1. 71
  1.  

  2. 18

    The video is much better (and not censored).

    1. 3

      I agree. I linked to it in the post as you can’t capture the emotion in text.

      1. 3

        “If you are in a cube farm using your brain for a living using your brain for a living, you are in the haves, not the have-nots. You are not in the demographic that voted Trump into office.”

        First of all, the average Trump voter had an income of $72,000. That’s not poor. That’s management in most of the country.

        Second, I disagree strongly with that statement. Now, I’ve been researching the 19th century because my novel is loosely steampunk. Yes, it’s better to live now than then. Fewer people die of health insurance in the 21st century than died of cholera or TB or black lung or mining accidents in the 19th century, but it’s horrible either way.

        Still, I find myself agreeing more with Andrew (the man on Brian’s left) than with Bryan, even though I enjoy Bryan’s delivery style (it makes mine appear moderate). I tend not to fault the programmers who accept middle-class salaries so they can feed their families. This is an upper management problem.

        I do generally think that 2017 is an underrated time to be alive (mediocre from a US perspective, but best-ever from a world perspective) and that tech people have an underutilized power that ought to be used for better purposes. I’ve been screaming at that cloud for years.

        1. 4

          I tend not to fault the programmers who accept middle-class salaries so they can feed their families. This is an upper management problem.

          No. If you choose to do something, you are responsible for that action. It doesn’t matter who told you to do it.

          You can argue that the action isn’t immoral, or that you don’t care about the damage, or that the benefit outweighs the harm, but the action is still yours. You own it.

          1. 3

            I agree with you, but it’s a question of relative harm. You can:

            • fail economically and fuck up your kid for a long time, or
            • do your best to survive a subordinate role in something evil (corporatism) knowing that you’ll be replaced if you don’t and it makes no difference.

            I don’t fault people for choosing the second.

            That said, I tend toward antinatalism. When you breed, you’re creating people that your employer (in many cases, global corporate capitalism) can hold hostage. I feel like global corporatism would be overthrown in a month if people didn’t have kids. That said, people do. And, once they do, it’s arguably better for the world that they prioritize raising their kids right (which is hard to do if you keep getting fired or get blacklisted) over moral purity.

            The insidious aspect is the way that global corporatism tricks people into thinking they aren’t doing any harm. When you sign up, you’re in a brain-dead subordinate position where you really aren’t doing any harm, because you could be replaced with someone off the street who’d do the same job. Once you’re high up in the system, they’ve had years to make you one of them.

            1. 2

              But the choice between doing what you are expected to at work to keep feeding your family and quitting and therefore putting yourself and your family into an uncertain economical position is not an even one.

              Now that doesn’t make ones actions somehow not immoral, but at least it make them understandable. If you want people to act with more integrity you need to address the reasons that hinder them to do so, instead of just leaving them alone with a heavily loaded choice.

              Simply telling everyone “Thou shalt not steal.” does not work. We have been trying that for more than 2000 Years now. You need to address the conditions that makes one do so.

        2. 11

          I sit next to Bryan at work, and I can confirm: Joyent is a great place to be!

          1. 8

            FWIW, these values are a powerful recruiting tool: I’d definitely consider Joyent a place to work in the future due to the passion displayed for them, and some of the problems worked on.

          2. 6

            “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.” - C.S. Lewis

            One reason I think this resonates is our industry feels more in the throes of extractive, me-me-me culture than ever before, mostly due to the bubble. Tech has been subsumed by the larger business culture, which sees integrity is a liability. I think most people don’t actually share this view, but feel they have to acquiesce to it (be it conscious or not) in order to survive. In effect, the culture is polluted by self-aggrandizement. To see a profession of values higher than one’s own personal success is refreshing.

            1. 4

              Berkshire’s a notable exception – the biennial letter from Warren Buffett to mangers, for some years running, says:

              This is my biennial letter to reemphasize Berkshire’s top priority and to get your help on succession planning (yours, not mine!).

