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ongoing by Tim Bray · Bye, Amazon

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May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun. I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.

What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue.

What happened · Last year, Amazonians on the tech side banded together as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), first coming to the world’s notice with an open letter promoting a shareholders’ resolution calling for dramatic action and leadership from Amazon on the global climate emergency. I was one of its 8,702 signatories. ¶

While the resolution got a lot of votes, it didn’t pass. Four months later, 3,000 Amazon tech workers from around the world joined in the Global Climate Strike walkout. The day before the walkout, Amazon announced a large-scale plan aimed at making the company part of the climate-crisis solution. It’s not as though the activists were acknowledged by their employer for being forward-thinking; in fact, leaders were threatened with dismissal.

Fast-forward to the Covid-19 era. Stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouses, workers raising alarms about being uninformed, unprotected, and frightened. Official statements claimed every possible safety precaution was being taken. Then a worker organizing for better safety conditions was fired, and brutally insensitive remarks appeared in leaked executive meeting notes where the focus was on defending Amazon “talking points”.

Warehouse workers reached out to AECJ for support. They responded by internally promoting a petition and organizing a video call for Thursday April 16 featuring warehouse workers from around the world, with guest activist Naomi Klein. An announcement sent to internal mailing lists on Friday April 10th was apparently the flashpoint. Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, two visible AECJ leaders, were fired on the spot that day. The justifications were laughable; it was clear to any reasonable observer that they were turfed for whistleblowing.

Management could have objected to the event, or demanded that outsiders be excluded, or that leadership be represented, or any number of other things; there was plenty of time. Instead, they just fired the activists.

Snap! · At that point I snapped. VPs shouldn’t go publicly rogue, so I escalated through the proper channels and by the book. I’m not at liberty to disclose those discussions, but I made many of the arguments appearing in this essay. I think I made them to the appropriate people. ¶

That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.

The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

Let’s give one of those names a voice. Bashir Mohamed said “They fired me to make others scared.” Do you disagree?

Adjectives · Here are some descriptive phrases you might use to describe the activist-firing. ¶

  1. “Chickenshit.”

  2. “Kill the messenger.”

  3. “Never heard of the Streisand effect.”

  4. “Designed to create a climate of fear.”

  5. “Like painting a sign on your forehead saying ‘Either guilty, or has something to hide.’”

Which do you like?

What about the warehouses? · It’s a matter of fact that workers are saying they’re at risk in the warehouses. I don’t think the media’s done a terribly good job of telling their stories. I went to the video chat that got Maren and Emily fired, and found listening to them moving. You can listen too if you’d like. Up on YouTube is another full-day videochat; it’s nine hours long, but there’s a table of contents, you can decide whether you want to hear people from Poland, Germany, France, or multiple places in the USA. Here’s more reportage from the NY Times. ¶

It’s not just workers who are upset. Here are Attorneys-general from 14 states speaking out. Here’s the New York State Attorney-general with more detailed complaints. Here’s Amazon losing in French courts, twice.

On the other hand, Amazon’s messaging has been urgent that they are prioritizing this issue and putting massive efforts into warehouse safety. I actually believe this: I have heard detailed descriptions from people I trust of the intense work and huge investments. Good for them; and let’s grant that you don’t turn a supertanker on a dime.

But I believe the worker testimony too. And at the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response. It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.

Amazon is exceptionally well-managed and has demonstrated great skill at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them. It has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power. If we don’t like certain things Amazon is doing, we need to put legal guardrails in place to stop those things. We don’t need to invent anything new; a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced, offers a clear path forward.

Don’t say it can’t be done, because France is doing it.

Poison · Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison. ¶

What about AWS? · Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership. ¶

Of course, its workers have power. The average pay is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.

Spot a pattern? · At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker, what with mass unemployment and (in the US) job-linked health insurance. So they’re gonna get treated like crap, because capitalism. Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength. ¶

What’s next? · For me? I don’t know, genuinely haven’t taken time to think about it. I’m sad, but I’m breathing more freely. ¶



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CrystalDave
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Seattle, WA
jepler
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Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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acdha
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That’s putting your money where your convictions are
Washington, DC

Consent

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I was walking down the platform at the train station when I caught eyes with a police officer. Instinctively, I smiled and he smiled back. When I got closer, he said “Excuse me, do you mind if I swipe down your bag?” He gestured to a machine he was holding. “Just a random check.”

