EMerJenZ

the collected ramblings of an old-soul searcher

War on the Suits

A few weeks back, I wrote the following as my first LinkedIn blog post at:

http://bit.ly/war-on-suits

Will be ramping up over the next few weeks. If anyone is looking for awesome programming talent, let me know. Comments at the above LinkedIn address will be answered.


 

I’m an old techie. Not quite a decade behind Steve Jobs. And software is my game.

Started coding algorithmic trading systems on the Apple II in 1981 while I was in high-school. Made lots of money trading. Lots. Wrote a book about it: Way of the Turtle.

I’ve built compilers, database engines, enterprise development environments, IDEs, you name it. And I’ve worked with some of the very best.

I retired from trading because I was bored. I wanted to create and I wanted to change the world. More money wasn’t going to do that.

Awesome software just might. That was my thought then and it’s my thought now.

Awesome software will change the world.

The problem is that the Assholes of Suits have plugged up the awesome in the name of profits and efficiency. Of command and control. The suits almost killed Apple until Steve kicked them out and retook the company he and Woz created. They’ve killed myriads through acquisition and neglect. Toxic to all who care about the craft and art of techno awesome. Suits suck.

They’ve crushed and strangled Silicon Valley. And venture capital doesn’t venture anymore. Round about the 80s they sailed ship from their lair in Hahvaahd, Princey Town and the other Ivy’s and landed in San Francisco and Sand Hill.

Suits have almost killed the internet, and they’re doing their best to stick the final knives in as I write. They sucked up all the ISPs and now maintain the fiefdoms of Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner et al. They are working hard and bribing dearly to kill the very core of the neutral internet ethos.

In the name of profit and protected markets and competitive advantage, they have fucked things up, stifled innovation, and made it extremely hard for excellence to out.

They have plugged up the awesome so that most companies just produce shit.

Take Google for example. Great engineers. Total shit products. Good enough? Sort of, but total shit compared to their potential. Some great ideas come out here and there, but they lack polish and any sense of the Apple awesome that Steve delivered.

Take Gmail, for example, how many fucking times a day do I have to delete an empty draft that exists with no subject, no content, no addressee, just because I happened to tab or click into the space they provide for typing. Really guys? Seriously? WTF are you thinking over there in Google land?

Who the hell needs an empty draft?

Gee, I really want to make sure that my empty thought is preserved so I don’t lose my work.

Now, to the Gmail product team, I hear you. This is not a programming problem, or an engineering problem. You’ve probably been trying to get time allocated to those bugs because they are embarrassing. No, this is most likely a management problem. A fucking suit problem. Eric Suit Schmidt, in particular. The suit rubbed off on Larry and Sergey and they don’t even know they’ve still got it. They’ve made progress, but not enough.

Money and business models over excellence. Eric, do you even use your products? Do you not care enough to go down to the Gmail team and say: WTF guys why are we saving empty drafts? Do you even notice? No, I’m sure there’s some sort of management process in place to ensure excellent delivery of market ready features in a controlled and sustainable fashion blah blah blah bullshit marketing buzzword business school diatribe…

No seriously Eric. Do you use your own products?

Don’t even get me started on Google Docs, especially the replacement for Word. How many times do I apply a style to one line and the style gets applied to a line that wasn’t selected? Only just about every time I use the document editor for anything other than a few paragraphs.

Good enough, but shit and free, beats awesome in the markets every time. You Google suits figured that out and the monolithic google borg suit perspective is fucking up the global software markets. No one else can build a great email client because yours is free. No one else can innovate in maps because yours if free (though maps is one of your pretty damn good products, kudos to?). Only it’s not really free since you are selling your users down the river Styx of advertisement hell.

Suit fuckery.

So today, this 5th of November to remember, I declare gunpowder treason and plot against the suits. All of them everywhere, starting with tech.

Why are you so pissed off Curtis, you might ask. I will tell you why. You old suits keep infecting the newer generation who think they need to emulate you to be successful. That’s fucking up progress for an entire generation, and it’s actually the root cause of most of the worlds problems. Suits. Greed over good. Money over love. Business model over great products.

Enter Andale Not. I just left a company that I loved because I couldn’t stomach working for the suit who ran it. A young, arrogant, and stupid suit named Jero Mee SohnJun. Jero was part of a moderate success in the education space called MeeToo. On a personal level, I really liked Jero. He really wanted to make a difference in the world by helping teach thousands of African youth to program computers. He had built a great team. But he didn’t know how to manage or lead it.