              The priority is that all of us continue to zealously guard Berkshire’s reputation. We can’t be perfect but we can try to be. As I’ve said in these memos for more than 25 years: “We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.” We must continue to measure every act against not only what is legal but also what we would be happy to have written about on the front page of a national newspaper in an article written by an unfriendly but intelligent reporter.

              (https://www2.bc.edu/robert-radin/Administration/Buffett%20Managers%20Letter%202008.pdf , http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2010ltr.pdf)

            2. 4

              I think Bryan’s straw-manning the Amazon leadership principles a bit. Integrity is woven throughout essentially all of them; earning trust, insisting on the highest standards, and customer obsession all mandate a high foundational level of integrity. That’s not to say every Amazon product, process or leader succeeds all the time, but it’s a disservice to tens of thousands of high-integrity Amazonians to suggest we don’t care deeply about it.

              (disclaimer: I work for Amazon, but don’t speak for Amazon here)

              1. 7

                I don’t agree in that I don’t think that integrity is in fact implied by any of them. For example, you can easily earn trust without integrity (e.g. Madoff Investment Securities), insist on high standards without integrity (e.g., Enron), and be customer obsessed without integrity (e.g., Uber). I’m not accusing Amazon of not having integrity (or at least, not necessarily), but I do accuse it of not having integrity as an espoused core principle (or even among the first 14!). And the bigger problem isn’t Amazon (frankly), it’s those that Amazon inspires, like (say) Uber. Uber’s core values (the idea for which supposedly came from an exec who came from Amazon) are entirely devoid of integrity – and indeed, some (like “fierceness” and “encourage toe-stepping”) practically assure that integrity be sacrificed to satisfy them.

                1. 1

                  I’ll agree it’s possible to read the Amazon LPs the way you do, but I think that’s unnecessarily incharitable in service of your (otherwise great and thought provoking) presentation.

                  At Amazon, ‘Earns Trust’ means what it literally says on its face; to earn the trust of your customers, your peers, your management, and your reports, without equivocation. And it’s drilled in, correctly, that trust is fragile; it is far easier to break it than to ever fix it once it’s broken. In order to keep and maintain trust, you have to work with integrity, compassion, an adult viewpoint, introspection, deliberation, openness, thoughtfulness, and a bunch of other non-mentioned (but critically important) motivations, and you have to keep those front and center all the time.

                  I think it’d be a pretty great idea if we exposed some of the internal training materials about the principles to the public. I think it’d help in discussions like this. I’ll bring that up.

                2. 1

                  My new minimum bar for a companies value statement is “Would Uber’s behaviour break these principles?”. Looking at Amazon’s principles, I don’t really see anything there that would be inconsistent with how Uber runs their business except for perhaps “Earn Trust”. I don’t think they have the same ethical values, but they don’t distinguish themselves from Uber in those principles.

                3. 2

                  We have got an incredible luxury. There’s never been a labour market like this one. Where have we so screwed up with a generation, if not a society where we’ve got people who are so extrinsically motivated?

                  I feel like we wasted our opportunity.

                  The side that can act collectively is the one that wins. This doesn’t mean that we need every aspect of a labor union. The AMA and ABA are unions by another name. Professional associations are unions. Why do companies kick the shit out of employees? Because an individual employee has no power or leverage. The company already has collective bargaining (it’s called “management”). Labor doesn’t.

                  We clearly need something, and the mid-2010s gave us leverage that we failed to use. Now the labor market is softening and boot camps are tanking salaries at the low end which will bring down the whole pike.

                  1. 2

                    “I’m sorry, if you’ve got one principle in your organisation, its integrity? Right?”

                    Wrong. Effectiveness at achieving organization’s goals is the most important principle. Everything else comes second. If Im wrong, just get a market report on desktop OS’s where Microsoft shoukd either be bankrupt or less than 1% share. Similarly for mainframes where IBM probably is barely scraping by. Im probably typing this on an OpenMoko with cutting-edge hardware whose specs are open to aid trustworthy, competitive, driver development. As is EDA and fab’s cell libraries. Licensing for Oracle is a one-click process with exceedingly cheap results.

