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Penny Arcade’s Insultingly Horrible Job (marco.org)
423 points by ambirex on Nov 26, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 295 comments

There are so many fucking developers out there who are totally unaware of their own value, and will take a salary significantly less than they're worth. This usually comes as a result of nervousness in interviews, lack of confidence, fear of going broke, and/or some other feeling of desperation.

As an employer, you want to find these folks. There's usually no downside to having these absurd job postings. Penny Arcade apparently went too far and is getting some bad publicity, but usually there are no repercussions. Can you really blame them for trying to do this - when it works?

As developers, you need to educate your fellow developers about how much they're worth, strategize ways to extract maximum value from companies you work for, and instill a sense of confidence in one another. If you've ever gone to engineering school, I know you knew tons of folks who couldn't believe what companies were willing to pay for them. Their misconceptions need to be abolished.

If you don't help your fellow developers understand their positions, then they'll end up taking jobs like this one at Penny Arcade for shit pay and it brings down the overall price of employees in general.

Company owners don't want you to know this. They benefit from these awesome hires.

  As an employer, you want to find these folks. 
  There's usually no downside to having these 
  absurd job postings.
There are at least a few big downsides!

1. You lose a lot of accumulated knowledge when you burn your employees out and need to hire new ones every ___ months.

2. When you're understaffed (er, sorry - "running lean") and every week is basically run-around-with-your-hair-on-fire crunch mode time, you accumulate technical debt like crazy. Pretty soon everything's held together with duct tape, because you're dealing with shit flying at you from every angle and there's often no time to do things right.

3. An unreasonable job description like that weeds out nearly all seasoned, savvy developers. (For a high-profile job like PA, maybe they'll attract enough naive young geniuses who would love to work a zillion hours a week for low pay, and that will kinda sorta make up for it)

Regarding point 1, there's a widespread view in the Bay Area that it's good to get a "fresh" perspective in companies that are toxic enough to continually burn out employees, which is many companies, probably most.

Furthermore, high turnover is very, very common in VC startups, including CEOs.

So how does a developer determine their own value? For example:

1.) I do web development every day. I'm not a spectacular designer, but I can put a work flow together and I'm comfortable on both the client side javascript (JavaScript proper, jQuery, Backbone, AngularJs) as well as the server side (Ruby, Node.js, PHP 5.5 (Laravel mostly), C#).

2.) I do development in the form of sysadmin/devops type tasks (bash/powershell/vbscript)

3.) I currently do IT related tasks with regards to servers (not desktops) such as building servers from parts, loading them in to racks, setting up firewalls/routers/networking, etc

4.) I'm not perfect with attention to detail. Things fall through the cracks, but I know when to skip details (because they can be easily rectified if missed) and when not to (because the work really is mission critical, or rectifying the mistake would be particularly painful)

5.) I'm self-educated with minimal college. However, I devour books about algorithms, AI, language references, etc

6.) I have terrible work-life balance. I love my wife dearly, but if there is a problem to be solved, I can't let it go. I often dream about problems that are on my mind.

7.) I work well in teams, but I prefer solo work as I can often get in the "zone" easier when not distracted. I am not socially awkward, but I prefer smaller groups. I won't do sales, and while I can do direct customer service, I find it exhausting and my day is often shot afterwards.

8.) I understand how to deal with, and juggle, multiple "number one" priorities.

9.) I generally don't do on call, but if there is a fire, I'm always available to work on it.

10.) I'm constantly on the lookout for techniques to enhance myself, and the team as a whole. I often do presentations on up and coming software stacks, or training on technologies that I think would be worthwhile to implement.

11.) I live in Portland, Or. Relocating to SV or SF is not an option.

Given all of that (and more since it's never binary), how do I go about valuing myself in the market without wasting a ton of time?

Almost none of the above matters (except the location).

Offers are made based on your past experience and interview, before an employer can do a full psychological profile to see if you're a good fit.

So number one priority is to have a good resume.

Then you just "feel out" the current rates based on what you currently make and taking in other signals like glassdoor, salary ranges in job postings in your area (jobs listed on AngelList are most transparent about that) and talking to your peers.

The best way to get good salary is to get multiple job offers and increase your demands with each successive offer.

Yes, it is time consuming, but much less than writing code and with much better long-term effect on your salary.

> Almost none of the above matters (except the location).

Not even that one. http://www.weworkremotely.com

That still matters a lot. Almost universally one of the reasons to hire remotely is to hire people in lower cost-of-living areas and pay them accordingly.

Adjusted for cost of living you might be making more on taking a few basis-point discount since the Valley is so insane, but location absolutely factors into remote work salaries.

> Almost universally one of the reasons to hire remotely is to hire people in lower cost-of-living areas and pay them accordingly.

I currently work for a decent sized Drupal shop. I was told upfront that the company went with remote employees because there simply weren't enough within commuting distance. Based on how the knowledge Drupal people in another state have been snapped up, I completely believe it.

> How do I go about valuing myself in the market without wasting a ton of time?

It takes a ton of time, but interview people. Seriously, you would not believe what the applicant pool is like, even after resume filtering and phone screening. After interviewing 20-30 people you may have a very different perspective on which decile of value that you fall into. If you are in the top 10% of developers, then your value is the top 10% as well.

Note that those you get to interview will tend to be the less attractive candidates because they will tend to do more interviews before getting a job (and may be job hunting again sooner) BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER. You only have position yourself amongst the AVAILABLE candidates anyway

Seriously, I dropped out of college and worked my way back up to the position of 'lead developer' and it took me a couple of interview rounds, when we tried to fill open positions, to realise that there are so many clueless programmers on the market. Before that, I thought this was mainly limited to the companies I knew. So, if you have experience and browse HN, chances are that you are already in the top 10%. Of course this is an oversimplification and based on anectodal evidence. By the way, I was of course desperate after I dropped out and thus was lucky just finding a job.

just talk to your peers and break the barrier of 'taboo' talking about salary. that taboo is /only/ in the interest of your employers.

transparency wins imo.

I must disagree, you'll stir up too much drama.

What you do is talk to peers in the industry, every opportunity you can find, especially ex-coworkers.

this is a better suggest for sure, at least in terms of avoiding social awkwardness

Until you make $30-$40k more or less than a colleague who is supposedly on the same level of you. That shit's awkward.

You and I know it's negotiating skill, expertise, tenure...and yet it's still awkward when it happens (as I've had happen).

Yeah, but why is it awkward? What you get from this is that they either get the information they need to realise that they are being screwed, or you get the realisation that you are overpaid for whatever reason. It could be that there is a genuine gap and you are worth that much more, or it might be as simple as you having learned earlier than them that 'not being money oriented' is a bad interview tactic if you are experienced and capable...

Whatever it is I don't think it hurts unless you don't really deserve that money and have good reason to feel guilty about it - even then its not your fault, or anything bad about you, its the employer who is 'screwing them over' in that case and you are giving them the information to realise it.

I've had similar happen a few times, its not really a problem, I've actually been surprised when I've encouraged them to go for more money and one guy in particular basically said, "yeah, but you actually are worth that much more to the company than me".

To get paid the maximum amount possible you will have to look around and test the market, as it's unlikely the first offer anywhere would be the highest.

But you should probably just work out how much you would like to make, what kind of company you would like to work for, what kind of work, what kind of work life balance and aim for that.

If you put your contact details in your profile would be interested to talk based on above.

Talk to some recruiters. Seriously.

Although they are considered the spawn of Satan by most devs, they know exactly what you are worth because their business depends on it.

And they will be willing to talk to you, because you are their meal ticket.

Most recruiters have no idea of what you might be able to get. They want to get you placed as quickly as possible, because placing many people quickly is how they make the most money. It's in their interest to convince you your worth less than you are, because then you'll look like a bargain and be easier to place.

What recruiters make on each placement depends on the salary you'll fetch. It's in their interest to make it as high as possible, and know exactly what the market rates are.

However, what recruiters do understand is what you'll fetch depends very much on your attitude and confidence. You act like a lamb, you'll be sold like a lamb. But that still means they know exactly what you will be able to get.

Good recruiters will coach you to increase your market value, but even the shitty ones know their numbers.

sounds like real state agents

Get interviews. Get offers. Talk with other devs. Talk with recruiters.

As a dev in Portland, I can tell you with your skill set, if you have at least 3 - 4 years experience, you can get 6 figures. But you have to market yourself as a dev, not a generalist. Especially if you emphasize Angular and Node.

I'd class myself as an above average generalist. What's the difference between marketing myself as that or as a dev?

Well, say a company is looking for an Angular expert -- are they going to hire someone who's spent the last year doing Angular, along with 50 other things, or someone who's spent the last year hyper-focused on Angular? I think there are jobs for generalists for sure, but there are also jobs for super-pressing needs (read as $$$) for specific strengths. If you spread yourself too thin, you're not going to get the job for that one skill-set they need. I could be totally wrong, but that's how I approach it. Also note that it's assumed devs have some knowledge of other technologies, so I'm not saying don't learn plenty of stuff.

Money is just one form of compensation. PA offers a matching 401(k), my company doesn't. PA offers what seems to be a pretty sweet working environment, my company doesn't. PA might have some interesting/hard problems to solve, I'm stuck making CRUD apps for customers that just don't care.

People can complain about the (allegedly, nobody knows what they're paying yet) low salary all they want, but that's only one piece of the puzzle.

- We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT for us here that need help configuring a firewall for a dev kit, etc.

- [...] and don’t mind having a really bad sense of work-life balance, this is the job for you.

- You should have no problems working in a creative and potentially offensive environment.

- It’s rarely we call on it, but if something breaks in the middle of the night, you are expected to be on call to address that issue 24/7.

That's four pieces of the puzzle already.

Some people like working many different roles. What's that thing the startup folks always say about early hires- "You get to wear many different hats"?

Some people like creative/potentially offensive environments. I'm guessing they aren't saying "We are all assholes and will treat you like shit", they are saying "We don't worry too much about political correctness" or something along those lines.

