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May 28, 2012 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Living The Dream ... at AOL . For two months last fall, Eric Simons secretly took up residence inside the Internet giant's Palo Alto, Calif., campus, eating free food, enjoying gym access, and building a startup in the process.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy (66 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not homelessness, squatting, or theft when it's an upper middle class white guy, it's an amusing anecdote!
posted by leotrotsky at 6:43 PM on May 28, 2012 [43 favorites]


My first reaction was AOL is still around?

I have a first hand anecdote from one of the top managers at an unnamed oil company here in Calgary that a homeless guy was living in the roof above the executive floor for 6 months while they were remodeling until the cleaners found him. It can be done if you're careful enough.
posted by arcticseal at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess he needed someplace...

[lowers sunglasses]

....to get mail.

YEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:50 PM on May 28, 2012 [40 favorites]


His startup have legs or is it the typical 19 top bullshit?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:00 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worked at a touristy souvenir store in Seattle for a year or so. I was hired to replace a guy that had been fired because the boss eventually realized he was living in the store. He'd leave at the end of his shift and come back and let himself in with his key once everyone else had gone. The boss finally was tipped off because the security system showed someone turning the alarm off every night after people had left.
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:01 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


top = year old
posted by cjorgensen at 7:01 PM on May 28, 2012


It's not homelessness, squatting, or theft when it's an upper middle class white guy, it's an amusing anecdote!

They do refer to it as squatting in the article. And I think no one would argue that it's not homelessness. But as for theft, they seemed to think of it more like an abuse of privileges, which is reasonable considering he actually works and has an acknowledged relationship with them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:03 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Remember back in the day when AOL used to find all sorts of scummy reasons to charge you, sometimes even after you'd already quit their service?

As far as I'm concerned this dude scamming some free cereal, showers and drinks off AOL is a drop in the payback bucket.
posted by BlueJae at 7:04 PM on May 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


Richard Stallman lived in his office at MIT for many years.
posted by octothorpe at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I heard this on NPR today and it sounded like it was after he finished working for AOL. And he noticed his pass still worked. Therefore it would be theft of services, wouldn't it? I wondered that when I heard it...like 'did he get charged with anything!?'
posted by bquarters at 7:08 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey maybe he could have just made a house out of all those cds they send you, right guys? I mean, what is the deal with all those cds they send you?!
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


this has also happened at Apple.
posted by mrg at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


In Japan a few years, a woman was discovered living in a man's closet.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


How had AOL not claimed his intellectual property as theirs?
posted by sourwookie at 7:33 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do stories like these fascinate me so much?
posted by Night_owl at 7:34 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Japan a few years, a woman was discovered living in a man's closet.

That's nothing, I spent three quarters of a year living in a woman's body.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:37 PM on May 28, 2012 [40 favorites]


How to make the best of a bad situation:
David Temkin, senior vice president of Mail and Mobile for AOL, told CNET, "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn't expect it to work so well."
posted by boo_radley at 7:45 PM on May 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I once spent a couple of months working at a university campus, and living nearby just off campus in a greenbelt/arroyo alongside a large freeway.

My stuff was stored in a nearby commercial storage unit. I knew folks that lived in the official on-campus "trailer park" that had showers and laundry facility available. There were other showers on campus in various buildings if you knew the right folks or had the right keys.

And there was a ton of free food at my local sub-campus, where we generally had food, lunches and such catered for the grad students.

It was pretty awesome, actually. I'd made one of those Pringles cantennaes to boost my WiFi range and I was able to grab WiFi all the way from campus, a distance that was over a mile or so, and I had an array of spare batteries to choose from and borrow at work.

My immediate managers/bosses even knew about it and they'd sometimes drop me off on the side of the freeway on their way home since many of our team tended to stay long after work to play Counterstrike or Halflife multiplayer and drink beers.

My camp was a fairly rugged hike into the brush and well off the beaten path, and I only found my camp being messed with once by some kids, who I caught in the act. I didn't really have to say anything beyond shouting "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" since they ran screaming for the hills at that point. They probably surely thought they were moments away from being murdered and eaten by a hobo.

