Signs of Your Startup’s Imminent Demise

  1. Your company is relocating from that “stuffy” office in the business park to a “bohemian” section of the parking lot.
  2. When you ask senior leaders about the next target platform for your product, they reply that it doesn’t matter and that you’re welcome to pick whichever one you want.
  3. After a steady stream of departures from your team, you are now your own boss since you’re the only one left.
  4. When you tell your developer friends about your latest stories from work, they politely respond “Oh, I thought that you guys closed down already. You’re still around?”
  5. If you’re the new hire, your new equipment includes a blood-covered monitor and a partially-smashed keyboard.
  6. Even though you weren’t hired as such, you’ve become a full stack developer out of necessity. (When people ask how things are going, you reply that you feel like you’re running a marathon through a mine field.)
  7. Your coworkers don’t even hide the fact that they’re using your main competitor’s product in the office. Worse yet, it’s used at company meetings.
  8. Turnover is so high that the most senior programmer has a grizzled employment record of three months and works inside a padded room.
  9. Management has repeatedly asked you whether you would like to buy them out.
  10. Every other commit message in the code repository ends with a variation of “…Please, somebody kill me.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.


Other Poor Business Phrases

Recently, CEO Marissa Mayer engaged in a discussion with reporters and analysts about Yahoo’s last business quarter, and when asked about the company’s layoffs, she referred to management’s choices as a “remix” of her company. Obviously, some marketing guru/moron probably encouraged her to use terminology that actually did more damage than good. Here are a few other potential mistakes that she and her peers might want to avoid in the near future:

  1. Construct a valid argument about the chosen technical direction for the company, rather than simply stating “YOLO”.
  2. Avoid referring to anyone who doubts your company’s potential competitiveness as simply “wacked out on flakka”.
  3. Do not announce that you’re about “to drop” your next earnings report within the next week.
  4. Refrain from announcing your CFO on conference calls as “your bottom bitch”.
  5. If you sell or purge a division within the company, “cause they didn’t have mad swag” will not be a sufficient explanation for your actions.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Predictions for the Second Season of Silicon Valley

With the arrival of the second season of Silicon Valley, I have used my prescient powers to see into the future. My mind has captured the following events that will surely unfold in the next episodes:

  1. Under the direction of Ellen Pao, Reddit will become the major investor of Pied Piper and promise funds with no attachments, as long as the entire team promises to undergo surgery in order to become women.
  2. A Japanese researcher will discover the jerk-off equations on the whiteboard from Season 1, and he will ask Piep Piper to assist him with creating the most efficient “happy ending” robot in the entire world.
  3. Richard Stallman will attempt to convince Richard that he should open source Pied Piper’s compression algorithm, and when Richard refuses to do so, Stallman and his army of chubby ninjas will chase and harass Richard throughout the remainder of the season.
  4. As part of a PR campaign for the company, Erlich must attend a CodeNow session for minority students, where he will create politically incorrect code samples and will gain the respect of his students by participating in a rap battle.
  5. A heated argument over design at Pied Piper will lead to an escalating progression of pranks between Gilfoyle and Chugtai, which will end with a swatting that accidentally deports Gilfoyle from the country.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Ways for Developers to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

  1. Wear a shirt with only “#00FF7F” on the front and back. Tip: It’s an unstated rule that if someone pinches you while you are wearing green, you have every right to Qaddafi or karate chop the other person.
  2. Create your own pot of gold by filling a small bucket full of Nacho Doritos. Then, put a green hat on your RC car and reward the bucket to any work colleague who can catch your car. (If your work situation is like mine, they’ll all probably die of a heart attack before they get within three meters of the car.)
  3. In order to spur the right amount of violence, ensure that everyone in the office is horribly drunk before you issue ‘git remote rm’ to any and all branches.
  4. Use a shamrock with school children to explain the Holy Trinity: Linus Torvalds, Linux, and init. (If a systemd advocate is nearby and overhears you, be prepared for combat.)
  5. Buy a Guinness for that one developer who rarely showers and has a propensity for smelling like cabbage.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

A Developer’s Wish List for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’ve beeen a fairly good boy this year. Please give me at least one of the following:

  • Enough goddamn tablespace on the goddamn database schema so that it doesn’t run out every five goddamn minutes.
  • An environment where there’s less than 3 homegrown libraries that have different implementations of the same functionality.
  • Good will and peace on Earth…in other words, a calm, rational discussion about systemd that doesn’t involve remarks about physical assaults of family members or accusations about genital size.
  • An obedient monkey of my size who can wear a suit and quietly attend meetings in my place. (Trust me, they won’t be able to tell the difference, as long as he throws any poop at the trashcan instead of the other attendees. My aim is normally perfect.)
  • A development platform that was chosen because it makes sense, not because a slick salesman bought dinner for one of the company suits.
  • An Etch-A-Sketch for each stakeholder, since they’re so fond of drawing up vague specification requests and then erasing them quickly with a flash.
  • Less irony in the workplace (like when a new project is more complicated and expensive than the legacy system that it was intended to replace).
  • A fellow developer who doesn’t interpret ‘add more wrappers’ to mean that he should add more Wendy’s and McDonald’s wrappers to the existing layer on his desk.
  • Not hearing another unimaginative technical interview that starts with “So, you have a list of numbers that you have to sort…”
  • An intelligent workplace Internet filter that blocks porn sites and allows access to StackOverflow, not vice versa.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Seven Levels of Hell: The Tech Edition

  1. First Circle (Limbo): For developers who can’t pick a language or platform as their given specialty.

    Punishment: All souls chained to this level will walk door to door with their résumé, only to have each one slammed in their faces with the phrase “You have no strengths!”

