Marie recently joined the NextGen Board at the Computer History Museum and they had their first event (with her on the board) on October 26, titled “Day of the Dead: Postmortems of Silicon Valley Failures.”
First no headphone jack and now inability to catch fire and explode. Apple iPhone 7 is a HUUGE disappointment! https://t.co/6NHmiIF3mR
— terry chay (@tychay) October 12, 2016
This tweet touched off an interesting conversation:
My father often calls Apple Store, “the Apple company”, so it with some amusement that I read MacRumors’s rare case of good reporting where they show a lot of evidence that Apple is in the process of dropping the “store” moniker from their Apple Store locations.
The next day, John Gruber linked to it and added:
The “Store” branding only made sense when the concept was novel. Now that Apple’s stores are well established, it makes sense to drop the “Store”. Think about the brands that are Apple’s peers in retail. No one goes to the Tiffany Store or Gucci Store, they just go to Tiffany or Gucci.
This is a classic example of taking good reporting and diminishing it with thoughtless punditry and fanboyism—it must be a good move because Apple did it. In the end, the reader is left worse off than if the link was provided without comment.
My Facebook feed has lit of with people on both sides of the Peter Theil/Gawker revelation, but that’s because I personally know many of the people involved and have lived and worked in a tech bubble for the last 16 years.
Sadly, Half of them need to venture out of it for a bit to understand why this is an issue to the other 99.9%.
In the meantime, I guess this means I to be posting about how I work in the salt mines with a six figure salary, how the homeless need to get out of MY city, or something… Because here in the bubble, I’m the one that is “out-of-touch.”
(Hint: all the links above are to articles about Silicon Valley that are/were among the most-emailed articles in the New York Times at the time. Half my friends clearly misunderstand why they proved so popular.)
The outline slide from an executive briefing one year ago(2014-05-06) (with my commentary):
One year ago today (2014-03-03):
During Tech budget and resourcing meeting for the 2014-2015 Annual Plan, one of the ideas proposed was possibly sourcing an incubator group to (re)“build Wikipedia or other major project in line with the Vision from the ground up, without prior constraints from existing technology, processes”, or communities. The idea was, even if it didn’t succeeded it would cause the organization “to think differently, to create energy around being BOLD,” and catalyze the movement.
This had some currency from many of the participants1, even the C-level2 involved, that was until a director argued that this was infeasible due to the Innovator’s Dilemma. Ignoring the obvious misreading of the book, he argued that because this might destroy the existing order inside the organization, it couldn’t be done by the organization itself, and thus the proposal died despite never going up for consensus consideration.3
Deciding that it is politically stupid to point out their Readers’ Digest understanding of a deeply-flawed business text, I instead argued that an organization built around vision, rather than profits, does not have the same constraints that allow disruptive technologies to spell their undoing.
That argument didn’t carry weight because people with more experience than me were sure that this initiative would be defunded in the next annual plan and that no one would ever get behind a project that is a direct threat to them. Incubation outside the WMF is only possibility.
It’s sad that people don’t bother to know the most basic lived history of their own industries (or have a terribly short memory).
I give you the history of Firefox:
The Mozilla Firefox project was created by Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross as an experimental branch of the Mozilla browser.
The Phoenix name was kept until April 14, 2003, when it was changed because of a trademark dispute with the BIOS manufacturer, Phoenix Technologies (which produces a BIOS-based browser called Phoenix FirstWare Connect). The new name, Firebird, met with mixed reactions, particularly as theFirebird database server already carried the name.
The project which became Firefox started as an experimental branch of the Mozilla Suite called m/b (or mozilla/browser). After it had been sufficiently developed, binaries for public testing appeared in September 2002 under the name Phoenix
Hyatt, Ross, Hewitt and Chanial developed their browser to combat the software bloat of the Mozilla Suite (codenamed, internally referred to, and continued by the community as SeaMonkey), which integrated features such as IRC, mail and news, and WYSIWYG HTML editing into one software suite.
Dave Hyatt would leave Netscape4 for Apple in 2002 and go on to architect the number one competitor to Firefox, Safari and WebKit (the core of Safari and Google Chrome). Blake Ross would work at Netscape/Mozilla until 2004 and be nominated the next year for Wired magazine’s top Rave Award, Renegade of the Year as all of Mozilla’s resources had were redirected to Firefox, a project started internally by two employees to combat the poor direction of original Mozilla project.
So yeah, Fuck you.
One Year later
It really is astounding when you think about the level of incompetence that was on display.
There are only two large-scale consumer-facing Internet non-profits: The Wikimedia Foundation and Mozilla Foundation (which owns Mozilla Corporation). Someone makes a statement that everyone accepts and affects the entire annual budget. Meanwhile, the only other company that shares organizational affinity with yours is a living counterfactual to the statement.
I didn’t say anything as I was sitting on my resignation letter and didn’t want to humiliate my colleagues, but the disappointment I had back then was immense. Now that I’m gone, that disappointment has turned into relief.
- In the months since this time whenever I mentioned this to a WMF staff member, often you’d pretty much have to hold him or her back from wanting to switch into this team if it were to exist. ↩
- Chief level, as in CEO, CTO, Vice President, etc. ↩
- Not that it would have won that given that this would have required a resource sacrifice among all the Directors… Still, it would have been worth it just to see who cared more about the mission and who more about their fiefdom (or their job). :-) ↩
- Mozilla Foundation before it was separated in from Netscape in July 2003. ↩
Me: Why did you send me this?
M—: It was a nice review. I thought it was interesting that this is only the second review on Yelp of his business.
Me: He’s probably too busy and with so many referrals he doesn’t have time for Yelp.
Actually reading it, the conclusion is obvious.1
- Reminds me of my 3rd grade book report. ↩
In 2008, I had a friend who was the co-founder and CTO of a startup. He was getting a lot of pressure from the other co-founder to get into TechCrunch. I said, “Why the fuck does anyone want to be in Techcrunch?1 The only people who read it are your competitors.”2
This morning just before I woke up, I dreamt that I found out that TechCrunch had made it into the top ten most popular websites.
In my dream, Michael Arrington still owned them and through a systematic analytically-driven approach of A-B testing subject lines, content, and marketing, they had applied it to an entire network of blogs to make it very popular. Michael had picked up ballroom dancing as a hobby and even his ballroom dance blog, through this approach, had become far more popular than it deserved to be.
I started thinking, “Wow, that’s crazy. I remember back in 2005 when TechCrunch was so unknown Michael had to comment on Scoble’s blog to get traffic.3 Who would have thought it could become so popular?”
Then I woke up and remembered that nobody reads TechCrunch.4
- Usually it’s because they have a tiny ego and need to be a big fish in a very tiny, tiny pond. BTW, I remember at the time Tagged was really obsessed with TechCrunch. ↩
- I suppose given the big Valley circle jerk, another valid reason is if you are seeking funding from investors. ↩
- This part is true. ↩
- Not even your competitors. Because even if TechCrunch does write about you, they won’t catch it before it scrolls off the front page an hour later. ↩
When I first heard someone use the term “the sharing economy” last year:
Me: What the fuck is “the sharing economy”?
Someone: It’s a catchall for businesses like AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and the like.
What did I mean?
Well to take one example, this was sent to me recently by a friend because it appeared on her feed and she was curious how they got the numbers:
Let’s do the math, shall we?2