Shared posts

09 Aug 00:00

Salespeople: Four Steps to Getting What You Need From Engineering

Engineers don’t like salespeople. They see them as tedious, aggressive and lacking in depth. They’re generally wrong; salespeople can be earnest, caring, friendly and genuine. But, when you try to cross the communication chasm between sales and engineering, it’s important to remember you are swimming upstream against a tide of stereotypes.


I’ve worked at places where sales was explicitly banned from communicating with engineers. It was believed (probably based on experience) that if sales could communicate directly with the engineering staff they would cajol them to build whatever the latest lead needed. This is a legitimate fear, running a company often means deciding not to build something a lead wants which is not what a salesperson wants to do.

That said, it often is necessary in a small company to do everything you can to make customers and potential customers happy. That requires a line of communication between the people selling and the people building. So how do you get what you need from developers as a salesperson?

Let’s get a few things out of the way right away. The stereotype is that developers are not quite like other people. They don’t care as much for small talk, they like to argue and to be right. Like every stereotype, it just isn’t true for everyone. Many of the developers I know are affable, gregarious and care more about people than arguments. Like any other interpersonal situation, the best bet is always to judge the person you are talking to based on their actions, not your preconceptions.

Let’s take a look at how a request might go:

ACME needs search by Thursday or they’ll churn

There are many things wrong with this communication style.

Don’t make your problem, their problem

This is just a property of dealing with anyone, not just engineers. We all know what our job roles are, and an attempt to pass your responsibilities onto someone else isn’t gonna engender good feelings.

ACME needs search by Thursday or they’ll churn. That’s $20k in monthly revenue which would be a big deal for the company.

Development priorities are generally set somewhere near the top of the company, not by any individual developer. Similarily, development work takes time, even if something might not be done yet, there may be some very good technical reasons it’s taking so long. If something didn’t get done, it’s likely that was the fault of the priorities set from on-high, not the developer you’re talking to.

A better course is to ask for help:

ACME needs search by Thursday or they’ll churn. That’s $20k in monthly revenue which would be a big deal for me. I know it’s not your fault or your problem, but if you can help at all I would really appreciate it.

Realize What You’re Asking For


If you need something done, it means other work won’t get done. That means the big task set by the CTO may not happen this week. Or, worse, it might mean you are asking a developer to stay late, missing out on their families and hobbies. This might seem like a reasonable price to demand for the success of the company, but remember that overworking has very real costs. It lowers productivity in the future, and it takes a toll on our lives. It’s also a great way to lose developers to other companies who show them more respect.

Explain The Business & Customer Value

Developers want to create good software. They want to solve user’s problems, and they want the business to succeed. In the modern world however it is a sad fact that many companies don’t do a great job of communicating the business’s day-to-day with its developers. Developers are generally smart and interested, they are capable of understanding what is going on if it’s explained, and it’s likely they’ll agree with the need to get this task done. Explaining the bigger picture is the absolute best way to get developers to work hard for you:

We’re working hard to make a really aggressive sales target this quarter. It’s not easy, but if we can manage it it will really help us raise our next round of funding. I know it’s crazy, but ACME said if we can’t get search done by Thursday they’ll cancel. I know it’s not your fault but do you think we can make it happen?


The last example included two new elements: “I know it’s crazy” and “do you think we can make it happen?”.

“I know it’s crazy” shows that you understand that the idea that a couple frantic days of development should be required is not the norm. That’s important because developers are often used to other parts of the organization not understanding that there are limited resources and it’s not always possible to drop everything to put out the latest fire.

“do you think we can make it happen?” shows that you respect the developer’s opinion as a contributor to the companies success. You aren’t giving an order or a demand, you are explaining a serious situation to a coworker and asking for their input and help.

When you ask that question the developer may say “no, I don’t think we can get it done.” That is not a bad response! Would you rather find that out now, or when the deadline has come and gone? Also, it gives you a chance to brainstorm and find out if maybe something simpler can get done which will satisfy the customer.

I’ll be the first to admit that being a software engineer can be one of the cushyiest gigs ever to exist. That said, it also comes with the stress of any job, including that of having to deal with many people who want many different things and who don’t understand the work involved in any of them. Empathy to that challenge can get you very far.

Explain The Problem, Not Just The Task

Brooklyn Bridge

Engineers solve problems. You don’t ‘build a bridge over the Hudson’, you find the best way to meet the current river-crossing traffic demands which balances cost, building time, reliability, traffic on the river and a thousand other factors. An engineer familiar with your product will have many of those constraints in their mind. If you just ask for the first solution you can think of, you may miss out on something which is both faster to implement and better for the user.

They need search so they can find their customers who are filing support tickets.

Might get you the response:

Well, we can’t get search ready in time, but we could make a way for their support tickets to link to their customer pages. Would that work?

Ta da! A solution which will get done, and will blow away the customer’s expectations.

Accept That The Best Answer Might Be No

There is always more to do at any product company than there is time. It’s possible that this specific customer request will never come up with any other customers and the customer doesn’t bring in enough MRR to make it worth it. It is a well recognized concept that there are customers of many organizations who actually cost more in support than they pay. If you can’t get more cash out of the deal it might be time to say goodbye to this customer.

Work At Least As Hard As They Do

It’s no secret that salespeople don’t always know what a developer does day-to-day. Even more true though is that many developers don’t really know what salespeople do. It can look like the job of being a salesperson is just chatting on the phone and going out to fancy dinners all day. Of course, sales is an incredibly challenging job, but the perception, however wrong, matters. To an engineer it can look like you spend your time making promises they have to keep. The best remedy is to stay in the trenches, working hard at your job, showing you are just as committed to the companies success as you are asking them to be. If the goal is to get your team committed to your goals, no one should be suffering alone.

Of course, this goes the other way too. It doesn’t feel great to watch developers play a game of ping-pong when you are stressing over the latest deadline. It’s valuable to remember that everyone needs to blow off steam sometimes. It can be helpful to remember that every organization has a certain amount of engineering resources. That number is never ‘every engineer working in front of their computer furiously 24 hours a day’, it’s ‘engineers working as hard as they’re able to given the constraints of their lives and personalities’. The goal is to use the resources you have as well as you can, not demand superhuman endurance.

A Formula You Can Use


Here is the four-step formula you can use any time you need to get something special done by a developer:

1. Explain the ‘big picture’

Explain why this matters to you and to the organization. Don’t assume that the engineer knows what is going on inside the sales team or the organization, they might not.

2. Make a personal appeal for help

Ask, person to person, for help in getting this done, recognizing you are asking for something above and beyond.

3. Detail the problem and what you think a solution might be

In a few sentences explain what the customer asked for and what problem they are trying to solve. The second part is very important, as what they literally asked for may not be a very smart thing to do at all.

4. Listen and collaborate on a solution

The developer might need some time to think, or might have a solution now. Building a product is a collaborative process, it’s not about any one customer at any one time. But, if it’s in the interest of the company, or you have been able to express how important it is to you personally, it will get done.

Here’s a complete example of a request that would have a good shot of getting you what you need:

Right now we are trying to hit a pretty big sales target set by management. We’re all going a little crazy trying to make it happen, but it’s a challenge. I have this prospect who would bring in enough revenue to make a difference, but they’re asking for a way to export their data. They need it because their compliance requirements say they need an offline backup of all customer data, even what we store. I know it’s not on the product roadmap, and it’s a big ask, but can you think of a way we can solve that problem for them and close the deal before the end of the month?

If you liked this and would like more, subscribe below!

Like this post? Share it with your followers.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

10 Aug 06:10

Parallelogram Puzzle

by Greg Ross

parallelogram puzzle

Point E lies on segment AB, and point C lies on segment FG. The area of parallelogram ABCD is 20 square units. What’s the area of parallelogram EFGD?