To be honest, one person's "fun atmosphere where we don't worry about political correctness" is another person's "office full of assholes". If you are, in some people's minds, weirdly sensitive about rape jokes (see the "dickwolves" flap) you aren't going to like it there, and they want you to remove yourself from their candidate pool.

Likewise, my preferred standards of workplace behavior would, I'm sure, get me labeled a "humorless feminist" or something by some people who prefer a more bro-like environment. Though I'm the kind of person who would just leave rather than file lawsuits and such -- I don't want the hassle.

Personally, I appreciate unsuitable employers for identifying themselves upfront. It's much easier than finding our after I've already accepted the job.

Yes, it is quite obvious that what is "non-PC" to one person is "absurdly offensive" to another person. I know that. What I meant was "non-PC" shouldn't be taken to mean they will abuse you and make your life hell- unless, I guess, you consider offensive remarks in your presence to be abuse.

Non-PC: some people like, some people hate

Abuse: nobody likes

People's interpretation of an abusive work environment is different. There are some where the general environment is that you're expected to "give as good as you get" and everyone has fun -- as long as that's your idea of fun. Lots of people think that kind of thing makes for a fun office environment, whereas to other people, it's like working with the frat boys from hell.

And Lebron James likes playing basketball. That doesn't mean he'll do it for $50k per year.

Someone who meets the qualifications PA has listed can easily get a six figure salary plus stock and benefits at any number of cool companies with interesting problems to work on, nice offices, and fun cultures.

PA won't get good developers to apply with this listing. They'll get people who are desperate for work and willing to misrepresent their experience and ability. Bullshit begets bullshit.

I'm working a job that pays $100k a year, and I'm miserable. I've never had more fun working a job in my life than when I was working in a PA-esque environment (as far as I can tell, it was a very anti-PC office) making $60k a year. Money isn't everything, and there's something to be said about waking up every morning excited to go to work.

Also, how many software developers do you know that'd be doing what we do even if it paid $30k a year? Because I sure as hell would. Lebron might even be ballin' for $50 a year, if he loves it enough. And that's kind of the whole point of the job posting: if you're in it for the money then PA doesn't want ya, and you probably don't want PA.

You won't be excited to go to work when you were woken up for the 3rd time this week at a page at 4:30 in the AM because your db replication took a dump again, or one of the ten other single points of failure in your architecture dies for the 5th time this month.

I did oncall work for large pharma for 7 years, then also for AWS. It is terrible. I can guarantee you everyone there for the most part hates oncall. Everyone has to plan their lives around it, pre-plan trying to swap weeks out which overlaps family time and basically being tied to your pager and a computer / internet location for a week at a time is the worst thing in the world.

The type of job posting above sounds like you will be doing all of the crap work just keeping the lights on and never have any time to sit down and convince people how to reasonably re-architect all of the crap you are up all night working on...because you have no time to do anything but fight fires.

Being up all night and shifting your work schedule to 11AM - 7PM for the week just because you know you will be up in the wee hours of the morning every time you are on call is something I never want to go back to. What's that you say? I'm the only person on the oncall rotation? Well unless off hours pages are few and far between, don't expect me to be picking up trouble tickets every night or weekend because I am actually going to be out drinking at the bar, or doing other things. If your oncall load is this high, you better be hiring additional peers because there is no way I'm going to be expected to be tied to my computer every day of the year.

You're creating a false dichotomy. There are certainly more important factors than money, but a developer at the level of PA's listing doesn't have to settle for low pay or a crappy work environment. You should be excited to go to work and be adequately compensated for the extremely valuable work you do.

You may not be in it for the money, but any for-profit venture certainly is. Imo, if you're going to work for below market pay, you should do it for a non-profit that really is trying to make the world better with limited resources, not a company that is capable of paying what you're worth, but would rather make a slightly higher margin off your hard work.

And you're making quite the assumption. You assume that working at PA would be "settling for low pay", when in reality nobody knows what the position pays. Maybe it's low for Seattle? Or just lower than PA would pay if money weren't an issue? Hard to say, since they don't get into details in the posting. Or maybe lower than a job in corporate office, where you're stuck in a cubicle all day?

Again, the point is that there is more to job compensation than money (at least for me). If it doesn't pay enough, and the perks aren't worth it, then don't apply. Or apply, and then say "no thanks". Nobody is forcing a job on you, and there are quite a few people who would enjoy working for PA at some unknown % of market value. And don't conflate non-monetary compensation with doing good in the world, they can be two different things. Hell, in the case I made before they are two different things.

Speaking of non-profits, you know they run Child's Play[1], right? Raised $17M+ over 10 years. I wonder who's doing all the tech support, web dev, etc for that? Smart money is on whoever holds the advertised position.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child's_Play_(charity)#Annual_t...

As a member of those "some people" you mention, that's probably why I don't understand all the hubbub :)

> You should have no problems working in a creative and potentially offensive environment.

For some people, talking about the latest South Park episode can be extremely offensive, for others it's epic fun.

Yes, it is so sweet they expect that you will find it offensive:

"- You should have no problems working in a creative and potentially offensive environment."

They make comics. Lots of comedy is about trying to find a balance between what is offensive and what people are willing to laugh at.

If you're creating humorous content, then you by necessity cross the boundary into the offensive (but you don't necessarily publish it!) as part of the creative process. Otherwise you'll never strike the best balance.

Consider this Onion post (NSFW) - http://www.theonion.com/articles/no-one-murdered-because-of-...

Now try to imagine what their work environment must be like.

If you're familiar with the webcomic or the blog, you'd recognize that this is probably a reference to off-color language and humor that undoubtedly is typical of their work environment. This doesn't actually offend me at all, but the rest of the job posting does.

Comedians tend to offend once in a while, it's part of the gig. And PA is smack in the middle of the comedy/video game business, sometimes they might trample your delicate sensibilities[1].

As someone who isn't easily offended, that sounds a hundred times better than working in a constant state of fear that you're not being PC enough. But, to each his/her own. At least they're upfront about it, so potential candidates know what they're getting into. Doesn't sound like the environment you want? Don't apply.

[1] http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/09/penny-arcade-expo-dic...

I'm okay with that as long as it cuts both ways.

For example, I will work for you under the understanding that I will keep giving you shit about the "dickwolves" thing until you finally understand what you did wrong -- and no, you don't have to give your kids' entire college savings away to charity.

"I am an absolute moral authority. Apologizing and shutting up is the only acceptable response when I am pissed off. Any protestation will be taken as further evidence of your complicity."

Or maybe you're just a self-centred special snowflake.


"I'm happy with the status quo, so I'm going to write condescending remarks that could equally apply to anyone who has ever felt the need to stand up for somebody else."

I assume what they mean by that is the work environment will resemble what they've put on camera in their PA TV and other series. It will probably be both more mundane and more "offensive" than what is shown on screen, so the goal would be to find someone that can handle the situation.

GrantTree is a pretty cool and relaxed environment. And it's occasionally offensive. That's part of not being a boring and uptight environment.

This is basically a union argument. If all the people who felt this way banded together, they could form a developer or sysadmin union and exert exactly this pressure on employers.

And if you think unions aren't for skilled workers, look at how well it works NFL players or entertainment writers.

Norwegian labor unions (or rather "skilled workers movement", which would be the literal translation) do exactly the thing you describe here, and have been doing it since the 1960s. The difference from the US is that the custom has transitioned from factory workers to engineers and other skilled laborers. Practically every engineer who works in the oil industry is member of such an organization, and a lot of other technical personnel (myself included, and I am a programmer) are as well.

The result is exactly what you would expect if you disregard the anti-union propaganda. Greater transparency regarding salaries and working conditions, better opportinities for networking, strict and enforceable overtime regulations and vastly improved workplace safety.

This is serious mis-interpretation of reality.

Do you think that if cricket players formed a union (maybe they already did, I have no idea), they would be paid as much as NFL players?

Of course not. NFL players are paid so much because the league can afford to pay them and still stuff their bank accounts.

The same goes for TV/Movie writers - good, proven talent is in low supply and there are millions at stake, so it makes sense to pay well to get the best. The 5th box office hit on a given week usually makes a fraction of what the 1st and 2nd does, so it makes sense to optimize for hitting the 1st spot and you do that by getting the best talent and you get the best talent by paying them more than others.

We (programmers) don't need the unions to be paid well because there's still more demand for talent than supply of such talent.

If it ever happens that we need unions to be well paid, the unions won't help much because you can't pay high salaries if you don't have high revenues.

Also, given that software companies are generous with stock options, as part owners of the business, we should be very much against overpaying the employees, even if they are fellow developers.

You just happened to choose as your example two careers that are fully, comprehensively, and aggressively unionized.

NFL players are paid so much because the NFL Players' Association was willing to fight (and strike) to ensure the owners gave up at least a small fraction of team revenues as wages. Before the NFLPA's recognition in 1970, players usually worked second jobs to make ends meet. It was only after unionization (and, to a significant degree after the '82 and '87 strikes) that players received the kind of salaries we see today. Screenwriters are in exactly the same boat, and you'd have to pry the WGA West card from the cold, dead hands of each and every scriptwriter before you could shut down their union.

Exactly. Incidentally, the latest NFL collective bargaining agreement mandates that 47% of all league revenue go to the players.

Cricket players do have players unions. They're not paid as much as NFL stars because there's less money overall in cricket.

Pilots' unions in the US are an example of a skilled profession milking the industry. You can't have an airline without pilots, and the union knows exactly how much the airlines make - and pitch their wage demands to just below 'breaking the bank'.

The value of IT staff is harder to quantify - a commercial plane needs two pilots (generally). An IT department needs... ?

Airline pilots are also woefully underpaid, particularly in the regional lines. After spending a lot of time and money on an ATP license and probably a degree (the cookie cutter "career airline pilot" programs run $50-70k), pilots can expect to make under $20,000 annually at a regional. During Congressional hearings after an accident, it was revealed that the copilot made $16k. Career pilots a few decades in barely break $60-70k. And many fly 14+ hours a day.

Given the race to the bottom in the airlines I would consider ALPA and the airline unions necessary and I am all for treating pilots better. Since pilots, you know, keep aircraft from decorating the sides of buildings.

