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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.
    • 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.

      • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Funny)

        by dragon-file (2241656) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:59PM (#43527409)
        Wait... people do that sort of thing? I mean the walking and the looking at things that aren't pixels?....
      • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MindStalker (22827) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reklatsdnim'> 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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.

          • by Geeky (90998)

            Coming late to this, but drinks are one thing. Food at the desk is messy, and potentially smelly. I don't want to sit next to someone having a microwave curry, or some fish abomination, and stinking the office out. Not allowing you to eat at your desk isn't micromanaging you - it's putting a rule in place to stop inconsiderate bastards pissing off their colleagues (and sometimes nauseating them). Rather than say "no smelly food" and leave it open to argument and accusations, it's easier and fairer to just

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          You guys seem to be missing another big reason to bring a lunch to work and eat it there: money. Eating out at a local restaurant is expensive, whereas I can bring a lunch in, and only pay $1-5, depending on the ingredients or it it's a microwave meal. You're not going to get a good meal at a local restaurant for that. And the quality will probably be bad too.

    • 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.
  • Pfft (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:39PM (#43527109)

    To keep employees happy, Duffy says, it's better to make them go home to their families for dinner.

    That's fine for regular employees, but assuming sys admins want to go home to their families is just silly.

    http://xkcd.com/705/ [xkcd.com]

  • 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 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 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.

      • 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 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.

      • 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".

    • Salesmen.

      • 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.
    • by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:06PM (#43527525)

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

      Assholes create and cause shit. Noted.

    • Assholes is a very subjective term. I know plenty of guys who are frequently labelled "assholes" who write brilliantly clear, extensible code to deadline, mentor others and drive groups of people forward as a team. They are labelled assholes by the people who don't complete tasks, push both work and blame onto others and shirk responsibility. Brilliant and hard working people have very high standards and very rarely afford civility to those who willingly fall short and thus are perceived as assholes by them

  • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno@cheapcomplexdevice s . 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 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.

        • Managers and MBA's think that (maximising hours) == (maximising output), knowing nothing about how productivity tails off when hours worked in a week exceed ~ 40 or so.

          I fixed it for you. The above is true of 99.9% of the companies I have worked for.

        • by moeinvt (851793)

          "Dumb people think that (maximising hours) == (maximising output),"

          The post clearly stated that this is the philosophy of "IT management".

        • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:31PM (#43527883) Journal

          Productivity in areas that require actual thought and concentration falls off after about 20 hours. Even 40 hours is a joke for anything but menial physical labor.

          What this means is that the best ways to increase worker productivity are:

          • Ban meetings. Most days should have exactly zero meetings; if you have three meetings per day, you can't get work done because of all the interruptions.
          • Most meetings should be either at the end of the day, the beginning of the day, or at lunch (with food). This minimizes the disruption that they cause.
          • Require all emails to contain a bullet-point executive summary. One person concentrates when writing it so everyone else doesn't have to concentrate while skimming it.
          • Standardize on a 30-hour workweek.
          • Standardize on an office environment so that workers can easily shut their doors and concentrate for periods of time.
          • Suggest specific break times that workers can choose so that they maximize their interaction with other people while minimizing how much they interrupt other workers in between.
          • Encourage workers to take non-work classes, form activity groups, etc. so that they don't burn out.
          • Encourage workers to work on things that they enjoy working on. Hire contractors to deal with the painful crap.

          If you do these things, your productivity will soar.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)

            Hire contractors to deal with the painful crap.

            I'll take BE a contractor...

            Come in, do work, have incredibly HIGH bill rate, don't have to fsck with office politics, get paid for EVERY hour you work, rarely get asked to work OT, and write off many more things on taxes than the W2 employees.

            Also..dictate your own vacation hours (included in your bill rate).

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Maybe it's easier to accomodate to a uniform group. Although it's worth pointing out that this approach may not work outside the US, hiring based on age, sex and family status isn't exactly legal everywhere.

  • by MatthiasF (1853064) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:45PM (#43527195)
    ...for having a CEO that actually cares about them.
  • by Improv (2467)

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

    • 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.

    • by erice (13380)

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

      I've worked for several startups. Four years is long enough to expect some turnover if the headcount is non-trivial. The pointed questions to ask are:

      1) How many employees?
      2) What kind of roles to they serve?
      3) Is the company obscuring turnover by keeping traditionally high-turnover roles like sales as contractor?

