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Yogababble (profgalloway.com)
244 points by JumpCrisscross 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

Just last night I was at an alumni fundraiser for the football program of my alma mater. It's a medium sized liberal arts school, while they've had football for a hundred years, they're known for academics far more than football.

After some hors d'ouevres and cocktails, the head coach took a microphone and came with his ask. What he said was fascinating. He had been doing this for a number of years. About 5-6 years into his tenure, he said, at one of these fundraisers, an alumnus who was general in the US Army came up to him afterwards and said "You're absolutely terrible at this. You spoke for 15 minutes and you never mentioned winning football games. You're the football coach. Don't apologize for wanting to win football games. That's your job for God's sake. These people are here cause they're alumni who like football. They want to win games."

Needless to say, the coaches pitch is now "Here's how we win games if you give us money." But I think the general had the right idea. Companies shouldn't be embarrassed or shy away from talking about how they want to make money, especially if they're pitching to investors.

As a tech co person on the business side, let me tell you it is consistently amazing to me how much resistance I witness to the idea of a company making money. There's a huge confusion going on right now about how business works, the utility of profit, what capitalism is (and why it isn't [gasp clutch your pearls now!] evil... Especially in the Bay Area, the companies I have worked with and in are chock full of people who are opposed to the systems they rely on and have a vague idea that Something Like Communism is the "right way" to operate.

I think you're misreading the aversion to making money.

Tech entrepreneurs in SV have been trained for years to avoid revenue, profit, etc at all costs. The reason? Because as soon as you have profit, the conversation and metrics at fund-raising time are entirely different, and rather than lala land they will be rooted in a reality that no one wants to be in.

I've seen many founders, even some with decent revenue and growth, actively steering away from that to avoid valuation based on traditional metrics.

You're both right. The aversion to showing positive numbers (because a negative number could become anything!!) is real, and so is the vague uneasiness and deep unawareness of how capitalism works among people working within a system it created.

The capitalists are in a very awkward spot after 2008. A motivated anti-capitalist can quite plausibly point out that the system as it stands after the financial crisis is more about protecting the rich with free bail outs and rules changes than securing material prosperity by keeping competent people in charge of resources.

Defending capitalism will start being a little like defending communism - a great idea in theory; where is the evidence that it can be implemented without succumbing to corruption? It'll never be as bad because it doesn't come with the death toll, but people don't seem to take that part of the argument seriously.

I'm among the most hardened capitalists I've seen on HN but I really don't see the credible counter-argument to the divergence of wages and productivity combined with spiralling asset price inflation. Something needs to be done to make it easier for people who work hard but don't like risk to tap into the rewards of capitalism.

I'm not sure what physical metric to turn to to show poor people are holding steady, let alone seeing an improved quality of life.

> It'll never be as bad because it doesn't come with the death toll

I believe that modern capitalism is all about hiding the true costs of everything, from bailouts to subsidies to advertising to "freemium" to engineered addiction. The classic Invisible Hand is dead. It's now just other people manipulating the system to make it seem like nothing has changed.

I've read about how much lead is in the public water supply, how almost no cars can actually pass the emissions tests they claim to, how racist the death penalty is, and the opioid epidemic. I don't agree that there's no death toll to capitalism. We've just done an impressive job hiding it, and distancing it from the people and processes that create it.

> Something needs to be done to make it easier for people who work hard but don't like risk to tap into the rewards of capitalism.

One traditional answer has been "unions", and they're starting to get some traction once again.

Like most things, it's not a matter of extremes, it's a matter of balance.

Agreed, but that seems to be a big problem with capitalism. It's rather difficult to reign in. The class gap and wage disparity it's created over time becomes so large it starts to look pretty ridiculous and hard to ignore, so there's naturally going to be lash-back.

No doubt all systems have issues, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be critical of capitalism and gasp maybe try to improve it... without being labeled a "Communist" (in response to saas_sam's dismissive comment). IMO that label's starting to lose some of it's McCarthyism weight anyways...

P.S. It's not just the Bay Area questioning ball's out capitalism.

