We’re high above the atmosphere now talking about abstractions.
November 15, 2015 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I did the storify! All the non-reply tweets should be there. I edited out the retweets and replies that seemed inessential, but wasn't super aggressive there.
posted by kenko at 9:56 PM on November 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

Some personal highlights:
Currently topping the leaderboard for whitest rich dude statement: “My dogs get mani-pedis; I don’t”. But it’s a competitive field

From tennis lessons and stock reports to antiquing and booking a private jet, technology is transforming everything about the way we live

Next talk is a vision of connecting ubiquitous surveillance technologies to a form letter generator. #nexteconomy

Tim O’Reilly just called being funded by DARPA grants “unusual for Silicon Valley”. Wasn’t there a DARPA thing that got big in the 90’s?

Our chimney sweeps are allowed to keep and sell the creosote they scrape from their skin, making them small business owners!

Thank God for the audience. “Why do you do criminal record checks for taskers, but not for those soliciting”. Great question, hisses CEO

Now we have a cabbie, Uber driver, and Lyft driver. This is like discussing the Protestant reformation with Calvin, Luther and the Pope

Second-best part of conference is techies mansplaining on Twitter why working a 60 hour week as an underpaid driver is a great livelihood

VC is describing magical feeling of pressing button on his phone, getting food. Lab rats have been living this dream for years

The trick is to not deliver the food every time the VC presses the button. Intermittent reward ensures a hefty series B

Second VC is extolling broad corporate surveillance piped into a sales process. Glengarry Glen Ross + Hadoop

Cs now vehemently agreeing that the path to victory is pretend to be a service without incurring any of the obligations of one

“Silicon valley is the Q/A department for the rest of the world” MY FLASK DAMMIT

Terrifying startup names on screen. hurdlr activehours flexa traity sherpashare opus.me ‘cofee mobile’ copass recharge breather

Sherpashare clearly the winner in onomastics

O’Reilly: “How does the on-demand economy change the equation for women and families?” Slaughter: “You mean parents and families?” 🔥🔥🚑

First speaker today is Nick Hanauer, a VC who supports increasing the minimum wage. You da real unicorn

You want people to at least be able to afford the pikes they’ll be sticking your heads on

Only at a San Francisco tech conference do you have to mount a basic defense of the concept of government before proposing modest regulation

“Trickle-down economics is an intimidation tactic masquerading as economic theory.” Best VC ever. Last against the wall.

“We need collective decision making… I don’t know if you call it policy making?” - Zoe Baird fumbling to remember how to say “democracy”

Fire alarm. Huge victory for the working class

I never thought I would live to hear Tim O’Reilly say “I’m sorry for the disruption”. But the heroic hotel fire alarm made it happen

Previous talk: help black girls teach each other to code until no one fails. This talk: get better at skimming the top 2% of aspiring coders

If I heard these numbers right: proportion of women at Google increasing by 1% a year, with 5000 hires on a base of 55,000

By my math that means in 40 years Google will have gender equality with 3 million employees

2,990,000 of them will be working on AdSense

Coming out of the gate strong with the Clippy of tomorrow: “Imagine writing a memo that detects your emotions as you’re composing it”

“You seem to have died inside a little”

OMG magic helmet company has partnered with HyperLoop. “When we met them, we knew they were the people SmartHelmet had to support”

SmartHelmet display is just flashing “FUND HIGH SPEED RAIL INSTEAD”. Awkward demo moment

Next up: David Plouffe, who now somehow works at Uber

Plouffe sketching out a vision where you’re driven around by depressed people who just got fired, rather than PhDs from the former USSR

The only industry when you can brag that 20% of your employ… er, contractors are women.

Surprise cameo from yesterday’s uber driver in audience! Confronts Plouffe on empty promises of being able to make a decent living

“In the past I got deactivated for speaking up.” Driver asks for guarantees of his job safety for asking an audience question

People talking about getting deactivated really does feel like the future, but probably not the conference wants

There’s a problematic refrain at this conference that reform + treating employees well is good for the bottom line. But what if it weren’t?

Dickerson talking about difficulties Etsy sellers had when they got sudden attention and had to fill a zillion orders

Hence the launch of Etsy Manufacturing, a subdivision of Etsy Mining and Heavy Industries

O’Reilly: “Am I smoking something when I ask if the jobless future could look like Medium?” I’m trying to figure out if I just had a stroke
posted by tonycpsu at 9:58 PM on November 15, 2015 [34 favorites]

I want to believe there was a brief shining moment when Tim O’Reilly was all about giving developers tools and information, helping open source thrive, and creating communities around software. Then he started to realize that could make way more money charging VCs a couple grand a pop for exclusive conferences and achieve far more personal status hobnobbing it up with CEOs and VCs.

