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Dropcam CEO's Beef With Brogramming and Free Dinners 400

Posted by timothy
from the why-is-the-incinerator-so-big? dept.
waderoush writes "Plenty of technology companies serve free breakfast, lunch, and dinner to their employees, but Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy says that's a form of mind control designed to get people to to work late. To keep employees happy, Duffy says, it's better to make them go home to their families for dinner. Some other suggestions from the San Francisco video monitoring startup: don't fill your engineering department with young, single, childless males (aka brogrammers). Keep your business model simple by making actual stuff that you can sell for a profit. And don't hire assholes. Why pay attention to Duffy's advice? Because Dropcam has a 100 percent employee retention rate — no one who has joined the 4-year-old company has ever left."
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Dropcam CEO's Beef With Brogramming and Free Dinners

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  • Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:36PM (#43527065)
    I'd agree with dinner, and maybe breakfast to an extent.
    But lunch? It's just a time saver to have it at work.
    If I eat while working and don't take the time off for lunch, I can leave sooner.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:39PM (#43527111)

    You end up with unmaintainable code, late deadlines and an environment where numerous employees want to kill each other. Profit? Good luck.

    It doesn't matter how talented the asshole is if he\she costs more than they're worth. I'd rather have a few mediocre developers who are nice to each other, write to spec, comment appropriately, and write code that anyone can understand and maintain.

  • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno&cheapcomplexdevices,com> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:40PM (#43527129)
    Just keep employees happy.

    Some programmers like free dinners, and enjoy sleeping til noon and working til midnight, and don't mind the 12 hours because their best friends are at work.

    Other programmers want to work 9-5 to drop kids off in the morning and get home to them at dinner.

    Many programmers go through each of those stages in their carreers.

    It's not an either/or question. Just make a workplace that accomodates both groups and keeps both happy.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:45PM (#43527187) Homepage

    The thing is, the art of management in IT is often perceived as being maximizing the amount of hours worked (in the demonstrably mistaken belief that this means these programmers are getting more done), so companies try to ensure they get more programmers in the first group and no programmers in the second group.

  • by MatthiasF (1853064) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:45PM (#43527195)
    ...for having a CEO that actually cares about them.
  • Re:Hm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:46PM (#43527197) Journal

    Yes and no.

    Sometimes you need to get off your ass and walk around once in awhile. Focus your eyes on something that doesn't involve pixels or a desk. Lunchtime is perfect for that. Gives you a chance to get out, walk around, notice things, talk to folks in a groups, and in a setting where you're not all eyeballing a PowerPoint presentation.

    I get the leave-earlier paradigm, but honestly? 8-10 straight hours in front a screen makes Johnny a very unhappy soul. Break that shit up.

  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:47PM (#43527219) Homepage Journal

    Having had a company for 4 years might not be enough to qualify for giving advice people should listen to.

  • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:52PM (#43527277)

    You end up with unmaintainable code, late deadlines and an environment where numerous employees want to kill each other. Profit? Good luck.

    It doesn't matter how talented the asshole is if he\she costs more than they're worth. I'd rather have a few mediocre developers who are nice to each other, write to spec, comment appropriately, and write code that anyone can understand and maintain.

    I think you're confusing jerk-off with asshole. A jerk-off is what you're describing in the first sentence, and also the environment that eventually turns other people into assholes.

    A true asshole does quality work, but quickly becomes annoyed when:
    - people check in "shit" code that fixes the symptom without addressing the actual problem
    - they have to adhere to shit specs they had no input on
    - they have to work with jerk-offs (as defined above)

    "Know your shit" OR "Know you're shit"

  • by TXG1112 (456055) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:52PM (#43527291) Homepage Journal

    developers who are nice to each other, write to spec, comment appropriately, and write code that anyone can understand and maintain.

    This is pretty much the textbook definition of a good programmer, not a mediocre one.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:53PM (#43527299) Homepage Journal

    I'd rather have a few mediocre developers who are nice to each other, write to spec, comment appropriately, and write code that anyone can understand and maintain.

    If they could do that (esp. the bold part), they wouldn't be mediocre developers.

  • Re:Garbage, Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:54PM (#43527311)

    Obviously not hiring the right people then!

    All the biggest innovators I have worked with in my current gig are married with kids. One has teenage kids.

    Hiring kids and brogrammers, you end up with a shitload of very clever people (or 'clever', since many have intelligence, but lack knowledge and wisdom). And a mountain of garbage. What you're looking for is people who _aren't_ wet behind the ears, but who actually give a shit about what they do. If they hack Lisp in their spare time, but have a family, they stand a decent chance of being a good hire.

  • by AaronLS (1804210) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:55PM (#43527327)

    Please do and leave it that way, because no one with a productive/meaningful life cares anything about your trivial host file ramblings.

  • by obarel (670863) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:56PM (#43527347)

    The one consistent thing about Agile: "you're doing it wrong". I have never seen a different answer to any complaint about Agile.

