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Former Valve Hardware Designer Recounts Management Difficulties

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the lord-of-the-flies dept.

Businesses 224

DavidGilbert99 writes "Jeri Ellsworth has opened up about her time at games developer Valve and has hit out strongly at the so-called flatpack management structure. She says that despite Valve's claims of a democratic structure, there is a layer of powerful management in place and when she was fired she felt like she had been stabbed in the back. 'If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I am really, really bitter. They promised me the world and then stabbed me in the back.'" Develop Online has a good transcript. In the end, Gabe Newell at least let her team keep the rights to their augmented reality hardware. She also notes that she still loves Valve, but the management and bonus structure resulted in communication breakdowns at Valve's size. It does seem that a flat structure can work: Andy Wingo has been weblogging about working at Igalia and seems pretty positive about the experience.

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Flat structures never, ever happen (5, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44223239)

The standard text is The Tyranny Of Structurelessness [jofreeman.com] by Jo Freeman.

tl;dr: if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form and bite you in the ass.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (5, Interesting)

Arrepiadd (688829) | about a year ago | (#44223463)

I haven't had the time to read the text you post, I'll try to do it later on tonight. So, this may be a bit off, I'm posting this based on your tl;dr.

W. L. Gore and Associates [wikipedia.org] (the company responsible for Gore-Tex) can be used as a counter-example to what you/Jo say. There are no bosses (everyone is an associate) and people work in small teams. No one bites others in the ass. And the company, while not the biggest in the world or whatever, works fine and people in it seem to be happy.

One key element seems to be the size of each of its campuses. They limit them to 150 people. More than that and what you mention starts happening. A de facto hierarchy arises and bickering ensues. But below these numbers (and this seems to be corroborated by other sources) people work as in a small community/village and peer pressure keeps everyone working nicely. Above 150 people clustering of people occurs and, while peer pressure still occurs within these groups, the problems still occur in between groups.

So, perhaps flat structures do happen, but only in small groups because "friends" take care of their friends, but employees don't necessarily take care of other employees (especially when the employee he's supposed to take care of is his nasty boss).

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223515)

"Friends take care of their friends", is the exact secret hierarchy that is being described. I bet everyone here has been in a social situation where a small group of people are so inbred with each other that it gives them power over the whole group. The same way the popular kids at school gain social power. If a group is bigger than 1 then a social hierarchy will form, it doesn't matter if its just "I'm the leader" or a group of assholes with massive egos who think the world revolves around them forms. That is how society works and whenever we try to change that, one of those people steps up to try and ruin it because it has no clear leadership to keep them in check.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44223859)

It can work, but in my experience, two things determine whether it's possible: Group size and what kind of people you deal with.

Group size is WAY smaller than 150. IMO, I'd say closer to 6-10 people. Anything bigger and invariably sub-groups will form. And second you need people who want to work in a team, whose focus is the project and not their own agenda.

Since such people are quite rare, assembling a group of more than 6 to 10 of them is a feat by itself...

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44223755)

What you described is a structured society. How then can it be structureless??? OT:if you had no time then maybe you should wait till you do?

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (5, Insightful)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about a year ago | (#44223495)

if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form and bite you in the ass.

...and it will form around the worst, most manipulative personality types... which also happen to be the worst leaders.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (3, Interesting)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about a year ago | (#44224215)

That doesn't sound significantly different than traditional hierarchies. Just look at most politicians and CEOs.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (4, Insightful)

readingaccount (2909349) | about a year ago | (#44223499)

by Jo Freeman

Thought that was worth highlighting.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year ago | (#44223601)

Why is that relevant?

Re: Flat structures never, ever happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223615)

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Freeman

Re: Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year ago | (#44223781)

Thanks, I didn't know that. I only played the original Half Life in multiplayer.

Re: Flat structures never, ever happen (5, Funny)

readingaccount (2909349) | about a year ago | (#44223807)

I only played the original Half Life in multiplayer.

You disgust me.

Re: Flat structures never, ever happen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224343)

my friend's sister makes $77 hourly on the computer. She has been fired for seven months but last month her payment was $17959 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site ======WEP6.COM======

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#44223663)

Valve. Freeman. It's like someone working for ID named "Blazkowicz".

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about a year ago | (#44224189)

Half Life 3 confirmed!

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223749)

What a load of ignorant bullshit. Your argument is either deliberately completely besides the point, or you are shockingly stupid and ignorant.

