There's a big, ugly story that Zynga threatened to fire employees unless they gave some of their stock back (WSJ, cnet). The internal memo explaining things doesn't really help. Zynga's always been sleazy so if the story is true it's no surprise, but there's some nuances worth exploring. If you're negotiating for a tech job argue for more stock, not more cash.

Tech companies give employees stock (or options) on hiring. The weird thing about that compensation is that the stock grant is generally fixed at the time of hire, before the company really knows anything about the new person. The resulting compensation is never really fair. Sometimes a great hire ends up not working out and ends up with more stock than they deserve. More often, an undervalued hire ends up doing great and it's a shame he or she doesn't have more stock. At Google my impression was most employees' stock grants were entirely uncorrelated with their impact at the company; grant size had way more to do with hire date.

Companies can try to fix inequitable compensation by rewarding good employees with more stock. But those grants always come much later when the strike price is higher and are generally much smaller than the initial grant. So extra stock after being hired seldom really works out. It's much easier to give a good employee a cash raise. The corollary to this is as a new hire, if you can afford to you should negotiate for more stock vs. more cash. Because while you can always get more cash later if you do well, you can seldom get more stock.

Another ugly aspect of the Zynga story is the use of "Google chef situation" as a metaphor for an employee getting too much stock. That refers specifically to Charlie Ayers, Google's chef 1999–2006, who reportedly made a giant pile of money from his stock options. To anyone who suggests he doesn't deserve that compensation: fuck off. Charlie worked incredibly hard at Google and did a great job growing a kitchen from one meal a day for 40 people to three squares for 10,000+ people. That kitchen had a huge impact on the success of the company; Google got an extra 200 hours' work a year out of employees because we wanted to eat at work rather than go out. Charlie personally was responsible for the kitchen's success. I assume "chef situation" is some sort of class distinction, that chefs don't deserve as much compensation as the hallowed engineers. That's disgusting.

culture
  2011-11-11 16:08 Z
The best meal we had in New York was at Eleven Madison Park. It was one of the most impressive meals I've had anywhere in the world and nicely complements one of the other finest meals I've ever had in my life, in 2004 at Campton Place. Same chef, Daniel Humm.

Eleven Madison is operating at a very high standard right now. If you live in New York or are going to visit make the effort to go: you need to reserve weeks in advance. They received four stars in the NYT two years ago and just recently got 3 stars and 5 forks in the NY Michelin guide. I had dinner there a year ago right after they switched to the current tasting menu and it was very good but not transcendent. In the past year they've found their stride and it is now as good as dining gets, anywhere in the world. Go.

Our meal consisted of some twelve amuse bouche followed by a four course tasting menu meal. The menu is deliberately abstract, just a list of main themes like "Lamb" or "Apple" that are elaborated based on the staff's reading of the diner's desires. An open mind is useful but they're not playing any games, no need to fear some unwelcome surprises. The cooking leans towards traditional, not molecular gastronomy trickery, and excels by being very well executed.

Langoustine: Marinated with Grapes, Fennel, and Marcona Almonds
White Truffle: Tortelli with Fontina Val d'Aosta and Chestnuts
Guinea Fowl: Roasted with Pear, Salsify, and Foie Gras
Apple: Ice Cream with Toffee Cake, Walnuts, and Caramel

Foie Gras: Terrine with Plum, Bitter Almond, and Umeboshi
Lobster: Poached with White Truffles, Autumn Mushrooms, and Spinach
Guinea Fowl: Roasted with Pear, Salsify, and Foie Gras
Blue Cheese: With Pear, Chestnut Honey, and Bitter Greens

1995 Meursault Les Meix Chavoux (Domaine Roulot)
1996 Corton-Bressandes (Domaine P. Dubreuil-Fontaine Père & Fils)

Sadly I have no record of the various amuse, they were extraordinary in their variety and complexity. The main courses were nicely paced and undiluted, each enjoyable and complete without being overwhelming, Often at a fine meal like this by the time you get to the poultry you're tired and just want to stop eating; Eleven Madison avoided fatigue.

