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Joel's attitude problem

I didn't like Joel's characterization of Silicon Valley in "CityDesk part 5" http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000296.html and I don't like it in "Why Napster failed to deliver" http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=14924 .

I wouldn't complain, but it's a little out-of-character for Joel.  He's otherwise rather even-handed.  Why such a prejudiced generalization of "Silicon Valley," whatever that means to Joel?

Did the attitude come from his days at Microsoft?  Or is he referring to the dotcom phenomenon as Silicon Valley?

Joel does companies like Intel, Hewlett-Packard, (Xerox) PARC, Cisco and others a disservice by lumping them in with yesterday's failures.  Those companies and more have done much to improve their employees' work environment and ability to innovate.

Silicon Valley is more encompassing than Joel seems to think, and he loses credibility when he always refers to it in such a narrow-minded way.

Perhaps in your future writings, Joel, you should use a more accurate term.  Silicon Valley is quite geographic in meaning, but that's apparently not what you usually mean.

David Blume
Friday, September 06, 2002

I suggest using the term "bunch o bitches" to denote others that think different or simply people other than myself.

trollbooth
Friday, September 06, 2002

I wouldn't get too worked up about it.

a) he could be speaking allegorically (Silicon Valley not
referring to a specific place, but a state of min, which would emcompass Silicon Alley, too)

b) he could be poking fun

c) he could really hate the place, but so what?  He's a New Yorker.  What does he know?

And, I think Silicon Valley has had far more than it's share of 19-year old "executives", so he's not all that far off the mark.  Cisco, HP, Intel, et all, represent a tiny fraction of the number of businesses that operate here.

James Montebello
Friday, September 06, 2002

James, your right.

Joel clearly thinks Silicon Valley is a state of mind.

It makes me wonder where the attitude came from, though.  Calling the Valley a Den of Hackers is like calling Redmond a Bastion of Evil.  Someone as bright as Joel wouldn't normally make that kind of generalization.  Yet he does.

"Bunch o bitches." ... Mmm.  Yep, works nicely.  Thanks, trollbooth.

David Blume
Friday, September 06, 2002

> Someone as bright as Joel wouldn't normally make that kind
> of generalization.

I would point out that your mistake is assigning infallibility to people you respect.  Or at least assigning traits you find good.

I don't even mean this in the context of "Joel."  I only come here because I am painfully bored.  I just think you probably put people through the filter of disciplined rationality, and miss out on highly intelligent ones.

anonymous
Friday, September 06, 2002

Maybe it's a New Yorker thing.  I'm reminded of a great cartoon with two panels: 1) two people pass each other on the street in LA, they say "good morning" but what they're thinking is "screw you!", 2) two people pass each other on the street in NY, they say "screw you!" but what they're thinking is "good morning".

anon2
Friday, September 06, 2002

I don’t see those remakes as any kind of slander to the people of Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is the home of venture capitalist. It is a hub bub of activity when it comes to companies going on the “tour” to raise money.

I don’t see how any way this slanders the many good high quality companies that dot the Silicon Valley.

However, it is without a doubt that Silicon Valley is the center of the software industry, both good and bad.

If you want to raise some money for a software company, you will find the venture capital in the Valley. You also find that if your product does have that “fad” type latest and greatest technologies  (like web based, or XML to quote Joel’s example), then you will have a hard time raising money. This might not be good, but it simply is the way it is.

The boom, bust, and fad part of the industry is really just part of the software landscape.

Most of this exists in Silicon Valley. This is not a slander...this just a observation anyone with brain would make.

We all owe much a good part of our livelihoods to the many companies in Silicon Valley that built much of the PC industry.

I just see his quote affirming the mentally of a portion of the thinking in valley.  It occurs in the Venture Capital part of the software industry in general...but most of that industry is in the Valley.

It is a industry we all belong to.

Just how would one go about personifying that Valley mentality that does exist?

I suppose we could call it that Eastern Stock Market Day Trader mentality...but then that would not make sense in the above context.

This whole post is getting stupid....I see nothing wrong with attaching some type of label to particular portion of our industry.  Why is this a moral wrong?

2 + 2 = 4
Venture Capitial  is in Silicon Valley
I like Coca Cola

I see nothing wrong with the above 3 statements.....lighten up folks...

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, September 07, 2002

>>>You also find that if your product does have that “fad” type latest

That should read:
"does NOT have that fad type..."

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, September 07, 2002

"Maybe it's a New Yorker thing. I'm reminded of a great cartoon with two panels: 1) two people pass each other on the street in LA, they say "good morning" but what they're thinking is "screw you!", 2) two people pass each other on the street in NY, they say "screw you!" but what they're thinking is "good morning"."

#2 reminds me of Israel. :)

Yoav
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Maybe it's a New Yorker thing. I'm reminded of a great cartoon with two panels: 1) two people pass each other on the street in LA, they say "good morning" but what they're thinking is "screw you!", 2) two people pass each other on the street in NY, they say "screw you!" but what they're thinking is "good morning"."

