Fascinating look at the ongoing psychological evolution of flat hieirarchies.

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by MFL, Aug 13, 2018.

  1. MFL

    MFL AlbatrossofTime

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    The company remains nameless, but it's pretty apparent who he was talking about.
    A twitter thread from Rich Geldreich, formerly of Valve Corporation.

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    Some tech companies engage in very focused Developer Marketing efforts to attract candidates, and you need to see through that. The more they try to sell you, or the more popular the company is, the more wary you should be.

    Here’s a tip: If you accept a job somewhere and have to relocate, don’t use the real estate agents the company recommends. These agents sometimes have “back channels” to your new employer.

    Information about you that would be illegal for your employer to ask or acquire through direct means can be acquired through these back channels.

    And then this information can be used to pressure or exploit you.

    Another employment tip: Never tell your coworkers or manager that you have a lease, or are locked into anything long term. Leave it ambiguous/private. If they know you’re “locked in” you are opening yourself up to exploitation.

    I learned about this from a friend, who got exploited the instant their manager learned they had an expensive long-term lease.

    At some companies, if they know you are paying back taxes (or a large debt) you are opening yourself up to exploitation. Always keep that information private.

    Another employment tip: Have friends outside your company. Don’t turn your company into a “Corporate Tribe”. It’ll help you get perspective which is extremely valuable.

    Many corporate devs we meet are totally and utterly sucked into day to day corporate politics. From the outside this appears very unhealthy.

    At some point you’ve got to stop proving yourself. When you’re first starting you career you’ll have the strong urge to do this. At some point, stop. If somebody challenges you just move on.

    Another employment tip: If you jump to a new company and leave in a few months (or within approx. the first year) because the place is bad or whatever, it’s going to put a ding on your resume. Companies know this and can use that to exploit you as well.

    The more famous and well known the company, and the easier it is for that company to get new hires, the worse you will be treated (in my experience). Beware of that while shopping around for a new job.

    At this one company, the only time I saw the president/CEO do a whole company meeting (at the office) all he basically talked about was how he manipulated the press. It took a while for that to sink in. It was a let down.

    If you join a company and start to experience trauma bonding (look it up), you should walk immediately. Not every company is like that, and it isn’t worth it.

    After joining this one Bellevue company one of the psuedo-managers kept ragging on a well known physics coder I respected. He joined the company and left for another after a few months.

    Turns out, this coder realized how bad the work environment was and moved on to a more healthy company. So beware of stories like this as they could be indicative of a unhealthy environment.

    If you’re working on a project hourly, think twice before becoming a full-timer. With hourly contracts the company must be careful with what they assign you to work on. Once you go full-time they will have much less incentive to value your time.

    If you have to communicate with a very political, overly controlling company, always do so via CC’d email or conference calls with multiple parties listening. Never privately Skype or chat with anyone. This helps keep the overly political company honest.

    People at large companies tend to self-censure themselves and behave better when multiple parties are listening. It definitely changes the tone.

    If you work on a software project for a company and don’t contractually control the repo, then you don’t really control the project. The company can drop in coders at any time and wreck the project. Don’t sign deals like this.

    Don’t work for free on a project, even if they sometimes pay you. The minute you start working for free you have devalued your time and your average pay will be less overall.

    You can’t negotiate if you don’t have alternatives. Always have several active options and always be prepared to walk. If the company you are negotiating with knows you have no alternatives you can be treated like a dog.

    I’ve seen this up close with a small game company negotiating with Microsoft. They knew the small company had zero alternatives so they got treated incredibly badly.

    If somebody says to you “Only through me/us can you achieve success”, walk away. This is a common manipulation tactic.

    Never have your company (or one of its owners) cosign your mortgage. You’ll be potentially locked in and when you want to leave it’s going to cause anxiety. (I’ve seen this happen.)

    So-called “self organizing” companies are controlled by mass anxiety. Anxiety is contagious. I don’t think they are healthy places to work.

    When signing a game development deal you need protection from last minute changes/additions to the design or features done by the publisher. Lock the features and basic design in contractually to protect yourself.

    Don’t confuse “work friends” for real friends. People sometimes act very differently inside companies vs. outside. I’ve seen this over and over again. Money/status/power distorts things.

    When you’re dealing with someone at a company: No matter how nice and cool that person is, you are actually dealing with that person’s manager. Learn what “triangulation” means.

    If you’re dealing with a self-organizing company it’s more complex. You will be triangulated against multiple people and you’ll have to deal with group consensus.

    Patent trolling attacks can be used by large companies to control individual developers who have open source software. It’s one tool in their aresenal.

    When you start interviewing for a new gig, start at the least desirable company first and the most last. Interviewing (especially white-boarding) is hard and you’ll benefit from the practice at the less desirable companies first.

    After you interview at the large company, you’ll then hopefully have multiple offers and can use them as leverage against the larger company.

    If you and your work-friends experience a mass layoff, relax and start organizing. Identify the companies you and your friends want to work for. Send in people who don’t want the job to interview at each company to gather “intel” about the process, questions, tests etc.

    After each interview get a brain dump from that candidate. Send in multiple devs if needed to gather more complete info about each company’s process.

    I’ve seen this done and it works.

    The devs who are sent in as “probes” will be getting valuable interview practice and networking, so it helps them too.

    If you’re at a company and mysterious unexplained things start happening, and some people start leaving randomly with no explanation: you may be facing a mass layoff soon.

