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We’ll party again next year

Face mask Christmas tree

Good morning! Happy shortest day of the year, and hopefully the beginning of one of the shortest workweeks. This Monday, what's happening to the holiday party this year, what Ellen Pao learned in 2020 and SoftBank might finally raise a SPAC.

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Housekeeping

We're kicking off a new experiment here at Source Code: text messaging! We want to make it even easier to chat with you, swap stories and stay in touch in a way that doesn't always require checking your email.

We think this will take many forms going forward, but for now, the plan is this: If you sign up, we'll send you a text every afternoon (no spam, ever, I promise) with a few must-read links from the day. Something to talk about over dinner, read after the kids go to bed or bring up at the morning standup tomorrow.

Things will start officially Monday, Jan. 4, but if you want to sign up, you can either tap here or text (415) 475-1729. We won't be sending much for a couple of weeks, but if you want to send me a note, I'm always happy to help with last-minute Christmas present ideas.

Hope to see you in my Messages app. Now, on to the news.

The Big Story

How to holiday party in 2020

The tech holiday party is a legendary thing. Remember Yahoo's "Wizard of Oz" party? Or Facebook's party, which included … the World Series trophy? From famous singers to outrageously fancy venues to champagne dresses (an unlikely holiday-party staple, but what can you do), the tradition is long and it is intense.

The holiday party is very different in 2020. Protocol's Biz Carson has been asking everyone what their pandemic holiday plans are, and the answer tends to be pretty much: Zoom calls. And maybe not even that.

  • Do people even want to go to a virtual office shindig, by the way? A LinkedIn poll showed folks were split: 41% said no way they'd attend an online office party, while 44% said yes absolutely. (We had one here at Protocol, which involved the game Two Truths and a Lie, and it was awesome thankyouverymuch.)
  • A different LinkedIn poll showed that 34% of employees just want the time to themselves, and most people would prefer a bonus to a party. Salesforce is one company leaning into that: It's taking the money it would have spent on a party and giving it back to employees as gift cards.
  • Other companies also seem to be listening: Only 23% of companies are planning a year-end celebration, according to one study, down from 76% last year.

Still, if you're looking for some last-minute inspiration, here's what a few companies told us:

  • Square is sending holiday gift boxes to all its employees, both as a seasonal gift and a thank-you to end 2020. The theme: "keeping cozy at home during the holidays."
  • Salesforce is hosting a virtual concert, with all the acts featuring in-house musicians.
  • LinkedIn is having a "silver linings" show, inviting employees and executives to share some of the good things that happened in 2020.
  • Klick Health built a 3D virtual event space, and told Forbes it plans to have a set of "A-list" talent there to entertain the team. It's also sending gift boxes. Gift boxes are big this year.

As for the how of a virtual party? Zoom and Teams are the obvious choices, of course. But I've been hearing good things about Gather, which turns the whole thing into a video game, where you can wander around and join conversations like you might at an actual party. Like, with people. Remember that?

2020

Ellen Pao looks back on a crazy year

To mark the end of 2020, we've asked the same questions of some of the most interesting people in tech to find out what they've learned this year, how their work has changed and what's going to stick going forward. First up, Ellen Pao.

What was the biggest change to your personal work habits in 2020, outside all the obvious stuff like "more video calls?"

I use fewer hard deadlines when I am able to. We had a regular check-in that it was OK to cancel or not show up [to] if you weren't feeling up to it. At Project Include, we set priorities with general ideas of when we wanted things done and what had to be done in what order, but we've kept it pretty loose and flexible when it comes to dates. I jumped at the chance to work with Caroline Sinders and then McKensie Mack on a research project that I might not have done if I had stuck to pre-pandemic ways. I knew working closely on a team to do something meaningful — examining the problems of remote workplaces since COVID-19 and offering solutions — would motivate me, and it has.

Is there anything you wish you had done sooner (in 2020 or even before), knowing what we know now about how the world works?

I wish I had started the research sooner so we could get our learning out and get solutions out faster.

What's one thing that was new to you or your team in 2020 that you're definitely going to carry over in 2021?

I really enjoy the end-of-video-chat hand wave. I love that moment of transition to say goodbye and take care. Before 2020, endings were so abrupt as I went from call to call without thinking. The hand wave is a little more human and usually comes with a smile, and I hope to see lots of them in 2021.

What company or person have you been most impressed to watch this year?

Camille Hearst at Spotify is such a wonderful match. Camille is so talented in so many areas, and her experience at Apple, YouTube, Patreon and Kit make her a great champion for creators. I am so glad that Spotify has found a role that will let her shine.

What 2020 tech story are you most interested in following next year?

How do we make tech ethical? We've seen [that] tech company leaders do not want to hear the truth, much less do anything about it — Google's attempt to belittle and minimize Dr. Timnit Gebru's work is shameful. We know board members and investors are apathetic and value only financial returns. Are regulators willing to step up and forgo tech titan donations? Are we going to actually listen and respect workers who are speaking up and organizing around ethical issues? Will the press give long-term attention and context to the harms tech inflicts on marginalized groups and generally?

