Mike Judge’s HBO show Silicon Valley is beloved for both sending up the Valley’s financially frenetic, bro-grammer culture while highlighting many of the very real, sometimes insane stuff that results from it.
It does so by drawing from reality itself. In 2014, a three-minute mathematical dick joke from its first season was actually vetted by Stanford mathematicians in a 12-page paper titled “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Eﬃciency: A model for male audience stimulation.” The authors were playfully listed as Dinesh Chugtai and Bertram Gilfoyle, two characters on the show. (Its real author was Vinith Misra, who was thanked in the footnotes “for doing pretty much everything.”)
Season 4 of Silicon Valley has just begun airing, and yet another trope from the show is now available for fan-driven consumption. Users can download “Not Hotdog,” a SeeFood Technologies app whose description reads, “What would you say if I told you there is a app on the market that tell you if you have a hotdog or not a hotdog. It is very good and I do not want to work on it any more. You can hire someone else.”
Its ratings are excellent—276 so far, with a five-star average. Who knew an app that tells you if something is (or isn’t) a hot dog could be so handy?
The app stems from an ongoing Silicon Valley subplot in which entrepreneur Erlich Bachman—a character who, after one successful business idea, now mostly tries gleaning from the fortunes of others—tries to raise funds for Jian-Yang, a developer who’s been living in his “incubator” for several years.
(Some spoilers ahead.) Convinced Jian-Yang is about to do something big in VR, Bachman quickly gloms on and starts doing funding rounds with him, only to discover Jian-Yang is actually working on an app for sharing eight recipes for octopus. At one funding meeting, taking advantage of the character’s halting English, Erlich claims the seafood app idea is actually “SeeFood,” a kind of Shazam for food, which fictional investment firm Raviga eagerly funds.
Forced to scrape hundreds of thousands of food images to make a working demo under Bachman’s roof, Jian-Yang passive-aggressively builds an app that does just one thing: Tell you if your food is a hot dog or not.
While demand for Not Hotdog may be scarce in the universe of the show, the real world’s reception has been very different. We’re happy to report the app works exactly as advertised.
It also launched to delightful publicity, with a mock interview of Jian-Yang on Bloomberg. In it, Jian-Yang talks about the app’s sale to Periscope while calling Bachman “a poor, sad man.”
In past breaches of the fourth wall, Silicon Valley’s Season 2 featured an app called Bro. Created by Dinesh’s less-than-bright cousin, the messaging service enabled people to send nothing but the word “Bro” to each other. It was inspired by the actual Yo app that (thankfully temporarily) overwhelmed all our better senses. Judge actually had a prototype Bro app built for the show, and a real Bro app briefly appeared in our world once it aired.
Not Hotdog is available in the U.S. iTunes App Store. To keep track of all the madness in the real Silicon Valley—and possibly also count how many events will make their way into Judge’s writers room—you should also download Blind, which provides an inside look on what the tech community is wringing its hands over right now.