SelectClick for Answer>

parallelogram puzzle - solution

Draw EC. Now parallelogram ABCD and triangle EDC share a common base (DC), and they have the same altitude (a perpendicular from E to DC). So triangle EDC has half the area of parallelogram ABCD.

But likewise, parallelogram EFGD and triangle EDC share a common base (ED), and they have the same altitude (a perpendicular from C to ED). So triangle EDC has half the area of parallelogram EFGD.

Since both parallelograms have twice the area of the same triangle, their own areas must be equal. So the area of EFGD is 20 square units.

(From Alfred S. Posamentier, Math Wonders to Inspire Teachers and Students, 2003.)

12 Aug 23:14

Cultural Outreach

by Greg Ross

Scotland’s 1904 antarctic expedition made a unique contribution to science:

A number of emperor penguins, which were here very numerous, were captured. … To test the effect of music on them, Piper Kerr played to one on his pipes, — we had no Orpheus to warble sweetly on a lute, — but neither rousing marches, lively reels, nor melancholy laments seemed to have any effect on these lethargic phlegmatic birds; there was no excitement, no sign of appreciation or disapproval, only sleepy indifference.

— Rudmose Brown et al., The Voyage of the “Scotia,” 1906

(This has produced a memorable Wikipedia image caption.)

12 Aug 13:47

A and B smell the flowers. image / twitter / facebook /...

A and B smell the flowers.

image / twitter / facebook / patreon

12 Aug 16:12

Other Queen

by Reza


09 Aug 21:22

Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice | Kalzumeus Software

by brandizzi
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Sempre bom lembrar.

If there was one course I could add to every engineering education, it wouldn’t involve compilers or gates or time complexity.  It would be Realities Of Your Industry 101, because we don’t teach them and this results in lots of unnecessary pain and suffering.  This post aspires to be README.txt for your career as a young engineer.  The goal is to make you happy, by filling in the gaps in your education regarding how the “real world” actually works.  It took me about ten years and a lot of suffering to figure out some of this, starting from “fairly bright engineer with low self-confidence and zero practical knowledge of business.”  I wouldn’t trust this as the definitive guide, but hopefully it will provide value over what your college Career Center isn’t telling you.

90% of programming jobs are in creating Line of Business software: Economics 101: the price for anything (including you) is a function of the supply of it and demand for it.  Let’s talk about the demand side first.  Most software is not sold in boxes, available on the Internet, or downloaded from the App Store.  Most software is boring one-off applications in corporations, under-girding every imaginable facet of the global economy.  It tracks expenses, it optimizes shipping costs, it assists the accounting department in preparing projections, it helps design new widgets, it prices insurance policies, it flags orders for manual review by the fraud department, etc etc.  Software solves business problems.  Software often solves business problems despite being soul-crushingly boring and of minimal technical complexity.  For example, consider an internal travel expense reporting form.  Across a company with 2,000 employees, that might save 5,000 man-hours a year (at an average fully-loaded cost of $50 an hour) versus handling expenses on paper, for a savings of $250,000 a year.  It does not matter to the company that the reporting form is the world’s simplest CRUD app, it only matters that it either saves the company costs or generates additional revenue.

There are companies which create software which actually gets used by customers, which describes almost everything that you probably think of when you think of software.  It is unlikely that you will work at one unless you work towards making this happen.  Even if you actually work at one, many of the programmers there do not work on customer-facing software, either.

Engineers are hired to create business value, not to program things:  Businesses do things for irrational and political reasons all the time (see below), but in the main they converge on doing things which increase revenue or reduce costs.  Status in well-run businesses generally is awarded to people who successfully take credit for doing one of these things.  (That can, but does not necessarily, entail actually doing them.)  The person who has decided to bring on one more engineer is not doing it because they love having a geek around the room, they are doing it because adding the geek allows them to complete a project (or projects) which will add revenue or decrease costs.  Producing beautiful software is not a goal.  Solving complex technical problems is not a goal.  Writing bug-free code is not a goal.  Using sexy programming languages is not a goal.  Add revenue.  Reduce costs.  Those are your only goals.

Peter Drucker — you haven’t heard of him, but he is a prophet among people who sign checks — came up with the terms Profit Center and Cost Center.  Profit Centers are the part of an organization that bring in the bacon: partners at law firms, sales at enterprise software companies, “masters of the universe” on Wall Street, etc etc.  Cost Centers are, well, everybody else.  You really want to be attached to Profit Centers because it will bring you higher wages, more respect, and greater opportunities for everything of value to you.  It isn’t hard: a bright high schooler, given a paragraph-long description of a business, can usually identify where the Profit Center is.  If you want to work there, work for that.  If you can’t, either a) work elsewhere or b) engineer your transfer after joining the company.

Engineers in particular are usually very highly paid Cost Centers, which sets MBA’s optimization antennae to twitching.  This is what brings us wonderful ideas like outsourcing, which is “Let’s replace really expensive Cost Centers who do some magic which we kinda need but don’t really care about with less expensive Cost Centers in a lower wage country”.  (Quick sidenote: You can absolutely ignore outsourcing as a career threat if you read the rest of this guide.)  Nobody ever outsources Profit Centers.  Attempting to do so would be the setup for MBA humor.  It’s like suggesting replacing your source control system with a bunch of copies maintained on floppy disks.

Don’t call yourself a programmer: “Programmer” sounds like “anomalously high-cost peon who types some mumbo-jumbo into some other mumbo-jumbo.”  If you call yourself a programmer, someone is already working on a way to get you fired.  You know Salesforce, widely perceived among engineers to be a Software as a Services company?  Their motto and sales point is “No Software”, which conveys to their actual customers “You know those programmers you have working on your internal systems?  If you used Salesforce, you could fire half of them and pocket part of the difference in your bonus.”  (There’s nothing wrong with this, by the way.  You’re in the business of unemploying people.  If you think that is unfair, go back to school and study something that doesn’t matter.)

Instead, describe yourself by what you have accomplished for previously employers vis-a-vis increasing revenues or reducing costs.  If you have not had the opportunity to do this yet, describe things which suggest you have the ability to increase revenue or reduce costs, or ideas to do so.

There are many varieties of well-paid professionals who sling code but do not describe themselves as slinging code for a living.  Quants on Wall Street are the first and best-known example: they use computers and math as a lever to make high-consequence decisions better and faster than an unaided human could, and the punchline to those decisions is “our firm make billions of dollars.”  Successful quants make more in bonuses in a good year than many equivalently talented engineers will earn in a decade or lifetime.

Similarly, even though you might think Google sounds like a programmer-friendly company, there are programmers and then there’s the people who are closely tied to 1% improvements in AdWords click-through rates.  (Hint: provably worth billions of dollars.)  I recently stumbled across a web-page from the guy whose professional bio is “wrote the backend billing code that 97% of Google’s revenue passes through.”  He’s now an angel investor (a polite synonym for “rich”).

You are not defined by your chosen software stack: I recently asked via Twitter what young engineers wanted to know about careers.  Many asked how to know what programming language or stack to study.  It doesn’t matter.  There you go.

Do Java programmers make more money than .NET programmers?  Anyone describing themselves as either a Java programmer or .NET programmer has already lost, because a) they’re a programmer (you’re not, see above) and b) they’re making themselves non-hireable for most programming jobs.  In the real world, picking up a new language takes a few weeks of effort and after 6 to 12 months nobody will ever notice you haven’t been doing that one for your entire career.  I did back-end Big Freaking Java Web Application development as recently as March 2010.  Trust me, nobody cares about that.  If a Python shop was looking for somebody technical to make them a pile of money, the fact that I’ve never written a line of Python would not get held against me.

Talented engineers are rare — vastly rarer than opportunities to use them — and it is a seller’s market for talent right now in almost every facet of the field.  Everybody at Matasano uses Ruby.  If you don’t, but are a good engineer, they’ll hire you anyway.  (A good engineer has a track record of — repeat after me — increasing revenue or decreasing costs.)  Much of Fog Creek uses the Microsoft Stack.  I can’t even spell ASP.NET and they’d still hire me.

