Labor

Steve Balmer Going Crazy at the 2005 Annual Microsoft Conference

Corporate software culture and development might seem bland and anodyne to both employees and outsiders – a slew of nerds in hoodies quietly typing away at their computers. In spite of its blandness (or perhaps precisely because of this), it still compels its executives and workers to express their enthusiasm for their job with catchphrases like “win together” and “think big,” or slogans about “passion,” “truth,” “disruption,” and “creativity.” Nowhere has this pressure been better demonstrated than in this video of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s former chief executive. It shows him circa 2005, opening the company’s annual convention by prancing across the stage, yelling and pumping his arms in glee. Even if Ballmer’s unbridled display of exuberance is exceptional, many software developers still have to deal with mini-­Steve Ballmers every day in their work environment. Facing these types of corporate pressures, some might say small acts of hackerish resistance—say, stealing time at work for a side project, building up secret projects, or adding infrastructure to a company system—might provide necessary refuge from the effects of such aggressive, oftentimes comical, displays of company ideology.

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