                    Good that high integrity prevails in the corporate world. I can wait to see what President(s) got elected and laws passed through the campaign contributions of good corporations. The future is probably bright for all economic classes.

                    1. 28

                      Okay, so to play that out: if an organization has to choose between integrity and achieving its goals, it should choose to achieve its goals?! Perhaps we’re operating under different definitions of integrity (perhaps you have inferred it to mean “technical purity”?), but I can’t imagine how anyone would want to work in an organization where integrity is knowingly sacrificed to achieve larger goals – and I further don’t see how this could possibly be controversial.

                      1. 3

                        To add another wrench to the mix: if your value system is that breaking the rules is ok to achieve goals, you can still have integrity (in the technical sense of the word) as long as you are clear that your values allow this. To use Uber as an example as well: the results of the Uber scandals, I find, ethically problematic. However they are completely in line with my understanding of the Uber culture and I’m not surprised or feel scandals demonstrate any dualism in Uber. Their communications have always been to do whatever it takes to succeed.

                        Note that this definition of ‘integrity’ is that someone/group is the same internally and externally. Unified. Which is, perhaps, a different definition that many people have or how it’s used day-to-day. This definition comes from Ray Dalio’s Principles book.

                        1. 3

                          So, to play devil’s advocate, what competitive edge does integrity give in a modern business? What is the dollars-and-cents value of scruples?

                          Also, what do you you think caused this shift, if indeed it was a shift?

                          1. 17

                            To me, it’s not a competitive edge – it’s a constraint. (And one that isn’t very constraining, honestly – especially if one takes a slightly longer view in terms of outcomes.)

                            As to what has caused a seeming shift away from valuing integrity, I can only speculate, but I suspect that it’s due to a confluence of factors – and I very much hope that it’s a localized and transient! That is, I hope that we will collectively look back on (say) Uber as symptomatic of the excesses of an era rather than a portent of worse to come…

                            1. 1

                              And one that isn’t very constraining, honestly – especially if one takes a slightly longer view in terms of outcomes.

                              Yeah… Especially leadership changes or post-acquisition. I could never work for a company intending to get acquired or IPO while telling my customers I had their best interests in mind. Unless, I open-source almost everything and otherwise gave them a clean, exit strategy so a future tyrant couldn’t lock them in. Most tech people in proprietary or SaaS don’t do that. I know your company open-sourced a bunch of stuff. I don’t remember all the product details. Might be an exception. :)

                            2. 5

                              Is this what we’re saying…

                              Do whatever makes money. If breaking the law doesn’t reduce profits, then break it. If being amoral (whose morality?!) doesn’t reduce profits, be amoral! etc.

                              Because that seems to be the contemporary mode.

                              1. 1

                                I’m not saying that. I’m saying effectiveness. In some organizations, that means focus on money, In others, it might mean other things. Depends on the goal. Let’s illustrate with an more obvious and extreme example that happens in the real-world: non-profit that gets money to pay for cancer treatments, esp kids. The people on the sales end are naturally going to be talking to a lot of people who didn’t want anyone to sell them anything. They’re also going to talk to people that will only do it if they like the seller, works within their ideology, etc. As in sales in general, the person doing the selling should be bending their personality and truth to the ears of the listener to increase odds they’ll accepts while simultaneously constraining themselves enough to avoid long-term, negative impact. The latter is not even always necessary as the organization can “fire” the one person that got caught saying they were out of line and not representing the organization properly.

                                Meanwhile, this person acting on effectiveness more than integrity is saving a lot of lives getting a lot of donations. Acting with highest integrity for most people would reduce persuasive ability, reduce donations, and kill people as a side effect. Would you kill people regularly in such a job just to say you have higher integrity? ;)

                                1. 1

                                  Would you kill people regularly in such a job just to say you have higher integrity?

                                  If you were receiving cancer treatment, would you accept it if you knew it came from swindling people?

