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Comment: Solution - Developers need to know code they call (Score 2) 149

by ErichTheRed (#49147971) Attached to: Invented-Here Syndrome

I've seen the end result of this a lot working in systems integration and engineering. The problem is that, yes, most functionality has been written in some library or available through a public API, web service, whatever. Especially with mobile stuff, Apple/Google/Microsoft give the developer huge amounts of pre-built functionality, and encourage its use.

The overall problems with it are, in my mind,
- Developers and systems people not knowing how that huge chunk of functionality they use actually does what it does
- Introducing dependencies on third party applications which may or may not be around later, have spotty support, etc.
- Making applications more complex to deploy and debug -- "is this my bug or the API's bug? Why is a single row database update taking 45 seconds and 100% of a CPU core?"

The reverse problem on the other hand has the potential to be worse. No one should be coding core functionality that has the potential to fail spectacularly or have major security problems. Examples might be writing your own PKI stack instead of relying on the OS/webserver to do it, designing your own file transfer protocols unless you have a _really_ good reason, and many more. So with NIH syndrome, you have to really trust that your developers did everything right. With IH syndrome, you need to install an application, plus the 45 modules it depends on, plus provide it access to public APIs, etc.

I think the "solution", even though there's no right answer for all situations, is to make sure app developers are actually understanding development. It's too easy to write applications by gluing together pieces. With the framework movement, the pieces are much bigger and hide way more from the developer than, say, a library function.

From my side, in systems, we have way too many admins who are scared of scripting. Windows installations are moving towards PowerShell now, and while very useful, PS hides almost everything from the end user. Scripts that used to be 100 lines of loading/parsing/checking code are reduced to a single call to a chain of cmdlets. Very powerful, but the language itself isn't the most intuitive out there and borrows syntax from many languages. This leads to admins finding something on StackOverflow and copying/using it unmodified and unverified, simply because they don't know what it actually does.

Comment: Re:Send them all back (Score 1) 176

by ErichTheRed (#49120681) Attached to: H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative For Engineers, Dev Leads

"As an American who works with a ton of H1B's my code is at least 10x better than 98% of them"

From my experience, I tend to agree with you. But, the most crappy, inefficient code in the world can be covered up by hardware, and the fact that no one outside of IT/dev understands what's going on. Virtually any outsourced line of business application is guaranteed to be buggy and require monster hardware to run on, simply because it doesn't matter, and requirements aren't communicated correctly.

Unfortunately, companies are very bad at recognizing that they wasted $X to outsource development, then $X + $Y to have someone go in and clean it up.

Comment: There are multiple H-1B markets (Score 2) 176

by ErichTheRed (#49120655) Attached to: H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative For Engineers, Dev Leads

One of the reasons for the high salaries is the multiple reasons H-1B workers are used. The first is what most American IT and development workers are familiar with -- lowest bidder body shops that rotate in cheap labor for large companies who just want the cheapest possible price. In my experience, these are the guys brought in to do DBA work, SW development, etc. at barely market rate or below. In my experience this is where all the stories of crap code, incorrect system design, etc. come from.

The second is those workers/companies who are using the visa more or less as it was intended...short term importing of very talented people with actual non-commodity skills a company needs. These are people brought in to work on new product design, etc. that is more highly paid. So, you have two peaks in the salary curve, one for the low end chair-filler type of worker and one for the specialized worker.

Everyone's situation is different. I work for a medium size multinational company, and it's almost normal for (good, talented) people to rotate around countries using whatever visa status is appropriate to work on projects. Since the cost of relocating someone and applying for their visas is so high, this is mainly for people who actually have something to contribute beyond commodity stuff. By the same token, they do a lot of offshore stuff too, but they prefer to keep it at arms length (i.e. use a body shop like Infosys or Tata.)

I think the intended use of the H-1B is fine, but the race to the bottom use isn't. Companies should have a higher bar to prove they actually need to import a worker beyond complaining "we can't find any domestic talent." They're out there, you just have to pay for them.

Comment: Re:Unions are for interchangeable laborers, agents (Score 1) 145

by ErichTheRed (#49119885) Attached to: Attention, Rockstar Developers: Get a Talent Agent

Actors and screenwriters do indeed have a union. That's how the vast majority of actors who aren't Leonardo di Caprio or Tom Cruise make money -- the union negotiates scale wages with the studios and stage performance producers. Same goes for musicians.

I would actually be in favor of a union for that reason - there would be less downward wage pressure and new entrants would continue to come into the profession in search of a career progression.