    So-called self-organizing companies have a corporate arm somewhere controlling the entire operation from “above”. Find them and their friends to figure out who has the real power.

    What you’ll find is that the corporate arm influences, controls, and “anxiety spikes” the self-organizing arm nearly constantly. It’s not self-organizing, it’s a company with opaque managers ruled through mass anxiety and fear.

    If a company places massive emphasis on hiring and recruiting throughout their culture, turnover is either high and/or they are growing. Identify the cause and if it’s mostly turnover then the place may not be a healthy work environment.

    Some companies make temporary strategic hires to help recruit from your social network. You may be disposed after a critical mass of new hires occur from your social network.

    I’ve seen this happen first hand. The company was moving into a new field. They made the temp strategic hire then fired her a year later with no warning after they had hired up her friends and their friends.

    If you’re at a place like this, you must learn who the corporate managers are, who are their friends, and the cliques. They are the ones with real power and everything else is an illusion.

    At self-organizing companies with bonuses, workers will watch for rivalries between other coworkers to exploit. They will team up with one dev to bring the other (disliked) dev down a notch in some way. (I’ve seen this several times.)

    Such battles can get VERY nasty and be almost invisible until the trap is sprung.

    If the battle gets too big or nasty the corporate arm will step in to “referee”.

    At self-organizing companies, coding must be done super defensively as anyone can come in and “turd up” the code you’re working on. You must design your systems for this inevitability.

    Related: At places like this, you dare not depend on other systems actually working for any period of time. Copy/paste/rename the helper functions you depend on so others can’t quietly break or jankify your systems and make you look bad.

    External hierarchical “Hired Gun” teams are used strategically by self-organizing companies to get key stuff done. If you work at a place like this, you must identify who controls this team as they effectively have access to a power multiplier.

    At self-organizing companies, once you earn some “company bucks” it’s time to find key contractors to help amplify your abilities at the company. Always control the approval of their pay- never let a coworker control that.

    It’s best to contract with famous devs, or well-known devs in different countries. They’ll be unlikely to ever want to accept a full-time offer and will be happy to remain a contractor.

    There’s great risk involved in hiring contractors like this. But the rewards are potentially massive to you and the company. Hire very carefully.

    If the group consensus turns against your contractor, you’re in trouble and you’re going to get dinged. So carefully manage the perception of your contractors.

    On a competitive team within a self-organizing company, avoid asking for help unless you absolutely, positively need it. Any information you receive may be purposely distorted in some way. If you do ask for help, gather consensus from multiple devs.

    Related: Route around problems vs. asking for help or modifications on these teams. Once you ask for help the other dev(s) have control and may purposely send you down a blind alley.

    At a self-organizing company your coding style will change. Instead of modifying key headers and adding common helper functions, you may want to just define the helpers locally to your code instead to avoid political issues.

    I know this probably sounds nuts or it shouldn’t be an issue, but I saw or encountered this problem multiple times.

    On teams like this, it’s the Wild West. The devs aren’t working for the greater good of the company, they are working for good bonuses. This is one reason why bonuses in this type of environment are a really bad idea.

    To earn a nice bonus at a self-organizing company, identify a feature or project that is valuable and team up with strategic partner(s) to make it happen. Over time you will find devs you work well with.

    At a self-organizing company with bonuses: Once you modify a project you’re on the hook for anything until it ships. The team will hold your bonus hostage and claim your work broke something. It’s basically company-legalized extortion.

    At self-organizing companies you must be very social. Early on you need to identify who is closely interacting with the corporate arm, who their friends and cliques are, and what they find valuable. If you fall outside this group’s favor be prepared for pain.

    Related: You need a powerful “Sponsor” or “Baron” to back you. Figure out what they want and like. Watch or read “Hunger Games”. Once you get to this level you are almost untouchable.

    At a self-organizing company: keep your test resources as low-key as possible/practical. If your team has setup a key test lab that you need to ship things, don’t advertise it outside your group. Other powerful teams/devs who want to see you fail will get it piled into a corner.

    At a self-organizing company you must pay attention to subtle hints from the corporate arm. They just won’t come to you and say “work on this”. Events will just happen and you need to be wise and realize that nothing happens by accident at places like this.

    Your mental model should be a hierarchical corporate arm with a self-organizing layer underneath. The corporate arm will reach into and influence the self-organizing arm using various tools.

    Some tools are key strategic hires forced into the system, random firings, hints placed with devs that something is valuable or interesting, exposing devs to extra resources like the ability to pay contractors, destroying resources like test labs, or bonus payouts.

    You can also just reach in and grab devs and force them to a new team. (That’s why you have wheels on your desk.)

    If at one of these companies you find yourself in the basement with a stapler, working alone: be prepared to be fired unless you have a strong Sponsor and are taking an approved break.

    Anyhow, I’ve given a brain dump of a lot of the things I remember while working for a so-called self-organizing company. IMO, once you throw bonuses in they become utterly toxic workplaces.

    I do think they can work much better without the bonus incentive distorting everything. Also, as an external dev interacting with a self-organizing company I’ve had very good experiences.

    If a connected person buddies up to you and starts showing you stuff, pay attention as they are basically telling you “this is valuable to the corporate arm”. If they start showing you their wealth that’s the corporate arm telling you “we will make you rich”.

    If you’re running a self-organizing company, you need to have a measure and understanding of the current average and peak Anxiety Level within the self-organizing arm. Or it blows up and talent walks.