I can't get the second part why should I say screw you while I mean goog morning. Am i being just a toughguy

everpuzzled
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Well, Joel is clearly either greedy or clueless.

Seriously, it's like Microsoft really puts shit into your cafeteria food.  He writes, "I used Java 1.0b once to write a game, and the threads didn't work on Solaris.  So I never used Java again, since games that don't run on Solaris just go nowhere."  Then, "I read the O'Reilly book on VB.NET, and Hejlsberg is a GOD!  Give it up for Stevie B!!!  Give it up for me!!!"

If you haven't been able to detect enormous bias before, then you haven't been reading critically.

Tayssir J.
Saturday, September 07, 2002

What's wrong with having a bias?
That's why I enjoy Joel on Software so much, he's got something to say, he has an opinion.

Matthew Lock
Saturday, September 07, 2002

"Seriously, it's like Microsoft really puts shit into your cafeteria food. "

- The food ain't that bad and the range of sodas is pretty good.

Everyone has a bias. Your over reaction to Joel daring to have an opinion suggests you have a bias. The fact I tend to defend his point of view and share it a lot of the time means I probably have a lot of the same biases as Joel. Big Deal.

There are a lot of other regulars here I've been reading for a long time and I can probably guess to some extent what they'll say on any given subject and how I'll feel about it. They all have their bias too.

I'm not foolish enough to think that someone with my biases is always right just because they are saying stuff I agree with, and I'm not foolish enough to think that people whose bias is different from mine are automatically wrong.

Yet somehow, some people think that having a different point of view from theirs means an attitude problem, and/or the person with the different point of view is either clueless or greedy? Bah!

If someone doesn't have a bias then they probably don't have experience either. Isn't bias really just an obvious manifestation of someone using their past experience as a filter to apply to things they see in the future? Providing you don't let the filter take over your perceptions too much then isn't this actually a good thing?

The question is: are you honest enough to recognise your own bias as well as everyone else's so you can factor all of this when using other people's material to arrive at your own conclusions?

Robert Moir
Sunday, September 08, 2002

You make great points Robert, and a good read : )

The thing is, would it be better to say dotcoms? They weren't all clueless (really). How about VC's, or young people, or startups in the late 90's... no category is absolutley anything. So when you have a conversation you have to agree to a set of assumptions on the meanings and nuances of categories -- based on the context of the sentence.

Everyone knows what was 'meant' by Silicon Valley, so to say 'What about Intel!!' is really to say, 'I'm pretending that context has no meaning in a conversation, and I'm actually confused about what you are referring to'. But we all know the real meaning of that statement is 'hey, we don't suck, you guys suck, you dumb dumbs!'. Neither is an intellectual barnburner of course, because a cleverly crafted pot shot doesn't allow an intelligent answer.

The beauty of writing is you can use your choice of categories to give additional meaning and flavour to your point. You can bias the reader, invoke emotion, or sling mud in a very indirect and under-handed way. It makes for an entertaining read, or it makes you shit your gitch and post a new thread (which is pretty entertaining in itself).

Then again I might be wrong. Maybe he wanted to call these collective failures "VC tech companies run by 19 year olds who built the prototype" - but that still doesn't filter out a success story like Microsoft. Maybe it's the clear cool water of the pacific northwest that made the difference after all. What do I know.

Robin Debreuil
Sunday, September 08, 2002

"Your over reaction to Joel daring to have an opinion suggests you have a bias."

No, your reaction does.  Tell me where I said there was anything wrong with having a bias.  I'll wait.

I know it sounded like an attack, but it is a fact of life -- at least 95% of bloggers have on-my-sleeve bias.  But when David Blume asked why Joel is a bad motherfucker with a 'tude problem, he's really asking a question about bias.  People should be upfront about it, and think critically.

That said, I am personally a fan of bias, otherwise many interesting things are left unsaid. 

> Bah!

I know you're defending someone we all respect, but sheep make a similar noise.  Watch out, respecting someone does not mean defending blindly.

Tayssir J.
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Hard to imagine a group of professionals with bigger chips on their shoulders than software engineers.

We are all embarassed when the dumb side(s) of "silicon valley" reveals itself whether it's bad luck, bad timing, bad management, or bad work.

It reflects poorly on us and often costs us jobs.  I think that accounts for many attitude problems.

tk
Sunday, September 08, 2002

I'll just interject with my Oregonian views and say the problem with Silicon Valley is it's in California.  As any
Californian who's moved to Oregon will tell you, it's borderline North vs South our feelings towards California et all.

But anyways, back to the topic.  So Joel was burned by Silicon Valley and holds a grudge?  Only human and certainly not an attitude problem.  An attitude problem would be to actively proclaim to anyone who will listen the evils of Silicon Valley and the damned Californian's who run it.