It's pretty sad when a Wendy's manager can do better than a regional captain.

That's way off base.

A second year DC-9 captain makes $82k/year.

A 747-400 captain can _easily_ make a quarter million a year when including bonuses and benefits.


You don't get to be captain of a 747 after three years on the job. I think it's pretty well established at this point that there is a significant downwards pressure on airline pilot salaries in Europe and the USA.

Or maybe senior pilots screw young pilots and airlines: http://philip.greenspun.com/flying/unions-and-airlines

That's the actuality of it. It's all based on seniority.

Like every union ever.

When performance is not measurable, all you have to go on is seniority.

Also, the cost of the script on a TV show or movie is a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the production, but determines a lot of its quality.

Makes sense to hire the best and pay well at that point.

Unions make lots of sense when there is a cartel of employers, as in sports and entertainment. This is not true of programming.

And why not so?

You are going to have to be more specific.

I take the Mark Suster position that engineers are terrible at negotiating, and they're eventually going to find out their market value or their peers' compensation, so just offer them a market, fair salary and equity to begin with, especially if you've found someone who you think will be a great fit.

A lot of companies out there are run by total morons or psychopaths, this doesn't surprise me at all. This sounds like a combination of both.

I was recently introduced to a job by a recruiter and they wanted me to do a "programming assignment" which would take at least 20 hours, before I could even talk to them and see who they were. I was like, "Cool story bro".

The reason why I bring that up is because I noticed the same pattern here; this job ad is screening for desperate people lacking a spine. I can't imagine any decent developer with a good job applying for this. Only someone desperately looking for work and having relatively low skills would willingly take this job, assuming he's not an idiot.

The irony (hypocrisy) is palpable: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/01/25.

>The reason why I bring that up is because I noticed the same pattern here; this job ad is screening for desperate people lacking a spine. I can't imagine any decent developer with a good job applying for this. Only someone desperately looking for work and having relatively low skills would willingly take this job, assuming he's not an idiot.

Hey, 17 year old kids, and people who have been out of work for years need jobs too, you know. (actual skill correlates... much less than it ought with employment desperation, in my opinion.)

And it looks to me (and apparently, to you) like the penny-arcade folks are being pretty clear about what they want. And that's fine. Some people (usually very inexperienced people) really like the "hero ninja rockstar" rhetoric, and that's fine. I think many intern level folks respond better to thinking of themselves as rockstar ninjas than as interns. And as we're all clear on what that actually means, hey, if it makes them feel good, who am I to complain?

The other thing you need to understand is that most of the rhetoric about 'heroic work schedules' is empty. My experience has been that the people I know who actually work the most, I mean, once you take out all the time on hacker news and facebook? they don't talk about how much they work. In fact, they usually worry that they aren't working enough.

When I hear people crow about a ridiculous work schedule? I hear "I put in 45 hours a week at the office, but half that time is on facebook or chatting with co-workers" People who actually work a lot are constantly concerned that they aren't working enough.

Hey, 17 year old kids, and people who have been out of work for years need jobs too, you know.

Yeah, they and similarly desperate people may indeed fall pray to this kind of thing. See below.

And it looks to me (and apparently, to you) like the penny-arcade folks are being pretty clear about what they want.

In this economy, ads saying "we're looking for someone to suck dry till we leave their bleached bones on the beach somewhere" can pull people in because ... desperation. See, your above.

But I don't care, such vampires need to be called on their antics regardless of this free choice.

>In this economy, ads saying "we're looking for someone to suck dry till we leave their bleached bones on the beach somewhere" can pull people in because ... desperation. See, your above.

Yeah... but like I said, I don't believe people who claim heroic hours. I don't believe companies who say that '50-60 hours' is normal. they mean that /claiming/ 50 hours a week is normal.

Yes, some people do actually work brutal hours, but they don't brag about it. They worry that they aren't working enough. Some employers really pressure people to work brutal hours, but they brag about that even less.

In fact, the places that claim heroic hours more often have beer Fridays and unfiltered internet access (and a culture that makes it okay to hang out on facebook and HN on work hours.) Generally, they also let you come in when you want, meaning that you can show up before your boss (It doesn't matter how much before your boss) /or/ show up after your boss (it doesn't matter how much after your boss) and plausibly claim crazy hours.

There is /extreme/ resistance to any sort of actual time tracking for this reason.

It's like the coaches who say "give 110%" yeah, they are irritating, and the rest of us look down on them, but there is a group of people who eat that shit up.

I'm sorry, but even if you are spending 45 or even 50 hours a week in the office (and the number of folks who go beyond that, ninja rockstar or not, is vanishingly small[1]) if half of that time is spent socializing or screwing off on the internet? it's not really that brutal. It's basically the same thing as being at home, except you have to wear pants.

Edit: dug up the source for the article:


Uh, the question of exploitation isn't really about how many hours about productive but about how many hours are taken from you.

>Uh, the question of exploitation isn't really about how many hours about productive but about how many hours are taken from you.

Also, I am not sure I agree with this taken as a context-free statement. I mean, certainly, I think that the 'mandatory fun times' that are so popular are even more bullshit than "you can read reddit, but you have to be in this chair" - but not really because it's "exploitation" - it's not, except in the sense that every profitable exchange of money for labor is exploitation.

Comparing folks who make more than $60K/year and only have to sit in front of computers to people who work at McDonalds or Wall-mart or worse for 1/3rd that is... kinda insulting, I think.

A modern valley company is trying to be a social club. And, if you are the sort who goes in for that sort of thing? they do pretty okay at it. Not great, but pretty okay. For a "cultural fit" it's really not work, it's social time. I know I usually enjoy that sort of thing.

But, that's the problem. It is rough on those who are not a "cultural fit" - and I think that's a very bad thing, I think that a business is at a severe disadvantage if they can only hire from the group of people they want to party with. but most people disagree with me on that.

The study I cited measured actual hours in the office, not productive hours, so I stand by my point that most claims of hanging out in the office significantly more than 45 hours a week are bullshit.

>>It's like the coaches who say "give 110%" yeah, they are irritating

Honestly speaking I don't mind "giving 110%" provided I'm "paid 110%".

Are people really that desperate? I don't know how the job market is in the US, but yesterday I saw an article explaining that the US was still the best place for programmers. In Netherland, I don't know any programmer who is unemployed. The job market is very good here. There's no reason to accept a crappy, rotten, underpaid job, unless you suck.

So what is it, US? Is it great over there, or does it suck so badly that PA might actually find someone?

According to this study, there's an 8.7% unemployment rate for recent CS grads. For experienced CS grads, it's 4.7%.


>Hey, 17 year old kids, and people who have been out of work for years need jobs too, you know.

Yes, so let's take advantage of them... And if the market comes to that point that we can expect them to work for food, let's do that too... (while we're making tons of money from our business).

>And it looks to me (and apparently, to you) like the penny-arcade folks are being pretty clear about what they want.

Transparency is not a virtue in itself. Charles Manson was pretty clear about what he wanted too.

read the rest of my comment, please.

Recruiting for a company that has fans (actual, fanatic fans) can be tricky. Sometimes you can play the candidate's enthusiasm against them. Sometimes they come in with unrealistic expectations and burn out in six months. Sometimes you do the sane thing and just hire somebody who has never heard of you.

I applied for a job a few years ago, which had two interviews.

The first interview was to determine my technical ability and character.

The second interview was for them to gauge my reaction to all the crap parts of the job. They told me about the level of social life, the tedious tasks I will have to do, and so on.

They said that, previously, they had talked-up the position to attract someone only for them to leave once they realized the reality wasn't quite so great. So, if I took the job, I would not be shocked once I got to my desk.

In the end I didn't get the job, but this is the only interview I have been in that didn't try to hide the bad bits or to over-hype the good bits.

So, yeah, unrealistic expectations are an issue. But, I mostly blame the hiring company for talking out of their backsides in order to recruit.

The big problem is going to be too many applicants. Suggesting the job will be shitty and low paid seems to be a great way to filter out competent applicants.

Maybe they are building a blacklist from the applicants and will post the real job description later.

If this were true I would be more at peace with the world than I presently am.

This seems to happen with (especially female) journalists writing for fashion magazines. Salaries are low but number of applicants is high.

Before resorting to ad hominem attacks you may want to do some research on who you're attacking. Robert Khoo is neither a moron nor a psychopath. I disagree with his job posting, but it helps no one to attack the person behind it (with false insults) instead of attacking the posting itself and what it represents.

Ad hominem is attacking the person rather than their position on the topic at hand. This guy has played his hand and shown us his position.

Now what you want is us to take your personal view of this person as read and ignore his clearly laid out position. So really you're the one being ad hominem, though unusually being supportive (I prefer 'enabling') rather than attacking.

Let's forget who this is and discuss this person's job ad.

EDIT: A pre-emptive clarification: The fact that one could do research on this person makes no difference. The ad is the ad, the details of the person who wrote it are actually irrelevant here.

To be more clear, ad hominem is attacking the person making an argument as an illogical response to said argument. It's attacking the argument by attacking the person making it.

Merely attacking someone does not an ad hominem make; since ad hominem is based in the study of logic, calling a personal attack such as the comment up-thread "ad hominem" makes no sense. The person posting the job is not entering into an argument.

Yes, you're right, other than the idea that the job posting isn't entering into an argument - I'd say that it is, the person is taking a position that they feel this is a reasonable and justifiable job to advertise.

We can reasonably consider this implicit position and draw conclusions, and yes absolutely, because something happens to be a personal attack, it isn't necessarily ad hominem. Saying 'ignore what this person has done and listen to me telling you he's a great guy' very much is.

Man, that was exactly an ad-hominem attack. Exactly.

Discussing an accusation of ad hominem inevitably involves you discussing that person's ad hominem-ism, which is ironically meta-ad hominem. Unavoidable I think... though strangely comical I must say!

"Ad hominem" is not a synonym for "personal." Just say "personal." Seriously, "ad hominem" is my new favorite HN drinking game.

Ad hominem: "Higher taxes are bad because you're the one suggesting them."

