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Silicon Valley Doesn't Have an Attitude Problem, OK? 262

Posted by samzenpus
from the high-horse dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: In Silicon Valley they think differently, and if that leads to arrogance, so be it. At least that's what Bloomberg Businessweek's Joel Stein implies in his long meditation on the area's outlook on technology, money and changing the world. Stein set out to examine the underlying notion that Silicon Valley's and San Francisco's tech entrepreneurs are feeding a backlash by being, in a word, jerks. His conclusion seems to be that they may well be jerks, but they're misunderstood jerks. He doesn't deny that there's sexism and boorishness at play in the young tech community, but he sees the industry trying to make itself better. He sees a lot of egotism at work, too, but he says if you're setting out to change the world, you're probably going to need a big ego to do it. But tell that to other people in Northern California: undoubtedly, you've read about the tempest in San Francisco recently, where urban activists are decrying the influx of highly paid tech professionals, who they argue are displacing residents suddenly unable to keep up with skyrocketing rents.
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Silicon Valley Doesn't Have an Attitude Problem, OK?

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  • Ingrates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by qbast (1265706) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:49PM (#47650607)
    There is just no pleasing this people: 'undesirable element' moves in - they complain about falling property value, 'highly paid tech professionals' move in - they complain about increasing property value.
  • SF Rents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:50PM (#47650627)

    The whole mentality is dumb. No one DESERVES to live in a particular place. Pay the rent or move. Pay the taxes, or move and rent out your place to someone who can afford to pay the taxes for you.

    Are they going to change what SF is? Of course. But SF isn't what it was 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. These things constantly change. At least it is going upward. It could be changing like Detroit.

  • Tech Community (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:53PM (#47650639)

    Can we, perhaps, not refer to the entire tech community as one thing? Let's have the tech community, and then have the community that makes parking space auctioning apps, social websites, and "break-through" instant messaging apps who think they're on par with Tim Berners-Lee or Packard or Wozniak, because they made an iphone app where you can leave reviews for your favorite pigeon feeding seat in the park.

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:54PM (#47650647)
    It's the first gift the Gods give you before they start to F' you up.
  • by superdave80 (1226592) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:54PM (#47650649)
    They are all about 'diversity', 'inclusiveness', and 'peace'... until you try to move into their area and don't think, talk, and act just like them. Then they start slashing your tires and blocking your buses. Say, didn't school segregationist use the same bus-blocking techniques to try and keep those 'others' out of their wholesome little schools? Oh, the irony...
  • by ganjadude (952775) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:55PM (#47650655) Homepage
    hey dumbass, they have permission and they are doing you a service by taking 100 cars off the road for every bus give or take. U mad bro?
  • by Lanboy (261506) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:57PM (#47650669)

    Tired of these fuckers thinking they are the promised people guiding us out of ignorance.

  • Re:SF Rents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:58PM (#47650677) Homepage
    yeah, ive never seen a group so stuck up and anti money as san fran. perhaps if these people saved up and bought their own homes rather than renting, they wouldnt be in this mess.

    if you dont OWN something, you cant complain when someone else buys said item
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:02PM (#47650711)

    ...for others to follow.

    You mean they should all get cancer and die?

  • Re:Ingrates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:08PM (#47650755)

    There is just no pleasing this people: 'undesirable element' moves in - they complain about falling property value, 'highly paid tech professionals' move in - they complain about increasing property value.

    No, they're talking about rent and taxes. When you concentrate that much wealth in one area, it starts a feedback loop in wages. Rent goes up, taxes go up, even gas and groceries go up. Then the lower income people are forced out... the local service industry has to pay more to get people to work, so prices go up even more, until everyone making under $100k/yr has to commute 2hrs just to get to work. The city panics and start enforcing rent control so people can at least afford an tiny apartment. For an example, see Manhattan.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:12PM (#47650779)

    As the old saying goes "It's not arrogance if you can back it up."

    Which the overwhelming majority of them can't. That's kinda the point.

    The culture in tech hubs today is in a very real sense based on gambling. VCs bet 7-8 figures on a company that might be the one to make 10 figure returns. It's a high variability strategy that rarely pays off, but pays out staggering amounts of money when it does. And because any VC always has a pool of investments on the go, they can stand to play the long game knowing their mean return is always going to be astronomical.

    Many founder/entrepreneur types are playing the same game, just with fewer zeroes and one big shot at a time. Some will make it. Most will fail. Some of them will come back and try again. Many of them won't. It's just like the VCs, but a whole lot more personal, because VCs are the house that always wins, while first-time founders are more like the whales who bet it all on number 3.