The slight tension I’d felt since I first saw him grabbed hold of my spine, shoulders, and jaw. I stood up a little straighter and clenched my teeth down.

“Sure, I guess,” I said uncertainly.

He could hear something in my voice, or read something in my change of posture. “You have to consent in order for me to be allowed to do it.”

Consent. I’d just been writing about consent that morning, before going to catch the train down to New York for Thanksgiving. It set me on edge and made more real what was happening: someone wanted to move into my personal space. There was now a legal interaction happening. “I don’t want to be difficult, but I’d rather you didn’t if you don’t have to.”

“It’s just a random check,” he said. “You don’t have to consent.”

“What happens if I say no?”

“You can’t get on the train,” he gestured to the track with his machine.

“So, my options are to let you search my bag or not go see my family for Thanksgiving?”

“You could take a bus,” he offered.

I thought about how I wanted to say this. Words are powerful and important.

“I consent to this in as much as I must without having any other reasonable option presented to me.”

He looked unconvinced, but swiped down my bag anyway, declared it safe, and sent me off.

Did I really have the right to withhold consent in this situation? Technically, yes. I could have told him no, but I had no other reasonable option.

At the heart of user freedom is the idea that we must be able to consent to the technology we’re directly and indirectly using. It is also important to note that we should not suffer unduly by denying consent.

If I don’t want to interact with a facial recognition system at an airport, I should be able to say no, but I should not be required to give up my seat or risk missing my flight spending exceptional effort as a consequence of refusing to consent. Consenting to something that you don’t want to do should not be incentivized, especially by making you take on extra risk or make extra sacrifices.

In many situations, especially with technology, we are presented with the option to opt out, but that doesn’t just mean opting out of playing a particular game: it can mean choosing whether or not to get a life saving medical implant; not filing your taxes because of government mandated tax software; or being unable to count yourself in a census.

When the choice is “agree or suffer the consequences” we do not have an option to actually consent.

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CrystalDave
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angelchrys
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How White People Handle Diversity Training in the Workplace

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As a former professor and current facilitator and consultant, I am in a position to give white people feedback on how their unintentional racism is manifesting itself. In this position, I have observed countless enactments of white fragility. One of the most common is outrage: “How dare you suggest that I could have said or done something racist!” Although these are unpleasant moments for me, they are also rather amusing. The reason I’m there in the first place is because I have been hired specifically to do just that; I have been asked to help the members of the organization understand why their workplace continues to remain white, why they are having so much trouble recruiting people of color, and/or why the people of color they hire don’t stay. They want to know what they are doing that is unsupportive to people of color.

At this point in my career, I rarely encounter the kind of open hostility that I was met with in my early days as a facilitator. I attribute this change to the years of experience behind my pedagogy. Of course, I am also white, which makes other white people much more receptive to the message. I am often amazed at what I can say to groups of primarily white people. I can describe our culture as white supremacist and say things like, “All white people are invested in and collude with the system of racism,” without my fellow white people running from the room or reeling from trauma. Naturally, I don’t walk in and lead with those statements; I strategically guide people to a shared understanding of what I mean by those claims. Still, white people tend to be more receptive to my presentation as long as it remains abstract. The moment I name some racially problematic dynamic or action happening in the room in the moment — for example, “Sharon, may I give you some feedback? While I understand it wasn’t intentional, your response to Jason’s story invalidates his experience as a black man” — white fragility erupts. Sharon defensively explains that she was misunderstood and then angrily withdraws, while others run in to defend her by reexplaining “what she really meant.” The point of the feedback is now lost, and hours must be spent repairing this perceived breach. And, of course, no one appears concerned about Jason. Shaking my head, I think to myself, “You asked me here to help you see your racism, but by god, I’d better not actually help you see your racism.”

The goal of my work is to make visible the inevitable racist assumptions held, and patterns displayed, by white people conditioned from living in a white supremacist culture. When these patterns are named or questioned, we have predictable responses. The responses begin with a set of unexamined assumptions, which, when questioned, trigger various emotions, which activate some expected behaviors. These behaviors are then justified by numerous claims. These responses, emotions, behaviors, and claims are illustrated in the following example of a recent eruption of white fragility.

