200K tech jobs gone in 2022, 50K already in 2023
January 23, 2023 9:01 AM   Subscribe

layoffs.fyi is tracking the latest downturn in tech employment. Is it due to previous over-hiring and recent high interest rates? Or is it perhaps "social contagion" in the C-suite? NYT: Tech Layoffs Shock Young Workers. The Older People? Not So Much (archive link).

For those Mefites who have lost their jobs in tech recently, my sincere condolences. It can be a hell of a shock, but from one who has been through it in the past, there's light at the end of the tunnel.
posted by gwint (106 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
If there are indeed any MeFites who have lost their jobs in tech - I am working for a smaller tech-adjacent firm, and we are hiring. We also have some non-tech positions available (technical writer, marketing, controller), and we've got offices in NYC and in the Bay Area. I cannot say enough good things about the company where I work and its leadership; it is far and away the best job I've ever had, and the ONLY job in which I've gotten a raise OR a promotion. Memail me for details.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on January 23 [55 favorites]


The "submit tips" form, when asking for intel, suggests "Google spreadsheet of laid-off employees" as one type of intel.

IDK if there's heavy irony or a news reference in that, but it made me wonder about folks trusting a site with personal information when that is proposed.
posted by xurizaemon at 9:22 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


As a tech worker who has not been caught up in this wave, I'd like to please, please, please ask that commenters on this thread refrain from "Well, screw those overpaid tech-bros anyway" commentary. I've seen that too many times on the Blue. Regardless of what their circumstances are or were, there are a lot of people hurting in this.
posted by ChrisR at 9:31 AM on January 23 [60 favorites]


I can't speak for the big companies, but at least for startups I have a theory. Based purely on observation (I'm no expert and not in tech but some close to me are) and astute comments from friends others in the startup world, especially SAAS.

1. A lot of tech startups have bad leadership. And by that I mean, any executives who hired and budgeted/forecasted as if pandemic-related growth was going to continue unchecked were willfully ignoring the reality that no boom ever lasts. But...

2. At the time, that's what investors wanted. Show us growth! So that means more sales, more hiring, grow grow grow even if it's obvious that's not sustainable. Companies probably hired beyond what they needed to or should because that's a growth metric. Gotta show growth to get more funding to get more runway.

3. Of course, pandemic-related growth did not continue at the same pace and companies started to see they had burned through their good leads and sales teams were chasing worse and worse fits for their product. And existing customers were starting to look at opportunities for reducing their own expenses, so retention did not meet extremely high forecasts.

4. Then, as the economic winds shifted, what investors wanted shifted. Suddenly, investors were looking at income and cash flow and wanting to see drastic cutbacks on expenses. So the CEOs and leadership just said "cool, fuck it" and laid off a bunch of staff as the easiest way to cut back. Regardless of what those layoffs do to longer term sustainability for the company to continue to refine products, serve customers, hire and maintain company culture, and sell to new clients.

Were some cutbacks needed? Probably, if points 1 and 2 of my theory are true. But if they were needed it was because of poor leadership and unrealistic expectations to begin with. And it feels to me like either panic in some cases or lack of a backbone to stand up to loud (possibly themselves panicky) investors in others.

Regardless, layoffs are just balance sheet numbers for leadership. For the rest of us, these are real human beings with lives and families who are devastated by the way c-suite executives play with their livelihoods like pieces on a chess board.
posted by misskaz at 9:38 AM on January 23 [27 favorites]


1. A lot of tech startups have bad leadership. And by that I mean, any executives who hired and budgeted/forecasted as if pandemic-related growth was going to continue unchecked were willfully ignoring the reality that no boom ever lasts. But...

That was true for my company. They hired like mad in 2020 and 2021, totally overbuilt inventory (we make warehouse robots) and then realized in 2022 that they weren't selling enough and laid off 90 people, about 1/3 of the company. I survived for now but it sucks to have that constant fear.

The CEO who did that just joined a New York venture capital firm because these guys always fail upward.
posted by octothorpe at 9:43 AM on January 23 [24 favorites]


But if they were needed it was because of poor leadership and unrealistic expectations to begin with.

I'm not seeing any mention of incipent tech unionization in any of those links, but I do want to put the idea that this might be a factor on the table.
posted by mhoye at 9:45 AM on January 23 [13 favorites]


I'm in a non-tech company, but one whose business really took off during the pandemic due to the nature of our products. We hired a lot of folks during those years, but nothing too crazy. Still, when things started to slow down last year, the first thing the funds that hold most of our stock asked for was layoffs. And they got them.

That was over six months ago, and the year turned around pretty well in the end. We are very profitable, just not as profitable as 2020/2021. But, as soon as you hop on an investor call, these shareholders are still insisting we get back to those levels, and they immediately jump to "how can you trim salaries?" Nevermind how you need actual people to do the work - just have to cut cut until the shareholder value is met.
posted by Zargon X at 9:57 AM on January 23 [24 favorites]


I don't want to oversimplify this, but a lot of this is just the "easy money" spigot being partially cut off. Chasing growth is easy when lending is cheap, and investors tend to reward growth, which increases executive comp, which gives executives incentive to chase growth.
posted by praemunire at 9:58 AM on January 23 [21 favorites]


It doesn't diminish the impact of being told their positions aren't needed anymore, but for many of these layoffs (certainly including ones announced where I work, mentioned on the site linked in the FPP) the affected people will continue to get paid at their normal rates while they have the opportunity to look for new work within (or outside) the company. Where I work, people in my world who didn't get laid off are having to learn to take on the responsibilities of those who did. There's a lot of "knowledge transfer" going on this week. It's going to suck in many ways without the people whose roles were deemed unnecessary.
posted by emelenjr at 9:59 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Management to maximize shareholder value is stupid, and management to maximize shareholder value in the short term is worse.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:01 AM on January 23 [38 favorites]


> Were some cutbacks needed? Probably

but were they? Google spent like 50 billion or something on stock buybacks (which honestly should be illegal) last year. I'd bet almost all these publicly traded companies spent more on buybacks or other benefits for shareholders than the cost of these employees. Really this all strikes me as irrational investor appeasement. Stock prices are in the doldrums, so something must be done! A few % points in short term stock gains is not worth absolutely destroying morale across the industry as a whole, and literally ruining the lives of some of these people being laid off, some % of which will struggle to find a new job and suffer all the negative family, social and mental health outcomes associated with layoffs. It sucks, it sucks so much.
posted by dis_integration at 10:02 AM on January 23 [29 favorites]


but were they?