The point of a "flat structure" is not for there to be no structure at all, but for the structure to be based on *respect* and *achievement*, and grow in a healthy way.
Instead of who has the most money, is the least competent at an actual job, or just happens to arbitrarily hired into a "management" position, as it's "normal" in companies.

The latter is everything that is wrong with any form of organization, be it industrial or governmental.

Of course structures will always form. It's just you bunch of morons (or assholes with an agenda) putting that narrative of complete lack of structure in our mouths, because you're so fuckin' stupid you think you're smart again because you can't see what you can't see! [youtube.com] , or because you *need* that narrative to be true so you don't have to hate yourselves and your personal loveless and trustless dog-eat-dog shit society and shit life.

P.S.: That's why you never recognized that the middle-eastern world already had a system superior to your fake "democracy" (which in reality is as much a social and human impossibility as the "transition to communism"). They had hierarchies of trust. Naturally formed. The only reason Saddam, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Iranian Mullahs ruled was *because* of you and your fucked-up mindsets meddling with it. Your own damn generals said that when they invaded Iraq, the people just asked for Bush statues and Bush posters, because they expected him to act like their new respected leader. It only got such a mess when that didnâ(TM)t happen because " (fake) democracy" (aka putting another spineless US industry lakey in power). The "democracy" smoke and mirrors simply didn't work down there.
And I'm pro-American and *therefore* anti-Neocunts and anti-Catholiban. So eat your heart out!

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44223823)

I disagree slightly with the conclusions of linked article and your later comment but only in 'and bite you in the ass' part because this outcome is not always there.

Societies or social groups evolve and by nature of things you will always have informal as well as formal structures. Whether they are effective and good for people outside the 'elite' is hugely a function not only of this 'elite' but also of other ones (if groups is big enough to have many) as well as what other people i.e. not member of 'elite' say and do. It also depends on what task at hand there is and how fast you have to act. There are situations where informal control group is good for the rest and some where that is not the case. I admit however that the usual outcome is not very efficient and usually it is quite frustrating if working group is prevented from choosing the official leader etc only to fit it into some nice theory. Reminds me of environment I work - still it is not necessarily what is going to happen. As a side note - such working groups as described and discussed here do not exist on their own - there is usually some upper layer that pays the bills and orders the stuff to be done. If they have brains the may chose to prime the structurless brew with some trigger points so that the informal structures form. This is important if you have bigger group of people to be working together. Waiting for informal structures to form themselves or even actively discouraging them is not very productive.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44223891)

I agree structurelessness is problematic, but there are structures that work which are less hierarchical than traditional boss-and-subordinates tree-styled management structures. A common feature of Scandinavian workplaces, for example, is a set of committees with precisely specified areas of competence. It is relatively non-hierarchical but very structured and transparent: rather than informal cliques taking on different roles, formal committees with procedures take them on. Overall it works pretty well.

Re:Flat structures never, ever happen (5, Interesting)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44224359)

tl;dr: if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form and bite you in the ass.

Wikipedia is a perfect example of this. Officially, there isn't supposed to be any hierarchy of editors. Administrators are supposed to be "janitors", just doing non-controversial maintenance work, and aren't supposed to have more rights than regular editors on articles. In practice, of course, it doesn't work that way, and there is a very clear hierarchy which usually remains unspoken. What you can get away with on Wikipedia depends a *lot* on whether you're an administrator, how long you've been on the site, whether you are an old friend of Jimbo's, and whether you kiss the right butt on IRC.

Anonymous Coward (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223243)

Stopped reading at 'she'

Re:Anonymous Coward (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223259)

I mean 'her'

Re:Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223367)

Are you fucking serious?

Re:Anonymous Coward (5, Funny)

fastest fascist (1086001) | about a year ago | (#44223373)

"Stopped thinking at birth", you mean.

Sadly (1, Insightful)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about a year ago | (#44223251)

Everytime i read "Valve" my thoughts pavlovianly go to HL3. Still not a single word about it?

Re:Sadly (-1, Offtopic)

Corona Normal (2977485) | about a year ago | (#44223411)

Half-Life is a shitty serious anyway. Portal is much better.

Re:Sadly (1)

geirlk (171706) | about a year ago | (#44223491)

Doesn't matter.

But where's L4D3?

Re:Sadly (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44223875)

If it's any like L4D2, they can keep it. Seriously, a horror shooter was replaced by yet another splatter shooter. What are they supposed for L4D3? Why not make it a rail shooter where all you do is keep that left mouse button pressed and rack up a few thousand kills?

