19 Comments

What an article, so much is hidden here!

I respectfully disagree about the myth of Silicon Valley though. As a seasoned analyst raised on these "promoted" ideas, I keep seeing how they work, and, yes, how they change analytics and product perspectives. Adapting can be a challenge.

As always, bold and interesting.

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I'm not sure I follow? Are you saying that entrepreneurs (and particularly those adjacent to the data industry) have been visionary in some respect, in that they change how the industry and other people work? Or did I totally misunderstand that?

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Yes, I believe most "Silicon Valley's very smart boys" (as you call them) are visionary, and they changed and advanced the industry.

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I don't disagree with that, within the confines of the companies they created. My issue is when people extrapolate beyond that. For example, is someone like, say, Stewart Butterfield good at creating enterprise SaaS products? Absolutely - and he developed a lot of expertise in thinking about that problem over the years. Does that mean he has some special brilliance that means he could fix Twitter better than people who've been thinking about Twitter for years, or that he could develop better policies about Ukraine than people who've been thinking about foreign policy for forever, or that he could've addressed the pandemic better than the CDC? Absolutely not. But there's often an implicit suggestion that people like him could, because they're entrepreneurs, and that person has some special status in Silicon Valley (and in the US at large).

If nothing else, you can see it by going the other way. Does anyone ever suggest that professors could better run companies? That doctors could better manage the economy? No, we never extrapolate expertise that way; we almost exclusively do it for the entrepreneur.

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Not sure if this is what Olga meant, but wonder if you’re conflating two very different concepts:

a) decoupling from consequences

b) unwillingness to critique “bad” ideas

I would argue (b) is a feature. In a rapidly changing world, yesterday’s idiotic suggestion is tomorrow’s brilliant innovation (and vice versa of course). A brainstorming mindset seems healthier than the alternative.

Even as much as I hate on MBAs, there is a lot to be said for encouraging divergent thinking -- especially since most other education radically suppresses it!

What I think is more pernicious is people “gaining” status just from bloviating, without any consequences. But that tends to happen in internal executive communication, or the press (or blogs :-). What’s dangerous is ideas decoupled from accountability.

But that clearly is NOT the case with Twitter, where Musk literally owns the problem. I think what bugs you is that Musk owns what is essentially a public good, and you are terrified his ego will make it worse. But his ego was shaped by successful contrarian bets; it feels unfair to blame that on VCs or MBAs.

Maybe you are annoyed that many people are giving him a pass rather than roasting him for his “ignorant arrogance.” But plenty of people are roasting him, as well as celebrating him. Would more widespread social condemnation really change his approach?

Are you saying that Twitter is fine, so Musk is unnecessary? Or are you asserting that a calm, rational solution would obviously produce better results than Musk’s arrogant frenzy?

Or is all this just an attempt to craft a logical narrative around your visceral (and rational!) fear that Musk will accelerate Twitter’s demolition of Western civilization, right on the eve of a contentious election?

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- On an unwillingness to critique ideas, I'm not sure I'd put it that way, but yeah, I'd say having outside and new perspectives is good. Do people who work at Twitter know a lot more than Elon Musk about how it works? Yes. Could they not see some things because they're too in it, and a new perspective helps? Yes, though we should be careful to conflate wild brainstorming (what if people paid 10 cents for an article??!) with genius. Everyone's thought of that. It's not a new idea. Maybe this time it'll work. But not because of the singular brilliance of the person who came up with it.

- On being terrified that he owns a public good, I wouldn't say that. Burn it down; I think we're probably better off if he does. I'm more worried that he owns a channel that he can and clearly has no reservations about manipulating for his own good. In that way, it's no different than Rupert Murdock. Ego doesn't matter there; character does. And Elon Musk is a man of pretty repulsive character.

- To the point about him destroying society, yes, him doing irreparable damage to US democracy is a worry of mine. Though if that's a rational concern, I wouldn't characterize it as crafting a narrative.

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Nov 8, 2022Liked by Benn Stancil

I think a fear of Elon Musk destroying democracy due to his bad character is very rational. Tying it to the puffed up self-image of MBAs and VCs seems to miss the point. The ugly truth of capitalism is that successful people become rich and arrogant, and such people can use that power for great good and harm. Unlike, say, China, where they just disappear (cough, Jack Ma).

The really hard question is how to keep rich narcissists from ruining democracy without using an autocratic state. Perhaps you should join us on the @Datocracy YouTube channel where we are wrestling with those very issues...

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I sorta agree with that, though ironically enough, this week has also shown that people can't keep the con up forever. Elon's doing some real damage to his reputation, and SBF (another person in this category) demolished his credibility (and money) this week. So I'm actually a bit more hopeful that con men can be revealed as con men, if people are willing to talk about it.

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Well, there’s at least one reader that was willing to sit through the entire McCullers/Harper clip.

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Ok real question then - thoughts on Joe Davis?

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I’m fer him.

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He’s no Jon Miller, but I think he does an excellent job.

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Bring back skip carey.

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I like Carey too. Smoltz is occasionally baffling.

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Yeah, he's pretty hit or miss to me. I think he's good when he's talking about the nuances of the game (especially things like pitch selection), but he comes off the rails a bit when he tries to give more general commentary. Tony Romo for trees, Tim McCarver for the forest.

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My biggest lament is that Twitter becoming a very public case study is that we're going to revert back to Web 1.5 behavior of commenting on each other's blog posts to keep in touch.... quainter, but slower, times....

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One (upsetting) thought I had after reading your post was, is this finally going to be the thing that makes me a believer in the blockchain? Everyone says that can be used for some decentralized proof of identity across the internet (I understand nothing about how this works, or if it works), and....it seems like that's what we need?

So I guess if Elon Musk's grand plan is to level Twitter to make bitcoin work, and he becomes a trillionaire that way, I'll concede he really is smarter than the rest of us.

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I dunno if we'll ever really need durable digital identities. Sure the web3 bros would love it but Web1.0 managed pretty well just with people using consistent usernames across platforms and operating purely on blind trust. Barring that we still have semi-portable identities on platforms, one for substack, one for google stuff, etc.

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Someone tell okta that now's their moment

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