Well I mean, way to cut off the rest of that sentence which contextualizes the "probably" to cases where/if the growth in the first place was unrealistic.
posted by misskaz at 10:07 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I think the social contagion theory makes a lot of sense because executives are always making decision based on comparing themselves to other companies and the public market expectations. Public market expectations are very much based on psychology instead of hard numbers, and it's clear that the "growth" mood that probably lasted a bit too long has worn off for now and the analysts expect the executives to get "tight". The executives are simply doing what is expected it them socially, which is how it has always worked. Executives aren't some sort of specially brilliant or evil class of people, but they're working in a very different social context than the rest of us. That social context doesn't really have much respect for worker rights or empathy for individual concerns, but does care about "competitiveness" and "efficiency". It doesn't seem like the amount of cash on hand ever enters into layoff discussions, as it's usually earmarked for something else like acquisitions. Layoffs have been coming for years but the fact that they're all happening right now has to be driven by psychology.

Every big tech company is going to have some workers who are comparatively overpaid, especially over the last few years where Facebook and Google got into ridiculous bidding wars over candidates who are good at applying and negotiating (which I am not). Many programmers believe they are way more valuable than the average programmer, which is one of the reasons tech unions are a hard sell. I would expect that executives are fed up with the fact that tech workers have effectively used their market power to raise their salaries and these layoffs are part of the backlash against that. And thr fact that they're happening so fast is bad for both workers and the companies.
posted by JZig at 10:11 AM on January 23 [9 favorites]


As someone who works in public media and saw wave after wave of former colleagues fleeing for the higher-paid pastures of tech/VC-funded media, this is yet another validation of my reticence in doing the same. So many of those folks - excellent, talented, conscientious producers and reporters - have been cast out to sea in this wave of layoffs, as well as those before. I recognized the podcast boom for what it was as it ramped up, and I don’t take any pleasure in the inevitable fallout …. but those of us who stayed behind are still scraping by on subsistence wages even with union support. Nobody wins.
posted by mykescipark at 10:17 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


IMO it breaks down like this:
-Big companies are maximizing short term revenues and cutting costs to protect their share price by making sure their performance is better or equal to their peers.
-Start ups have to conserve cash because it is really hard to raise money right now and no one expects it to change for 18-24 months. They have to conserve as much cash as possible instead of attempting to see how big they can get.
- Medium / Small established tech firms -- these companies are still hiring or at least not doing layoffs because they've generally got a fairly stable set of clients and turnover rates, or a niche product that has long term customers.

After a few decades in tech my advice is make sure you park a lot of your salary away for times like this cause it often takes longer than you expect to find a good job. Also it is a good idea to interview somewhere every couple of years even if you are happy where you are just to stay on top of the ever changing tech interview process.
posted by interogative mood at 10:31 AM on January 23 [18 favorites]


During one of the earlier waves of tech layoffs, I moved from Memphis to Chicago for a dotcom job and was laid off in the six days between unpacking the moving truck and my scheduled first day. So that was awesome.

Sympathy and solidarity to anyone coping with this. It truly sucks.

I really favor the theory that it's social contagion, that the C-suite types just follow each other like lemmings.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:32 AM on January 23 [22 favorites]


The layoffs vary pretty drastically in terms of what areas are being cut, and what that means going forward.

Amazon is cutting positions in recruiting, HR, and retail which indicates that they don't expect to be hiring a lot of people anytime soon. And retail is a relatively mature division at Amazon.

On the other side, Google has cut a division that was responsible for experimenting with new products, which is a much worse signal. We can laugh at the Google Graveyard, but at least they were trying out new things - this cut means they'll be doing less of that.
posted by meowzilla at 10:34 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Amazon laid off a huge chunk of its Devices team, i.e, the Alexa people. They're something like a billion in the red, as they never really successfully monetized Alexa.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:37 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


> but were they? Google spent like 50 billion or something on stock buybacks (which honestly should be illegal) last year.

Stock buybacks are substantially equivalent to dividends, but taxed differently, so it is usually better for your shareholders if you do a buyback vs increasing your dividend.

Also, cuts are absolutely necessary at Google/Alphabet. They cut a lot of people for no obvious or even legal reason (pregnant women, account managers, Search staffers?), and those cuts are probably bad, but there were also a lot of cuts in "businesses" that have no possibility of breaking even, much less turning a profit

It is a good thing when bullshit jobs working on Google's "incubator" or their dumbfuck "self driving car" project get cut. Those things are just monuments to executive ego. Now all those people can go get real jobs that actually contribute something to society.
posted by your postings may, in fact, be signed at 10:37 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Probably the reason it's happening right now is a safety in numbers thing. If you're the only firm that's doing big layoffs, investors (and other stakeholders) are going take that as a signal. So you don't try if you don't have to. Then when someone starts doing it, there's a kind of pent-up demand and it cascades. So it's a form of rational herd behavior.

Probably especially so in a concentrated industry with handshake wage-fixing and so on. Everyone is watching everyone else to see what they'll do.

Big question is, is the downsizing cyclical or structural? The VCs and execs are starting to wonder if technical innovations (like large language models) are changing the landscape of organizational fitness for the currently big firms, so that going forward you can run a bigger enterprise with fewer disgusting humans in it, who will have to be less uppity because they'll be easier to replace. If that's true there's a lot of money to be made by dumping out and terrorizing the current employees. That's the excitement of Musk's Twitter for sympathetic observers.
posted by grobstein at 10:38 AM on January 23 [15 favorites]


If you've been laid off (in the US) and you're over 40 you're within the ambit of ADEA. Which you may want to keep in mind as you take stock of who was retained.

(Though the impact is probably worse in hiring than firing, where age discrimination is a lot harder to prove so 😑)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:42 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Jack Welch once said that the idea of chasing shareholder value was "...the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy... your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal."