Re:Sadly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223507)

Still not a single word about it?

No.

Re:Sadly (5, Informative)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44223545)

Everytime i read "Valve" my thoughts pavlovianly go to HL3. Still not a single word about it?

Lately someone got snooping into Valve's Jira [valvetime.net] and some conclusions made were that HL3 was either inactive or in developmental infancy. L4D3 was advancing nicely and the Source 2 engine had huge development resources behind it.

But who knows.

Re:Sadly (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year ago | (#44224259)

I wouldn't hold my breath on HL3 being in Jira meaning anything. There was virtually nothing in the HL3 category, and not even a mailing list for it, where as even the L4D3 category had that much.

Re:Sadly (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44224357)

Yeah, that was actually my thought too. It's possible that the HL3 stuff is just a dummy stub without any real plans to make development around it. If those screenshots are real, I guess we can forget getting a new Half-Life at least in the immediate years.

Re: Politics ruins everything (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223261)

When you hear breathless talk about new paradigms in management social structure it's always people grasping at straws attempting to pin the tail on the contributory factors to their synergy. Good shit comes from selfless people, and selfless people attract parasites and tempt honest people in to taking advantage of the situation when their feelings get hurt.

Frosty Piss for everyone.

Not much of a sample size. (5, Insightful)

crioca (1394491) | about a year ago | (#44223273)

If all it takes is for one laid-off ex employee criticizing the management structure for it to be deemed not to have worked, then there's no such thing as a workable management structure.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223361)

She got paid, got to do what she wanted, didn't get enough resources because the rest didn't believe in it and she couldn't convince them, then she and team got sacked but got to keep the stuff and continue with it.

Doesn't sound that terrible to me. What other company would have paid her and let her do that?

Maybe the sacking bit and run-up to it was done badly. But in most other companies you wouldn't even be able to do that project in the first place, much less keep the rights after you got fired.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44223401)

well the run up happens in secret in the shadow good buddy organization.
that's what happens in most hierarchical(on paper) systems as well. it's easier for the buddies because in theory you can't bitch about it through proper channels because there are none!

but heck, if valve is developing games and hardware with no structure on paper at all.. they're not developing anything and just doing reactive fixing of the steam platform and buying random games to their stable. and well.. fuck, valve as a developer. explosion pause!

though, the rights were never valves to keep in the first place? what rights are you talking about anyhow? ar? she was just another pretty random hire for valve.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44223617)

She got paid, got to do what she wanted, didn't get enough resources because the rest didn't believe in it and she couldn't convince them

My observation is that they believed in it enough to hire Michael Abrash, who is working on the very thing that she was working on.

Looks to me like a possible "old boys club" mentality is going on there, with Abrash being accepted into it because Newell had worked with him before (at Microsoft) and had been trying to get him to join Valve since forever. This isnt to knock Abrash because that man knows his shit, but maybe Ellsworth was considered competition to what Abrash was doing and as such "had to go."

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223809)

Maybe the sacking bit and run-up to it was done badly.

That actually raises an interesting question: AFAIR the handbooks doesn't talk about firing at all, and considering that everybody can hire someone, who decides who gets fired? In a situation like this one would expect that all interested parties meet and discuss options. The result might have been the same, but without hard feelings.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (5, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | about a year ago | (#44223917)

I actually thought this through... my first reaction was wow, that sucks. Maybe Valve isn't the utopia that people think it is.

Then I stepped back and remembered what I've heard about Valve. You make your own decisions - and you're accountable for them. They said they had a million dollar lab, but couldn't hire anyone to do the machining. But who decided to build that lab? Did they spend a million dollars on equipment then not use it?

A flat organizational structure doesn't mean there's no politics. It means politics are MORE important - it's harder for some team to simply burn cash, because everyone's eyes are on you. It's hugely increased freedom - but all of the responsibility that comes with it. Assuming that anyone in Valve could decide to go build a million dollar lab, what do you think would happen if it failed to get utilized?

This is one side of the story from one person. I'm sure there's more to it than the lab, but the lab example shows a basic misunderstanding of the personal responsibility one has in a flat org structure.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223385)

The article is crap and the editors should now it.

One disgruntled employee? We know nothing from that.
Who is she? What happened? How far is it rooted in her personality, misconceptions, inablities she had to go? Was she really fired and or was it nice and she just perceived it as that? What is the history?
We know nothing, nothing at all.