And to be fair to O'Reilly, who I actually like, he's one of the better ones, and does, as Maciej points out, make an effort to put actual people on stage at these events. Really, it's the whole bloody industry that's gone mad.
posted by zachlipton at 10:13 PM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

"We’re moving from a world of widespread unemployment to one where people have three, four or even five jobs. #prosperity"

Getting an MBA is going to boil down to the instructor placing a bucket of crabs on a podium. "Make everything like this. Class dismissed."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:43 PM on November 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

These are hot takes done right.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:07 PM on November 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

I followed this with rapt attention for both days. Maciej was truly throwing rocks.
posted by migurski at 11:57 PM on November 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Publishing programming books used to make money. Then it didn't. And that's why you have conferences like these.
posted by zippy at 12:22 AM on November 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Tim has always been more than a publisher though; he gets interested in a topic and approaches from a bunch of angles: books, magazines, events, investments, spinoffs, conferences, etc. Next-Economy was right in line with the last 20-odd years of O'Reilly efforts.
posted by migurski at 12:36 AM on November 16, 2015

Maciej needs nominated for a MacArthur grant.
posted by DigDoug at 6:11 AM on November 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

There are very few outspoken personalities with whom I agree as frequently and consistently as Maciej.
posted by schmod at 6:34 AM on November 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

The tweets that didn't make the cut in tonycpsu's list, above, are still pretty good. Thanks for the Storify-ing, kenko!

And I think O'Reilly is still interesting: yeah, he's made his pile of money, but he still isn't completely co-opted.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:22 AM on November 16, 2015

I knew that Tim O'Reilly was off the rails when he tweeted
We're building a vast rational conspiracy of people who don't care about left or right, but just about getting stuff done.
I'm like, you realize that we have democracy because people don't always agree about what should be done?
posted by murphy slaw at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

O'Reilly lost me on G+ during the Nymwars debacle. Nice to see his head is still up his own ass.
posted by symbioid at 9:30 AM on November 16, 2015

Maciej Celglowski is a national treasure.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:48 AM on November 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Please raise your hand if you were the mefite who asked about the Treaty of Westphalia.
posted by bonje at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Maciej's been posting links to edifying reading on labor history up on his Pinboard site about 6 days ago.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:45 AM on November 16, 2015

Next-Economy was right in line with the last 20-odd years of O'Reilly efforts.

I think you're right that O'Reilly has organized a bunch of great conferences, I know at least as far back as 1999, but the ones that feature business people doing business, it seems like those are where most of the action is now.

I've gone to OSCON off and on for, well, a while. It started as the Perl conference. It is now way more about big business in open source than it is about Perl, kernel hackers, etc.

Compare OSCON in 2005 vs 2015:

2005 - sponsors - yes, IBM and Google, but also ACM Queue, the Linux Journal, bOINGbOING. Tracks: Apache, databases, Java, Linux, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby. Keynotes include Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo, DHH on Ruby on Rails, a keynote talk on TCP/IP ...

2015 - sponsors - IBM, Paypal, Huawei, Capital One, Google, Intel, Microsoft ... and running down the list, very little that's not big business. You can say that's all because OS has been a huge success, but the sponsor list is dominated by Fortune 500 and big integrators. What about the conference tracks? Here's the complete list: Architecture, Collaboration, Craft, Cultivate, Data, Design, Events, Foundations, Mobility, Scale, Sponsored, Teaching, and Training. Keynotes? Mostly big companies recruiting, including IBM's which starts with "we are living in an IT-fueled innovation rennaisance." (It ends with a callout to They Live.)

Here's IBM's summary:

While the value that flows from open source innovation has run deep for decades, the momentum of open source projects across Cloud, Mobile and Data in just the last 4 years has accelerated beyond the wildest dreams of almost everyone. In 2015 alone, open source projects have revealed lynchpin technologies that have changed the game for vendors and users like never before to accelerate innovation and upend traditional business models. Coincidence? I think not – at IBM, we understand that this world needs to be Open by design.... a retrospective on the evolution of open source from the “old ways” in the early years to today’s new model of “code, community and culture” which brings together users and developers to accelerate innovation. This is a celebration of the open source advancements of the first half of 2015, specifically with an eye towards the blending of key open source projects like OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and Docker to deliver integrated open source solutions. Momentum has only just begun however so buckle up for a preview of new open source projects on deck like Node.js and Open Data Platform as well as a significant announcement from IBM for the open source community.

OSCON has shifted from hackers hacking to large companies talking about large company stuff in order to recruit techies.
posted by zippy at 12:10 PM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

We're building a vast rational conspiracy of people who don't care about left or right, but just about getting stuff done.

This is basically a more dignified-sounding way to say "Wouldn't it be great if morality and power had nothing to do with each other?"
posted by clockzero at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would say he was on fire here, but
People telling me I’m on fire - I wish I was on fire. But the fire alarm was a cruel hoax

posted by ckape at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2015

I gotta speak up for O'Reilly! I think he's a decent, moral guy who is also a huge technophile. Those two tendencies were doing war on stage and that's what made the conference so interesting and odd.
posted by idlewords at 1:32 PM on November 16, 2015 [14 favorites]

I studied computer science in university starting in late 1990, just before the invention of the World Wide Web. As a result, I was able to get a nerd's eye view of the early growth of the Internet.