But somehow here we are, genuflecting to the dumbest idea in the world because it's convenient for the already rich.
posted by mhoye at 10:43 AM on January 23 [19 favorites]


In the past 20(ish) years I've been through four (4) different tech layoffs, the last of which was five years ago:
  1. 2002, a delayed effect of the dotcom crash because the ISP I worked for was on a slow slide into bankruptcy as a combination of unsustainable contracts [paying more to lease fiber than we could charge for transit] and ill-advised acquisitions [an early CDN and another hosting/colocation company, with neither in the end worth the cost];
  2. 2004, a startup that missed revenue targets whose backers denied a bridge funding round. A few months later that startup was "acquired" by another company in a deal that was basically, "we'll invest in you if you'll also take this company off our hands." The backers and "acquiring" company further cut costs by requiring everybody who wanted to keep their jobs to relocate to Austin on short notice;
  3. 2006, a big ISP that hired a lot through the year and laid off like 5% every January. Honestly, the writing for that one had been on the wall the entire time, since it took them four months to hire me for an on-again-off-again project that went off-again in between when they finally wrote my offer letter and my orientation date. I had (some) work to do, but it wasn't the work I was hired to do, and my team didn't have enough work for me to be busy full time;
  4. 2017, collateral damage from a slow moving disaster that could have been averted at multiple points over the preceding five years if the rest of the C-suite had any idea what the CTO was doing, but which was devastating to the company when the plug was finally pulled.
None of those are the same, except they all happened due to different flavors of bad management.

(Though the impact is probably worse in hiring than firing, where age discrimination is a lot harder to prove so 😑)

Ugh. I can't get hired for the jobs I want (I can't even get considered for most of them) and I don't want any of the jobs I'm recruited for (which, frankly, I probably wouldn't get hired for anyway even if I jumped through all their hoops, which I'm not going to do for jobs I don't want). I think my tech career may have ended in 2017.
posted by fedward at 10:48 AM on January 23 [10 favorites]


I used to work for a company that sold IT training and the saddest thing we dealt with regularly was the group of older folks who'd been laid off who couldn't quite process how this had happened to them. They'd call us for training to freshen up their skills, but could not help themselves from robotically recounting their resume in a way you could tell they did all the time, just sort of blindly casting about in hopes that someone would hear someday and say, "You need a job? With that resume? Let's get you signed up right away."

My dad was like that. He ended up retiring early and I think it ate at him.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:59 AM on January 23 [13 favorites]


A friend of mine was laid off from Google last week. He was a very senior researcher who they'd recruited aggressively from CMU. He'd been there for 16 or 17 years and is now laid off a few years shy of retirement age.
posted by octothorpe at 11:06 AM on January 23 [17 favorites]


> so, cuts are absolutely necessary at Google/Alphabet... but there were also a lot of cuts in "businesses" that have no possibility of breaking even, much less turning a profit

You can reorganize, move people into other parts of the business and even (god forbid!) offer retraining. You hired these people for a reason, at some point they were considered a good bet (and everyone I've met working at a FAANG tends to be very smart, well credentialed, well educated), and you're almost certainly going to have to rehire for new roles again 12-18 months anyway, and that's expensive, and you have no idea what the market will look like then (maybe the rebound from this covid slump is so wild that you need to be even more competitive). I think in general we'll see the companies that resisted layoffs during this cycle find themselves in a more competitive position when the market cycle turns once again.
posted by dis_integration at 11:07 AM on January 23 [21 favorites]


What Companies Still Get Wrong About Layoffs: "Research has long shown that layoffs have a detrimental effect on individuals and on corporate performance. The short-term cost savings provided by a layoff are often overshadowed by bad publicity, loss of knowledge, weakened engagement, higher voluntary turnover, and lower innovation — all of which hurt profits in the long run."
posted by gwint at 11:10 AM on January 23 [24 favorites]


Tech layoffs can be fine (or even helpful) for some folks in some situations. They can be brutal for others. Folks have already talked about older workers. One other group that gets hit hard, especially when there's a sector-wide wave like now, are H1B and similar visa holders.
posted by feckless at 11:10 AM on January 23 [12 favorites]


They'd call us for training to freshen up their skills, but could not help themselves from robotically recounting their resume in a way you could tell they did all the time, just sort of blindly casting about in hopes that someone would hear someday and say, "You need a job? With that resume? Let's get you signed up right away."

A lot of us spent a lot of time getting job hunting advice from that generation, when that tactic worked fine. Take this job and shove it was a fine strategy when you could get another one handing out resumes on the walk home.

There's no joy in this either way, just the cruelty of the machine working as designed.
posted by mhoye at 11:11 AM on January 23 [11 favorites]


One other group that gets hit hard, especially when there's a sector-wide wave like now, are H1B and similar visa holders.

I left my first job out of college about a month before they laid off half the engineering team. One of the people caught in the net was on a visa, and from what I heard HR was absolutely brutal with him for reasons I still can't fathom. Marched him out of the building without any of his things, no consideration given to the tenuousness of his situation as a suddenly unemployed visa holder. I think the HR manager got canned shortly after that, in part due to just how callous the layoffs were handled.

No one we know has been let go yet, but our friends who are in tech are all definitely getting their resumes spruced up and bracing for impact. Comparing this to, say, '08 feels quite a bit different - there was a common villain back then (those evil real estate investors destroying the economy!), and this time it just seems a bit like senseless violence.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:20 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


ADEA

What is ADEA?

Regardless of what those layoffs do to longer term sustainability for the company to continue to refine products, serve customers, hire and maintain company culture, and sell to new clients.

My latest company - an online pharmacy - went from 15 developers when I started in March of last year to 1 in December in its third round of layoffs. On Zoom on my last day she said to me, “I can’t do this alone.”
posted by bendy at 11:20 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]




I think to an extent this was supposed to happen. Many sectors of the economy have grown at breakneck speed for the past decade or so due to the availability of cheap money and investors jumping on anything that offered good returns. It's a way for the economy to encourage people to try out new businesses and try to make them viable. Now that the money's tightening up we'll see which ones actually were viable. But in addition to this I think companies are absolutely using as an excuse to lay off more people than they need to in a way to reset employee expectations and put fear back into employees. I could see how this latter part was supposed to happen too but I'd still like to think that that is an additional level of malice that isn't needed.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:31 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Don't want to make light of the situation but a "very senior researcher" who's been at Google for 17 years probably could have retired several years ago and is getting a significant severance package (unlike someone at Twitter).
posted by meowzilla at 11:36 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


The social contagion theory is the one that pisses me off the most. I definitely believe in it: we've been hearing rumblings about recessions for over a year. Every person I know who works in finance has been saying that there is nothing on the books that would indicate an actual recession, but business media won't stop talking about it, and they're making it come true.

i think it's so cool that every CEO at every company suddenly decided exactly five to seven percent of their workforce needed to not work anymore. what a weird coincidence

posted by nushustu at 11:37 AM on January 23 [36 favorites]


He ended up retiring early and I think it ate at him.