I never really left anything of value there beyond a tent and a small cheap stove that I never ended up using, maybe some dirty clothes I hadn't had a chance to wash yet and put back in the storage unit.

The main risk seemed to be the potential to get flooded out of the arroyo/wash I was camping in, which if it was a different time of the year that probably would have happened sooner rather than later.
posted by loquacious at 7:48 PM on May 28, 2012 [25 favorites]


And, yeah, no exciting stories. Thankfully.

The whole thing was really mundane above and beyond the fact I was saving up a lot of money since I was still working and not paying rent or bills. I guess if my bosses weren't so cool I could have been potentially fired just because I was homeless, but I wasn't actually living on campus, and I had legitimate permission to use the laundry and showers from friends in residence, and my bosses didn't care at all as long as I showed up to work reliably and didn't smell like a hobo, so it all worked out.
posted by loquacious at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


There used to be a "homeless" man who lived at UVic in Victoria. I won't include his name here on MetaFilter, to preserve some privacy, but he must have lived on campus for 20 years before getting booted out (he liked to collect, quite frankly, trash). But he lived in various bushes and hedges on campus, and hung out in the library. An educated man. Unfortunately, after he got booted off campus he wound up living in the bushes of a local strip mall. I haven't seen him in about 5 years.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know of the fellow KokuRyu is referring to. Many many years ago Victoria has a terrible snowstorm that basically shut the city down. None of the campus radio hosts, myself included, could get to the stations to host our usual shows so this fellow (he was a bit of a mascot) manned the air for 24 hours or so, playing his favorite records, talking about current issues, and updating news if people called in. He was a smart fellow, if not quite built for modern living.
posted by jess at 8:01 PM on May 28, 2012 [22 favorites]


"Did you wanna borrow my pajamas?"

Lazlo Hollyfeld.
posted by monkeystronghold at 8:18 PM on May 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


a homeless guy was living in the roof above the executive floor for 6 months while they were remodeling until the cleaners found him. It can be done if you're careful enough.

There was a whole community of homeless -- or should I say alternatively housed -- people living in a vast space above the Staten Island Ferry Terminal's dropped ceiling, until one careless person's cook fire got out of control and ruined it for everyone.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:37 PM on May 28, 2012


It's not homelessness, squatting, or theft when it's an upper middle class white guy, it's an amusing anecdote!

That's a bit pessimistic since it happened to a large company manned by lots of upper middle class white people.
posted by michaelh at 8:50 PM on May 28, 2012


That is an amazing story, mrg. Thanks for the link.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:53 PM on May 28, 2012


There's a fellow who got his grad degree at Duke while living in a van in a parking lot there. He's quite proud of not having gone into debt, unlike many students.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:54 PM on May 28, 2012


"I was aware" of Simons living at AOL, Clint Korver of Ulu Ventures told CNET. "Tenacity and commitment are key attributes of a great entrepreneur. Eric has these in spades as demonstrated by his willingness to do whatever it takes to get his company off the ground."
Heh.
It's not homelessness, squatting, or theft when it's an upper middle class white guy, it's an amusing anecdote!
*rolls eyes* he had an access badge and a legitimate right to be in the building during the day.
I heard this on NPR today and it sounded like it was after he finished working for AOL. And he noticed his pass still worked. Therefore it would be theft of services, wouldn't it? I wondered that when I heard it...like 'did he get charged with anything!?'
From the article: "Though the security guard was angry, he knew that Simons was part of Imagine K12. So no one called the police." -- They didn't arrest him because they knew him.

I mean, if you found some random stranger sleeping in your garage, you'd probably call the police. If you found your brother's ex-girlfriend you probably... wouldn't? (I mean obviously it depends on why they broke up)

Anyway, people often stay overnight coding. When I was a student employee at this research lab on campus I would stay overnight programming every once in a while.

