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Silicon Valley Is Not a Fad (medium.com/duncanr)
121 points by Elof on April 30, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

I have always been interested in computers and programming since I was little and made it a goal to move to Silicon Valley when I graduated from high school 11 years ago. Now that I’m here and working at my dream job, it’s funny how “mundane” it is (in a good, engineering sort of way). Wake up, go to work, program and talk about technical things, then go home. Repeat the next day. My day to day life is very unlike the TV show this place is based on (although that craziness definitely exists around here for those looking for it, but it’s not difficult to avoid). Sometimes it’s hard to believe this is the tech capital of the world because the infrastructure is just so ordinary and suburban looking.

Weirdly enough, I think my favorite thing about living here is the vegetation. The quirky trees, the rolling hills, and the funky plants are just so different than what you find in the rest of the U.S. My favorite pastime is just driving around here on the weekend looking at it all.

It's not really the infrastructure that makes it Silicon Valley. In my 15 years of living here, it's the people. The concentration of tech companies here and talent is astounding! This is the only place where every week there's an interesting meetup with whatever tech of your choosing, be it Rails, Clojure or with management, with how to design/UX, and agile. This is the only place where a cafe is filled with tech people talking about their startups, pitch, their stack, etc.

I have been to many places including different tech metropolitans, like Berlin, but there's still nothing quite like Silicon Valley in terms of what I said above.

Now, my only gripe is that the housing market is crazy. It's funny how only the tech crowd get to afford to live here. I've seen families bunch together just to afford rent.

NYC has a similar meetup culture and a great tech community. I'd bet Seattle, Austin, and Chicago do to.

The difference is that other cities have diversified economies with multiple hot industries.

Chinese investors probably buy more houses than the actual Silicon Valley crowd. They love investing in homes in CA and NY.

>This is the only place where a cafe is filled with tech people talking about their startups, pitch, their stack, etc.

How many people actually find this appealing?

To an outsider, this is the joke of the Silicon Valley show: everybody is always "talking business" and "crushing it", while the vast majority of "engineering work" being done is mostly useless. The Silicon Valley lifestyle is to me the other side of coin as the Wall Street lifestyle.

I guess if you don’t like software it’s not a great place

If you do like software, it's still not a great place, because of groupthink. disclaimer : worked with a high rank in a FAANG company for several years...loved that microcosm, but quit because of the boredom of groupthink.

> My day to day life is very unlike the TV show this place is based on

I always thought the show Silicon Valley was based on the place but your way round actually explains a lot.

It's based on real life like Dilbert is based on real life.

Cheery optimism and pride in a place are all well and good. This article feels like it's from a different time, perhaps a decade before. Certainly, there has been a lot of negative press of Silicon Valley in recent years. Much of that has been well-deserved. For years, engineers have pretended to be above the petty tribalism of politics (even as we bikeshedded and fought our editor holy wars), only for the revelations of the last few years of SV lobbying and collusion with the surveillance state to come out.

Of course, this article is more about SV as a cultural place and ideal, and not a political force, more about Manhattan than Wall Street. But it still brushes off high rents as normal, something ever-present. Meanwhile, a San Jose city councilman and his family are evicted because of high rents:


I grew up in San Jose. (I remember when we were the capital of Silicon Valley, not San Francisco.) We now live in a very different Bay Area from that of the irrationally exuberant '90s. I think positive profiles of SV have to be tempered by realistic coverage of the many, many problems this place is experiencing. At the very least, acknowledgement of these problems- and not breezy dismissal- can spur change to make things better. So we can build a Silicon Valley worthy of these utopian fantasies.

I still don't quite understand how it's economical for all these huge companies to hire engineers in SV/SFBA for 2-3x as much as in other western markets, and probably more like 10x of non-western markets when the internet to a large extent mitigates a lot of the down- and upsides of geography.

By that I don't necessarily mean everything should be outsourced to India - even Vancouver (same language, same timezone, similar cultural background) has drastically lower developer wages than SFBA & plenty of talent.

> & plenty of talent.

Unconstrained by non-competes?