The irony of having "outdated" tech skills is that there does always seem to be work these days maintaining legacy systems that would be too expensive to replace from the ground up, but it does kind of mean that your career stops developing as soon as your primary skills are seen to be unpopular. In my 2017 layoff, the failed project that caused all the collateral damage was supposed to make it easier to hire younger, cheaper programmers than the Perl graybeards who actually kept the lights on. So when that project blew up they also laid off 60% of the graybeards (and 20% of IT overall). About a year later I ran into one of the guys they hadn't laid off, and he'd been so miserable he left on his own. I think there's still one guy left from my old team and he basically runs everything now.

My problem is that I'm not really interested in having the same job title I had fifteen years ago. I want to solve new, different problems, not just the same old problems but in whatever language or framework is So Hot Right Now. If I actually enjoyed writing software anymore I'd have more current skills and possibly be more employable, but it stopped being fun for me by 2015 or so. I'm not sure I'd say it eats at me, because I'm glad I'm not doing work I don't enjoy, but I am very aware that when my IT career seems to have ended for good it wasn't by my own choice.
posted by fedward at 11:37 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


The biggest factor in these layoffs is 100% remote seats turn out to have far lower voluntary turnover. After three years of this, Big Tech was far overstaffed simply from the absence of natural resignations.

Every year, a certain percentage of people you make commute to Mountainview, Bee Cave Road or Chelsea are going to resign because in order to relocate. None of those resignations occurred.

Every year, a certain percentage of people who live and socialize the Bay Area, Austin or New York metro are going to get recruited away through powerful local professional networks -- those don't exist for people working in sweats in Breckenridge or West Palm Beach. None of those resignations occurred.
posted by MattD at 11:38 AM on January 23 [11 favorites]


Do you have any sources to back those statements up, MattD?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:40 AM on January 23 [8 favorites]


You can reorganize, move people into other parts of the business and even (god forbid!) offer retraining.

In the case of Google, rumor is that the layoff choices were made by the various VPs -- they were given a target budget (that is, $ saved by not paying people) and told to figure it out. They were also specifically instructed not to speak to ANY of their managers, lest word get 'round, so the VPs literally sat down with org charts and tried to figure out who to let go.

...this is why you'll probably hear of wildly disparate firings at Google -- each VP made their own choices in their own way, so some will be phenomenally stupid, others will be cruel, and still others may be somewhat reasonable. If the VP really understood their organization the choices will make sense; if they didn't really know who is doing what, their choices will be occasionally moronic.

In the section of the company I'm familiar with, it appears that it's mostly long-term midlevel managers being let go (basically, reverse-engineering the decision process, it appears to be the case that if you were a long-term employee, and your superior could take over all of your direct reports without exploding from over-work, then you were on the hit-list). Junior people, H1Bs, and the like seem to have been spared, and three people I know who were openly talking about "what's next in their career" have been let go, probably because hey, gonna leave anyway this'll spare someone else.

In another division, that is very much not the case -- they just axed whole sections of the org tree instead. Kinda weird to have this sort of thing be so uneven across a single company. But then again, failing to have a coherent strategy is sort of on-brand for Google.
posted by aramaic at 11:46 AM on January 23 [17 favorites]


Whacking whole sections of an org tree seems like the easiest way to avoid an ADEA lawsuit. Anything more surgical requires evidence and a paper trail.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:52 AM on January 23


....each VP made their own choices in their own way, so some will be phenomenally stupid, others will be cruel, and still others may be somewhat reasonable.

And nearly none driven by genuine business needs or logic. *eyeroll* Gotdam MBAs...
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Also!

the saddest thing we dealt with regularly was the group of older folks who'd been laid off who couldn't quite process how this had happened to them.

Oh, I knew how it had happened every single time. That 2002 layoff, for example, was the third round, and my fucks had run out somewhere between the first round (everybody I liked including the friend who'd gotten me the job and our immediate boss) and the second round (which, honestly, I was surprised I survived). As rumors swirled about the potential for a third round, there was an amazingly awkward "unofficial" team meeting at a beer garden where my last manager chose to take us all aside and explain that he'd been asked for a stack ranking, and he was incredibly nervous about telling me I was on the bottom of the stack. I was like, "oh yeah, totally. I've barely done anything." And in the 2017 layoff I'd had a job interview about six weeks earlier where the hiring manager had asked me why I wanted to leave my job, and the more I explained about project overruns and a CTO who shouldn't have had the faith of the rest of the C-suite, the harder a time he had believing me that things could have gone on like that as long as they had. (Turns out!)

They'd call us for training to freshen up their skills, but could not help themselves from robotically recounting their resume

I feel for people like that, but I am honestly bored by my resume. I can talk in detail about all of it but I'd rather talk about anything else. But I think even on the hiring side, even now, there's a lot of robotic repetition in search of keywords instead of an understanding of how stuff actually works. I've had a lot of interviews where I can tell they're trying to fit all my experience into specific boxes, when I'd rather talk about what they need and how I can do it (or maybe can't, about which I'm honest, because why waste everybody's time?). But they're all "did you use X tool to do Y work with a job title of Z? No? [AWKWARD PAUSE]" It's so depressingly literal.
posted by fedward at 12:14 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


It's kind of emblematic of the way internet/tech culture has shifted over the last twenty years that this round's fuckedcompany is an embedded airtable.

