The strange thing about search is it’s a lot like academia: full of assholes. I know, since I’m one of them. So I was trying to figure out why this twitter about my Keynote bothered me so:
“@tychay apparently serving red meat to the faithful at #phptek proving there are language Nazis on both sides. —tweet from a stream follower
Then it hit me. I act like an asshole, I’m probably an asshole, but never, not once, do I engage in personal attacks that aren’t obvious jokes. I don’t go up there like the founder of Ruby on Rails [Ed: corrected (see comments)] and in every talk say (to me):
In my current talk I have a slide that says to the viewer that if they disagree they should give me a big “Fuck Y—.” on their blog. I suppose that’s a bit ironic since this is the same talk where people explicitly create F-bomb counters on IRC and and twitter.
[Ego, assholes, internet architecture, being wrong, and learning after the jump.]
I suppose there is a self-effacing quality that is part and parcel to my ego, just like there is an irony that follows my asshole-ness. But then again, if you guys didn’t tweet it, I wouldn’t believe some of the things that come out of my mouth:
“The Internet is an Ogre”
[Twitter stream and random excerpts from my current talk—through which it dawns on you that I don’t prepare my speeches at all: I have foot; I insert mouth.]
“Closing keynote by @tychay about to start. Don’t bring your kids. (-:” —php|tek
“@tychay is starting! FUCK COUNT: 0” —christian
(“”Donald Knuth: fuck him”” “That sounds like @tychay” “myep” “What is it with the Knuth hatred? Is there some meme I missed?Knuth is my homeboy.” “hahah, I was quoting the closing keynote speaker at php|tek”)
“that’s one fbomb #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“#phptek @tychay is the guy who killed #ruby” —Travis Swicegood
“Terry Chay – THe Man Who Killed Ruby #phptek @tychay” —christian
“”Everyone doing Ruby is basically in school.” -@tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“#phptek @tychay said “Hot Shit” #tcfc” —christian
“”dhh is like the jesus christ of ruby on rails” according to @tychay #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“”The Jesus Christ of Ruby on Rails” – referring to DHH – @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”DHH is, like, the Jesus Christ of Ruby on Rails.” – @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“So derick is transcribing the talk in #phptek for the ones not there ;)” —auroraeosrose
“4 Layers at the architectural level: Stability, Scalability, Speed, & Security … @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“stability – make it work @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”Mental masturbation of architecture” – #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“everyone at #phptek run “track hashtags” – @ramsey and I are the only ones using it” —Travis Swicegood
“enjoying @tychay’s talk instead of tweeting it like everybody and their mother #phptek” —Ivo Jansch
“”Do the least amount that gets you to your destination” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“Ruby bashing at #phptek, go follow/read @tswicegood for the transcript :D” —Till!
“omg @tychay is awesome #Phptek” —christian
“”stuff like binding a database to the web, because that’s really hard, apparently” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“”That explains why no one actually does xslt” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”This is why I’m an engineer” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”Rails is like a rounded rectangle and PHP is like a ball of nails.” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“”You throw a ball of nails at something, and it sticks to shit” #phptek @tychay” —Graham Christensen
“”You throw it and it sticks to shit” — PHP, a ball of nail, @tychay #phptek #tcfc” —christian
“”PHP is like ball of nails, you throw it at shit and it will stick!” – @tychay” —Helgi Þormar Þ.
“”Rails is like a rounded rectangle and PHP is like a ball of nails.” @tychay “it sticks to shit” #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“#phptek #tcfc I’ve got the Terry Curse count in this presentation at: 6 F, 5 S, 1 D” —EliW
“”You string some shit together and it barely holds together, but it becomes Wikipedia.” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“”Even if you’re a total incompetent, you can build it and it becomes my problem” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“I think the biggest feature of rails is that it has a built in cult #phptek” —Josh
“”You’re thinking you’re James T. Fucking Kirk and you’re captain of the Starship Enterprise.” @tychay #phptek #tcfc” —Ben Ramsey
“sitting here wishing I was at #phptek :(” —sdwrage
“”You could eat babies” – #terrychay #phptek” —christian
“Does “fricking” count for the #tcfc? #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“breaking news… @tychay eats babies!! #news #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“”He thought physics was fun with a ph” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”[my physics teacher] also thought physics was fun with a ‘ph’” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“”Paul Reinheimer was dressed up as KISS” “We don’t know which one” – viral marketing in action @tychay #phptek” —auroraosrose
“@preinheimer dressed up as some KISS dude is viral marketing #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“@tychay: “viral growth: ha ha hot girls!”” —Maggie Nelson, Schematic
“@ramsey It should be a @tychay expletive counter. Any expletive including, but not limited to, “fuck” should be counted. Or does that ruin?” —Evan
“Viral Growth = e^kt #terrychay #phptek” —christian]
“:-) #phptek #terrychay” —christian
“adding a to the end of a subject line in an email gives you a 20% increase @tychay #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“”:) == servers dying” @tychay #tfcf #phptek” —Graham Christensen