Personal: "You are an idiot for suggesting higher taxes."

See the difference?

I don't really get critiques like this. Because this guy was once a respected guy, he is totally allowed to hire workers to work under terrible conditions and exploit people and if you call him any names while he does so it is YOU that has the problem? Seems like a reasonable standard...

I think someone who so blatantly values his developers so little deserves to be insulted.

What about someone who values honesty enough to actually list the accurate job posting, which honestly doesn't sound that different than a lot of jobs in this industry. The biggest difference is those jobs didn't actually list the bad conditions in the job posting.

So it's ok to be an abusive arsehole as long as you're honest about it? The only crime is to be a dishonest arsehole?

How about being a decent reasonable human being/employer? Or is that just off the table altogether in this discussion?

With limbo-like justifications like this I'm not surprised these kind of diseased company cultures exist.

Yes. You are acting like this job is not voluntary.

So a job that advertises terrible working conditions is suddenly morally upstanding and ethical just because you know what you're in for? What if you need money to feed your family and the job ad says that as a precondition to getting hired you need to give them one of your kidneys?

This is exactly why labor law exists and why libertarian/extreme capitalist societies could never function. The argument "it's a free market" doesn't hold water. Without a system of checks and balances exploitation will always take place because there are always people desperate enough to do anything to make a living. No matter what you say about "free markets" and "voluntary agreements", you can't convince me that it's right and ethical and a good idea in any capacity.

Labor laws? Holy crap, you are deluded. We're talking about a cushy white-collar job here. Yes, the expectations sound pretty bad, relatively speaking. But it's a far cry from exploitative labor.

Calm down, go back and re-read the sub-thread. We are talking about general principles behind the practice, not necessarily about this concrete example.

How very patronizing of you.

In the entire category of white-collar jobs the idea of requiring labor laws is ludicrous.

Just because accepting a job is voluntary doors not give license to employers to exploit their employees. 100 years ago, that same argument was advanced by people opposed to worker safety laws and child labor laws. People use that argument to justify jobs where you have to sleep with the boss to get the job. The fact that some people are desperate doesn't give an employer endless license.

That some naive person "volunteers" to be exploited and abused doesn't make it any less exploitative or abusive.

Unemployment is really high right now. A lot of folks might feel compelled to take any job.

So the dude who writes the exploitative job description is fine, while the average business owner is an asshole because you assume their job sucks and they're lying. Totally reasonable logic.

Well at least do some research before you insult him then? Here are some options: enabler, workaholic, calculating

I am sure some people would find many things about you that make you deserve to be insulted, too. Empathy is not optional even for people you disagree with.

I think it brings up the issue of considering at what time is it better to compete against them rather than join them.

PA isn't a software company though. "Competing" against PA means having a web comic (or other artistic content) of your own, it doesn't mean doing software somewhere else.

You could do software that meets their needs, and offer to sell it to them and others. Not competing with their actual business, but competing with their would-be internal development processes.

Either compete or go into a different business. Don't take a bad job.

I'm glad someone spoke up about it. I was rather insulted as a developer myself who feels undervalued that a business is doing nothing to help improve conditions for developers, this is why the industry is plagued with mental health issues; we aren't sleeping, we are drinking a lot of coffee, we have no time to socialise or even spend time outside in the air/sun. Workplace conditions as highlighted in the job ad for Penny Arcade are what is wrong with the industry as a whole.

Don't get me started on the ridiculousness of expecting someone with a computer science degree for such a job. After spending tens of thousands of dollars on a CS degree, I'm sure said developer would love nothing more than to get a job that underpays, has no perks or offers real value. Surprised they didn't list they wanted someone with knowledge of plumbing and performing complicated electrical work with experience working in a commercial kitchen and being able to cook 500 meals in the space of a couple of hours...

There aren't many developers out there who would meet even half the requirements Penny Arcade listed in their job ad as a self-taught web developer with no qualifications, I would be on that list as well.

I am working on improving lives of developers through my book: https://leanpub.com/nightowls

The idea is to produce a book programmers can give to whomever is making their lives miserable and teaching said person about keeping programmers happy and productive. I'm also adding practical advice for programmers themselves because I feel that we bring a lot of these problems on ourselves.

That said, if you're in the Bay Area I'd love to buy a drink and talk about the state of the industry. My book needs more material :)

This sounds really good. I think the issue definitely needs more attention, because these kind of toxic environments are becoming the norm for the software and web development industries. I remember a conversation a manager had with me once because he felt I wasn't putting in enough overtime (being salaried and not being paid for overtime, I felt this was wrong). His issue was that the other developer who I worked with, who had no girlfriend or wife or kids to spend time with was staying until 9/10pm every night of the week and he lived a 2 hour drive away whereas I lived 45 minutes away by train or 20 by car.

The problem is if you refuse to put in the overtime, there will always be someone else who is willing and able to put the overtime in, as a result they are presented with more opportunities. The mentality in every development industry is if you are the first to leave, you'll most likely be the first on the chopping block if the business hits a rough spot. You are perceived as not being a team player, not working hard enough and putting pressure on your peers.

I understand overtime is part of the job. We as developers know when we signed up to be developers that there will be late nights, but when companies expect overtime as part of the normal job for no good reason other than to get more for less, that's not right. People are afraid to leave at 5.30pm on the dot at most companies, especially as the economy gets worse.

Sadly I'm in Australia, otherwise catching up and discussing the state of the industry would have been awesome. I'll most likely be in the US sometime next year though, my partner and I are currently trying to get some funding for an ambitious idea.

I like the premise. But as a developer who recently walked out Friday night from doing any more work, another developer was there to pick up my work. We have to change developers (and employers) mindset in order to make a change in the industry. Aside, the developer was upset at me for walking out--not the employer.

The actual ad seems a lot less disturbing than Marco's write-up of it... the main thing I notice is it seems to avoid the typical grinning-HR-guy-speak and sounds more like they're being honest about things.

This clearly isn't the job for everybody (obviously not Marco), but there are plenty of people out there who are (as the ad puts it) "not terribly money-motivated" and would be willing to work hard to be in a cool environment with cool people. [Some of the best jobs I've had have been for absurdly low salaries, but I don't regret them for a nanosecond...]

Given who wrote the ad, I also wouldn't be surprised if they're exaggerating a wee bit and making it sound rather scarier than it really is. Having a small outfit with reasonable people in charge (and whatever faults they have, I don't think PA are really psychopathic-startup-CEOs in disguise) is one of the best insurances there is against a truly unreasonable work environment. Sugar-coated job ads are an insurance against nothing....

If anything, I'm more disturbed by Marco's rush to judgement...

I read the ad before seeing Marco's comments, and I had exactly the same reaction as him.

A friend in the gaming industry posted the Penny Arcade ad to Facebook, and I clicked on it out of curiosity. I was appalled. When I went back to FB later, 4 different people had commented about what a terrible job it was.

>would be willing to work hard

I don't think the issues is with working hard - the issue is with parts of the industry expecting people to work so much that it's beyond "working hard" and becomes damaging, and I think (and I think the author in OP's link does too) that there has to be a change in developers' mindsets to protect themselves from negative consequences.

The funny thing is that this was actually the job for Marco when he was younger at Tumblr--as he admits. But now that he's older and more successful, it looks like a bad deal.

Which it is--for older more successful people. For a youngster with a light resume and a thirst for excitement, though, it might be perfect.

God, did you even read his response? He took a similar job for a few years out of college but required and received competitive pay and equity (!) as well as a reasonable work/life balance. He was allowed to learn parts of that job on the fly: ie, he didn't come into it with the expectation that he know every aspect of it day one.

PA wants someone who not only has expert-level experience in several disciplines but is willing to work such a job to the exclusion of anything else while not getting paid a competitive salary nor receiving any sort of stake in their gaming media empire. This is absolutely in keeping with the worst inclinations of this industry, made worse by PA's knowledge of these practices in many of the companies they cover.

So, no, they are wildly different. This job is a good deal for no one and you do an immense disservice by carrying water for people that should know better.

He didn't say Tumblr was a bad deal. He was newbie when he started, David paid him decently, and he worked regular hours.

I required, and was given, a great salary plus stock, a nice office environment, and a healthy work-life balance.

His issue with this job is that they're looking to hire an experienced unicorn on the cheap, then they're going to work it to death.

You make it sound like one has to give up the money aspect of a CS job to get the "cool environment with cool people." I would argue that a good developer or sysadmin should be able to land a job with both. I certainly have one with a very competitive salary and excellent co-workers. Truth be told, this job doesn't offer anything in exchange for claiming it'll offer a lower-than-market salary, and requires the worker to be a workaholic. All for what? Powering a website.

I agree. The ad is very honest in it's requirements as far as I'm concerned. They're aiming it at competent fans. They're expecting a huge response. I think they'll get one.

If this was published back when I was in my late 20s, the job spec would have been an ok match and I would have applied. I think working in that environment for a few years would be a great buzz and would give me the opportunity to learn loads.

Robert Khoo, the business manger of Penny Arcade and the one who wrote this job ad subscribes to the "work is family" level of cultural fit. He looks at hiring as adding a new member to the family rather than just filling a position. This is why his job ads and hiring methods are so harsh. The three seasons of Penny Arcade's video show paint a good picture of what it's like to get hired and work at Penny Arcade: http://penny-arcade.com/patv/show/pa-the-series.


Anyone who has been in the industry for more than 2 months knows that the "work is family" thing is a nonsensical feel good catchphrase thrown around by manipulative managers.

Your boss will not feel bad for you if you have a personal emergency which requires your absence and costs the company money (parent dying, spouse or children having medical problems, etc.).

Your company will not hesitate one second to fire you if the output you produce is deemed less valuable than the input you need to function.

Seriously, this is why Penny Arcade can get away with shit like that - because there are people out there who blindly believe that "work is family" and eat up the whole "it's not for everyone, others don't want to do it because they're not hardcore enough, but you're hardcore enough spiel". Statistically speaking, any argument that rests on the premise that you are better than 99% of the population is bullshit.