> [capitalism] doesn't come with the death toll

Citation needed

I don't know anything about mission statements, valuations, IPOs, or yoga. I do know a little about regression, though, and that regression line is pure bullshit. (Ironic, considering what they're purporting to analyze.) The downward trend is mostly due to a single high leverage[1] outlier[2] in the upper left. Take that out, and you still have a datset that not only exhibits heteroskedasticity[3] (much higher variance on the left than on the right) which invalidates many of the assumptions of ordinary least squares regression[4]. Even if it didn't, the slope is so mild, the sample size so small, and the residual variance so large that's there's no way you're going to be able to reject the hypothesis that the true slope is equal to zero[5].

I recommend you throw away the scatter plot and regression line and instead use Kendall's tau[6], a non-parametric statistic which considers only the rank order of each variable and is therefore appropriate for ordinal variables like the 0-9 "bullshit" scale.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leverage_(statistics)

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlier

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteroscedasticity

[4]: https://statisticsbyjim.com/regression/heteroscedasticity-re...

[5]: https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/344006/understandi...

[6]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendall_rank_correlation_coeff...

Can't a guy throw a joke graph up in his post mocking startup bullshit without folks going full Nate Silver on him?

> Ironic,


On Hacker News? Not if I can help it. :)

I assumed the plot was not meant to be taken seriously.

I think a lot of people are missing the point.

As someone who was there when the dot com bubble collapsed, I think part of his point is that sooner or later, companies based purely on BS, or that have high valuations because they've BS'ed people... are going to come back down to earth.

Judging what is BS and how much there is, is not something you can do in a real scientific way.

I was around then too and what's happening now is so much worse than then it borders on the absurd and the coming crash will be unimaginably and absurdly worse.

Peloton ipo'd at 8 billion.... literally a bike and a tablet app

I wasn't around during dotcom but plenty of people my age can tell this market is absurd

Peloton has almost a billion a year in revenue, and rising fast. I don't have a dog in this fight, but I don't see that a valuation of 8 billion is obviously wrong.

You can have infinite revenue if you sell dollar bills for $0.50. What matters is profits, not revenue, something the majority of these bullshit VC-funded startups overlook because they don't actually have a viable business model and hope for a miracle.

They are not profitable though, they are losing money [0]. It will be interesting to see if they can turn this trend around.

[0] https://www.businessinsider.com/peloton-connected-fitness-fi...

> According to LinkedIn, there are more corporate comms personnel working for Bezos at Amazon (969) than journalists working for Bezos at the Washington Post (798).

Holy shit.

Edit: I interpreted that as 969 working on Bezos' personal brand. On second glance they probably just mean 969 corporate comms personnel in Amazon. In which case I retract my "holy shit"

Yeah, this feels like a bad comparison.

One is a major international company with close to a million employees, hundreds of billions in revenue and operations in a 100+ countries.

The other is a small media firm based in one country with a thousand employees and a few hundred million in revenue.

To make matters worse, Amazon has a reasonable mission statement - to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online, whereas WaPo's mission statement is "Democracy Dies in Darkness". Yogababble score - 10/10

> One is a major international company...the other is a small media firm based in one country

The point is a single company's PR force rivals a major newspaper's entire staff. The Fourth Estate is outmanned and outgunned.

> WaPo's mission statement is "Democracy Dies in Darkness"

No, it's a seven-principle list [1]. Stringing together points one and two, it is "to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained...concerning the important affairs of America and the world."

"Democracy dies in darkness" is a tag line.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/ask-the-post/wp/2016/01/...

Can the Yogababble scale go higher than 10?

It may not be as off-base as you think.

Remember, corp PR roles by definition are corporate. In other words their work is primarily geared up the corp ladder, as such they may as well just be "working for Jeff".

Microsoft early mission statement: "A computer on every desk, running Microsoft software". They changed that because they achieved that.

With regard to OS, they held a 90%+ market share in the 90's.

Today they retain a 70%+ market share of desktops and laptops.

And with Surface they are a top 5 hardware manufacturer as well.

It's impressive.

> According to CNBC, this week the We board fired CEO Adam Neumann. No, the board didn't fire him. The media, academics, and math fired him. The board enabled him and either was a co-conspirator in the fraud, or they were just idiots.