(Stay strong out there, people.)
posted by phooky at 12:20 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Fuckedcompany was more about overhyped Web 1.0 bubble companies imploding and Molly White did a great job picking up that mantle with web3isgoinggreat.com
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:25 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


A related question for folks here…

I’m not in tech but rather in beverage alcohol w/ scads of experience in outward facing positions, e.g. bar management and special event production. Over the past two plus years I’ve applied for several relevant jobs with one very large company (a name you would most likely recognize) all of which I was well qualified for. Didn’t get a single offer, even in a couple of cases even after being interviewed twice. Looking at the demographics of who this company ultimately hired for these positions (much younger folks) I’ve started to wonder if I’ve run into an age issue. Is this something worth pursuing? Is there any way to determine if I’m in fact being discriminated against because of being older? Any perspectives on this would be appreciated. (And you can memail me if you prefer that to posting here.) - Thanks
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 12:27 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Another example with some, uh, framing: Salesforce stock is being bought by companies that expect to change its operations. (SLGuardian)

It's a little surprising to me that a *business* article thinks of Salesforce as "Slack's owner", when Salesforce is so large; and it just sets my teeth on edge that funds who seem to be setting up for at least massive layoffs, and possibly legalized bust-outs, are called "activist investors".
posted by clew at 12:36 PM on January 23


Large global consulting company here (north of 300k staff globally). We had lost a number of very good resources to FAANG + a few others in last 18 months for *crazy* comp packages. Like 100% pay raises minimum off what (we thought) were fairly competitive packages. Some of these comp packages were so far over their ski's I almost didn't believe them. We ourselves pumped the brakes hard on new hiring about 5 months ago (only hiring for confirmed projects were no internal resource could do it, no sign-on bonuses etc.), following an annual round of low performance based layoffs in the 2-3% range . I am seeing a lot of companies doing smaller layoffs now (100 here, 200 there sort of deal) across Financial Services (as well as the larger Goldman type lay-offs). Not sure we are going to have another 2008 (unless debt ceiling shitfuckery...) but it feels like it is accelerating across industries...
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:40 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The irony of having "outdated" tech skills is that there does always seem to be work these days maintaining legacy systems that would be too expensive to replace from the ground up

I have a friend nearing retirement age who's always been able to pick up fairly lucrative COBOL work.
posted by slkinsey at 12:46 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I've been coding since 1979 and let me tell you, no one would hire me now and it's not because I don't know / couldn't pick up the tech. It's because I absolutely would not put up with any management bullshit whatsoever, including any encroachment on work/life balance. Asshole tech managers love to hire naive young tech staff because they don't know any better, much less how to say no.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:50 PM on January 23 [56 favorites]


So how do we make this situation as painful for the capitalists as it is for the workers?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:51 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Related: I have a friend my age in SV who has given some pretty spectacular talks and been privy to some pretty spectacular implosions, and has done some pretty spectacular shouting back at asshole CEOs, and they have their pick of VP work at just about any non-broken medium-sized company because their specialty is unfucking fucked up workflows and workplaces. The hilarity ensues when some young dipshit CEO/CTO tries to hire them because they want them to do the thing, and several weeks later the young dipshit is being handed their ass because they've been fucking up so badly. And sometimes my friend walks because the dipshit has the backing of the VCs.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:54 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


FoB: It's always just to destroy capital. The bigger the better. Just don't get caught.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:55 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Stock prices are in the doldrums, so something must be done!

FB is down 50 percent in the past year, but not for no reason: revenue is down relative to 2021 by what looks like 5 billion dollars, and net income down by 10bil.

You can say "well thats because META leadership made a misplaced bet on VR" but well, the proper response would be layoffs. And maybe some executive turnover, if Zuck didn't have mega vote shares.
posted by pwnguin at 12:57 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I see this as money trying to make more money without bothering to make anything anybody wants inbetween.

A final flare up before the propane runs out, if you will — or the final moments of clarity and false hope before the patient dies.

An end stage.
posted by jamjam at 1:13 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I love Molly White’s web3 criticism, but there is a huge gap between working for a crypto firm, and a FAANG. Crypto is a usefully comparison only in setting a baseline for what a company that produces nothing of value really looks like. Facebook and Google produce plenty of value, although certain divisions like VR might be money sinks.

I think the social contagion theory is right on, and hate the immense human impacts to temporarily juice the stock price
posted by CostcoCultist at 1:15 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


The hilarity ensues when some young dipshit CEO/CTO tries to hire them because they want them to do the thing, and several weeks later the young dipshit is being handed their ass because they've been fucking up so badly.

I have a friend who was in this exact same situation but insisted he had to be paid out his contract and spent an idyllic year in a world-class city doing exactly whatever he wanted to do. Perhaps the same friend :)
posted by sjswitzer at 1:21 PM on January 23


These things must have been cooking since it appears doubtful you can just roll out of 5% cut in workforce without some preparation, but hey.. maybe I'm naïve. What might have happened is that they figured out that as soon as one was doing it, you could pull the trigger and avoid some of the negative effects. It was the perfect week to announce your layoffs.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 1:22 PM on January 23


For anyone interested in innovation more broadly I recommend a history do Bell Labs The Idea Factory Pretty much all of our modern tech infrastructure owes its start to Bell Labs, which had tons of money for basic research since the US government let AT&T maintain a monopoly for generations. Google was probably the closest thing we had to that today. I don’t think VCs have to patience or foresight to foster the kind of people who do real world changing stuff
posted by CostcoCultist at 1:24 PM on January 23 [11 favorites]


These things must have been cooking since it appears doubtful you can just roll out of 5% cut in workforce without some preparation, but hey.. maybe I'm naïve.

Just inexperienced. As a first line manager I've gone from "produce a list of your lowest 10%" to showing them the door in approximately two weeks. In fact I suspect speed is paramount as word of preparations gets out pretty quickly.

What might have happened is that they figured out that as soon as one was doing it, you could pull the trigger and avoid some of the negative effects. It was the perfect week to announce your layoffs.

I think you are dead on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:28 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Saw another friend who posted in LinkedIn that she got caught in Google's layoff and then saw right before that an automatic post congratulating her on 16 years at Google.
posted by octothorpe at 1:29 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


LinkedIn just sent re a recruiter email wondering if I’d want to work for Meta in the Bay Area do some things are eternal even if the actual jobs go.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


It was the perfect week to announce your layoffs.

During and after the first dot com boom all the big internet companies in the DC suburbs were known for end of year layoffs. Some of them at least had the courtesy to wait until January, but they still made sure to do it before annual bonuses were paid. After my 2006 layoff they direct deposited a bonus and then reversed it via ACH a few days later. I happened to log in to my bank account the day after the deposit, and if I hadn't been sure that they'd sue me to claw it back I would have closed the account and hidden the cash somewhere.
posted by fedward at 1:47 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I love all the CEOs who "take full responsibility" but without any ramifications.
posted by reiichiroh at 1:54 PM on January 23 [25 favorites]


This is the human equivalent of stock market panic where you sell off because “the market is crashing” and then 18 months from now will be buying high. I can’t see how this makes sense to bottom line for all the payouts unless “that’s a different accounting line item” justification.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:59 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


These will be some of the hardest emails these CEOs will write in their entire careers.
posted by whatevernot at 2:06 PM on January 23 [15 favorites]


Just inexperienced. As a first line manager I've gone from "produce a list of your lowest 10%" to showing them the door in approximately two weeks. In fact I suspect speed is paramount as word of preparations gets out pretty quickly.

