First, to be clear -- I have nothing against the guy who took Dave Morin's job (who wasn't supposed to be named -- Amazon CloudFront didn't bother to invalidate its cache when I uploaded the final edit of that paper). He played his cards right, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, and then he got out. He's not in this to control your social life or anything, he just played the Silicon Valley game and got his.
The issue is really about the people who are trying to control your social life, and who are trying to convince the sort of people who read Hacker News to use them as a stable, reliable piece of infrastructure for your projects and businesses. My story is just one datapoint of so many -- most of which are private, but easily discoverable by quietly asking around the Valley -- that should help you realize that Facebook is definitely not the company you want operating the world's social infrastructure. The code might work, the pages might render, but on a deep social and ethical level, Facebook and its platform are not web-scale.
Also, the "sharecropper" and "beware of your platform" arguments don't apply here. Social infrastructure isn't like being a developer for the Playstation -- this is very basic and very global stuff, similar to water or power, and you shouldn't have to question its integrity. I shouldn't get dirty water, or my power shut off, because the CEO of the utility company allows his/her VPs to play God. There's a reason these guys don't call themselves a "social utility" anymore... But anyway, that's a whole 'nother subject, and I'd rather be coding (or socializing!) than writing.
And to all of the people who question why I would even publish something like this -- chill out bro, I'm just obeying Zuckerberg's Law! /disconnect
I couldn't agree more. It's too bad that I was never able to get anyone to believe me when I pointed this out at the very beginning, but I'm glad people seem to be paying attention now.
As you say, it is about the age-old money and power. There is nothing social about those, except for being a substrate to create the two for the "amoral" without deep social and ethical level.
So yes, unless my English fails me, he is indeed saying that social networking is (or should be) like a utility.
they don't give a fuck about us, at all - by definition, they are incapable of doing so.
What you wrote here is insightful and well put. I hope you write more.
There's a reason these guys don't call themselves a
"social utility" anymore... But anyway, that's a whole
"""Social networking has two vital utilities. First, it connects people of different geographical locations but of similar interests. The graph of people connected by shared interests is called the interest graph.
Secondly, it enriches existing real life relationships. This is best described within the pre-Facebook era, the era of blogging. At that point, whenever I read a friend's blog, I was always amazed by how much I don't know about him or her. A blog captures something very different about a person, something one can't comprehend even through face to face conversation. In this sense, online social networking is complementing real life social interaction.
In my vision, social networks of the future will continue to push to the limit on each of these fronts. The interest graph is apparently nowhere near complete, and there are opportunities to look for in what is missing through face to face communication, and how software can help with that.
But what Facebook has been doing is much more pervasive than that. They are partly replacing real life interaction. There are less questions to ask of a person as Facebook already shows you whether she has a boyfriend and which bar she went to last night. They are exploiting the narcissism in each and every of us. Every other social network solves a problem and then stays out of our ways. Facebook is trying to become the social life itself."""
this openness allows them to scale to that level and without it you can't get to truly global scale.
I think he meant for any company to be web-scale there are other sides of the story included too - having big, distributed data centers alone is not sufficient. There is a thing called "privacy" and "trust" which would scale throughout the internet, for which Facebook never had serious concerns, IMO.
Anyway, yeah, I have little doubt that this story is legit.
We have now switched to an external website using facebook connect and are happy with it. I am thrilled that Google+ is building a competing platform.
As a business owner you should absolutely exploit every opportunity you can to get those users from wherever the traffic is flowing from. However, if you don't hedge your bets, you may find that in 3 years instead of having a nice business you have absolutely nothing.
The Yelp case, whatever you may think about it, is in a completely different realm.
What's interesting to me is that iLike -- the success story of early platform days -- was being promoted heavily from within Facebook itself. If you read the press at that time, you'd have been excused for thinking that the Partovi brothers were the victims of a random lightning strike -- just two guys who got lucky with a tiny little app. I know that in Seattle, everyone was buzzing about how iLike was caught so "unaware" by their traction that they were borrowing servers from local companies just to keep up. Now it turns out that the "overnight success" was at least somewhat pre-ordained.
It's just another bit of practical evidence about the origins of business success in the Valley. Your rolodex matters a lot.
It puts a big question mark on Facebook as a platform and I think the author of the article is right that everyone should think very carefully before building on top of that sort of "platform".
The one thing I learned from my time in the valley is that EVERYONE is looking out for themselves. That isn’t meant as negatively as it sounds. People go there to prove themselves. Either by making money or making their mark on the world (which is why people like Sean Parker stick around even after they’ve made money). But whatever the case they’re in it to win at all costs.