“”Email subject line + = +20%” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“FAILS – “Languages can scale, it’s architectures that don’t” @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”At the end of the day, languages can scale. It’s architectures that fail.” @tychay #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
“”One line PHP, errr…one line Perl scripts” @tychay #phptek” —auiroraeosrose
“”Its the best thing that happend to PHP since rasmus working on it” @tychay #phptek” —Graham Christensen
“”memcache is the real threat to the PHP world – PHP speed actually matters” – @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”java developers are idiots” @tychay #phptek” —Graham Christensen
“”you can only write two lines [of j2ee] a day” @tychay #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“”Switching architectures is a big disaster” – referring to idea of switching twitter to PHP @tychay #phptek” —auroraeosrose
“”I tore him a new ass hole. I mean, he literally walked out with two assholes.” #phptek @tychay” —Travis Swicegood
“@tychay isn’t selling a book like selling your idea to VCs? ;-)” —Travis Swicegood
“people never laugh at the abortion humor #phptek” —funkatron
“you nuts have invented a name for twitterspam: “chay”… I can’t read tweets this fast!!! #phptek #tcfc” —Chuck Burgess
“#phptek Finally made it to @tychay’s keynote just in time for the security part.” —Chris Shiflett of OmniTI
“@tychay has just hit his “fuck” stride. #phptek #tcfc” —Ben Ramsey
“#phptek Use tools like HTML Purifier and Inspekt.” —Chris Shiflett
“hands @shiflett his payback #phptek” —funkatron
“#tcfc I’m having a hard time keeping track… @tychay just throws them out too naturally #phptek” —Travis Swicegood
“”I’m so drunk” @tychay #phptek” —Graham Christensen
Red meat to the Faithful
[To the people quoted above. You knew I was going to do that. After all, I just like hearing my name and you obliged. ]
So now you don’t have to see my talk. All you have to do is read the tweets and imagine sprinkling in 37 “fucks,” 17 “shits,” 9 “asses,” 4 “hells,” 3 “damns,” 3 mentions of pr0n, 3 “mental masturbations,” 2 “bitches,” and one Jesus Christ reference. (ref and ref)
And if you can’t imagine fitting all that in. I’ll be giving the talk again at OSCON. So go to it, dammit!
Searching for the exit
It starts because, I read this article and I was wrong.
Since it’s sold, I can now say all the stuff I’ve only shared privately. After all, before Powerset even existed, I had wrote this article so I’m on record.
Then, last year, a friend pointed out that the exit strategy was sound because companies like this could enter a bidding war between Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.
I thought about this for a week, and came back to him and said, “You know what. I thought about it for a week, and it’s still stupid. After all, when you look at the problem…say it’s NLP. Well that’s just AI-baked over. It failed as AI, so it became expert systems. It failed as that, so now they call it NLP. So, the chance that it has something significant to add to search after five decades of failure in all areas everywhere—even with the best minds in the world looking at it—are remote. Let’s be generous and say 1%.
“If your strategy is to be bought out. Then you can’t really survive on your own, but there has got to be a market for your stuff. Now, I don’t mean the product you make—I mean there have got to be companies trying to sell themselves, and other companies looking to buy. Let’s look at the buyers, since there are less of them.
“Now if you’re Google, and say you have your way of doing things…your philosophy. That’s fine. Each year there are about 20 or so engineers you’re hiring who are experts in NLP who are trying to morph their techniques onto your problem and your philosophy. So the chance that anyone else can do it, having to build themselves everything you’ve build, including infrastructure, is remote.
“But say they do. Well if you’re Google, you must know by now how difficult it is to “buy” search because the egos there. After all, Yahoo absorbed three search engines years ago, and from what I’ve heard, there are still three search engines internally at Yahoo, each vying for different markets because politics pushed them into that niche. If you’re Google, you’ve got to be thinking, it’d be easier to deal with hiring your own team of NLP experts instead of buying out some company and dealing with an integration that will never happen.
“So how long would that take? Well NLP attracts the best students in the the top CS departments in the country—the top minds in CS. You can just hire the top of the class. To staff an entire Powerset, heck a few Powersets, would take graduating class of one year, tops. And the best thing is: no ego. They won’t come in thinking they’re the shit.
“So if you’re Google, you’d adopt a “wait-and-see” and if it does pan out, that’s your strategy. You’d also be pretty confident that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, ‘There is no ‘there’ there.’ and if there was you’d have a plan that will take less time to implement and cost less too.
“So if Google isn’t bidding, you’re stuck between Microsoft and Yahoo. (Ask is built on NLP so they ain’t buying.) And Yahoo has no money and deep knowledge of the integration problem. They’re not really going to bid.
“And if you have one player, Microsoft, you don’t have a bidding war. You’d be lucky if, given all the search “sellers” out there with only one buyer, you’re the music chair they pick when the music stops.”
That was my opinion. There are about twenty people in the Valley who can confirm I said this in its entirety between one year and six months ago, some who remember some parts verbatim from three years ago or more.