  • Food rewards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:57PM (#43527361) Homepage

    Google uses dinner as a form of manipulation. It's considered bad form to eat dinner at Google and then go home. It's like training animals with food rewards.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:00PM (#43527411)

    I think he's qualified.

    For conventional small businesses, about half fail in their first year. The fact that he's managed to achieve so much at his age makes him an EXCELLENT person from whom to seek out advice.

  • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker @ g mail.com> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:00PM (#43527425) Journal

    You can provide lunch and this as well. Many companies you see people packing their lunch and eating at the desk in order to get lunch over quickly so they can leave early. If you provide lunch in other area but insist they don't bring their lunch to their desk, it would be a positive.

  • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wookact (2804191) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:03PM (#43527459)
    I get an hour for lunch. I may spend the entire lunch doing what ever I choose. Or I can eat at my desk and field calls for that hour, and I am allowed to leave 30 minutes early. Well on some days, unless things are running late, or I am the last one here and we need coverage till 5:30, or a million other things that could keep me here late. Lotsa ways to throw a wrench in the leave early plan.

    I enjoy my lunch hour.
  • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:04PM (#43527489)

    Maximising output, perhaps?

    Dumb people think that (maximising hours) == (maximising output), knowing nothing about how productivity tails off when hours worked in a week exceed ~ 40 or so.

    There's a VERY good reason why people work 35-40 hour weeks. To maximise individual output.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:14PM (#43527617)

    Have people been calling you an asshole for so long that you feel the need to redefine the word asshole into something good? "Asshole" most certainly does not imply or even in the slightest connote competence.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:15PM (#43527645) Journal

    A good programmer, but not a good developer. Non-mediocre developers are good enough at software architecture to contribute to the spec, not just follow it.

  • Re:Pfft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:15PM (#43527649)

    Being the kind of sysadmin that behaves like that, I can assure you I'd prefer to work in a team with other like-minded types, so I know that I can go home, and we'll still be online.

    24 hour coverage is much easier to do with 4 or 5 rotating watches than 1 guy on call.

  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:16PM (#43527677)

    No, those are things that agile *claims* to do. Whether it does that, what else it does, and how well it actually does those things varies greatly. "Agile" in my experience is usually just a buzzword meaning iterative development of any sort.

    This is a pretty good little tangential comment thread. IANAPC (professional coder), but I'm quite familiar with professional methods with capitalized names that use the no true Scotsman fallacy to claim that every unsuccessful project was simply one that didn't correctly follow the method's instructions. On the other hand, any successful project was necessarily successful because of the Capitalized Method and the only way to quantify the value added by this method is to claim that the profit generated by the entire project is 100% due to the method's efficacy, of course.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:18PM (#43527709)

    developers who are nice to each other, write to spec, comment appropriately, and write code that anyone can understand and maintain.

    This is pretty much the textbook definition of a good programmer, not a mediocre one.

    Ah, but the definition among many young-uns is all night marathon coding living off soda and cheetos with the occasional coffee/smoke break, and producing something that is lean, mean and impresses other programmers with cryptic lines that no one else understands. After all, who looks at code they wrote the previous semester? Whitespaces and comments are for n00bs - the code is the documentation.

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:20PM (#43527729) Journal

    Having to stay at work till six and then the commute means you won't be home close to 8.

    A two hour commute one way? If you're spending four hours a day commuting you're living in the wrong place.

  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:21PM (#43527745) Homepage

    Whats his position on Foosball ? No Foosball, no work, seriously.

    1999 called, they want their overused dotcom-era fads back. (*) Seriously, at this point, a foosball table is probably a negative sign, the cliched, almost obligatory easy-choice symbol a company would choose if they wanted to make themselves appear a (superficially) fun and exciting place to gullible young programmers.

    (*) Then again, the 1990s probably want their "[year] called, they want their [subject] back" cliche back, but they're not getting it :-P

  • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:23PM (#43527775) Journal

    "Agile" in my experience is usually just a buzzword meaning iterative development of any sort.

    But that's what agile really is. If you're really doing iterative development (getting to shippable every so often, not merely calling N weeks of coding "an iteration") then you're doing Agile.

    Don't confuse "Agile" with products cooked up by Agile consulting companies in order to have something to sell, like scrum and eXtremeProgramming.

    Agile is 4 ideas:
    * Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    * Working software over comprehensive documentation
    * Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    * Responding to change over following a plan

    There's a bunch of buzzwordism and scams and generally bad news sold as Agile, and all the BS has (perhaps rightfully) given Agile a bad name, but those 4 ideas are good ones.

  • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:28PM (#43527837) Journal

    To me, the bold part is the bar for being an average developer. Not to be harsh, but if you can't right good code to spec then you suck, and should do something else for a living.

    A good developer finds the simplicity hidden in each complex problem. He creates the design that makes people say "wow, it really is that simple" not "hmmm, how does that actually solve the problem here".

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:35PM (#43527949)

    A VC once told me that before he invests in a start-up, he drives by their offices at 9pm on Friday night. If the parking lot is empty, that company is going to fail.

