Also those Farmville character cutouts in the photo are possibly the creepiest thing in the universe.
Second creepiest. How about the grinning ghoul standing next to them?
Farmville abuses the social guilt that evolution built into our human nature to bring profit to Zynga. Do you really think its net contribution to society is positive because of your grandmother and people like her?
There's people out there being unproductive!
If you really think that that's a problem, you must've had a terrible life.
Come on now. Let's not get sanctimonious about what people do with their time. It's their problem.
The only drain is the one caused by Farmville itself. The one that the time goes down.
First of all, let me agree with the general principle that in a free country with a free-enterprise economy, people ought to be able to spend their money (and time) in the way that they find most valuable, based on their personal circumstances. I was one customer among millions for what was then the best-selling phonograph album of all time (Michael Jackson's Thriller album, one of the first compact discs I bought). You can argue legitimately that listening to recorded music is a frivolous activity, and argue even more legitimately that Jackson, born the same year I was, was already rich enough in his twenties that he didn't need my money, but I was happy to spend money on something that added fun to my day while I was working hard to establish my career. There's no particular policy reason for any of us to oppose people spending time or money on what helps them get through the day.
With reference to your grandmother needing to be in a wheelchair at all times, you have my deepest sympathies. My late dad had a slip and fall on the ice from a late-season snowstorm (in APRIL!) and then was a quadriplegic from his spinal cord injury for the last six years of his life. Surgery attempting to treat his injury took him from being unable to use his limbs to being unable to swallow and having great difficulty even speaking, both things he could do just fine immediately after his injury. Once people lose mobility, they undergo a radical change in lifestyle, and no decent person will begrudge paraplegics or quadriplegics the opportunity to choose recreation that helps them cope with new circumstances. My dad never took up playing computer games--and of course had no mobility for operating a computer after his injury. I remember spending about a month, in a series of visits, reading aloud to him the book The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition,
which is an inspiring story of human beings facing other extremely tough challenges. I was glad I took the time to do that--reading the book was good for me. My best wishes go to anyone who has a relative not fully able to do the normal daily activities able-bodied people take for granted.
I'm flipping endlessly between "he's serious" and "he's ironic".
So ... which is it?
"But PopCap’s founders worried about the company’s reputation after hearing rumors of the company’s rescinding share awards and fierce internal competition, said two people with first-hand knowledge of the situation. Instead, PopCap agreed to a rival offer from Electronic Arts, worth $750 million in cash and stock and the potential of an additional $550 million if certain earnings goals were met."
You agree to be acquired for less money by EA because of the culture of Zynga? EA. Arguably the worst-regarded place for game developers to work.
They're better in this regard than they once were, because they have some level of restraint now, but the creative hit-or-bomb nature of the video game business means that eventually they eventually feel compelled to exert control over all of their acquisitions. Wright had a large degree of autonomy for a long time because he made staggeringly massive amounts of money for EA with The Sims, but it didn't protect him from being pushed out when Spore turned out to be an epic flop.
>"In July, Zynga lost a bid for PopCap, a mobile game company. Zynga offered $950 million in cash."
>"PopCap agreed to a rival offer from Electronic Arts, worth $750 million in cash and stock and the potential of an additional $550 million if certain earnings goals were met."
In July, Zynga lost a bid for PopCap, a mobile game company. Zynga offered $950 million in cash.
I was in San Francisco a couple weeks ago playing a couple shows at the Independent. My buddy Fritz owns a bar/restaurant called the Connecticut Yankee, and was giving me a ride from the hotel to the airport with a breakfast and Irish coffee stop over at the Yankee on the way. We cruised right past Zynga's HQ, which is a few blocks away.
"Wow, Zynga's right there, huh?"
[aggravated grumbling from Fritz]
"Why? What could a bar owner have against a big business full of people making lots of money being a few blocks away?"
"Well, all these tech companies hire their own chefs now. None of those people even leave the building all day. It's totally slaughtered my lunchtime crowd."
