past we have had blacksmiths that build their own tools regularly, it was common in chemistry industry produce in-house any "glass made lab equipment", it was common between carpenters to build most of their tools, these were mostly made of wood and blades are made by the nearby blacksmith that also buy wood stuff from the carpenter and I can keep going for long. Now without tools essentially designed and made by very few subjects (yep, there are tons of electric/pneumatic/... tools producers but they do not really produce them, only design few aspects around pre-made components) nobody can work anymore.

In IT it's no different: in the past we have had many different architectures, software etc, now anything is built essentially around ARM or x86 and mostly around very few key software components.

Long story short: most type of companies you identify are not free player of a free market but only lego player that depend on lego brick suppliers that are more and more few, more and more powerful.

This is brilliant and is true across so many industries outside of software. I don't think there's anything "wrong" with it, but it seems like we get fewer choices every year and that doesn't feel like progress.

Who knows how things will end up because of the state of things. It'll be interesting to look back ten or twenty years from now and see where our current trajectory took us.

Thanks, Well... IMO Being interdependent is not much a wrong thing until such interdependency became too unbalanced between too many that depend on a subject and to few subjects but to evolve we need few things: diversity is one of them, without diversity interaction goes down and without interaction good ideas hardly came up and spread.

Another problem is actual kind of private polarization, I mean if we end up after an "evolution cycle" with few universities that essentially hold, build and spread knowledge is not much a problem as long as universities are public/open it's only a matter of how distance we have to travel to study well. But when knowledge start to be concentrated in private hands things change for worse.

Imaging few scenarios: what if we all communicate trough $bigEnterprise services and $bigEnterprise have extensive data mining knowledge? How easy for them became knowing anything that going to happen between anyone else and so direct their investments for their own good possibly against anyone else interest? What if our communications relay on "aggregators" from such big subject so that it can spread certain news and reduce diffusion of other news?

An ancient proverb say that power corrupt, when we get "corrupted" as a society it's dangerous but It's a thing we can handle between us all, when we get "natural dictatorship" because of centralization well... It's easy to understand that's not good for us.

> diversity is one of them, without diversity interaction goes down and without interaction good ideas hardly came up and spread

Diversity will sacrifice efficiency and that's unlikely in current capitalistic scenario where pinching every ounce of performance from tools and employees is the norm.

True but we are humans, not machines, we work to live not live to work.

"But artisans are complete only if they are also prospectors; and the organization that separates prospectors, merchants, and artisans already mutilates artisans in order to make 'workers' of them."

-- A Thousand Plateaus

That really hasn't been true for a long time

I was trying to think of a pattern that matches my company (an implementer/consultancy/development house for large SAAS tools), and this fits perfectly. No matter how well my company gels, we are all dependent on a few logos on our main page and our senior management is at the mercy of a higher power.

I think this idea is explored in Srncinek's book "Platform Capitalism"


Aardman Animation becoming a coop has captured my imagination. I am very curious how well it could work in the context of a tech company.

There are a fair number in the UK, there's even an group to help [https://www.coops.tech/]. Speaking to those who've done it they say you should try to legally form as a co-op as soon as you can as it gets expensive the longer you leave it (legal fees).

Interesting, thanks for the link! I'm strongly considering doing this for my next project and all the information I can get is helpful.

Honestly hell yeah. I really want to do this.

Are they becoming a full on coop ? I didn't think so and I am sure I would have heard of it.

IIRC shares will be held in trust for the benefit of the employees, a little like the John Lewis Partnership.

so does the EBT have at least 50% plus one of the shares and do the employees control the company if they don't it isn't a coop.

Been through this - >3. The Acquired Company Pattern >Resistance is futile: Either the firm ultimately becomes fully absorbed into the megacorp or it will be shut down.

There was massive attrition despite retention bonuses.

It should be noted that many of the time(most?), acquisitions are simply press releases. I mean they actually happen, but the ability to spew out a true press release is the actual value of the acquisition; not the data or the customers or the software or the employees.

