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Silicon Valley's Loony Cheerleading Culture Is Out of Control 175

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the oh-the-irony dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Kernel editor-in-chief and noted firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos swings away at Silicon Valley's current startup culture, noting that it's resulted in herds of wannabe founders and startup groupies who don't exactly have a track record of starting successful companies or even producing solid code. 'Though they produce little of value, they are the naive soft power behind aggressive capitalist machines in Silicon Valley: the trend-setting vanguard of the global Web and mobile industries,' he writes. 'We should be very wary indeed of these vacuous cheerleaders whose vague waffle about the transformational potential of photo-sharing apps is more sinister and Orwellian than anything dreamt up by a dictator.' How long can such a culture continue before it dries up, and the whole tech-investment cycle begins anew?"
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Silicon Valley's Loony Cheerleading Culture Is Out of Control

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  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:56AM (#44696651) Homepage

    While the content being generated by these startups may be vacuous, there is at least the spark of new ideas (in some cases) or tangental thought that leads to other ideas. Someone else does the real legwork if it's a good spark, if these small startups can only talk the talk. Contrast the want-to-do's with the Microsoft archtype of staying safe and not innovating or thinking fresh.

    There is some value to the cheerleading, even if it's just to provide grain for others to mill.

    • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:08AM (#44696767)

      MS innovates, just slowly. I wish more of these [microsoft.com] guys ideas got turned into products each year, if they did MS probably wouldn't have the reputation they do of a stoggy business only company.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        First, let me just say... when I saw "cheerleading" in the title, like most people, I just clicked the link to see pictures of nerdy girls with pom poms.... and let me say, it was a grave disappointment. Instead we get some hyperbole about a guy who equates failed business-types trying to hawk their latest get rich scheme as equal to that of mass murderers and warlords, and some half-assed rant about the power of picture sharing.

        I applaud your efforts to turn what is effectively a king sized bitch fest by a

    • by stevew (4845) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:18AM (#44696853) Journal

      Being a 30+year observer/survivor of Silicon Valley (and having gone through 3 start-ups) I have to ask - how is this any worse than now that it was during the Dot Com silliness?

      For every roughly 10 companies started in the valley - 9 fail. Nothing new about that! It was that way before I got here!

      New ideas are vital to the success of the place. Often they are bone-headed ideas? (How do you make money by giving things away for free - the common denominator in the Dot-Com era - as an example!) Others are obvious business models - Gee I think I'll build an on-line auction site (Ebay!) All have been tried - some failed and some soared.

      Point is - this is just the normal rough-and-tumbel of Silicon Valley. The author needs to get over himself!

      • by freeze128 (544774)
        Maybe that's the point. Silicon Valley - 90% failure for decades. Then why do they keep up the hype? What makes a startup in Silicon Valley better than one in Iowa?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          What makes a startup in Silicon Valley better than one in Iowa?

          The logistics of getting acquired or partnering with the large companies in the valley. Acquihiring only works if the new employees are close to the mother ship.

          Also, proximity matters for other reasons. One of the startups I worked for was acquired as a direct result of an overheard conversation at Starbucks. Without that conversation, the purchasing company would have never known we existed.

          • I'm pretty sure people are employed to loudly name-drop companies in conversation at various Starbucks in Silicon Valley.

            • I'm pretty sure people are employed to loudly name-drop companies in conversation at various Starbucks in Silicon Valley.

              I'm betting the vast majority do it for free, sadly...

              • That's... actually perfectly fine. It's not sad at all. That's just normal bragging. Ok, I guess it could be a little uncouth, but the alternative is an intentional FOR-PROFIT outfit of misdirection and lies. The sort of con-artist "in" that let's them pilfer the banks of naive and ignorant investors. It borders on organized criminal fraud. Bragging about your own company because you have something to profit from it isn't on the same level. It's almost expected.