If you really subscribe to the whole "work is family" thing, go ahead. Then in 6, 12, 18 or 36 months, when you inevitably get fucked over, you'll complain about how you wish you had been warned ahead.

Sure, I love making work pleasant and grabbing beers with my boss and co-workers as much as the next guy- but at the end of the day, work is work, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise has ulterior motives.

I won't try too hard to convince you otherwise, because you certainly seem set in your opinions. But I think it's a shame that such an overwhelmingly negative tone is thrown around so much. There are companies (small and otherwise) made up of good people that do not operate on this horribly cold impersonal calculus. There are bosses that will genuinely go out of their way to help you through a family crisis. There are co-workers and organizations that feel like family. I'm sorry you think it doesn't exist and that you've never had a relationship with a boss that was anything other than evil, but don't be so quick to tell everyone that that's all there is.

My opinions are formed by witnessing friends getting fired/being pressured to quit because their company had run out of money, or because they had to take care of an ill relative and the company felt that their performance wasn't as good as what it used to be, or because of some BS office politics. Those companies include small trendy startups and big fortune 500 companies alike.

At the end of the day, no matter how wonderful everything is, if the company is having a hard time and they need to fire you, they'll do it. Your boss is not going to sell his car or house to pay your salary.

If the company is doing well and offers a nice work environment, it can be fantastic, as you described- in which case, enjoy the ride while it lasts. But don't delude yourself in thinking that the wind won't turn if bad times hit. Believing anything else is setting yourself up for major letdown when it happens.

I broke my hip. The team rallied around and handled it until I was back. Both my parents died. The team rallied around and handled it until I was back. One of the team got close to burnout - the company provided him with unsolicited paid time off provided he took it now, so he could chill and get back to being productive.

My good experiences don't invalidate your bad experiences - but that sentence applies vice versa too.

A bunch of bad data points proves that bad exists, but it doesn't prove that bad is prevalent. That sentence also applies vice versa.

That's awesome- I'm genuinely happy for you. Finding a fulfilling job is hard.

Based on your experience in the field, how many software companies out there do you think are like yours? 20%? 10%? 1%? 0.1%? Less?

I have a suspicion that for larger companies, it's more a question of which teams are like that than which companies are, since the line manager's attitude has a huge influence on the results (for example, one bent the HR system substantially for me to enable me to house hunt effectively - a personal act rather than an organisational one).

As for what percentage? I'm not really sure. Shadowcat is how it is because it was baked into the culture from day one because that's how things should be done, so I'm not sure I can extrapolate usefully from it.

Anecdotal n=1 response, but I worked for a civil engineering firm where the owner of the company did mortgage his house to keep as many people as possible on staff during the housing market crash.

I don't expect that level of commitment to employees from my employers, but it does exist.

I had to take care of an ill relative, and my startup was immensely supportive throughout. I've seen similar things happen at a variety of companies.

You're creating a false dichotomy here. I agree that places that push the "we're just like a family" line often do so because some boss means "I want to act like an abusive dad". And I agree that no place is perfect.

But there's plenty of room for compassion and human feeling in the workplace. Companies are human institutions, and executives ignore that at their peril.

The plural of anecdote is not data. Ever heard of 'your mileage may vary'? We can throw opinions around all night, but it's clear that either people are looking through rosy and 'cynic' glasses at the same companies... or there truly are different workplaces than you've come to know.

> There are bosses that will genuinely go out of their way to help you through a family crisis. There are co-workers and organizations that feel like family.

Sure, I know such people. The difference that these people won't write a psychopathic job ad, and they certainly won't expect me to work >40hours a week for below market salary.

If you believe work is family, do you think your family would be OK with you working 60 hours a week for below market salaries? Of course not! Your family doesn't want to screw you over while selling you shitty psychobabble. They'll actually pay you what you're worth and make sure you work reasonable hours.

100% agree. I wasn't saying anything in support of the PA job posting. And seeing as it's just about 5pm here, I'm signing off from work for the day :)

Your company will not hesitate one second to fire you if the output you produce is deemed less valuable than the input you need to function.

Labor hoarding is well established empirically.


That's an interesting paper, but GOD why are people so motivated toward using absurdly dense jargon in their papers? What does one accomplish by couching their ideas in convoluted words?

For example:

  Labor hoarding is a widely believed empirical behavior of
  firms and a prominent explanation for procyclical labor 
  productivity. Conventional wisdom attributes labor 
  hoarding to labor adjustment costs. This paper argues that 
  the conventional wisdom is inadequate for understanding 
  labor hoarding because it ignores the role of inventories. 
  Since idle labor can be used to produce inventories, why 
  do firms hoard labor when inventory is an option?
The whole paper reads like that. Repurposed words dumped obliquely in the middle of sentances, and then abandonded.

Why not:

  Labor hoarding is defined as the retention of idle workers
  during periods of low economic activity or slow business,
  further reinforcing the impact of larger social trends.
  The common perception is that retaining valuable workers
  will prove less costly than rounds of lay offs, followed 
  by subsequent phases of recruiting and training new labor.
  Observations have proven that businesses will choose to 
  idle their workers during these periods, instead of
  producing finished manufactured goods and retaining an 
  expanded inventory of surplus product. This paper 
  questions the strategy of hoarding idle labor, and offers
  improved strategies as potential alternatives to the 
  tendency of hoarding.
What is it about academia, where people feel obligated to contort their writing into an intimidating architecture of opaque jargon and garish vocabulary? Is it some form of group think? Is it a defense mechanism designed to ward off criticism? Why must new ideas be presented in such stark, frustrating words?

For someone trained in the field, the original version is more concise and easier to understand. They key "jargon" terms are very common in economics, in particular "procyclical", "labor adjustment costs", "labor hoarding" and "inventories".

So really it's just a matter of using a common technical language that is less ambiguous than ordinary language.

Your rewrite adds a lot that isn't in the original article. E.g. the last sentence doesn't reflect their meaning. They are looking for explanations for why firms hoard, not trying to make suggestions to firms.

Theirs is half the length and more precise than yours. Maybe they had a word count limit? That, and they're writing for other people in the field - jargon is USEFUL as a time and space saver.

You're really going to come on a technical site and complain about other people's jargon and opaque writing?

It's especially interesting when compared to the "but my code is self-documenting!" that a lot of technical people advocate.

How stupidly self-centered are you? "All academic papers should be written in a way that I can understand no matter whether they would be comprehensible to the intended audience!" What a fucking egomaniac.

Penny Arcade really isn't the same as a "normal company" though. Most of them there are minor celebrities just by proxy of the number of viewers that read the comics and watch the videos. I think it's safe to say there are a lot of people that can get a sense for what it would be really like to work there. It's more like a reality TV show (which they have actually done) than an enterprise business.

That said, there's no way I would apply for that position, and I hope nobody else does, so that they finally realize that they need to hire more than one person for all that stuff. I'm just saying the Penny Arcade company really is different than nearly any other technical gig, and that when they said "work is family", it's not "a nonsensical feel good catchphrase". It's them trying to weed out as many people as possible so they aren't flooded with 100,000 resumes at once.

Yes, in that sense a developer wishing to work for PA is no different than the young actor who wants to work with his Hollywood idols and is willing to do anything for even the smallest chance at making it big. I get that if you're really into video gaming and love PA, you may be willing to work like crazy for a low salary just to be with your idols and be a part of it.

The fact remain that if you do that, you're doing yourself a major disservice as a professional.

And if your philosophy is truly "work is family" then this kind of job posting is exactly the thing you need to weed out people that aren't passionate about the things PA is doing. A point that seems to go over many peoples' heads in this thread (though not some of the others).

My comment is not an endorsement, it's merely an explanation of the mindset of the person who wrote the ad.

Your outlook on the world makes me sad. There's such a defensive attitude in this community — for some good reasons, I can understand — but it paints the world in black and white.

How do you know that's how it is? For most companies, "work is family" may be hyperbole, but how do you know it's that way at PA? I don't profess to know, but I don't find it unreasonable that there are companies out there that are different than the ones that I'm accustomed to. Just like I accept that there are people out there that have lives very different than how I've lived mine.

You shouldn't sadden yourself with my outlook on the world; I'm doing quite fine, thank you :)

Don't forget that when you sign a work contract in California, it says explicitly that your employer can get rid of you at any time (and they are certainly happy to exercise that right, especially in startups). This is legally true for any company here, no matter how different they are from the ones I've experienced.

Also don't forget that we live in a city where entire teams frequently get cut because they're deemed unnecessary by the new CEO of the day. This is the same city where when people (albeit not in the tech industry) go on strike because they don't get certain benefits promised to them in the past, they become almost universally hated by everyone.

The US is not exactly a reference when it comes to siding with workers in those matters.

I'm not saying that I treat work as a dull, impersonal affair, far from that. As I've said in another comment, I've happily socialized and made life long friends and partaken in office outings and activities in my life as a tech employee.

But I prefer to not cloud my mind with ultimately useless romantic notions such as "your work is your family" (I already have a family, and it's filling its role quite well- don't need another one). When the bad times come, it makes dealing with things much easier. And when employers try to push this angle a bit too much, it's a sign to me that the workplace might not be too desirable to be at.

Totally. I get it. All I'm saying is that it's not out of the question that there are people out there that would be absolutely happy to treat their work just like family.

And that there's an organization/group out there that treats it just like that.

It's sort of like jaded lovers. Certainly there are people that poo-poo the notion of "soul mates" or "love at first sight." Fair enough. But it's always a little bit sad when that dampens the mood for people who are caught up within potential romance, no?

The irony is, this is a community based around the startup lifestyle. Often that means extra hours for a promise of equity (which, in my experience, isn't worth the paper it's printed on) and lower salaries. But for some reason, there's a huge outcry at this posting because it says you have to wear many hats and they don't have a ton of money to spend. Sound familiar? At least they're upfront about it.

Honestly, I'd rather spend time working for someone (or on something) that I believed in and make less money than the usual soul crushing 9 to 5 and make a boatload. I'm in that situation now, actually, and it's not great. I moved the the bay area earlier in the year to chase the almighty dollar, and my overall happiness level has gone down. Who'd have thought?