Can we be sure that they are idiots? Given how much control founders have over their companies these days, we don't know how much they had their hands were tied. They may not have been able to do anything until the tide of opinion (on the board) turned against the CEO, to the extent that even the CEO's allies decided they needed to save their own butts.

Between We and FB, we might start to see the pendulum start to swing back the other way, with regards to founder control of companies.

A strange article. There's some good information in there but he seems to undermine himself, leaving me confused as to his intent:

>When firms are still searching for a viable business model, the temptation to go full yogababble gets stronger, as the truth (numbers, business model, EBITDA) needs concealer.


My new firm, Section4, was going to "Restore the Middle Class." My colleagues rolled their eyes so hard I wondered if they’d been coached by my 12-year-old son. Then we were "NSFW Business Media" or "Streaming MBA." We’re trying to figure it out. Next week, I'll tell my board we've assembled a group of talented people, are producing short-form video and podcasts, and hope to educate and inform. We’ll go from there.

He's demonstrating that he ate his own dog food. Instead of "restoring the middle class" (bullshit), they are producing short form video and podcats (not bullshit).

It'd be interesting to do DL/NLP sentiment analysis of S-1s and quarterly reports and correlate that with market returns to see if someone can come up with a model to predict IPO, and stock, success/failure.

Though I'm sure some people are already looking into that.

Lazy Prices [1] is a paper I was looking at for a while (I work on a Quant Research team) that does this in a simple way and the authors had good results. It takes the changes in language in some key sections of financial fillings as signals.

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1658471

Thanks for pointing to the paper, haven't read it yet.

But it sounds pretty interesting, especially if you correlate it with things like insider's tradings (both buy and sell) and of course whatever external events there may be.

Talking of quant, would you mind sharing what is your typical stack, especially non-proprietary, non-confidential, stuff such as languages and libraries.

I don't do anything low latency so its mostly the common scientific python stack -- numpy, pandas, sklearn, etc. Mostly linux, lots of Spark, some R and C#. We're really flexible on what we can use to solve our problems but the team has pretty much settled on python as both developers and analysts can work together more easily.

If I recollect right, Prof. Damodharan has something like a CHINA score - counting the number of mentions of China in S1 or quarterly reports as a proxy for bullshit.

This is one of the types of things quants at hedge funds do.

> The chart below summarizes our research.

The chart is some cherrypicked bullshit that ignores the importance of outlier rejection. Put your thumb over Google, Zoom, and Tesla and then look at the chart again.

> The chart is some cherrypicked bullshit that ignores the importance of outlier rejection

The vertical axis is the author's subjective opinion on a scale of "I’m a professor of marketing who likes dogs" to "I am a spirit Dawg that unlocks self-actualization." That should give away that it's, at best, a back-of-the-envelope gut check.

"This thesis doesn't fall apart on basic scrutiny" is the best point it can make. Which, given it's leaps and bounds more scrutiny than Theranos or WeWork got, is part of the joke.

> "This thesis doesn't fall apart on basic scrutiny" is the entirety of its point

The thesis DOES fall apart on basic scrutiny. The chart represents the entirety of the exploration, and the chart doesn't support shit. Minus the outliers, the chart presents a conclusion entirely different from the author's.

> The thesis DOES fall apart on basic scrutiny

Based on what?

To be serious for a moment, it has been repeatedly found that "prospectus conservatism is positively related to underpricing, with the relation more pronounced for technology than nontechnology firms" [1]. While the ability for "prospectus conservatism...to predict the firm’s post-IPO operating performance" has historically been limited to non-tech IPOs, it's plausible for that effect to now incorporate all IPOs.

> the chart doesn't support shit

The chart's underlying "data" are shit. It's "guy rates mission statements." It's a joke.

(Or maybe it's not. Bullshit isn't something one can objectively measure. It's dependent on context and the specifics of the observer.)

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Grace_Hao/publication/2...

That's a fair response. I've given you an up triangle.

Totally apart from the fact that it's a joke-

As the one jumping up and down about statistics here, you should know that

"The data does not exclude the null hypothesis"


"The thesis falls apart (hypothesis is invalidated)"

are two very different things.

There's a point and a joke. It seems like you didn't get the joke and missed the point.