I'd never really considered the micro-economic effects of the Google Chef before, but there you go.
"Zynga continues to set precedents in the high-tech field. This ranks up there with a friend of mine who, while working at Zynga suffered a heart attack without warning one day (in his 40s).
In the 3 days he was in the hospital, his boss was replaced and his new boss reorganized the department. The new boss called my friend on the hospital room phone and fired him.
(Yes, there was a lawsuit. And yes, Zynga settled while – of course – denying any wrongdoing.)
But seriously... Who does that sort of thing?"
Also, I've seen that 4-5 years is about how much time engineers are willing to put into a startup company before they want some kind of a cash out : liquidity : burn your options in a barrel at burning man situation. If you think about the expected half-life of a silicon valley engineering career, you can probably do 2 or 3 of those before you are burned out entirely or prefer to work at a non insane company. Founders are probably not as aware of this because they naturally are 100% invested, but you have to surround yourself with quality employees who won't put up with your bullshit forever.
Bad example. The folks I know at Apple are ridiculously overworked. I've got a cousin who works on FileMaker that's been putting in 12+ hour days and weekends for the last year. I've got a friend who works on iMessage for the iPhone, and his roommates never see him at home unless they specifically arrange a social event with him.
I think that if you want a company in Silicon Valley with decent work/life balance, it'd probably be Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, or one of the other last-generation giants. Google depends on your team; there're parts of Infrastructure, Apps, etc. that work reasonable hours with little deadline pressure, but people on the money teams (Search, Ads, Android, Doodles) are often there at all hours because they set very ambitious and complex goals for themselves. Facebook has a reputation for long hours and weekend hackathons. Yahoo is apparently very variable: some folks are putting in 12-14 hour days and still not getting all their work done, while others work for like 2-3 hours and spend the rest of the day on Facebook. Apple I already mentioned.
Tobacco companies and casinos look after their staff, because they know their staff are in it for the pay and conditions.
I'm not saying that Zygna is a bad company, but it's not a great one, given the money it's making. The people in it are not there to make a difference, they want a fat paycheque, a big exit, or a relaxed working environment.
(Technically, Google doesn't make money from Search or Android either, but they get happy users from them too, which can be trivially converted into money.)
1.) Absolute hard deadlines. Robert Bunsen's 200th birthday only comes around once; if you miss it, you missed it, and the doodle gets canceled.
2.) Big responsibility. You're the gatekeeper to Google's front door; if you screw up, a billion or so people will know it fairly soon.
3.) Ambitious quality standards, also because it's Google's front door. Some of the doodles are as big as ordinary projects at Google.
And on the plus side, your work is up on perhaps the most visited page on the Internet, and you have something really cool to talk about at parties. Plus the doodle team itself is really fun to work with and you have a lot of artistic latitude. It's probably one of the more startup-like areas in Google.
You pays your money, you takes your picks.
While such a culture is not uncommon in the game industry, it can create problems. Employees at Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard have filed lawsuits against their employers, with claims of hostile work conditions and withheld compensation. In 2006, Electronic Arts settled two class-action lawsuits by game artists and programmers for about $15 million each
At a certain scale (and this comes very quickly) you need to actively maintain a company culture. So many companies forget to do that, and then fall back into old school corporate methods to manage the problems that come with growth.
[Mark's excel spreadsheets] allow Zynga to fine-tune its
games to optimize engagement, helping the company attract
some 270 million unique users each month
I'm familiar with the fact that Zygna's web based farm simulator plays like somebody else's web based farm simulator. But that's a very similar argument to "bing is just like google is like altavista is like yahoo" - you type in a search box, you get back a list of web pages, every time one adds a feature the others do same.
Also: If you come up with a better dating site tomorrow, should you need to apologize to match.com? Many of us here are hoping to come up with a better mousetrap, and have no intention of saying "oh, well, I guess Acme made mousetraps first." We intend to build a better mousetrap. If we succeed, if Acme has any brains they will do likewise and everybody wins.