Truth is, we all have an image of Silicon Valley and for most of us not there it's an image of moronic excess, political correctness, and everything bad about big business (IE you only can go as far as the people you know).  From what I've read of Joel, he seems to reflect atleast some of these views and with good reason.

Btw, Intel isn't strictly a Silicon Valley company.  Truth-be-told, it's mostly an Oregonian company.  Last I checked, it was head-quartered here.

Lucas Goodwin
Monday, September 09, 2002

Joel isn't the only one that does it.

Some bosses with pointy hair are quite good at their jobs.

Some companies are very in touch with their market, despite working from a tower made of ivory.

I do wish people would write in a completely neutral, none discrimatory way.  Then I'd lose interest at the second paragraph and save myself so much time.

Ged Byrne
Monday, September 09, 2002

" moronic excess, political correctness, and everything bad about big business"

And how does that distinguish Silicon Valley from the rest of American business???

Burned Out after 25 year of this crap
Monday, September 09, 2002

If we left software development up to the suits in the Big Apple, we still be in a command line interface.

-- There, I feel much much better now...

Lower myself to your level troll....
Monday, September 09, 2002

> If someone doesn't have a bias then they probably don't have experience either.

I once read a SciFi story in which it was OK for a jury to be "biassed", but not "prejudiced".

Christopher Wells
Monday, September 09, 2002

"I once read a SciFi story in which it was OK for a jury to be "biassed", but not "prejudiced". "

I bet it was a good story too. Do you remember the title, I love good sci fi!

"Bias" is a word that is commonly used to have a negative overtone but it doesn't always apply. I think it's useful to explain someone's "point of view filter" without needing to be negative. Of course having such a dense "point of view filter" or bias that you can't see anything else is a bad thing, like most extremes.

Kinda like when they removed "nuclear" from the names of MRI scanners because people were scared of the word.

Robert Moir
Monday, September 09, 2002

> I bet it was a good story too. Do you remember the title, I love good sci fi!

Probably 25 years old at least, possibly one of the _Stainless Steel Rat_ series.

Christopher Wells
Monday, September 09, 2002

When I was researching Content Management, I came across the following quote at dictionary.com:

"The brain is hungry not for method but for content, especially content which contains generalizations that are powerful, precise, and explicit” (Frederick Turner).

That explains to me why it is that Joel On Software is good to read. We all dig through Joel's witty banter looking for "the good oil" - stark generalizations that describe the industry we work in.

You can't generalize without offending somebody. I bet there are Left-Handed Avacado Farmers who'd be pissed if they read Joel's series of specification articles...

Gordon Taylor
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Lucas,

(This is so stupid, but I really don't want to work...)

I have the impression that Intel's headquarters are in Santa Clara, CA, but 99% of their goodness may be in Oregon.

Are Californians supposed to hate Oregonians, too?  I never got my issue of the "People who hate you, and who you hate" manual.  (Why do you hate California, anyway?  Personal experience, or is it your culture?)

David Blume
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Doh!  You're right, 99% of their goodness is in Oregon, but they are centered in Santa Clara, CA.

As for the Oregon vs. California thing, Californian's don't have a reason to hate Oregonians.  The main reason it rift exists is because back in the 80s a large number of Californians migrated to Portland and feel in love with the "beauty" of the Gorge.  Subsequently they  managed to pass a bazillion poorly thought out and economically stifeling environmental laws to "protect" the "beauty" of the Gorge.

Native Oregonians who live in the Gorge Scenic area (Which covers an area FAR larger then what anyone could ever see from the Gorge) literally can't build a wood shed on their property let alone a new house, a garage, a damn fence, etc.  Countless cases of people buying land and then being revoked the right to build a house on it because it's in the "Gorge Scenic Area" (Even if it's 10 miles away from the actual Gorge).

Needless to say we're all less then happy about these things and California has become the target of that rage.  Namely because the people who pushed the laws through and administer the laws are from California.

Oh, and then there's the whole issue of over half the state's population living in one city...

Mix in a lot of frontier mentality and sprinkle a dose of centralized population and you've got a real fire burnin' ;)

Anyways, back on topic, I think Gordon put it best.  So what if Joel generalizes parts of the industry.  It's up to you, as the reader, to recongnize these generalizations and either agree, disagree, or agree to disagree with them.

How that reflects into him having an attitude problem I don't see.  As I said in my previous post, it just shows that Joel had a bad experience, knows people who had bad experiences, or read a lot about bad experiences in regards to Silicon Valley.  Anyone who's there shouldn't be the least bit surprised that people aren't happy with the place though.

I recall reading an article in Mutual Funds magazine (I think that was the one) a couple years back how developers making $40,000 a year were homeless because they couldn't afford a house with in driving distance to their jobs.  That sticks with people's minds, even if it's changed since then.

Lucas Goodwin
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

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