Everyone who submitted that and then who put it up and then read it and though "Oh, interesting" should feel stupid.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44223569)

Jeri Ellsworth is quite well known in the hardware hacking scene. Check out her Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] for starters. She has quite interesting stuff up in YouTube [youtube.com] , too.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (3, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year ago | (#44223753)

And the Wikipedia page you link to clarifies that this "cry baby", "I'm a victim!" attitude of hers is not new. Apparently she didn't fit into formal education, either, because "questioning professors' answers was frowned upon". Now it's happened again. It's "their fault! Nothing to do with me at all." Give me a break. She should just grow up and accept that she's not as special as she thinks she is.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (5, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year ago | (#44223939)

And the Wikipedia page you link to clarifies that this "cry baby", "I'm a victim!" attitude of hers is not new. Apparently she didn't fit into formal education, either, because "questioning professors' answers was frowned upon". Now it's happened again. It's "their fault! Nothing to do with me at all." Give me a break. She should just grow up and accept that she's not as special as she thinks she is.

Actually she might be very special, but that is utterly irrelevant when you work as part of a team.

It sounds like she was easily able to drive her own team, and manage those beneath her. But those are the easy part of management, the hard bit is called managing up (In this case it is probably more like managing across).

What she needed to do was go round every different person in the company she could and get their buy in and input into what her project should do and most importantly why it was a good idea. This probably seemed very strange to her as the boss had given her a task and she wanted to do it. She was probably expected to recruit other people from within the company who liked her idea to spend a bit of time on it. This is why they kept her department under resourced. That means long hours learning what everyone else does, forcing yourself into the existing social scene within the company, talking to people to find people who might be able to help you even though they are not strictly part of your team.

It sounds what she actually tried to do was hire a microcosm to work for her and just drop in a hierarchical department within a company that has no hierarchy. That was obviously never going to work and the company was never going to allow it to flourish.

It seems like her biggest problem is that the masses at Valve simply did not get behind her idea, that is why she was allowed to keep her product as they did not hold it in high enough esteem. Maybe they were right, maybe she was, only time will tell.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224053)

Because of course we all know that professors are fountains of knowledge that are never wrong and should never be questioned.

Sorry, but that applies to such a minority of professors as to be irrelevant. There really are so many professors that live in a vacuum with no real understanding of how things work in the real world and so forth that it's perfectly valid to question them.

I had a professor who firmly believed that everything should be written in C and all code tested proven for correctness with mathematical induction. He seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that in the real world there are constraints that make both these things impossible if you ever want to get anything of any reasonable size developed without an infinite budget.

Frankly you just seem to be clutching at straws to attack her, is this one of those "Valve can do no wrong" fanboy reactions Slashdot suffers so brutally from in the same way that on Slashdot DRM is the most evil thing on earth, unless Valve does it, then it's okay? I swear Valve fanboys are the new Apple fanboys, I've seen none so rabid and quick to attack in so many years as they are.

It's not like Valve doesn't have a release cycle that's about 5 times as long as that of other studios and whilst their games are good they're not any better than those of many others to justify the absurdly long development times. Team Fortress 2 was originally planned for 1998 and it came out in what, 2007? 9 years and it was redesigned like 5 times during that period. What happened to Half-Life Episode 3? What about Half-Life 3 weren't they on about that too? If there isn't a fair amount of evidence of sloppy management at Valve that has led to numerous product overruns and cancellations and redevelopments then I don't know what is. Valve succeeds in spite of it's piss poor management structure, not because of it.

Even their two most prominent IPs now that Half-Life seems to have once more fallen into the abyss - Portal and Left 4 Dead were bought in and not developed in house.

These are the guys who couldn't even keep their flagship engine source code safe from a simple spear phishing attack because for some reason their MD/PR talking head Gabe had full direct access to their company's source code whilst also being dumb enough to execute an executable e-mailed to him from some unknown source.

I love Valve's games, I appreciate the simplicity of Steam and the ease of which it made it for PC gamers to get games, but those good things don't make everything else about Valve like the fact it was a leader in intrusive DRM and a firm that has managed multiple Duke Nuke Forever scale delays and rewrites magically not true.

Valve has problems, this girl isn't crying "I'm the victim", even though she apparently is because she seems to be a victim of Valve's flip-flopping on where it's going with hardware, she's complaining because there are legitimate complaints about the way Valve works. It's not like she hasn't bought to market real actual product successes developed by herself, which is more than can be said for Valve in recent years who has just peddled bought in products or other people's wares via Steam.