So I just don't think 'they are stealing ideas' is the right grounds to assault them on. If the idea mattered enough, the first fake farm crop clicker would have won.
Much better places to start:
"It's not a game", "wall spam gets in the way of real friendships", "their founder bragged about getting profitable off the evilest ads they could find", "they took away options from employees", "all of their games are reskins of the same exact thing", and "is there an ethical bound where speeding up timers in a virtual click thing is charging too much for too little? (zygna vip = smurfberries = cow clicker?)"
This is basically Zynga's methodology for creating products that they've clearly used a number of times with clear evidence. I don't think they see themselves in the business of designing games since they leave that to the companies they steal them from.
I think it's a false dilemma to say that we shouldn't criticize Zynga for this because it comes at the cost of being able to criticize them for other reasons. For some, this is just as an important reason (if not more important) than the ones you listed.
I am intrigued by the merit-based systems they are experimenting with.
It is actually nice to read an article that seems balanced
To be honest, the doomsdays scenario you outline is ridiculous to me. It's so far removed from the current culture at Google. I think I'd be long gone by the time such things were taking place.
It's also worth noting that the majority of Google shareholders are Google employees (including me), and that the managers in Engineering at Google are all engineers. You should also investigate the conditions of Google's IPO - the shareholders don't have a lot of influence at Google.
Of course, these things can all change. But like I said, it's great the way it is now and I'm having a blast. If it changes, I've got plenty of cash and experience under my belt to get started on something else. There is no downside here.
(Addendum: If they cancelled my project (Go) I'd just quit and work on the code from somewhere else. That's the benefit of working on a project where all your contributions are BSD-licensed. ;-)
The premise of my original post is exactly what I wrote, "Every job is going to suck if you're an engineer for hire." I didn't say every job sucks now, just that the natural tendency is for forces to work against any good working life for rank and file engineers who stay in the same job.
Things are going good for you right now? Great, you're an outlier working at Google. The vast majority of working engineers more than probably face declining benefits, compensation, and working conditions in the future without changing jobs. For example, most companies don't offer cost of living salary adjustments even though company revenues would presumably increase by a similar amount.
My point is simply that such job changes are costly in time, money, and effort and can be avoided by working for oneself and that it is a good and desirable goal that engineers should pursue.
And that's where I disagree. When I said there's no downside, I meant it. Changing jobs has been only an enriching experience for me. As long as you're savvy with your finances, it's no sweat to find another job. On the other hand, if I ran a business that started to tank, I think that would be far more stressful (thankfully mine never did).
I agree that running your own business should be a desirable goal, but I think you can make a great living working as an employee. It depends a lot on your interests. Both approaches have their benefits and pitfalls.
this is only true, if you don't value your own contributions. It is on your own onus to value your contributions. Say google stopped the free food - you are now free to leave google, or you are free to ask for the equivelent in added salary to cover the food.
Why would you not negotiate it? why would an engineer, who have valuable contribution, be taken advantage of by others? The only reason I can think of is, the person didn't care enough to value their own contribution and hence, get stepped over.
Which is exactly what I argued was the only recourse an engineer has, so I agree.
> or you are free to ask for the equivelent in added salary to cover the food.
That's extremely unrealistic. You don't understand that the hypothetical food was cut to save money. If they just pay out that money as cash, the company won't save anything.
> Why would you not negotiate it?
It requires two willing parties to negotiate. Employment terms are not negotiable once the job starts. What exactly do you think will happen if you say "give me my food back, or more money, or I quit." In the best case you will be laughed at and ignored, in the worst case you will start being pushed out of the company. Everyone is replaceable.
There are risks in everything. Running your own business is inherently more risky than working a salary position but the rewards can be higher. And really, either will suck at some point. There is a reason it's called work.
You are assuming the business is consulting/freelancing, which in my opinion is just as bad as a regular job.
