01/12/20

Tech Worker Unions

Further to the blog post I made the other day as it related to the tech worker union situation at Kickstarter and BuzzFeed, I had a couple of very informative emails from folks in the trenches and I’d like to expound on several things.

Kickstarter Union — Woke Or A Joke?

First, I stand by my assertion that the issue of tech worker unions is driven by the full employment economy we find ourselves in, but there are a myriad of other considerations. Here’s what I think is going on:

 1. No question that full employment is a driver. The power is shifting from employers to workers with full employment. We see this in the JOLTS report.

Thanks D Short and Advisor Perspectives. Thank you.

From a macro perspective — broader than just tech — we continue to have more job openings than we can fill (and we have filled a lot of jobs); we have a very flat number of layoffs and discharges, but the number of people quitting their jobs is rising and has been since 2010.

What this indicates is workers are quitting to take a better job. How do you define a better job — compensation, increased responsibility, better company, better working conditions, shorter commute?  Some of these these are things unions promise they can deliver.

Continue reading

01/11/20

Kickstarter Union — Woke Or A Joke?

It was 79F yesterday in the ATX and 46F this morning. We’ll see 60F by the afternoon. Winter is brutal in Austin By God Texas, y’all. Brutal.

So, I have been reading up on efforts to create unions at tech firms — talking to you Kickstarter, Uber, Google. While I used “Kickstarter” as the click bait title, there has been a lot of such activity in the tech world.

I am a huge fan of Kickstarter and the entire crowdfunding industry. It was an industry that was invented from the whole cloth and I love it, but as a company, their ham handed response to an effort to unionize their 160 person workforce has been a study in how not to do things.

Buzzfeed is another example of a company who saw the writing on the wall, read it, translated it, and acted upon it.

This union formation effort happens and is happening for a number of reasons:

 1. First, we are at full employment. When you arrive at full employment, the power at the negotiating table swings to the employee side. READ THIS AGAIN

This is the most basic, fundamental change in the market. If you ignore this simple fact, then you are hopelessly lost. Anybody who is resisting the creation of unions has to face up to this reality.

 2. Unionized employees get higher pay, better benefits, and better understanding of the employee-employer relationship.

When companies like We Work — and a slew of other SoftBank funded goliaths — layoff thousands of employees in a single day, workers are going to look for a port in that storm. When they arrive, they will be wet and pissed off. That pissed offness will generate energy.

Continue reading

11/20/19

Mussolini Made The Websites Work?

Amongst the few redeeming elements of Fascist Mussolini was the notion that he made the trains run on time.

In the eCommerce business, the tech equivalent is the efficacy of websites. You will remember that Obamacare, famously, had a huge fail on its website construction. This was the Mother of All Website Fails.

From an initial estimate of $93.7MM, the cost to complete ballooned to $292MM and was finally turned in for $1,700,000,000. HELLO, AMERICA!

These numbers come from an Office of the Inspector General investigation of HealthCare.gov. It is hard to believe this could possibly be true (Should we let these guys run a government run health care system?)

It is worth noting that the company who was contracted to do the work — Canadian firm CGI — had previously managed to run a $2MM contract for the Canadian Firearms Registry up to $2,000,000,000.

This, of course, raises the question  — what genius hired these guys? Hint: It was not Mussolini.

Continue reading

10/4/19

Big Red Car — Fast Site

About a month and a half ago, I got hacked. That made me focus on the Big Red Car website. It was very frustrating. Lots of time on the chat with support from a bunch of different places — talking to you, AWS.

I changed a lot of things — hosting, security, analytics, CDN, cache, backup, image optimization, fonts, SSL, subscription, SEO — had to. I had let the site get a little overgrown and spindly.

So, I have been doing some work on it. Have three or four more things left to do, but today, I got the speed where it needs to be.

The site is loading in less than a second. For a site this large, that is a superb speed.

I use GTMetrix to measure performance and keep my results. It has taken at least a month, but to see an A-96% on PageSpeed and an A-90% on YSlow with a 0.8 second load time, is pretty damn good.

The smartest thing I did was to turn loose WPSpeedGuru in the person of Alexei Kutsko.

I cannot believe how much better the site does on search rankings. I never really configure it for that, but the speed makes all the difference.

I hope you enjoy it.

If there is some change you’d like me to consider. Drop me a comment. It feels like you do when you finish tying a big, fat, beautiful Monkeys Paw.

 

 

 

09/30/19

Rent The Wrong Way

I have never rented anything from Rent the Runway, the unicorn women’s “unlimited closet in the cloud” fashion site, your secret door to the latest in the rag trade.

You can rent clothing by the one off, on a subscription basis, and buy the clothes at a discounted post-rental price. They send you (gratis) a second size to make sure you can fit into their clothes. It is a first rate business.

Though I have never rented a dress (don’t carry the right size for Big Red Cars), I have always loved the business concept, their financial model, their innovative business development, their founder story, and their web site.

The company was founded by a couple of Harvard MBA women in 2009 — Jenny Fleiss and Jenn Hyman (bit of irony, no? couple of “Jens”). It is a profitable unicorn.

However, if today you go to their website, you will find the following message:

Currently all one-time Reserve rentals must be scheduled for delivery after 10/15.

Thanks for your patience as we upgrade our system!

Imagine the conversations within the company that resulted in that sentence appearing on the website. In addition, the company  is not taking any new “members” for any of their programs.

In essence, the unlimited closet in the cloud is out of business for 2-3 weeks. Closed for tech remodeling! Never saw that happening!

How does a company weather a 2-3 week unannounced cessation of their business when they are an immediate gratification B2C, cutting edge fashion business? 

Continue reading

07/28/19

Tech, Taxes, Tariffs, Trade — And French Wine

France has imposed/threatened a “digital services tax” on the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — all American companies.

The tax is 3% of gross revenues from digital services earned in France, but only for companies with more than 25MM Euros in French revenue and 750MM Euros in worldwide gross revenue. The tax money goes to France.

When you work through the math it puts a bullseye on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google while giving a pass to many European companies who collectively are just as big as these digital behemoths. This is not an accident.

This tax was discussed for some time period, but its enactment caught a lot of folks by surprise. One who was not caught by surprise was President Donald J Trump.

President Trump had spoken to the French President Emmanuel Macron cautioning him that such a tax would be met with an American response.

Image result for images macron

President Trump, in his inimitable fashion said, “Don’t do it because if you do it, I’m going to tax your wine.” Macron blew him off. French wine is a huge industry.

The French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, sniffing at the ruffian DJ Trump, suggested that taxes and tariffs were completely unrelated. Good luck with that, Bruno.

Taxes and tariffs are core elements of trade while technology, digital services are a critical element of American commerce.

Continue reading