So you can see how I was embarrassed when I was wrong.
So, being an “asshole,” I say:
“Without Gates, stupidity reigns. Enjoy digesting the egos, MS. Congrats Powerset! [link to $100m buyout]” —me
Someone tries to bite off my head
“@tychay It’s good to see you’re still a first class asshole riding on the coattails a project you participated in.” —some guy who works at Powerset
I’m not too sure if he means Plaxo which sold for $160 million or Tagged which isn’t doing bad either…l doubt he means the other two companies still based on software I wrote for them.
Now, I need to do some background here. For the last year, a segment of Powerset developers have been on a vendetta. It started when the company, tried to Politics and the English Language their choice of using Ruby, “We’re Ruby, but we’re not Rails.” they told their investors.
Well I noticed from their job descriptions that that was b.s. They are Rails, not Ruby. I called them on it.
Ever since then, they’ve been riding my ass and twitter storming me. For every message I make, they make three or more.
It really bugs me, because I sort of like Powerset. I like one of the co-founders I know, Barney Pell, a lot. I mean he has an ego—Search and NLP is like the theoretical physics of the internet and CS world—but he’s definitely not an asshole. Which is rare.
“For all my cuss, I don’t resort to personal attacks like you, DHH, or others in the Rails community.” —me
“@tychay So what are you working on lately terry? You stand on the shoulders of giants and claim you’re taller than the next guy. Disgusting.” —Powerset developer “@tychay I get the luxury of insulting you because my ideas on web scaling out in open source. You just have bombast and subordinates.” —Powerset developer “@tychay Unlike you, I’m working on solving problems rather than trying to make them for other people. My model has headroom. Yours is capped.” —Powerset developer
I should mention at this point, that I don’t follow this guy on twitter. And I can’t follow his conversation there because that feature is disabled since it keeps going down. There is a little irony here because Twitter is built on Ruby on Rails.
(I should also mention, for those of you who have slogged this far, that I don’t think that Rails is bad for Powerset. The performance problems in search should not be in the front-end layer. Bottlenecks and difficult problems are nearly all in the back end in search. So I really have no issue with Powerset’s choice of Rails.)
I decide that this is not going to get anywhere. Pretty soon he’ll just message his co-workers and they’ll join the gang bang—I have the scars to prove it.
I must nip this in the bud…
“I work at Tagged with 70m+pages/day. You, on the other hand, are proving my tweet about egos ;-).” —Me
Yeah, that was a low blow. Powerset doesn’t have the traffic so it’s tough to whip out a dick and the ruler. Then, if he or others respond, they fall into the second part. It’s a lose-lose.
(I admit it, I’m an asshole.)
But ego? (again)
But my ego?
I’m not the one saying I’m going to kill Google. I’m not even the one saying I’m going to kill Facebook.
I’m not the one arguing my architecture scales…I’m talk about languages, not architectures. All languages scale; some architectures don’t. I rip on all frameworks. There is article after article with me ripping on frameworks that are not Rails. Who is the “language nazi?”
I’m not the one using an unproven solution for scalability. I’m quick to point out that Facebook, which uses PHP, scales 50x the level of Tagged. I say that in every talk. Twitter’s problems aren’t Rails, you say? O RLY? Spending all that time solving solved scalability problems in Rails left how much time to solve the unsolved ones? Please remind me.
I’m not the one pissing on every Apache developer out there thinking that I don’t need to have a working module on 70% of web servers on the internet. I’m not the one who thinks I can build my own version better.
I’m not the one with nobody using my website who taunts other people, says they’re the shit on the pages of Wired magazine, and then writes a book bragging how smart they fucking are. There is a line between cocky and stupid. I’m not the one crossing it.
I don’t inspire a cult following. The most I rate is a cynical twitter stream when I talk.
If people don’t agree with me, I’m not the one saying…
Instead, I saying…
Here is how I finished my talk: “I don’t want to be proven right about Rails. I want twitter to be up! I use it, dammit!”
When we are wrong is when we learn the most. I want to be wrong.
As I was with Powerset. As I admit I was.
And because of that, I learn.
Who is the one with the ego again?
Two self quotes
Because of my “ego,” I must self-quote:
“I’m sorry I didn’t crack enough jokes or use enough [cuss words], but I’m sure people will forgive me. They can just attend one of my talks and get their cuss quota for the year. And if not, coding these web apps themselves involves a lot of swearing—a lot of blood, sweat and swear.” —Me in a podcast interview
“Ruby on rails…it’s not THE shit *pause* It’s shit.” —Me, 
both of which bring me to the…
“While we love to hear @tychay swear, thing is, he really does know this shit better than anyone I know. #phptek” —Ben Ramsey
Thanks, Ben, I don’t deserve that—thing is, I’m still trying to get my “shit” together myself.
Thanks for being a part of this discussion. Thanks for every Rails developer out there, you’ll prove me wrong…someday.
That’s when I’ll learn…somehow.
Until then, you’ll make an amusing anecdote in my slides…somewhere.