Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Slackers make millions and other thoughts

You ever hear of It's a San Francisco dot-com with 100 employees. Founded in 2013, this bunch made a group messaging app that helps employees chat with each other about work stuff. Sounds neat, huh? How much do you think that's worth? What would you say if I told you that this baby company with the hip, casual moniker is worth $ 2 billion?

Yeah, that's right. $2 billion. That's worth more than the Detroit Tigers, valued at a shade over $1 billion. They raised $120 million a few months ago, and their website has a Help Wanted page a yard long. And there are a whole bunch of young, billion-dollar companies with cute names like Stripe and Cloudera expanding like mad in San Francisco, looking for pricey offices and more high-tech employees.

The city is full to bursting with tech firms, and San Francisco has the highest apartment rents in the country. A one-bedroom apartment in our neighborhood would cost $1,000 more a month than we currently pay for our two-bedroom. Yay, rent control!

You dirty birds

After years of searching, my newspaper moved into new offices in November — three floors below in the same building. Our new digs have taken our insurance-actuary vibe to a whole new level, as you can see here.

Appalling, really. To my mind, newsrooms should look like this:

Still, The Powers That Be feel we've spent the last four months tarnishing this gleaming space with all our newspapers and boxes and other questionable clutter. So we're having a cleaning day this Friday. Our office manager is worried that slobby newspaper people don't like to clean and don't know how to do it, so she sent this email:

The office cleaning has been rescheduled for Friday; Pizza/salad will be provided-granted you cleaned something. 
Things to clean:
-under your desk
-desk drawers
-around your desk
-top your desk 
If you have boxes/bags/unused “office equipment” please take this time to get rid of those things. Lets do our best to keep this office looking CLEAN and organized.

I don't usually work Fridays, but I'm going in to help put out a special publication called Outstanding Directors, where we honor people who join lots of boards. I'll have to make sure I throw out a few papers so I can get my pizza.

Drunk with power

Speaking of boards, I'm gratefully nearing the end of my tenure on the board of the after-school program at Benny's school. When I first joined the board, it was a pretty low-key commitment, requiring attendance at a monthly meeting in the library. The program director would review what was going on, we all nodded and said it sounded good, maybe asked a few questions, and that was it.

That all changed this school year as we transitioned from an advisory board to a governing board. Suddenly all the members started jumping on every tiny thing, necessitating long email strings debating the sign-out process or various snack options. Board business nearly ground to a halt as members asked for additional information on every decision.

It took us two months and numerous Doodle polls to pick a regular day to meet. The best day, of course, was Wednesday, which is the day my paper goes to press and I couldn't guarantee my attendance. Other members immediately started drawing up rotating meeting schedules involving complicated algorithms that made sure we never met on a day containing the letter R during a full moon. Or something.

Finally I had to send an email begging them to pick a day inconvenient for me. I'm not trying to demonstrate low self-esteem here or anything, but obviously my contributions are not worth creating a chaotic schedule with alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays and occasional Mondays. My crazy board is worth a post all by itself, but must wait until another day. That's not a Wednesday.

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