Suits are fundamentally stupid. Jero had learned from the stupids. They learn rules and try to apply them everywhere. Like little kids with a hammer banging on everything they see, because hammer.

Rules are for fools unless chosen for play. Principles are what designers of awesome use. The reasons behind the rules. If you don’t understand them, you need rules, and you should stay in the kiddie pool.

Jero spent all his time preparing in his head for success and completely dropped the ball on basic execution because suits are taught rules, but not reason. Some examples:

1) No W4 and payroll paperwork before paying people.

2) No insurance.

3) No contracts with employees of any kind despite the students asking for this for months because it is an expectation in Lagos. No explicit statements that work done belongs to Andela for intellectual property purposes, all standard shit, Andale Not, did not.

4) No computers for software developers more than two months after having to be convinced they come in handy when programming. So we have students working on micro notebooks with 1G memory and 11 inch screens that are running 10 to 20 different versions of Windows when we are teaching them web programming which isn’t very easy on Windows. This is why everyone uses Macs or Linux machines.

Jero’s solution? Chromebooks with 16G of disk space and 2G of RAM and no ability to run the software we are training for. Did he buy one and test it? No he buys 10 and then wastes a person week or two getting us to verify that yes Jero, you can’t do what you wanted. Did he ask any developers before buying those Chromebooks? No, he asked his roommate who he described as a mediocre CTO. That’s suit smart.

5) No fiber internet 10 weeks after the buy decision because? Even in Lagos they only took 10 days to get the fiber in once they were paid. Why 8 weeks to pay when the money was in the bank? We needed a proper accounting process? WTF? Fiber was critical for low-latency VOIP connections to customers and management in NYC, super critical to the business.

6) No meeting rooms in the Lagos offices and 50 people packed like sardines into a space suitable for perhaps 20. No wall decorations. No noise absorbing wall or floor or ceiling tiles.

Meanwhile our NYC offices overlooked Central Park at 5th Ave and 59th St. You could see the Apple store right out our 8th floor windows.

Americans > luxury
Africans > sweatshop

Curtis > pissed off
Jero > hypocrite asshole

We had free snacks and coffee machines and…

While Jero argued, literally for days, over saving $1 per student for their lunches because $4 was “way too much to spend on the fellows”. This coming from a man who had never actually been to Lagos and eaten the food of which he was deciding. Dumb fucking suits.

7) 45 different types of chairs, all used, none of which would have survived the trash bin in the States. No really, 45 actual different types of chairs, I counted them. There were perhaps three or four of the same types. None of them comfortable. All of them ugly. All of them very shitty compared to the new Aeron chairs in the New York office. Can you say hypocrisy?

8) Desks (cheap shitty tables actually) where there wasn’t room for a notebook next to the laptops because 10 people were sitting at a table that was designed for perhaps 4. Instructors couldn’t sit next to the students. Don’t even think about space for the external monitors that I asked for.

9) And talk about micro-management. That’s a suit special. I, the great Jero Mee SohnJun must manage every second of your time, even though you have three times the business experience, and 100 times the domain experience. And do you have a discretionary budget? No, why would you need that?

Seriously, who even thinks to ask things like: since I’m going to be the CTO, will you let me spend a few grand on travel after we raise the $3 million in our seed round? I mean, I don’t assume idiot when someone doesn’t talk idiot speak. With a suit, you can never tell, I’ll have to ask the dumb questions next time.

10) Sales and marketing – Hiring an awesome story teller, strategic thinker and writer as our head of sales when he doesn’t know how to sell, isn’t used to speaking off the top of his head on a phone, and doesn’t have any sales experience in the market we are selling into.

11) Operations – Putting a 23 year old awesome young entrepreneur in charge of on-the-ground operations in Lagos when this entrepreneur hasn’t been living in Lagos, doesn’t like operations, isn’t good at it, and then blaming him for the failures in execution. Then putting an awesome person who doesn’t like operations and has no experience with startup finance or legal issues in charge of operations as COO when she really likes being in the field with students. So we’ve got a five level org chart in ops with a team size of perhaps six. Princey Town perfect

12) Planning and strategy – Building an entire business plan and financial model having spent a grand total of three days in Lagos, then spending three months selling the plan without having any fucking clue about the market, the operational difficulties in Lagos, or the capabilities of the team he is running. Literally trying to run the company from New York. Then not flying over when there are problems, just sitting in New York and micromanaging over the phone which was a shitty connection using Skype VOIP over an LTE wireless link using home-quality routers and wireless endpoints.