The theory is that the Bay area has a huge liquid pool of talent, and that not being able to hire critical talent at all is even less "economical", in that you're less likely to be able deliver your product or service to market.

Because there is value in having people in personal contact, especially if they are expected to work in a team. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have the option of dropping by a coworkers office for a 5 min quick chat or a 3 hour informal meeting on a whim, where we might pull out our notebooks and pull up relevant files and email threads. Deep thinking can't happen on a slack channel, it happens during the skull session.

California is also a powerhouse of a state. It has the 5th largest economy in the world, and the most productive state government in the U.S. Ambitious projects actually get attempted and built in California unlike so many of the stagnant states in the U.S. Another reason of why SV and not Idaho is the academic research environment of the bay area and the ease of recruiting the excellent talent that comes out of California's universities every spring.

I think it has to do with desired quality. Hiring high quality engineers can be a difficult task even in the massive talent pool present in SV, and it’s only going to be more difficult in cities with smaller pools. That’s not to say that quality doesn’t exist in these places, but it’s certainly not as readily available.

These other major tech-centers have less well-paying competition than SV as well. As someone who has done hiring in several companies in Berlin & Vienna the difficulty mostly lies in the fact companies don't want to pay much.

If you are willing to pay 10-15% above market rates (which is still 1/2 of SFBA market rates) there is no shortage of senior engineers in Berlin.

It's not economical. But the investors and executives who make decisions on corporate locations enjoy living in SV/SFBA, so here we are.

There are tons of those articles though. This one was refreshingly detached from all that.

Which makes it somewhat anachronistic, no? Imagine an article that cheerleads the traditional college experience at all cost. Might've been fine fifteen years ago, now it would sound dated in the era of crushing student debt.

Not so much anachronistic as trans-chronistic, if there's such a thing. All he's doing is focusing less on what has changed, and more on what has stayed the same over time. I'm sure having grown up there, you can probably spot some of the same things. But I would also wager that it's the changes that tend to jump to the front of your mind, because they're the more noticeable and obvious part - they're intrusive, annoying, costly, and even traumatic for some.

Still I appreciated two ideas buried in this: One, that he is (maybe slyly) pointing out that this bubble is a lot like the last bubble. And two, that for every Jobs who shows up hell-bent on a meteoric rise (and who either succeeds or crashes spectacularly) there are always plenty of Wozniaks quietly and steadily moving the actual work along.

I would tend to agree that higher ed seems to be in a dangerous upheaval or crisis. For SV I don't see it... not yet anyway. But I'm watching from afar so whadda I know?

Either way, I wouldn't worry too much about the effects though... either of this piece or all the ones rightly pointing out the downsides. Seems like (maybe sadly) they tend to have no effect either way.

There's another characteristic that's apparent to only some of us who live here, but many of those who don't...

How out of touch many here are with the rest of the nation's and world's concerns, aspirations, feelings, values, and needs.

For example, we now know that the Internet has a corrupting influence on civil society that's stronger than its capacity to uplift it.

> For example, we now know that the Internet has a corrupting influence on civil society that's stronger than its capacity to uplift it.

You believe the Internet is a net negative for society? I think it's easily one of the greatest inventions in all of history.

it certainly is possible. in the old days, the elite kept power over people using things like religion, and still do although to a lesser degree. however, now the internet has provided the power to control and manipulate like no other thing before.

sure, the internet has enabled some huge things. but if i step back to my life before the internet was a central component of daily life, i can't say definitively whether the internet has provided a net positive effect on my life or not. and i feel more and more that it has kept me from fulfilling myself by capturing my attention and time.

look at the way youtube has progressed. it used to be a platform filled with authenticity. now, it's been overwhelmed by what is described by leeches that try to manipulate and siphon off its users.

much of this is covered by adam curtis in his documentaries, and i would start by watching "all watched over by machines of ever loving grace". the internet started out as an authentic place but not has turned against its users in its powder to control and manipulate.

> I think it's easily one of the greatest inventions in all of history.

Really? I'm surprised you rank it above inventions which allowed the agricultural, industrial or transport revolutions to happen.

Personally the Internet as an invention would rank way below the automobile, wheel, plough, spinning jenny, telegraph, telephone, broadcast television, aeroplane, etc.

