Monday, February 2, 2009

I Haven't Forgotten, And We Will Never Forget( Steve Gedikian's rant republished)

[This post is Steve Gedikian's Blahgger rant from Saturday, October 16, 2004 - which was last seen on the web on his site on January 20, 2009 - republished here for longevity - I know I re-read it often]

So it's been a little while since I last wrote on this thing. Yeah, it's not that I've forgotten, I've just been busy. But don't worry, this update will be quite depressing and cynical. I promise.

Tom quit yesterday. That leaves me being the most senior employee at Nullsoft. That's not really an exciting proposition. In case no one has noticed, we've lost a lot of people on our team in the past 6 months. Each one leaving with varying explanations or circumstances, but all for the same basic reason.

It's these days that really allow me to sit and reflect. Winamp and SHOUTcast are quickly becoming yesterday's news. We really fought the good fight but in the end lost the war. Our enemy, the machine, was just to great to defeat. Believe me, we tried.

Being acquired by another company has nearly always been the kiss of death. I remember when the founders of Blogger came and talked to Justin and I over lunch regarding whether or not they should sell their company. I think the spirit of our message to them was that if they don't have to, they shouldn't. They'd lose all control and ultimately their baby, it was merely a matter of time. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. Unfortunately, 6 months later they sold to Google.

The thing that I've learned about acquisitions is that most companies who buy other companies have their own plans. When you sell, you must know that you're giving up everything you've worked for and that after you sign on the dotted line, it's all over.

Most of these marriages seem to have a honeymoon. Our honeymoon lasted about a year, for Spinner about 6 months.

When it ends, you won't notice but everything starts changing. First it starts off slow, with little things here and there. For example, they come in and 'renovate' the office you're in and replace all your kitchy and fun start-up furniture with the standard company cubicles. As time goes on, more and more starts being stripped away. Say goodbye to the free softdrinks, the rest of the company doesn't get those, why should you? If you didn't notice by then, you'll get a nice splash of reality when one day you show up at work and you've got bullshit corporate propaganda like 'Members Rule!' plastered all over the place.

Before you know it, all the cool people who used to work with you start leaving and are replaced by transplants from other parts of the company or some lame hire who is only there for a job. In either case, the replacements are less talented and less motivated to help you get your job done then the person who left.

But for those who hang in there, don't worry there's relief. Yes, the wonderful world of layoffs will make sure that those who stick around don't have a choice. This is when all the people who worked their fucking ass off are kicked onto the street, with the assistance of security personnel who make sure you don't steal any paper clips or notepads as you clear off your desk.

Ah yes, the joy of layoffs. Here's how it works. Usually, they set up two meetings, they're back-to-back. The first meeting is where they herd your coworkers into a room and tell them that they've been laid off and that they have 3 hours to clear off their desks and exit the building. The second meeting is where they herd those who are left into the same room (you can tell because of all the used tear-drenched tissues) and tell them that they are the 'go-forward team'. This translates to you're going to have to pick up all the slack your coworkers have now left behind.

The weeks up to the lay offs are especially fun. This is where you and your coworkers all know what's coming and are asked to keep working anyway. If you're truly unfortunate, you may get laid off with a 'transition period'. This is when they ask you to hang around another month or two and train someone else to do your job. If you don't agree, then guess what, you don't get your severance and you're kindly escorted out the building.

As time goes on, everything you loved is ripped from your hands piece by piece. What once was your passion that consumed 60-80 hours a week without a blink becomes a meaningless job. Once you felt empowered, now you feel weak. You looked forward to getting up in the morning to get into work and get shit done, now you wonder when will it all end.

It really amazed me that we held the team together as long as we did.

We stood shoulder to shoulder for a long time, fighting off bullshit, only to be split up and made to report to different bosses. We tried to retain our autonomy with our goal to remain true to who we were and to the millions of loyal users of our products. But it was just a matter of time. There was no way we could fight it forever. We would all soon be broken, irrespective of our contributions and our devotion to what we truly loved.

I can see the end of this chapter of my life. The past five years have had a huge impact on who I've become. I grew tremendously as a person and learned a lot about love, work, and people. When it comes to pass, I'll definitely look back and think fondly of all the great times I had. I'll appreciate all the friends I made and all the struggles we overcame, together.

In the end, I know everything will work out for the best.