    Random firings, messing around with key resources like test labs, encouraging toxic behaviors through massive bonuses, and forcing devs to move around randomly are all anxiety increasing/morale decreasing events.

    And this is why I walked away from a self-organizing company 1 week after being given options. It was just too unhealthy a workplace, and it impacted my health too much. I would say most of my coworkers where ridiculously stressed out (I learned some had to go on meds to cope).

    I came in one day and my coworker (let’s call him Bob) disappeared, his desk wheeled into the hall to be picked clean. “Where did Bob go?” I asked. I got replies like “Bob who?” or “don’t talk about Bob”. I realized then that I had no idea what I had got myself into.

    Another type of temp strategic hire you can make is to recruit a well-known author, a famous dev, or a person with specialized skills (like an economist). Have them write gushingly about their amazing experiences at the company. Once you’re done with them quietly let them go.

    At a self-organizing company you can easily spot the strategic hires made by the corporate arm. If they didn’t need to be interviewed, or the interview was purposely watered down, the corporate arm is making an exception.

    In cases like this sometimes the corporate arm will quietly train the strategic recruit before the actual interview. They’ll give them all the questions for the white-board interview.

    They turn these devs into experts who answer all the whiteboard interview questions with flying colors. “Bob was amazing! He definitely lives up to his legendary reputation.” Actually, no, they’re just being inserted into the system strategically.


    These folks will be given a free pass. The corporate arm can hire and fire anyone they want at any time. If you went through the normal interview loop and weren’t filled in beforehand, the corporate arm could care less about you.

    I watched this process happen with one well-known graphics figure. The dev didn’t take the job. I saw another graphics dev be “streamlined” into the company in exactly this way.

    And so basically if you’re at one of these companies, you need to look around and spot the strategic hires. They have more power or sway than you, and it’s not merit based at all.

    I watched all this happen multiple times. This is how a “self-organizing” company actually works in practice. If you’re told anything else it’s just fairytale developer marketing. If you complain you can forget your bonus or even your job.

    Some companies always ask whiteboard questions from a “calibrated” list of sanctioned problems. The calibrated problems are on the internal company wiki. To defeat this process, just send in a bunch of “probe” interviews to get a sampling of the problems.

    This is most convienent after a mass layoff. Since layoffs occur all the time in the video game industry it’s easy to get a good sampling when devs cooperate.

    And so the interview process at these companies is biased in unexpected ways. Devs aren’t stupid. It favors well-connected candidates who are already in the system.

    When you let the interview process be ran 100% by your employees at a bonus-centric organization, the current employees will tend to find ways of turning down recruits who would be too much competition.

    So ironically, the better and more skilled the recruit the less probable it is that they’ll get the job. Current employees don’t want any more competition for their bonuses.

    So bonuses can “invert” the employee-ran hiring process and turn it into a farce. I saw this happen firsthand many times, and the corporate arm’s response was to do forceful strategic hires.

    The better response is to dump the bonus incentive and to involve the corporate arm (and their close friends) in all interviews to monitor them for accuracy/bias/fairness.

    And so this is a form of Developer Marketing. Hire some key person, push them to write or blog, then once you’re done with them let them go. The “pawn” won’t complain too much as their career will be enhanced by being associated with your company.

    What the developer actually writes is actually consensus based mumbo-jumbo. It’s just marketing. It’ll be based off the version of reality the corporate arm wants to market to developers they haven’t recruited yet.

    To spot these marketing folks, just google them and see how long they lasted at the company. If it was a short period of time, they were probably a temp strategic hire made mostly or only for marketing and/or recruiting purposes.

    How to spot a “Baron” at a self-organizing company: They hang out with somebody from the corporate arm. Or they are long term buds. They’re in their clique. If you buddy up to them and make their lives easier you’ll benefit.

    So watch where people go during lunchtime. Just walk around and see who’s going offsite together. Reverse engineer the office’s internal social network and you’ll spot the key relationships involved in managing the self-organizing arm.

    At a self-organizing company be very careful what you say to the corporate arm and their friends. If you casually disclose some weakness (say you owe a large debt, back taxes, or a divorce battle), they’ll know you are more prone to being manipulated.

    And so you may become a tool of the corporate arm and find your desk involuntarily wheeled all over the office.

    I do find myself fascinated by self-organizing companies. I do think they can work well but it depends on the corporate arm’s manipulation and psychology skills. Instead of explicit top-down structure it’s basically a company managed through centralized mass manipulation.

    If the corporate arm is ran by a secretive reclusive zillionaire who is living in a wealth-bubble, the self organizing arm is going to probably be an anxiety-prone wreck. They need to back off and start measuring the system. Hire some in-house psychologists and therapists.

    At a tight-knit self organized company be sure to prepare your spouse before they go on official company spouse events. She or he will be amazed at how much the spouses of corporate arm workers reveal.

    The corporate arm spouses will let your spouse know immediately who the bosses actually are. There will be no ambiguity at all. Zero. You will be shocked if you actually bought the dev marketing.

    In practice, company spouse events are just part of the extended interview to learn more about how to further or more deeply manipulate workers in the self-organized arm.

    They are also gathering intel about workers who are unhappy or will be departing soon. It’s best to avoid them.

    Related to this, for the first few years don’t give self organized companies your spouse’s email address. Don’t expose your family to subtle manipulation or any extra stress than is necessary.

    The “intel” gathering goes both ways, however. A savvy self-organized company worker can have a spouse gather key info about the corporate arm from other spouses. But be prepared to learn things you don’t like.

