Monday, April 23, 2012

All Valve, all the time

Everybody knows I dig Valve.

After all, for 6 months I couldn't talk about anything but the game.

But they're a quite interesting place for a number of reasons, and recently they've been in the news for several of those reasons.

Firstly, there's this great blog entry by the ultra-fascinating Michael Abrash: Valve: How I Got Here, What It’s Like, and What I’m Doing. Of course, I like that he gave a nice plug to my day job (we're wicked pleased to see our tools in use!), but there was much else to absorb in Abrash's fine essay:

If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there’s little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that’s designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation. Hierarchical management doesn’t help with that, because it bottlenecks innovation through the people at the top of the hierarchy, and there’s no reason to expect that those people would be particularly creative about coming up with new products that are dramatically different from existing ones – quite the opposite, in fact. So Valve was designed as a company that would attract the sort of people capable of taking the initial creative step, leave them free to do creative work, and make them want to stay.

Secondly, somebody somewhere apparently got hold of the Valve employee handbook and posted it on the net: Valve's 'Handbook for New Employees' leaked, hilarious illustrations included.

This book isn’t about fringe benefits or how to set up your workstation or where to find source code. Valve works in ways that might seem counterintuitive at first. This handbook is about the choices you’re going to be making and how to think about them. Mainly, it’s about how not to freak out now that you’re here.

Lastly, as the fine folks at Techdirt have been pointing out, Valve has been experimenting with some very innovative and intriguing ways to connect with their customers: Valve Tries To Charge People Based On How Likable They Are: Trolls Pay Full Price. As Mike Masnick points out, just thinking about what this might mean is fascinating:

I think there are lots of community-based properties would love to be able to charge trolls more. However, this could be really, really difficult to work in practice, and create some problems, depending on what the overall goals are. It would be nice, of course, if you could come up with a perfect system to get rid of trolls, but distinguishing true trolls can often be much more difficult in practice than in theory.

Way to go Valve, you continue to be an interesting place, which is a great thing in these Internet times.

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