Honestly, I am really very unimpressed with the education of Princey Town. How do you educate so much that you leave zero room for basic common sense.

13) Risk management – Not realizing that the greatest risk to the company is that the students leave early because they don’t like the way the company is being run, or how it treats them. Or that an executive might leave and take some of the team with him.

And Jero has $9,000 to spend on video for the launch party, but no money to film the African students, or the African co-founders. Just still pictures of Lagos. Can you say patronizing insulting and stupid? And just plain mean

I could go on but you get the point. Serious execution hackery.

But that’s not primarily why I left.

It was the assholery of suitdom that did it for me. I don’t work for assholes.

This 30-year-old, high on himself and his recent IPO cash flush lifestyle, gets seriously angry with me because I was a few days late on some RACI tasks assigned to the tech and training team were late. RACI, for those of you who don’t know, is a methodology of sorts for deciding who needs to do what and when. Kind of like training wheels for management. You don’t need it if you understand management. This was the first I had heard anyone say we were late and they were meaningless dates with no affect on the rest of the team. They were late because one of the ops guys didn’t put dates on the Asana tasks so they never floated to the top. Did I miss something? Yes, but seriously unimportant compared to 98% of what we were doing.

All six tasks were done by my team within hours of learning about it. See Jero, that’s how adults communicate. You want something, you ask, we deliver. No temper tantrum necessary. Much nicer that way, and we don’t think you’re an asshole afterward.

This happens after he gets to Lagos and sees how shitty the conditions are, something I’ve been telling him for weeks and warning about. No apology, just: “I’m not sure you’re going to be able to manage the entire tech team if you can’t get things done. I’m cancelling the hackathon you’ve been working all week on unless you get these 6 RACI tasks done by Wednesday.” This after I had just told him they’d be done by the end of the day (a Monday). Threat unnecessary. Process over intelligence, the Princey Town way.

Seriously? What a prick move. Your first mention of something is a threat?

Do you have any fucking idea who I am? Who I have worked with in tech? How little tolerance I have for young punk assholery? How many people who have worked for me or with me that could run circles around your piss poor management style?

But it’s not really Jero’s fault. He’s just a young and stupid who bought the religion of the suits who trained him. To be pitied. Probably bullied during youth because he was poor and went to Princeton Day School where poor was not the norm. That’s where the anger comes from. Probably bullied because his dad is a great guy who runs a non-profit in Trenton helping disadvantaged youths and not a rich guy, while his Princey Town peers were Princey Town rich. (his dad is also a Princey Town grad, helps on the legacy admission don’t it).

Suits. I’ve done with them.

War on the suits. It is time for war.

This time I’m going to inoculate against them. How you ask? Simple. No money advantages. That keeps the suits away.

I’m forming a new company, a competitor to Andale Not, called Wazobia (which means Unity in Nigeria).

We’re going to do what Andale didn’t except faster and better and done.

Just a taste of our style: We will have more women programmers than men, by at least one. We will have way more minorities than white men. We will reverse the bullshit diversity of suit-based tech staffing. There will be no assholes.

It will be a global programming cooperative. Only one membership type, full membership. We will each earn the same share. No room for suit equity fuckery.

Oh, we’ll get paid plenty because awesome programmers always do, and because we’ll be sharing the portions the suits normally suck for them them and theirs. Those profits and obscene equity stakes.

Not at Wazobia.

So do you want to work with the best? Want to help train a new generation to be even better? Love to work in teams? Love to do the impossible? Tired of suits and management bullshit?

Join Wazobia.

The membership fee is one day’s wage at your normal pay rate to be paid in BTC at the following address:

1JergcHJTocgVms5AqeMbKxMvAUjzmEVnZ

Honor code, you send the BTC, tell us how much you sent and we’ll take your word for it that this is one day’s wage for you, that way it’s the same price no matter where you live or how much privilege you didn’t earn.

Send the notice of BTC transfer and 500 to 700 words each on:

1) Why you want to be awesome and what you’ve done to show it.
2) The best designs you’ve seen and why they are awesome. Be specific.
3) What you will do to make the world better.

To: apply.wazobia@gmail.com

If we don’t accept you, we’ll return the membership fee, so please include a return Bitcoin address.

Oh, and don’t forget. We like to have fun. That’s what life is all about.