There are companies with broken HR policies where lack of a buzzword means you won’t be selected.  You don’t want to work for them, but if you really do, you can add the relevant buzzword to your resume for the costs of a few nights and weekends, or by controlling technology choices at your current job in such a manner that in advances your career interests.  Want to get trained on Ruby at a .NET shop?  Implement a one-off project in Ruby.  Bam, you are now a professional Ruby programmer — you coded Ruby and you took money for it.  (You laugh?  I did this at a Java shop.  The one-off Ruby project made the company $30,000.  My boss was, predictably, quite happy and never even asked what produced the deliverable.)

Co-workers and bosses are not usually your friends: You will spend a lot of time with co-workers.  You may eventually become close friends with some of them, but in general, you will move on in three years and aside from maintaining cordial relations you will not go out of your way to invite them over to dinner.  They will treat you in exactly the same way.  You should be a good person to everyone you meet — it is the moral thing to do, and as a sidenote will really help your networking — but do not be under the delusion that everyone is your friend.

For example, at a job interview, even if you are talking to an affable 28 year old who feels like a slightly older version of you he is in a transaction.  You are not his friend, you are an input for an industrial process which he is trying to buy for the company at the lowest price.  That banter about World of Warcraft is just establishing a professional rapport, but he will (perfectly ethically) attempt to do things that none of your actual friends would ever do, like try to talk you down several thousand dollars in salary or guilt-trip you into spending more time with the company when you could be spending time with your actual friends.  You will have other coworkers who — affably and ethically — will suggest things which go against your interests, from “I should get credit for that project you just did” (probably not phrased in so many words) to “We should do this thing which advances my professional growth goals rather than yours.”  Don’t be surprised when this happens.

You radically overestimate the average skill of the competition because of the crowd you hang around with:  Many people already successfully employed as senior engineers cannot actually implement FizzBuzz.  Just read it and weep.  Key takeaway: you probably are good enough to work at that company you think you’re not good enough for.  They hire better mortals, but they still hire mortals.

“Read ad.  Send in resume.  Go to job interview.  Receive offer.” is the exception, not the typical case, for getting employment: Most jobs are never available publicly, just like most worthwhile candidates are not available publicly (see here).  Information about the position travels at approximately the speed of beer, sometimes lubricated by email.  The decisionmaker at a company knows he needs someone.  He tells his friends and business contacts.  One of them knows someone — family, a roommate from college, someone they met at a conference, an ex-colleague, whatever.  Introductions are made, a meeting happens, and they achieve agreement in principle on the job offer.  Then the resume/HR department/formal offer dance comes about.

This is disproportionately true of jobs you actually want to get.  “First employee at a successful startup” has a certain cachet for a lot of geeks, and virtually none of those got placed by sending in a cover letter to an HR department, in part because two-man startups don’t have enough scar tissue to form HR departments yet.  (P.S. You probably don’t want to be first employee for a startup.  Be the last co-founder instead.)  Want to get a job at Googler?  They have a formal process for giving you a leg up because a Googler likes you.  (They also have multiple informal ways for a Googler who likes you an awful lot to short-circuit that process.  One example: buy the company you work for.  When you have a couple of billion lying around you have many interesting options for solving problems.)

There are many reasons why most hiring happens privately.  One is that publicly visible job offers get spammed by hundreds of resumes (particularly in this economy) from people who are stunningly inappropriate for the position.  The other is that other companies are so bad at hiring that, if you don’t have close personal knowledge about the candidate, you might accidentally hire a non-FizzBuzzer.

Networking: it isn’t just for TCP packets: Networking just means a) meeting people who at some point can do things for you (or vice versa) and b) making a favorable impression on them.

There are many places to meet people.  Events in your industry, such as conferences or academic symposia which get seen by non-academics, are one.  User groups are another.  Keep in mind that user groups draw a very different crowd than industry conferences and optimize accordingly.

Strive to help people.  It is the right thing to do, and people are keenly aware of who have in the past given them or theirs favors.  If you ever can’t help someone but know someone who can, pass them to the appropriate person with a recommendation.  If you do this right, two people will be happy with you and favorably disposed to helping you out in the future.

You can meet people over the Internet (oh God, can you), but something in our monkey brains makes in-the-flesh meeting a bigger thing.  I’ve Internet-met a great many people who I’ve then gone on to meet in real life.  The physical handshake is a major step up in the relationship, even when Internet-meeting lead to very consequential things like “Made them a lot of money through good advice.”  Definitely blog and participate on your industry-appropriate watering holes like HN, but make it out to the meetups for it.

Academia is not like the real world: Your GPA largely doesn’t matter (modulo one high profile exception: a multinational advertising firm).  To the extent that it does matter, it only determines whether your resume gets selected for job interviews.  If you’re reading the rest of this, you know that your resume isn’t the primary way to get job interviews, so don’t spend huge amount of efforts optimizing something that you either have sufficiently optimized already (since you’ll get the same amount of interviews at 3.96 as you will at 3.8) or that you don’t need at all (since you’ll get job interviews because you’re competent at asking the right people to have coffee with you).

Your major and minor don’t matter.  Most decisionmakers in industry couldn’t tell the difference between a major in Computer Science and a major in Mathematics if they tried.  I was once reduced to tears because a minor academic snafu threatened my ability to get a Bachelor of Science with a major in Computer Science, which my advisor told me was more prestigious than a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.  Academia cares about distinctions like that.  The real world does not.

Your professors might understand how the academic job market works (short story: it is ridiculously inefficient in engineering and fubared beyond mortal comprehension in English) but they often have quixotic understandings of how the real world works.  For example, they may push you to get extra degrees because a) it sounds like a good idea to them and b) they enjoy having research-producing peons who work for ramen.  Remember, market wages for people capable of producing research are $80~100k+++ in your field.  That buys an awful lot of ramen.

The prof in charge of my research project offered me a spot in his lab, a tuition waiver, and a whole $12,000 dollars as a stipend if I would commit 4~6 years to him.  That’s a great deal if, and only if, you have recently immigrated from a low-wage country and need someone to intervene with the government to get you a visa.

If you really like the atmosphere at universities, that is cool.  Put a backpack on and you can walk into any building at any university in the United States any time you want.  Backpacks are a lot cheaper than working in academia.   You can lead the life of the mind in industry, too — and enjoy less politics and better pay.  You can even get published in journals, if that floats your boat.  (After you’ve escaped the mind-warping miasma of academia, you might rightfully question whether Published In A Journal is really personally or societally significant as opposed to close approximations like Wrote A Blog Post And Showed It To Smart People.)

How much money do engineers make?

Wrong question.  The right question is “What kind of offers do engineers routinely work for?”, because salary is one of many levers that people can use to motivate you.  The answer to this is, less than helpfully, “Offers are all over the map.”

In general, big companies pay more (money, benefits, etc) than startups.  Engineers with high perceived value make more than those with low perceived value.  Senior engineers make more than junior engineers.  People working in high-cost areas make more than people in low-cost areas.  People who are skilled in negotiation make more than those who are not.

We have strong cultural training to not ask about salary, ever.  This is not universal.  In many cultures, professional contexts are a perfectly appropriate time to discuss money.  (If you were a middle class Japanese man, you could reasonably be expected to reveal your exact salary to a 2nd date, anyone from your soccer club, or the guy who makes your sushi.  If you owned a company, you’d probably be cagey about your net worth but you’d talk about employee salaries the way programmers talk about compilers — quite frequently, without being embarrassed.)   If I were a Marxist academic or a conspiracy theorist, I might think that this bit of middle class American culture was specifically engineered to be in the interests of employers and against the interests of employees.  Prior to a discussion of salary at any particular target employer, you should speak to someone who works there in a similar situation and ask about the salary range for the position.  It is <%= %>; you can find these people online.  (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and your (non-graph-database) social networks are all good to lean on.)