I was thinking more about MS who reportedly cut about 1/3 of 343 Industries (who does did Halo), this seems like it needs to be more prepared. But you're right, this can't be cooking for too long or word will get out.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 2:09 PM on January 23


"social contagion" in the C-suite

The last time there was "social contagion" in the C-suite it was actually an anti-trust wage fixing conspiracy that involved Adobe, Apple Inc., Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar, Lucasfilm and eBay.

I expect that a decade on they have gotten better at it. Probably more secure communications, better legal advice, more politician more thoroughly bought, etc. but it is still quacking an awful lot like a duck during a very competitive hot employment market.
posted by srboisvert at 2:30 PM on January 23 [34 favorites]


I suspect this is a variant of the same executive level social virus that was responsible for kicking off all of that "BACK TO THE OFFICE!" noise
posted by treepour at 3:23 PM on January 23 [12 favorites]


So how do we make this situation as painful for the capitalists as it is for the workers?


Organize open source coding groups that will cover every single IT need expressed by labor unions and progressive NGOs.

Make it real obvious that they're better off hiring coders to sit somewhere and play Wordle than they are to let a critical mass of coders sit unemployed.
posted by ocschwar at 3:48 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


I'm a bit amused at drawing a distinction between "capitalists" and "workers" when many of the workers in question are making high-6 to low-7-figure incomes, plus healthy stock compensation and all the other legendary perks at FAANG companies. Methinks every one of them is a capitalist.
posted by twsf at 3:57 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


To be a capitalist you should own capital. Those FAANG engineers don't make it to that level until they're fully vested.
posted by ocschwar at 4:04 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


Eh, you have to have control over capital, not just some measly stock compensation. There's no doubt they're well paid, but they're still just upper-middle class at best. A staff engineer might make 300k but they don't mean shit at a shareholders/board meeting.
posted by dis_integration at 4:14 PM on January 23 [16 favorites]


I'm a bit amused at drawing a distinction between "capitalists" and "workers" when many of the workers in question are making high-6 to low-7-figure incomes, plus healthy stock compensation and all the other legendary perks at FAANG companies.

There's also a pretty absurd implication for places with stock comp and vesting schedules: if the stock drops enough you can lose a lot of employees to competitors. Even in an "all ships are sinking" scenario it can pay to jump to another company and renegotiate the comp package. There's a ton of grumbling on blind about cliffs and TC drops concurrent with the layoff anxiety.

To be a capitalist you should own capital.

In the same way execs are awarded shares when the stock goes up, RSUs are locked in at grant date, so the better the stock does the more valuable they are on vesting. I'm not saying it makes them equivalent to CEOs or board members, but the incentives are with capital.
posted by pwnguin at 4:19 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


First link looks A LOT like this site I used to compulsively hit F5 on throughout 2000-2001

Fucked Company (remember with the spoof on Fast Company logo?
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:37 PM on January 23


I can't speak for the big companies, but at least for startups I have a theory.