                No, the fact that they're getting paid to do i

                • I suppose they're both sad in different ways.. All I meant was that many of them are not only being obnoxious douchebags, but they're not even getting paid to be obnoxious douchebags.
        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          No, 90% failure for start ups, not for Silicon Valley. Startups are just one small fraction of the companies in Silicon Valley. (and many of the famous startup busts were up in San Francisco).

        • Well the weather here is terrible for one. More importantly though, while we have a mass of geeks, I'm not sure we really have a critical mass that's required for "idea guys" to come in and tempt ill-content quality geeks to abandon everything at the shot for the big-time. Although there's some minor action around the universities because fresh grads haven't gotten a job yet and aren't tied down, per se. I mean, if I was shown a job offer for a startup with a good idea, I'm not sure I'd abandon my secure po

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Back in the 1990's it was always "citation needed" to many people offering insights into encryption or security questions.
        The brand of made in the USA is now connected to poor encryption, many forms of gov oversight and tight internal security laws.
        A generation is now aware of the political and legal connections needed to soar beyond just skills, friends and cash.
        It will be fun to see any changes. Coding next gen drones and helping the surveillance contractors could make money?
      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @12:26PM (#44697539) Homepage Journal

        Being a 30+year observer/survivor of Silicon Valley (and having gone through 3 start-ups) I have to ask - how is this any worse than now that it was during the Dot Com silliness?

        For every roughly 10 companies started in the valley - 9 fail. Nothing new about that!

        Of small business entrepreneurial ventures, 9 out of 10 will fail, so that's not a revelation or admission of any sort. I think the real crux here is that the rate in the valley is more like 99 out of 100 will fail, and even though that sounds bad it's still not the actual problem; the problem is that the 1 that "makes it" is a bullshit platform like Instagram and the 99 that fail include actual valuable technologies like medical industry interop tools and the like.

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Perhaps the problem is people like you? Instagram is for the masses, medical industry interop tools are not. It's all about size of the potential customer base to collect valuable data to sell. It has nothing to do with whether the programs have any 'use' but whether the programs can attract users as data points. Ever hear of a venture capitalist looking to make the world a better place instead of making money?
          • Perhaps the problem is people like you? Instagram is for the masses, medical industry interop tools are not. It's all about size of the potential customer base to collect valuable data to sell. It has nothing to do with whether the programs have any 'use' but whether the programs can attract users as data points. Ever hear of a venture capitalist looking to make the world a better place instead of making money?

            But Instagram's big 'idea' is:
            1.) get the user to take a photo
            2.) apply gimp filter

            There's no monetization strategy. There's no added value. It's all a turd inside a package with a pretty bow.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              If I were the type to write software, I would take the lesson here as: Make a bunch of shitty stupid apps that perform trivial functions that witless people would find entertaining. If my odds are 1 in 100 and it's all phoned in crap anyway, how long would it take me to hit on one that's a success? 1 year? Less if I churn them out 1 a day? Plus, you can use the obnoxious amount of money you made to invest in developing something actually useful. The end result is that you gave up your pride in only making S

            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              Where have you been for the past decade? User data is always the monetization strategy when you provide a 'free' service. Any student of humanity will know humans are built to share (with those they see fit)! Provide them a simple means to do that and instant data glory.
      • I think that much of the 90% failure rate has to be blamed on the venture firms, which are very reluctant to invest in any idea that isn't the 10th clone of an already highly visible and possibly successful idea. If you make the 100th photo sharing app with geotagging and integration with Facebook and it looks like it has a clean interface, you can probably find an investor. If you come up with a truly new concept you'll be met with blank stares and FUD based on the lack of a proven market.

      • Point is - this is just the normal rough-and-tumbel of Silicon Valley. The author needs to get over himself!

        Meaning: who cares, as long as we get our beaks wet? Is it pointless? Yup! Is it bordering on a pyramid scheme? Yup! Should we change it? Hell no! (CA-CHING!!).

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        The whole point of start ups is that they cost very little to try. Any bonehead with a few thousand bucks, a commodity education, and a couch near a microwave and at least 15 amps of power can create a start up. Since 90% of publicly announced start ups fail, you can be sure that plenty of boneheads have gone this route successfully.