Anyhow.  Engineers are routinely offered a suite of benefits.  It is worth worrying, in the United States, about health insurance (traditionally, you get it and your employer foots most or all of the costs) and your retirement program, which is some variant of “we will match contributions to your 401k up to X% of salary.”  The value of that is easy to calculate: X% of salary.  (It is free money, so always max out your IRA up to the employer match.  Put it in index funds and forget about it for 40 years.)

There are other benefits like “free soda”, “catered lunches”, “free programming books”, etc.  These are social signals more than anything else.  When I say that I’m going to buy you soda, that says a specific thing about how I run my workplace, who I expect to work for me, and how I expect to treat them.  (It says “I like to move the behavior of unsophisticated young engineers by making this job seem fun by buying 20 cent cans of soda, saving myself tens of thousands in compensation while simultaneously encouraging them to ruin their health.”  And I like soda.)  Read social signals and react appropriately — someone who signals that, e.g., employee education is worth paying money for might very well be a great company to work for — but don’t give up huge amounts of compensation in return for perks that you could trivially buy.

How do I become better at negotiation?  This could be a post in itself.  Short version:

a)  Remember you’re selling the solution to a business need (raise revenue or decrease costs) rather than programming skill or your beautiful face.

b)  Negotiate aggressively with appropriate confidence, like the ethical professional you are.  It is what your counterparty is probably doing.  You’re aiming for a mutual beneficial offer, not for saying Yes every time they say something.

c)  “What is your previous salary?” is employer-speak for “Please give me reasons to pay you less money.”  Answer appropriately.

d)  Always have a counteroffer.  Be comfortable counteroffering around axes you care about other than money.  If they can’t go higher on salary then talk about vacation instead.

e)  The only time to ever discuss salary is after you have reached agreement in principle that they will hire you if you can strike a mutually beneficial deal.  This is late in the process after they have invested a lot of time and money in you, specifically, not at the interview.  Remember that there are large costs associated with them saying “No, we can’t make that work” and, appropriately, they will probably not scuttle the deal over comparatively small issues which matter quite a bit to you, like e.g. taking their offer and countering for that plus a few thousand bucks then sticking to it.

f)  Read a book.  Many have been written about negotiation.  I like Getting To Yes.  It is a little disconcerting that negotiation skills are worth thousands of dollars per year for your entire career but engineers think that directed effort to study them is crazy when that could be applied to trivialities about a technology that briefly caught their fancy.

How to value an equity grant:

Roll d100.  (Not the right kind of geek?  Sorry.  rand(100) then.)

0~70: Your equity grant is worth nothing.

71~94: Your equity grant is worth a lump sum of money which makes you about as much money as you gave up working for the startup, instead of working for a megacorp at a higher salary with better benefits.

95~99: Your equity grant is a lifechanging amount of money.  You won’t feel rich — you’re not the richest person you know, because many of the people you spent the last several years with are now richer than you by definition — but your family will never again give you grief for not having gone into $FAVORED_FIELD like a proper $YOUR_INGROUP.

100: You worked at the next Google, and are rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  Congratulations.

Perceptive readers will note that 100 does not actually show up on a d100 or rand(100).

Why are you so negative about equity grants?

Because you radically overestimate the likelihood that your startup will succeed and radically overestimate the portion of the pie that will be allocated to you if the startup succeeds.  Read about dilution and liquidation preferences on Hacker News or Venture Hacks, then remember that there are people who know more about negotiating deals than you know about programming and imagine what you could do to a program if there were several hundred million on the line.

Are startups great for your career as a fresh graduate?

The high-percentage outcome is you work really hard for the next couple of years, fail ingloriously, and then be jobless and looking to get into another startup.  If you really wanted to get into a startup two years out of school, you could also just go work at a megacorp for the next two years, earn a bit of money, then take your warchest, domain knowledge, and contacts and found one.

Working at a startup, you tend to meet people doing startups.  Most of them will not be able to hire you in two years.  Working at a large corporation, you tend to meet other people in large corporations in your area.  Many of them either will be able to hire you or will have the ear of someone able to hire you in two years.

So would you recommend working at a startup?  Working in a startup is a career path but, more than that, it is a lifestyle choice.  This is similar to working in investment banking or academia.  Those are three very different lifestyles.  Many people will attempt to sell you those lifestyles as being in your interests, for their own reasons.  If you genuinely would enjoy that lifestyle, go nuts.  If you only enjoy certain bits of it, remember that many things are available a la carte if you really want them.  For example, if you want to work on cutting-edge technology but also want to see your kids at 5:30 PM, you can work on cutting-edge technology at many, many, many megacorps.

(Yeah, really.  If it creates value for them, heck yes, they’ll invest in it.  They’ll also invest in a lot of CRUD apps, but then again, so do startups — they just market making CRUD apps better than most megacorps do.  The first hour of the Social Network is about making a CRUD app seem like sexy, the second is a Lifetime drama about a divorce improbably involving two heterosexual men.)

Your most important professional skill is communication: Remember engineers are not hired to create programs and how they are hired to create business value?  The dominant quality which gets you jobs is the ability to give people the perception that you will create value.  This is not necessarily coextensive with ability to create value.

Some of the best programmers I know are pathologically incapable of carrying on a conversation.  People disproportionately a) wouldn’t want to work with them or b) will underestimate their value-creation ability because they gain insight into that ability through conversation and the person just doesn’t implement that protocol.  Conversely, people routinely assume that I am among the best programmers they know entirely because a) there exists observable evidence that I can program and b) I write and speak really, really well.

(Once upon a time I would have described myself as “Slightly below average” in programming skill.  I have since learned that I had a radically skewed impression of the skill distribution, that programming skill is not what people actually optimize for, and that modesty is against my interests.  These days if you ask me how good of a programmer I am I will start telling you stories about how I have programmed systems which helped millions of kids learn to read or which provably made companies millions.  The question of where I am on the bell curve matters to no one, so why bother worrying about it?)

Communication is a skill.  Practice it: you will get better.  One key sub-skill is being able to quickly, concisely, and confidently explain how you create value to someone who is not an expert in your field and who does not have a priori reasons to love you.  If when you attempt to do this technical buzzwords keep coming up (“Reduced 99th percentile query times by 200 ms by optimizing indexes on…”), take them out and try again.  You should be able to explain what you do to a bright 8 year old, the CFO of your company, or a programmer in a different specialty, at whatever the appropriate level of abstraction is.

You will often be called to do Enterprise Sales and other stuff you got into engineering to avoid: Enterprise Sales is going into a corporation and trying to convince them to spend six or seven figures on buying a system which will either improve their revenue or reduce costs.  Every job interview you will ever have is Enterprise Sales.  Politics, relationships, and communication skills matter a heck of a lot, technical reality not quite so much.

When you have meetings with coworkers and are attempting to convince  them to implement your suggestions, you will also be doing Enterprise Sales.  If getting stuff done is your job description, then convincing people to get stuff done is a core job skill for you.  Spend appropriate effort on getting good at it.  This means being able to communicate effectively in memos, emails, conversations, meetings, and PowerPoint (when appropriate).  It means understanding how to make a business case for a technological initiative.  It means knowing that sometimes you will make technological sacrifices in pursuit of business objectives and that this is the right call.

Modesty is not a career-enhancing character trait: Many engineers have self-confidence issues (hello, self).  Many also come from upbringings where modesty with regards to one’s accomplishments is culturally celebrated.  American businesses largely do not value modesty about one’s accomplishments.  The right tone to aim for in interviews, interactions with other people, and life is closer to “restrained, confident professionalism.”