That’s why people work 18 hours a day and pour every cent they have into their startup.
But that’s the relevant point. If people are going to give up everything in their lives to win you can’t assume they’ll then hinder their chances by looking out for your needs. In this story the author is upset because Facebook decided they had a better chance of winning by partnering with iLike. But could you really expect any company in the valley to act differently?
There are plenty of places in the world where the environment isn’t as competitive and if that appeals to you then you should go there. But if you decide to start a company in the heart of the startup world you should expect everyone to be working towards their own goals and plan accordingly. That means NEVER relying on ANYBODY more than you have to and ALWAYS having a backup plan.
You don't have to be Machiavellian to succeed.
It reminds me of that scene in "Inside Job" where Columbia Dean Glenn Hubbard changes tone after a question he doesn't like. It's as if he pulled a mask off and became a monster.
It's those small behavioral observations that make humans so interesting to me.
Note: Steve Blank has chosen to be a public figure so I don't believe talking about his behavior is equivalent to gossip.
But that video appears to have vanished. If you can find a link I'd like to see it.
(BTW, if you save everything you find interesting, you realize just how much disappears from the Internet. The half-life of the average link is about 4.5 years.)
It starts at about 20:10 and Steve says he was "blindsided" at about 21:00 approx. as if he was misled or something by Andrew. I thought the question Andrew asked was a good question.
The competitive environment does not require behavior which is dishonest and win at all costs. There is a simple rule in business: if you are not sure whether to lie or not, tell the truth. Follow that rule and soround yourself with people like that you will be fine.
Yes there are some assholes (and they ended up rich - go figure). Just be smart and avoid people who are not transparent and dishoest.
couple quotes come to mind by association:
"Never believe them. Never fear them. Never ask them anything."
"You should never ask anyone for anything. Never- and especially from those who are more powerful than yourself."
Looking out for yourself is not the problem, dishonesty is.
This becomes a bigger problem when dishonesty becomes part of the culture.
Because again the Valley is a kill or be killed environment. The assumption is that others will look out for themselves. So, for example, if someone were to promise me something I'd ask for a contract. If I don't get a contract I'd assume that person was planning to violate that promise some day. Because that's how that environment works.
And I'm not sure it could be any other way. Because the stakes are so high. It is human nature for people to forgive themselves if they feel they're acting for a higher cause. So if that person believes their company will make them billions of dollars and make the world a better place then they're likely to forgive themselves for telling a lie here or there.
It may not be right but it's the way the world works (and honestly it's why I don't live there anymore)
It depends on the business, of course, but while I won't sign something I disagree with, I'd never trust that a court would have my back in a dispute. I'm more more concerned with whether the other party has integrity, and has interests aligned with mine, than specific terms of an agreement.
In large part, I think of contracts as unenforceable, though maybe this comes from working at startups so much where you sign contracts, but you know that at your current size you couldn't afford the court case to enforce the contract, if it came to that.
Mediation makes them more viable, though, since it lowers the barrier for getting a dispute heard.
I think you and I don't live in Silicon Valley for very similar reasons. Plus, I just find the high risk focus a distraction from building a scalable business.
From my time in the valley, I'd say dishonesty, misleading clients, breaking promises, not delivering on time, all of that is very much a part of the sv culture.
At Sun, we'd tell all our clients that Microsoft was evil, out to crush us. Our CEO Scott McNealy sent around a famous email about the sizes of MS & non-MS file formats. "Sun will win" had 12 chars * 1byte/char = 12 bytes as a textfile, 24 bytes as an Openoffice file, and 100,000 bytes as an MS powerpoint slide! While entirely factual, it was quite a dubious example, considering that internally within Sun, we happily used Wintel machines, used powerpoint for presentations, emailed Word files around instead of PDFs, and dissed openoffice as a piece of junk :)
When Java was in its infancy ( 1997-2000 period ), a lot of promises were made & fell by the wayside. Sun was building up its consulting arm, so we'd go out to customer sites and say Yes Java can do this, that and the other. Then we'd come back & Javasoft would tell us, look this feature is simply not part of the forthcoming API. Sometimes they'd get an old wise Unix/C hacker to write C code to do whatever was necessary beneath the covers, and then write a JNI wrapper atop that and thus claim Hey Java can actually do telnet & ftp natively ( Ha!).