  2. Second Circle (Lust): Taking into account who we have to face each day at work and their respective level of resembling a troglodyte, we can go ahead and eliminate this possibility.

    Punishment: Not applicable. This level of hell is empty.

  3. Third Circle (Gluttony): For programmers who create memory leaks and perpetual loops, eating up all the memory and CPU cycles on the system.

    Punishment: Every single day, these offenders are presented a choice to either write an enterprise server application (with an embedded demoscene) that can run efficiently with only 2K of RAM or to eat an entire Alienware computer case.

  4. Fourth Circle (Greed): For IT managers who wouldn’t share resources or knowledge with other managers.

    Punishment: Chained to a wall and gagged, these souls must watch silently as their peers take credit for all of the damned’s projects and heap praises upon each other.

  5. Fifth Circle (Anger): For admins who blow their top and acerbically berate all users, both advanced and novice in technical knowledge.

    Punishment: Surrounded by blaring alarms about hard drives losing disk space, they will sit at a terminal for eternity and their fingers will only be able to repeatedly type ‘fsck’ (and other variations with more vowels).

  6. Sixth Circle (Heresy): For the sales managers at software companies who know the limitations of the product being sold but then promise everything else to the customer.

    Punishment: Unfortunately, this level of hell is full of innocent software developers. As with the world of the living, the salesmen have talked their way out of punishment and somehow placed the full load of misery onto the developers.

  7. Seventh Circle (Violence): For the developers whose nonsensical code causes headaches and dizziness to those who review it.

    Punishment: While being flogged with the “computer-mice-o-nine” tails, they must write the code for their next project through only the smashing of their heads against a vintage IBM Model M keyboard. ‘Click-clank-click’ will be the only soundtrack for eternity.

  8. Eight Circle (Fraud): For all IT staff who knowingly have taken one shortcut in their lives when they should have done things the right way.

    Punishment: Due to overcapacity (in that all fellow IT staff belong here), a huge volume of sinners will need to take turns being in the pit in order to accommodate the space. The punishment has yet to be determined since the domain model hasn’t taken all factors (like performance requirements) into account yet.

  9. Ninth Circle (Treachery): For any CIO/CTO who had a productive, strategic vision for the company but then abandoned that vision at the first sign of trouble (or a golden parachute).

    Punishment: Much like those stuck in Limbo, these souls must forever be denied employment by various prospective employers…but they must suffer while chained to an ex-spouse who perpetually complains about a lack of alimony or child payments.

Footnote: The title would be nine levels of hell, but since the second level is empty and the sixth level is misused, there’s actually only seven. That seems to fit, though, since nothing in tech has an implementation which matches the specs.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

10 Software Hurdles for Google’s Self-Driving Cars

1.) All software for the cars must be developed with only Angular JS and Dart, using an IDE on an Android tablet.

2.) Since the self-driving software needs a plethora of data about a local area in order to drive properly around there, the neural network of each SD (i.e., self-driving) car will need to learn by driving over nearly every mile of the roads in its customer’s region before being used. As long as you’re comfortable with waiting several months after purchase and starting with 100,000 miles on the odometer, then the car is yours.

3.) In order to eat their own dog food, Google is looking to replace its entire Google StreetMap van fleet with the SD model. However, the car has yet to properly handle certain tasks of a Google Van, like taking embarrassing pictures of public urination/nudity and recording “random” samples of nearby WiFi traffic.

4.) Unfortunately, the SD patriarch Kit has reached a certain age where it’s harder to rise to the occasion, and in order for him to reproduce with the female self-driving cars, he will need to remedy his “dysfunction” with certain patches to his operating system.

5.) The OCR system will need to properly identify and react to any signs held by roadside people, like policemen warning of danger ahead or high school cheerleaders who are holding a charity car wash.

6.) Weather has been a persistent problem with the navigation system, especially with the presence of precipitation (including rain and snow). In order to address the problem, the SD model will need to recognize this perilous situation, and the current desired implementation will switch the vehicle into Transformer mode, where it will turn into a 5-story robot and commence walking down the highway.

7.) Unfortunately, the SD model is still a pervert, and it has a nasty habit of recording your sessions with your girlfriend in the back seat. Just skip the roadhead until it’s fixed.

8.) Currently, the OCR system has difficulty with the identification of pedestrians and bicyclists running on the roads, especially in that it records only 5 experience points when it runs a cyclist off the road. Cyclists are clearly worth at least 10 XP.