I'd rank it well above all of your list except the wheel and the plough. It's just that we haven't seen the full effect of the Internet yet. There are likely innovations yet to come that will reshape society on a greater level than any of the others. We haven't had an information-age war the way that WW1 was an industrial-age war, for example. Large areas around drones, satellites, smart clothing, augmented reality, crypto-finance, etc. remaining untapped.

I'd rank the Internet (and software, in general) up with agriculture and mass-production as a fundamental technology for society. These both ushered in totally new eras for humanity (the agricultural and industrial revolutions, respectively) and new forms of wealth (land and capital, respectively). Similarly, the Internet ushers in the information revolution, where data becomes a fourth fundamental factor of production.

do you think if the internet had somehow existed prior to these inventions, their creation would have been hastened?

No, the inventors would become influencers selling CBD oil.

Granted it's a great invention for the highly educated and computer literate. I rather depend on it myself!

But that is a tiny slice of the world. Which, as I said, is largely out of touch with the rest of it.

I think it was a wonderful thing until people figured out how to efficiently exploit people with it. It just turns out to be incredibly good for exploiting people, and I think this bell can’t be unrung.

I think it's all too easy to take the positive aspects for granted.

...while ignoring the negative aspects and pretending they don't matter.

But it's not really the Internet as an abstract mechanism, it's the fact that the Internet is a very effective tool for algorithmically propagating and enforcing political, social, and economic conformity - camouflaged as this freewheeling anarchic thing that will save us all from exactly the things it's promoting.

People want conformity, and they rewarded the vendors who gave it to them, no one forced it upon them. People choose to gravitate towards like minded people, and choose to consume things most other people like. The only reason it didn’t happen before on such a scale was that it wasn’t as economical.

The positive of being able to communicate with anyone at any time and/or lookup information almost instantaneously are worth the downsides (which we need to collectively fight against) in my opinion. It’s like any other tool, it’s made life a hell of a lot easier, but you can also cause damage with it, but that’s up to the person.

You're right. And this is where human psychology can and is being manipulated for financial or political gain, hence the internet has become the largest and most effective tool for such in the history of humanity. I don't underestimate the net benefits internet has brought to the table but same goes for the negatives.

All the algorithmic propaganda is entirely optional. If your view of the internet is only what you see on FB, twitter, and instagram, then sure it's pretty terrible. But you aren't under any obligation to sit there and scroll through advertising, Zuckerberg isn't holding a gun to your head. Social media is an echo chamber that seems much larger than it is, with far less voices contributing than it might appear (1).

1. https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/04/24/sizing-up-twitter-use...

The internet is great, the problem is mostly ad-networks and so-called "social media" riding on it.

Let's not blame the road for the idiot-drivers ;)

Road design and construction is regulated. Automobile function is regulated. Drivers are licensed. Roadways are policed.

Even so, they're not that safe. Imagine what they'd be like without all the oversight.

I'd assume he meant the "internet" in this regard. It's hard to see things such as Facebook, Twitter, and the increasingly dystopic efforts to get people to click on ads driven by companies such as Google, as being anything but a serious net negative for society. And these sites for many people, and I think it's probably safe to say the majority, effectively are the internet.

Obviously it's an unprecedentedly amazing invention. You have access to an infinite amount of information that is mostly free or can be made to be free. For instance if you want to learn astrophysics in your spare time, you can - for $0. And not just learn it but receive access to instruction from the most well regarded instructors at the most well regarded institutions, alongside supplemental materials. And all for $0. That is just such an incredibly radical shift in society.

But most people don't do things like this. The internet is also a source of endless mindless entertainment, the ability to engage in echo chambers based on your preferred views, and to otherwise engage in pointless bickering and gossip. And this behavior is heavily driven by companies who profit extensively off this form of "engagement." Who's making money when you download and sit around watching Susskind's videos and engaging in the corresponding course work? Nobody. Thus, there is a strong disincentive by many to discourage this sort of behavior in lieu of passively consuming crap interleaved with as much advertising and 'messaging' as can be jammed into it.