If you are part of a team effort and the team effort succeeds, the right note to hit is not “I owe it all to my team” unless your position is such that everyone will understand you are lying to be modest.  Try for “It was a privilege to assist my team by leading their efforts with regards to $YOUR_SPECIALTY.”  Say it in a mirror a thousand times until you can say it with a straight face.  You might feel like you’re overstating your accomplishments.  Screw that.  Someone who claims to Lead Efforts To Optimize Production while having the title Sandwich Artist is overstating their accomplishments.  You are an engineer.  You work magic which makes people’s lives better.  If you were in charge of the database specifically on an important project involving people then heck yes you lead the database effort which was crucial for the success of the project.  This is how the game is played.  If you feel poorly about it, you’re like a batter who feels poorly about stealing bases in baseball: you’re not morally superior, you’re just playing poorly

All business decisions are ultimately made by one or a handful of multi-cellular organisms closely related to chimpanzees, not by rules or by algorithms: People are people.  Social grooming is a really important skill.  People will often back suggestions by friends because they are friends, even when other suggestions might actually be better.  People will often be favoritably disposed to people they have broken bread with.  (There is a business book called Never Eat Alone.  It might be worth reading, but that title is whatever the antonym of deceptive advertising is.)  People routinely favor people who they think are like them over people they think are not like them.  (This can be good, neutral, or invidious.  Accepting that it happens is the first step to profitably exploiting it.)

Actual grooming is at least moderately important, too, because people are hilariously easy to hack by expedients such as dressing appropriately for the situation, maintaining a professional appearance, speaking in a confident tone of voice, etc.  Your business suit will probably cost about as much as a computer monitor.  You only need it once in a blue moon, but when you need it you’ll be really, really, really glad that you have it.  Take my word for it, if I wear everyday casual when I visit e.g. City Hall I get treated like a hapless awkward twenty-something, if I wear the suit I get treated like the CEO of a multinational company.  I’m actually the awkward twenty-something CEO of a multinational company, but I get to pick which side to emphasize when I want favorable treatment from a bureaucrat.

(People familiar with my business might object to me describing it as a multinational company because it is not what most people think of when “multinational company” gets used in conversation.  Sorry — it is a simple conversational hack.  If you think people are pissed off at being manipulated when they find that out, well, some people passionately hate business suits, too.  That doesn’t mean business suits are valueless.  Be appropriate to the circumstances.  Technically true answers are the best kind of answers when the alternative is Immigration deporting you, by the way.)

At the end of the day, your life happiness will not be dominated by your career.  Either talk to older people or trust the social scientists who have: family, faith, hobbies, etc etc generally swamp career achievements and money in terms of things which actually produce happiness.  Optimize appropriately.  Your career is important, and right now it might seem like the most important thing in your life, but odds are that is not what you’ll believe forever.  Work to live, don’t live to work.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

10 Aug 16:03

Viva Intensamente # 271

by Will Tirando
02 Aug 15:26

Refreshing Shower

by Scandinavia and the World
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Wait, aren't electric showers common elsewhere?!

Refreshing Shower

Refreshing Shower

View Comic!

09 Aug 14:47

Remédio pra ansiedade

by Will Tirando


07 Aug 18:06


08 Aug 14:39

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Resurrection


Fun fact: Pastors are always available for on the spot theological discussions.

New comic!
Today's News:
31 Jul 11:54

Beautiful Typesetting with LaTeX

by da]v[ax


Mit Gruß an Frater Mosses :)

(via sommteck)

-=daMax=-, Jul 31, 2016. | Permalink | 3 Reaktionen | Abgelegt unter: Geek, Grafix/Bilder/Kunst, Spaß

Feed enhanced by Better Feed from Ozh

08 Aug 20:19

Anésia # 295

by Will Tirando


09 Aug 01:04


by Lunarbaboon

08 Aug 17:35


by Laerte Coutinho

08 Aug 17:23


by Greg Ross

“There may now exist great men for things that do not exist.” — Samuel Burckhardt

23 Jul 13:41

Comic for July 23, 2016

by Scott Adams
04 Aug 19:09

How the Hunt Brothers Cornered the Silver Market and Then Lost it All

How the Hunt Brothers Cornered the Silver Market and Then Lost it All

Until his dying day in 2014, Nelson Bunker Hunt, who had once been the world’s wealthiest man, denied that he and his brother plotted to corner the global silver market. 

Sure, back in 1980, Bunker, his younger brother Herbert, and other members of the Hunt clan owned roughly two-thirds of all the privately held silver on earth. But the historic stockpiling of bullion hadn’t been a ploy to manipulate the market, they and their sizable legal team would insist in the following years. Instead, it was a strategy to hedge against the voracious inflation of the 1970s—a monumental bet against the U.S. dollar.

Whatever the motive, it was a bet that went historically sour. The debt-fueled boom and bust of the global silver market not only decimated the Hunt fortune, but threatened to take down the U.S. financial system. 

The panic of “Silver Thursday” took place over 35 years ago, but it still raises questions about the nature of financial manipulation. While many view the Hunt brothers as members of a long succession of white collar crooks, from Charles Ponzi to Bernie Madoff, others see the endearingly eccentric Texans as the victims of overstepping regulators and vindictive insiders who couldn’t stand the thought of being played by a couple of southern yokels.

In either case, the story of the Hunt brothers just goes to show how difficult it can be to distinguish illegal market manipulation from the old fashioned wheeling and dealing that make our markets work.

The Real-Life Ewings

Whatever their foibles, the Hunts make for an interesting cast of characters. Evidently CBS thought so; the family is rumored to be the basis for the Ewings, the fictional Texas oil dynasty of Dallas fame.

Sitting at the top of the family tree was H.L. Hunt, a man who allegedly purchased his first oil field with poker winnings and made a fortune drilling in east Texas. H.L. was a well-known oddball to boot, and his sons inherited many of their father’s quirks.

For one, there was the stinginess. Despite being the richest man on earth in the 1960s, Bunker Hunt (who went by his middle name), along with his younger brothers Herbert (first name William) and Lamar, cultivated an image as unpretentious good old boys. They drove old Cadillacs, flew coach, and when they eventually went to trial in New York City in 1988, they took the subway. As one Texas editor was quoted in the New York Times, Bunker Hunt was “the kind of guy who orders chicken-fried steak and Jello-O, spills some on his tie, and then goes out and buys all the silver in the world.”

Cheap suits aside, the Hunts were not without their ostentation. At the end of the 1970s, Bunker boasted a stable of over 500 horses and his little brother Lamar owned the Kansas City Chiefs. All six children of H.L.’s first marriage (the patriarch of the Hunt family had fifteen children by three women before he died in 1974) lived on estates befitting the scions of a Texas billionaire. These lifestyles were financed by trusts, but also risky investments in oil, real estate, and a host of commodities including sugar beets, soybeans, and, before long, silver. 

The Hunt brothers also inherited their father’s political inclinations. A zealous anti-Communist, Bunker Hunt bankrolled conservative causes and was a prominent member of the John Birch Society, a group whose founder once speculated that Dwight Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent” of Soviet conspiracy. In November of 1963, Hunt sponsored a particularly ill-timed political campaign, which distributed pamphlets around Dallas condemning President Kennedy for alleged slights against the Constitution on the day that he was assassinated. JFK conspiracy theorists have been obsessed with Hunt ever since. 

In fact, it was the Hunt brand of politics that partially explains what led Bunker and Herbert to start buying silver in 1973.

Hard Money

The 1970s were not kind to the U.S. dollar.

Years of wartime spending and unresponsive monetary policy pushed inflation upward throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then, in October of 1973, war broke out in the Middle East and an oil embargo was declared against the United States. Inflation jumped above 10%. It would stay high throughout the decade, peaking in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution at an annual average of 13.5% in 1980.

Over the same period of time, the global monetary system underwent a historic transformation. Since the first Roosevelt administration, the U.S. dollar had been pegged to the value of gold at a predictable rate of $35 per ounce. But in 1971, President Nixon, responding to inflationary pressures, suspended that relationship. For the first time in modern history, the paper dollar did not represent some fixed amount of tangible, precious metal sitting in a vault somewhere.