Comment: Re:Most won't pay a couple of hours worth for a un (Score 1) 145

by ErichTheRed (#49119579) Attached to: Attention, Rockstar Developers: Get a Talent Agent

That's the thing - in the IT side of the house, "famous" people share a lot of their knowledge and are well known. I can think of a few off the top of my head - Mark Minasi, Brian Madden, Rod Trent, etc. Lots of these guys are hired by companies to dispense advice and have a reputation that follows them. I'm too busy to do it, but I've often thought it would be fun to go down that road, just blogging about random tech stuff and speaking at the occasional conference.

I think that instead of agents, the industry would be better served by a strict professional organization -- doctors are guaranteed high pay because their professional organization fights for stuff they want, and limits the supply of new entrants. Imagine not having to give the FizzBuzz test to a "senior architect" to see if he's lying, or grilling someone on minutiae regarding hardware or operating systems because you can't independently verify their experience. The interesting thing about an AMA-style professional body would be how to integrate the "trades" side of IT (help desk, tech support, routine system operations tasks) with the design and engineering side. I think this is what needs to happen if we want the profession to "grow up." Doctors don't call themselves rockstars, or ninjas, or gurus.

Comment: Pretty insane, huh? (Score 4, Interesting) 145

by ErichTheRed (#49119351) Attached to: Attention, Rockstar Developers: Get a Talent Agent

I'm the submitter -- this one just had to get out there for comment.

I have worked with a few real 10x-ers -- in the systems field, not development. None of them had agents, nor were they particularly flashy people. These are the kind of people who go from contract to contract getting reliable, interesting work. The reason they can do this is because they actually know enough to be a 10x-er. Most of the really talented people are in some sort of IT services role, either an independent consultant or a highly valued veteran employee of a big services shop if they choose not to jump around. People in this category are the kind who can jump in and rip apart a problem until the _real_ root cause is found, no matter how insanely difficult it is to locate. In the systems side of the house, that requires a mix of expert-level talent, troubleshooting skills and enough experience in different environments. Yet, nearly every one of these people has been a pleasure to work with -- they don't treat you like idiots, and if you show an interest, you learn something from them. I imagine any web framework du jour rockstar that felt they needed an agent would not be as nice to work with.

Honestly, I'm not sure what planet the author is living on. Granted, I don't live in Silicon Valley -- my experience is in "boring" industries like airlines, banking and insurance. I know now that hiring is a huge pain in the butt simply because the market is flooded with under-qualified people. It's a mix of dumb luck and leveraging your connections to get a good job. And yes, going into an interview cold with no one on staff who knows you is like playing the lottery...50 people are applying for the same spot sometimes. Beyond the typical recruiter slimeweasels, I can't imagine dealing with someone's agent when hiring for a position.

Maybe the market for phone app developers really is so hot now that people are jumping jobs for 20% raises the way they did in Dotcom Boom #1. I don't know. But on my boring side of the fence, where stuff needs to work reliably all the time, and there's always pressure on costs, the market is a little different. There's constant wage pressure from outsourcers and H1-B shops, and management really needs to be cajoled into spending anything to keep IT running. Enlightened companies keep a few senior, truly good people on staff, but the overall trend is down, both age-wise and salary-wise. The thing that they don't get is that to get to that 10x level, you need to have the experience to see what went wrong the last 20 times you've seen something implemented. Whatever - I don't see myself telling potential employers that they'll need to speak to my agent...

+ - Attention, Rockstar Developers: Get a talent agent->

Submitted by ErichTheRed
ErichTheRed (39327) writes "OK, we all know that there are a lot of developers and IT people in the field who shouldn't be, and finding really good people and hanging onto them is very difficult. However, I almost fell out of my chair reading this breathless article suggesting that developers hire agents. I grant the authors that recruiters are sometimes the only way to cut through the HR jungle in some companies, but outside of the hot San Francisco startup market, can you imagine a "10x rockstar developer" swaggering into a job interview with his negotiating team? I'm sure our readers can cite plenty of examples of these types who were only 10x in their own minds..."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Just throwing computers at kids isn't a good idea (Score 5, Insightful) 139

by ErichTheRed (#49102421) Attached to: L.A. School Superintendent Folds on Laptops-For-Kids Program

I have 2 kids, one who is ready to hit kindergarten next year. From my extremely limited parenting experience, it seems to me that just putting computers in the classroom or in students' hands isn't going to fix long standing education problems. This (in my opinion) goes double for locked down tablets like the iPad.