A New Birth of Freedom

In two months, November 19th, 2013 we will celebrate the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, marking 150 years since 1863. At Gettysburg, site of the decisive battle of the war, and one of its bloodiest, Lincoln presented in clear prose the destinies that hung in the balance during the U.S. Civil War.

The Gettysburg Address is one of the core texts of U.S. democracy. It goes to the very heart of what America means to Americans.

For me, these parts resonate most strongly. From the beginning:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

and the end:

“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Democracy is a continuing project. If we don’t birth new freedom every once in a while, freedom itself will die. Government grows and takes it away bit by bit, “for our own protection.”

Our nation may have been conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, but it is not currently so constituted. Today, some are far more equal than others. And some have far less freedom. And this is not good for anyone.

If you too are worried about your children’s future and want to help birth freedom in the U.S. once again, I ask you to consider joining me at Gettysburg, PA this year. I’m inviting my friends to come and celebrate the anniversary, to share our stories, and to talk about concrete steps we can take to fix what’s broken and build upon what isn’t.

Please consider joining us.

Flip Fantasia – Economics and Banking

This weeks theme music:

Economics, plain and simple, is the collective social agreements we make in order to determine group and individual access to resources and to allocate work to individuals. It is important to note that almost all of what we conceive of as “the way things are” was once not the way things were. Money, banking, “the economy,” even “work” are all artificial abstract concepts invented by individuals to benefit themselves or their group.

In the beginning, there were no banks, no money, no economics, no credit, none of this. So when we look at our current system, it is helpful to ask: “Why was this invented?”, “Who benefitted from it when it was created?”, “Who benefits from this construction now?”, “Does this construction make sense right now?” and “Are there better alternatives?”

As it has been constructed along the way, at every step in the process, the system has been intentionally designed to benefit the relative few at the expense of the larger remaining many. At times, there have been overreaches where the system temporarily so jeopardizes the lives and lifestyles of the many that they take up arms and fight, overturning their governments, or pressuring it to limit the overreaches. This happened in the U.S. at the revolution, then later in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the labor movement. It happened in France during their revolution. It has happened in every country where the few took so much the many could no longer tolerate the leftovers.

Our economic system is designed to create and maintain the class of poor.

Forever

Think about that…

Even large-scale revolution won’t work anymore. The wealthy have rigged the global system so that a revolution in any one country, or even region, will not effect sufficient change.

So we’re going to need to try a different sort of revolution.

An economic revolution…

We’re going to have to change the rules of the game outside the system.

Hack it

More on this tomorrow…

The First Cut – Politics is Broken

It’s been almost six years since Jen and I produced this mini-doc. We were right, and things have only gotten worse since then.

It didn’t take long to realize that we weren’t going to solve the worlds problems by fixing politics. The banks and others in power have rigged the game too heavily in their favor. That’s their home court and they’ve bought off the refs.

So I did a deep dive into economics next. Figuring I’d have to return to trading and finance to fix the system from where the power itself lies, in money.

This too proved problematic.

Economics is even more broken…

Esta Pascua, Brindamos al Papito

Brindamos al Papito de Argentina para esta Pascua porque finalmente después de siglos y siglos tenemos un líder de la iglesia católica que piensa mas en los pobres que en si mismo y el poder.

Y al pueblo de Argentina, y especialmente a los Judios de Buenos Aires que han sufrido tanto por causa de los pecados de los líderes niños temerosos de Israel, los que adoran mas a la guerra que a la justicia.

Y al pueblo de Argentina que son los mas independientes en todo el mundo, salvo los Thai.

Y a los de todo el mundo que luchen para paz y igualdad, para todos.

T.O.D.O.S.

Adelante amigos

¡Vamos a la batalla!

Hoka Hey

Thing’s Done Changed – Again

It’s 20 years since Biggie recorded this:

Now the shit we forced on black America in the 70s has seeped out of the ghetto and into what used to be the white middle class. And it’s going to get worse…

Poverty is not what you think it is. It is something altogether more pernicious.

Occupy was just the beginning. There is a class war going on.

Full blown and ugly

Whose side are you one?

Pick any side and it ends up the wrong side.

Change is upon us and it’s time to wake up and pay some damned attention.

I’ve been on a deep dive trying to figure out why we still have poverty and curable illness and 20 million people, mostly kids die every year from the effects of poverty.

Well, with the help of a lot of really awesome ass-kicking friends, I’ve finally figured it out. You may not like what I’m about to write over the next few weeks, but I don’t really care. The truth is…

and I can’t change that.

There is much work to do and much fun to be had, or much pain, the choice is yours.