The point being made is that the bottom is falling out of the bullshit market, and it's about damn time. It's made with humor and snark, which is the point of the graph.

Dropbox is 8/10 on their BS index. Dropbox may not produce enlightenment, but it sure solves a useful problem of storing and sharing files online. I think they're doing well financially too?

I seem to remember reading a Paul Graham article about the early days of Y Combinator (can't find the article now) where he mentioned that basically 2-3 startups including dropbox make all the money, and the rest is just noise. Seems like it wasn't such a BS bet after all.

But Dropbox's mission statement from their S-1, which is what this article is referring to, is an 8/10: "Our mission is to unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working."

Google’s mission only seems non-bullshit because they actually did organize a good fraction of the world’s information. When they were just a search engine with better relevance, it seemed like a stretch.

But yes, the chart is more impressionistic than rigorous.

I mean the chart was drawn with comic sans, I doubt it is intended to be axiomatic.

No, that's just the style of the blog. The post has zero supporting data other than the chart.

The chart is the worst thing in that article. That hilarious line through the middle! Is that suppose to show some kind of trend!?

Yea, it undermined his point and methodology (both of which I'm inclined to agree with more than disagree with). I actually like the idea of rating the relationship of mission to business and seeing if there's any kind of trend there, but he clearly made his hypothesis, drew the chart, then started to look for data to support it.

I'd like to see the stocks' performance relative to the whole market, or at least some relevant index (e.g. S&P 500).

Not really fair to include Peleton in his analysis of one year post-IPO performance based on a single day of trading. Particularly because it's fairly well-known that IPO pop isn't really any kind of useful indicator.

An IPO flop is more reliable, though.

Not really, no. An IPO flop generally just means the bank screwed up.

"WeChrist shat in the punch bowl."

If you had to sum up Adam Neuman and WeWork in one line, I challenge anyone to beat that.

Would it be fair to read his argument as saying that companies that exaggerate their prospects sell at higher IPO prices than companies that are more conservative in their marketing? Since the company's goal is to raise as much money as possible at the IPO while selling off as little of the company as possible, this would indicate that exaggeration is a good strategy, and one might predict that this trend of hyper-hyping is going to continue for a while. Sure, over the long term the company still needs to succeed, but if you are an pre-IPO investor who is holding for the long-term, as long as the IPO is successful, you'd probably prefer for the company to have more money in the bank over seeing a large post-IPO jump.

> companies that exaggerate their prospects sell at higher IPO prices

If anything I think it's that they easily raise VC money, which then inflates the IPO price because people compare it against what VC's paid for it. WeWork VC value was about 4x what the IPO marked thought it might be worth.

> raise as much money as possible at the IPO

Seems more like the smart money is looking for dumb money to follow it, and a way to convert their VC held shares back into dollars via a liquidity event.

But yes, a large post-IPO jump could be considered money left on the table, since people will pay for it, but the company didn't get it - the people buying at the IPO price then selling pocket that money.

I'm confused, what does yoga have to do with this?

Yoga, as its practiced in the West, is mostly a fitness program. Yoga teachers in the West, however, mix pseudo-scientific or New Age BS into their practice ("unite the chakras", "harness your inner goddess", "elevate your spirit") to make themselves be seen as being more than fitness instructors.

I think the point to author is trying to make is that companies often add BS to their mission statements to 'elevate' themselves from a regular company into a lifestyle.

references: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/yoga-babble https://omyogadiva.com/2016/03/25/yoga-babble-muddies-up-the...

> Yoga teachers in the West, however, mix pseudo-scientific or New Age BS into their practice

Having been to my fair share of yoga classes, I've found it's less the teachers doing this than the Instagram-happy students.

> Yoga teachers in the West, however, mix pseudo-scientific or New Age BS into their practice ("unite the chakras", "harness your inner goddess", "elevate your spirit") to make themselves be seen as being more than fitness instructors.

You're right about the author's point, but this is a gross generalization and is unfairly dismissive of a lot of different practices that people find personally beneficial.

People can find any belief system, no matter how unfounded in reality, personally beneficial, look at Scientology.

Doesn't mean it's based on anything coherent or real.