Anyway, housing in the silicon valley area is crazy expensive. My guess is there are all kinds of ordinances designed to prevent people from building low-cost housing. I mean, obviously it would get rented out quickly by people like this. As well as people with real jobs.
posted by delmoi at 9:03 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Also how can it be 'theft of services' if AOL isn't providing a housing service?)
posted by delmoi at 9:05 PM on May 28, 2012


Hah, I know the guy at UVic you're talking about too. He was around in 1995-98 when I studied there. I tented in some bushes near Camosun's interurban campus for a few months, while working a ~15 minute bike ride away. And during the years when I had an hour-long bicycle commute, it was not at all uncommon for me to spend the night on the couch at the office when the weather was crappy or if I worked late... I didn't really like commuting in the dark so from November to February I spent a lot of nights there!
posted by Emanuel at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as I know, the UVic guy was still there in the mid-2000s as well. He was kinda famous, I think he was part of the orientation tour.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:31 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my cohorts in graduate school managed to sleep in an air duct behind the department library for about six months before he was found by a custodian. I believe he was showering at the campus swimming facilities. Supposedly he invested all the money he saved in internet stocks (ah, the late 90's...).

The situation wasn't so great for his officemate - e.g., he used his filing cabinet to store his dirty clothes.

The story has a happy ending: the graduate student in question now is widely known in the field and highly cited, and has a faculty position at an eminent university in Europe. Academia is much more tolerant of eccentricities than the business world tends to be.
posted by janewman at 9:32 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh going back to this: It's not homelessness, squatting, or theft when it's an upper middle class white guy, it's an amusing anecdote! I don't see any evidence he was 'upper' middle class. In fact, it seems somewhat unlikely: If his parents were rich, couldn't they have paid his rent? He was part of the Imagine K12 thing. Looking at the application guidelines you submit a 2 minute video and then get interviewed.

According to his little autobiography he started working on this software in high-school, and worked on it for two years (I would bet the code is probably garbage :P)

The one thing is that he did have a teacher who cared, and they apparently had the time to work with him and help him test and use his software. So he probably went to a pretty good high-school. That's something that really depends on where you live, though.

--

The other thing I was thinking about: I wonder if china-style employer provided housing makes sense.

Obviously Americans don't want to live three to a room like the average foxconn worker, but it seems like in some areas housing is just ridiculously expensive. Looking at craigslist, it's like $800/mo to rent a room, and a 1br apartment can go for like $1,200/mo) I wonder if employer provided housing makes sense. I mean, If you're paying someone $40k, and they're paying maybe $10k in taxes, rent would be another $14,400 a year, leaving them with just $16k to spend on everything else.

So, giving them a place to live for free could effectively double their disposable income. There might be downward pressure on wages, but the actual take-home pay would increase.

And obviously, it puts you more at the mercy of your boss, as if you get fired you would also lose your home. Not fun.
Academia is much more tolerant of eccentricities than the business world tends to be.
Eh, it depends on the business.
posted by delmoi at 9:42 PM on May 28, 2012


As far as I know, the UVic guy was still there in the mid-2000s as well. He was kinda famous, I think he was part of the orientation tour.

He started in the library, but by 1995 or so he was kicked out of the library because he started storing... stuff... in different nooks and crannies (he was sort of mentally ill in that way, I guess). After that he moved to CFUV, and got kicked out of CFUV in the SUB (he store... stuff... there too), and, after a long fight with the Board of Governors, he got kicked out of the SUB and was forced to store his stuff off-campus. He still slept in a hedge around University Centre. However, he eventually got kicked off campus in 1995, which is kind of a tragedy. He was part of the community, but the community didn't want him.

I last saw him at London Drugs... in a bush. He looked healthy, although he was also looking old.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, he got kicked off campus in 2005.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if employer provided housing makes sense.

I work in a factory with a lot of people who drive an hour each way for $10/hour. In most cases they or their families own property out in the middle of nowhere, so they may not have to pay rent or a mortgage, but the fuel costs have got to be eating them alive. A fair number would go for employer-provided housing, at least part of the time. Especially when we're working overtime, the ones with the longest commutes worry about their safety driving home, but there aren't a lot of affordable alternatives.

It'd work in the US as employer-provided crash space. It's probably unlikely to happen in the workplaces where it would be most useful.
posted by asperity at 10:06 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


How had AOL not claimed his intellectual property as theirs?

