TL; DR: I started an “Ask Me Anything” account on Reddit and got hit by a 45+ account voting ring. Reddit is still investigating whether there is a connection between it at Y Combinator.
I’ll be honest about why I deleted most of my blog posts, this past February: I grew tired of the fight. For years I’ve been fighting to make the technology industry better, in spite of itself. Over the past few months, I’ve had doubts about whether any of the efforts were worth it.
It wasn’t a matter of the bad guys, in Silicon Valley, winning. They’ve lost. The lurid back story is that Silicon Valley’s leaders desperately want approval from mainstream society, which they haven’t received. They ridicule “The Paper Belt” because they want to replace it. People like Paul Graham view themselves not as New Gilded Age robber barons (which is what they are) but as statesmen and public intellectuals. They’ve failed to achieve the status that they want. Mainstream society looks upon their “unicorn” startups and chuckles, “Fucking dweebs”. They’re rich, but they’re not loved or even respected. For some reason, I’ve become a symbol to these people of their own failure to achieve that recognition. As to why that is the case, I haven’t a clue. What I do know is that they hate me and that a few have taken an active interest in trying to fuck up my life, career, and reputation.
They’ve lost. They’re losers. The fact that these people have viciously attacked a relative nobody like me just proves it. However, I’ve also lost. Opposition is an association, and why associate with losers in any way? I’m honestly embarrassed that I spent so much time on Hacker News and on Quora, trying to make this industry a little bit better, only to realize, in the end, that none of that effort was worth a goddamn shred of anything.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 24 months. The problem isn’t just “VCs” out in California. Paul Graham is a terrible judge of character, and Paul Buchheit is evil, but they don’t have that much power. Trust me on this; if they did, I’d probably be dead. As for the bad situation that we, as technology people, have found ourselves in? We let this happen. We fell for a materialistic, might-makes-right culture. We let it be imposed on us by the billionaires we work for. We stopped looking out for each other, decades ago. The pay-it-forward culture is gone. What we now have is a back-stabbing, catty, crab mentality culture. We can’t keep just blaming them as if we have no power. We do, collectively, have quite a bit of power. We’re just so easy to divide, and so stupid as a collective, that we spill it all on the floor.
I made a decision earlier today to start an AMA on Reddit. I wasn’t taking it that seriously, as one should be able to tell from the fact that I added “cat person, moralist, and white-hat troll” to my byline.
That was probably a mistake. I knew, of course, that I’d get some nasty comments. Those aren’t new to me. One person called me a “nobody” (not really an insult) and another called me a “mega-douche”. I expected that sort of thing. I also expected that a few people would accuse me of being other posters in the thread (which I wasn’t) because, well, I acted like a bit of an asshat back in 2004 on Wikipedia, and there are some tremendously worthless people who like to keep bringing it up as if it proves something.
I even got this lovely message from someone on Reddit:
I would encourage you to commit suicide. I can promise you that no one will ever love a person like you the way you want to be loved.😦 Suicide is the best way for you.
Sorry, idiot, but I’m loved enough and I like life.
None of the above, on its own, matters. Look, I’m a 32-year-old, 6-foot-tall male whose opposition to social injustices in the technology industry have put him in real physical danger. I’ve had a millionaire venture capitalist hire bums to accost me on the streets of San Francisco. Petty insults don’t bother me. Call me a “mega-douche”, tell me to kill myself, call me a sword-fucking pilonidal-cyst walrus-cunt if you want. I don’t care. I’ve seen far too much actual dangerous PTSD-inducing shit to be fazed by worthless assholes being worthless assholes.
What disgusts me is that so many of these worthless assholes were upvoted, and that these worthless assholes were cheered-on instead of opposed.
socialinjusticewar 182 points 7 hours ago
Why are you such a mega-douche?
How in the blue fuck did that get 182 upvotes, enough to put it far ahead of substantial discussion? [ETA: It looks like at least some of those votes did, in fact, come from a voting ring associated with Y Combinator. At least 45.] That number (unless they hacked Reddit) is far too many to blame on Paul Buchheit and his goons. I’m sure that they were involved– the sock puppet “zozo_hth” has clear marking of Y Combinator on it– but that doesn’t get us to a hundred and eighty-two. 182 is far too many to blame on a small number of people. That number indicts a culture.