I was co-leading a community workshop. Because an employer had not sponsored it, the participants had all voluntarily signed up and paid a fee to attend. For this reason, we could assume that they were open and interested in the content. I was working with a small group of white participants when a woman I will refer to as Eva stated that because she grew up in Germany, where she said there were no black people, she had learned nothing about race and held no racism. I pushed back on this claim by asking her to reflect on the messages she had received from her childhood about people who lived in Africa. Surely she was aware of Africa and had some impressions of the people there? Had she ever watched American films? If so, what impression did she get about African Americans? I also asked her to reflect on what she had absorbed from living in the U.S. for the last 23 years, whether she had any relationships with African Americans here, and if not, then why not.

We moved on, and I forgot about the interaction until Eva approached me after the workshop ended. She was furious and said that she had been deeply offended by our exchange and did not “feel seen.” “You made assumptions about me!” she said. I apologized and told her that I would never want her to feel unseen or invalidated. However, I also held to my challenge that growing up in Germany would not preclude her from absorbing problematic racial messages about black people. She countered by telling me that she had never even seen a black person “before the American soldiers came.” And when they did come, “all the German women thought them so beautiful that they wanted to connect with them.” This was her evidence that she held no racism. With an internal sigh of defeat, I gave up at that point and repeated my apology. We parted ways, but her anger was unabated.

A few months later, one of my co-facilitators contacted Eva to tell her about an upcoming workshop. Eva was apparently still angry. She replied that she would never again attend a workshop led by me. Notice that I did not tell Eva that she was racist or that her story was racist. But what I did do was challenge her self-image as someone exempt from racism. Paradoxically, Eva’s anger that I did not take her claims at face value surfaced within the context of a volunteer workshop on racism, which she ostensibly attended to deepen her understanding of racism.

White fragility functions as a form of bullying: “I am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me that you will simply back off.”

Another example: I am coaching a small group of white employees on how racism manifests in their workplace. One member of the group, Karen, is upset about a request from Joan, her only colleague of color, to stop talking over her. Karen doesn’t understand what talking over Joan has to do with race; she is an extrovert and tends to talk over everyone. I try to explain how the impact is different when we interrupt across race because we bring our histories with us. While Karen sees herself as a unique individual, Joan sees Karen as a white individual. Being interrupted and talked over by white people is not a unique experience for Joan, nor is it separate from the larger cultural context. Karen exclaims, “Forget it! I can’t say anything right, so I am going to stop talking!”

The episode highlights Karen’s white fragility. She is unable to see herself in racial terms. When she is pressed to do so, she refuses to engage further, positioning herself as the one being treated unfairly. In the post–civil rights era, we have been taught that racists are mean people who intentionally dislike others because of their race; a racist is consciously prejudiced and intends to be hurtful. Because this definition requires conscious intent, it exempts virtually all white people and functions beautifully to obscure and protect racism as a system in which we are all implicated. This definition also ensures that any suggestion of racially problematic behavior will trigger moral outrage and defense.

The large body of research on children and race demonstrates that children start to construct their ideas about race very early. Remarkably, a sense of white superiority and knowledge of racial power codes appear to develop as early as preschool. Professor of communications Judith Martin describes white children’s upbringing:

As in other Western nations, white children born in the United States inherit the moral predicament of living in a white supremacist society. Raised to experience their racially based advantages as fair and normal, white children receive little if any instruction regarding the predicament they face, let alone any guidance in how to resolve it. Therefore, they experience or learn about racial tension without understanding euro-Americans’ historical responsibility for it and knowing virtually nothing about their contemporary roles in perpetuating it.

Despite its ubiquity, white superiority is also unnamed and denied by most whites. If we become adults who explicitly oppose racism, as do many, we often organize our identity around a denial of our racially based privileges that reinforce racist disadvantage for others. What is particularly problematic about this contradiction is that white people’s moral objection to racism increases their resistance to acknowledging complicity with it. In a white supremacist context, white identity largely rests on a foundation of (superficial) racial tolerance and acceptance. We whites who position ourselves as liberal often opt to protect what we perceive as our moral reputations, rather than recognize or change our participation in systems of inequity and domination.