It's ironic. The internet was going to be the great equalizer in society. But I think it's probably driving a bigger divide in society than ever before. Because now for those with intelligence, drive, and motivation there's less than ever stopping them from achieving great things. At the same time for those who do not have drive or are easily distracted there are now more ways to mindlessly waste an unlimited of time in self indulgence - and mostly for free!

It can be both.

Oh stop with the gloom, this is like using tabloids as an example of how the printing press ruined us all. Ignore the tabloids, or in the case of the internet, low effort ad content. You can read good journalism from around the world if you put in the minuscule effort it takes to vet a source. The academic internet never went away, in fact it gets exponentially more powerful every year, and nearly all of human knowledge is at your fingertips for free* from Wikipedia or tools like pub med (everything funded by the NIH becomes open access after a year).

The internet has only ever been one thing: a time sink. Why waste your free time making someone else money? Cut out the commercialized internet from your life. Sink your time by learning something, keep your neck well above the irrelevant noise of social media, keep your eyes fixed on well written information from good journalists and experts in their fields, and suddenly the internet is beautiful and everything that everyone hoped for.

Is there /any/ part of the nation in touch with the rest if the nation's concerns, aspirations, feelings, values and needs? I seriously wonder who would rank best there given the fact the nation is a big place and even those who travel a lot are in their own bubbles. Are farmers out of touch for considering owning many acres normal when they are less than 2% of employement - let alone that most don't own their own land?

As for the corrupting influence I must disagree.

Many groups try to keep a finger on the pulse everywhere: journalists, filmmakers, politicians, manufacturers (e.g. automakers), retailers, social scientists...

Many of these groups are concentrated in a handful of locales, e.g. Hollywood, D.C., Madison Avenue.


Do you find that the people responsible for making the Internet "a corrupting influence on civil society" — the people who run Facebook and Twitter and so on — are influenced by Republican Party ideologies and concerns?

Not particularly.

The issue with our currently large companies seems to have become that the goals of shareholders are not necessarily aligned with the goals of society.

And there needs to be a long conversation about that.

> The Internet is the single biggest repository and distributor of human knowledge the world has ever seen.

This is true, but I worry about the quality of the information and it’s longevity. We may yet lose a huge amount of information because we take it for granted that the internet will save it all, when it doesn’t. The term for this is “digital dark age”.

> If you wish to find the truth, you can.

I mean, aside from all the people learning lies. A lot of utter nonsense has found its home on the internet too.

> the problem is that ... Republican

I’m going to stop you there. While I might agree politically, philosophically this is a bad road. It tempts you to think that everything is fine if only you could defeat your political foe, which I just don’t think is true.

>From the US perspective, the problem is that the pile of excrement that is the Republican party in the US

It never ceases to amaze me that people can say something like this with a straight face. As if "the Republican Party" exists in a vacuum, and that the Democratic Party is some bastion of widely held ideals. This is why some people, like me, consider Silicon Valley hopelessly out-of-touch.

Nobody claimed the Democratic party was a bastion of ideals, you added that straw man.

Why is it that someone criticizing the Republican Party immediately makes you want to attack the Democratic party? It seems they are their own entity and can be criticized as such, no both-sides-ism needed.

It’s a pretty ignorant comment considering Nixon and the Republican Party was the one who got the US out of Vietnam and the Democratic Party was the one that escalated the conflict.

I'm not from the US, but the republican party is always held up as the "bad guy" in these conversations. Let's not forget that the original Obama campaign was the first to really leverage social networks and online advertising to great effect, the republicans then turned around and did the same but better with Trump. When the Democrats did it, it was praised as innovative and clever the future of election campaigns, when the Republicans did it, it was apparently the end of the world and the internet should be burnt to the ground for facilitating this terrible thing to happen.

==when the Republicans did it, it was apparently the end of the world and the internet should be burnt to the ground for facilitating this terrible thing to happen.==

Here, you have proven my point by creating yet another straw man. Ignoring that, you never established that they actually “did the same” thing, you just make the claim. I don’t remember seeing evidence of foreign bot farms supporting the Obama campaign on social media.

