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Ask patio11 anything (capiche.com)
129 points by ryanb on March 11, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

I love Patrick's insight here:

> Stepping back a bit, problems feel a bit less important to me as time goes on. The world is awash in problems. Problems you care about are just so much more rewarding to work on, and they pull better work out of you. Problems experienced by people you care about quintuply so, because if you start a SaaS business you'll spend much more time talking to customers and getting in their head than you will be on e.g. modeling their workflow in Ruby or optimizing your AWS spend.

> So I'd suggest most people asking this question instead ask "How do I find a user population that buys software that I would enjoy having in my life five days a week for 5~10 years?" My answer for that, after a lot of soulsearching, is "I enjoy helping software people a lot more than I enjoy helping undifferentiated professionals. Maybe I should just do that. Maybe no maybe." Your answer may vary.

If the developers of this website are reading this thread:

1. I’d rather visit this site after a few days or weeks and read the answers since the UX of this site isn’t conducive to reading right now. I hate those pop ups on newer answers and questions that hide a big portion of the screen on mobile. Why would I switch to viewing another answer or question while I’m busy reading one already (considering many answers are a bit long)?

2. The other part of this page I didn’t like is that answers are all expanded by default, which makes getting to the next question and answer cumbersome when the one that’s in view isn’t of interest.

I’ll bookmark this and come back much later after (almost) everyone has asked enough questions and Patrick has had a chance to answer the ones he can or wants to.

Matt from the team here. Great feedback, thank you!

Great point on the notifications; they're fairly small on desktop but likely too large on mobile. We thought of them as a way to show there's new content if you're waiting for something new, but that does make sense.

We'll keep tweaking it. Let me know if anything else sticks out when you come back to read through the AMA later!

Hmm, I never get any notifications on news.ycombinator.com on desktop or safari on iOS. Am I reading HN wrong way? :-)

I think they mean notifications on the submitted articles site, not hacker news itself.

Clicking "Reply" does nothing useful for un-authenticated users. There is no text field or login prompt, etc. Literally nothing except route to a dedicated page for the topic. Am I missing something?


Clicking "reply" (again) on the dedicated page expands a text box. It's hidden by default. I assumed clicking "reply" the first time would have been useful.

Interesting, he still sees fixing engineering hiring as the biggest opportunity in SaaS: https://capiche.com/q/whats-the-biggest-opportunity-for-a-sa...

I’m not surprised. Just look at how many “eng hiring is broken” threads on here.

If software could help you hire candidates that are 10% more productive and stay 25% longer (numbers pulled out of my ass) than the candidates you hire now, how much do you think your company would pay for that?

Given the tons of companies who barely seem to make any attempt to hold onto employees, talk to them, listen to them, support them, treat them like humans, give them effective tools, and the number of unhappy-at-work people, I'd have to guess..

.. that companies love spending money instead of changing anything, so I think they'd spend loads of investor money on it.

How hard could it possibly be to get 25% longer than all the people who say you have to change jobs every 12-18 months? To be nice enough that people stay /four months/ longer??

Honestly it's the wrong problem. Having passionate, eager, focused, organized, willing workers is essentially the only job of management.

If that's not happening, switch out the managers.

You want me to be passionate about making rich people richer? How laughable. I show up for work and do my job to the best of my ability because if I didn’t, I’d starve on the streets with no health insurance.

A company I worked at ran out of money. All my people stayed.

1 month, 2, 3 went by. I found guaranteed positions for them based solely on my recommendation for more pay then if we had money, the people still stayed.

They came in for work the same. Everything kept going. We eventually had a successful product, made money, and were able to backpay.

If I was a disorganized manager giving meaningless drudgery and absurd requirements divorced from product and purpose they would have all left.

There has to be a deeper mission, purpose, and vision that keeps people around and focused. That's the managements job.

People aren't generally in tech for the money, there's better money in real estate, sales and finance with less work. Drive the passion and you'll drive the work.

Programming is like movies, art, and music: great things rarely happen when people are just chasing dollars.

> ...real estate...


> ...finance...

You make the real money here as an IB analyst (100+ hours a week in the office — definitely NOT less work than the average SWE job), or as a financial advisor, i.e. sales.

So, yeah, if you go into sales, sales, or sales, you can make more money that way than in tech as a SWE. But, honestly, do you think the average engineer would do well in sales?

Nah, that's not the point. I forget who it was, maybe Oxfam did a study on the "American dream" income requirements, I think it was:

Family of four, one breadwinner, property owner, annual vacation, eating out once a week, two cars, college education for children...

You know, baseline idyllic suburban living. For the bay it was I believe north of $200K.

That's what I'm talking about. Someone making 250K in Mountainview isn't in it "for the money", they are just trying to live a life that frankly, most other countries can tender for about $75,000 but because of decisions we've made in how we structure society, it takes a quarter million a year.