Fanboys need to stop giving companies a free pass on everything just because they like one or two of their products.

Actually scrap that, fanboys just need to fucking die.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year ago | (#44224155)

I didn't say that professors should never be questioned; I used to do it all the time -- in fact it should be encouraged. I didn't blame them, though, if they disagreed with my questioning and certainly didn't drop out of because of a perceived belief "that questioning professors' answers was frowned upon". And it's the same thing here now with her (previous) employment with Valve: "they didn't listen to me and the culture frowned upon me" (paraphrased).

Re:Not much of a sample size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224255)

An excellent post. Agreed on all counts.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223449)

I don't know where you're getting "deemed not to have worked" from.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | about a year ago | (#44223493)

[......] then there's no such thing as a workable management structure.

They're certainly very few and far between. There's probably about as much chance of finding one as there is of finding an alien civilization.

Re:Not much of a sample size. (1)

urbanriot (924981) | about a year ago | (#44224299)

Yep... I read this Slashdot entry and wondered, "why is the typical behaviour of a fired employee newsworthy?" Even if you had a large enough sample set, my care meter would probably stall slightly above zeor.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223297)

Social structures exist. This is news how?

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

mellyra (2676159) | about a year ago | (#44223413)

Maybe this is not news to you but as far as I can recall the overwhelming reaction after the Valve Handbook became public was unreflected admiration for the structure-less utopia described therein, not "Wait, maybe the lack of official structure means that the actual structure does not cease to exist but only becomes less visible to newcomers and maybe that is not a good thing." If you read the interview transcript you will see that she is in retrospect quite harsh with herself for having drunk the cool-aid and being sorely disappointed as a result. Of course she could have known better from the beginning but she didn't, just as the vast majority of slashdot commenters apparently didn't after they read the Valve handbook for the first time.

The actually existing elites may have a strong interest in perpetuating the "structureless" myth as their current informal influence may be much larger than what they could reasonably expect as part of any officially acknowledged social structure. So they take recruits that are already attracted by the company's utopian visions, indoctrinate them further to protect their own influence and when at some point the brighter amongst the employees realize the cognitive dissonance between what everyone says and what actually happens and start to lash out in disappointment they get fired to protect the company cult(ure).

Re:Yes (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223541)

Ironically your last sentence describes Microsoft over the last decade (ex-emp here). Bureaucratic management nightmare, less-than-zero vision at the top, subpar product execution/innovation, etc. yet constant promises of pink ponies to the grunts, i.e. the way it used it be in the mid-90's. Ironic because they are the exact opposite of the "structureless" environment yet the concept is right on the mark as they continue to slide into the tech heap of oblivion.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223653)

"Wait, maybe the lack of official structure means that the actual structure does not cease to exist but only becomes less visible to newcomers and maybe that is not a good thing."

Yeah. No. If you don't notice any social structure or fail to assess it at your work, you are socially inept. I think this is more the issue than her being bad at her job, or the project being uninteresting. Lack of management does not equal no structure, and if anyone actually believes that they are not only socially inept, but right out stupid.

Captcha: Deduct. Fitting.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224209)

I liked this bit from the article:

"When I complained about this - and this is what I think is hilarious, what I call really drinking the Kool-Aid He said that 'If communication was important at Valve it would have evolved a long time ago.'"

I would have run off screaming at that point.

Still, the whole thing just feels like "software company starts hardware division, does not adequately fund or staff it, hardware project fails". Not exactly unheard of.

What did you espect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223347)

Welcome to companies may i make your acquaintance and stab you immediately?

Is this person living in a pink world?

Hardware.. in... (1)

AdmV0rl0n (98366) | about a year ago | (#44223359)

a software company. Was always going to be difficult. Seems to me they should perhaps have split into a new division - not kept it under the same roof/structure

Re:Hardware.. in... (1)

aitikin (909209) | about a year ago | (#44223395)

a software company. Was always going to be difficult.

Works for Apple...

Re:Hardware.. in... (1)

AdmV0rl0n (98366) | about a year ago | (#44223429)

That the Apple that compartmentalised the hardware under Jobs - so members of the team did not know what they were actually building, for whom, and why?
That Apple?