That said, maybe the comment was more about net neutrality, municipal wi-fi or expanded rural broadband. All actions to bring cheaper internet to more people that US Republicans have historically been against. You know, policies that actually impact the internet and it’s access/usage.

Roger Ailes built a media empire with the explicit idea that the reason why the "elites" (read: Republican politicians) had their hand forced on Vietnam was that they didn't control the propaganda around it sufficiently.

He is quite explicit and straightforward and is on the record about this.

If you don't acknowledge that Ailes set out to build a propaganda empire, you are already behind the 8 ball before we even start discussing the Internet.

Silicon Valley is not a fad, but not quite a place either. As the author describes it, the drab office complexes are not quite what makes Silicon Valley what it is. In my opinion, a person living half a world away, Silicon Valley is a collective state of mind in a place with the right resources and context. It has talent, capital, and the infrastructure, both physical and intangible. It has free markets, great universities, rule of law, safety, democracy, and most importantly an acceptance of a certain kind of risk taking. This combination is surprisingly hard to recreate. As an Indian living half a planet away, I look upon the place with a mixture of admiration, awe and envy.

    It has free markets, great universities, rule of law,
    safety, democracy, and most importantly an acceptance 
    of a certain kind of risk taking. This combination is
    surprisingly hard to recreate.
These all exist to a large extent in a lot of major (and not so major!) western cities. Not that unique.

The unique thing here is the same thing that is unique in Shenzhen in China - how much of everything is packed close together reducing externalities and improving communication.

If the is business in the category, you're liable to find it in the SV, even more likely to find it in the Chinese city.

>If the[re] is business in the category, you're liable to find it in the SV

This in an interesting take. My understanding is that SV caters to a very particular business: software. Sure that business is growing (eating the world), but Silicon Valley doesn't strike me as "all business friendly", especially when everyone is trying to grow at all costs, while the rest of the country (and world) operates on small, sustainable businesses.

Yeah, I recently watch a German-produced special about Silicon Valley that concluded Google engineers learn how to network by attending Burning Man. [0]

It's obvious to identify the product of Silicon Valley companies because they generally are marketed globally. But it's really hard to convey what it's like to live and work here. Generally, it's nothing like you might imagine. The architecture is mundane, the weather is great, the traffic stifling. That can describe many places, so then you have to talk about housing costing more than anywhere in the world (at this scale), and $12,000 bottles of Cognac at Costco.

In the end, it's the people who live here. Generally well paid, disproportionately wealthy (but not nearly everyone), probably from another country, not here to show off what they have, but rather, what they can achieve.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQy0ZCx3UCY

> The architecture is mundane

I take issue with this. For most of my career I worked in a standard office building. False ceiling tiles, cubicles, rectangular concrete 'tilt and pour'. It served the job well. It was relatively quiet, comfortable, intimate and fostered my productivity.

Now I work in an architectural masterpiece of modern green engineering. It is loud, impersonal, distracting, and not at all conducive to actually getting work done. It's like the people who designed the building hated engineers and typical engineering personalities and set out to design a building to torture them.

Apple has a similar problem. Apple's senior vice-president of hardware technologies Johny Srouji refused to move his team into their new, piece of shit exercise in architectural masturbation.

The main thing to blame is open plan... Read: cheaping out on walls. This includes undamped glass walls and doors.

And I just can't figure out if it actually IS cheaper - I mean you're dealing with interior architects after all, as well as the glass walls which can't be cheap either.

Plus, personnel costs (especially in Silicon Valley) are a multiple of floor space, so I can't understand that argument either.

But then, so far, I've never had someone who calls the shots on the open office model go public on why they went for it. I mean the cynic in me thinks it's about cutting costs (but then why do they have developers in SV instead of outsourcing it?) or showing off (open offices look good on pictures / when the manager walks around in it).

I don't think it has much to do with money. These companies either have or are already burning trough a lot of it. It is about careerists avoiding accountability. That is why you hire contractors, have open offices and host in the cloud. As long as no one can blame you for anything, which they will to further their own career, you will make it to the next level.

The vast number of Teslas, Audis, BMWs, and Porsches makes me think that many people aren't just here to show what they can achieve.