This is the real equivalent to the 1950s idea of "middle class", it's just gotten so out of reach for most people, we construe people looking for it as greedy.

They aren't. Once you understand that, you can align incentives ... A $5,000 reward doesn't mean much for these people since 250k doesn't mean they're chasing dollars, instead a challenging rewarding job where they can work from home whenever they want, that's what keeps them around.

Eeehhhhhh, if the overall company doesn’t have a good culture or vision etc, there only so much management can paper over

Executives and founders are also managers.

I'm a little surprised. In that same comment, he says he took a swing at it and missed. He spoke about the failure of starfighter at length at the time[0]. He made it sound like there would need to be a fundamental social shift in the industry for large scale changes in hiring practices to occur.

Or maybe I read too much into it.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11691568

To a certain extent, I think there is truth both ways. There is a huge amount of opportunity, but it's a bit like developer training: badly needed, but basically impossible to scale effectively. What you really want are agents, rather than recruiters, really. Developers change jobs every few years and are always on the look out for either better or newer opportunities. Having an agent that is skilled at assessing those opportunities, good at negotiation and good at matching opportunities to a list of clients would be amazing. But you can't hire 20-40 sales people and bang random people off the internet into jobs at scale. It's an opportunity for an individual, or a small team, not for a VC.

And, yes. Boy would I like an agent to negotiate my next raise and find me a better job if my current employer says no....

> If software could help you hire candidates that [...] stay 25% longer

This is a very cultural thing. For example, in Germany it is frowned upon to switch companies too often. If your CV shows that you switch jobs every few years, this is considered a red flag since this candidate will not be very loyal to your company.

I also ask myself whether the "company incentive structure" is the cause of switching jobs; if it is easier to get more pay by switching companies than by staying, then of course candidates will be prone to switch. So perhaps not what is broken (in terms of loyality) is "eng hiring", but the incentive structure of the companies that want to retain the engineers.

Why would you be loyal to a company?

In addition to hiring new engineers, another challenge companies have is to get existing hires who have more context for the company's problems either get better or get more current with newer technologies.

pay more.

Is this really that groundbreaking of an opinion? Hiring has and will likely always be an expensive challenge for every industry.

No undue criticism intended, I have never understood patio11's lore and reverence. He built a site that addressed the needs of bingo players- kudos. He built other moderate internet businesses that scratched a B2C itch.

Do those credentials warrant the adulation he is granted?

The business credentials likely do not. However, he has longevity on this board, an approachable writing style, and mostly solid advice. The small cult of personality around him seems to work here because his self promotion is memorable and not obtrusive. Something to be said for years of free advice while asking nothing in return.

His "you should charge more" advice is pound-for-pound the single most impactful advice I've ever heard for developers: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2006/08/14/you-can-probably-stand-...

Nope. It’s because he writes clearly and insightfully, over a long period of time, about a relatively consistent set of topics.

I was pleased with his essay on discount brokerages.


But he told us to charge (or be paid) more and probably make us tenths of millions collectively.

In the real world, nobody tells you to charge more or raise your salary.

A different way of looking at this is that he contributed to rising inequality, inflated costs of living in the Bay Area, higher hurdles for those less able to market themselves as pompous rockstars, etc. A privileged white male made a group made up of mostly privileged, mostly white, mostly male people richer and more privileged. Hooray!

Your mileage obviously varies, but in my opinion we (privileged "tech" people) need to look beyond just our own personal selfish gains. Yes, earning more money feels good. Yes, the idea that your successful salary negotiation made Jeff Bezos/Mark Zuckerberg/Bill Gates less disgustingly rich feels good. But at the same time we should look at the bigger picture.

Heaven forbid a dude who lives in Japan and gives out free advice on what he did is responsible for the woes of the Bay Area, which I guess is the center of the universe?

If you somehow find success and try to share what you learned, now you are a villain, because a small, fucked area of the US will exploit it to their gain, trampling the poor in their wake. Everybody everywhere better stop writing about anything other than how to help the poor exclusively instead, because I can't wait to read those articles and how it'll help me also achieve success or get paid fairly for my skills or output. Oh wait, what if I was poor and I want to find a better way out? Man I wish someone would teach me that instead of saying I need help...

What a thread hijack, and on such a nice guy too. If it was someone else, maybe I'd have a shred of sympathy, but if you think this dude is in some way the problem? The dude who is trying to help you NOT get raped "by the man" in your career and in business? Jeez.

Can we agree the situation in SF sucks? Yeah, but it's not this dude's fault. Maybe I'm a privileged tech person too, but I don't live in SF or in the US, so I don't really care about their problems, yet I can't seem to not read about them constantly on here. This guy is on the other side of the fucking world in a completely alien environment by comparison.