But food is only half of fine dining, the room and service is the other half. And it's extraordinary. Terrifically personal and friendly service, not too formal, but very professional. I'd gotten the reservation by gushing on about having been to Humm's restaurant in San Francisco and was impressed the staff all knew my story. We even got a little visit to the kitchen, always fun, amazing to see as many cooks in the kitchen as there were diners in the room. All working precisely, neatly, for our pleasure.

Chef Humm is buying the restaurant from Danny Meyer, along with his General Manager Will Guidara. That's probably good news, but I'm a bit concerned that they are also taking on food and beverage at a nearby hotel. The best chefs always expand their empires, it's natural for his career, but I fear the risk of diluting his excellence. Did you know Wolfgang Puck used to do something other than frozen pizzas? They are also publishing a cookbook due Nov 11 (see video). We saw a pre-release copy. It looked beautiful and entirely impractical for the home cook, more of a monument to his art like Keller's French Laundry Cookbook.

culturefood
  2011-11-08 00:57 Z
There's an unpleasant social media company out there called Klout. It claims to measure your individual influence by analyzing your social networks on Twitter, Facebook, etc and then assigns a score of 1 – 100, your value as a social being. The basic metric itself is kind of interesting; what's problematic is all the product around it.

The positioning of Klout is gross, turning ordinary social interactions into some sort of game with a competitive score. Of course there are meaningless achievements. But what's most loathsome is the primary purpose of Klout is to offer "Perks" (aka "ads") to you based on your Klout score. Yes, I can get a free sample of Axe Hold and Touch hair gel because I'm such a bro on the Internets! Even worse, you have otherwise-sensible people seriously suggesting we use Klout to decide if people's comments have value. It's like a high school popularity contest for the Internet. Yuck.

As with most social media you and I aren't the customers of Klout, we are the product. Only with Klout you can't opt out of being packaged and sold. There's a Klout page for me with my name, my Twitter icon, a score, details about my social network. Klout refuses to remove it despite my persistent requests, because "your Tweets are publicly visible on your profile page". Which is true (and an important principle I agree with) but ignores the sheer ugliness of creating scores and profiles for people who do not want them. I'm not the only one offended by this.

Update: apparently having clout on Hacker News counts for something; after this blog post got some exposure Klout revived my month-old support request and completely removed their page about me. Which is nice for me, but meaningless unless they've changed their policy for everyone.

Update Nov 4: Klout has added an opt out.
Comments welcome via email or on Google+
culture
  2011-11-04 15:13 Z
The Some Bits weblog is over 10 years old now, my first posts were in October 2001. The topics haven't changed much: that first month was a random mix of technical content, tech news, cultural commentary, politics, and Victorian urinals. The format has changed, I used to write more short single link posts. Activity level has varied; here's a calendar view of posts, one box per day.

My weblog is an old school blog, a public diary of things that personally interest me. I mostly write as a way to summarize what I'm learning about something new like living in Paris or flying airplanes. Sometimes I post to influence others with an opinion about Klout or Facebook or SOAP or the like. On rare occasions I troll. But even though this blog is mostly written to satisfy myself, I do write it for an audience. It takes me most of an hour to write these short messages. (See my secret work blog and defunct game blog for much less edited stuff.)

I love the old school blog format. I've got a big list of RSS feeds for other blogs like mine; some recently active favorites include Justin Watt, Jason Kottke, and Rafe Colburn. The list is much longer with less active people Mike Migurski or Andy Baio; I love it when a blog post pops up after six months of silence. I regret that "blogging" for most of the world now means crappy journalism; pro-blogs with 20+ posts a day salted with ad targeting keywords is tiresome.

The ease of Twitter's short format has definitely sucked some of the energy out of personal blogging. But as Anil says, if you didn't blog it, it didn't happen. Go ahead, write something, it's not hard! Even if no one but yourself ever reads it it's worth your time. For hosted blogs these days I like WordPress.com. I keep meaning to check back on how Blogger is doing, too.

cultureblogs
  2011-11-03 16:00 Z