> Anyone who has been in the industry for more than 2 months knows that the "work is family" thing is a nonsensical feel good catchphrase thrown around by manipulative managers.

That might be true in general but in this case it is not.

Agree 100%.

I'm unconvinced that this is a suitable excuse. For a lot of small companies work is family. You spend an awful lot of time with these people, day in day out, and you share in triumphs and adversity together. Penny-Arcade is by far not the only organization in this boat.

Demanding, insane-o jobs are also common in those places. They may have poor work/life balance, but goddamn it, they pay their people, either with fat salaries or substantial equity or both.

It's hard to imagine the confusion under which someone would post a job that is three standard deviations more overworked than the norm, and then flippantly say "we're not money-focused" about the compensation.

You want insane-o crazy work? You pay for insane-o crazy work.

But maybe this isn't surprising. PA does come derive from an industry where talented, young people will drag themselves through broken glass just for a tiny sliver of the glory of making video games for a living.

"Work is family" is a line used by companies that want to pay their employees less money. Let's see how long you remain "Family" if you have an accident/stroke and your productivity goes down.

I don't know about you, but my mother and brother are still my family, regardless of their work output.

If this is how "family" gets treated, someone needs to call protective services.

"Family" isn't code for "children".

Which is why I didn't say "child protective services".

Many states have adult/elder protective services, too, not to mention police involvement with general abuse cases regardless of age.

Obviously, PA isn't really doing something worthy of that sort of response, but I'd want to be treated better than "shit wages, shit work-life balance" by a family member.

"harsh" and "family" do not mix.

You are confusing the hiring process and actual employment there.

Right. Work is family until the minute they decide it is in their financial interest to lay you off. Then they are "forced to makes a difficult business decision." Don't buy into bullshit business rhetoric.

Exactly. The job description is written that way on purpose, to weed out anyone who does not really, really want to work at Penny Arcade.

> Full Medical, Vision and Dental, 401k (SEP) retirement contributions (2% of annual income per year), Holiday pay, Periodic bonuses, Flexible vacation time, We're willing to relocate you if need be

An insultingly horrible job and this is everything wrong with tech-startup culture, really Marco? Maybe your post is what's insulting to 99% of the world work population (who have much worst jobs) and what's wrong in the tech culture today (disclaimer: I was Marco's first employer).

Funny how when we talk about executives or investors, "fairness" is never mentioned. A vc deserves what he earns because the market has determined his worth. When it comes devs however, suddenly its a morality play. We should forget about market value and be grateful that our jobs pay more than most of the other plebs.

I do think developers should be grateful (and investors and execs as well) for their good fortune. And I think it's perfectly fine to ask for market value. Just don't have fit - like a spoiled child - if someone is trying to give you less.

What's insulting is for a tech company to tell me that they are "not motivated by money" and therefore I should accept their below market offer. That is insulting to my intelligence.

He said it was an insultingly horrible job in the context of the software world. And requiring someone to do the job of four and paying them for less than the fair market value of one is insulting.

insulting to 99% of the world work population (who have much worst jobs)

Many of the benefits you listed are standard in Europe. Full medical coverage is provided by the government, and they have ~30 days of paid leave.

I come from Europe and I am all for good benefits (which we tried to implement in my company). But the main issue in Europe is people don't see how good they have it. This sense of entitlement (which also permeates the developer world these days) can't be good.

Also I don't see what's the big deal about "doing four different jobs". In a small company most employees do multiple jobs. It does mean that they have to work more, just that they have to be flexible.

When we read "doing four different jobs," there are two ways to take that: doing one job that involves the functions of four separate positions but still maintains a rational workload, or being asked to carry a workload that, if not actually the equivalent of four full-time jobs, is still substantially higher than that of just one job. People who are willing to give Penny Arcade the benefit of the doubt seem to be reading it the first way, whereas "skeptics" like Marco and Christopher Buecheler (the author of the previously-linked post about this) are reading it the second way. I admit I'm inclined to be in the skeptic camp, simply because the posting goes so far out of its way to hammer home that the job has no work-life balance whatsoever and will manifestly not pay you what you're worth.

And, Beucheler's larger point remains salient: Penny Arcade is not such a small company that this is so easily defensible. A five-person startup may require one person to be web application developer, sysadmin and operations manager. But Penny Arcade isn't a five-person startup. They've been around for over a decade, produce multiple comics, and put on massive industry trade shows. They can afford to hire more than one person if they have enough work for it, and no matter how many people they hire they can damn well afford to pay them market rate.

Is 2% good? 9% (soon moving to 12%) is mandatory in Australia. Yes we are an evil socialist state with good healthcare.

Australia's retirement income system is actually substantially to the right of the U.S. Social Security model, as our politics go. Conservative wonks have long advocated to shift SS to a means-tested basic income benefit plus a mandatory personal account. That's essentially Australia's system. But any attempt to move in this direction has been met with cries from our own "evil socialists" that "privatization" will inevitably enrich the robber barons and force the elderly to eat dog food.

To answer your question: That 2% in an optional 401(k) tax-advantaged private account is above and beyond the 12.4% that goes to Social Security. How much of that 12.4% the employee will ever see depends on his lifespan and the continued benevolence and fiscal prudence of the U.S. Congress.

I'm not sure that your assertion is correct. Employers are required to pay money into a super fund of your choice (or an employer default if you don't specify).

You can of course contribute privately to this balance as well, and in fact in some cases the government has matched contributions.

Super is not taxed*, though you can't withdraw till you're over 60.

It does have a lot of flexibility as well. It's possible to set up a 'Self Managed Super Fund' which can be used to buy property, or invest in other ways (though this is fairly tightly regulated).

This is of course not connected to the availability of a pension, should that money ever run out. Which makes it all feel pretty far left.

Employer vs. employee mandatory contribution is an accounting gimmick: The money's all coming from the same place, your employer's bank account.

The difference between the U.S. and Australian systems is that you own an account from the mandatory contribution, while an American owns nothing, it's just a tax to fund current and future benefits that are at the whim of current and future governments.

It's often hard to map political positions across nations. Most recently, George W. Bush was a big proponent of moving toward an "ownership society" with a Social Security system that looked more like Australia's and it was our left that fought the idea.

Australia's system is terrific, performing well and should be a model for the U.S.

And to add to twoddfin's (excellent) response: only half of that 12.4% is paid by the employer, the other half is paid by the employee

Instead of tearing down the people who still have decent jobs, why don't you focus your energy on trying to improve things for the people who don't? There was a time when a factory job that anyone could get was at least as good as the average modern day software job.

What's a perk in USA may actually be standard in other countries.

Yes that's insulting. I better be getting paid at least 200k ON TOP OF those benefits for me to even consider working at Penny Arcade and their "4 jobs in 1".

In a bit of life-imitating-art, Penny Arcade also co-writes a side webcomic about poor conditions in the gaming QA industry: http://trenchescomic.com/

The Tales from the Trenches section is less hilarious in hindsight.

People comparing this job to the work in gaming QA have no idea how bad gaming QA is, generally, compared to even the worst possible interpretation of this posting. Let's start with working for minimum wage, with no guarantees of regular hours, not a salary. Forget about 401(k) or anything else like that.

Man, the people complaining about this shit are hilarious. I bet half of you people are "libertarians". Nobody has to take this job, and if it means they don't get a good employee, then so be it, that's their business decision. I get worrying about McDonald's employees, many of those folks are living in poverty and have few other options. Anybody who can do this job has a lot of options and even if underpaid will be far from poverty.

When I was 22, I was a small businesses best programmer, IT guy, server admin, CAD draftsman, document writer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, etc. These kinds of jobs are extremely common in small businesses and honestly it was an amazing and formative experience. You people are being babies.

"Annual Salary: Negotiable, but you should know up front we’re not a terribly money-motivated group."

This is ridiculous to anyone who knows Robert Khoo. He is nothing but money oriented and motivated. In fact he was brought in to PA for exactly this reason and he is the reason why they grew to what they are now.

He definitely needs to be called out on this. Of course companies will always try to pay the minimum that they can get away with while employees will try to get as much as we can. That's normal in negotiations.

But saying that "we're not a terribly money-motivated" is just bullshit for, "we're not terribly money-motivated when it comes to your compensation so please be thankful with what we give you and don't ask for more.".

>> He definitely needs to be called out on this.

Maybe it's just because I'm old and jaded, but I think the ad is doing people a favor. Clearly it's an "overwork, underpaid" position, which should raise red flags for most people to say "Next!"

It's a lot less insidious than being dragged through an interview cycle where they don't tell you what they consider market value for the position you're interviewing for until the later stages, or where they won't tell you that everyone in the company is a workaholic doing 80 hours a week unless you know to ask.

Sure, it's a sucky position, and you can call him out. In my experience, people like that can't be educated. They'll feign some remorse, but all they'll do is use softened, misleading wording and end up wasting the time of prospective candidates who will be misled into thinking that this is a better job than it really is.

At dinner one night I overheard a senior guy tell a junior guy that what he couldn't pay him in salary, he'd pay him in experience. The junior guy was full of excitement. The senior guy was also full of excitement but did his best to conceal it because he had just won a favorable victory in convincing another to do his deeds without an equitable compensation.

I guess he didn't tell him that it would be the experience of getting screwed over.

This is absolutely the norm for the creative industry. They pour themselves into their work, and they expect you to too.

The reason is that creative work is incredibly hard in a way that's not possible to make up for with experience or training. It's hard on day one, year one, and hard on day one year twenty.

The thing that gets you through it all is the very nature of the work. It's like you're giving birth to a baby and seeing it grow and thrive, only this baby can make you shitloads of money. It's incredibly rewarding.

Penny Arcade wants the type of employee that can not only handle this, but who can thrive off of it the same way they do. That's why they're so in-your-face about how shitty the job is.

The entertainment industry is driven by big names. It's relentlessly competitive, the successful enjoy a never-ending crush of people who want to be a part of something they've been seeing on TV or the Internet and at cons for years. The unsuccessful have to fight for every minor victory. It's winner takes all, there's only so much public mindshare to go around.