One way that whites protect their positions when challenged on race is to invoke the discourse of self-defense. Through this discourse, whites characterize themselves as victimized, slammed, blamed, and attacked. Whites who describe the interactions this way are responding to the articulation of counternarratives alone; no physical violence has ever occurred in any interracial discussion or training that I am aware of. These self-defense claims work on multiple levels. They identify the speakers as morally superior while obscuring the true power of their social positions. The claims blame others with less social power for their discomfort and falsely describe that discomfort as dangerous. The self-defense approach also reinscribes racist imagery. By positioning themselves as the victim of anti-racist efforts, they cannot be the beneficiaries of whiteness. Claiming that it is they who have been unfairly treated — through a challenge to their position or an expectation that they listen to the perspectives and experiences of people of color — they can demand that more social resources (such as time and attention) be channeled in their direction to help them cope with this mistreatment.

When I consult with organizations that want me to help them recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, I am consistently warned that past efforts to address the lack of diversity have resulted in trauma for white employees. This is literally the term used to describe the impact of a brief and isolated workshop: trauma. This trauma has required years of avoiding the topic altogether, and although the business leaders feel they are ready to begin again, I am cautioned to proceed slowly and be careful. Of course, this white racial trauma in response to equity efforts has also ensured that the organization has remained overwhelmingly white.

The language of violence that many whites use to describe anti-racist endeavors is not without significance, as it is another example of how white fragility distorts reality. By employing terms that connote physical abuse, whites tap into the classic story that people of color (particularly African Americans) are dangerous and violent. In so doing, whites distort the real direction of danger between whites and others. This history becomes profoundly minimized when whites claim they don’t feel safe or are under attack when they find themselves in the rare situation of merely talking about race with people of color. The use of this language of violence illustrates how fragile and ill-equipped most white people are to confront racial tensions and their subsequent projection of this tension onto people of color.

A cogent example of white fragility occurred during a workplace anti-racism training I co-facilitated with an interracial team. One of the white participants left the session and went back to her desk, upset at receiving (what appeared to the training team as) sensitive and diplomatic feedback on how some of her statements had impacted several of the people of color in the room. At break, several other white participants approached me and my fellow trainers and reported that they had talked to the woman at her desk and that she was very upset that her statements had been challenged. (Of course, “challenged” was not how she phrased her concern. It was framed as her being “falsely accused” of having a racist impact.) Her friends wanted to alert us to the fact that she was in poor health and “might be having a heart attack.”

Upon questioning from us, they clarified that they meant this literally. These co-workers were sincere in their fear that the young woman might actually die as a result of the feedback. Of course, when news of the women’s potentially fatal condition reached the rest of the participant group, all attention was immediately focused back onto her and away from engagement with the impact she had on the people of color. As professor of social work Rich Vodde states, “If privilege is defined as a legitimization of one’s entitlement to resources, it can also be defined as permission to escape or avoid any challenges to this entitlement.”

Let me be clear: While the capacity for white people to sustain challenges to our racial positions is limited — and, in this way, fragile — the effects of our responses are not fragile at all; they are quite powerful, because they take advantage of historical and institutional power and control. We wield this power and control in whatever way is most useful in the moment to protect our positions. If we need to cry so that all the resources rush back to us and attention is diverted away from a discussion of our racism, then we will cry (a strategy most commonly employed by white middle-class women). If we need to take umbrage and respond with righteous outrage, then we will take umbrage. If we need to argue, minimize, explain, play devil’s advocate, pout, tune out, or withdraw to stop the challenge, then we will.

White fragility functions as a form of bullying: “I am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me — no matter how diplomatically you try to do so — that you will simply back off, give up, and never raise the issue again.” White fragility keeps people of color in line and “in their place.” In this way, it is a powerful form of white racial control. Social power is not fixed; it is constantly challenged and needs to be maintained.

In my workshops, I often ask people of color, “How often have you given white people feedback on our unaware yet inevitable racism? How often has that gone well for you?” Eye rolling, head shaking, and outright laughter follow, along with the consensus of rarely, if ever. I then ask, I ask my fellow whites to consider the profundity of that response. It would be revolutionary if we could receive, reflect, and work to change the behavior. On the one hand, the man’s response points to how difficult and fragile we are. But on the other hand, it indicates how simple it can be to take responsibility for our racism. But we aren’t likely to get there if we are operating from the dominant worldview that only intentionally mean people can participate in racism.