        But even that 90% figure hides plenty. I have run a number of "technology previews" in order to try ideas out that were never announced. For example, I recently wrote a web serv

    • by Jawnn (445279)
      One word... pets.com.
      OK, two more... sock puppet. 'Nuff said.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Silicon Valley is full of non-startups who are thinking of ideas as well. The notion that only some dreamer who is mortgaging the family's future is able to think outside the box is a common myth but it's clearly wrong.

      Most startups are doomed anyway, again the myth is that the startup is where the money is but usually these are just small ideas that a venture capitalist wants to bet big on. A lot of them are just "me too" companies trying to do someone else's idea in a slightly different way, or they spl

  • by Dishwasha (125561) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @10:57AM (#44696653)

    How long can such a culture continue before it dries up, and the whole tech-investment cycle begins anew?

    As long as people with money keep getting sucked in by it

    • And the corollary: as long as as the payoffs outweigh the risks. An angel investor at a small startup might have a 10% stake for a few hundred thousand, even if there's only a 1:100 chance of the company being snatched up for $500 million the angel investor comes out on top. The huge payoffs are what make the high risk companies possible in the first place, most of them will fail but a few won't.

  • Wow, judgmental much? People who may not have talent are actively looking for money, investing time & dedication in getting expertise... the horror!
  • by babymac (312364) <ph33d@charteFORTRANr.net minus language> on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:01AM (#44696689) Homepage
    than the attitudes prevalent prior to the dot com bubble (and subsequent bust) in the late 1990s? All of that money being poured into companies with little to no revenue and no solid plans to generate revenue. It blew my mind at the time.
    • by kwerle (39371)

      Nope. It's just about the same.

      The answer is that it can last maybe 7 years if folks haven't learned anything. Less if they have.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:30AM (#44696987)
      No it's the same thing over and over again. That old saying about failing to learn history comes to mind. What I see is investors looking for the "next big" boom. Tech, Housing, Bonds, HFC. It's about trying take short cuts and jump in early as opposed to real investing.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      We now as consumers have the RAM, CPU, GPU, codecs, wider skills with programming languages, webcams, networking, OS, resolution, displays and faster networking.
      In theory a lot of the older visions are now not so hard or expensive on desktop computers.
      Sadly with the push to video game consoles, the cloud, a generation only knowing endless wars and smart phones we are seeing a dumbing down of raw power and any real tech growth.
      Poverty as noted is also catching up fast vs the predictable ~~1990's hardware/
    • is scale

      in all facets...data travels faster, what was text is now video, 'mobile', cpu speeds are exponetially higher...

      which means *we can do more*

      my example is Goldman/Sach's style high speed trading...they use Erlang to make trades litterally as fast as the wires can transmit the data and exploit latencies for $$$...were talking microseconds...

      that means a market changing scale of trading (profit) in a non-human readable timeframe...

      that is different

      I surely agree that somewhere in the comparison between

      • Indeed, IBM has never had to consider a mass exodus of subscribers. Neither has anyone else. Facebook has to consider it because their users are not subscribers. They're the product. Attracting them, corralling them, putting them into buckets and selling the buckets is what Facebook is about, but those users are only invested just so far, and no further. Facebook is depending solely on an emotional investment, which is a fickle thing. Emotional investment tied to a financial investment is much much st

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:01AM (#44696691)

    As someone who has optioned sub-rentals on a lot of garages in Silicon Valley, I can't complain. Nothing attracts VC money like showing off how you're young, hip, and working in a garage in Silicon Valley!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What we're seeing here is that Silicon Valley has become no different than any other business/industry group. Flash, buzzwords, bullshit, business lunches, golf - People that are good at appearances rule in the business community, mostly to the harm of everyone else.