9.) Even though the system does not yet currently handle unexpected traffic lights properly, it will attempt to react to these lights in the best way possible, namely to follow the Starman Creed and run through every yellow light.

10.) For any legal infraction incurred during its driving, the software of the SD model is supposed to be able to automatically contest the ticket online. As this functionality is still pending, it will be programmed in the meantime to bust into traffic court Kool-Aid Man style and argue with the judge on your behalf.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Steve Ballmer’s Syllabus for Next Semester

Fall 2014
Instructor: Steve Ballmer

Classroom: Stanford, Room 666
Office: My 300-room mansion on the top of a mountain
Office Hours: I’ll be available to students when the Microsoft App Store is a success
Contact Info: Kiss my bald head

Description: This course will provide business students with the knowledge and skills to plot the course of an enterprise, especially in how to navigate a product’s journey from inception to complete and utter disaster.

Organization: This is an unconventional course, in that there are actually no complete lectures. Instead, utilizing something called the Longhorn method, Professor Ballmer will start each lecture passionately, suddenly stop and postpone it indefinitely, and then return to it weeks later when everybody is past caring about it.

Course Objectives:
1.) To teach students on how a business can develop its own product line by copying from others, borrowing only the worst ideas and leaving the good ones behind.
2.) To introduce students on the best practices for ignoring technological trends (i.e., the emergence of the Internet) and scrambling to keep up with them when vastly behind the times.
3.) To acquaint students with the notion of being complacent when a business has reached a certain level of success and to prepare students on how to properly underestimate one’s competitors.

Grading Plan: Much like the historical practices of Microsoft, Professor Ballmer’s class will enforce the use of stack ranking. As a result, despite all actual grades, a guaranteed 10 percent will fail, and another 70 percent* will need to plead with Professor Ballmer for a passing grade at the end of the course.

* More than likely, the “adequate” 70% will become students at other universities and become more productive in those environments.

Required Supplies (one of each):
Surface RT
Surface Pro 1
Surface Pro 2
Surface Pro 3

Course Topics:
How to Reduce Costs by Reducing Market Share
Keep It Stupid, Simple: You Have to Spend Money to Lose Money
Pull a 360: How to Make Your Business Go in Circles and Never Really Go Anywhere
The Key to Marketing Is Confusing Commercials
Everybody Loves a Bully: Lose Respect in Your Industry by Being Hostile to Collaboration
Developers, Developers, Developers
Go Clippers

Classroom Rules of Conduct: Students are encouraged to be belligerent and assertive when participating in discussions. Any sign of weakness will not be tolerated, and those offenders will be sent to the corner of the classroom and forced to wear the Kin Beanie as punishment.

Suggestions for Success:
Professor Ballmer says “When it comes to making big decisions, just do everything in the opposite way that I did…oh, and remember to make friends with people on your dorm floor.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Signs that Your Project Isn’t Making the Release Date

1.) Not only do you not have a QA machine, but your production environment has been nicknamed by everyone as “the vaporware” and has bets placed on it to eventually beat the record of Duke Nukem Forever.

2.) You are supposedly only a few weeks away from the alpha, and you’re still interviewing people for your team.

3.) When you look at the scheduling system for all employees, you see that the majority of management has scheduled vacations around the supposed release date. More importantly, due to the excruciating pain which it has endured from morons, you see that the project has gained sentience and scheduled some vacation for itself, booking a week-long stay in Aruba.

4.) When you return to the operations floor, you observe that the devops team, the sysadmin team, and the network team are still pointing guns at each other in a Mexican standoff…just as you had left them six months ago.

5.) Metaphorically, even though your company is standing on a beach and facing an approaching tsunami wave of destruction, your various directors still insist on planting flags in the sand and arguing over who has jurisdiction over the greatest number of shells. (And when the eventual happens, they will probably use your body as a flotation device in order save their own ass.)

6.) Management finally decides to deal with the low morale and the high rate of employee turnover, and in an effort to help with the problem, they install a revolving door on your floor.

7.) Near the beginning of the project, your boss would occasionally buy pizza as lunch or dinner for the team. However, with the looming release date, your boss has proclaimed eating as “wasting precious time”, and instead, he starts to liquefy all bought pizza and prep it in enlarged hamster bottles that are hanging in each cubicle. “Drink and work, my little hamsters! Hurry!”

8.) Your belated launch of the release candidate went surprisingly well (as customers have lined up for preorders), but your payment system currently only accepts Bitcoin. When you ask the eCommerce team about credit cards, they sadly shake their heads, but they do promise that the next iteration will accept Beaver Bucks from Hustler’s.

9.) The sysadmin group is starting to wear so many different hats that they’ve taken the more practical route of mounting a hat rack to their heads. (I know that you admins love the puns!)

10.) Even though the release date is just a few weeks away and your project is clearly headed for disaster, your company throws an impromptu celebration for all of your hard work, providing all the grape Kool-Aid that you can drink and some really comfortable pillows.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.