If you want to know what the poor hapless sap who does get hired on to be their resident nerd is getting out of the arrangement, it's being part of this crush of attention. It's seriously life-changing. The social perks defy enumeration. After a few years of shoveling Penny Arcade's shit, they will be able to write their own salary at any number of massive media franchises who need every vetted hand they can get and are willing to pay top dollar. That's what's unsaid in that job ad, but if you've spent any time around that industry, you'd be salivating at the mouth at the opportunity.

What you described is true when applied to the creative positions. The ad is not for one of those. It's for the "IT guy"'s role. I imagine this gets you as much leverage in the entertainment industry as it got the guy who serviced Michael Bay's laptop. If you've spent any time in that industry you knew it yourself.

Well if we're talking leverage, you're right. You need very deep pockets or serious star power to get any leverage in entertainment. The most famous example of this is Arnold Schwarzenegger buying his way into action movies. That's what it takes to be able to tell them what to do.

But that's not the only way to make it.

You've just said that the guy will get a lot of leverage described as the ability to write one's own salary.

More just to mean that he'll get paid ridiculously well. Probably a bad choice of words. I didn't mean to give that impression.

What the PA hire is looking at here is a few years of $30-50,000 (if he'll even get that) followed by an immediate bump to the low six figures. Over the course of his career he'll steadily work his way to the high six figures.

This is pretty much guaranteed, although it's not stated anywhere in any contract or in the ad. Professionals in entertainment typically make an order of magnitude more than their contemporaries, after they get in and are vetted, join the trade association, etc.

You just have to get in. This involves getting a well-known production to take a chance on you. A lot of people bum around entertainment for ten-fifteen years before they catch their break. That break typically comes in the form of a very part-time gig on a huge production. You might get some face time with a big name.

That's when everything changes. Overnight, your marketability goes up tenfold. You keep working with bigger and bigger names and before you know it, you're rolling in cash and bennies.

This looks like a horrible job ad when you look at it from our perspective, but what it really offers is a short-cut. You can jump out of the IT industry and the generally shitty 'opportunities' it offers and hop immediately on the fast-track to success. You don't have to bum around with the hangers-on for years, you can get your foot in the door immediately. This is a truly Edison-type opportunity, one that comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Entertainment types don't typically hire outside the industry. Outsiders just don't understand it, can't quite grasp their priorities. That's why they chew through so many young people and burn them out, because they can't get outside professionals to work they way they need to.

PA is willing to, and you'd be a fool not to jump on it.

Can you name somebody who followed this path you just desribed? In my 15+ years in games there had not been any agmin/ops/general IT people who rose to stardom. In fact I don't recall any IT who worked at another studio before or moved into another studio. Why would anybody care about their industry experience? Why would anybody pay high six figures for such a job? It's the equivalent of roadies in the music biz.

Rose to stardom? Where did you read that in my comment?

All I'm saying is that career trajectories are very different between the two industries. Of course you won't see people with entertainment-type careers in the video games industry. They're two totally different types of sausage.

Props to PA for the honesty though. There's plenty of jobs like this out in small businesses that only need/can afford one "IT guy" to run everything, and most will have pretty much this exact set of requirements (can't pay crazy dot-com salaries, has to be able to do a bit of everything, be on-call 24/7 if the shit really hits the fan), but how many of them would actually spell it out?

Are people being honestly exploitative better or worse?

Generally, I'd say worse.

Your average small business with one IT guy isn't going to blow sunshine up your ass about what a magical, special place it is to work, which is why they won't pay you what you're worth and expect you to work stupid hours while demanding high-end qualifications. They'll know that they're hiring a generic IT guy and be happy with somebody who just got their associate's degree and likes playing with hardware. They won't be expecting you to run a high-volume website with 24/7 uptime and being eternally on call. And if they do expect too much, it's not because they've thought it through; it's just because they're generally demanding people who are kinda clueless. Often, a good conversation with somebody like that can get you some space, or an assistant, or a raise.

Here, though, they know that they're asking for a unicorn, and they know they're going to treat them poorly, and they just don't give a shit.

Sure, but those small businesses generally aren't making the one IT guy run a massively high-traffic website while putting on the largest gaming convention on the planet, right?

What kind of small business needs 24/7 support?

It's a good point, at least in this case. Nobody's going to die if PA goes down for a few hours, and they're not even going to lose millions.

Being asked to work a few extra hours when PAX tickets go on sale or something would be reasonable. On call 24/7 is just gratuitous.

Any small business that's selling something online. If the website falls over so badly it can't sell anymore, and there's only one guy who knows how to fix it, guess who's going to get the 2 AM call from the boss?

While the ad is not the kind of job I would want, I have to say, I appreciated its... bluntness.

The fact that there are red flags means that the few candidates who actually apply know full well what they're getting into and that nobody's time is wasted.

It doesn't seem that out-of-the-ordinary in how horrible it is, but there is something really unsettling in the "yeah, this is going to be terrible" attitude of the job poster. There's an arrogance there that I don't think is earned by being part of an only sometimes funny publication.

I'm reminded of the movie MoneyBall. Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt are employed with what outsiders would consider horrible jobs, but each stick with it because they enjoy it.

As an outsider you may think Penny Arcade's offer is bad, but someone, somewhere would love nothing more to work with the people behind that legendary comic and expo, no matter how rough it is.

Edit - I would also like to make an analogy with MMO guilds, particularly World of Warcraft. There are players who spend 4+ hours a night with their guild hardcore raiding (especially after the release of a content patch). These hardcore guilds have very strict enlistments. Unless you're as hardcore as them you're not in. An outsider would think they're insane, but there is no shortage of people applying to these guilds because they enjoy the experience of hardcore raiding. Some of these guilds have a very family-like bond toward each other, so you have to consider community/culture fit.

I assume you're being sarcastic when you write legendary, right? Peanuts, Pogo, Calvin and Hobbes, Krazy Kat, Little Nemo... those are legendary comic strips. Penny Arcade is a comic strip focused on a narrow subculture (man children) within a subculture (video game fans) that largely consists of jokes on videogame news cycle topics. It's the sort of thing that will be entirely without value in 40 years.

That being said, I'm sure someone out there really does believe it's a legendary comic strip and will want to be a part of that.

Brutal and incisive comment. Both in terms of the (non) value of the comic (I would extend this to every web comic I've personally ever seen), and in terms of its audience.

> somewhere would love nothing more to work with the people behind that legendary comic

Yes, and exploiting somebody like that is wrong. They could hire them and treat them well, but because they're famous, they couldn't be fucking bothered.

This shitty behavior goes on all the time in fashion [1] and in the movie industry. I'm sad to hear it's coming to tech.

[1] e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_Wears_Prada_%28novel%...

I don't think a hobby is comparable. They do the raiding thing because it is fun. They have only a social obligation to stay, and they can quit anytime that it doesn't fit into their life anymore.

Remember that as general manager, the Brad Pitt character would be making $Nx10^6 per annum. Didn't look like such a horrible job to me. My rough salary estimate is based on the fact that at the end of the movie he turns down the equivalent job at the Boston Red Sox for $12.5 million.

I feel like I have been living in a cave. I have never heard of Penny Arcade but people are referring to them as legendary. Visiting their site feels like going back to 2006. What am I missing?

> This is everything wrong with tech-startup culture

In my experience, this isn't really tech-startup culture, it's entertainment industry culture. If you know anyone who has ever worked in film, music or videogames, it's a fairly typical thing.

Penny Arcade is a marketing company

They're all marketing companies... except for government contractors; those are bribery companies.

The job posting looks an awful lot like the usual videogame programmer job: it's bound to attract some people just because of the nature of the job, so they don't bother adding good money or perks. In this case it's a little more blatant and there seems to be some boasting from the employer, but in the end it's the same.

And the saddest of all this is that the job will get covered. In fact, I'm sure that there will be a lot of applicants. Just like for videogame programming.

Yes, we need to fight this. It's good that there are people complaining publicly. By the way, I believe that a few details from the job posting would be illegal in my country, although probably not in the US.

"a person that can do four jobs"

"terrible at work-life balance"

"on call 24/7"

"potentially offensive environment"

"being pushed to your limit is part of the job"

"sometimes tedious work"

That, and Penny Arcade's history of avoidable and frustrating controversies (http://business.financialpost.com/2013/06/21/download-code-p...), and their terrible responses to them?

Where do I sign up?

Those controversies are over-analyzed. People tend to forget that these two guys are, like all of us, human and don't have some sort of fancy PR machine to soften the blowback. Krahulik suffers from chronic anxiety and so when the threats started piling up, he responded in kind the way an animal gets backed into a corner. There's no denying he fucked up, but curiously his critics seem to gloss over his attempts to apologize.

I've been at PAX. These guys are approachable, they're kind and funny and do not carry an air of superiority. I know their failings as well as I know my own.

An apology that is followed by screwing up along similar lines is really not worth very much.

Apologising is nice and all, but if no actual change in behaviour occurs (whether intentionally or unintentionally) there really is no point to it.

I don't understand. What was the apology? For the transphobic thing or the dickwolf thing? What was the similar event?

Saying you're sorry then putting out a goddamn tshirt with a reference to a rape joke isn't an apology.

In its history as a comic, the strip has covered topics such as bestiality, suicide, torture, a juicer that "fucks" oranges, among others. There wasn't a similar outcry. Why is that?

also, I don't believe that's the actual chronology of the dickwolf debacle.

I read more into it and you're right; they posted the comic, then posted a passive-aggressive "apology" comic, then started selling the shirts. They took down the shirts and apologized, and then Krahulik later said that taking down the shirts was the biggest mistake he's made. So it's actually worse than I originally thought.

Also the Fruit Fucker does not rape PEOPLE, it rapes fruit. There has been outcry, but pretty balanced by the fact that it "takes advantage" of an inanimate object.

My question stands. the strip has covered topics such as bestiality, suicide, torture, a juicer that "fucks" oranges (note, I didn't say people, in case you were correcting me), among others. There wasn't a similar outcry. Why is that?