"either will suck at some point"
I would much rather slave 12 hours a day for something that might make me rich rather than my boss.
The problem is that you're presenting a false dichotomy. Either work for yourself or slave 12+ hours/day for someone else. There are plenty of good 8 hour/day engineering jobs that pay well and have interesting problems to solve. If 'might make [you] rich' is why you want to do a startup you're probably going to be disappointed. The odds are stacked against you and the risks are high. If you're really good at tech, most of the top companies pay well and give job stability which is what many people want.
If I can't take vacations whenever I want or have the freedom to come and go as I please, I consider it slaving away. No job will allow you to do this.
"I wasn't assuming consulting/freelancing at all. If you're going to run a business you're going to have customers. These customers need support and can be much worse than anyone you deal with in office politics."
Possibly. However, you can always fire customers. I know I have. Also, when you are consulting, it's just like having another boss. They tell you exactly what needs to be done. I ran a consulting company a couple of years ago..and I won't do it again.
When you are running a product/service, you may take customer input, but you make the final decisions. That's the difference.
"If 'might make [you] rich' is why you want to do a startup you're probably going to be disappointed."
I'm already making more than I was making at a job. I've only been running my company for a year. The reason many startups don't succeed is because many of them don't think about how to monetize it. Making money is almost always my first priority. If I know it's going to be difficult to monetize an idea, I usually move on. Another problem is that many people think the answer to success is getting bought by a larger company or getting VC.
"The odds are stacked against you and the risks are high. If you're really good at tech, most of the top companies pay well and give job stability which is what many people want."
High risk = High reward. Most companies aren't as stable as you might think. At least with my own company, I make the choices that directly lead to my success or failure. I've worked for too many companies that made ridiculous decisions that led to major profit loss or huge layoffs..and there was nothing I could do about it.
Not to be a 'me too' with the above poster, but my job allows this also. I'm trying to to run my own business because I think it will be a fun and interesting challenge. I have no illusions though. I will likely work more and make less when/if I ever make the break to being on my own.
My job does.
No place is just ice cream all day long, there's some dog food too sometimes, sometimes there's stress.
I've been doing software in various positions (some big companies, some startups) for over 20 years, and for the most part I love it... I love my current job. Nobody asks for overtime.
Well, the premise of the submission pretty much refutes that unless you call loud outbursts, threats, reduced equity, and demotions "well treated".
>I've been doing software in various positions (some big companies, some startups) for over 20 years
Oh, why'd you switch companies if everything was so great?
>I love my current job
I'm sure everyone at Zynga loved their job at some point as well. And, while one example doesn't prove my point that every engineering job will eventually suck, it is a pattern that is repeated.
I know plenty of engineers that aren't capable of owning a business. They need to be told what to do..otherwise nothing will get done. Owning a business requires self-discipline and many people just don't have it.
"but so are most successful businesses"
It depends on how you define success. There are plenty of businesses that make enough in profit to give the owner a good lifestyle (as good or better than working for someone else).
I've worked for other people for the 15 years (I quit a little over 2 years ago to start my own company). In every single job, no matter how good it seems like in the beginning, it eventually turned bad.
You will almost always be asked to work on something you don't like, work extra hours, or get denied vacation time. I got tired of it. I got tired of being forced to ask someone if I can take a day off of work to go to the doctor or visit family after Christmas. It felt just like when I was in school. I suppose school is good training for real life.
As a business owner, I have more freedom. There are many times when I don't want to work on something, but it's still enjoyable to me because it's mine. Life also seems to pass by much slower. I don't feel like I'm wasting my life.
The downside is that I have more responsibility (if you can call it a downside). I can't just go into work and collect my check at the end of the month.
And running your own business won't suck? Everything can and will turn to shit eventually. That's a fact of life, so be adaptable and be prepared to do many things. But running your own business is not the only way to be happy as an engineer.
Companies are made up of people. They don't always do the smart thing.
Please keep it classy here.
I worked for startups that were acquired.
How about you?