> A different way of looking at this is that he contributed to rising inequality, inflated costs of living in the Bay Area, higher hurdles for those less able to market themselves as pompous rockstars, etc. A privileged white male made a group made up of mostly privileged, mostly white, mostly male people richer and more privileged. Hooray!

Yes, hooray indeed! (my sarcasm detector just blew up for some reason)

Making IT people richer doesn't make any poor people poorer.

Also, a lot of non-white people are working in IT nowadays (arguably the majority) and this population has the most need of patio11 advice. Divas in the bay area are only the top(-ish) 1% of IT crowd, and not a very representative sample at that. And they are not the prime target of his counsel.

Basically: Even if you love your job and could do it for minimal wage, ask to be compensated according to your merits instead. It won't make you love your job less.

> Making IT people richer doesn't make any poor people poorer.

Increasing inequality absolutely makes worse off people even worse off. Not just comparatively, but yes, even in "real dollar" terms: Raising IT people's (or whatever other privileged group's) incomes means they can and will spend more on housing, raising prices for everyone, meaning that poorer people will have to spend more on housing, meaning that they will have fewer dollars in pocket, even though their income hasn't changed.

> do it for minimal wage

... which nobody has suggested, of course.

> ask to be compensated according to your merits instead

Sure. How do you measure merits? Did CEOs' merits increase by 90 times since 1978? https://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-has-grown-90-times-f...

"I'm in a position where I can negotiate a substantial pay rise" does not mean "I was previously not paid according to my merits". If the market changes and you are suddenly "worth more", that doesn't mean that your "merits" have suddenly improved.

There are many more people who I am interested in hearing from than I adore. I suspect that is true for most of us. Patrick is usually worth listening to, has a style which appeals to many, and is well-known on HN. That's sufficient for a story like this to make the front page.

regardless of the success of his businesses, I think his understanding of many types of business models (and systems in general) makes him a significant outlier. Combined with his excellent communication abilities, he probably is somewhere around the 99.999999 percentile.

The above, combined with years of building a positive online presence, and you could see how he ends up in demand.

Is this guy Ramit Sethi really someone to recommend? With a book title like "I will teach you to be rich" my bullshit meter automatically goes off :-)

Is this live?

It was live; wrapped up around 6PM Pacific: https://twitter.com/patio11/status/1237544476966445056

Patrick is obviously smart, but I'm struck by how he's also a pompous know it all. Just look at his answer to someone asking about buying a house with a credit card:


The main reason people don't use credit cards to buy houses now is due to the credit limit. Someone rich enough to have a $300,000 credit limit probably doesn't want to buy just a $300K house. However... it's easy to imagine the building or construction industry creating a credit card type product for home builders or renovators backed by a credit line sufficient to buy distressed properties.

> Will we see people buy houses online? I mean, clearly yes, we will see that. Will it become dominant to do it without meeting one's counterparty and/or broker? That feels unlikely.

Has Patrick ever even bought a house? Some people might think it's nice to meet the buyer/seller, but the only reason you really get together in the same room is to sign a bunch of paperwork at the same time. As patio might say, "there already exists a non-zero amount of lawyers executing real estate deals without the physical presence of the actual buyer and or seller". I see no reason for the trend to dissipate.

You are missing the point of credit cards vs long term loans.

> The main reason people don't use credit cards to buy houses now is due to the credit limit.

suppose you want to buy a $500k home. You go to a bank and they offer you 30 years at, say 3.5%.

You go to your credit card provider and somehow get a $500k limit. Your payments looks something like 1 (one) month at 0% or as long as it takes (based on minimum payment) at 16.99%.

Which do you choose?

If you think you can change the economics of the credit card to be closer to the bank, you will end up with many of the same overheads that the bank has, and you will no longer be a credit card. I.e., you will not provide near instantaneous access to a line of credit.

The point is that credit cards are just lines of credit. Which typically have the high costs that you pointed out. But there's nothing special about the 16.99% interest rate and many people have cards with special intro rates at 0% lasting for 6-12 months.

I don't see a lot of reasons why we can't eventually have pre-approved 30-yr mortgage credit cards accepted by companies like OpenDoor focused on selling houses.

> The main reason people don't use credit cards to buy houses now is due to the credit limit.

No, that is definitely not why.

> Some people might think it's nice to meet the buyer/seller, but the only reason you really get together in the same room is to sign a bunch of paperwork at the same time.

I’ve never heard of this. I’ve never even heard of anyone meeting the buyer/seller for any length of time in a real estate transaction.

> I’ve never even heard of anyone meeting the buyer/seller for any length of time

Yes, that's my point. When I bought and sold my house I was in the same room as the other private party. We made chit-chat and it was neat, but there was no reason we had to be there other than paperwork convenience. As paperwork continues to move online I don't see why that is necessary.

Personal attacks are not ok here. We all get activated by someone or other on the internet, but please don't post like this to HN.


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