    At self organized companies you need to identify the Company Lifers. These are sometimes jaded, arrogant folks who have survived endless purges, mayhem and chaos. They know all the convoluted, broken systems, and the manual cargo cult-like processes used to run the company well.

    These folks will abuse and demean newcomers without flinching. They will laugh at other’s demise. They are survivors and they don’t want new competition risking their standing within the company.

    To survive you either need to buddy up to one of them or completely avoid them and always route around them.

    Another way to spot powerful or connected insiders at a self-organized company is to spot the rare dev who rarely comes in and doesn’t do much. They’ll say a lot and work in small spikes. Figure out who is sponsoring them (sometimes they’ll smartly have more than one).

    One thing that bothered me in my experience at one self-organized firm was how contractors could be treated. Unless you were famous or well-known, you could be treated like a 3rd class citizen. It didn’t matter how good you were or what you accomplished.

    If you first applied and failed the interview, then later became a contractor, you were marked for life and would never become a full-timer. Eventually they get purged.

    If you’re famous or well-known and refuse to relocate, a contract gig could work out great. Just keep your internal boss happy, get shit done, and enjoy it while it lasts. If/when your boss loses face or gets dinged somehow your gig will end soon.

    Please note that most of the things I’m talking about at self-organizing companies occurred 5-10 years ago. It’s ancient history now, and these places do learn from their mistakes. Ask about the bonus situation if you interview at one.

    One trick you can use to learn inside knowledge of a competitor’s tech is to offer fully paid for job interviews to their devs. Then have your employees ask tons of probing “interview” questions about the tech they worked on. Most devs will freely give away tons of inside info.

    They’ll do this to prove they created or worked on the tech in question. They’ll want the job and NDA’s be damned.

    And this is why if you are in a fast-paced/competitive field you must keep your devs happy or they’ll disburse to your competitors at the nearest opportunity and give away all that inside knowledge.

    If you run a self-organized firm and you have turned up the anxiety levels too high, your company will become brittle and prone to mass talent flight. Wealthy competitors can come in and make offers and basically steal all your tech and devs right out from under you.

    And so for the parts of the firm that are working on breakthrough or “hot” tech, you should back off and optimize for low anxiety. Make sure all key workers have a strong bonus/stock option incentive to stay around. Don’t mistreat them.

    Let’s say you and your work-friends are acquired by a self-organized firm. Congrats! On the downside you are a marked person. Once the firm absorbs your tech or game you will be fired more often than not. They will identify the key devs and let the rest go within 1-2 years or so.

    If you’re one of these folks, you need to make friends within the corporate arm’s clique and get a Baron or Sponsor fast or you’re on thin ice.

    Your first year at a bonus-centric self-organized firm is a delicate, critical time. It’s basically do or die. In the growth-focused phase of the company, either you get a nice bonus or you’re fired in that first year. That’s it.

    They will replace you instantly out of the hundreds of fresh recruits waiting at the door. Avoid buying a house or signing any expensive long term leases for the first year.

    Always demand a startup bonus and save it because odds are you’ll be purged within 12 months. You’ll need those funds to ride this out.

    If you know you’re going to get purged in the first year, and want to keep the job, interview at a competitor and land the job before the firing/bonus cycle. Then spread rumors that you interviewed up the road and have an offer.

    They will be more inclined to keep you for another chance, as you will be seen as more valuable.

    Politics at self-organizing firms are fascinating. Identify the barons and the corporate arm folks. Now, tell all their friends or associates (only!) rumors about whatever amazing things you are cooking up, or have going on.

    If you tell these folks directly the news will have little weight and be immediately distrusted/doubted. If the news spreads organically from the bottom up, it’s viewed with more weight.

    The phrase describing this phenomena is “if it’s not public it’s not real”. Public knowledge is given weight, individual claims or private knowledge is distrusted.

    Bonus-centric self-organizing firms work on cycles. The key synchronizer is the firing/bonus/company vacation season. Everything is tuned to that tempo.

    So if you’re at a place like this you must time your projects just right to land a big number on Envelope Day. Make your big new feature or whatever you’re working on land long before this day.

    If you add in a key feature to a project too early, the team will have you in a compromising position (they’ll hold your bonus hostage and force you to help them on unrelated issues). To avoid this it’s all about timing.

    After the “cleansing” (firing) season is over, take a break. Then put in some insurance work, in case you mess up your big new feature or release. If you mess up you can rely on the insurance work to get you through the next bonus cycle.

    Beware of company vacations at self-organizing firms. Stay on your best behavior, don’t drink much, and keep your mouth shut about your personal life. You can be fired at these events, and any info gathered can be used against you. Make sure your spouse is given the heads up.

    On the flip side, feel free to talk to the corporate arm workers and their friends in the self-organized arm. Valuable info and connections can be made during this time. Just be aware it’s absolutely not a real vacation.

    Company parties at self-organizing firms can be incredibly awkward events. Imagine Stalin holding a Worker’s Party at a Gulag. That’s how fun they are. Genuine relationships are rare at these places and there’s too much mass trauma.

    These events occur in multiple phases at large firms. Purposely claim some excuse to attend the island with a totally different group. You’ll be treated better, have the opportunity to be recruited by different groups, and be able to network more effectively outside your group.

    One thing I learned at a self-organizing company is to avoid external sponsored company events, like GDC parties. Some corporate arm folks drink and act badly, because they can. The mask comes off and it can be pretty ugly.