For conservative commodity traders like the Hunts, who blamed government spending for inflation and held grave reservations about the viability of fiat currency, the perceived stability of precious metal offered a financial safe harbor. It was illegal to trade gold in the early 1970s, so the Hunts turned to the next best thing.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; chart by Priceonomics

As an investment, there was a lot to like about silver. The Hunts were not alone in fleeing to bullion amid all the inflation and geopolitical turbulence, so the price was ticking up. Plus, light-sensitive silver halide is a key component of photographic film. With the growth of the consumer photography market, new production from mines struggled to keep up with demand.

And so, in 1973, Bunker and Herbert bought over 35 million ounces of silver, most of which they flew to Switzerland in specifically designed airplanes guarded by armed Texas ranch hands. According to one source, the Hunt’s purchases were big enough to move the global market. 

But silver was not the Hunts' only speculative venture in the 1970s. Nor was it the only one that got them into trouble with regulators.

Soy Before Silver

In 1977, the price of soybeans was rising fast. Trade restrictions on Brazil and growing demand from China made the legume a hot commodity, and both Bunker and Herbert decided to enter the futures market in April of that year.

A future is an agreement to buy or sell some quantity of a commodity at an agreed upon price at a later date. If someone contracts to buy soybeans in the future (they are said to take the “long” position), they will benefit if the price of soybeans rise, since they have locked in the lower price ahead of time. Likewise, if someone contracts to sell (that’s called the “short” position), they benefit if the price falls, since they have locked in the old, higher price.

While futures contracts can be used by soybean farmers and soy milk producers to guard against price swings, most futures are traded by people who wouldn’t necessarily know tofu from cream cheese. As a de facto insurance contract against market volatility, futures can be used to hedge other investments or simply to gamble on prices going up (by going long) or down (by going short).

When the Hunts decided to go long in the soybean futures market, they went very, very long. Between Bunker, Herbert, and the accounts of five of their children, the Hunts collectively purchased the right to buy one-third of the entire autumn soybean harvest of the United States.

To some, it appeared as if the Hunts were attempting to corner the soybean market.

In its simplest version, a corner occurs when someone buys up all (or at least, most) of the available quantity of a commodity. This creates an artificial shortage, which drives up the price, and allows the market manipulator to sell some of his stockpile at a higher profit.

Futures markets introduce some additional complexity to the cornerer’s scheme. Recall that when a trader takes a short position on a contract, he or she is pledging to sell a certain amount of product to the holder of the long position. But if the holder of the long position just so happens to be sitting on all the readily available supply of the commodity under contract, the short seller faces an unenviable choice: go scrounge up some of the very scarce product in order to “make delivery” or just pay the cornerer a hefty premium and nullify the deal entirely.

In this case, the cornerer is actually counting on the shorts to do the latter, says Craig Pirrong, professor of finance at the University of Houston. If too many short sellers find that it actually costs less to deliver the product, the market manipulator will be stuck with warehouses full of inventory. Finance experts refer to selling the all the excess supply after building a corner as “burying the corpse.”

“That is when the price collapses,” explains Pirrong. “But if the number of deliveries isn’t too high, the loss from selling at the low price after the corner is smaller than the profit from selling contracts at the high price.”

The Chicago Board of Trade trading floor. Photo credit: Jeremy Kemp

Even so, when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission found that a single family from Texas had contracted to buy a sizable portion of the 1977 soybean crop, they did not accuse the Hunts of outright market manipulation. Instead, noting that the Hunts had exceeded the 3 million bushel aggregate limit on soybean holdings by about 20 million, the CFTC noted that the Hunt’s “excessive holdings threaten disruption of the market and could cause serious injury to the American public.” The CFTC ordered the Hunts to sell and to pay a penalty of $500,000.

Though the Hunts made tens of millions of dollars on paper while soybean prices skyrocketed, it’s unclear whether they were able to cash out before the regulatory intervention. In any case, the Hunts were none too pleased with the decision. 

“Apparently the CFTC is trying to repeal the law of supply and demand,” Bunker complained to the press.

Silver Thursday

Despite the run in with regulators, the Hunts were not dissuaded. Bunker and Herbert had eased up on silver after their initial big buy in 1973, but in the fall of 1979, they were back with a vengeance. By the end of the year, Bunker and Herbert owned 21 million ounces of physical silver each. They had even larger positions in the silver futures market: Bunker was long on 45 million ounces, while Herbert held contracts for 20 million. Their little brother Lamar also had a more “modest” position.

By the new year, with every dollar increase in the price of silver, the Hunts were making $100 million on paper. But unlike most investors, when their profitable futures contracts expired, they took delivery. As in 1973, they arranged to have the metal flown to Switzerland. Intentional or not, this helped create a shortage of the metal for industrial supply.

Naturally, the industrialists were unhappy. From a spot price of around $6 per ounce in early 1979, the price of silver shot up to $50.42 in January of 1980. In the same week, silver futures contracts were trading at $46.80. Film companies like Kodak saw costs go through the roof, while the British film producer, Ilford, was forced to lay off workers. Traditional bullion dealers, caught in a squeeze, cried foul to the commodity exchanges, and the New York jewelry house Tiffany & Co. took out a full page ad in the New York Times slamming the “unconscionable” Hunt brothers. They were right to single out the Hunts; in mid-January, they controlled 69% of all the silver futures contracts on the Commodity Exchange (COMEX) in New York.

Source: New York Times

But as the high prices persisted, new silver began to come out of the woodwork.   

“In the U.S., people rifled their dresser drawers and sofa cushions to find dimes and quarters with silver content and had them melted down,” says Pirrong, from the University of Houston. “Silver is a classic part of a bride’s trousseau in India, and when prices got high, women sold silver out of their trousseaus.”

According to a Washington Post article published that March, the D.C. police warned residents of a rash of home burglaries targeting silver. 

Unfortunately for the Hunts, all this new supply had a predictable effect. Rather than close out their contracts, short sellers suddenly found it was easier to get their hands on new supplies of silver and deliver.

“The main factor that has caused corners to fail [throughout history] is that the manipulator has underestimated how much will be delivered to him if he succeeds [at] raising the price to artificial levels,” says Pirrong. “Eventually, the Hunts ran out of money to pay for all the silver that was thrown at them.”

In financial terms, the brothers had a large corpse on their hands—and no way to bury it.

This proved to be an especially big problem, because it wasn’t just the Hunt fortune that was on the line. Of the $6.6 billion worth of silver the Hunts held at the top of the market, the brothers had “only” spent a little over $1 billion of their own money. The rest was borrowed from over 20 banks and brokerage houses.

At the same time, COMEX decided to crack down. On January 7, 1980, the exchange’s board of governors announced that it would cap the size of silver futures exposure to 3 million ounces. Those in excess of the cap (say, by the tens of millions) were given until the following month to bring themselves into compliance. But that was too long for the Chicago Board of Trade exchange, which suspended the issue of any new silver futures on January 21. Silver futures traders would only be allowed to square up old contracts.

Predictably, silver prices began to slide. As the various banks and other firms that had backed the Hunt bullion binge began to recognize the tenuousness of their financial position, they issued margin calls, asking the brothers to put up more money as collateral for their debts. The Hunts, unable to sell silver lest they trigger a panic, borrowed even more. By early March, futures contracts had fallen to the mid-$30 range.

Matters finally came to a head on March 25, when one of the Hunts’ largest backers, the Bache Group, asked for $100 million more in collateral. The brothers were out of cash, and Bache was unwilling to accept silver in its place, as it had been doing throughout the month. With the Hunts in default, Bache did the only thing it could to start recouping its losses: it start to unload silver.

