Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?Read more

startups culture economy asia

Blind Loyalty to an Anonymous Chat App

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

How Blind Became the App Silicon Valley Bosses Love to Hate

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. 

THE 1:1

Elan Lee Wants to Explode More Than Kittens

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

Twitter’s transformation under Elon Musk is getting freaky.

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.


Senior Editor, The Information

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
OpenAI's Greg Brockman (left) and Google's Demis Hassabis (right). Photos by Getty.
AI Agenda google ai
OpenAI Hustles to Beat Google to Launch ‘Multimodal’ LLM
As fall approaches, Google and OpenAI are locked in a good ol’ fashioned software race, aiming to launch the next generation of large-language models: multimodal.
From left, a Google TPU, Broadcom CEO Hock Tan and Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian. Photos via Getty, Google and YouTube.
Exclusive google semiconductors
To Reduce AI Costs, Google Wants to Ditch Broadcom as Its TPU Server Chip Supplier
Google executives have extensively discussed dropping Broadcom as a supplier of artificial intelligence chips as early as 2027, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.
Photo via Midjourney.
AI Agenda startups ai
The Rise of Startups That Help Other Startups Evaluate LLMs
All but a handful of artificial intelligence startups typically fall into one of two camps. The first group uses a single large-language model, typically OpenAI’s GPT-4, to power their applications.
Photos via Eiso Kant (left) and YouTube/VMWare Tanzu (right)
AI Agenda startups ai
How GitHub Copilot’s Co-Creator Raised $126 Million to Compete with His Former Employer
Recent interest in artificial intelligence has focused on large-language models that aim to do everything from writing Shakespearean poetry to solving math riddles.
Art by Mike Sullivan
entertainment media/telecom
Disney-Charter Deal Could Prompt More Cable TV-Streaming Bundles
Last week, Charter Communications, the No. 2 cable provider, and Walt Disney Co. cut a deal to include Disney streaming services, such as Disney+ and a new ESPN service still in the works, with Charter’s cable television packages.
An Albertsons grocery store in L.A. Photo by Getty.
Exclusive startups Finance
Instacart’s Secret Deals With Grocery Giants
When Instacart goes public on Tuesday, at least one shareholder likely to make money is its own customer: grocery giant Albertsons, one of several retailers that quietly struck stock deals with Instacart years ago that remained a closely held secret inside the delivery company, people familiar with the matter said.