Maseratis too, leased from the Ferrari dealership in SF

This article makes me sad. While not a fad, Silicon Valley is the ultimate manifestation of a place where Americans and contagiously the rest of tech workers value work over life.

The prime question for me, as it relates to real estate, is:

"Will the majority of Silicon Valley's economic activity ever move to virtual locations?"

I.e., will over half of the meetings at Facebook, Google, etc, ever happen in a game world, with participants logging in with HMDs?

It's hard to make a conclusive prediction, but I have an extremely difficult time justifying a "NO" with even 51/49 odds. I would put the odds at least at 10/1 "YES" but again that's pure speculation.

The only real justification for a strong "NO" is something like "It has been tried before with other telecom tech and it didn't work" but we don't even had access gaze tracking yet, which science shows is crucial for language. We seem assured to have a blistering release of body tracking tech over the next 10 years, and the claim "none of it will change teleconferencing materially" seems impossible to justify.

The counterclaim, "teleconferencing will hit feature parity with in-person meeting for 90% of corporate interactions within 10 years" to me is very easy to entertain.

And if the counterclaim is true, what does that mean for Bay Area real estate? I can't justify a million dollar mortgage if there's even a 50/50 change of this outcome.

HMD teleconferencing vs. meetings in conference rooms seems like a classic disruptive technology situation. Right now HMDs are unacceptably poor in comparison. But they have key advantages the incumbent tech (in-person meetings) can never match: no commute, exponentially more and cheaper housing options, muting, easier and better access to data and visualization in the meeting space, faster transition between workstation and meeting, can include people on other continents, infinite meeting spaces available at all times, etc.

This seems to me the biggest looming change to Bay Area culture, period. I am surprised it's not more discussed.

and a lot of it has to do with people's willingness to use those remote methods, and the culture at those companies. Right now there's a lot of young people working in tech that don't have much incentive to be remote. But, in the coming decades, some of them will want families of their own. At that point a desire to move out of the bay area may overcome their resistance to working remotely.

“Y Combinator, like Silicon Valley itself, tends to produce great innovation with a generous pinch of bullshit.”

Interesting way to round off the post!

I've always said that Silicon Valley is the Hollywood of the tech industry. When one wants to make a film in Hollywood, and the script calls for a special piece of equipment or prop that's never been made before, one can walk down the street and find three people who can make one for you in an hour because Hollywood is where the movie people congregate.

The same is true for the Valley.

Nice read, thoughtful.

Another thoughtful read, from the other side: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-25/on-the-fringe/uncanny-valle...

Suggested reading: a long-form article about the history of Silicon Valley seen through the lives of the author's own family (Kim-Mai Cutler, 2014): https://techcrunch.com/2014/01/04/silicon-valley-lost-and-fo...

biased, since I know the author. Think it's a rather mediocre piece, but I liked this quip a lot:

"It's easy to say silicon valley is full of 'tech bros' if that's the cohort you surround yourself with"

>It's easy to say silicon valley is full of 'tech bros' if that's the cohort you surround yourself with

Everyone hates tech bros, but I don't think tech bros know they're tech bros.

Silicon Valley where diversity and inclusion is welcomed, unless you look like someone we don't like, then we hate you, and get out.

I just wish finance would take off again so all the mercenaries looking for a quick buck but with no personal affinity for technology would have somewhere else to go.

I thought that's why we invented Bitcoin.

When is this sentiment justified and when is it just gatekeeping?

Look at the cohorts of Product Managers, Security "Specialists" (Disclosure: they're not engineers, experts, its a totally made up title), Certified Buzzy Buzzwordingtons etc. Its not very hard to see, as the OP pithely pointed out, that Tech seems to be the only place today where its possible to strike gold.

The last paragraph includes this about Y Combinator: "in my opinion it’s also incubated a lot of nonsense." and "tends to produce great innovation with a generous pinch of bullshit."

Is there some backstory missing here?

If we could put a dent in the housing thing, it would be a wonderful place. ATM we are helpless before it.

I don't mean to insult a PHD, but this piece reads like a middle school persuasion piece. It's pure 'why my city is great', with little objective evidence.