I had to deal with a lot of graphics code that was routinely promised & arrived DOA. One of the primary requirements for most financial sevices firms was a table widget to display spreadsheets. AWT didn't have one. Someday there was suposed to be something called Swing, and it would have a powerful table API that would rival the MFC widgets in its power. That's what Sun told us, and that's what we as Sun consultants sold to all our Wall Street clients. But the damn thing took so long to build, every firm had their own proprietary table APIs.
At GS I worked on something called GSTable ( God those horrible memories make them go away! ) So this godawful GSTable was a homecooked solution to display tabular data. I started with something stupid - create an array of Label ( AWT labels ) and put them in a Panel. This created m x n + 1 components per table - too heavy & memory intensive. Then when Swing came out & didn't have a table, we made m x n JLabel's and put them into a JPanel. Over the summer, a Princeton computer graphics intern coded up a canvas ( just 1 custom Component ) that overrode paint() and drew all the cell contents. That worked so well, GS made the teen a six figure offer while he was still in his junior year. All he'd have to do is maintain that table widget! He wisely turned them down & went on to become a computer graphics heavyweight. Meanwhile, I worked on that GSTable as it went through various iterations, until it was actually capable of displaying rows and columns with different sizes, which was apparently a very common requirement in finance. Then finally the Swing JTable arrived! I was like Hallejulah end of all my misery! But alas, Sun's promises & its deliverable were so far apart. That JTable couldn't display multiwidth rows, the paint code was riddled with scaling bugs, it was a bloody mess. There were actual fuck this and fuck that blocks of code in the repaint...the frustrated Javasoft developer wrestling with repaint math! So we stuck with the GSTable. Then IBM came out with their SWT, you had Marimba with their desktop widgets...but everytime we decided to adopt something as the standard, that company would just vanish into thin air...Marimba decided it wanted to get out of AWT widgets business and stick to push technology so that was that...so many broken promises and toy widgets, certainly none of them worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars in license fees.
Everybody likes to paint wall st as a paragon of evil while the poor honest tech genius slogs away in the valley working on the cutting edge of technology. In reality, greed is rampant on both sides, money flows from main st to wall st & from there on to the valley. Everybody's got his fingers in the cookie jar.
Vaporware comes to mind.
As well as my own personal experience being told not to inform mfg. reps and vars about known bugs and problems (this was early 90's). Not knowing the ropes at the time I was threatened in a meeting for suggesting we do something that is more or less routine today.
And this type of dishonesty brings much pain and frustration on people using the product.
public void setRowHeight(int rh, int row)
// FIXME: not implemented
So that was actual code that Sun shipped. A method setRowHeight(rh,row) that allowed you to change the height of row number 'row' to 'rh', instead changed the height of ALL rows to 'rh' because the alternative was too hard and therefore not implemented! So much for multi-height rows.
In farming, sharecropping is the low risk way to grow your business. It is the landlord that takes on much of the burden if the crop fails. But with small risk comes small reward.
In technology, "sharecropping" is the high risk venture. The landlord here assumes no risk at all if your application fails. The burden falls squarely on you. However, with the high risk, if you hit it big, the payoff potential is huge.
So while there are some parallels, from a business point of view, working with someone else's platform is nothing at all like sharecropping.
Sharecropping exists when landowners have limited access to capital, but extensive land holdings and abundant access to indigent labor. It was a technique devised to keep the tenant around until after harvest time.
Poor farmers have lots of children, and the large resulting labor force gives the landlord an incentive to evict the tenant or jack up the rent immediately after harvest. It was popular in places like Scotland, Ireland and the Reconstruction South, so you can be sure the system is/was more beneficial to the land owner.
It reduces the risk for the farmer because they only have to pay based on what they are able to grow instead of a fixed amount as seen in most cash-rent arrangements. The landowner stands to lose if the crop is a failure, but can make more if the crop is a success.
The term may also come with some historical meaning, but that is what sharecropping has come to mean today.
Edit: Down vote me if you wish, but that is what sharecropping is in the rural community. Speaking as a farmer, sharecropping is a great way to access land in a low-risk way. I don't know why sharecropping land is seen as a negative.
Further to that, I strongly suspect that most of those who are aware that the practice has evolved since those draconian times read the metaphor and immediately grasp that the metaphor refers to the historical meaning of the word and can go on to extract value from it without belabouring a pedantic point.
I will go further and challenge you: When you read the above posts, were you unaware of the historical behaviour of landlords and sharecroppers? Is it news to you that this practice was so abused that the word has pejorative overtones even though the practice may have evolved in modern times?
Or is it simply that you wish to share with us the interesting news that times have changed for farming sharecroppers even if they haven’t for developers on proprietary platforms?