Re:Hardware.. in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223483)

Apple was ALWAYS hardware software, going back to Woz's Apple II. So your statement is actually false. MSFT is a better example and it works HORRIBLY there...

C64 DTV designer (4, Informative)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about a year ago | (#44223409)

I assume this is the same Jeri Ellisworth that designed the Commodore 64 Direct to TV unit?

Re:C64 DTV designer (5, Interesting)

hamster_nz (656572) | about a year ago | (#44223443)

I assume this is the same Jeri Ellisworth that designed the Commodore 64 Direct to TV unit?

Yes, uber-hacker-maker. Has a collection of self-restored electron microscopes.

Much smarter & more creative than your average person.

Re:C64 DTV designer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223681)

Only in very specific areas. Someone more gifted in social skills might think she's quite naive and uneducated. I used to be like her, but now I think people like her are overgrown children.

Re:C64 DTV designer (1)

Cap'nPedro (987782) | about a year ago | (#44223843)

Could you explain why you think this? I'm genuinely interested.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224301)

By definition grown-ups are overgrown children.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224339)

And social skills aren't a very specific area? Difference is, social skills are much more common and are not worth much.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223643)

Yes. She was also the first to recreate the Amiga custom chips in CMOS hardware after several other teams had failed (the Amiga used NMOS like military computers of the time, not CMOS like PCs).

There's also several OEM projects she's done. When it comes to chip design, I'd put her on a short list with people like Jay Miner (Atari & Amiga) and Seymour Cray. Not too many people can sit down and design entire chips from scratch themselves and build the rest of the machine too. Of course, both of them had been pushed out of companies because they made other people uncomfortable. Imagine getting a PhD and then having somebody outperform you and your entire team over and over again. People hate it and will try to undermine them and force them out.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223821)

What are you babbling about? NMOS was just the way things were done in the '70s. Commodore were using it because they were CHEAP, not because the Amiga had something to do with "military computers". Geez, the self-aggrandizing fantasies you people come up with.

What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223895)

The poster says nothing about Amiga having "something to do with 'military computers'" but with the fact that NMOS was used in the Amiga and also used in military computers.

Being used in the military budget may mean it is cheaper because of economies of scale.

But nowhere do they say Amiga had something to do with military computers. Only the chip tech being used in Amigas being used there too.

Re:C64 DTV designer (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44223901)

You just explained to me something that I was wondering for quite a while. Who'd have thought reading /. would solve a puzzle...

Re:C64 DTV designer (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224007)

No, it's the same Jeri that made a half-working prototype typical of a college project, completed and manufactured by a German dude, who passed things back to her as salesperson. She's spent the next 9 years selling herself as more capable than she is, then whining when people get fed up with her.

Sophie Wilson she ain't.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224135)

Please mod this up.

Re:C64 DTV designer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224285)

Oh boy. This is Slashdot. You don't question the species' future of colonizing the universe, and you don't question Jeri Elsworth's credentials. (Or any "geek" woman like Lady Ada)

Figures. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223467)

This, is why Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was over 5, nearly 6 years ago with no word on an Episode 3. This is why Left 4 Dead 2 came out a year after the first game, with reduced quality control.

Weblogging (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | about a year ago | (#44223469)

Andy Wingo has been weblogging about working at Igalia ......

Weblogging??? Did i fall into a timewarp and end up back in the 1990s or something?

augmented reality hardware (0)

Zedrick (764028) | about a year ago | (#44223537)

Damnit. I've been thinking+hobbyworking on a thing like this for two years. I KNEW I should have tried to patent the idea.

My only comfort is that it takes someone as brilliant as Jeri to beat me to it.

Artical is way off base... (-1, Flamebait)

sal_park (609818) | about a year ago | (#44223549)

I think this story is *way off* the mark. If you have the time then listen to this podcast to understand why: http://www.theamphour.com/the-amp-hour-147-absorptive-augmented-actuality/ [theamphour.com]

Re:Artical is way off base... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223691)

Got a quick summary for those who don't have the time?

Re:Artical is way off base... (1)

sal_park (609818) | about a year ago | (#44223873)

Jeri pissed ( understandably ) , asks and gets given tech she was working on, moves on to form startup.

Re:Artical is way off base... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223707)

What or who is "artical"?

Re:Artical is way off base... (1)

sal_park (609818) | about a year ago | (#44223887)

Re:Artical is way off base... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223977)

That's an article. Who or what is "artical"?

Left 4 Dead 3 (1)

selectspec (74651) | about a year ago | (#44223589)

This is no excuse for not releasing a Left 4 Dead 3.