I'm actually not pushing computers, tablets or other electronic stuff too much on the kids. There are so many fundamentals to work on (reading, numbers, vocabulary, learning to act like a normal human) that electronics can't solve or make worse. They watch movies, watch a little too much YouTube for my taste, and play a couple of educational games. The older one knows a little about navigating around the computer, and of course every kid knows how to use an iPad/iPhone. Ask me in 14 years whether I screwed them up too badly, but it's working out pretty well just reading to them. playing with them, answering all of the 29 million 4 year old questions they have, etc.

Computers can't fix the real problems -- crappy parents, crappy home situations, low pay and low respect for teachers, etc. Every kid should be computer literate...not just phones and tablets, but able to use an office suite, look stuff up, etc. If they express an interest in coding or IT, great -- but the fundamentals of logic and scientific reasoning should take precedence. It's no reason to dump a computer or tablet into a kid's hands without a good curriculum to back it up. And from the article, it sounds like Pearson just sold the LA school district a bunch of slideware.

Comment: Only for some stuff (Score 1) 265

by ErichTheRed (#49101383) Attached to: The Robots That Will Put Coders Out of Work

I'm not sure I buy the whole argument, but there is one thing that might come true. Most development frameworks are so far abstracted from the actual hardware and software dependencies that it might as well be like gluing together functionality chunks. This has and will continue to make simple application/web development more accessible. Look at iOS and Android -- lots of the hard work is done for the developer. Instead of calling into the database directly, a complex API feature optimizes the query somewhat and returns the results in a nice format. Accessing the phone's hardware is similar -- just more glue code. Web frameworks are similar, and the design goal is to make applications easier to write/maintain.

Automating development has been tried for years, as has separating dev from business logic and giving analysts the ability to write applications. (Access and Excel macros are the best I've seen so far in this category.) I think the market for the typical junior developer writing a CRUD application or web forms might be less lucrative, but someone still has to know how to interact with the hardware at a low level. The toolkits, libraries and frameworks can't write themselves.

+ - No Tech Bubble Here, Says CNN, "This Time It's different."->

Submitted by ErichTheRed
ErichTheRed (39327) writes "I saw this on the Money page of CNN today. Apparently, various stock analysts have declared that this run-up in stock prices is different than the 1999 version. OK, we don't have the sock puppet, Webvan or anymore, but when Uber is given a valuation of $40 billion, can a crash be far behind?"
Link to Original Source

Comment: Problem is the incentives (Score 1) 247

by ErichTheRed (#49088255) Attached to: Lenovo Allegedly Installing "Superfish" Proxy Adware On New Computers

I'm a big ThinkPad fan, but I generally go download a fresh set of drivers and run my own OS install when I buy one.

This just sounds like a PC manufacturer wanting to juice the margin a few dollars by installing some crapware. Most techies just wipe out the crapware, but the crapware vendors pay the manufacturer to put their crapware on the machine image. Unfortunately, it looks like they went one step further and installed crapware that was spyware also.

I'm surprised they thought they could get away with it -- but maybe my line of reasoning was used -- "consumers don't know the difference, pros wipe out the crapware, what's the harm?" Companies need to be prepared for the fact that people are going to disassemble, reverse-engineer and poke and prod every little thing about their products, then release detailed accounts of it all over social media and the tech blogs. It sounds like someone hasn't realized that yet or was willing to take the risk.

Comment: Re:Chasing fads in education again? (Score 1) 68

"I suppose it's different in the US, you do seem to equate wealth with success and happiness."

I think that more most mature people who have responsibilities, the motivation is not having to constantly worry whether you can meet your obligations. We just don't have the same labor protections or unemployment compensation that other countries (Canada, EU, etc.) do. There are a lot of people, even the responsible ones, who can't live within their means, and there is a lot of societal pressure to do so.

For me, having manageable debt and savings generates happiness. Having 2 little kids, we go through periods where we basically spend everything we make, and my happiness level goes down during those periods. For others, that happiness may only come when they have every single consumer toy they can buy, cars, a huge house, etc.

Comment: Re:Chasing fads in education again? (Score 1) 68

Interesting points. My experience with federal employees comes from working with regulatory agencies and from friends who work for defense contractors. In general, you're dealing with normal human people who are mired in a mess they can't really directly control. I see very similar stuff at the large corporations I've done work for -- basically a private self-perpetuating bureaucracy. The key to doing well in an environment like that, assuming you don't want to brown nose your way up the ladder, is to learn the exact minimum amount about what's needed to work the system to your ends and not to let it engulf you. If you fight it, it will roll over you -- but if you completely embrace it to the point you know every little trick, become an "insider," you'll hate working there eventually.