    • People that are good at appearances rule in the business community

      I agree, but something just seems off...they rule *now* but their tactics assure their eventual failure (re: microsoft)

      maybe:

      People that are good at appearances ruin the business community

      i've seen the cycle over and over...the predatory, almost colonial capitalist playbook...like how the major labels glommed onto Seattle music scene in the 90s

      there is no structural reason why the, say, shoe industry has to be dominated by Nike...there's no technical barrier to competing with Nike...it's all externalities...global supply chain, multi-year licensing deals with instituti

  • My nephew has gone through two of those buyouts. The purchasing company abandons the previous product and puts the developers to work on their pressing needs. At least he gets a nice purchase bonus out of it. But I would be a little psyched out after writing years of stuff with no one ever using it. At my company I find that having customers wanting to buy and use your stuff to be a psychic reward.
  • Simply describes how it's always been - cheerleaders create buzz; buzz creates interest; interest creates potential; potential creates investing - wash, rinse, repeat.

    Good, bad or otherwise, it's the core of the valley.
  • They always exist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:04AM (#44696741) Homepage
    In every boom there are con men who see piles of cash and people desperate to invest it. It has always annoyed me when these guys skip in from low-integrity industries like property development, come up with an idea that might even be impossible: "cluster smartphones into supercomputers for small business", round up millions of dollars, have the biggest booths at the local tech conferences, hire up a bunch of dillweeds, rent A+ locations, appear in dozens of self promoting articles "Top 40 under 40", drive around in $90,000 leased cars, and then flame out in a huge way. The only good thing is that when the bankruptcy people liquidate their stuff the stacks of unopened Aeron chairs and the Alienware computers go really cheap.

    The massive downside is that they give a black eye to, or outbid, anyone with a valid product trying to raise money, hire developers, and rent locations.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:13AM (#44696815)
    Dot.com 1.0 in the 1990s. A.I. and Pen computing in the 1980s. COBOL in the 1960s.
    It reaches this point when pundents say "eveyone should be a programmer". "It should be taught to 8 year olds and English majors." I've even heard some politicians say this in the last year. Not everyone has the temperment, motivation, special creativity to be a good programmer.
    The field turns into a bubble, it collapses and compuer science departments shrink. Inevitable.
    • by penglust (676005)
      In the 27 years I have been programming the consistency of the work force has seemed to me to stay about the same. As far as I can tell 1% are super stars, 9% are damned good and drive most of the industry, 30% create about 90% of the good code, 20% are good enough to let loose with detailed supervision and then there are the 40% that are why the fuck are you even trying to code. And these are the people that have supposedly studied computer science, etc.

      If any politian, CEO or whatever states they bel
  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:16AM (#44696839)

    They do it because it's hot, new, cool, chic, hip, swag, fly, swank, vogue, and gosh-darnit a whole lotta fun!

    The real legacy of Steve Jobs was to engender feelings of inadequacy in a whole generation of tech bosses. So instead of solid, maybe a little boring, mostly behind-the-scenes approach to technological development, we have everyone and their grandmother trying to emulate the once great king of consumer tech (long live the king!) with dramatic unveiling ceremonies that remind one more of a pop concert than a product release. Frankly, in some cases it's a little embarrassing, because not everyone can pull it off. In fact most people can't. So don't do it because you suck at it. I'm also looking at you, TED.

    When investors realize that new =/= good (and in most cases = shit), then we might finally witness the inevitable implosion and with any luck a healthier restructuring of the tech industry. But until then, thundercats ho!

    • I hate TED talks...just wanted to say that...

      we have everyone and their grandmother trying to emulate the once great king of consumer tech (long live the king!) with dramatic unveiling ceremonies that remind one more of a pop concert than a product release

      reminds me of how the Jobs film in theaters now starts off...it's this triumphant scene, just as you describe, where Jobs' introduces an 'industry changer'...it's the iPod

      NO! NO you idiots! I want to scream...

      the iTunes' store did indeed change the indus

  • As long as someone is willing to give/loan them money they will continue.

    If you can beat them join them. If you can develop a better idea/product go get some of that money and do it. I'm not an entrepreneur so I will continue to work my day job. There are plenty of "Rags to Riches" stories because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. How many "Upper Middle Class to Riches" stories do you hear where someone risked everything they spent a lifetime earning for a small shot at super riches?