    Normally, the corporate arm folks are virtually unseen by your typical self-organized worker. If you are powerful enough and have a very strong Sponsor, feel free to hold their feet to the fire when you need something done.

    All legit self-organizing firms have to “leak” an official unofficial Company Manual. It’s got to be slickly made and fun to read. Developer Marketing gurus create these productions to sway new recruits into the Hiring Funnel. Insiders laugh at these things.

    At a self-organized firm the corporate arm will be almost invisible. They are like the Agents in The Matrix. When things are going smoothly they aren’t around. When they appear and adjustments are made you need to keep working like nothing happened.

    I spoke with and interacted with the corporate arm, but they didn’t call themselves that. But they had corporate titles, or were members of the Board of Directors, etc.

    I noticed that HR folks never lasted long at these places. They would always get let go and quickly replaced. Not sure if this was a feature or a bug in the matrix.

    And so I’ve reverse engineered as much as I could, swapped notes with ex and current workers to figure all this out. Somebody needs to write a real handbook I guess.

    The corporate arm folks don’t want you to think about their presence but of course they are always there making small and large adjustments to their little slice of corporate paradise. Is it really self-organizing?

    Before firing/bonus season at a self-organizing firm you’ll be pulled into a meeting room with 2 or so other workers. They’ll stack rank everyone in various categories. Someone will be there from the corporate arm to record the “data”.

    It was my strong suspicion that this data wasn’t really always recorded. The mysterious process used to compile the data was never talked about or defined.

    In my opinion, sometimes (most of the time?) this was just a dog and pony show. There was no well-defined process or algorithm used. It was more based off popularity and the opinion of well-connected workers.

    At self-organizing firms you need to be cautious about what teams you decide to work with. Spending time helping a low value team won’t help your career no matter how good your work. Always have a strong Sponsor or Baron to protect you during purges.

    Or, associate yourself with a Sponsor’s pet project. Do what you need to do to shield yourself from the next purge’s axe.

    If you don’t follow this advice you will be fired, sooner or later. No matter how good or critical your work.

    Example: If you have pissed off an entire room full of developers, even while just trying to help them, don’t run off and then help the low-value support team. Associate yourself with a strong Sponsor’s team and stay put and you’ll survive the next purge.

    To get some level of “employment insurance” at a self-organized firm, interview and have solid connections at local competitor firms. Spread bottom-up rumors that Company X Y and Z are your immediate backups. It’s a +1 to your “purge immunity”.

    If someone at a self-organizing firm acts badly towards you, there are no HR or bosses to report to. Instead, you’ll need to avoid that person, don’t enable them, and route around them whenever possible. Buddying up to their detractors can help.

    What you’ll find is that this person has pissed off multiple people at the company. Find them and swap notes.

    One way the corporate arm in a self-organizing firm can take firm control over a team is to plop an employee or two from another company into the team. This is called “embedding”. If you see this happen, make sure the embedded devs can’t see your monitor.

    Also, the embedded devs will be treated like solid gold if the company wants to woo them with a job. This is in actuality a sophisticated recruitment event in motion.

    These devs will be Fast Pathed through the usually labourious and difficult interview process.

    If you work at a self-organizing firm and you want to stand out, start moonlighting and open source your work. Get as much press and exposure as you can. If you get lucky an internal team will use your tech based off merit alone.

    Ironically, it you write a lib and try to get it used internally you will probably be ignored and ridiculed. If you do the same thing and open source it publically the insiders who try to control things have lost control.

    Closed source codebases at corps like this can be chaotic war zones. They are #ifdef messes with no upfront design or planning. Rewriting engines fixes absolutely nothing because the code reflects the broken culture.

    And this is why you shouldn’t be an ass at a company like this. Eventually you can have dozens of internal devs wanting you fired.

    At self-organizing firms you might be placed into a huge open office and given massive monitors. This is to normalize all communications and for more effective surveillance. Everything will be monitored either directly by a corporate arm employee, one of their barons or friends.

    Make sure you set your OS fonts to the tiniest possible to avoid snooping at your emails or code. Or choose an off color scheme.

    Also before establishing where you will sit you should conduct a site analysis to identify the spots with the most auditory and visual privacy.

    On the flip side, if you go and sit in the corner and just code it could hurt your social standing. Contractors typically wind up in those spots and are quickly fired sooner or later.

    Eventually as you earn more Company Bucks the corporate arm may allow you the use of the less common small and pleasant 2-4 person offices. But for newcomers you should get a pair of good noise blocking headphones and learn to love your huge open office.

    You’ll notice at some self-organizing companies that lavish attention and endless funds are spent on new offices every few years. Every detail will be thought out lovingly.

    The constant upgrades to new digs help disrupt the inevitable traumatic associations employees start having about their current office. New digs will boost morale for a time.

    The corporate arm’s official line is that the new offices and constant desk moves help disrupt stagnation. In reality it just keeps workers’ anxiety levels up so they can be more effectively manipulated/controlled.

    You’ll notice if you look around that everything has been thought out. Even color psychology has been applied, with colors chosen to invoke excitement, enthusiasm, and warmth.

    Even the bathrooms are designed with effective team collaboration and communication in mind. Quick meetings at urinals are encouraged, even celebrated in the unofficial official employee manual.

    The office environment may seem designed to resemble a classroom and remind you of your childhood. Employees will be reshaped and remolded in the company’s image, and to do this you must regress back into childhood and be reborn.