                                  1. 2

                                    I don’t know. That would be a tough decision. I stay realist. So, I’d decline and turn them in if I believed the money would get back to the victims. Otherwise, I’d be choosing between taking it or dying for the toys a LEO would buy for themselves after seizing it. I won’t die for that. So, I’d take the money and go after them if Im in remission. Also, a proxy to do same if I die.

                            3. 1

                              I didn’t say I wanted to work at such a place. I countered the idea that integrity was most important by noting that most successful businesses sacrifice it in some way regularly to gain market share, profit, etc. All the market leaders do as well for all far as I can tell. So do almost all politicians and companies that write the laws that people with integrity are forced to operate under.

                              Given all that, I think businesses should be willing to sacrifice integrity when it helps them achieve goals, esp long-term. I prefer them to operate with integrity but their environment means most won’t. Many will even go under when competitors use low integrity marketing or cost-cutting strategies. Example: try competing in hardware market by having well-paid, first-world people assemble the components with 40 hour work week, breaks, vacations, and so on. You’ll go bankrupt if it ain’t defense or some high-margin industry.

                            4. 6

                              I think both you and Bryan Cantrill have somehow conflated values & morals with capitalism. It’s apples and oranges. There is an argument to be made for (moral) principles/values, and there is an (economic) argument to be made for achieving goals when operating within the capitalist system. But the actions that these arguments would imply are not necessarily aligned and perhaps not even reconcilable.

                              Incidentally, I hold integrity in the highest regard in all endeavours (not just business). Amazing things can be built on the foundation of integrity.

                              1. 4

                                the actions that these arguments would imply are not necessarily aligned and perhaps not even reconcilable.

                                So an action that’s carried out to achieve a capitalist end is simply external to any moral universe? The “values & morals” just don’t apply once an economic motivation comes into play?

                                1. 2

                                  many people here would love to say “no”, but it seems “yes” is the right answer here. Look at the “shareholder value” driven world today. More, more, more is the only thing that counts.

                                  1. 1

                                    That’s not what I said. I said that acting morally may not be aligned with achieving success in a capitalist system, and may even be impossible in some cases (case in point: today’s oil companies). I’m not at all advocating amorality, but my point is that capitalism as a system has no built-in morality; morality is an independent set of constraints. People, however, have to operate within both sets of constraints, and choose their course of action accordingly.

                                    1. 2

                                      Sure. I was just trying to poke a little at “conflated values & morals with capitalism”, because I don’t think the rant in this post does that. On my understanding, it’s saying rather that the problem with unconstrained capitalism is exactly that it doesn’t have values & morals applied to it often enough, if at all. I agree with that, and in my experience that’s usually the case because people metaphorically shrug their shoulders regarding values & morals, arguing “well of course not, my hands are tied, financial motivations have to take precedence, what would you have me do?”, as if this gives people and organisations free passes to behave badly in the name of profit. What I’d have people do would be to take a bit of personal responsibility for the world they live in and exercise a bit of values & morals in order to make that world a little bit less shitty, rather than them a little bit richer. In my mind, that’s what civilization is about; a generalized move away from selfish actions towards those aimed at benefiting a collective; and moves towards increased selfishness and individual people’s and organisation’s gains at the expense of others are steps back from civilization. But I recognise I probably live in cloud cuckoo land as far as most people are concerned, and the way politics and societies are moving right now seem to bear that out.

                                      1. 1

                                        I may have misinterpreted the comment about Scott McNealy as I don’t know the details of that; it sounded like a moral judgement was cast as an act of a capitalist.

                                        I agree with your view of civilisation, and I think it’s beneficial in that it’s aligned with our biological underpinnings - we evolved as social creatures, and hence complete selfishness and individualism are not natural for us.

                                        1. 6

                                          Ah, got you. I thought the point of the McNealy reference was that even he, the most die-hard fan of free-market capitalism, still found it important to act morally and not lie or cheat or have to hide things from his children. Thus, that one could probably always make more profit by being less moral, but would then have to hide it from one’s children. Thus, that acting morally and making a profit aren’t incompatible, and being a capitalist doesn’t mean you have to act amorally (or immorally), but that you can reach some kind of compromise. And what Bryan Cantrill seemed to be saying was, hello, aren’t more and more companies refusing that compromise, targeting profit above all else, moral compass and/or integrity be damned, and isn’t that something we should be fighting against?