When the word "real" is used as it is here, I sense that it often has nothing to do with reality, and more to do with some kind of arbitrary consensus-reality-concept, which may or may not have anything to do with reality. This is useful insofar as it allows me personally to occasionally "fiddle with the knobs" on my own perspective, which is easier to do when I don't actually believe in it.

the whole article is unfairly dismissive of a lot of different practices that people find personally beneficial. I'm sure there's at least a few staff and customers of Peloton who feel better about themselves because the company mission statement says they're "selling happiness", or people at spotify who like to think they're "unlocking human creativity".

Talking about uniting the chakras or elevating your spirit is feel-goodery on exactly the same level.

When people use the term "technobabble" it doesn't mean they are shitting on the entire field of technology, either.

> Yoga teachers in the West, however, mix pseudo-scientific or New Age BS into their practice ("unite the chakras", "harness your inner goddess", "elevate your spirit") to make themselves be seen as being more than fitness instructors.

This is true for many, but not all, nor is it limited to the West.

I hear this a lot from people who've never been to a yoga class. It's more of a stereotype than reality. All the yoga classes I took have never mentioned anything resembling yogababble.

Right, only someone who has never really tried (that is, stuck with) a yoga practice for awhile would claim that yoga, even the westernized version, is "incoherent." The whole point of yoga is to have an integrative and harmonizing effect.

Rather unfortunate that the corporate world seems to be seeing its own absurdity in the mirror, but then choosing an unrelated scapegoat to point fingers at.

> The whole point of yoga is to have an integrative and harmonizing effect.

This is yogababble.

Only if you have no idea or experience of what it means.

'yogababble' as a portmanteau for the pseudo-enlightened, spiritual market talk and brand that companies like wework or peloton have been using

i thought we already had "woo"...

The term "yogababble" seems pretty offensive to those of us that get something really useful from the practice of yoga.

It also seems totally not necessary to pick on the practice itself or to single out yoga from the universe of things that are mis-used, appropriated, ripped-off, and marketed by the corporate world.

I like this guys youtube channel.(I think it's the same guy anyway.)


He also does a great podcast with Kara Swisher: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/pivot/id1073226719

He’s my new favourite commentator. I love how, because he’s an outsider, he does’t care who he pisses off.

There is yogababble and there is trash talking.

There is ying and there is yang.

Mr Galloway is very entertaining and he has got his scalp. But ultimately he has the same flaw as the yogaistas.


How do you protect yourself from someone that somehow rolled a 30 for charisma and also has no scruples? Calling people idiots when they've fallen under the spell of such a person isn't helpful. What would be helpful is this: suggest ways to adjust the system so that cults of personality can't gain traction when the stakes are high.

Maybe looking at people's character as demonstrated by their actions rather than acting like numbers and metrics are all that matters.

That graph has a pretty weak correlation. If you remove the two outliers for stock performance it's basically a cloud.

It's also misleading in that at least 7 of the data points have not traded publicly for a full year, and one of them has literally only traded for one day. And, there's no adjustment for market conditions. So it's as valuable as plotting the average height of a cornstalk at harvest, but using one that was just planted, one that was planted a month ago, 3 that were planted 4 months ago, 2 that were planted 8 months ago, and 7 at harvest (3 of which in a drought year, 3 in a record setting year, and one in an average year).

I don't think you're wrong about that factor, but I also don't think that chart is possible any other way given that many of those IPOs are so recent.

Also, the other axis is entirely subjective. The main point is well-taken that high-minded fluff rarely translates to high-performing firms.

You could just use companies that have been public for more than 1 year. And you absolutely could survey 50 people about the mission/business alignment and get a useful number that would actually examine the point he's making. The main point is that he wants to make a certain point, but not back it with any kind of data beyond cherry-picking to make it.

If you were trying to make the point with rigorous scientific data analysis, you could hardly do worse.

Absolutely. That's the first thing I laughed at. Why are people downvoting you?

On the other hand, it may be just a big joke. But is it?

He brought up Chamberlain's pact with Hitler to make a point, but I also ended up seeing a coincidence: What Chamberlain did was called appeasement, and selling off the We jet is appeasement.

'Yogababble' is more than a bit offensive to people who take Yoga as a spiritual and religious practice seriously. It shows how little the author knows about the culture they're referencing.

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