    Just so it’s clear, if I was a billionaire I would be running my own little self organizing company. With a different color scheme, and better offices. I do think they can be superior to hierarchical companies. Hierarchical companies can degenerate into insanity.
    And so my experience was super valuable. I can’t work for a hierarchical company anymore because I think they are mostly insane.

    If you work at a self-organized company and have anxiety spikes every time the corporate arm makes some random adjustment, research adaptogens to help cope with the stress. Anxiety and stress are the tools used to control the self-organized arm.

    While competing against your coworkers for bonuses etc. the “Last Man Standing” principle can apply. Those who can withstand the stress and chaos the longest win.

    Occasionally the CEO of SelfOrganizingCo will want to do a Pet Project. Maybe he’ll want to make a point or prepare for some perceived future threat. If you get recruited consider yourself lucky as now you have the most powerful Sponsor in the entire company watching your back.

    If the CEO breaks too many “rules”, like forcing employees to volunteer, powerful corporate arm devs might become mad that their resources are being taken. They’ll send their Barons around to loudly complain. Enjoy the show.

    Go to lunch with key devs at this competitor and be seen doing it by your coworkers. It may seem awkward, but it’ll make you appear more valuable and connected.

    SelfOrganizingCo had a local competitor (a well-known company) basically across the street. When the competitor was moving and looking for new offices, SelfOrganizingCo kept bidding the price of their recruiting competitor’s new office up.

    To appear more valuable and more connected, go to lunch with developers at SelfOrganizingCo’s competitor. Do it in a location very likely to be witnessed. These corps hated each other.

    At SelfOrganizingCo, you have a license to print endless money in the basement. So to slow competitors down, deploy the “Recruiting Black Hole” strategy to lower the average IQ and talent level of your competitor’s new hires.

    You’ll need to find some busywork to keep your new hires you’re preventing your competitors from employing happy and productive. One solution is to put them on near-endless unicorn engine projects.

    And this is another reason why developers who can instantly get gigs at the competitor across the street have a little more security.

    If a recruiting candidate at SelfOrganizingCo is being walked around at the end of the day and shown the engine or new tech or whatever, the Corp is in Sell Mode. Don’t show this candidate anything negative or inefficient about whatever it is you’re working on.

    If you do you’re going to get dinged. Also, if it rains or is overcasted a lot, always try to interview candidates from sunnier places in the summer if you can.

    For the famous candidates, don’t reveal any details about your techniques or approaches. The famous candidate will go back to the corporate arm and put your work down to make them look more desirable/valuable.

    Honestly my first 12 or so months at SelfOrganizingCo I could barely sleep for the first time in my life. I developed insomnia because I knew if I fell asleep I would have to go back into the office after waking.

    If you are an HR person at SelfOrganizingCo, be forewarned that your days are numbered. Mysteriously, HR employees never seemed to have any job security there at all.

    And so this bonus-based phenomena prevents savvy self-organized workers from helping other teams on key problems. It discourages collaboration.

    Also, if you are a contractor never inquire or ask about attending the company vacation. Contractors are 2nd class citizens and are not permitted on the island. If you ask too much you’re just decreasing your purge immunity.

    The CEO of a SelfOrganizingCo must have very strong connections with the media. Favor media that gives you glowing copy & paste press, and ignore or punish media that doesn’t. The tech media machine is a key extension of your Developer Marketing and recruiting efforts.

    Smaller media sites can be the most effective amplifiers or your company’s media messaging efforts. Fly whoever runs the site to your office and wine and dine them.

    Only the best and most savvy SeltOrganizingCo CEO’s have mastered the powerful art of media manipulation.

    In late-game self-organizing organizations the CEO graduates to two primarily responsibilities: Firing people and manipulating the media.

    A proper SelfOrganizingCo must surround itself with a constellation of hierarchical satellite firms. The satellites do a lot of the grunt work, create key technologies, and basically just get shit done. SelfOrganizingCo isn’t very efficient and so these friendly firms are needed.

    One successful pattern is to outsource the early creation of a product to a satellite firm. Then bring it in-house for tuning and release. This ups the morale of your self organizing workers: they get the rewards of shipping with less grunt work.

    There will be some tension between the workers at these companies. Unworthy devs who interviewed and got turned down by SelfOrganizingCo will wind up at one of these satellite firms. This is awkward as anyone who failed the interview is marked for life as inferior.

    Also, internally the workers at SelfOrganizingCo will be very much aware that their jobs could be outsourced to a cheaper hierarchical firm. So the work done by satellite firms will always be judged as questionable or of inferior quality. There’s inherent bias involved.

    If you’re a worker at one of these satellite firms never interview at SelfOrganizingCo. The risk isn’t worth it. If you’ve already interviewed and were turned down, remember the process is tuned to reject qualified candidates who could disrupt the bonus pool.

    As a worker at SelfOrganizingCo, bonuses are what matter. Shiny new features earn you massive bonus payouts. Maintenance work is not valued and will get you eventually fired in a purge. To bump your purge immunity you must work on Shiny New Features before bonus/firing season.

    Maintenance work can be used to earn some fractional purge immunity early after bonus/firing season. Never right before. Make sure you market the hell out of your amazing maintenance work.

    Ideally you will cast and market your mundane but necessary maintenance work as adding amazing and incredible new features.

    At SelfOrganizingCo there is a purge immunity amplification technique. If you have skills valued by many teams and other devs, market them to as many other teams as possible. Helping them add Shiny New Features will boost their purge immunity, indirectly bumping yours.