Bonus question: What's the best tech-related gift you've gotten or given recently?

I had to buy a lot of new technology for working from home. Most of it was from Apple and totally disappointing. But I did update from AirPort Express to AmpliFi wireless routers, based on recommendations on Twitter, and that has made a huge difference. It's been so good to have stable Wi-Fi through video calls.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

At Micron, we see an opportunity to establish memory and storage platform capabilities that will unleash software developers to deliver solutions that speed insight and ultimately support emerging customer requirements. The data-centric era has ushered in a new opportunity to tap data for business growth, but many companies continue to struggle to transform mounting data stores into competitive advantage.

Learn how here.

People Are Talking

Bay Area-born companies have a responsibility to stay put if they can, Twilio's Jeff Lawson said:

  • "What I take issue with is our leaders — people of means — abandoning our community when it needs us most. Reaping the benefits of Silicon Valley's talent, tech incubators, mentors, professional network and culture until they no longer need it."

Here's a name to know: Dina Srinivasan, the former ad exec who said she felt like she had to become part of the antitrust fight:

  • "It just felt like, OK, Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose and that's just the way the cards were stacked. I don't think this was widely understood."

Russia was behind the SolarWinds hack, Mike Pompeo said:

  • "This was a very significant effort, and I think it's the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity."
  • But President Trump said nuh-uh: "Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!)."

Wondering why everyone was tweeting about carp this weekend? It's all thanks to @dm4uz3, who explains:

  • "I have no idea why honestly. I guess everyone likes the fish."

Coming This Week

Congressional leaders made a new stimulus deal. The $900 billion package reportedly includes $1.9 billion to pay for small telecoms companies to replace Huawei and ZTE equipment, and $7 billion to increase broadband access. But many more details (and a vote) should come today.

Tesla joins the S&P 500 today, which likely means a boost to a stock that's already been setting the market alight. Could Elon Musk be the world's richest person when the closing bell rings?

SoftBank will file for its first SPAC today, Axios reports, jumping on the year's hottest trend at the last minute. It's reportedly aiming to raise $500 million to $600 million, and at least two more SPACs are in the works.

In Other News

  • Not coming this week, or anytime soon: the Google antitrust case. A Washington District judge set a tentative trial date for Sept. 12, 2023. (Elizabeth Holmes' case also got delayed, but it should still happen in 2021.) Yet another Google lawsuit might be coming: Utah, North Carolina and New York are reportedly investigating Play Store fees and preparing a lawsuit for as soon as January. And don't miss this profile of Kent Walker, Google's very busy lawyer.
  • Cisco said it was targeted by SolarWinds hackers, but it doesn't think it had an impact on its products. Cox Communications was also targeted. Yahoo reported that a trial run of the hack first took place in October 2019.
  • Jack Ma offered to give some of Ant Group to the Chinese government, according to The Wall Street Journal. That offer reportedly came at a Nov. 2 meeting with officials, just days before the IPO was pulled.
  • Apple put Wistron on probation after last week's India riots. It said Wistron violated its supplier code of conduct, while the Indian government said several laws had been broken. Separately, Pegatron workers in China protested on Friday and Saturday over unpaid bonuses.
  • A Zoom employee was charged with disrupting video meetings commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Xinjiang Jin, a China-based worker, allegedly passed information to Chinese authorities that was then used to target, threaten and detain dissidents.
  • Microsoft is designing Arm-based chips for servers and Surface devices, Bloomberg reported. If those designs materialize into actual chips, it would be a huge blow to Intel: Its stock plunged on the news.
  • Google employees now get free weekly COVID-19 testing. All 90,000 U.S. staff can now get tests delivered to their homes, even if they're not going into the office, and demand is so high that the website for getting one crashed.

One More Thing

Family apple pie

It's another week of our holiday recipe takeover! If you'd like to share yours, just shoot an email to akramer@protocol.com.

Today's recipe comes from Hayden Brown, the CEO of Upwork: "From my mom, Marcia Odell, who inspires me and nourishes me in every way. In our family, we eat this pie not just for dessert, but as a great breakfast or lunch food, too; after all, it's mostly apples! We also have a running debate about whether this pie tastes best fresh out of the oven or even better the next day — and a strong faction of folks who think it's best à la mode, versus the purists who would never taint it with even the best vanilla Häagen-Dazs."

You can find Hayden's family apple pie right here, if you'd like to try it yourself.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

At Micron, we see an opportunity to establish memory and storage platform capabilities that will unleash software developers to deliver solutions that speed insight and ultimately support emerging customer requirements. The data-centric era has ushered in a new opportunity to tap data for business growth, but many companies continue to struggle to transform mounting data stores into competitive advantage.

Learn how here.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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