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Snap’s Secret Weapon Speaks (fastcompany.com)
57 points by wallflower 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments



A paraphrase of the html title might be better than the current submission title, e.g.

An interview with Bobby Murphy, cofounder of Snap


“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads, or automatically put pizza gifs on top of photos of pizzas”


It is fascinating how we are moving from traditional ads, as everyone has grown an automatic negative response, into these more subtle experiences. So instead of a video of Coke, we would have a fun filter that puts a bottle of coke in your hand.

The whole GIF movement is relevant too, as it allows advertisement to penetrate something they weren't able before: Private Messaging.


> It is fascinating how we are moving from traditional ads, as everyone has grown an automatic negative response, into these more subtle experiences.

Absolutely, and overlay AR sounds like their next step:

> Snap recently released zanily animated beacons called Landmarkers — the Eiffel Tower can pop like a champagne bottle for tourists.

Interesting that they've already tested this with an ad campaign [1] but don't want partners to dilute theirs IRL [2].

[1] https://variety.com/2019/digital/news/game-of-thrones-snapch...

[2] https://lensstudio.snapchat.com/templates/landmarker/


Any investor interested message me. We’ll out innovate snap don’t even worry. (gif.com.ai)


I see that premise repeated ad nauseum.

So the best minds of their generation aren't working on CRISPR? Immunotherapy and gene therapy? Who are the engineers and scientists that work at Illumina and Intuitive Surgical? Working at SpaceX or Blue Origin? Who were all those relatively young people I saw cheering when the Falcon Heavy lifted off for the first time? Right.

Who are all the engineers working on 397 other uses for AI not related to ads? How about the thousands of engineers working on autonomous driving tech just in the US? We have 40,000 people dying every year in driving accidents. So those aren't the best minds, it's the people working on pizza gifs.

How about the scientists working on ways to replace our current approach to raising livestock & consuming meat?

How about the people working at TerraPower or on improving wind tech? The thousands of scientists & engineers working on improving battery tech just in the US?

How about vertical & autonomous farming?

The tens of thousands of engineers working on building out countless valuable cloud services that boost productivity or simplify technology for consumers and businesses? Those aren't the best minds - working on building out and realizing trillions of dollars in new business value and productivity gains - no, you see, it's the pizza gif people; it's not the engineers that have tripled the value of Adobe by bringing its most important products to the cloud in a wildly successful fashion and expanding how many people can easily use their products globally.

How about the thousands of engineers and scientists working in the increasingly vast field of robotics? Whether consumer, business general or industrial.

The people that work at Apple or Samsung or Applied Materials or TI or Taiwan Semi on semiconductor tech? The people that work at ARM or nVidia or Intel or AMD? Those aren't the best minds, it's the pizza gif people.

I call bullshit on the notion that the best minds are working on pizza gifs and ad clicks. I don't believe it's even close to being true; I think it's closer to being a comical overstatement that should be mocked aggressively.

I've thought about this a few times over the years, because it's a common premise. Here's what I propose instead: the premise, which is widely repeated, is actually a form of narcissism and undue self-aggrandizement. With some healthy skepticism and given the very large counter examples available to us (only a few of which I've mentioned), one might be prompted to question the 'best minds' premise entirely, because it seems to be non-sense right on the surface (and it is). Here's what I think is actually the case: the so called pizza gif people are more likely not the best minds of their generation, and they're simultaneously also not working on anything very important. You see, if, as a group, they subtly trumpet the premise that they're the best minds of their generation and they're merely collectively squandering their potential on pizza gifs, that's a far better comfort than the counter premise that I just floated (they're not the best minds of their generation and they're not working on anything important; ouch).


You're taking the "best" part too literally. Obviously, smart people also work on other things, and adtech has not hoovered up 100% of the available talent. Think about it as a normative statement: it's weird and not good that our society is organized so that working on something so inessential is a sensible choice for smart people.