    If you are a competitor of SelfOrganizingCo and meet up with self-organizing workers, remember that these workers are highly trained and susceptible to Anxiety Spikes. To exploit this, remind the worker of all the purges and randomness imposed on the office by the corporate arm.

    This will work much of the time. After the Anxiety Spike the person will be more amendable to your company’s way of seeing things. This is how you recruit them.

    If you are a self-organizing worker, stop and think right now about your current Purge Immunity level. The highest levels are granted to famous strategic hires with tons of corporate arm connections with rare skills who add or enable others to add Shiny New Features.

    As a developer you need to cultivate a brand for yourself. Publish, release useful open source libraries, and hobknob+associate with other famous developers. This will help you stand out, get higher salaries, fast-pathed job interviews with no white boarding, etc.

    Merit alone will not get you the fast-pathed job interviews. If you enter a large or well-known Corp without a brand be prepared for an uphill struggle no matter how good you are.

    If you’re an unknown, having a powerful famous backer can get you fast-pathed into these corps as a contractor. You can turn this into a career.

    Some cities have massive amounts of local talent pools and so without having a Personal Brand you won’t stand out and you open yourself up to exploitation.

    This is why working in smaller cities can be so nice. There’s much less competition for your job and the companies have a harder time replacing you. The employee/employer relationship can be far healthier in the smaller less desirable cities (but there are less opportunities).

    You especially need a brand in the Seattle/SF areas. Prices are insanely high and increasing and there’s massive competition for your job. Employers can easily purge and replace workers wholesale as needed. You’ve got to stand out.

    The trend I’m seeing is for the software workers at the megacorps in large cities to be nervous, stressed out, abused wrecks who obsess over the company. These megacorps resemble Monty Python skits with their insane priorities and bubbleville cultures. Buyer beware.

    The “C” (crazy) word will be used to discount what I’m saying. It’s easy to call some group or person crazy. Self organized workers are trained to see hierarchical firms as utterly crazy places. Anyone who points this stuff out and just tells it like it is is marked as Crazy.

    Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback about my recent Twitter storm. It's been super valuable and very encouraging. About 3/4's of this material was taken from notes I've been composing over the past few years. I tried to make it sound funny which isn't easy with this material.

    If you're stuck in an open office, do this: Request multiple huge monitors and pile them up on your desk. Claim you need multimon to be more productive. Then, always be savvy about where you place your desk. The direction you face is important: always face everyone else.

    If you can't do this, then put little mirrors on your monitors so you can see at a glance who's behind you.

    Attach 3M Privacy Filters to your monitors if you deal with sensitive information, and/or shrink your fonts.

    And so my experience was super valuable. I can’t work for a hierarchical company anymore because I think they are mostly insane.

    If you work at a self-organized company and have anxiety spikes every time the corporate arm makes some random adjustment, research adaptogens to help cope with the stress. Anxiety and stress are the tools used to control the self-organized arm.

    While competing against your coworkers for bonuses etc. the “Last Man Standing” principle can apply. Those who can withstand the stress and chaos the longest win.

    Occasionally the CEO of SelfOrganizingCo will want to do a Pet Project. Maybe he’ll want to make a point or prepare for some perceived future threat. If you get recruited consider yourself lucky as now you have the most powerful Sponsor in the entire company watching your back.

    If the CEO breaks too many “rules”, like forcing employees to volunteer, powerful corporate arm devs might become mad that their resources are being taken. They’ll send their Barons around to loudly complain. Enjoy the show.

    Go to lunch with key devs at this competitor and be seen doing it by your coworkers. It may seem awkward, but it’ll make you appear more valuable and connected.

    SelfOrganizingCo had a local competitor (a well-known company) basically across the street. When the competitor was moving and looking for new offices, SelfOrganizingCo kept bidding the price of their recruiting competitor’s new office up.

    To appear more valuable and more connected, go to lunch with developers at SelfOrganizingCo’s competitor. Do it in a location very likely to be witnessed. These corps hated each other.

    At SelfOrganizingCo, you have a license to print endless money in the basement. So to slow competitors down, deploy the “Recruiting Black Hole” strategy to lower the average IQ and talent level of your competitor’s new hires.

    You’ll need to find some busywork to keep your new hires you’re preventing your competitors from employing happy and productive. One solution is to put them on near-endless unicorn engine projects.

    And this is another reason why developers who can instantly get gigs at the competitor across the street have a little more security.

    If a recruiting candidate at SelfOrganizingCo is being walked around at the end of the day and shown the engine or new tech or whatever, the Corp is in Sell Mode. Don’t show this candidate anything negative or inefficient about whatever it is you’re working on.

    If you do you’re going to get dinged. Also, if it rains or is overcasted a lot, always try to interview candidates from sunnier places in the summer if you can.

    For the famous candidates, don’t reveal any details about your techniques or approaches. The famous candidate will go back to the corporate arm and put your work down to make them look more desirable/valuable.

    Honestly my first 12 or so months at SelfOrganizingCo I could barely sleep for the first time in my life. I developed insomnia because I knew if I fell asleep I would have to go back into the office after waking.

    If you are an HR person at SelfOrganizingCo, be forewarned that your days are numbered. Mysteriously, HR employees never seemed to have any job security there at all.

    And so this bonus-based phenomena prevents savvy self-organized workers from helping other teams on key problems. It discourages collaboration.