0. most of these tech startups aren't actually creating useful products.

~~~

It's a good time to be in government tech -- better to work at 90k (plus pension) than get laid off at 200k, but my tune will certainly change when the next conservative hack gets elected to run my government.
posted by klanawa at 4:38 PM on January 23 [11 favorites]


First link looks A LOT like this site I used to compulsively hit F5 on throughout 2000-2001

Man alive, I wonder how many hours I killed on FC and its forums, which were....something else. That was probably my peak kuro5hin time too.
posted by jquinby at 4:55 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


It is a good thing when bullshit jobs working on Google's "incubator" or their dumbfuck "self driving car" project get cut.

Come on, man. I can criticize Big Tech til the cow comes home, but these divisions are not the source of the problem in any meaningful way.

my tune will certainly change when the next conservative hack gets elected to run my government

I knew a fair number of federal employees during the last administration and...it was rough. (One agency's enforcement division got moved to a basement and the "new" phone system didn't even work reliably.) The next administration will probably try to take a hatchet to the job security that was one of their few consolations.
posted by praemunire at 5:09 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


It doesn't seem like the amount of cash on hand ever enters into layoff discussions, as it's usually earmarked for something else like acquisitions.

Yah no shit. I’ve seen this happen at two different mid-size startups now. Different times, different situations. But in both cases, they’d recently closed on very impressive Series-B or Series-C rounds. And in neither case did they hesitate to enact massive layoffs the very second the market turned sour.

When interviewing at a startup, it’s always a good idea to ask what their runway looks like. That will protect you from certain types of disaster. But when the going gets rough, it doesn’t matter how much “runway” they have. At that point, you’re just cannon fodder to them.

Upper Management and the investors in these companies are going to be just fine. It’s you who’s going to get it. Funny how you don’t see any of these very repentant CEOs resigning “for the good of the company.”
posted by panama joe at 5:30 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


I feel for everyone effected, especially older workers and people on visas.

That being said, my employer has had difficulty hiring new people in the last few years as we were competing against the big guys in the Seattle area. We just hired two people recently laid off from Amazon. There are still jobs in the less flashy, medium sized companies in the tech sector.
posted by Prof. Danger at 5:43 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


I'm a bit amused at drawing a distinction between "capitalists" and "workers" when many of the workers in question are making high-6 to low-7-figure incomes, plus healthy stock compensation and all the other legendary perks at FAANG companies. Methinks every one of them is a capitalist.

Do you really think that the tech workers who are getting laid off make high-6 to low-7-figure incomes and, because of that fanciful notion, are on the side of the people laying them off?
posted by treepour at 6:27 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


It's not that simple, part of their panic is about not becoming people who make less than their low six figures, or whatever it is. Because they are well aware.

Precarity reaches pretty far up these days, given the situations people put themselves into when debt is cheap, plus the cost of the education needed to get there, plus relative deprivation and status anxiety.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:45 PM on January 23


I hate to be the guy saying $250,000 is middle class, but that is true in Silicon Valley. I will add that there is a huge difference between someone coding or in middle management at $250k and higher up $500--700K upper management types...

On a separate thought. I would also not that some of the greatest educational software ever out came out of MECC, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (Oregon Trail, Lemonade Stand, Etc.). I fully support gov't employment for everyone laid off. We also need to improve our unemployment computer systems...
posted by CostcoCultist at 6:53 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


I hate to be the guy saying $250,000 is middle class, but that is true in Silicon Valley

Which is why they are indeed not in the same relationship with the capital that sets up that situation as fired "middle class workers" in other strata, who couldn't afford to live there in the first place.

There is more to prestige and socioeconomic standing than disposable income over your mortgage.

(Also, vesting)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:57 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I do wonder if the people who took full advantage of remote work by moving somewhere far away made themselves more vulnerable to layoff, or if it was spread around more randomly. (Similarly, I wonder if the ones who stayed in tech hubs will have an easier time finding work.)

If the severance packages being reported (example article) are accurate, most of those people are going to be in a much better position than most laid-off workers, especially if they have been there more than a couple of years. That doesn't make it not-shitty for the people getting laid off -- it's plenty shitty -- but they will have a lot softer landing than most. It's not accurate to say they are capitalists since they are clearly salary-dependent workers and managers, but they are also clearly in a very small elite of workers.

During one of the earlier waves of tech layoffs, I moved from Memphis to Chicago for a dotcom job and was laid off in the six days between unpacking the moving truck and my scheduled first day. So that was awesome.

There are a lot of bad layoff stories, but that is up there for sure.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:03 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The NYT has an explainer about how changes in interest rates were a main driver of the macro situation for tech companies, which shaped their latest boom and now downsizing.
posted by twsf at 7:04 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


A focus on amount of compensation rather than control really suits the interests of the people with control. Understanding that unlocked a lot for me.

Capital isn't just money and property; it's money that gives you control over other people. So yeah, if for example you're using your generous compensation to buy up rental properties and become a landlord on the side, you might just be a Captialist(tm). But even so, that's still not your relationship to capital at the tech job that just laid you off without a second thought.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:29 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Google being asked for further layoffs and reduced compensation by investor TCI.
Basically: 'we don't care if its bad for the company, bad for the employees and bad for your customers, we just want profits now.'
posted by Lanark at 2:14 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


TCI doesn't want profits, they want the short-term stock price bump on layoffs so they can bail out of the stock now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:17 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Capital got shook. Mutual waves of layoffs are another form of price fixing and collusion. While certainly no actual formal conspiracy was undertaken other than their own self interest (big tech is very familiar and adept at regulatory arbitrage - figuring out how to do things that should be or will eventually be better regulated but capitalize on the spread between now and then or low-regulation-here and responsibly-regulated-there while effectively lobbying to maintain and widen that gap).

It's troubling to now hear workers start to glumly accept these excuses and internalize "I guess we shouldn't expect these salaries/benefits/perks, we'll all be replaced by AI anyway."

1. ML models are progressing quickly, no doubt. They continue to generate results that look impressive. until a very small amount of informed expertise is applied, at which point it is obvious they are very good at volume and detail but cognition, understanding, assessment, and synthesis of information remain poor and unpredictable. Calculators and spreadsheets did not put bookkeepers out of business, bookkeepers with calculators and spreadsheets. put less effective tool users out of business. A publishing industry & English prof friend described ChatGPT as "like a calculator for writing," which I found quite apt.

2. During the period when labor could move more freely through remote options (fully acknowledging the labor in question does not represent all labor and this ability should expand to more sectors and collars) capital got scared because it had invested in office-based perks, locations, and expectations which were being aggressively renegotiated in terms of work life balance, commute, and family time. It feels a bit like we are on such a hurry to forget the pandemic that we are also forgetting this meaningful experiment and how completely terrifying. it must be to capital as it stands today and how it is used to strong arming labor, even high-end labor like tech, into certain rent extraction boxes. Private health insurance began post World war II as a differentiator perk for employers that also happened to bind people more closely to their jobs, making them less able to take their value elsewhere without extricating from yet another layer of bureaucracy, which has only grown more vicious, callow, and entrenched.

3. I would tackle with mad glee if this round of layoffs meets with a surge in tech workers. unionization. I know it may not be the most popular form, but I'm hoping the prevalence of the gross libertarian "smartest kid in the room" strain that made such things impossible in the last recession has shrunk in the face of undeniable counter evidence. (I know I know but I do see fewer reflexive libertarian assholes in tech than I did 20 years ago by a lot)
posted by abulafa at 8:01 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


Which is why they are indeed not in the same relationship with the capital that sets up that situation as fired "middle class workers" in other strata, who couldn't afford to live there in the first place.

There is more to prestige and socioeconomic standing than disposable income over your mortgage.