At the time, there was a lot of breathless optimism going on about how the Web would Change Everything. There was this sense that we were hacking capitalism and turning it into a force for good. The net was flattening out hierarchies and letting the people communicate in new ways that would bring everyone closer together. I remember reading some futurists' prediction that the 'net would be the end of extremism.

This was the kind of hyperbole flying around.

In that context, working for an Internet startup was a good and meaningful thing to do. The Internet could solve Serious Problems and so spreading it would make the world a better place. And as a bonus, you could get rich.

(Of course, after the 2001 tech crash, John Perry Barlow those same breathless voices completely reversed their positions and wrote off the Internet as worthless.)

Modern Silicon Valley startup culture is built on a thoroughly co-opted, distorted version of this optimism. The whole "this is important work we're doing, selling pet food online" mentality comes from a time when it wasn't entirely unreasonable to believe that this really was God's work.

So I think Tim O'Reilly is one of the good guys, but he's coming from that place of optimism. While Maciej is ready to write off SV startup culture, O'Reilly is still trying to salvage it. This conference has put the people who would ask hard the hard questions in the same room as the ones who need to be asked them. Maybe that will help.

(That being said, I loved this series of tweets.)
posted by suetanvil at 6:45 PM on November 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

Silicon Valley utopia ain't gonna happen --@izakaminska (the anti-@pmarca!)
Over the last two decades, most of my adult life, I’ve watched as the world has grown more interconnected than ever, fuelled by changes in information technology which have almost universally been treated as a force for good. This interconnection was supposed to improve scaling, transparency, productivity and bring western peace and prosperity to all... None of this has happened.

Instead of scaling, we’ve seen descaling because individuals need to adopt more jobs, more skills, more crafts just to get by — meaning professionalism is being lost. As well as our day jobs, for example, we are now also being asked to be hoteliers, cab drivers, propagandists, writers, advertisers, administrators, promoters and renters of all our possessions.

Instead of transparency, we’ve seen the emergence of echo chambers, filter bubbles, encrypted comms, noise pollution, single-interest groups, propaganda, misinformation, internet brigandage and the burying of real news in the cacophony of low-base (advertising saturated) media output.

Instead of productivity, we’ve seen working factories shut down, output stall, public resources be pulled, health services be cut, inequality rise, output be redirected to luxury goods, corporate taxes be dodged and energy be burned for no real good reason at all.

Instead of peace and prosperity, we’ve seen the world become fragmented, divided, politically charged, cult-minded, intolerant, enraged, hateful, hurtful, spiteful and malevolent — now with the added advantage of all this hate being zapped directly into our consciousness 24/7 via the power of our mobile phone or computer laptop.

Instead of coming together, political systems have been fragmenting, with no consensus anywhere, because we can’t agree on anything. Self-interest dictates the news agenda entirely. Trust is being dismantled. We are becoming less cooperative not more.


The greatest crimes of society emerged from the wanton dehumanisation of individuals by groups who saw themselves as above the subsets they were dehumanising. If the internet is dehumanising all our relationships, with even the best of heart being provoked into actions they would not usually take, just imagine how it’s empowering the bad guys who already had little to no respect for their fellow man?

The worst of it is, in the process of this IT-fuelled anti-social transformation, we’ve not only handed over power, wealth and prestige to some of the least equipped individuals in the world to deal with the social chaos that comes in its wake but convinced ourselves I fear — in almost a religious puritanical sense — that our lives are somehow being improved by these people?


The day the tech gods start driving Uber cars, renting their own mansion rooms out on Airbnb, renting their yachts to refugees not to mention start paying taxes, is the day I believe the products they’re creating are tools for the empowerment of all.

Information technology is not a panacea. In fact, because it errs towards the dehumanisation of individuals, it is probably much more dangerous than we ever assumed.

Indeed, it may just be that we’ve made a major accounting error. We’ve failed to recognise that for every digital asset we create and overvalue on the stock-market there is a digital liability/risk, which offsets much of that valuation — but which we have yet to figure out a way to account for properly.

Which is why I suspect the economic problem can’t be solved until technology combines with societal morality, and we begin to respect and honour every human person, whomever they may be, rather than treat them as commoditised entries in a spreadsheet which can be streamlined, disrespected or gamed for the sake of oneupmanship, cheap labour and profit.

You can’t synthesise trust in a system that has no underlying morality by simply removing humans from the process. The humans are the process. They’re also the point of the process.

also btw, for more of 'the promise and the peril' check out these jeremy rifkin videos from last year :P posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on November 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

The taxi driver who spoke up during the q&a was unable to drive for Uber for much of the next day.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:21 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

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