> Their unreasonable, immature expectations are a damaging message to send to their huge audience of young software developers.

Two things:

1. The intent of their hiring specification isn't to send a message to their audience, it's to hire someone to service their audience. I'm not sure why the two are assumed to be mutually exclusive? Don't want to apply? Then don't apply - let market forces weed them out.

2. In all of my years of applying for jobs and hiring people, not once has a candidate ever met exactly the profile nor eventually fulfilled every responsibility in a hiring specification. This sounds a bit overdramatic and too pedantic. Let it go.

Penny Arcade are being publicly called out for their questionable ethical behavior. That is market forces at work.

This passive aggressive tone permeates a lot of PA's comics, postings, and general presence. So I'm not surprised to see it. They've built a community around the over all nerd thug mentality that exists within their forums.

I stopped reading PA after the controversy about the rape wolf and their dismissive reaction to it.

I wouldn't want to work there. Not because of the hard work aspect, but because I can imagine that the overall attitude that informs their public work would inform their internal political structure as well.

Lets face it, you're not curing cancer here. You're making events and media that appeal to a certain sub-culture. This shouldn't require repressed nerd rage to get right.

I'm not defending PA's job listing, because I do agree that it's absurd, but it's also important to remember that job listings tend to be for "ideal" candidates. Actual hired candidates are often far less qualified than the ideal candidate listed in the job requirement.

For instance, ideally, I'd love to hire a dev that has 5+ years of professional PHP experience building web apps and has experience with machine learning systems specifically relating to fraud. But in all likelihood I'll be lucky to hire someone with 3+ years of professional PHP experience with zero experience doing machine learning. The hired candidate will likely be simply interested in machine learning. The hired candidate will likely have no experience with fraud-related topics.

I can train you. I can teach you those things. But ideally, I wouldn't have to.

Likewise with PA's job listing, ideally, they want someone who can do all of those things. Practically, they'll hire someone who can do a very small subset of those things.

That said, it's a bit unrealistic to expect one person to do the job of four people (which is what this listing wants), especially for low salary, so... yeah, it's a bit ridiculous.

Yeah, but unicorn ads usually have a “please, please, please” hopeful tone. This one specifies that you literally have to do the job of 4 people and are expected to be the technical epi-center.

Also, my first impression, like Marco’s, was “Is this a joke?” Especially this line: It’s rarely we call on it, but if something breaks in the middle of the night, you are expected to be on call to address that issue 24/7.

Sure, but my boss also expects me to be working the entire 8 hours I'm sitting at my office, not browsing Hacker News... :)

Expectations are one thing, and they're very easy to state up front. Reality is quite another, and much more difficult to enforce.

Oh cmon. There are thousands of tech jobs that don't pay that well and require all those skills. The difference is that when those companies go to find someone, they lie in the ad. How is being honest insulting?

I'll bet there's plenty of young developers out there who don't mind working long hours and would love to spend their time flying around with the Penny-Arcade crew keeping everything running - admittedly they won't be hiring the best applicants in the industry with the rates and conditions that they're offering, but I doubt they'll have much trouble finding someone who fits the bill.

For anyone not familiar with Penny Arcade( PA ), the absurd condition are there to reduce the number of candidates applying. Pa gets thousands of applications every time they have a job opening. Everyone dismissing the possible job at PA for those conditions is automatically removed from the process and that is exactly what R.Khoo wants. In case you are wondering why would you still want to work there, then you are not the Candidate, and >shock<, they don't want you there. Yes it is that simple.

Anyone who wants to work at PA, knows why very well.( hint: its not the money )

So they'll probably get the person that they ask for, but the question is what value they will get out of that person. They've asked for qualities that make for a good PM, but without emphasizing any of the qualities that make for a maintainable code base. Anyone they hire is guaranteed to be eager to please, and may have a problem saying "no" to work that comes at the expense of their focus.

I don't trust their technical vetting abilities, as their technical staff is small, and were not themselves selected by people with much technical expertise. The issue isn't that their job posting is unfair, it's that it weeds out the wrong people.

At risk of sounding pedantic, why would someone want to work at PA?

It's a reasonable strategy, because it's the same one other prestige companies use, particularly in gaming. Blizzard, for one, doesn't pay market rates for developers. It's a 15% difference or so, and you accept it because...well, it's Blizzard, and you really want to work there. The same may hold for a few other prestigious companies, like Valve, Bioware, etc.

Does it hold for Penny Arcade? Unknown.

Does it have any implication at all for the general profession? No way. It's funny to see how upset people are getting about a job ad. They are "insulted". But really what they are experiencing is, at worst, Penny Arcade misattributing themselves so much "juice" that they'd be willing to let someone grind themselves up in a job.

(That is, perhaps, the only narrow way in which this job posting is immoral, is if it describes working conditions so horrific that no-one could escape without deep emotional scarring. And no, I don't think it's quite that bad.)

I'm also finding it funny how upset people are getting, but I'm attributing it to a different cause. I think that a large number of developers have inflated ideas of how rare and valuable we are. Actually, that's not quite true. We are valuable, we're just not rare.

There's plenty of developer talent to go around and job ads like this are getting filled even by firms without whatever prestige Penny Arcade may have. It can be scary to know that this is what your next job might look like and I think there's a lot of denial out there, but basic supply and demand is going to keep moving developer jobs in this direction.

What I've heard is that at Valve the formula is lowish base pay, plus a shot at exceptionally generous bonuses if you can convince your coworkers that you've been helping to bring home the bacon.

This blog post basically boils down to: you will work far more than a regular full time job, and you will be paid poorly.

This is not, as far as I can tell, actually supported by the job posting itself.

I really can't understand why this is getting upvoted so much. I'd love to see an intelligent discussion of unrealistic demands in tech jobs, but this isn't it.

This is not, as far as I can tell, actually supported by the job posting itself.

They literally tell you that you'll work far more than a regular job.


-We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT

-being pushed to your limit is part of the job

-and don’t mind having a really bad sense of work-life balance, this is the job for you.

-We’re terrible at work-life balance

-work is pretty much your life

And here they tell you that you'll be paid poorly:

-We’re more likely to spend less money on salary and invest that on making your day-to-day life at work better.

"Do four jobs" does not mean "work 160 hours/week". It just means that you'll have four different areas of responsibility.

Most of the rest is wishy-washy subjective stuff that could mean anything from "you will basically be our slave" to "this is a fantastic place to work that pays well and you get to go home early every day, but we don't want to oversell it."

Wow, I'm really divorced from the real world. The Penny Arcade ad, other than the edgy snark, reads like virtually every developer position I've ever read in the media/news business.

(yes, this is an indictment of the already troubled news industry)

While I don't usually find myself in staunch agreement with some of what Marco has to say (particularly with regards to Apple), I fully endorse this post.

I found myself seething while reading the original Penny Arcade job listing. The cognitive dissonance required to write it is beyond my comprehension. In particular, the nonsense about somehow justifying a below-market salary in order to "make the office nicer".

Needless to say, my appreciation for Penny Arcade as a whole plummeted drastically today.

One of the few things to make me audibly laugh today. They expect you to know everything(to be THE MOST CRUCIAL person in the company), but I let it go thinking there was some perk I was going to read next which justified it.

Perks include: on call 24/7 low pay work is your life

But I guess we're not the people they're looking for, and when they do find someone they give them a high-five, a latte, and scratch their hipster beards and laugh at how materialistic we are needing money and free time.

Personally, that job is not for me, but I don't see the harm in "shooting for the moon" in a job description if they think they can get a candidate that matches the criteria. Why wouldn't you try to get someone overqualified and then underpay them if you think you can? It's not PA's fault people will apply for the position or that they can sell themselves as a desirable destination for more reasons than balance and compensation.

> "Why wouldn't you try to get someone overqualified and then underpay them if you think you can?

Perhaps you have a basic sense of human decency and fairness? Just because someone is naive (or just plain dumb) doesn't make it ethical to take advantage of them.

No one is forcing them to apply though. Your point would be totally valid if they were tricking people into thinking it was going to be better than it is, but they are totally transparent.

You could almost make the exact same argument about volunteering. You are asking for people to work hard and not get paid with the upside being they feel good about what they are doing. This is virtually the same thing, they are saying if the environment and lifestyle is appealing to you, and you're willing to deal with the downsides, please apply.

I think there is an argument to be made that newer developers, who might not be familiar with hiring practises, and see this job from Penny Arcade might leave thinking that's the norm.

Why would this salary be very low?

Sure, they say that money isn't important to them, but there's no reason to assume it wouldn't be slightly competitive.

Penny Arcade is in Seattle. If they want a chance of hiring anyone they would at least need to be in the ballpark of other job offers out there. Microsoft and Amazon pay pretty well, so I don't think this number will be as insulting as people are assuming it will be.

"Annual Salary: Negotiable, but you should know up front we’re not a terribly money-motivated group. We’re more likely to spend less money on salary and invest that on making your day-to-day life at work better."

They're about as clear as they can be without actually stating a number. It's gonna be low.

Low, but they have to know that if they want someone even halfway decent they'll have to be competitive.

I can't imagine they'd lowball you too much when a good developer can literally walk down the street from Penny Arcade and be at Google's or Adobe's offices in Seattle. Not to mention Amazon, Microsoft, or anywhere else in the area that pays well.

Archive of the advertisement for prosperity/history — http://archive.is/pqsJT

Not to be that guy, but... it's "posterity" and not "prosperity" :)

I actually did intend "prosperity" in this case, though "posterity" would work as well.

No. You did not.

In what sense did you intend it? What can an archive of a website possibly have to do with being "successful in material terms"?

Good call. The Internet Archive cowardly refuses to archive the page due to linkedin's robots.txt file.

> cowardly refuses


In any case Jason Scott says they did grab it. https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/405475303423619074

Sorry, it was a play off the error message "cowardly refuses to write to a non-existent directory".

When I attempted to save it with:


I get this error message:


It doesn't seem to actually say how much the job pays, I mean who know they're idea of not very much could be 200k a year, who knows.

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