I'm a research scientist at a major hospital. The work itself is fascinating and important--we're figuring out--and fixing--the brain. At the same time, keeping this job is also a ridiculous luxury because of how low the salary is. An adtech job would easily increase my salary 4-5x; a friend from my department went to a FAANG company and makes literally 10x more than I do. If someone in my family got sick, I'm not sure I'd have any alternative but jumping ship to finance or adtech.


Adtech pays better than every single thing you're talking about here, except for the instances where you talk about adtech players like Apple. Your whataboutism doesn't change the basic premise, which is that adtech comes with stronger incentives than other fields. Of the much-vaunted FAANG companies, only Netflix doesn't run its own adtech platform (they stuck with good old-fashioned product placement).

What you've done is read too much into an aphorism that is phrased in reference to a well-known poem. It's implied to focus on the information technology sector because it was originally said by a Facebook engineer and quoted in an article about tech bubbles. It's a concise way of expressing disagreement with the priorities of our industry, and nothing more than that.


> Adtech pays better than every single thing you're talking about here

Which doesn't matter at all in regards to attracting the best minds. That's an entirely bogus premise. What you're stating is core to what leads people to incorrectly conclude the best minds must surely be working on ad clicks. It's the difference between attracting highly accomplished, top 5% minds (great income, went to a top school, great education results; surely must be among the best minds; but isn't), and attracting the actual best minds.

Conceptually if you were right, someone like Feng Zhang would have been working for Google or Facebook on ad clicks, rather than at Broad on changing the world of biotech via CRISPR. JB Straubel would have been at Twitter trying to figure out how to improve their ad system. Craig Venter would have been starting an ad network instead of cracking the human genome at Celera. Rodney Brooks would be working on mobile ads instead of robotics. Gwynne Shotwell would be running some ad division within Snap or Google. And so on.

The best minds are more often capable of both making enough money and pursuing what they want to do - pursing what they're most interested in. Many of them throughout history have chosen to nearly entirely neglect the money aspect in fact. Maximizing for money (and not life satisfaction) via eg working in adtech, is precisely what a best mind would not commonly do, and exactly what a highly accomplished top 5% type mind would do (something you see routinely, eg the mid or mid-upper management corporate types; highly accomplished, top schools, high incomes; also not the best minds).

> Your whataboutism doesn't change the basic premise, which is that adtech comes with stronger incentives than other fields

Please point out the whataboutism in what I said. I've pointed out an obvious flaw in the common claim about what the best minds are focused on.

> What you've done is read too much into an aphorism that is phrased in reference to a well-known poem.

I disagree. It's floated persistently and has been for many years as a serious generalized statement - a lament - about what the best minds are working on (ad clicks, not flying cars).


> Which doesn't matter at all in regards to attracting the best minds.

The idea that genius is unaffected by money is wonderfully principled but completely indefensible, especially since all of your examples gained significant material wealth in the process of winning your approval. Again I'll note your apparent unwillingness to factor in the context of the quote, which specifically is from and about the information technology sector anyway. Finally your anecdotal approach to demonstrating via example suffers from a massive contamination by confirmation bias -- e.g. for all you know the finest minds ARE working on adtech, but nobody's made a Wikipedia page about the fineness of their minds. In other words, your argument restricts itself to the set of people who employ public relations staff.

> Please point out the whataboutism in what I said.

Your entire post was whataboutism. I don't know how to teach you to see that. I apologize.

> It's floated persistently and has been for many years as a serious generalized statement - a lament - about what the best minds are working on (ad clicks, not flying cars).

It is a lament, and taken in its original context if you please, you might even notice it's true. A "ha ha only serious" joke in computer science research goes something like "if you want to get funding, look at what the field was researching twenty years ago, and put that in a grant proposal." Progress in the fundamentals of computer science has slowed to a crawl, and the incentives appear to be set to ensure the status remains firmly quo for some time to come.


> I see that premise repeated ad nauseum.

Because it's true? I mean sometimes you hear things repeated because that's just how it is. Just because there are also other industries does not make the statement wrong.