Just the ability to tell the market they acquired some company is the reason for the acquisition. That should inform where you fit post acquisition.

I not sure about #4: "The Legendary Company Pattern", and which example companies the author had in mind:

> Products are legendary and set the bar. There are two types of employees: The "Old Guard" that worked on the earlier legendary products, and everyone else. Can be a very good choice if you can fit in and get shit done. Don't expect to become an insider anytime soon if ever. Only old guard workers can be insiders.

Quite frankly, this sounds like what the top level at EVERY place would select, if you asked them to identify which pattern their company fits.

Every time I read richg’s blog post like this one (there’s at least a few more), I’m glad that I mostly do tech outside the tech industry (in boring enterprise - telco, banking etc.). Things there seem so sane in comparison.

I've worked for two megacorps. One non-tech and one tech (hardware and software). Both fit the description on that page well. I came to these two companies from a smaller tech company and each megacorp definitely seemed insane.

IME The difference is that at the non-tech company all the decision makers saw individual contributors the same way - didn't matter if you were a PhD scientist or a Business Analyst. Individual contributors were cogs in a business process.

At the tech company some of the decision makers seem to understand that technical people are "advanced cogs" and not just regular cogs. To me, that's the difference between feeling totally useless at the non-tech company and occasionally useful at the tech company.

I have seen that too. I tend to tell young devs that it's better to work for a company where the CEO has at least some basic grasp or appreciation for your work and doesn't just see you as a cost.

The difference between tech and non tech companies is the value factor of the employee.

If you're a software guy at a large global hotel, it's meh. You are a tier 3 or 4 employee. They make money booking rooms - anything else is a cost component.

Software companies see developers as an asset because they build the product. The dynamic is different and the pay and respect reflect that.

One time I almost quit a start up to take a little more money at a hedge fund to do their internal software. The start up CEO talked me out of it and I learned an important lesson about my trade.

A lot of these seem pretty heavily focused on gaming companies specifically, though. The second half especially I had a hard time picturing what he meant until I realized he was a game dev.

A big part of non-tech company sanity comes from predictability - it's actually reasonable to project what's going to be happening in a year, much less a few months. The sorts of organizations that are lumped under "technology" (mostly software-driven) are by their nature nearly completely unpredictable - and they're all led by people who absolutely, positively, cannot wrap their heads around this fact, try to implement what works under more predictable business models, and are shocked when it fails.

Telcos are tech - the one I worked for reminded me of the Laundry

The content is interesting, but if the author is reading - gray text on white is an awful color scheme - impossible for some people to read and difficult for everyone. I had to copy/paste the content into another editor to get through it.

Is your screen calibrated? I had the same issue (especially with HN) before adjusting my monitor.

are you tried this chrome extension call outline?

pretty good.

also let's you get through most paywalls

Those are fun. I have also found companies that move from one kind into another based on the situation. (like multi-subscriber to one subscriber).

There are also healthier companies out there (healthy in that they are managed by non-sociopaths and share a respect for their employees) as well. Two that I'm personally familiar with would be:

Lifestyle business - company has a diversified revenue stream which remains relatively constant over the years, management runs the business for continuation, there aren't big hiring binges or firing binges. Same offices as they have been in for a while, everyone gets along in a family sort of way. Little in the way of advancement, just jobs that pay a given amount for as long as you want to do them.

Services business - where the day to day activity consists of new customers signing up for the service, old customers falling by the wayside, there is a sales group, a 'customer facing' group, and a maintenance group. Maintenance consists mostly of adding new features, porting to new environments, retiring what technical debt there is. Customer facing consists of solving specific problems with the service for that customer. And sales are sales.

Another semi-related write-up on internal company dynamics: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/

yep - I think this is the original article -and a good primer / explainer for these patterns: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...

"The we have our own product but its 100% big customer driven because money"

You have your own product? Your own idea? Great! Sell your product to bigger customers to keep you afloat and do whatever they want because you only have 2-5 of them and they keeping you afloat not realising that you just became a service provider.

What pattern would Tesla be described as?

This is amazing.

How, other than the word "patterns"?

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