                                          The thing is, coming from a Western European background, and having been raised by post-war Europeans, I find it hard to accept the kind of moral arguments for self-interest that US libertarians often make (e.g. that it’s immoral to provide health care, welfare, or any kind of help that stops people having to rely on themselves alone and fighting tooth and nail for survival) - and so I naturally assume that any morally positive act carried out in a capitalist system is morally positive because it’s intended to temper the capitalist/profit motive. Meaning that there are interpretations of ‘moral’ that are completely different from mine; meaning, although I disagree with them (natch), I might have misinterpreted the article as well, and almost certainly interpreted it according to my bias.

                                          Regardless, you make a good point in your last paragraph too. I lapse all too easily into thinking “humans are all too selfish, there’s no way forward”, and what I see happening around right now tends to feed into that - but the reality is that humans are neither completely selfish and individualistic nor completely altruistic and collectivist, and the historical swing between the two is a reflection of that fact. Thanks for the reminder.

                                          1. 3

                                            I like your interpretation of the post, I think it’s better than mine.

                                            I also find it hard to accept arguments for self-interest. I come from an Eastern European background, where I saw the rise of kleptocratic capitalism and the tidal wave of self-interest that came along with it. I don’t think the results have been good.

                                      2. 1

                                        That’s not what I said. I said that acting morally may not be aligned with achieving success in a capitalist system

                                        That’s true. Those doing the most good need the most success in such a system if voters are apathetic. We see this with the big corporations straight-up writing laws to help them while hurting others. These pass quite a bit of the time. That makes capitalist outcomes and morality tied together in the current system in the U.S.. Probably many places. Good news is nothing stopped many of these billionaires from playing things beneficially once they got the market and got rich. People can still do good taking over as CEO’s, managers with decent budgets, and so on. Not always but plenty of the time.

                                  2. 3

                                    P. T. Barnum thought integrity was important enough to make it one of his golden rules of money getting -

                                    https://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/barnum/moneygetting/moneygetting_chap21.html

                                    1. 0

                                      Cites anecdote. Fails to disprove the rule.

                                  3. 1

                                    This person going on about integrity is of the company that dropped lifetime plans they’d sold once they became too expensive, right?

                                    1. 21

                                      Yes – though the lifetime plans long pre-date me (indeed, they date back to 2004), and the decision to turn them off in 2012 was one that I (unfortunately) had nothing to do with. (I was the VP of Engineering at the time.) No executive involved in any aspect of lifetime accounts (either the decision to offer them or the unfortunate decision to end them) has anything to do with the company – and indeed, the Joyent of that era is what many of us veterans refer to as the Bad Old Days. When I came to Joyent in 2010, I quickly realized that the founders of the company and I had some fundamental disagreements at some very basic levels – of which the lifetime plans (both that they were offered and the way in which they were terminated) is a particularly vivid example. The lesson from it all for me was that values absolutely must emanate from the top of a company, and that the most important (and most difficult) property to vet in any executive is their integrity. Fortunately, we at Joyent now have the luxury of working for a high-integrity CEO – but it took a while to get there (he was hired in 2014, over two years after the founding CEO was fired), and then longer still for him to build an organization around him.

                                      If anything, this entire odyssey has made me much more overt and assertive about my own values. So yes, it’s the same company (or the same name, anyway) – and in a perverse and roundabout way, that’s not an accident.

                                      1. 2

                                        It would be a violation of integrity if they did not honor the lifetime plans that they sold. There’s nothing wrong with changing your pricing structure. You can’t make them sell lifetime plans forever.

                                        1. 2

                                          100% agreed. My understanding was that Joyent had done the former.

                                      2. 1

                                        Profit motive reigns supreme, no matter how malevolent the means; so I don’t know what else the cause could be, unless I’m missing something?