Not sure I'd put ads and something that allows people to express themselves to their friends in the same bucket.


It's advertising as an extension of a personal brand. Just look at all the teens etc sporting airpods etc. It's the same as it was 15 years ago with the iPod earphones. I can afford this so therefore I'm a step higher on a social food chain.


Show me the incentive, I’ll show you the outcome.


What does this mean exactly? I've seen this around and I don't quite get it . Is it a reference to something?


It's just a statement of orthodox economics; more people work on these things because they pay better. There's more money in advertising than difficult vague projects for the betterment of humanity.


To put some actual numbers on it, here are the NIH Postdoc salaries for 2019. https://www.bu.edu/researchsupport/2018/12/05/nih-announces-...

With a PhD + 7 years of experience, you make the princely sum of $61,308. Due to how research funding is structured, it is very difficult to negotiate a salary that's much above this. These jobs tend to cluster in expensive areas (Boston, NYC, California) too.


[flagged]


There are a lot of people out there who have issues with ads for ethical reasons. Don't poo-poo that as "jealousy of high-earners".


That's why I said "a lot by people". I'm sure some people have ethical reasons to dislike ads.


I'd think that the overwhelming majority here dislike ads for ethical reasons as opposed to "jealousy". HN is full of high earners working in various tech fields.


I think several people here are in tech, but earn non faang salaries. My personal opinion is that many of them are jealous.


It might be worth spending some time reflecting on why you hold that position.

Do you have any evidence for it?

Perhaps more importantly, would you personally be generally more at-ease if this were more true than the alternative?

I ask because it seems to me like it would be simpler to take them at their word (i.e that they are genuinely disappointed that advertising GIFs are where so much of this generation of tech's effort is spent). It doesn't seem out of character for people to express disappointment about that sort of thing without their personal salaries being a factor.


(the royal) You don't have evidence that the vast majority of user's care about ethics either. If you have numbers, please share, and I'm happy to apologize and reverse my position


> makes claim without evidence

> asks for evidence that the claim is false

How about not making baseless claims that invariably reflect poorly upon you in the first place?


[flagged]


We've banned this account for repeatedly breaking the site guidelines, including repeated personal attacks, and ignoring our requests to stop.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


That's not how opinions work and you can't hide behind them like that, as perfectly illustrated well over a decade ago by the Shortpacked! webcomic

[0] https://shortpacked.com/comic/opinions


What a puff piece. Obviously paid for by Snapchat, with every single image in the article coming from them and the interviewer lobbing softball after softball.


> What a puff piece

Absolutely

> Obviously paid for

That’s not obvious at all, in fact you’re making a pretty severe ethical accusation against specific people and it’s almost certainly untrue.

I wish people could understand the difference.


Aww thats so adorable, he thinks journalists write this crap. When the PR firm writes the piece, fast company gets free content. It's a win win, that's how these things work.

I have no evidence for this specific case, but assuming this until proven otherwise isn't a bad default strategy.


I have extensive experience in journalism and media, what you're saying is just factually incorrect.

Business publications like FastCompany run uncritical puff pieces all the time. There's similar content in in-flight magazines, on many blogs, on various TV profile segments and much more. You're free to decide if you enjoy reading light, superficial, and purposefully positive stuff like that. Often the writers and the subjects of the writing run in the same circles, are even friendly. The content is often predictable and boring.

I'm not a huge fan of the genre either.

But it's still journalism. There's a difference between paid placements and journalism and it's a distinction I believe is important.


Tone aside, there's a difference between being skeptical of what you read and actively accusing specific people of ethical violations based on that skepticism.


I don't know this secret weapon, but from people I know at Snap, I've heard it suggested they succeeded in spite of him and the CEO.


Another website that is broken on Firefox.


I'm on Firefox 69 beta. It worked fine for me. And Reader View works too.


Looks perfectly fine on my machine. Firefox 68 on macOS.




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