Re:Left 4 Dead 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223943)

Everyone complained about Left 4 Dead 2 coming too fast, and now people are complaining about Left 4 Dead 3 not coming fast enough.

Common Sense (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44223685)

It makes sense that a hierarchy (hidden or otherwise formed). It is either human nature or so ingrained in our culture that there will always be those that step up and those that submit.

Regardless, a failure of one within such a proclaimed 'structureless' system is not necessarily a failure of the system, at that or any size.

The yardstick to measure success or failure by is whether "HL2E3" or "HL3" or "Half Life:Eternal Wait" or whatever it is titled now ever is released.

Happens all the time .. ( irony ) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223689)

They promised me the world ( and you beleived them ? ) and then stabbed me in the back. ( Really ? )
Playing nightly right here in Neurotica. Lesson of the week : Never trust management. Never ever the hell ever.
And if you are management , don't trust yourself or the rest of it.
 

Baby crying about her pet project being a failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223703)

"And it's impossible to pull those people away for something risky like augmented reality because they only want to work on the sure thing. So that was a frustration, we were starved for resources."

No shit, welcome to any company ever. The fact that you got a team of 5 people at a game company to work on augmented reality hardware is amazing in itself yet this women bitches and moans that the whole company didn't revolve around her.

No other company in the world would give her such freedom and I assume she would still be there if it wasn't for the fact that she tried to change the whole company to work around her one project and try forcing people to work on it.

Hippy communes. (2)

ocamsrazor (228566) | about a year ago | (#44223705)

I remember an Adam Curtis documentary that basically described those old 60s communes the same way. Communes were set up as completely power free institutions, places were no one would have power over anyone else and all important decisions could be made communally.

But of course power did exist, it was just being hidden. Someone owned the land, someone had some important income maybe someone was just too damn charismatic. And so because the power was hidden, it was never confronted or addressed. There were no checks or balances or mechanisms of redress. What was supposed to be a democratic paradise became worse than the institutions it was supposed to replace. And the people who really were in charge just ran roughshod over everyone.

She's done this before (1, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year ago | (#44223725)

I don't mean to divert attention away from Valve's management structure and handbook, but... well...

[...] assembling and selling computers. When she and her partner later had a disagreement, Ellsworth opened a separate business in competition.

[...] she moved to Walla Walla, Washington and attended Walla Walla College, studying circuit design for about a year. She dropped out due to a "cultural mismatch"; Ellsworth said that questioning professors' answers was frowned upon.

Seems like it's always someone else's fault and never hers. The world is persecuting her!

so did steve jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223849)

and a bunch of other people. holy fuck.

Re:She's done this before (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#44223973)

I don't mean to divert attention away from Valve's management structure and handbook, but... well...

[...] assembling and selling computers. When she and her partner later had a disagreement, Ellsworth opened a separate business in competition.

[...] she moved to Walla Walla, Washington and attended Walla Walla College, studying circuit design for about a year. She dropped out due to a "cultural mismatch"; Ellsworth said that questioning professors' answers was frowned upon.

Seems like it's always someone else's fault and never hers. The world is persecuting her!

tbh, Walla Walla really sucks as a town. I couldn't imagine the college being any better. I figured all they did was trained people for the Walla Walla State Prison.

Valve's Management System is NOT successful (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223729)

If you look at "income", Valve is successful. Very, indeed. But money is not the only metric. It all tells us Valve got lucky developing two games aaages ago and the being the first to set up a working Digital Distribution System. That they combined it with their second (and last!) successful game was a masterstroke, but only pure luck.
Had Half-Life 2 not been such a success (say a title in the 80s/100), Steam would not have been taken off like it did.

If you use the metric "releases successful products" for success, Valve is working mediocre at best.

They shovelled in a lot of cash with Half-Life and Half-Life 2 until Steam was running with full steam ahead... and that digital distribution platform is carrying them since then. After the initial phase it was a self-sustaining thing that you just need to maintain without screwing up too much. That is basically what Vale has been doing since Half-Life 2 and I ask you: What other successful projects do they have to show that we can use as proof for their successful system? You say "not much" and I agree.