Silicon Valley has a 2.5% unemployment rate vs the US average at 3.5% or Nevada at 5.2%, so if you are saying people who make $250k in San Francisco are in any way middle class or aligned with the people who live in say, Sacramento, they are not. They are just gatekeeping in different ways. And even with higher total mortgage amounts, Silicon Valley is not more indebted than any other place in the US, except that debt tracks income, so higher income equals more debt.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:17 AM on January 24


Calculators (first mechanical and then tube and electronic varieties) sure as fuck put human computers (the humans who used to calculate) out of business. The trade, most recently overwhelmingly staffed by women, has ceased to exist.
posted by Mitheral at 8:22 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Yeah all the techbros who would like to just delete the legal department want to do a touchdown dance about lawyers re: ChatGPT; but it's actually much more of threat to everyone without a license whose work-product is presently required to be reviewed by an attorney, anyway—legal assistants, paralegals, etc. Especially in the kind of law practices whose office jobs have a fairly low barrier to entry.

Programmatic document generation has been around for a while, and has improved, but is still relatively clumsy and expensive (or laborious and brittle if self supporting). ChatGPT, write a letter to the Client's so-and-so demanding such-and-such due to this-and-that and then editing the output is super easy and the cost is presently peanuts.

I wonder if there will be an evolution of the product that lets you prime it with documents containing outlined facts, and a form document to base the output on, to generate draft correspondence, court forms, declarations and so forth. That is more or less the workflow a lot of paralegals have.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:44 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


It's a good time to be in government tech -- better to work at 90k (plus pension) than get laid off at 200k, but my tune will certainly change when the next conservative hack gets elected to run my government.

You and me both. I used to wonder if I made the right career choice staying in government (too close to retirement eligibility to leave now, plus I doubt any big tech company would hire someone my age), but not regretting it at the moment despite all the backwardness and frustration that goes with being in any gov IT/tech role.

Of course, I'm also banking that Congress won't completely vaporize my pension in the next 7-8 years...
posted by photo guy at 8:53 AM on January 24


ChatGPT isn't a threat to anyone in the short term because it is often spouting out bullshit and nonsense. If you asked ChatGPT to draft some code or a contract you still need developers or lawyers to review it and make sure it actually answered the question correctly.
posted by interogative mood at 9:24 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Social contagion, plus, a chance to axe a bunch of staff to boost profits and stock prices, then rehire new staff. Because everybody is doing layoffs, there's much less scrutiny and disapproval. I suspect laid-off folks will be finding good new jobs, but what a wretched experience.

Employers treat people like a commodity; it's a foul way to treat people, and unions are a good response.
posted by theora55 at 9:35 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


3. I would tackle with mad glee if this round of layoffs meets with a surge in tech workers. unionization. I know it may not be the most popular form, but I'm hoping the prevalence of the gross libertarian "smartest kid in the room" strain that made such things impossible in the last recession has shrunk in the face of undeniable counter evidence. (I know I know but I do see fewer reflexive libertarian assholes in tech than I did 20 years ago by a lot)

I definitely wouldn't mind either, but one thing I haven't yet seen much of (may be out there & I've missed it though) is how to effectively organize a remote/hybrid workforce. If your team is spread across 3-4 time-zones & all your communications are monitored, sliding into someone's DMs with "Hey, I know we've never interacted before, but 1-5 how do you feel about unions?" seems like a bit of a heavy lift.
And then add the above discordance where a decent chunk of people think those people are overpaid anyhow so what do they have to complain about? and solidarity seems a pretty uphill battle to convince people en masse into. (and the temporarily-embarrassed-rockstars who think they'd lose out)

It's not impossible; see Kickstarter, NYTimes Tech Union, etc. But it seems like less-mapped ground, & that could be harder to build momentum in a climate where people are more worried about layoffs rather than fired up to change them.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:12 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Upthread I made an announcement that my company was hiring. Based on the questions I've been getting, I am coming back in to add a very important point:

No, we unfortunately are not able to do a remote-work arrangement for the technical writing job at present.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


ChatGPT isn't a threat to anyone in the short term because it is often spouting out bullshit and nonsense. If you asked ChatGPT to draft some code or a contract you still need developers or lawyers to review it and make sure it actually answered the question correctly.

Ask a big firm lawyer about the usability of a newly minted associate's unedited work.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:46 PM on January 24


For those curious, you can listen to ChatGPT answering bar exam questions together with one of the co-hosts of Opening Arguments podcast. The name of the segment is "Thomas Takes The Bar Exam (TTTBE)".
posted by ringu0 at 3:57 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there will be an evolution of the product that lets you prime it with documents containing outlined facts, and a form document to base the output on, to generate draft correspondence, court forms, declarations and so forth. That is more or less the workflow a lot of paralegals have.

This is currently my workflow, which I'm still working on:
* Record voice journals, meetings into audio/video file.
* Audio files are automatically transcribed to txt via Whisper.
* Txt get's sent to summarization API, then the summary and original metadata get stored together. These docs can be stored in gpt-index data structures, which are recursively composable. If you query against a list, for example, it will summarize each document, breaking it into small enough chunks that the analytics engine can determine whether the chunk is relevant to your query. GPT can currently handle 4000 tokens between input and response, so it's all about maintaining this context state in the query.

So I can take a number of legal documents, load them in an index and get a fairly accurate result to the relevant portion of the doc. I tested this out the other day with a simple test case from a 300-page labor agreement doc and it worked flawlessly.

There's another tool called langchain that allows you to create chains of LLM transformations, each one with custom prompts and models so that you can do a pass to clean up grammar and paralanguage, look for embedded commands, and stuff like that.

Did a five minute video for a product release demo today and ran the transcript query to get a video title, subtitle and summary for our KB.
posted by daHIFI at 7:18 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


From McSweeney's, "Macroeconomic Changes Have Made It Impossible for Me to Want to Pay You":
There’s no easy way to say this: I have made the difficult decision to lay off over six thousand of you. In the past two years, we have achieved huge wins together. But unfortunately, the macroeconomic environment has shifted in ways none of us could have foreseen, from an economy in which I did feel like paying you, to one in which I’d rather not.

[...]

Ultimately, this decision was made out of an abundance of confidence in our mission and all the work you’ve put into it. The fact is, our fundamentals are sound. Our revenue is growing. Our cash reserves are high. We are not going anywhere (except for six thousand of you, but you’ll be going there with a free login for our talent hub). The fact is, if I wanted to pay you, I could. I could even give you raises. But once again, that is not the economic reality we face. And so we must make hard choices.
posted by mhum at 11:36 AM on January 25 [10 favorites]


Meanwhile, the CEO of PagerDuty wrote, while announcing a 7% staff reduction:
None of this would be possible without you, our leadership, and our board — thank you for your grit and resilience, your commitment to our customers and your support of our values and people. I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said, that “the ultimate measure of a [leader] is not where [they] stand in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand in times of challenge and controversy.” PagerDuty is a leader that stands behind its customers, its values, and our vision — for an equitable world where we transform critical work so all teams can delight their customers and build trust.
(via Matt Haughey)
posted by fedward at 1:00 PM on January 25 [11 favorites]


That one is an all time hall of famer.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Why are so many tech companies laying people off right now? Didn’t they just have record-breaking profits?
“People do all kinds of stupid things all the time,” Pfeffer says. “I don’t know why you’d expect managers to be any different.”
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:12 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Google Should Fire Sundar Pichai
Every single layoff story seems to follow the same path - mass hiring in the post-lockdown society to scoop up massive consumer spending, followed by mass layoffs blamed on “uncertain economic times.”

Let’s be precise: every one of these companies chose to blame thousands of people for a problem that was specifically created by their executives. Google’s engineers didn’t choose to ramp up spending and hiring - the executive teams at Google (perhaps the same ones that were attempting to crush remote work) did. In fact, I’d argue that the same people that are writing these crocodile-tear-stained layoff letters are exactly the same ones responsible for the unrealistic projections, unrealistic spending and unrealistic hiring, yet they are completely and utterly divorced from any of the consequences.
posted by misskaz at 9:47 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


If MLK were alive today, he'd agree that massive layoffs were a brave way to fight for equity.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:56 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


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