On March 27, “Silver Thursday,” the silver futures market dropped by a third to $10.80. Just two months earlier, these contracts had been trading at four times that amount.

The Aftermath

After the oil bust of the early 1980s and a series of lawsuits polished off the remainder of the Hunt brothers’ once historic fortune, the two declared bankruptcy in 1988. Bunker, who had been worth an estimated $16 billion in the 1960s, emerged with under $10 million to his name. That’s not exactly chump change, but it wasn’t enough to maintain his 500-plus stable of horses,.

The Hunts almost dragged their lenders into bankruptcy too—and with them, a sizable chunk of the U.S. financial system. Over twenty financial institutions had extended over a billion dollars in credit to the Hunt brothers. The default and resulting collapse of silver prices blew holes in balance sheets across Wall Street. A privately orchestrated bailout loan from a number of banks allowed the brothers to start paying off their debts and keep their creditors afloat, but the markets and regulators were rattled.

Silver Spot Prices Per Ounce (January, 1979 - June, 1980)

Source: Trading Economics

In the words of then CFTC chief James Stone, the Hunts’ antics had threatened to punch a hole in the “financial fabric of the United States” like nothing had in decades. Writing about the entire episode a year later, Harper’s Magazine described Silver Thursday as “the first great panic since October 1929.”

The trouble was not over for the Hunts. In the following years, the brothers were dragged before Congressional hearings, got into a legal spat with their lenders, and were sued by a Peruvian mineral marketing company, which had suffered big losses in the crash. In 1988, a New York City jury found for the South American firm, levying a penalty of over $130 million against the Hunts and finding that they had deliberately conspired to corner the silver market.

Surprisingly, there is still some disagreement on that point.

Bunker Hunt attributed the whole affair to the political motives of COMEX insiders and regulators. Referring to himself later as “a favorite whipping boy” of an eastern financial establishment riddled with liberals and socialists, Bunker and his brother, Herbert, are still perceived as martyrs by some on the far-right. 

“Political and financial insiders repeatedly changed the rules of the game,” wrote the New American. “There is little evidence to support the ‘corner the market’ narrative.”

Though the Hunt brothers clearly amassed a staggering amount of silver and silver derivatives at the end of the 1970s, it is impossible to prove definitively that market manipulation was in their hearts. Maybe, as the Hunts always claimed, they just really believed in the enduring value of silver.

Or maybe, as others have noted, the Hunt brothers had no idea what they were doing. Call it the stupidity defense.

“They’re terribly unsophisticated,” an anonymous associated was quoted as saying of the Hunts in a Chicago Tribune article from 1989. “They make all the mistakes most other people make,” said another.

When the Hunts were dragged before the CFTC a few months after the crash, Commissioner David G. Gartner wondered out loud: “Do you think there’s any possibility that the Hunts are just having fun, just horsing around?”

In their civil trial against the South American mineral firm, the Hunt brothers’ decision to begin accepting delivery on their enormous holdings in silver futures was considered a red flag. A market participant would only take the actual metal, rather than cash in on highly profitable futures contracts, if their plan was to remove the bullion from circulation and artificially inflate the price. That decision, it was argued, was consistent with market manipulation.

But one could argue that it is also consistent with having an irrational fixation on shiny metal and way more money than sense.

In his New York Times obituary in 2014, it was reported that towards the end of his life, Bunker Hunt had scrounged up enough to start buying horses again. 

“I don’t know really know anything,” said Bunker, offering a synopsis of his horse trading strategy that could have just as easily applied to his entire career as an investor. “I am just trying to win a few races.”

Our next article explores how women's turnout for presidential elections has increased since the 1960—and why Trump would beat Hillary handedly if it hadn't. To get notified when we post it    join our email list.

The cover image comes from Dnn87.

Want to write for Priceonomics? We are looking for freelance contributors.

Let's block ads! (Why?)

05 Aug 09:58

Humpbacks are fighting killer whales to save other mammals — Quartz

by brandizzi
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Deve ser algum tipo de rede de alianças que vai causar a 5a Guerra Submarina.

Is there a whale war going on? Researchers say that humpbacks are rescuing other from carnivorous orcas, also known as killer whales.

Mother Nature Network reports that humpbacks have been repeatedly spotted intervening in killer whale hunts, rescuing sea lions, seals, and gray whales, in regions stretching from Antarctica to the North Pacific.

[embedded content]

The massive humpbacks , which weight 30 to 50 tons (27-45 tonnes), can easily hold their own against killer whales. They also have powerful flippers, which are encrusted with sharp barnacles.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Marine Mammal Science, there have been more than a hundred observed incidents of humpbacks clashing with orcas, including 31 cases where they engaged with killer whales that were attacking another species.

But why would humpbacks waste their time and energy—and, potentially, their well-being—to protect other species?

Observers have speculated that they may want the orcas’ prey for themselves (humpbacks and orcas sometimes hunt together). But their aggressive actions are mostly directed at protecting, not attacking. Could there be something else going on?

Researchers identified three possible drivers:

Kin selection: Killer whales are not big enough to take down a full-grown humpback, but they have been known to hunt and kill young whales. So battling against the orcas could simply be a form of protective self-defense for whale pods.

Reciprocity: Similarly, the humpbacks may be foiling the orcas’ hunt as revenge for young whales they’ve killed in the past.

Altruism: This is the most interesting possibility, because only a few species have been shown to exhibit altruistic behavior—primates, mostly, but also killer whales themselves. Co-author Robert Pitman told Science that humpbacks may “just have a simple rule. When you hear a killer whale attack, go break it up.”

[embedded content]

In any case, it’s further evidence that the emotional lives of whales are deeper and more complex than we currently understand.

Read full story

Let's block ads! (Why?)

03 Aug 19:48

A cera do lacre

by Tiago de Thuin
Ou, por que não gosto do lacradorismo, e por que ele veio pra ficar. 

Antes de mais nada, confesso que tenho problema com a própria palavra, ou melhor, por seu uso nas redes sociais. Tô aguardando pra ouvir que o broto lacrou, bicho. "Lacrar" é uma gíria jovem e gay. Se espalhou entre jovens em geral a partir de um par de vídeos de um youtuber falando sobre divas pop, em fins de 2013. Apropriação cultural é um treco horroroso quando feito por grandes corporações cheias de poder; quando é feito por outros, é só ridículo. Luciana Genro, uma senhora de meia idade, imitando isso, é uma pérola do tiosukitismo. Soa tão autêntico e natural quanto se o Maluf falasse que era gamer. O ápice da vergonha alheia foi Babá postando um discurso de Babá e escrevendo, em maiúsculas, LACROU!!!!!!!!!!

Mas para além disso, e falando não só da palavra, mas de toda a atitude que a orbita. Lacrar é pôr aquelazinha no seu lugar. É um discurso de autoridade, de cima pra baixo. É só reparar como os verbos que vão junto estão, geralmente, no imperativo (feita a conjugação no português castiço ou não). Seje menas. Apenas pare. Se desconstrua. Faça. Obedeça. É um discurso que se dedica a combater opressões de todo tipo, especialmente as de gênero e sexualidade, mas se você pensar apenas na forma do discurso, ele não é muito diferente do das senhoras de Santana. São pessoas sérias, olhando de cima pra baixo e vaticinando sobre a imoralidade daquela criatura inferior. Tut tut. E disso faz parte, também, o escracho, o bullying, virtual ou não. 