A PhD is a piece of paper, not something that elevates the holder to the position of a deity. I don't think it should even be mentioned as something that might temper your criticism.

(General comment only, I haven't actually read the article yet).

PhD's who do silly things deserve more criticism because they are supposed to know better, and its funny watching their reaction that you dare.

Exactly what I would expect from a lot of the crowd who flaunts their PhD title as part of their name.

Yea but that's okay right... people can write that. It's actually probably more effective than an "objective" piece. It's persuasive because the author's clearly loves the vibe, and describes it in a weirdly beautiful way. Which got me to buy into it, as a software developer myself. And the contrast with how the valley is portrayed normally is refreshing. (FD I don't live there, but I did really like this piece.)

> In the late two-thousands, at a party in the Mission District

Do people refer to the first decade of this century as "the two thousands"?

Personally excited to enter the twenties so we can refer to decades by standard nomenclature again!

Wow I hadn't thought about that. I also think most people haven't yet realised this is the last year of the current decade!

wait what happened to March-Dec of 2019?

Since there was no 0 AD, we count decades from 1 - 10, not 0 - 9. yes that's stupid

No. Nobody ever does that.

We count centuries that way, because we say "1st century", "20th century", "21st century". (That is, "20th century AD".) Ordinal numbers, based on the year 1 AD.

Nobody says "178th decade", or "213th decade". Decades are cardinal numbers. Nobody starts "the decade" in the 1 year.

> Nobody start "the decade" in the 1 year.

wow rude, I do. I think the 60s started 1961-01-01 and understand that people usually mean "the years that give a quotient of 196 when divided by 10".

I understand that we use ordinals to refer to centuries, also I understand how that's unrelated to which specific years are in a decade/century/millennium

fun fact the Australian constitution came into force on the 1st of January, 1901, aligning with the starting boundary of the 20th century.

So if someone mentioned something nice happening in 1960 you'd say "yeah the Fifties were great!" ?

wow rude again, that's not 'assuming the best intent of the commentator' and is against this site's code of conduct

> [I] understand that people usually mean "the years that give a quotient of 196 when divided by 10".

since I'm not a pedantic sicko that gets off on telling people they're wrong and lording my hugely advanced intellect over them, I use human words for genuine natural interactions.

Noughties, teens, twenties.

Despite many people's best efforts "the oughts" never quite caught on like they did turn of last century.

It’s “aughts”, which is a term for zero, but rarely used outside certain contexts. I prefer it, but it’s not surprising it didn’t catch on.

Otherwise I greatly prefer “the early 2000s”. It’s not very precise, but it’s more precise than “the 2000’s” which can include the year 2999.

That'll sort it itself out over the coming decades; but the other interesting one to me is that a sizeable group (majority?) of people are still saying "two thousand nineteen" instead of "twenty nineteen". I'm pretty sure I stopped using the former shortly after 2009 ended. I wonder if that'll stick for the whole century.

In the other language I speak fluently (Portuguese) there never was an abbreviation, it was always the full "one thousand nine hundred ninety" as opposed to "nineteen ninety". In that case "two thousand" is already an improvement, but for some reason it bothers me in English.

Interesting. I definitely prefer “twenty nineteen”, but can’t swear I would never call it “two thousand nineteen”. It might end up sticking around until 2100.

Ah, spelling, old foe.

What contexts do you generally see it used in, out of curiosity?

I'm assuming it still appears in places besides revivals of "The Music Man"

This is the first thing that comes to mind: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/.30-06_Springfield

I’ve only ever heard this pronounced thirty aught-six.

and for the sophisticated redneck


Also double-aught buckshot.

Better than "the naughts" or "the dub dubs" is it not? What do you call it?

My personal favorite is "the noughties".

This is the only one i've heard in normal use.

Never heard the dub dubs but I’ll start using that immediately

It's the best term I've seen for it so far. What term do you use?

I've seen "aughts" used and understood that fine. When I read this, I thought it referred to the entire century.

Either that, or occasionally I just roll "nineteen-nineties" into "twenty-hundreds" or "twenty-ohs".

two thousand and X (200x) here

I do

"You read a lot. We like that." meh!

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