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    There are several engineering “Holy cow!” moments in my career: structured programming, OO, databases, and so forth

    But I think the insights that had the longest-term impacts were those that involved my mental/emotional manipulation by way of media consumption. In the 90s, I stopped playing video games. I realized that the games were not “games” as I understood them. They weren’t challenges of skill. It was more like a movie where you could click. The goal was to keep you playing as long as possible.

    There was about 15 years when I didn’t have any more realizations. Instead it was all technical. Then, as I started helping more and more teams, I began to realize that developers were being sold to by Microsoft, Apple, Google, and so forth. Just like with the game situation, what it appeared to be and what it was were different things. It appeared to be new, useful tech to do things we couldn’t do before. In far too many cases, however, what it actually was? It was products designed to appeal to developers so they’d use them – and become part of some ecosystem that involved selling more stuff to them.

    As I moved into helping larger organizations, I saw the same thing with process. There are a dozen easily-recognizable companies today where their main marketing thrust is telling other developers what a cool workplace/process they have. It appears that they’re sharing cool, positive, innovative new solutions with the community. What it actually is? It’s just another way to bring people together and keep them permanently engaged so that more things can be sold to them.

    I don’t mind the bazaar concept. A cool place where you can see all sorts of things and browse looks like fun. What I mind is the subtle manipulation of expectations versus reality. There are tons of people massively overbuilding and overengineering systems today because they’re so caught up in these various communities that they don’t understand delivering solutions. There are poor people all over the world desperately building iPhone apps and the like because they think that’s a path to wealth. I mind it when we show people one thing, a goal they’d like to achieve, then we sell them something else: an ecosystem where it looks like they’re reaching that goal, but instead they’re actually doing some other stuff we want. That’s dark.

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      There are poor people all over the world desperately building iPhone apps and the like because they think that’s a path to wealth. I mind it when we show people one thing, a goal they’d like to achieve, then we sell them something else: an ecosystem where it looks like they’re reaching that goal, but instead they’re actually doing some other stuff we want. That’s dark.

      No, I think you are spot on.

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      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that’s grumped about this.

      There is a very real war for space and audience on places like Lobsters. We have to be observant.

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        I feel like Lobsters in particular is a lot better about this. HackerNews is pretty much all hype, but Lobsters feels like a place where you can almost always have genuine technical discussions.

        I hope it stays this way!

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          The price of good content is eternal vigilance and a vigorous use of flags.

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            …but it’s far from enough. The crowd that gathers around a medium makes the quality.

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            Given my contentious history on HN, I find it to be about 1/5 to 1/3 shills and otherwise people trying to set the narrative. Of course, underlying it all is a VC firm. And what dang and such write, is you don’t do something for free in business. Unsurprisingly, it’s used as a media manipulation tool.

            With lobsters, I don’t feel like I’m a product. I don’t feel sold to, nor do I feel like a piece of meat to be slabbed and weighed. Sure, we have our spats here, but they feel like the old usenet style holy war battles.

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          This:

          In the bazaar, the merchants set the tone. In engineering media, the vocal — those with a particular personal agenda and a less nuanced viewpoint — dominate over thoughtful engineers. Tried and true technologies often have few advocates or rabid early adopters, while the newest have a motivated corp of supporters.

          This:

          Third, the owner runs the bazaar with an eye to maximizing sales, mercilessly favoring the merchants that are successful. In social media and tech blogs, this means increasing engagement and upvotes and page views. In conferences and meetups, this means filling chairs by attracting the right speakers and featuring the content most demanded by the target audience and sponsors. This sets the incentive for every merchant who wants to survive.

          This:

          Beyond misinforming us, this drive for engagement manipulates our desire to not get left behind. To stay relevant, it seems that we have to use the technologies most hotly discussed. In traditional media, death coverage is commonly used to maximize engagement and get clicks; in software engineering, it is covering new technology.

          And this:

          Reddit-type communities like Hacker News often give very little power to experts. Just like a democracy, it gives power to motivated voters, which doesn’t always make sense on highly technical topics. In this environment, the world’s most thoughtful database expert has just a single vote.

          Are some of my main grievances with the current state of the industry.

          I’m glad to know that I am not alone.

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            Reddit-type communities like Hacker News often give very little power to experts

            The contents of those mediums attracts beginners and often annoys and frustrates experts. In an electoral democracy, in comparison, the balance is more even.

            This makes this kind of online communities very vulnerable to hype and irrational bias for novelty.

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              Perhaps someday we can build engineering media that has the right incentives.

              Is that a technical or an organizational problem?

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                It’s a people problem, which is why engineers are just as susceptible to it as anyone.