This was my first concern as well. It depends on the contract he's signed with AOL. If there's any stipulation about employee use of company resources, then the kid's screwed. The AOL conglomerate can afford a team of careful lawyers.
posted by spiderskull at 10:09 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is pretty common in San Francisco, at least in the startup world. At one point I worked in a 6 story building, and when my wife was away I found it easier to just sleep in the vacant 4th floor, finish my weekly work by Thursday and go home for a long weekend.

Some dude had all his stuff stored in the same floor, I am pretty sure he lived there full time. He was in between jobs, and knew many people in my company.

Whoever owned the lease to the vacant floor started subleasing space to small three or four people startups. Just some duct tape lines on the concrete floor to mark the spaces. I know for a fact that several people were storing their stuff and sleeping there. You could know who got funding because their towels and toothbrushes would disappear from the bathroom.

I am still not sure why this particular story made the news.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 11:10 PM on May 28, 2012


Slow news day, plus somebody in the story got good media contacts.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:27 PM on May 28, 2012


How had AOL not claimed his intellectual property as theirs?
posted by sourwookie


It depends on the contract he's signed with AOL
posted by spiderskull


He was never an employee of AOL. From the article ...

Imagine K12 is hosted at AOL's Palo Alto campus, and everyone involved gets a building badge.

there was no shortage of non-AOL employees shuffling in and out all the time.


He was authorized to enter the building and worked there, but wasn't employed by AOL. The rules with respect to the use of the cafeteria are not provided, so speculation with respect to whether he was stealing food is just that, speculation. My own experience with tech companies fostering this bomb-shelter survival kind of mind-set is that the rules can range from non-existent to arcane. It's possible that he never had any legal access to the cafeteria all the way up to total freedom. Their failure to deactivate the building pass also is pretty murky from a legal trespassing perspective, I'm guessing. Who knows how the access authorization was worded?

That said, I am unsurprised by this, and the cavalier approach to building security and food distribution on AOL's part is likely more widespread than most would assume. Having worked in AV installations and had to "work around" building security regulations, I can assure readers that a badge and a clipboard can gain someone access to the unlikeliest of places.

The practice of providing "help yourself" free cafeterias of the type utilized in this case has long been leveraged by savvy tech companies to underpay and over-work their employees. This also applies to perquisites such as climbing walls and fitness centres, designed to break down the barrier between the personal and corporate identities of the workers. It's far cheaper for them to provide coffee, juice, and cereal than to actually compensate their employees with better wages. Having "free" access to these things encourages the drones to keep producing , rather than going out somewhere for an (inefficient) "lunch hour" or "break". AOL gets to write off the cafeteria costs as a business expense,they buy in bulk, and present their "brand" in a positive light.

That some-one socially-engineered unintended access to their facilities and resources seems more likely an oversight on AOL's part, than a criminal act, (and it's certainly less likely that a person of colour could have pulled it off), but for a tech company to react to such a stunt from with bemused admiration is hardly surprising, as boo radley noted above.

Just as no one working in a corporate environment is ever expected to really be out of touch with the office anymore, it's not that farfetched to posit that corporate dormitories might become the next trendy new tech thing. Such a transformation of the work-place to the home-place is a next logical step in the ever-escalating intrusion of corporate control into every aspect of their employee's lives.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:28 PM on May 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I guess if my bosses weren't so cool I could have been potentially fired just because I was homeless

Which would've been shitty; what concern of theirs should it be whether or not you're homeless, as long as you do your work and have some modicum of cleanliness.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:29 PM on May 28, 2012


I'm sure any contract he had regarding intellectual property was with Imagine K12, not AOL (and in turn Imagine K12 probably has some stipulation regarding IP in their own relationship with AOL).

And even he was unsurprised that AOL reacted by revoking most of his privileges, which is pretty decent of them, really, although they probably took a gentler approach because he was an Imagine K12 client (I assume that's the closest description here) rather than an AOL employee. Smart, as this had all kinds of ways to turn into a bad PR situation.
posted by dhartung at 11:39 PM on May 28, 2012


There's a fellow who got his grad degree at Duke while living in a van in a parking lot there.