    Almost everyone else working at these businesses is just along for the ride, because the amount of money they're making is relatively good and they have a chance for a nice windfall if their employer's exit strategy does work out. Neither the founders nor the VCs much care because the salary and perks for decent technical staff are just table stakes in a much bigger game.

    But you only have to look at the kind of recruitment processes and qualifications some of these big name SV firms advertise/leak, and then look at the quality of the software they actually produce and/or what some people who used to work there can (or can't) do when they move on, and you can see that having Google or Facebook on your resume doesn't actually prove that you're some sort of super-elite 10x genius geek demigod. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of the people working inside the bubble didn't get the memo.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:22PM (#47650839) Homepage
    I've heard this crap before.

    I call it the "Dr. House" excuse. Basically it goes "Look, who do you want treating you, the a$$hole who's brilliant, or the above average guy who's nice?"

    And the honest truth is that 99% percent of the time, we want the above average guy who's nice.

    Yes, if you have something incurable, (or something that no one else can figure out what it is in the case of the TV show's Dr. House), then you want the genius no matter how arrogant he is. But in every day issues, you want someone that is going to be nice and do a reasonably good job - not a genius that is going to cure your wart while calling you an idiot and revealing to your wife that you sleep around.

    Genius is NOT an excuse to be arrogant. Especially as sometimes the guy you are insulting is actually smarter than you (i.e. look at at Edison and Tesla - 2nd brightest man of his time refused to pay the first brightest man what he was worth and screwed himself ).

    Part of being smart is having social skills. Part of being in business is using those social skills. If you can't or won't gain them and use them,

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:24PM (#47650853) Homepage Journal

    would reply to this

    He sees a lot of egotism at work, too, but he says if you're setting out to change the world, you're probably going to need a big ego to do it.

    With a 5 page rant-blog? That seems to be his default response to criticism.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:53PM (#47651041) Journal

    SF is extremely hostile to new property development that would increase the supply of housing in the city.


  • by xevioso (598654) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:54PM (#47651045)

    Except it is paid for. The buses pay the city to use the infrastructure. What is this infrastructure you ask? It's a space on a street. When it is vacated, the city bus, on the rare occasions it's right behind a google bus, will move in and "use the infrastructure." More often than not it's the other way around because city buses are slow, ponderous, and take a long time to get people on them.

    I'm assuming you have no issues with taxicabs or Uber drivers using "infrastructure" to pick up passengers for private gain, do you? Right? Do you understand?

  • by ZeroPly (881915) on Monday August 11, 2014 @05:58PM (#47651081)
    Except the Silicon Valley crowd just THINKS they're changing the world. We were supposed to have flying cars, space elevators, real AI, and spacetime manipulation by now. Not communication in 140 characters, and better algorithms to search for Kardashian articles.
  • by ganjadude (952775) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:00PM (#47651099) Homepage
    google is paying the city for the right to do so....

    by doing so they are lowering emissions by taking cars off the road

    they are lessening traffic, by taking cars off the road

    there really is zero reason to be complaining, im sure if they wanted to start a ride shareing program and rent busses to drive their neighbors around and pay the city millions, they could use those stops as well.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:16PM (#47651197) Journal

    If that's the case, he's a terrible scam artist. He's taken money from investors and turned it into function products and services. Which, I've been told, is very expensive and really cuts into a scam artists profits.

  • Re:SF Rents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xevioso (598654) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:18PM (#47651213)

    That is true, except that it is incredibly difficult to afford to rent in SF, let alone enough for a mortgage. You people in the rest of the country, unless you live in Manhattan, don't really have much of a clue. "Saving up" to buy a 1.5 million $ home is very difficult here unless you have a very very good job.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:24PM (#47651271)

    It would have been an interesting change to work for someone who is very obviously more insane than me.

    Insane, eccentric, egotistical, and dick can be shades of the same color. Steve simply sounds like a dick in that story.

  • by al0ha (1262684) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:58PM (#47651501) Journal
    Let's get one thing straight, very few in the dotCom world are geniuses, and Mr. Zuckerberg is so far from being a genius he's almost not worth mentioning, there's no genius in Facebook, it's sheer luck and good timing. The entire idea that Silicon Valley is populated and run by geniuses is laughable. I work in a place where there are more bonafide geniuses per capita than anywhere else in the world, and though they may start out that way, very few remain arrogant as each of them eventually comes to the realization their view of their level of genius was skewed by the big fish small pond effect.

    One of the greatest geniuses I've even had the pleasure of meeting, who has won a Nobel Prize in a physical science which certainly proves his particular genius, is a down to earth person and very respectful of everyone, unless of course you are a poser, then you might experience the wrath of his genius as understandably, nobody likes to suffer fools.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday August 11, 2014 @07:00PM (#47651507) Journal

    There is zero difference in talent. The difference is one of leadership and money. The money is already there, so there is where people go.

