HBO’s Silicon Valley

I have been avoiding watching HBO’s Silicon Valley for a long time now, I have heard it is funny and that I should watch it. I had knee surgery recently so I decided since I can’t do anything physical during this time and I had to focus on healing; I would turn my brain to mush by watching all of the stuff I would never usually allow myself to waste precious time on. The first two episodes depressed the crap out of me because they were too accurate about the software industry. It hurt to watch, I couldn’t even smirk or squeeze out a giggle. My hat is off to the writers of this show, because they nailed several aspects of what is wrong with the software industry in the first two episodes. These are just my ramblings, I am not trying to solve a problem or offer up a solution to anything – this is purely an opinion piece.

Things they nailed

I guess the following will qualify as a spoiler or something, considering the series debuted on April 6th of 2014, I don’t really care – but you have been warned.

    1. The scene where Hooli CEO Gavin Belson is giving some meaningless line of bullshit about how his company makes the world better:

      What is Hooli? Excellent question. Hooli isn’t just another high tech company, Hooli isn’t just about software, Hooli… Hooli is about people. Hooli is about innovative technology that makes a difference, transforming the world as we know it. Making the world a better place through minimal message oriented transport layers. I firmly believe we can only achieve greatness if first we achieve goodness.

      This fictional line of bullshit encompasses essentially every company’s mission statement I have ever heard. I wanted to laugh, but this was too real. I really hate company mission statements because they are usually fake tag lines that the company itself violates about 99% of the time – except when they are being interviewed, but hey I guess that’s what marketing departments and public relations is for. Just hire a whole department of people to keep up appearances so you can keep not following your own mission statement.

    2. The scene where Richard Hendriks is going to get coffee and he sees two brogrammers walk up – he immediately clams up and the two brogrammers start ragging on him because why wouldn’t they? You would hope that bullying stopped as soon as you got out of highschool but it is alive and well in the workplace. What struck me about this scene was the following exchange:

      “Hey Rico… you been working out?” says Brogrammer1 as he squeezes Richard’s right bicep. “No… No I have not. I don’t have time to even if I wanted to. I’m too busy working on my website, I don’t want to be a Hooli lifer and be here forever.” Richard honestly replies. “Yeah… working for the most innovative company in the world with top pay and vested stock options, I can probably see why you wouldn’t want that.” sarcastically responds Brogrammer2.

      • This shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does. Richard is a self motivated programmer who takes his profession very seriously – even too seriously because it obviously doesn’t help his social skills. However at the end of the day, it still doesn’t give anyone license to bully him or make fun of him for his achievements. The brogrammers like the ones depicted make me sick and I think the show did an amazing job of capturing the look and the mannerisms perfectly. Brogrammers are half hearted programmers who are in it for the money and don’t necessarily have a genuine interest in their career. It’s just a job that pays the bills for now. They just know it is making them money. Like I said, it shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I don’t like brogrammers and I don’t want to work with brogrammers. How would you feel if your doctor was terrible at his job, but he does it for the money and the quality of care he provides is crap. Oh wait! That already happens! So I am not being unreasonable by saying I don’t want to work with someone who isn’t taking programming as seriously as me.Programming is not just a job – it is a career choice and one of the requirements of programming is to stay educated and to keep honing your skill. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to do, then programming is not for you.
      • Richard obviously has bigger aspirations and is working on what he is passionate about on the side. He doesn’t want to work towards someone else’s goals, he wants to work towards his own. Many people will see this and attempt to discourage you because either they are envious or too short sighted when it comes to their own future. I guess they will just worry about it later like the grasshopper did when winter showed up.
      • Bullying in the workplace unfortunately is still a real thing that happens. It is mind boggling, but unfortunately nice guys finish last so it is easier for the less adequate to just beat up on the people who are actually good at what they do; assuming that person isn’t an conceited egocentric jaggoff because screw those people. I have experienced bullying from peers who were intimidated by my skill, usually in the form of being made fun of because I showed too much interest in my craft and I liked to talk about it at work. This just goes back to the first bullet point, brogrammers are idiots – unfortunately at the time I was surrounded by them. Using the word “algorithm” made people laugh… I don’t miss that place.
    3. Something that happens repeatedly through the show is people randomly pitching ideas and trying to get funding for their idea. Again, even though I don’t live in California, this happens enough to me where I don’t like telling people that I am programmer anymore. Inevitably it ends up in some non-programmer saying: “Hey man, I overheard you’re a programmer? I got a really good idea for an app we could be rich. Are you interested?” I always say no, but it doesn’t matter I have to hear the shitty unresearched quarter baked idea anyhow. Then I just crush their dream with one google search and follow it up with the words “It’s been done already.” Which inevitably they retort with “But no mine is different, you should do this so we can make money.” Let me just say – this is a pet peeve of mine. The non-programmer has this misguided notion that whipping up an app happens in a weekend after drinking 6 cases of Mountain Dew code red while listening to really bad electronica music.As usual, like with most things, there is more than meets the eye and they just don’t know any better. However, that’s not actually what pisses me off – what pisses me off is that the person pitching the stupid idea isn’t going to lift a finger to make this happen. They think that just offering up a poorly thought through idea is enough to make someone want to work for free? That’s not how anything works! To you people out there who do this, unless you are going to pay someone’s salary to make this happen, just stopplease – just stop talking! You have no idea what you are talking about or how infuriating it is to be on the receiving side of your idea. Think it through first please!
    4. I am summarizing this part, but this is the gist of what happened:

      Somewhere in Episode 2, the butt hurt CEO from Hooli has his engineers decompile an older version of Richard’s software so they can reverse engineer it and rebrand it as a product named “Nucleus”. Hooli’s intentions are to capitalize on this idea before Richard’s true version named “Pied Piper” can be fully developed and published to market. Richard isn’t too worried because the version they are working off of is older and doesn’t handle video compression. This whole situation is further solidified at the beginning of Episode 3 and several times Richard’s comrades point out that the first person to market usually wins out even with the inferior product.

      • Normally you would assume a situation like this would just end up in court, but as usual the theory is very different from the practice. I could get into a crap load of examples of where software companies have stolen from one another and both parties either end up fine or one sues the hell out of the other one, but I think the way things went down in the movie “The Founder” really describes things nicely. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it because it provides a valuable lesson about Capitalism. With respect to Silicon Valley, let’s just leave it alone and say “It’s just a TV show” and “Richard is a coward”.
      • The cold truth is what Richard’s cohorts kept warning him about is absolutely accurate – it doesn’t matter if your product is better, it’s who ever gets to market first that usually wins even if it is an inferior product. Your product can be as superior as you want it to be, but it doesn’t do anyone any good if it is just sitting in your private repository. Therefore it is prudent to have a sense of urgency to get completed or just keep your mouth shut about your idea until it is time to launch. In other words don’t just show your poker hand to everyone, keep it closed and private until you are ready – no bragging (Don’t be a Brogrammer!).


I have been a programmer professionally for more than 10 years and a show like this really just stirred up a bunch of emotions. I am so impressed with how the writers were able to capture so much in just two episodes. I had a lot more to say so I wrote an entire second post about it here which are just a collection of my experiences.

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