When I went out to work in Seattle in 1979 on a book project for a small solar energy firm — since it was only supposed to be for three months and I didn’t want to deal with finding a place/landlords — I lived in a van on the NW corner of 24th Avenue E and East John (which according to Google Street View still doesn’t have a house on that lot) for almost a year. When it turned into other tasks, and a second year there, I started doing what these days would be called ‘couch surfing.’ Except for the morning I woke up to find the police ticketing the vehicle behind me (I was parked legally), it was pretty quiet. And on the rare occasion when it wasn’t, say a loud party nearby, I just drove down the street a few blocks and parked again for the night.

While I was out there, a woman told me that she’d worked in the Boeing factory in Everett, the world’s largest building, with a guy who, after his divorce, slowly started shifting all his possessions into their office. And, while pretending to go home at the end of every day, just wandered into a different vacant part of the building and slept there. Apparently no one minded when his clothes, his house plants, all showed up, but when he moved his little dog into one of his desk drawers people started asking questions.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:40 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


this has also happened at Apple.

That's a great link.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on May 28, 2012


Just in case anybody isn't familiar.. The Graphing Calculator Story.
posted by Chuckles at 11:46 PM on May 28, 2012


I've never been one to nest - the interior design skills quite frankly - suck and moving around seems somewhat normal . I can completely relate to this guy. I'm currently living in a recording studio, but have in the past lived in an art gallery, an art studio, an old highschool's teacher's lounge (before the demolished THAT to make a parking lot) and "camping" trips have lasted months. I got to the end of May until I'm out of the recording studio - I'll probably ride my bike around the country until my band goes on tour, then, I'll be living in a shortbus.

After that?

Cabin in the mountains is my first choice.

There's some pluses and minuses to this sort of living situation. Using the gym's shower for cleaning up isn't a highlight, to be honest and it's a difficult gig, if you don't own a car.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:11 AM on May 29, 2012


This was my first concern as well. It depends on the contract he's signed with AOL. If there's any stipulation about employee use of company resources, then the kid's screwed. The AOL conglomerate can afford a team of careful lawyers.
Seems extremely unlikely. First of all, there he was at an 'incubator' that had space in the AOL building. I don't know of they paid or not, but if they weren't paying then the whole point of having done so would have been to help build good will with the 'startup scene'. If they sued this kid, it would destroy all of that.

Maybe if this becomes the next Facebook, people will come out of the woodwork to get a piece. But this is an educational product sold to schools. How likely is that?

---

Also, now that I think about it google actually does have some of it's own housing for employees. I remember reading about it in Tim Brey's blog when he got hired there. here's a link. My guess is that is not all that cheap.
posted by delmoi at 1:01 AM on May 29, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy: The practice of providing "help yourself" free cafeterias of the type utilized in this case has long been leveraged by savvy tech companies to underpay and over-work their employees. This also applies to perquisites such as climbing walls and fitness centres, designed to break down the barrier between the personal and corporate identities of the workers.

For what it's worth, for many young geeks, this is awesome. Food and sleep and a home life are an annoying distraction to young programmers that are really deep into a problem. Companies don't provide these services because they're good for the companies (or at least, they didn't, for many years), they provide them because the programmers love them. It's possible they may be doing it out of mercenary intentions now, but once upon a time, when these companies were run by and for geeks, they did it because it let them drop the annoying stuff and focus on what they thought was important.

I suspect that becoming a truly great programmer is a matter of literally rewiring your brain... "larval stage" is something that nearly all of the great ones go through, where the rest of the world falls away and there is only The Program, for tremendous stretches of time, six months to a year. These guys are just gone away, living and working in an imaginary place. They find this tremendously rewarding, better than sex, better than anything.

So, cafeteria and showers and laundry on site? Wicked cool. The fewer distractions, the better. If they could just park their bodies in a closet for the duration, and float around as naked brains, that would be ideal. That's out of our reach for the moment, so onsite biological-needs services are the next best thing.

As they get older, they tend to inhabit their bodies more, and become much more mainstream, but young geeks are just.... different. And Silicon Valley is still quite oriented around the young.
posted by Malor at 2:59 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised he got caught so easily. Two months of couch surfing? That's nothing.