    Isn't that a self-fulfilling prophecy? I mean, if every VC demands this, then of course every company not meeting these standards will fail--because they won't be able to get any venture capital funding.

  • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:36PM (#43527969) Journal

    There are plenty of place that don't suck. I hope you work in one. There are plenty of places where no one needs to work more than 40 hours to meet commitments, and only the overachievers do.

    There are plenty of places where the norm is for a coder to have his or her daily schedule dominated by whether he or she "picks up" or "drops off" the kids, not by meetings. There are plenty of places where keeping your skills current isn't some after-hours effort. Strangely enough, programming doesn't require heroic effort to ship on time if your basic engineering processes are smart to begin with - something that requires experience with many ways of doing things to get right.

    A mature workforce is part of all of that. Look at any other engineering discipline, and you'll see careers from the early 20s to the early 60s, and a real career path for the second twenty years of engineering work. Software engineering is still maturing as a field, but we'll get there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:36PM (#43527977)

    All agile does is to make the client more involved in the shorten development cycle, the work more accountable (as in changes and implementations are done earlier), and the team members better team players. Agile has nothing to do with workplace problems.

    As a veteran of TQM, ISO9000, XP, and fuck-knows-what in between, allow me to translate: All agile does is to make us jump more frantically whenever the client farts, get bitched out at for not having it fixed yesterday (as in fuck quality, just slap something together so you don't get reamed at the standup tomorrow morning), and the team members turn into their own slave drivers so that management doesn't have to take the heat for a Bataan Death March.

    (You're right in that Agile has nothing to do with workplace problems. It's just another way of not fixing them while looking good on a resume.)

  • Re:Hm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:37PM (#43527983)

    You can provide lunch and this as well. Many companies you see people packing their lunch and eating at the desk in order to get lunch over quickly so they can leave early. If you provide lunch in other area but insist they don't bring their lunch to their desk, it would be a positive.

    Yes, being micromanaged by control freaks who want to tell me how and where I may eat is so exquisitely positive and definitely boosts morale.

    Here's a better idea: if the employee is productive and does good work, find something that actually IS broken and fix that instead.

  • Re:hey jerkface (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilsaloving (1534307) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:37PM (#43527991)

    I'm not sure how you managed to read all that from that one sentence.

    I read it as, "We don't want a bunch of inexperienced kids who don't necessarily know how to code, and don't understand anything about what real life is like."

    I think this is a great sentiment, especially considering that in silicon valley is undergoing an epidemic of age-ism.

    He didn't say anything about discriminating against anyone who doesn't fit some hetero-normative world view. He wants people who actually have a life outside work hours. You know, the kind of people whose lives revolve around more than just pizza, cola, and Call of Duty.

  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:48PM (#43528139) Homepage

    A VC once told me that before he invests in a start-up, he drives by their offices at 9pm on Friday night. If the parking lot is empty, that company is going to fail.

    Isn't that a self-fulfilling prophecy? I mean, if every VC demands this, then of course every company not meeting these standards will fail--because they won't be able to get any venture capital funding.

    Indeed, it does seem a bit radical. I've worked in start-ups, incidentally ones that survived the dot-com crash and are doing well nowadays. One had a solid business model and the other one was malleable enough to change gears and explore new business venues.

    We certainly did work our asses off, but ours were cycles of 50-hour weeks followed by a week or two of 60-hours weeks prior to delivering milestones, followed by a couple of weeks of 9-5's with a couple of days off. Rinse and repeat. It worked, and I know from 2nd and 3rd hand accounts that similar cycles work in other productive environments.

    Sometimes people really have to work crazy hours, but then again, who the hell in this time and age works crazy hours on-site????? That is pretty much what this VC is expecting to see, and to me that's a big fuck-up in terms of technology-oriented work environments?

    Fine we work long hours, a good portion of it from home. If I see a tech company parking lot full on Friday 9pm, either that company is a government contractor working with classified shit that needs to be done on premises, or they are a bunch of apes who have yet to discover the blessing of telecommuting.

    The VC is full of shit, or maybe his business wisdom is sooooo out of our pedestrian ability to grasp that it looks like magic shit conjured by Harry Potter or something.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:56PM (#43528229)

    Agile is 4 ideas ...

    Congratulations, you've passed the Rorschach test! For bonus points, tell us what the "cloud" really is.

    BTW, I not only like your ideas, I've followed them as much as possible since long before "Agile" was a buzzword. But while decrying buzzwordism, you've overlooked that "Agile" (capitalized? seriously?) is itself just a buzzword.

  • by admdrew (782761) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:01PM (#43529667) Homepage
    Our top performing salespeople are all incredibly nice people that are easy to get along with. Sales is about developing and maintaining relationships, both with customers, and with the engineers/support people/managers that drive the concrete aspects of your business. If you need to be an asshole to be a good salesperson, then the product/service you're selling is terrible, or you don't understand it well enough to sell effectively.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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