 Pra além de qualquer problema psicológico pessoal meu com bullying ou discursos de autoridade, ou de qualquer resistência conceitual, de princípios, contra discursos de autoridade, isso é problemático, e não é por alguma questão ideológica de que discursos opressivos não podem gerar liberdade. É mais simples: o discurso de autoridade só funciona se você tem autoridade. Não adianta de nada falar pro Bolsonaro SEJE MENAS. Imagine-se falando pro delegado machista enquanto faz um BO "apenas pare." Não funciona. Não é que discurso de autoridade não funcione pra combater autoridade por alguma questão espiritual, não funciona porque, a princípio, ele só funciona pra reforçar autoridade existente, não pra derrubá-la. Não é à toa que boa parte das "lacrações" narradas na internet são fanfics, são wishful thinking. "Ah se eu falasse poucas e boas eles se humilhariam a meus pés." Porque na realidade o Outro - não só o outro opressor mas qualquer diferente - não costuma ser prostrado pela Verdade quando ela é Falada na Cara. Pelo contrário, o resultado costumeiro de boa parte das fanfics que se vê por aí seria um caso de agressão.

Digo a princípio, e não por definição, porque sendo a humanidade um bicho esquisito, um discurso de autoridade convincente o bastante pode ser tomado como autoridade mesmo que não a tivesse antes. Que o digam todos os falsos Dimitris, Stroheins, e Castañedas da história. Mas não creio que seja esse o caso de "seje menas." É um pouco pior do que nada, na verdade: o discurso de autoridade só é realmente aceito se ele vier de uma autoridade vista como legítima. Se essa autoridade for vista como ilegítima, vai causar ressentimento, mesmo que obedecido. (E se não for nenhum dos dois, não vai ser obedecido E vai causar repulsa e ressentimento.) 

Ah, mas não estou aqui pra dar biscoito pra macho opressor. Só que não é só "macho opressor" que não aceita o discurso de autoridade progressista. Sarah Winter está bem longe de ser a única mulher que rejeita o feminismo, e situações semelhantes podem ser vistas em todas as causas progressistas. Convencer aqueles que pensam diferentes de nós é uma necessidade real, pra pessoas que querem ver triunfar ideais que, hoje, convencem uma minoria da população. Especialmente se não têm a força das armas, da mídia, ou do capital por trás de si - e, se alguns dos discursos progressistas, os identitários, podem trazer pra si algumas dessas forças, isso não é verdade pra outros. E mesmo praqueles que podem ter o capital do seu lado, isso pode dar numa situação meio faustiana

O outro lado, é claro, é que se discursos de autoridade não funcionam muito bem contra o poder, eles funcionam muito bem para solidificar o poder num espaço em que se tem, sim, autoridade. Isso significa que a mesma característica que torna o lacradorismo inócuo contra o Bolsonaro torna ele muito forte contra alguém que discorde dele dentro dos espaços de esquerda - do mesmo modo como uma Senhora de Santana teria poder pra "pôr no seu lugar" uma sobrinha que falasse palavrão, mas seria só uma velha ridícula se tentasse admoestar um grande empresário. O bully é mau guerreiro, mas é ótimo capataz. 
04 Aug 13:15

Sobre Gatos e Caixas

by Daniel Lafayette


05 Aug 14:02

Entendedor Anônimo # 31

by Will Tirando


05 Aug 12:10


by delfrig


05 Aug 12:15

Marque aquela pessoa que não curte Pokémon Go

by O Criador

O problema não é não curtir… o problema é não curtir e julgar quem curte!
Isso serve pra tudo… menos pra quem ouve funk carioca. Estes são retardados mesmo =D

The post Marque aquela pessoa que não curte Pokémon Go appeared first on

04 Aug 15:36

Anésia # 294

by Will Tirando


05 Aug 07:01

Life Is Too Short

by Doug
04 Aug 05:02

Uma transexual não aceita que sua condição seja vista como transtorno

Você é acusado de um crime que não cometeu e está na prisão na espera do processo. Há uma alternativa.

Você pode persistir em se declarar inocente, como de fato você é; neste caso, você será julgado, correndo o risco de perder o processo –e, com ele, o que você mais almeja: sua liberdade.

Ou, então, você pode se declarar culpado, admitindo um crime que não cometeu; neste caso, você será liberado porque o Ministério Público, em troca de sua "confissão", garante que sua pena será igual ao tempo que você já passou na prisão até agora.

Ilustração Contardo Calligaris de 4.ago.2016

Não é um dilema fácil. Talvez eu escolhesse o segundo caminho, injusto, inglório e aparentemente vantajoso, desistindo de proclamar minha inocência para sair da prisão já.

De qualquer forma, admiro quem optar por proclamar sua inocência, por arriscada que seja essa escolha.

Uma tocante reportagem de Chico Felitti na Folha de 30/7, apresenta a história de Neon Cunha, 44, transexual.

Cunha, que se sente menina desde os dois anos e meio de idade, pede hoje a retificação de seu registro civil –ou seja, a mudança do nome de batismo e do gênero. A decisão jurídica é dificultada por duas razões.

Primeiro, Cunha não planeja amputar seu sexo anatômico masculino, que não a incomoda. Isso não constitui um caso raro, mas é uma escolha que pode confundir os magistrados.

Segundo, e mais complexo, Cunha recusa o diagnóstico de "disforia de gênero": ela não quer "passar por um processo de patologização". Ela declara: "Eu não tenho essa disforia, nunca tive. Uma mulher pode nascer com um falo e não se incomodar com isso".

Em tese, o diagnóstico de disforia de gênero é uma condição para a Justiça autorizar a retificação do registro civil. Ou seja, para mudar de identidade, é necessário ser diagnosticado como portador de um transtorno que é a tal "disforia de gênero".

A definição da disforia de gênero (302.85 no DSM V, e F64.1 na Classificação Internacional das Doenças –CID) implica em 1) uma incongruência entre o sexo anatômico do indivíduo e o gênero ao qual ele sente pertencer, 2) angústia e desconforto clinicamente significativos, por causa dessa incongruência.

O DSM V, por exemplo, reconhece que, em grande parte, angústia e desconforto têm sua origem nas dificuldades de viver socialmente quando sexo e gênero discordam. Mas, de qualquer forma, por mais que o sofrimento seja causado pela rejeição social, a "disforia de gênero" está na lista dos transtornos mentais.

Agora, Neon Cunha poderia dizer "tudo bem, estou doente, mudem minha identidade", mas ela quer poder ser quem ela é, com registro de identidade feminino, mas sem o carimbo de um desvio patológico. Ela se recusa a deixar que sua condição seja reconhecida como um transtorno listado no DSM ou na CID.

Neon resiste contra a versão mais opressiva do poder contemporâneo: o biopoder, que, no caso, estabelece normas e molda comportamentos invocando "apenas" a pretensa neutralidade da "ciência".

Ora, "The Lancet Psychiatry" acaba de publicar uma pesquisa de campo, de Rebeca Robles e outros, em que os autores se perguntam "se existem provas para sustentar a classificação da incongruência de gênero como uma condição psiquiátrica". Muito parece indicar "que a aflição e a disfunção que numerosos participantes da pesquisa lembram ter experimentado na sua primeira adolescência eram associadas com suas lembranças de rejeição social e violência naquele período da vida, muito mais do que com fatores diretamente relacionados com a incongruência de gênero".

A conclusão da pesquisa é que as dificuldades dos indivíduos transgêneros deveriam ser excluídas da lista dos transtornos mentais e de comportamento.

Sem isso, os indivíduos transgêneros continuarão sofrendo um duplo estigma: o de ser transgênero e o de ter um diagnóstico de transtorno mental. A conclusão dos autores responde à demanda da maioria dos clínicos, para quem as identidades de gênero dos transgêneros não são psicopatológicas, a não ser pelos efeitos de sua exclusão social.

Seria maravilhoso se os magistrados que examinam o pedido de Neon lessem a pesquisa de Robles e, no mesmo número de "The Lancet Psychiatry", o comentário de Griet De Cuypere e Sam Winter (Hospital Universitário de Gante, Bélgica, e da Universidade Curtin, de Perth, Austrália).

Let's block ads! (Why?)

04 Aug 13:10

Best Seller

by Daniel Lafayette


04 Aug 07:01


by Doug
03 Aug 23:06


by ricardo coimbra
Clique na imagem para aumentar