Hi, welcome to your Weekend.
What’s that I hear? It’s the sound of thousands of techies in the Bay Area calling in favors and taking out second mortgages to score tickets to Taylor Swift’s concert at Levi’s Stadium last night and tonight in Santa Clara. If you succeeded, congratulations!
Speaking of Taylor, I stumbled across a fascinating post this week by a Microsoft employee on Blind, the anonymous commenting app that is popular among techies. The employee posted a screenshot of an unnamed software engineer’s scheme for gaining a small technical advantage in buying tickets to the European leg of Swift’s tour. The engineer figured out which data center the ticket broker was using and established a VPN connection to the same area, thereby reducing the latency of his network connection so he could get ahead in the ticket-buying queue. The engineer claimed it worked.
That’s a small, very tame example of the window that Blind offers into what Paris describes, in this weekend’s cover story, as the id of the tech industry. The story chronicles how Blind has become something like a Reddit for workplaces—an anonymous, anything-goes forum for everything from leaks of impending layoffs to juicy disclosures about compensation to downright nasty corporate gossip.
It’s no surprise then that many tech bosses hate Blind with a passion. “I am too old, insecure and self-important to visit Blind,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told Paris. “But as long as the internet has existed, anonymous message boards have existed. They are places of pure misery.” The problem is the tech industry’s workers are addicted to Blind, if only because it gives them a way to anonymously “speak truth to power,” in Kelman’s words.
Blind is also at an interesting moment in its history when it’s trying to become a real business by selling products, including recruiting and “sentiment analysis” tools, to companies. It will be interesting to see if Blind maintains the edginess that has ticked off so many tech companies while also depending on them more for revenue. If its users sense that the app has gone too corporate, they’ll move on to the next Blind.
Now onto this weekend’s stories...
The big read
Blind is like a Reddit for workplaces, mixing anonymous nastiness with confessions about compensation and a bonanza of corporate gossip. Paris writes about how Blind won over tech’s working masses through a mixture of guerrilla marketing and fortuitous events.
In 2014, the CEO of tabletop game maker Exploding Kittens quit his videogame job to counter digital loneliness—and ended up selling over 25 million games. Now he’s betting that Netflix and VR will help us experience joy together.
Watching: Esther Crawford comes out of hiding
Esther Crawford was at risk of going down in history as the ex-Twitter employee who crashed on the office floor in a sleeping bag to impress her boss—and still lost her job. But now she may be remembered for something else: Following the soft launch of the newly rebranded Twitter-turned-X, the former Twitter Director of Project Management filmed a surprisingly, brutally honest reflection on her chaotic time at the company. She painted a picture of a pre-Elon Twitter that was uninspiring and underperforming. But she also echoed what many former Twitter employees have been saying anonymously for months: that Elon Musk has devolved into an erratic, paranoid megalomaniac who surrounds himself with yes-men to escape criticism. She also suggested that Musk would seek product advice from just about anyone except the people with the actual data—including Walter Isaacson, whose much-anticipated biography of Musk is due this September. Then again, she also called her former boss “genuinely funny,” so she may not be such a reliable narrator after all. -Julia
Noticing: Have UFOs arrived? Mark your calendars: This week might just be when we finally got confirmation of aliens. For over two hours on Wednesday, three former military officials appeared before Congress, insisting that the government has evidence of extraterrestrial beings. The main whistleblower, former intelligence officer David Grusch, hadn’t seen any aliens himself, but had conducted 40 interviews with alleged UFO witnesses. From there, the hearing just got more and more baffling, like when Grusch tried to establish a politically correct way to refer to aliens (“nonhumans”). Or when a former Navy commander claimed he saw a UFO the size of a football field going supersonic speeds. Or maybe when the group advocated for destigmatizing UFO sightings. Congress was less than convinced by the end of the hearing. On the brightside, everyone agreed that, when the aliens finally do arrive, it should be a bipartisan issue. -Margaux
Reading: The next Oppenheimer
The tech world is doing their darndest to advertise the Oppenheimer movie, mostly by comparing themselves to J. Robert Oppenheimer himself. This week, Alex Karp, CEO of data software company Palantir, published an opinion piece in The New York Times about how artificial intelligence engineers are facing a similar dilemma to Oppenheimer: Do they slow down potentially dangerous AI development for the sake of mankind, or speed it up so we don’t fall behind adversaries? Unsurprisingly, Karp, who’s company sells AI technology to the military, insists we must follow Oppenheimer’s lead and plow ahead with rapid AI development in order keep our enemies at bay. He’s not the only tech leader with Oppenheimer-esque aspirations: Founders Fund partner Delian Asparouhov compared Anduril cofounder Trae Stephens to the Manhattan Project director this week. And stay tuned for Marc Andreessen’s take; he tweeted on Thursday that he’s gearing up for an Oppenheimer-themed podcast episode. Of course, as Karp notes, Oppenheimer was eventually filled with deep regret over how his creation was used. Fingers crossed Karp’s story ends differently. -Margaux
Makes You Think
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.
Senior Editor, The Information