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CrystalDave
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#1496; Requiescat in Peonies

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You know it's a good system because it involves coming up with elaborate new ideas to manage your elaborate old ideas.

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CrystalDave
244 days ago
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ScottInPDX
244 days ago
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I can relate to this waaaayy too much. It would be a really healthy thing to practice.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth

How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained

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What is Silicon Valley?

For Californians of a certain tenure, Silicon Valley is a location – an actual, geological valley nestled between two mountain ranges and the marshy southern dregs of the San Francisco bay. The titans of technology – Adobe, Alphabet, Apple, eBay, Facebook, HP, Intel and Oracle – are all headquartered in the valley itself.

But as the tech industry’s dominance has expanded, so, too, have Silicon Valley’s boundaries. The phrase has come to represent something that is both more and less than the tech industry as a whole.

If the name represents anything at all, it is a way of thinking and talking, a mindset expressed through a shared vocabulary: the vocabulary of bullshit. Where Wall Street is capitalism unvarnished, Silicon Valley is capitalism euphemized.

Here is a lexicon of Silicon Valley: a map for travelers to find their way through the wilds of billion-dollar lies.

Airbnb (n) – A hotel company that figured out how to avoid the expense of owning hotels or employing hotel workers. See unicorn. (v) – To illegally convert an apartment into a vacation rental in a city with an affordable housing crisis.

Amazon (n) – A website that went from selling books to selling virtually all items on Earth; it’s also a movie studio, book publisher, major grocery chain owner, hardware manufacturer, and host for most of the internet, to name just a few endeavors. Competitors in nearly every industry fear its might. Formerly known as “the everything store”; soon to be known as “the only store”.

angel investor (phrase) – A wealthy individual who invests a small amount of startup capital at the earliest stages of a company or idea. Often, the angel is part of the entrepreneur’s extended network, whether because they went to the same college, worked together at a previous company, or are family friends. Frequently a vocal opponent of affirmative action. See also meritocracy.

apology (n) – A public relations exercise designed to change headlines. In practice, a promise to keep doing the same thing but conceal it better. “People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a 2007 apology, before promising better privacy controls in a 2010 mea culpa, vowing more transparency in 2011, and acknowledging “mistakes” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. See Facebook, privacy.

Apple (n) – America’s first trillion-dollar company, which achieved inordinate success through groundbreaking products such as the Macintosh, iPod and iPhone. After it ran out of ideas for new products, Apple maintained its dominance by coming up with new ways to force its customers to purchase expensive accessories. See dongle.

artificial intelligence (ph) – Computers so smart that their behavior is indistinguishable from that of humans. Often achieved by secretly paying real humans to pretend they’re robots.

Autopilot (n) – The name Tesla gives to its advanced driver assistance system, ie souped-up cruise control. Named after the advanced technology that allows pilots to take their hands off the controls of a plane, but very much not an invitation for Tesla drivers to take their hands off the wheel, right, Elon?

bad actors (ph) – People who use a social media platform in a way that results in bad press. Bad actors usually take advantage of features of the platform that were clearly vulnerable for abuse but necessary to achieve scale. “The Russian intelligence operatives who used Facebook’s self-serve advertising system to target US voters with divisive and false messages were ‘bad actors’.”

biohacking (n) – Applying the DIY hacker ethos to one’s own body to achieve higher performance. Often involves bizarre eating habits, fasting, inserting microchips into one’s body, and taking nootropics (AKA expensive nutritional supplements). When done by women, dieting. In extreme forms, an eating disorder.

bootstrap (v) – To start a company without venture capital. The only option for the vast majority of people who start companies, but a point of pride for the tiny subset of entrepreneurs who have access to venture capital and eschew it. “My dad is friends with Tim Draper but I wanted to do something on my own so I’m bootstrapping” – a tech bro.

cloud, the (n) – Servers. A way to keep more of your data off your computer and in the hands of big tech, where it can be monetized in ways you don’t understand but may have agreed to when you clicked on the Terms of Service. Usually located in a city or town whose elected officials exchanged tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks for seven full-time security guard jobs.