When the term sharecropper is used, one will naturally turn to the meaning of sharecropping today, not hundreds of years ago. I am familiar of the stories of "sharecroppers" of the past, but sharecropping does not refer to those people anymore. Words are evolving all the time and present day usage is what is important when communicating with others.
Only people who know that this term is still being used today and in what context. I suspect that most people don't know this, and will revert to the historical meaning.
The first one is the modern day practice. "He's a sharecropper because he uses share cropping in his business" refers to the modern day agricultural practice. Whatever economic system they use is irrelevant.
In almost all other cases, particularly in regards to Technology, it refers to the old school practice of share cropping and is using it as such.
Present day usage has nothing to do with it. It is all about context. If 80% of HN agree that sharecropper means X, then it means X. Sharecropper in this sense has become a piece of jargon among business and technology folks.
> In farming, sharecropping is the low risk way to grow your business. It is the landlord that takes on much of the burden if the crop fails. But with small risk comes small reward.
is just as true of sharecropping in 1911 as of sharecropping in 2011.
The difference he draws between sharecropping on a farm and sharecropping on a web site doesn't make sense, though.
I think this is an American thing. When I think of sharecropping it makes me think of farmers under a landlord in medieval England or something. Not a great power dynamic but the word isn't all that negative, it just emphasises (when used as a metaphor elsewhere) that you work and stay at the landlord's pleasure.
I've heard americans use the word before but didn't realise it came loaded with all this historical meaning from the slavery era, turning it into a highly negative concept.
My grandfather's family were sharecroppers in Ireland, so I grew up with view of the practice that may be somewhat one-sided.
But, like the much maligned sharecropping its heavily tipped in the Farm owners favor.
You lack the resource to grow your business, so you borrow someone else's and operate at their whim.
Contracts aside, the sharecropper's entire livelihood could be undermined on the whim of the landowner. Someone else has power over your ability to produce.
That said, here is good opportunity to prosper on other peoples' platforms, but diversify.
Diversification is at their pleasure too.
Does anyone know more about this back story?
Do the two guys that run the company really need to "orchestrate" a "power play" to promote one person over another? I think this sounds far more Machiavellian than it likely was.
I think you should always be careful when you are entrusting any third party with your livelihood. You can only plan so much, but when your business plan requires that one crucial system and you have no way to even have a contingency plan, then you have to realize that it could easily be a make or break deal at any point in time.
My ideal is not to entrust my livelihood to any third party.
Obviously, it depends on what I want to build, but so far I'm happy not using any social platform beyond, say, email. The free, open platform of the Internet, LAMP stack, a web framework, and search engines is fine for me. I almost, but not quite, regret the time I've put into using Facebook at all, never mind basing my livelihood on it.
While some platforms are more free and open than others, our livelihoods are all somewhat dependent on third parties. Hope for the best and plan for the worse.
I disagree about email filtering. A friend sending another friend an email that says, "Check out this cool thing I saw" does not get filtered by anyone. Email that borders on spam gets filtered, sure, but overall, email serves as one of the most open communication platforms we've ever had. It's a drastic difference from Facebook or Myspace.
To give a concrete example: a few years ago, I set up an email server in my garage using an old computer that was being thrown away at work. I used all free software. It successfully sent email. None of my emails were blocked. I engaged with my social network, (my "friends") using it. If my ISP had blocked my email sending, there were many, many other providers willing to send my email for the price of the connection. Given that spam cannot be eliminated, despite decades of trying, I think it's fair to say that I won't run out of alternatives, especially given that the email I want to send is innocuous.
By comparison, I cannot set up a Facebook server in my garage. If Facebook blocks me, I'm done. If that was my livelihood, I'm fully screwed.
So, it doesn't matter if Facebook is evil or not - I simply don't like it, and it seems that others share that sentiment. I had seen notable figures for a recent up-tick in deactivations, but I was very interested to find other people flipping the switch with a shrug.
How much time should I invest in anything exhibiting that kind of trend?
The latest Facebook Timeline feature is creepy and I'm starting to think in your direction as well. But having said that, I'd like to know what my friends are up to once in a while and have casual sudden conversation with them.
Where is this data you mentioned that shows an uptick in deactivations? I'd be interested in taking a look at it.
When you build a business on their platform, you don't have a business. You have a product on their platform and it is their product. They are simply taking a hands-off approach and reaping the benefits. They can shut you down at any time and they will, when it suits their interests.
That is the key here. That conflict of interest. Most of the time, it isn't an issue ... but when it comes to the surface, you will be thrown under the bus.