    I got

  • If these "cheerleaders" are so bad at their pitch, content, leadership and ideas why are the venture capitalists so eager to throw money at them? I realise it's a numbers game: that 999 will fail, 1 will succeed and 1 in 1000 of those successes will be the next Facebook. However all that the money people would need to do is get anyone with 6+ months of IT to review these startups' technical plans and they could probably cut their own failure rate to a quarter.
  • While I agree that the startup culture of silicon valley provides very little of value, the article is a rambling incoherent rant seemingly conflating a variety topics the author happens to dislike.
  • The writer spends several paragraphs disparaging people's taste in music, culture, and furnature.

    They are fake: their clothes are fake, the music they listen to is fake, their sneaker brands are fake.

    There is one or two points of truth in the rant. But in general it is designed to make the reader feal superior to other people.

    • I agree. After reading it, I wondered which was the more pointless loony cheerleader, the ones in Silicon Valley, or this guy who's cheering to see them fail. There are no sure things, not even the most humane, charitable service-oriented, down-home, genuine, open, enviro-friendly green companies get that, and trying to build a company solely with values is not going to create any sort of sustainable margins.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:24AM (#44696921)
    I am "bootstrapping" my latest venture and we are Doing quite well. But, I simply can't stand to talk to other startups. It is always "how much money we raised" or "how much are you raising" - the conversations never are about how much cash you are making and how many paying customers you have.

    There is a lot of allure to raising money and a lot of back patting, which is why I just can't stand them.
  • Why exactly should I care that stupid people with money are willing to give some to other stupid people without money?

  • by PHPNerd (1039992) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @11:45AM (#44697115) Homepage
    Welcome to Zombocom! www.zombo.com [zombo.com]
  • Young people with an idea and drive but maybe not a lot of experience seem to be the bread and butter of Venture Capital. You can complain all you want that the ideas may not pan out or the inexperienced developers make make a messy system, but that's the nature of the beast. Sometimes they'll have a billion dollar idea and everybody wins. Nobody ever said VC was a low risk business.
  • What a polite way of saying "flaming asshole".

    Seriously, who pissed in this dude's cornflakes? Did some VC or entrepreneur steal his lover or something?

    -jcr

  • Here's where venture capitalists play a deleterious role in the process. They don't care about ground-breaking ideas or real vision or even solid business plans with solid revenue models. They care about whether they can turn around their investment in 6 months to a year for some multiple. That's it. That's all they care about. So if right now they feel reasonable certainty that they can unload a photo-sharing site on 2nd round sucke...er, investors, they'll invest. They don't care that there are 100

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @12:25PM (#44697529) Homepage

    In the site/book Stuff White People Like, the article about "Awareness" [stuffwhitepeoplelike.com] summed up much of this mentality:

    This belief allows them to feel that sweet self-satisfaction without actually having to solve anything or face any difficult challenges. Because, the only challenge of raising awareness is people not being aware. In a worst case scenario, if you fail someone doesn’t know about the problem. End of story.

    Getting clean water consistently in a hell hole like much of Africa is a truly transformative experience for many people. Public sanitation, reliable electricity, etc. Nothing your mobile/web app is doing is as transformative for the world as replicating consistent, basic utilities for all of mankind. It's unsexy work that is more commonly associated with redneck laborers (guys who actually make these systems work) than hipsters.

  • Conflicting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gallondr00nk (868673) on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @12:36PM (#44697629)

    Technology companies have produced remarkably brilliant new opportunities and efficiencies, but they have also raised the specter of lives bled of purpose, of the inhumanity of the new social structures that are emerging. What do we do to keep everyone gainfully occupied when globalization and technological change render the bottom two thirds of society redundant?

    This is a point that I always feel gratified reading, and it really cannot be stated often enough. We are reaching a stage where we simply don't need as many people employed as we used to. Instagram was worth $1 billion when it was bought by Facebook, and it had only 13 employees. Could you imagine thirty years ago any business at all being worth that sort of money with a dozen employees?