I imagine a lot of this just doesn't exist inside CIA/NSA and the more elite branches of the military. In that way, it probably is pretty cool for a mathematician or computer security genius to basically be given an unlimited budget and free reign to work on something extremely complex. Also, there are still some people with a strong sense of public service...if the right opportunity came along I wouldn't be against it, for example.

Agreed on the pay scales for government service as well. I almost took a job with the state university system a few years back...unfortunately it was a 20% pay cut for less interesting work. I ended up opting for the more interesting work, but it was a similar deal -- very generous time off, guaranteed permanent employment, and a decent pension. Basically, the only thing that they can offer is a stable wage progression as you gain time-in-grade, small merit increases based on reviews, and a promotional path to change your base pay. So, you really have to want to do it, or have a fun job, or love the work environment, or some combination of this.

Comment: Chasing fads in education again? (Score 3, Insightful) 68

"cyber-security is looking to be the safest career path an undergraduate could pursue."

Uh oh, here comes another surge in CS enrollment. Seriously, I just heard a story talking about how petroleum engineering undergrad programs are suffering because the oil boom is slowly settling back down. These new grads were getting six figure starting salaries when things were going great, and now things are leveling off. Any temporary spike in demand for new grads is usually smoothed over very quickly by economic forces. I would just focus on the fundamentals -- get a good solid CS education, engineering education, or whatever, and your skills will transfer if you have the talent to succeed in these fields without the artificial demand.

The first dotcom boom led to a huge jump in CS enrollment, followed by a prolonged period of un- or underemployment in the field. I still think we're working through a bunch of the first hangers-on even today that haven't been weeded out completely. Chasing a college major for money if you don't have the talent or desire just ends badly when the temporary good times end and you find yourself in a bad spot. The second dotcom boom today is generating more CS enrollment again as people want to write the hot new phone app...guess where most of them are going to be when the world moves on to something else??

The reason why the armed forces aren't getting the new grads is most likely due to culture. If you're a civilian DoD contractor, you're paid pretty well but there are a lot of political obstacles to jump over. I've worked with a lot of different types of people in my career, and the "elite cyber warriors" that would be hunting down vulnerabilities in foreign systems would probably bristle at the typical office politics situations, let alone what happens in government/military.

That said, I've always wondered how the CIA/NSA attracts super smart mathematicians, systems experts, etc. The government pay scale is very rigid. Say what you will about the NSA, but they really do seem to have a pretty big cache of talented people to do some of the things they've been doing. Beyond the idea of public service, the only thing in my eyes that makes a permanent job in government or military attractive is the stability and guaranteed retirement. I'm liking stability now that I've grown up and produced offspring, but I'm sure the typical "elite hacker d00d" straight out of college doesn't care and is most likely hostile to government.

Comment: I see the opposite side of this problem (Score 1) 158

I really wish these tax deals didn't exist. I'm on the opposite end of this problem, living in New York. Taxes are high, cost of living is high, but in my opinion quality of life is high too. Florida, North Carolina and Texas constantly go trolling for companies in high-tax states (NY, CT, MA, CA, etc.) and bribe them to move. Some of these bribes are crazy, as in, "We'll build you a headquarters, give you free utilities for 10 years, and you'll pay zero property taxes." The problem is states end up playing Prisoners' Dilemma with each other. New York does the same kind of incentives, but can't support the level of offers that no-tax states can...I think some regions of upstate NY are waiving local taxes for a certain number of years, but businesses want permanent gains. The worst thing is that the anti-tax folks whip the media up into a frenzy whenever one of these companies moves, trying to get more people onto the anti-tax side using this as an example.

The problem is that in Florida and Texas, states with no income tax, you get what you pay for in terms of services. In NY, outside of NYC, even the crappiest school districts are adequately funded and provide OK education. The state university system is good and still a bargain if you get into one of the better schools. Public services are decent in most places. In a state where you pay no income tax and $1000 a year in property taxes, you're not going to get the same level of services. I worked for one of those relocated companies, and went on a fact finding trip when they wanted to move me to Orlando. A real estate agent (who was actively trying to sell me on the idea) actually mentioned that if our kids are used to NY public schools, I would have to put them in private school to get them the equivalent. There goes all that cost savings from the cheap house and low taxes! Plus the weather sucks -- yeah, yeah, I'm weird, I like winter.

In this case, Oregon just hasn't figured out that data centers are not an employment source. Most run lights-out and employ one or two techs to swap out equipment and maintenance/security forces. Any images of 20-something developers in hip office spaces cranking out the latest phone apps are not applicable here -- they're still sitting somewhere else.

If this is timesharing, give me my share right now.