Also, the customers you think you have ... they're not your customers. If you went to a different platform, those customers would not come along. The customers, they are their customers, not yours.
I'm not sure this is really true. If you build a regular application for Windows, Linux, or OS X, Microsoft, Red Hat, or Apple can't control whether I install your application. No one "approves" Firefox for OS X. Curated, for lack of a better term, applications only appear on particular platforms -- cell phones, sub-sections of websites, and so forth.
I'm curious as to how the law is going to interpret this in the future. The closed ecosystem of ios may be a bad (in my mind) precedent.
If only this was the year of the Linux deskto... oh, nevermind.
We were sitting in the record label's offices with the biz dev guys (and even the CEO!) telling us how great this partnership was going to be, and somewhere else in the building the general counsel was issuing threatening statements. The business side had very little control over the legal side.
what's brave about embarrassing your boss and your company publicly
Knowingly doing so is brave and/or foolhardy regardless of whether your motives are noble or crass.
1 1638 Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple [2011-08-24]
2 1324 Boot a linux kernel right inside your browser. [2011-05-17]
3 1262 Introducing Word Lens [2010-12-17]
4 1232 Today you, tomorrow me [2010-12-14]
5 1196 Google Buys Motorola For $12.5 Billion [2011-08-15]
6 1129 A new approach to China [2010-01-12]
7 1100 Ooops. [2011-06-16]
8 1083 So A Blogger Walks Into A Bar… [2010-09-21]
9 1004 Airbnb Nightmare: No End In Sight [2011-07-29]
10 994 Twitter Bootstrap [2011-08-19]
11 940 Thoughts on Flash [2010-04-29]
12 929 Violated: A traveler’s lost faith, a difficult lesson learned [2011-07-27]
14 859 I was once a Facebook fool [2011-09-23]
15 856 Osama bin Laden Is Dead [2011-05-02]
16 850 I don't learn anything on HN anymore, bring back the upvote count [2011-04-28]
17 832 How I Hacked Hacker News (with arc security advisory) [2009-06-03]
18 827 Bored People Quit [2011-07-12]
19 822 33GB of public domain JSTOR articles, and a manifesto [2011-07-21]
20 808 A lesson on the importance of encouraging your children with their projects [2011-07-13]
I don't think that's an accurate list, as it excludes [dead]ed articles. Zed Shaw's "Programming, Motherfucker" received 870 upvotes: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2355427
(to normalize against changing userbase size)
I don't see why any story gets more than, say, 300 votes. Honestly if a story gets more than a couple of hundred it's on the home page for at least a day - is that not enough? Why do people even bother continuing to upvote those stories?
To me it just suggests that comparatively no-one reads the newest section or votes there.
Basically the new pages is moving way too fast compared with the front page.
Edit: I see the FA has been edited, now referring to him as "AOL Guy"
I do think Platforms, in the long run, if they want to win, need to treat developers fairly and honestly, as much as possible. Like other developers, I'm glad to see other social and mobile platforms to build for.
That's worth the price of admission alone. Sounds like fun!
"Live your life as though it is the world's best-kept secret, as though you are living in an amazing TV show with an audience of one."
You have perfectly worded what I have felt. I've watched Facebook evolve into Big Brother over the past few years. People seem to have no idea that they don't see us as beings but as bytes.
i know to well of having a business partner lead me on while he worked other projects.
But i dont think Facebook as a company should take all the blame for that one person.
No surprises here. Large companies are heavily staffed by biz dev people whose job it is to make partnership deals. The key essential ingredient in all partnership deals, the brass ring, is "exclusivity" without which there often is no deal to speak of. This particular individual unfortunately was not awarded exclusivity.
Allegedly Puerto Rican and African American rappers from the Bronx were getting signed to FAT JOES label and then being kept on the back burner for publication.
Turns out the plan was to make sure to not have any new rap icons come from the Bronx so that he can get all the notoriety of being the Bronx icon. The music business is no joke. This is a true story.
I want to say that they all do that. I don't support it, but it's not unique for Facebook.
Edit: Supreme courts (or equivalents) in most countries make it very clear in their verdicts that protecting the right to expose scoundrels is very high on their priority list. Especially if the scoundrels are big and powerful. Public interest and all that.
That's why nowadays in almost every company in the agreement the employee signs one of the terms is that he is to never talk about the company in a way that will affect it's reputation negatively.
If you live where there are, then there shouldn't be
I submit to you that this is not hacker news, but rather victim news.com.
Good luck fuckers.