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      After seeing how several of the big boys run things, there's only really a few that actually have any better handle on it than those that've only been around for 5 years or less.

      How many businesses fail in the first year? Most of them. Honestly, some of that "sound" advice you're hinting at did well for Motorola, TI, and a few others- not.

      If you look at some of the other companies still doing well in these times, they're doing similar things. First rule of thumb: Put your employees FIRST. They will put

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:54PM (#43527309) Journal

    That’s why there are no free dinners at Dropcam—around 6:00 pm the company

    I am sorry, at WHAT time? Ever heard the song 9 to 5? 9 to 5! Dinner is at 6 o'clock. Having to stay at work till six and then the commute means you won't be home close to 8. Kids will be in bed by that time. Dinner will be waiting in the oven.

    A GOOD going home hour is 5... oh wait. that is rush hour, means you leave "early" and arrive home just as late. Do you know what would be even BETTER? A company with FLEXIBLE hours and a max 8 hours on the workfloor. Now THAT would be a social company. Even better if you can take a half day off to deal with plumbers and other stuff.

    Nobody left in the last 4 years. Geez, I wonder why. An economy down the drain may have something to do with it.

    Don't get me wrong, a company that doesn't expect unpaid overtime in exchange for a greasy cold pizza (especially if there is no pizza) everyday gets pretty old pretty fast. But closing the doors at 6 doesn't show much of an improvement. You are still putting in a long day, except now you don't get free dinner at the end of the day. What about those without a family for who a company dinner saves time not having to cook for themselves?

    It is telling that the article calls him a wunderkind idealist and then fails to list any idealistic thing in the next few paragraphs.

  • don't hire assholes

    Apple would never exist

  • 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.

  • > Some other suggestions from the San Francisco video monitoring startup: don't fill your engineering department with young, single, childless males (aka brogrammers).

    Let me guess which group represents the largest of new programmers out there?

  • A young, single male is an automatic 'brogrammer' now?
  • by Ralph Barbagallo (2881145) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:04PM (#43527491)
    The proverbial "brogrammer" is the only type of programmer your average valley C-level Dunning-Kruger sufferer can relate to.
  • Dropcam has a 100 percent employee retention rate — no one who has joined the 4-year-old company has ever left.

    Not a surprise in this crap economy. How many have been fired? In the '80s I worked for a very small company with an extended 100% retention rate; nothing lasts forever.

    Otherwise, I generally agree with the sentiment. As for "brogrammers," there's no evidence that young, single, childless males are better than other combinations and I'd argue that herd ("gaggle" -- "braggle"?) of them is a recipe for disaster. Varied experience and perspective are more helpful in the long run.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:14PM (#43527631) Homepage
    once you take away the "works in silicon valley" and "startup." he says dont hire assholes but then goes on to tout "ethical fiber" as a hiring qualification. what even is that? You dont want a bunch of "single childless males" but what about childless women? as a gay male, is a heteronormative marriage a job requirement for me to work here? sure, people can be hit-or-miss socially but thats why you have harassment and discrimination courses, and adhere to them.

    he says he wants a family friendly company that supports paternity and maternity leave but in california those arent things you decide to "do" for employees, theyre state law. saying you're "really diverse" just because you have married couples working for you fails on so many levels to understand what diversity in the workplace means. yes ive worked for startups that buy out bars and clubs for the night, but they also give out baseball and movie tickets too. my last startup work traded in the nightclub perk for a bowling alley because they listened to their employees instead of making vague generalizations about how family friendly or unfriendly the workplace perks needed to be.

    he doesnt buy dinner for the company, which is fine. working weird hours in IT means you've alienated my entire shift by robbing me of a breakfast that for you is a dinner. not buying dinner doesnt inherently prevent people from working late. Making intelligent business decisions like purchasing new hardware based on my MTBF and MTTF calculations instead the cost avoidance of making me work 90 hour weeks failing over infrastructure will keep me from working late.
  • by Type44Q (1233630)

    I'm not sure the words "beef" and "dinner" were the best choice to use in the headline... :p

  • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:28PM (#43527843)

    An honest to god company that
    a) doesn't trying to abuse it's workers,
    b) hires normal people who are decent workers but also have lives outside the office

    I don't need a camera. I just want to send them money.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @08:57PM (#43531909)

    no one who has joined the 4-year-old company has ever left...

    ... alive.

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