data (n) – A record of everything you do involving the internet – which is increasingly synonymous with everything you do, period. Corporations use the digital trails you and millions of others leave to sell you things – in other words, your actions, relationships, and desires have become currency. See privacy.

deprecated (adj) – A description for a software feature that is no longer being updated and will probably be phased out soon.

disrupt (v) – To create a new market, either by inventing something completely new (ie the personal computer, the smartphone) or by ignoring the rules of an old market. If the latter, often illegal, but rarely prosecuted. Uber disrupted the taxi industry by flooding the market with illegal cabs, while Airbnb disrupted the hotel market by flooding the market with illegal sublets. See sharing economy.

diversity and inclusion (ph) – Initiatives designed to sugarcoat Silicon Valley’s systematic failure to hire, promote and retain African American and Latinx employees. The phrase is usually invoked when a company is expounding on its “values” in response to incontrovertible evidence of widespread racial or gender discrimination.

dongle (n) A small, expensive and easily misplaced piece of computer gear. Usually required when a company revolutionizes its products by getting rid of all the ports that are compatible with the accessories you already own. See Apple.

Don’t Be Evil (ph) Google’s original corporate motto. Deprecated.

employee (n) People who work for a tech company and are eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits. Importantly, this does not necessarily include the vast majority of people who perform work for the company and create its value, such as the people who drive for transportation companies, the people who deliver for delivery companies, and the cooks, cleaners, security guards and parking attendants on tech campuses. Less than 50% of Google’s global workforce. See Uber, sharing economy, disruption, scale.

evangelist (n) A job title for salespeople who are slightly creepy in their cultish devotion to the product they are selling. “I used to work in sales but now I evangelize Microsoft’s products.”

FAANG (ph) An acronym for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Originally coined to refer to the company’s high-performing tech stocks, but also used to denote a certain amount of status. “His boyfriend is a software engineer, but not at a FAANG so he’s not really marriage material.”

Facebook (n) Your mom’s favorite social media platform.

5G (n) – The next generation of mobile internet, which promises to enable digital surveillance at blindingly fast speeds.

free speech (ph) A constitutionally protected right in the US that is primarily invoked by tech bros and internet trolls when they are asked to stop being assholes. Syn: hate speech. See ideological diversity.

GDPR (ph) A comprehensive data protection law that applies to companies operating in Europe, including American ones. Though the safeguards don’t apply directly to people outside Europe, the measure may push companies to step up their privacy efforts everywhere – handy for Americans, whose own government has done a pretty poor job of protecting them.

gentrifier (n) – A relatively affluent newcomer to a historically poor or working-class neighborhood whose arrival portends increased policing, pricier restaurants and the eviction or displacement of longtime residents. Often used by gentrifiers as a general epithet for anyone who arrived in their neighborhood after they did.

Google (n) – The privacy-devouring tech company that does everything that Facebook does, but manages to get away with it, largely because its products are useful instead of just depressing. (v) – To make the bare minimum effort to inform oneself about something. What a tech bro did before he insisted on explaining your area of expertise to you.

ideological diversity (ph) – The rallying cry for opponents of diversity and inclusion programs. Advocates for ideological diversity argue that corporate efforts to increase the representation of historically marginalized groups – women, African Americans and Latinos, among others – should also be required to increase the representation of people who believe that women, African Americans and Latinos are inherently unsuited to work in tech.

incubator (n) A parent company that takes baby companies under its wing until they can fly on their own; a playgroup for tech bros. See meritocracy.

IPO (n) Initial public offering – when a company begins allowing regular people to buy shares. A way for everyone, not just venture capital firms, to lose money, as in Uber’s recent disappointing IPO.

meritocracy (n) A system that rewards those who most deserve it, as long as they went to the right school. The tech industry is a meritocracy in much the same way that America is a meritocracy. See diversity and inclusion.

microdosing (n) – Taking small amounts of illegal drugs while white. It may be possible to microdose without writing a book or personal essay about it, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

mission (n) – What separates a tech bro and a finance bro: the tech bro works for a company that has a “mission”. Usually something grandiose, utopian, and entirely inconsistent with the company’s business model. Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected; Facebook’s business model is to sell ads by dividing people into incredibly narrow marketing profiles.

monetize (v) – To charge money for a product, or, to figure out how to extract money from people without their understanding or explicit consent. Though having a plan to monetize is usually the first step for a small business or startup (“You mean I shouldn’t just give the lemonade away for free?”), angel investors and venture capitalists have created an environment in which companies can attempt to scale first and monetize later. “My app is free because I’m monetizing my users’ data.”