    Also, if you are a contractor never inquire or ask about attending the company vacation. Contractors are 2nd class citizens and are not permitted on the island. If you ask too much you’re just decreasing your purge immunity.

    The CEO of a SelfOrganizingCo must have very strong connections with the media. Favor media that gives you glowing copy & paste press, and ignore or punish media that doesn’t. The tech media machine is a key extension of your Developer Marketing and recruiting efforts.

    Smaller media sites can be the most effective amplifiers or your company’s media messaging efforts. Fly whoever runs the site to your office and wine and dine them.

    Only the best and most savvy SeltOrganizingCo CEO’s have mastered the powerful art of media manipulation.

    In late-game self-organizing organizations the CEO graduates to two primarily responsibilities: Firing people and manipulating the media.

    A proper SelfOrganizingCo must surround itself with a constellation of hierarchical satellite firms. The satellites do a lot of the grunt work, create key technologies, and basically just get shit done. SelfOrganizingCo isn’t very efficient and so these friendly firms are needed.

    One successful pattern is to outsource the early creation of a product to a satellite firm. Then bring it in-house for tuning and release. This ups the morale of your self organizing workers: they get the rewards of shipping with less grunt work.

    There will be some tension between the workers at these companies. Unworthy devs who interviewed and got turned down by SelfOrganizingCo will wind up at one of these satellite firms. This is awkward as anyone who failed the interview is marked for life as inferior.

    Also, internally the workers at SelfOrganizingCo will be very much aware that their jobs could be outsourced to a cheaper hierarchical firm. So the work done by satellite firms will always be judged as questionable or of inferior quality. There’s inherent bias involved.

    If you’re a worker at one of these satellite firms never interview at SelfOrganizingCo. The risk isn’t worth it. If you’ve already interviewed and were turned down, remember the process is tuned to reject qualified candidates who could disrupt the bonus pool.

    As a worker at SelfOrganizingCo, bonuses are what matter. Shiny new features earn you massive bonus payouts. Maintenance work is not valued and will get you eventually fired in a purge. To bump your purge immunity you must work on Shiny New Features before bonus/firing season.

    Maintenance work can be used to earn some fractional purge immunity early after bonus/firing season. Never right before. Make sure you market the hell out of your amazing maintenance work.

    Ideally you will cast and market your mundane but necessary maintenance work as adding amazing and incredible new features.

    At SelfOrganizingCo there is a purge immunity amplification technique. If you have skills valued by many teams and other devs, market them to as many other teams as possible. Helping them add Shiny New Features will boost their purge immunity, indirectly bumping yours.

    If you are a competitor of SelfOrganizingCo and meet up with self-organizing workers, remember that these workers are highly trained and susceptible to Anxiety Spikes. To exploit this, remind the worker of all the purges and randomness imposed on the office by the corporate arm.

    This will work much of the time. After the Anxiety Spike the person will be more amendable to your company’s way of seeing things. This is how you recruit them.

    If you are a self-organizing worker, stop and think right now about your current Purge Immunity level. The highest levels are granted to famous strategic hires with tons of corporate arm connections with rare skills who add or enable others to add Shiny New Features.

    As a developer you need to cultivate a brand for yourself. Publish, release useful open source libraries, and hobknob+associate with other famous developers. This will help you stand out, get higher salaries, fast-pathed job interviews with no white boarding, etc.

    Merit alone will not get you the fast-pathed job interviews. If you enter a large or well-known Corp without a brand be prepared for an uphill struggle no matter how good you are.

    If you’re an unknown, having a powerful famous backer can get you fast-pathed into these corps as a contractor. You can turn this into a career.

    Some cities have massive amounts of local talent pools and so without having a Personal Brand you won’t stand out and you open yourself up to exploitation.

    This is why working in smaller cities can be so nice. There’s much less competition for your job and the companies have a harder time replacing you. The employee/employer relationship can be far healthier in the smaller less desirable cities (but there are less opportunities).

    You especially need a brand in the Seattle/SF areas. Prices are insanely high and increasing and there’s massive competition for your job. Employers can easily purge and replace workers wholesale as needed. You’ve got to stand out.

    The trend I’m seeing is for the software workers at the megacorps in large cities to be nervous, stressed out, abused wrecks who obsess over the company. These megacorps resemble Monty Python skits with their insane priorities and bubbleville cultures. Buyer beware.

    The “C” (crazy) word will be used to discount what I’m saying. It’s easy to call some group or person crazy. Self organized workers are trained to see hierarchical firms as utterly crazy places. Anyone who points this stuff out and just tells it like it is is marked as Crazy.

    Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback about my recent Twitter storm. It's been super valuable and very encouraging. About 3/4's of this material was taken from notes I've been composing over the past few years. I tried to make it sound funny which isn't easy with this material.

    If you're stuck in an open office, do this: Request multiple huge monitors and pile them up on your desk. Claim you need multimon to be more productive. Then, always be savvy about where you place your desk. The direction you face is important: always face everyone else.

    If you can't do this, then put little mirrors on your monitors so you can see at a glance who's behind you.

    Attach 3M Privacy Filters to your monitors if you deal with sensitive information, and/or shrink your fonts.

    ---
     
  2. rjthrog

    rjthrog Hunter

    Joined:
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    If this stuff is true, it's good to at least hear something on how/why the status of Half Life is where it's at, and Valve in general.
     
  3. Tollbooth Willie

    Tollbooth Willie The Freeman

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Messages:
    17,446
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    641
    Sounds about right.
     

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