    Actually, the big difference is a little-known aspect of California intellectual property law:

    If you, as an employee, invent something, on your own time and not using your employer's resources, and it doesn't fit into the employer's current or foreseeable future product line, you own it. If the patent assignment agreement in your employment contract says otherwise, it's void.

    This means that, if you invent something neat and your employer doesn't want to productize it, you (and a couple of your friends) can rent a garage across the street and found a new company to develop and sell it.

    Employees in California can NOT be ripped off the way Westinghouse ripped off Nikola Tesla.

    The result is that companies in silicon valley have "budded off" more companies, like yeast budding off new cells. And once this environment got started, thousands of techies have migrated to the area, so there are plenty of them available with the will and talent to be the "couple of your friends" with the skills you need to fill out the team in your garage.

    Lots of other states have tried to set up their own high-tech areas on Silicon Valley's model. But they always seem to miss this one point. They need to clone that law to have a chance at replacing or recreating the phenomenon. Result: They might get a company to set up a shop, but they don't get a comparable tech community to build up. Research parks of several companies, generally focused on some aspect of tech, might form, but you don't get the generalist explosion.

    Of course, like any network, the longer it accumulates, the more valuable it is to be connected to this one, rather than another that is otherwise equivalent. (This is what the parent poster already alluded to.) Thus there's only one Silicon Valley in California, with the resources concentrated within driving distance, though the law is statewide. Even with the law change, and a couple decades to let the results grow, other states might have a tough time overcoming California's first-mover advantage.

    But California keeps fouling things up for techies and entrepreneurs in other ways. So if some other state would TRY this, they might become a go-to place when groups of people in Silicon Valley get fed up and decide to go-forth.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday August 11, 2014 @07:23PM (#47651611)

    There is, apparently, a flapping bird game, that is, apparently, all the rage. Or was that last week? That's right, technology so amazing, you stop caring about it when it is replaced in a few weeks. Right.... :)

    I'm only playing along with you. In truth, I love what technology has available for us now. Our lives are faster, easier, and possibly improved, by the tech sector. I say possibly because we may find that virtual-mindedness is detrimental to a superior lifestyle that involves less or no virtualism. Who knows. But within a realm of trying to appreciate something, technology is highly appreciable right now as compared to even 20 years ago. I think if technology development just froze as a whole, we would still grow at least a bit more, on accident, due to the momentum of what we have now. We're doing great. Imagine all of the plausible combinations of current technologies and compare that to the present; that's the spread of the most immediate technological next step that will happen in the immediate future. And so it continues.

    I can tell you this.... Video Games, today, are as beautiful as I imagined they would be when I watched games develop early on, 20 years ago . They aren't more or less than I had thought -- they're right on the money. Back then it was river city ransom. Back then, F-Zero and Doom2 looked great.

    Everything is having a snowball effect. Kurzweil is basically correct in his thesis of the future.

  • by adri (173121) on Monday August 11, 2014 @08:19PM (#47651899) Homepage Journal


    I don't think you understand what he said entirely.

    He said that he can't actually sell his place without incurring a very large tax penalty that would come out of his pocket and affect his ability to buy another property. In short, he's stuck at the level he is without being able to move up or sideways. He's being forced to move /down/ in the property market. He didn't mention how much he earned and it's mostly irrelevant here - the money he'd lose in the gains tax would result in nowhere near enough money to buy another place in that area.

    So yes, it's a shitty situation - it's /making/ property speculation and renting the fiscally responsible thing to do. That's just plain stupid.

  • by ZeroPly (881915) on Monday August 11, 2014 @08:40PM (#47651995)
    So you have a 10,000 core system. So what? Yeah, I can model a flying car with much less than that - in fact I think they did that in Halflife 2. If you traveled back to 1991 and told people that you had a lot of cores and a lot of memory, they would yawn in your face. The technology that you are working with today is fundamentally what a 1970's Unix guy would understand. What's the point in your web service that can scale indefinitely? To serve up more Youtube videos? We were supposed to have a semantic web by now at the very least. Instead, we're patching vulnerabilities in SSL which has been around since '94, and still worrying about running out of IPV4 addresses.

    The extent of our machine learning has been to fake a conversation as a brain damaged teenager who does not speak English, to "pass" the Turing test. We're doing busy work in low earth orbit, when anyone in the 80's would have thought we'd be working in the outer planets by now. We still have to steer our cars and punch buttons for the elevator.

    The problem is that everyone's doing incremental work. More gigs cheaper. No imagination beyond that.

"Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" -- Looney Tunes, "What's Opera Doc?" (1957, Chuck Jones)