Silicon Valley in general and Palo Alto housing are coo-coo expensive. You would *think* that with Stanford that there would be a supply of rat-infested knock-down shacks, right? Nope. Stanford has already solved that by providing grad student housing in an area known as "Escondido Slum Village" on campus.

What's sad is that this story won't bring any attention to the real problem: housing in the area is impossible for anyone not earning a Silicon Valley wage. If you're a teacher, for example, good luck to you. You'll be living with your parents, sharing an apartment or house, or paying $1600 in rent.
posted by plinth at 3:29 AM on May 29, 2012


An employee of mine tried to get away with using the office as his bedsit. Pretty dumb. It was a three-man office and he had distinctive b.o.
posted by Hogshead at 3:49 AM on May 29, 2012


I heard recently that a former co-worker of mine was fired for, basically, moving into his office. His wife threw him out (unsurprising, he was not the most pleasant of people to be around) and he just had gotten his direct deposit sorted so it no longer went into their shared account (which she'd locked him out of before tossing him out). The building was in a reasonably good part of Chelsea, had a gym and shower (and clinic!) in the building, he could get at least two meals in the cafeteria and another at one of the local restaurants (or get something at a deli and eat later), so he got himself an Aerobed and slept in a part of the office where he wouldn't be noticed.

Most of the people in that part of the building work remotely most of the time, so it just kind of got overlooked for a few weeks until an Official Letter got returned and people started investigating (because banks do that).

The worst I ever did was a couple overnights - one or two during a situation where I was working 14-hour days and didn't make the train home (shower in the building, emergency stash of work clothes in a desk drawer), and one during a 2010 blizzard, where they shut down the ways from Manhattan to New Jersey and I couldn't get home and couldn't get a hotel room (the ones not sold out were insanely priced). I kept working until about 9, coordinating with second shift (two of whom had no power and no way to get to their office in NJ, so having me there helped) and having vending-machine for dinner, and then got up at 7, showered, dressed in my spare clothes (you only need one full-body splash to make you want to keep stuff there) and went back to work. (My manager gave me a comp day and a gift cert for a massage, which I needed.)

So no, this doesn't surprise me, because circumstances happen; but the reception at the end of his camping does.
posted by mephron at 4:08 AM on May 29, 2012


I hope some unfortunate security guard didn't get fired.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:46 AM on May 29, 2012


I wonder if there isn't a business model here? Using vacant office buildings/floors as kind of "professional dorms". Cater to young people at their first job who wouldn't mind the communal bathrooms/eating spaces, but I'm sure there are some high-powered execs who would rent one as a sort of pied-a-terre for late nights when it is not worth going home, or for when they get kicked out by the spouse. Companies could use their own vacant space for their own employees, or independent companies could do it for any workers in the office park or downtown area.

All I ask is a 10% stake in your company when you steal my idea, kthxbi
posted by Rock Steady at 7:51 AM on May 29, 2012


it's not that farfetched to posit that corporate dormitories might become the next trendy new tech thing.

Just a glance at corp. history shows this has and will always be a "trend" tech or not. So it is farfetched to posit this question even in the context of this post.
posted by clavdivs at 8:09 AM on May 29, 2012


Which would've been shitty; what concern of theirs should it be whether or not you're homeless, as long as you do your work and have some modicum of cleanliness.
Without a permanent address in the U.S., you can't vote or pay taxes. So my guess would be that it would be a legal issue for the company if they were found to be knowingly paying an employee whose income tax is not being withheld, as it would seem to implicate the company in tax fraud.
posted by deathpanels at 8:15 AM on May 29, 2012


The bigger problem is that there isn't a whole lot of high-density housing available in the area, and given the cost of earthquake-proofing anything taller than 3 floors, I wouldn't hold me breath waiting for some either. It does exist, but there just isn't a surplus of it, and with the valley starting to heat up again, demand is also going up while the housing supply hasn't particularly increased.