    It isn't just web services though, it's the manufacturing and retail / service sectors too. Even down to those obnoxious self checkout machines in supermarkets, which are costing several people a job while at the same time making the customer do more of the work.

    We're already in a position where job creation is lagging population growth. How much worse will it need to get before people actually start discussing this?

    (My pet solution is a guaranteed minimum income, enough to allow people to live comfortably with a decent amount of disposable income.)

    • Could you imagine thirty years ago any business at all being worth that sort of money with a dozen employees?

      Actually, since I thought of a couple of examples, make that fifty years!

    • Minimum income or a jobs guarantee (which would be way better than unemployment insurance anyway).

      However, whenever I wonder if society will re-organize to avoid that future, in which automatons provide a life of plenty which can never be consumed because everyone is unemployed, I think back to The Grapes of Wrath.

    • by hwstar (35834)

      I guaranteed income is the right solution, but I don't have much faith in it happening; especially in the United States. It goes against the ingrained Puritan work ethic.

      When someone becomes unemployable, they currently either go on SSI, or are supported by their families. A TED conference predicted there could be up to 75% of the population in an unemployable state in a few decades' time. There is no way that 75% of the US population could be on SSI or supported by their families.
      This isn't going to be pre

    • Art and science. Both have an unlimited amount of effort that could be thrown at them. A lot of people don't have the sort of mental capacity or creativity to do meaningful or desirable work in those realms. But if you're looking for what to do with the masses you could do a lot worse than steering them into art and science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 28, 2013 @12:45PM (#44697711)

    Someone found a thesaurus!

    "The artifice of start-up culture is a portent of what is to come."
    "At once the zenith of the cult of excessively educated bourgeois bohemians and nadir of a glossy new venture-capital-funded geek culture..."

    This reads as a writers masturbatory exercise.

  • I suppose the value in starting a tech company in California is that you're closer to a potentially strong talent pool. But that argument goes out the window when you consider outsourcing or the appeal of H1B visas. Anyone intent on hiring American talent certainly could find it in most places if they look hard enough.

    I suppose there's the belief in sharing of ideas and whatnot, but in today's world much of that has been rendered irrelevant by the internet. It's trivial to know what anyone's doing if you ke

  • Just be careful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I had a good position in a large, solid software company for over 8 years, but last year I was feeling bored of doing the same things for so long, and my thinking was: "well, I live in Silicon Valley so I should give a start-up a chance", so I started looking around. The sheer amount of start-ups out there with grandiose visions of changing the world is insane!

    I can absolutely validate some of the comments on this thread as I've seen them myself, but what I really want to emphasize here, is that start-up
  • "Famous for being famous" used to be a Hollywood thing. (Angelyne [wikipedia.org] is considered to have invented this. In the 1980s, she rented billboards in LA to promote herself.) Now it's a Silicon Valley thing too. Paul Saffo and Vivek Wadhwa come to mind as heavily into self-promotion but lacking a track record of results. Nicholas Negroponte (MIT Media Lab, One Laptop Per Child) is close, but he actually got some real things done in his younger days.

    As with Hollywood, it helps to be good-looking. Shai Agassi, form

  • The real VCs will not throw money out the window. Good luck getting a seed round right now. Many of the top VCs are refusing to do them now as the returns have been so lack luster. They want to see a solid team, and at least 3 months of numbers demonstrating traction. Then maybe they will partake in an A.

    They are meticulous and they do their homework. On pitch days (twice a week?), how many dozens of decks do you think they see? Over the course of a year hundreds. Of those a partner will do maybe a dozen de

  • I've certainly seen it, some of these guys are much better at producing hype than solid products. Leap Motion comes to mind, the hardware works ok, but the software is terrible and they rushed out their own "app store" long before the software is robust enough to warrant it-- no doubt because they wanted to get the gravy train rolling. The result is so bad I wouldn't be surprised if it kills off the whole enterprise. And if it does, it would be a shame because the technology does have some merit, it's th

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