I’m not mad at this Reddit user, “socialinjusticewar”. I don’t care about him or the fact that he thinks I’m a “mega-douche”. I’ve been insulted more viciously, and far more creatively. I’ve said stupid things on the Internet. I’m just disgusted that over 180 people upvoted this piece-of-crap comment. I’d be disgusted if 180 people voted up one of my piece-of-crap comments (hey, I’m not perfect) instead of a piece-of-crap comment insulting me. It’s just very depressing that piece-of-crap comments are what we value as a culture.
What does this mean? It means that my original instinct, last February, was right. Why did I delete the old blog posts? Because fuck the tech industry, that’s why. We don’t defend each other; we turn our backs on each other, and we kick anyone who is down. I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen viciously attacked by their peers for no reason. Worst of all, unethical behaviors by technology executives are defended by their subordinates at every turn. We certainly don’t stand up for what is right. And those who fight to make the industry better, like I have, seem to get the worst of it. So why fight for it at all? Why fight for the cultural integrity of this industry, when it clearly doesn’t want to be fought-for?
To make it clear, I’m not issuing a universal condemnation. There are a lot of great people in the tech industry. The problem is that, over time, the bad people drive them out. I’ve seen it happen over and over and it fucking disgusts me. People perceived as vulnerable– women, minorities, people with disabilities, anyone pregnant if it’s an open-plan office– are usually driven out first. Who stands up for them, while this is happening? Almost no one does. Far too many people turn a blind eye. “Bad apples”, they say, when a highly competent woman is harassed so badly that she has to leave this career, as if it were a force of nature that nothing can be done about. Then the “old” are driven out– and in this industry, that starts at 35. Then it’s the “misfits” (usually, top performers if left alone) who can’t stand the infantilizing two-week “sprints” and “user stories” they don’t need, and the “not team players” who don’t like working with ten sweaty other people in a 15-foot radius. It’s the C-word, always the C-word, “Our Culture“. Cultural Fit.
It’s going to happen to all of us, whether because we become too good at our jobs to put up with the next generation of “Agile Scrotum” nonsense or because of a transient health problem or something else. And the system is set up so that people are attacked and removed not all at once, but singled out individually in series, while the rest smugly assume that it can’t happen to them. I’ve got news: it can. And remember our industry’s ageism. We’re all going to be old, unless we die before we get there. Not one of us is immortal.
… Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
That’s where it ends, people. That’s where it ends.
I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve fought for this industry’s cultural integrity. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, hoping to save it, and to no avail. For me, it was never about driving salaries up by 10 percent. Tech salaries are high enough; it’s our level of status and autonomy that are the problem. (When the market softens, salaries will tumble. Why? Because we failed to organize around our interests and protect ourselves, that’s fucking why.) It’s the fact that we’ve inherited a might-makes-right Sand Hill Road culture. We should be solving the global energy crisis or working to cure cancer. Instead, most of us are just helping rich pricks in California get even richer by unemploying people. We’ve failed to fix this, and now it’s probably too late.
I’m over tech people. Fuck the 182 people who upvoted “mega-douche” and the thousands who read that comment and didn’t downvote it. Emotionally, I don’t care anymore. I’m not angry, I’m not sad. I’m mostly just embarrassed that I used to care about this industry in the first place. Why fight, when it gets a person insulted rather than supported? Why care, when no one else does?
Silicon Valley’s moral and cultural failure just proves what insufferable assholes we become when given even a small amount of status and power. Our conquered, humiliated tribe isn’t worth fighting for. It’s not worth saving. Am I done working in tech? Nah, probably not. For now, it pays, and I’m good at it. I’m done with “us”, though. I’m done trying to save this godforsaken tribe of so-called “technologists”. We don’t fight for ourselves, and we oppose those who are trying to change it. So let this tribe be conquered by Sand Hill Road, then. Paul Graham and his army of high-socked little boys can have it.