Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Bank Job, by Barenaked Ladies. 🎵
The markets… are Bad
My favorite thing said about the 2008 crisis/bailout was "we privatized the gains and socialized the losses." We live in a plutocracy, and are on track to do it again! 👍 Bailouts, baby!!
Generational differences really play out here. Each younger generation has a lot less wealth by the age of 40 than their parents:
So virtually none of my friends (other than some people who got lucky at the tech startup lottery) has "holdings," no retirement accounts, or the prospect of achieving them anytime soon. These numbers don't impact their life any differently, than, idk, the price for someone to farm you World of Warcraft in-game gold.
I know this impacts a lot of people very badly. And if you believe in a lot of textbook Econ, this is very bad! But day-in-the-life… I'm more worried about the medical implications, and/or the implications for the people on the margins: those who seek treatment in our barbaric system, those who barely get by in the best of times.
GitHub acquires npm
This makes sense for both parties. Re-upping my thoughts when MS bought GitHub, which I think still hold up, and in which this play makes a ton of sense. npm was having a set of terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad years, both from their financials and their operations. They needed a daddy to come clean them up, and despite their issues, they are the most popular artifact repository for the most popular language ecosystem on the planet.
Serious Competitors to GitHub (mostly GitLab) are now playing a bigger game of catch-up now that GitHub has the world's best devtools engineers working with most of the planet's code repos and seamless integration with the biggest artifact repository. Alternatives to GitHub that aren't playing the exact same game (self-hosted projects like Phabricator, Gitea, Gogs, or sr.ht) are probably completely fine.
An old CTO of npm left last year spearheading a federated competitor, but it appears dead from the contribution history. Software is hard! And most federated alternatives have an especially hard time getting escape velocity. The talk motivating the competitor (and some dirty laundry around the challenges npm faced) was pretty great too.
Old Grumpy Bastard
Thing that keeps happening:
- I'm at a company with a business need. We need a document store! We need video chat!
- There's a new, hip, VC-funded product that does this.
- Click into it:
- Chrome only! or,
- "Download our Electron app"
- You open the Electron app. It opens your default web browser to auth. My default (Firefox) is not where I let all my work-account cookies swim (Chrome). I have to quit the app, change my default browser, open the app, click it again, auth, change back my default.
- The app barely works. But, like, beautifully! It's got a "clean" UI where no buttons are labeled. And it uses all my CPU!
Examples: This recently happened with Tandem, Chrome-only was Coda, and Slack tries as hard as possible to move you into their standalone app, which is the same as their browser app, but without the browser sandbox or any extensions you use to preserve your privacy or minimize resource use (which I do liberally). It also means you run multiple instances of Chrome instead of just the one.
It's not always a nightmare onboarding, and it's not always an Electron app, but I feel similarly about products like Notion and Slab; sleek, well-funded products for which there were already plenty of solutions. These add some sheen, but often lack basic functionality (Slab is a WIKI! It's not hard! And you can't upload arbitrary document attachments like PDFs, which might matter if you're documenting things. You had one job).
I guess I just wonder… why do we do this to ourselves? Are these products really giving us more, and more productive than 2008 tech (or even 2013 tech)? We learned in the middle of the last decade that the B2C tech boom has more-or-less dried up (and only produced a single-digit number of winners, albeit those winners were massive), so now the Hot VC Tech builds things for businesses. Now we get the equivalent of the B2C parasites (Dufl! Quartr! Uber for Smoothies!) in the B2B world, trying to make something mundane and already solved, but like, more tech.
On one hand, businesses… it doesn't have to be this way! You can just use email and filters like this guy, you probably don't need Superhuman. Take an hour to go to GMail settings and/or learn its keyboard shortcuts. GApps for business is probably fine. Install a Matrix instance, you probably don't need to pay Slack or use their giant-ass app.
But that's not how this game is played, alas. Sales teams are effective!
Proposing… the Grumpy Company Stack
- Code operations: sr.ht (self-hosted or the main instance). Also gives you issue tracking, mailing lists, build + deploy.
- Docs: Either of:
- Markdown documents in your codebase(s).
- Extreme nerd variant: comments in your code, like this "design doc in the code" by my former roommate. Really, click that link.
- A static site that people add files to, like Sphinx/ReadTheDocs site.
- Extreme nerd variant: Scribble.
- A hosted wiki. DokuWiki is ancient but easy to use.
- Markdown documents in your codebase(s).
- Email: Self-host if you're good enough. I'm not, so Migadu.
- Chat, if you really need it.: Matrix. But use email and mailing lists when you can.
I initially made fun of Vox Media when they launched, since having an all-male founding team of centrists "explaining" things was not an obviously forward-thinking look. But occasionally they'll impress, and I really appreciated this meaty explainer on Biden, Warren, and American bankruptcy, and contextualizing it in light of the recent debate, which I'm not going to write about, other than to say Biden's a liar and a hack, and Bernie threw it.
It also links this story from the 2012 Republican primary, which I thought was pretty cute. Big lol to Republicans using a term by a cartoon from 1895 😝
Fun fact: when my dad practiced law, he focused on Bankruptcy, specifically Chapter 7. You can check out his book! "Robert Redford will play me in the movie," he sometimes says.
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