Move fast and break things (ph) – Facebook’s original corporate motto. In hindsight, a red flag. Deprecated, allegedly.

off-site (n) – A work event at a non-work location. Often includes alcohol and socializing. Primarily used when describing a sexual harassment complaint.

pivot (v) – What tech startups do when they realize scaling is not a business model without a monetization strategy.

platform (n) – A website that hosts user-generated content. Platforms are distinct from publishers, which more directly commission and control the content they publish. In the US, platforms enjoy special legal status protecting them from liability for the content they host and allowing them to exercise broad discretion over which content they want to ban or delete. Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Craigslist are examples of platforms. The reason Facebook says it does not “have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true”.

privacy (n) – Archaic. The concept of maintaining control over one’s personal information.

revolutionize (v) – To change something that does not need to be changed in order to charge money for its replacement. “Apple revolutionized the experience of using headphones when it killed the headphone jack on iPhones.”

runway (n) – The amount of venture capital a startup has left before it has to either monetize its product, pivot or start selling the office furniture. “I can’t believe Topher spent half our runway on a Tesla Roadster.”

scale (v) – The holy grail. To create a business that can accommodate exponential increases in users with minimal increases in costs. Also applicable if the costs can be externalized to taxpayers or countries in the global south. In the negative, a surprisingly effective excuse not to do something that any non-tech company would do. “We would prefer not to foment genocide in Myanmar, but content moderation simply does not scale.”

shadowban (v) – The conspiracy theory that no one is responding to a social media post because the platform is secretly preventing the user’s content from being seen and/or going viral. “Brandon was convinced that Twitter had shadowbanned him when no one responded to his demand that an SJW feminazi debate him.”

sharing economy (ph) A system in which working does not mean being employed. See employees.

smart (adj) – A product that is capable of being hooked up to the internet – thus rendering it capable of being hacked or abusing your data.

Snapchat (n) – Facebook’s research and development department.

tech bro (n) – A US-born, college-educated, Patagonia-clad male whose entry level salary at one of the FAANG companies was at least $125,000 and who frequently insists that his female co-workers give him high-fives. Typically works in product management or marketing. Had he been born 10 years earlier, he would have been a finance bro instead.

the FTC (n) The US Federal Trade Commission. Capable of levying enormous fines against companies like Facebook, potentially whittling down its revenues to just a handful of billions of dollars. Not really in that much of a hurry to do anything, however.

thought leader (n) – An unemployed rich person.

Twitter (n) – A mid-sized business with outsized importance due to its three primary users: Donald Trump, Elon Musk and journalists. A useful tool for journalists to gauge public opinion by talking to other journalists, and for Elon Musk to provoke lawsuits and federal investigations into security fraud.

Uber (n) – A unicorn startup that disrupted the taxi industry by revolutionizing the sharing economy at incredible scale thanks to unprecedented amounts of venture capital. In the first earnings report after a lackluster IPO, revealed that it lost $1bn in three months.

unicorn (n) – A startup valued at at least $1bn. At one point, rare. Increasingly, not even that exciting.

UX designer (n) The person responsible for a website or app user’s experience (UX). They make the buttons they want you to click on – Share! Buy! Sign Up! – large and noticeable, and the buttons that turn off location tracking very small.

venture capital (ph) A system by which wealthy individuals can invest in startups before they go public. A legal and surprisingly respectable form of gambling. An alternate retirement plan for fortysomething multimillionaires who never developed hobbies.

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CrystalDave
327 days ago
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Seattle, WA
popular
327 days ago
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acdha
328 days ago
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“We would prefer not to foment genocide in Myanmar, but content moderation simply does not scale.”
Washington, DC
digdoug
332 days ago
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This is spectacular.
Louisville, KY

https://webcomicname.com/post/185246584149

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jepler
360 days ago
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oh YES
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
CrystalDave
359 days ago
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Seattle, WA
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