Anna Wiener belongs to a generation that doesn’t know a world without the internet and Harry Potter. Perhaps that is why her book on Silicon Valley is full of Voldemorts, powerful and disembodied entities with powerful legal departments who are called in when their names are mentioned. For her, Microsoft is only the “extremely process-friendly software company” and Facebook is “the social network that everyone hated”.
When Facebook went public in 2012, Wiener was twenty-five years old and worked for a publishing company in New York. He too remains nameless, the heroine of “Code kaputt” will leave him in the first chapter, because the time when a college graduate could still pursue a career in the field of “Something with the media” was over: “ We had taste and we had integrity. We were nervous and we were broke. “
Without any unforgiving jargon
Wiener decides to switch to the internet industry, to a nameless New York start-up that is working on a subscription model for e-books. From there it should go on to San Francisco, to a nameless company that offers software for analyzing user actions on other websites, and finally to another nameless project that can easily be recognized as GitHub – a platform on which software developers carry out their projects be able to store, document and publish.
Wiener’s book is worth reading because it documents the résumé of one of those people without whom not much would function on the internet, but who for that very reason are never the focus of public attention. Wiener describes the power structures inside and outside the company, isolating certain patterns without falling into the irreconcilability jargon used in political activist Twitter: The public is always ready to cheer for supposed disruptors and innovators; the maintenance work – mostly done by women – is taken for granted at best. In spite of its rhetoric of disruption, the IT industry, according to Wiener, is by no means so different from the rest of society.
The utopias are disappearing
The working world in “broken code” is divided into three layers: the founders, the top programmers and their support staff, who are limited to a minimum. The vertical hierarchy is joined by a temporal one: Those who come on board early receive stock options and have the chance of permanent financial security. The time dimension can still be mastered with skill and luck, but advancing into the sphere of founders is very difficult and requires long-term networking with venture capitalists at elite institutions.
Anna Wiener also sees the entrepreneurial risk unevenly distributed: she could end up on the street at any time without health insurance if her employer’s start-up fails. The founder, on the other hand, can rely on being picked up by his network of friends and investors. In Silicon Valley, failure is still allowed, you just have to be able to afford it.