The reason legal freaks out about people living in office space is that it isn't zoned as such, so knowing allowing people to live there comes with penalties that no one wants to bear, though it's an interesting business proposition. Then again, I've heard of people who have converted warehouses in SF into living space and I assume that's also not up to code, but even then it's not super cheap unless there are a lot of people living there.
posted by fragmede at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2012


deathpanels: "Without a permanent address in the U.S., you can't vote or pay taxes"

Depending on where you're living, that isn't true.
posted by schmod at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2012



For what it's worth, for many young geeks, this is awesome. Food and sleep and a home life are an annoying distraction to young programmers that are really deep into a problem. Companies don't provide these services because they're good for the companies (or at least, they didn't, for many years), they provide them because the programmers love them. It's possible they may be doing it out of mercenary intentions now, but once upon a time, when these companies were run by and for geeks, they did it because it let them drop the annoying stuff and focus on what they thought was important.
I visited the Valley for the first time this winter. It is really unlike any other place in the world, in terms of work culture, although perhaps there are rough parallels in certain university towns in India or China. The Silicon Valley work culture is, I imagine, built around the early days of Standford grads who started the original "cool" web companies, Google et al, who didn't want to work in a stuffy traditional office with desks and such. Recent university grads find comfort in being treated like students, given access to a library, a cafeteria, a gym, company-sponsored transportation, and having their knowledge and cleverness emphasized over their labor value. But not all employees of these companies fit that mold. A random tech company's population is maybe 50%-60% beer-drinking twenty-somethings and the rest is a smattering of people from other walks of life. These are cultural remnants of the early days of web development, and less, in my mind, things that are universally demanded by employees.
posted by deathpanels at 8:52 AM on May 29, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy: it's not that farfetched to posit that corporate dormitories might become the next trendy new tech thing.

You mean like a mini-company town? Typically seen in localized extraction industries, such as coal, metal mines, and lumber, but in areas that have high land costs, adding an extra floor or two for employee dorms might be the boost needed for a company to win employees over another company, especially for new hires who don't have the credit to get nice market-value housing.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2012


Also, AOL is a modern media giant, but the sort with many faces instead of one monolithic logo over everything they do. They've also bought a lot of smaller, focused companies and websites to broaden their reach.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:58 AM on May 29, 2012


Company towns tend to not work out so well...
posted by deathpanels at 8:59 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: "In Japan a few years, a woman was discovered living in a man's closet.

That's nothing, I spent three quarters of a year living in a woman's body.
"

Weak. I once spent six months living in George_Spiggot while he was in the woman's body.

And he never even knew!
posted by Samizdata at 11:06 AM on May 29, 2012


filthy light thief: "Typically seen in localized extraction industries, such as coal, metal mines, and lumber"


I misread "lumber" as "tumblr" and had a brilliant idea for a sitcom.
posted by subbes at 11:25 AM on May 29, 2012


Companies don't provide these services because they're good for the companies (or at least, they didn't, for many years), they provide them because the programmers love them.

Which benefits those companies, and allows them to pay less than they would otherwise.

You mean like a mini-company town?

That's precisely what I meant, and I am well-familiar with the model, having worked in resource extraction industries in my youth. When I say new trend in the tech industry, I am suggesting that this might be the next new thing in that sector, not that the concept itself is new. See Feudalism as an example.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:36 PM on May 29, 2012


You mean like a mini-company town?

Some contractors don't like company camps because of all the restrictions (no alcohol allowed), so they just park down the road in their RVs. Can't see anyone doing this large scale in the tech industry in case someone falls out of their company apartment on the 4th floor and causes a lawsuit.
posted by arcticseal at 4:01 PM on May 29, 2012


See Feudalism as an example.

Terrible example. You posit that these are akin to 'companytowns' (Oh, the Corp. towns I have known) like feudalism yet I found an example from 1950s Japan and 1889 Norway. Feudalism is not really at issue.
posted by clavdivs at 9:13 AM on May 30, 2012


I last saw him at London Drugs... in a bush. He looked healthy, although he was also looking old.
posted by KokuRyu


Yeah, my father had a business across the street from London Drugs on Quadra. The man used to wheel his stuff by our office and sleep just off the goose footpath or behind the building sometimes.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2012


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