Valve seems to me very similar to 3DRealms. Both had a major success which gave them money and on that they kept running. Load words once in a while, punching their own chests how successful they are, both claim(ed) to offer a "free and creative" environment without "administrative overhead!!!1" - but both totally lack in coming up with more or better products than companies with "classical" structures. In fact, those classical structures are much more successful at chewing out successful and often high quality products.
The difference is that Valve has Steam, a product that keeps generating revenue with Other People's Successful Games if you manage to maintain it (which is no problem with the money Valve has, it is not really requireing a lot of insight or creativity), so they can afford to be totally incompetent at creating own games (which they are).

All Valve achieved lies in the past. And with "past" we need are quickly approaching "a decade and since then the existing stuff just has been maintained".

They have as truly notable things
Half Life (1998) + AddOns (1999, 2001)
Half Life 2 (2004) + Nice AddOns that basically are TechDemos for the Engine
Portal 2 (see below)

That is it.
Portal and Left4Dead they bought in (good call, but more a Publisher-Decision than actual a Develeopment-Success). Buying the right stuff requires money and one or three managers who make the right call, it's no sign your Development Hierarchy works.

Re:Valve's Management System is NOT successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223909)

"Had Half-Life 2 not been such a success (say a title in the 80s/100), Steam would not have been taken off like it did."

Wrong. If Half Life had not been such a success, HL2's exclusivity to Steam only would not have made Steam take off like it did.

HL2 was a graphical improvement, but soundly criticised for being shorter, simpler and less of an escapade from the original, despite some lovely (for the time) graphics. However, HL's graphics were lovely (for the time). It's just that these age much more quickly in a FPS.

If HL2 had not been a Steam Exclusive, Steam would not have taken off.

If HL had not been so great, the anticipation for HL2 would not have made people jump to Steam to get it if it were forced down their throat.

Re:Valve's Management System is NOT successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224097)

If you look at "income", Valve is successful. Very, indeed. But money is not the only metric.

Yeah. Besides making tons of cash , there's also critical reception, reputation, popularity, technical achievement, and all sorts of other areas in which Valve performs extremely well.

Re:Valve's Management System is NOT successful (2)

hibiki_r (649814) | about a year ago | (#44224143)

There's this game called Team Fortress 2, that has sold more than the Half Life series.
Also, I'd not say that they bought portal and left 4 dead. They mostly bought the talent. Yes, that's how valve works: A whole lot of senior hires, very few entry level hires. Experienced hires tend to bring their game ideas with them. Just look at the hiring of IceFrog: Here, see a tech demo of your warcraft mod, made by our own developers. How about you make the game stand alone, and stop having to muck around with the limitations of WC3, which was never built around your game in the first place?

Boo Hoo (0, Troll)

Reliable Windmill (2932227) | about a year ago | (#44223735)

Baby crying because she couldn't run the show the way she wanted. I lost all respect for her back when she heckled some poor fellow on Twitter, accusing him of trying to steal from people and calling in her boys to join the taunting, despite knowing that this guy had just severely underestimated the scope of his project.

Re:Boo Hoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224031)

"run the show the way you want" is ENTIRELY what "structureless management" means, retard.

Attempted communism, obviously failed. (1, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44223869)

Well, those who are not aware of history are bound to repeat it.

Quote:

equity
The theory in Igalia is that we pay everyone the same. Everyone should be working with approximately the same effort, and everyone should be working on something that is valuable to the business (whether in the short-, medium-, or long-term), and so everyone should share in the income to an equal extent.

end quote.

Looks to me that the people involved should have studied history, real history, real economics and real politics. They would have immediately understood that they were trying to implement a communist experiment on a smaller scale and it was obviously going to fail, you don't need to try it to realise it. They could have learned this from history of American pilgrims [endofinnocence.com] that tried this with disastrous consequences, and every other attempt at this failed before and since that time. Obviously people have written about this extensively. Again, not paying attention to history ends up biting you in the ass.

Re:Attempted communism, obviously failed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224221)

Are you and APK /.'s only regular kooks? I kinda laugh whenever I spot your demented rambling, but I worry you're a basement-dwelling fantasist with a serious mental health condition.

Vavle Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224177)

I interviewed for a hardware engineer position at valve. Everyone I met was very arrogant. Not a big surprise in the northwest. The biggest turn-off for me at valve: all the employees have contrived "creative" names on their linkedin pages. Example "coding dragon wizard". During the interview they asked me what my "alternate" title would be. I wanted to puke. Never went back. Cultures of arrogance and passive-aggressive competition are not for me.

They caught her trying to make Half-Life 3 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44224211)

It's Valve policy to never make that game.

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